Meet North Korea's most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un's 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Those frequent appearances have taken on a new significance in recent days, as rumors swirl that the dictator is gravely ill after a surgery. Kim Jong Un’s line of succession is hazy — he is believed to have three children, but they are too young to take control over the country, and his brother has reportedly been deemed unfit to lead.


That has prompted speculation that Kim Yo Jong is next in line, though the country has never had a female leader.

During the two summits between the US and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

She also traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far.

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be in her early 30s, likely born in 1989.

Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland.pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt

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She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

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The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland.

Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.

Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU

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Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.

Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr

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In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.

Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.

She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.

During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.

Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.

In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.

Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.

She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.

Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.

Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF

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She made headlines in February 2019 when she was seen holding her brother’s ashtray while he smoked during their train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong Un takes smoking break on way to Summit

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Kim Yo Jong was featured prominently in the preparations for her brother’s talks with Trump, often rushing ahead to make sure everything was ready.

She even went viral at one point when she seemed to be hiding in the plants as Kim Jong Un met with the US president at the Metropole Hotel.

An incredible addition to annals of “Where’s Kim Yo Jong?” from @nknewsorg’s @chadocl.pic.twitter.com/9zZSUAnsL2

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It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.

But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.

Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.

She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.

One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.

But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.

In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.

Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.

Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.

“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.

Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time British Intelligence hacked al-Qaeda just to mess with them

One might assume that an international intelligence apparatus like Britain’s MI6 would wreak havoc when hacking into a terrorist-affiliated website. The truth is they did little more than likely annoy al-Qaeda after hacking a recruiting website. The result wasn’t exactly devastating, unless you’re someone who hates cupcakes.


Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

Who could hate these? They’re ADORABLE.

While it’s hard to imagine even the most hardcore of Islamist extremist terrorists hating cupcakes (though it’s even harder to imagine one of them eating one like the adorable unicorn cupcakes pictured above), whether they made MI6’s infamous cupcakes is unknown – but they definitely had the recipe.

In 2011, the UK’s external intelligence service was in an all-out information war with al-Qaeda and the terrorist organization’s affiliate groups. In particular, Her Majesty’s secret service was looking to disrupt the activities of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its effort to recruit “lone wolf” attackers abroad. One of the ways it recruited disgruntled Westerners was through the use of its online magazine, called “Inspire.”

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

New rule: everyone who wakes up with the sun to say “Guys, today let’s be inspired by Al-Qaeda” gets droned.

But when avid readers of Inspire went to download the June 2011 Issue to read “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef” actually downloaded a semi-unintelligible computer code. The code still revealed a recipe, but it had nothing to do with your mom’s kitchen and everything to do with some cupcakes that *might* be described as “da bomb.”

MI6 reportedly hacked the website and replaced “Inspire” with a number of episodes for delicious cupcakes, including a recipe featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show dubbed “The Best Cupcakes in America” as well as a number of original recipes from Ohio-based cupcaker Main Street Cupcakes. Al-Qaeda initiates came looking for bomb-making information and instead received a flavor explosion, with varieties such as white rum cake with buttercream frosting, rocky road, and a delicious-sounding mojito flavor.

“Inshallah you checked them with a toothpick before removing them from the oven.”

On top of removing the bomb-making instructions, intelligence analysts replaced articles by Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on “What to Expect in Jihad.” Both MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had been planning on disrupting the publication and dissemination of the magazine since they discovered its creation. The western allies have deployed a number of cyber weapons to disrupt al-Qaeda’s information warfare operations.

Although the CIA and MI6 were able to successfully put off the publication of “Inspire,” the full issue and more issues were published immediately anyway. The executive editor of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s signature magazine, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone-strike in Yemen just a few months later.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran’s Korean-inspired hot sauce will blow your mind

Gochujang is going to be the runaway flavor of 2018, mark my words. For those of you who spent some time in South Korea, you might be familiar with the sweet, spicy Korean pepper sauce. If you haven’t tasted it yet, be prepared to completely forget about Srira… sri… whatever it’s called. And, of course, a Ranger-owned business is leading the way.


If you’re interested in trying it out, you need to get KPOP sauce.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
From KPOP’s Kickstarter page.

KPOP was founded by Mike Kim and Theo Lee. Kim was an Army Ranger and infantry platoon officer who served with distinction in Afghanistan. He and Lee co-founded KPOP Foods and developed the sweet and spicy sauce from Lee’s grandmother’s original recipe.

The two began a Kickstarter project to raise the capital needed to get their business off the ground.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
Kim and Lee (photo by the Daