North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is said to be anxious about his summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018.
Citing sources familiar with the preparations, The Washington Post reported May 22, 2018, that Kim was less concerned about meeting Trump than he was about what might happen at home in Pyongyang while he’s gone.
Kim is apparently concerned that the trip to Singapore may leave his government vulnerable to a military coup or that other hostile actors might try to depose him, sources told The Post. The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea since the country’s inception following the armistice in 1953.
“The notion that Kim is secure in his power is fundamentally wrong,” Victor Cha, a director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, wrote in a 2014 opinion column.
“Dictators may exercise extreme and draconian power like Kim, but they are also pathologically insecure about their grip on the throne,” Cha said. “All of the public speculation about coups or interim leaders would feed the paranoid impulse of a dictator to correct that perception as quickly as possible, even if it were misplaced.”
Trump has also expressed some trepidation about the summit after North Korea changed its tone in recent days. North Korea started to raise its voice again after US and South Korean forces conducted routine joint military exercises, and the country took a comment from the US national security adviser, John Bolton, as a potential threat.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Trump weighed in on May 22, 2018, saying there was a “very substantial chance” the planned summit with Kim “won’t work out.”
He added: “That doesn’t mean that it won’t work out over a period of time, but it may not work out for June 12.”
Despite apparent doubts on both sides, South Korean President Moon Jae-in remained optimistic during a press conference at the White House.
“Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength, as well as your strong leadership, we’re looking forward to the first-ever US-North Korea summit,” Moon said in an opening statement directed at Trump.
“And we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and world peace.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Zeppelins, as it turns out, are slightly more durable than your average dollar store water balloon. Maybe that’s why they were a staple of the U.S. military of the time. The Hindenburg Disaster aside, 20th-Century airships were built to go the distance – and they did.
The United States was the only power to use airships during World War II, and they used them to great effect. Some 89,000 ocean-going ships were escorted by K-series airships during the war, and only one was lost to the enemy, the Panamanian oil tanker Persephone. The U.S. used them in both theaters of war, conducting minesweeping, search and rescue, photographic reconnaissance, scouting, escort convoy, and anti-submarine patrol missions.
The massive hanger No. 2 near Tustin, California filled with six airships. Each airship is nearly 250 feet long.
For their anti-submarine missions, K-class airships were equipped with two .50-caliber Browning M2 machine guns and 4 Mark-47 depth charges. The ships flew on helium (the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen, and thus became a fireball), which the United States had a monopoly on at the time, and was able to operate them safely. Airships were not just a child’s balloon, they were made with solid, vulcanized rubber to hold air in. But just shooting a blimp wouldn’t take it down, their gas bags were much more effective and could take a few shots.
Other airships that were used by all forces included barrage balloons. These unmanned aerial vehicles pulled double duty in both obscuring the target cities or ships from incoming fighters and bombers while protecting the area around them using the metal tethers that kept them attached to the earth. The tethers would tear through enemy aircraft as they attempted to buzz by the balloons.
A Navy K-class airship at Gibraltar, 1944. The 1400-foot Rock of Gibraltar is in background.
For the entire duration of the war, only one K-ship was ever lost to the enemy. K-74 was shot down by a German U-boat in the Straits of Florida in 1943. Of the 10-man crew who went down in the airship, nine survived, and the only lost crewman was eaten by a shark awaiting rescue. The U-boat was assaulted by Allied bombers trying to limp back to Germany and was sunk.
The Navy continued to use blimps to patrol the American coastline until 1962, despite their unique abilities to stay aloft for more than a day at a stretch and the ability to sniff out submarines better than any alternative at the time. The U.S. even tested the effects of a nuclear blast on its K-ships, believing it could be armed with nuclear depth charges.
The short segments (each one is about five minutes) star characters from some of the year’s most popular children’s shows, like Super Monsters and Boss Baby, and end with a countdown to 2019.
And this year, Netflix is offering an even greater variety of countdowns for parents to choose from, including options for older kids and tweens. In 2018, there were only nine New Year’s specials, five fewer than this year’s record-high of 14.
Netflix’s annual tradition is backed by recent research, too. According to a statement made by the streaming service, “77% of U.S. parents actually prefer to stay in than go out for the biggest bash of the year.” The company added that over the last five years, an average of five million people watch the New Year’s Eve countdown shows each year.
To find the popular holiday specials, which are usually available through the first week of January, parents can simply enter “countdowns” in the Netflix search bar.
Afghan government forces have retaken most of Ghazni from the Taliban as clashes continued for a fourth straight day after the militant group launched an assault on the eastern city, officials say.
Security forces recaptured some 90 percent of Ghazni after reinforcements were sent to the city, Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Javed told RFE/RL late on Aug. 13, 2018.
Javed said clashes continued into the evening on Aug. 13, 2018, in Ghazni’s Baghe Bahlool area, one of the last pockets that remain under Taliban control.
Earlier on Aug. 13, 2018, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami said that some 1,000 additional troops had been sent to Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, and were trying to clear the city of Taliban militants.
“With the new measures in place, we expect that there will be a considerable development in the next 24 hours in the situation in Ghazni,” Bahrami told reporters in Kabul.
“We hope there will be a good development,” he added.
Afghan officials were quoted as saying that U.S. Special Forces units were on the ground helping to coordinate air strikes and ground operations but that was not confirmed by the U.S. military.
Ghazni is a strategic city located on the main road linking the capital, Kabul, with southern Afghanistan.
Three days after the militants launched their assault on the city of 270,000 people early on Aug. 10, 2018, information was difficult to verify with telecommunications services being shut down due to the clashes.
Bahrami said the ongoing battle had killed about 100 police officers and soldiers, as well as at least 20 civilians. He also said that 194 Taliban fighters were killed.
Officials at the Interior Ministry were quoted as saying that the fighting also left at least 15 civilians dead and more than 400 others wounded.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called on the parties to “protect the lives and rights of civilians and to protect civilian infrastructure,” particularly medical facilities.
“Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming very scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment,” Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
He also said it was “unsafe” for people to travel to larger cities where medical facilities are available.
Food supplies in the city were “reportedly running low,” he added.
Shah Gul Rezayee, a lawmaker from Ghazni, told RFE/RL on Aug. 13, 2018, that the “Taliban has torched many parts of the city.”
Some Ghazni residents who fled to other cities described panic and fear in the city, Rezayee said, speaking by phone from Kabul.
“They say dead bodies are laying uncovered in the streets, people are facing a shortage of food and drinking water, and there is no electricity in the city,” she added.
A communications tower was destroyed by the Taliban, cutting off cell-phone and landline access to the city.
“People can’t contact their relatives and friends, and it has added to the fear and panic,” Rezayee said.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.
Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.
Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.
Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.
March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.
In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.
Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.
The response was encouraging.
During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.
There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”
Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.
“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.
Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.
Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.
“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”
In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.
“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.
Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.
British soldiers from the Grenadier Guard shared a video on Twitter showing the excruciating consequences to not having adequate battlefield awareness during training.
In the video, a gaggle of soldiers equipped with SA80 rifles are seen carrying a troop on a litter during a simulated mock casualty evacuation, when one of the soldiers inadvertently walks into a sharp broken branch protruding from the ground.
A groan can be heard as onlookers, including the soldiers providing security, look toward the soldier, who falls backward.
“Maintaining your 360-degree battlefield awareness is essential in the jungle,” the Guard said in the tweet. “You never know what it has in store for you next.”
A British Army spokesperson told Business Insider the soldier in the video was “absolutely fine.”
“Just dented pride,” the spokesperson said. “But he won’t be standing at attention for a while.”
The Grenadier Guards‘ roots dates to 1656, and it’s one of the oldest regiments in the British army.
Soldiers from the Guard have participated in all of the country’s major wars, including current fighting in Afghanistan. In addition to conventional war-fighting capabilities, the Guard says it uses unconventional equipment, such as quad bikes, to mobilize quickly.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
From diagnosing and treating patients in high-pressure situations to working with complex medical technology, former military healthcare workers are uniquely equipped to care for others. While these skills make an incredible asset to the civilian medical field, at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it takes on even more meaning. VA has careers, tied to specialized skill sets, where former military healthcare workers can heal and care for fellow veterans.
People trained in the healthcare field are in high demand all across the country. But VA understands veterans perhaps better than any other employer. It’s why VA goes beyond offering premium-paid health insurance and robust retirement plans. Veterans employed by VA enjoy education support through veteran-focused scholarships, professional development opportunities and special accommodations to make the workplace fully accessible.
These six VA healthcare jobs are perfect for former military members.
1. Intermediate Care Technician
After active duty, it may be difficult to find a civilian healthcare position that allows you to apply military training without additional licenses and credentials. But through VA’s ICT program, former military medics and corpsmen can work as healthcare providers at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and continue their medical training, skills and career.
Intermediate Care Technician Paul Singleton, a former Army medic who now works in the JJP Bronx VA emergency room, is known for his ability to put his patients at ease.
Although emergency room positions are highest in demand, ICTs are also needed in mental health, geriatrics, primary care and surgical services.
2. Health Technician
Professionals working as Health Technicians at VA provide diagnostic support duties and medical assistance to VAMCs and specialty clinics. In an emergency setting, many of the duties performed by this role mirror that of a paramedic and align closely with the experiences of military corpsmen.
3. Nursing Assistant
Nurses play a crucial role at VA. They work across disciplines and treatment settings with a medical team to provide integrated care for veterans under their watch. Day in and day out, they make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families through their patience, empathy, and care.
Nurses can start a post-military career at VA as a Nursing Assistant and take advantage of the special education support programs VA offers to earn the degrees and certifications necessary to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse.
4. Physician Assistant
Physician assistants provide primary care and preventative care as part of a medical team that includes nurses, physicians and surgeons. A physician assistant examines patients, offers diagnoses of conditions and provides treatment for veterans at VA under the supervision of a physician.
Dr. Angel Colón-Molero, Orlando VA Medical Center Deputy Chief of Staff, discusses procedures with VA Physician Assistants Aji Kurian and Mario Cordova at the VA’s Lake Baldwin campus.
With access to cutting-edge technology and pioneering research opportunities, physicians at VA lead the charge in veteran care. Their work includes primary care services and specialty medicine. Physicians at VA are given great latitude to develop solutions that improve patient outcomes. Physicians have special insight into VA’s patients and can thrive in this environment.
6. Physical Therapist
At VA, physical therapists make a huge impact in veterans’ quality of life. They increase mobility, reduce pain and restore independence through physical rehabilitation, wellness plans and fitness programs. Physical therapists help veterans understand their injuries so they can enjoy mobility benefits, long-term health and a high quality of life.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Oda Nobunaga was a powerful feudal lord in late 16th-century Japan. For almost 200 years, Japan had seen near-constant warfare between daimyo, lords like Oda. Although the emperor was nominally in charge of the Japanese people, his real power was ceded to the Shogun, a general who administered the government. The ongoing wars between lords were often over succession. Three subsequent warlords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, were the ones who finally unified Japan.
Fighting alongside Oda was Yasuke, a man from Mozambique who had proven himself worthy of the title “Samurai.”
Yasuke came to Japan in 1579 with an Italian missionary. Though it can’t be confirmed, historians believe Yasuke was from Mozambique, as many of the first Africans to arrive in the Pacific island nation were from Mozambique. The young Mozambican’s black appearance was definitely noticeable in the Japanese capital. He was presented to the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, who forced the man to strip and clean himself, not believing his skin was naturally black. When he finally accepted this, he eventually adopted Yasuke into his own service, impressed with the African’s strength and physique.
Oda provided Yasuke with money, a residence and his own katana. The now-former missionary was given the post of the Daimyo’s weapon bearer and soon found himself in battle.
The Battle of Tenmokuzan pitted Oda and Tokugawa Ieyasu against their longtime rival Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori burned his own castle and tried to escape into the surrounding hills but ended up committing ritual suicide before Oda and Tokugawa could capture him. The Tokugawa leadership describes Yasuke as standing more than six feet tall and having skin as black as charcoal.
But Oda’s luck would soon run out, and the noble Oda Nobunaga was forced to commit suicide by rival Samurai and lord Akechi Mitsuhide at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Yasuke was present for Oda’s seppuku and joined his successor Oda Nobutada’s army to avenge the elder Oda’s gruesome end. He was captured fighting Akechi forces at Nijo Castle but was not killed because he wasn’t Japanese.
Yasuke does not appear in historical records after his capture at Nijo Castle, perhaps being returned to the Jesuit order which originally took him to Japan.
The USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, reached 70% completion in late February 2018, according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.
Like the first-in-class Gerald R. Ford, the Kennedy’s construction is being done with a modular technique, in which smaller parts of the ship are welded together to form larger chunks, called superlifts, that are then hoisted together.
The latest construction milestone came when crews at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding dropped an 888-ton superlift — a 171-foot long, 92-foot wide section composed of berthing areas, electrical-equipment rooms, and workshops — into place between the carrier’s bow and midship.
Below, you can see footage of the superlift being moved into place by the company’s 1,157-ton gantry crane at Dry Dock 12.
The latest superlift took 18 months to construct and it “represents one of the key build-strategy changes for Kennedy: building superlifts that are larger and more complete before they are erected on the ship,” Mike Butler, the program director for the Kennedy, said in a Huntington Ingalls press release.
Construction on the Kennedy started in February 2011, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony at Newport News. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and it hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017, when crews moved the 1,027-ton lower-stern section — containing rudders, tanks, steering-gear rooms, and electrical-power-distribution rooms — into place.
“We are pleased with how construction on the Kennedy is progressing, and we look forward to additional milestones as we inch closer to christening of the ship,” Butler said in the February 2018 release. The Kennedy is set to launch in 2020.
Like the Ford, the Kennedy contains an array of advanced features, including the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and landing aircraft. (The Ford lacked one notable feature: urinals.)
The Ford, however, was delivered to the Navy two years later than planned and cost about $12.9 billion — 23% more than originally estimated.
The Government Accountability Office warned in summer 2017 that the $11.4 billion budget set for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t address lessons learned during the building of the Ford. The Pentagon partially agreed with those conclusions.
In August 2017, Huntington Ingalls completed the first-cut-of-steel ceremony for the third Ford-class carrier, the USS Enterprise.
For the longest time, I always wanted an M1903 Springfield rifle. This was the rifle that served in two world wars and saw use as late as the Vietnam Conflict. To this day the rifle serves in Honor Guard Detachments honoring our fallen military members and US veterans. It’s one of those iconic fighting rifles that every serious gunny should have in their safes.
My problem was two-fold.
First, they always seemed to be around and always seemed to be priced on the lower end of the spectrum. I would see one, handle it, inspect it and think about it; only to be swayed by some other firearm, seemingly at the last minute. Those of us who lived through the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or any of the numerous state bans know this phenomenon all too well.
“That’s just an old bolt-action rifle. I need to buy more ammo, more magazines, more black guns, before I can’t get them anymore.”
Invariably this leads to the second part of the dilemma. By the time you think your collection, or horde, is squared away and you can go for something you really want as a fun shooter or a collectible; that price has seemed to skyrocket.
“Oh my God! I remember when these things were all day long in a pickle barrel outside the gun shop! Now they want 00!!!!”
If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly. Prices of obsolete or out of production firearms rise due to scarcity and demand. Remember when Mosin Nagant rifles sold as low as each, in some areas that price has increased more than 10-fold! Then the realization hits you that there were only a finite amount of those rifles to go around.
Many military surplus rifles were converted into sporting rifles because a surplus Mauser, Enfield or even a Springfield 1903 was much cheaper than a commercially manufactured bolt-action hunting rifle. In the past few years, I have actually restored a number of these rifles to their former military appearance. When I came across this Remington M1903A3 Springfield at around 0, I thought I would take another chance.
Luckily the rifle’s action, barrel, and sights were still intact. The previous owner had discarded the original military stock, handguards, and the metal stock hardware. I removed the barreled action from the commercial Fajen stock and began my search for the rest of the parts.
I found all the metal hardware at SARCO: butt plate, sling swivels, stacking swivel, sling swivel screws, and handguard ring. It was a mix of some original and some reproduction. I found an original military stock on an auction site and a reproduction handguard in the white and handguard clips at Numrich Arms.
The stock was very dark and required a good deal of hand fitting in order to install the action properly. This was mostly with regard to the internal magazine body and the mounting screw channels. I spent a week staining the new handguard, but it never got quite as dark as the stock. Eventually I might go with another stock closer in color to the hand guard, but for now, I would be satisfied with just a decent shooter.
I had hopes… the trigger was nice, the bore was clean and the metal still had that Remington green hue to it for which the Remington-built rifles were famous.
It was installing the metal hardware that proved to be its own challenge.
At first glance you might think that these parts slide over the front sight and barrel, but the front sight sits too high and requires removal.
I soaked it overnight in Kroil and the next day removed the front sight base, as trying to tap just the sight blade usually leads to its destruction.
The base is set in a keyway and although it’s a notoriously tight fit, it comes off rather easily. Drift out the pin, drive out the sight, remove the entire blade. The handguard, bands, etc. are then easily installed and the sight is put back into place. I advise going slow, using lots of machine oil and you won’t ding or destroy your sight.
With the rifle together and in as close to original condition as I was going to take it at this point, I set out to the range.
One of the things I like about the M1903A3 is the longer sight radius with the rear mounted peep sight. It may not be as fast as some military rifles with their over the chamber mounted rear sights, but I’m not gearing up to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal anytime soon.
As a full-time firearms reviewer, consultant, and author I have the luxury of trying out many new firearms, but rarely get to shoot the ones I really enjoy.
Initial testing using some Greek surplus ball ammo yielded groups of 3.35″ to 4.5″ at 100 yards. The next time out, I might try some commercial ammunition and maybe even attempt some fitting of the handguard, stock, and barrel bands. There are a lot of components that can affect accuracy on this rifle, considering in its sporter configuration it produced groups of about half that size at the same distance.
The rifle filled a small void in my collection and will probably only be shot a few times a year if I am lucky. However, I still hold to the old adage that only accurate rifles are interesting and my goal will be to make my M1903A3 interesting once again.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
The SS Meredith Victory might be the luckiest and most important ship of the entire Korean War. The Merchant Marine vessel carried men and materiel that saved US troops in the Pusan Perimeter, protected the supplies around Inchon harbor, and pulled off the “Christmas Miracle” – the largest single ship rescue evacuation of refugees in history.
Merchant Mariners might be history’s biggest unsung heroes. The Korean War in 1950 was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.
In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.
The unsung heroes of the Merchant Marine were part of the Inchon Landing force as well. If it weren’t for them, the whole thing might have fallen to the bottom of the ocean. The day before the landings at Inchon, a massive typhoon hit the coast of the Korean Peninsula, just off of which lay the United Nations invasion fleet. Hurricane-force winds slammed the boats supporting the invasion. Among them was the SS Meredith Victory, a merchant marine ship carrying men and supplies for the landing. Were it not for the ship’s crew’s skill at saving the ship, the entire invasion might never have happened.
The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.
But that’s not the last time history called the Meredith Victory. By the end of 1950, the Chinese had intervened in the war and were pushing UN forces back to the south. Along with those retreating troops came thousands of North Korean refugees fleeing the repressive Communist regime. By the time the Meredith Victory arrived in Hungnam Harbor, the docks were packed with refugees and soldiers fleeing the Chinese.
“The Koreans on the dock, to me, that’s what we were there for, that was our job. The problem was how we [were] going to get them aboard,” remembered Burley Smith, a Merchant Mariner, the third mate aboard the Meredith Victory. “There were too many people and not enough time to get them all loaded. It looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
North Korean refugees crowd the harbor at Hungnam, December 1950.
By this time, the Army had already left, and the Chinese were being held back by Naval gunfire. The crew of the Meredith Victory began loading passengers aboard this ship meant to house 59 people. The crew worked around the clock, loading the masses of people on to her decks. They managed to get all 14,000 onto the ship and safely away from the harbor before the Army blew the port facilities.
The ship traversed the coast of Korea, on the lookout for mines, enemy submarines, and North Korean fighter planes. By the time the ship got to Geoje Island, every single refugee was alive – and five more were born along the way. It was a Christmas miracle.
We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.
For me, that friend is James Brobyn.
As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.
In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.
James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”
Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”
My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.
The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”
James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”
I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.
James: White 1.
WATM:Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.
James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?
I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”
WATM:Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?
James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.
All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.
WATM:When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?
James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.
WATM:Kicked you out?
James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.
WATM:What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?
James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.
WATM:Why do you think they focused on you?
James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.
WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?
James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?
James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.
WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?
James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.
Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, ‘Will you help us out?‘ I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.
WATM:There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?
James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM:Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?
James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.
WATM:You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?
James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.
WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?
James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.
The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: Is the long game paying off?
James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.
WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?
James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.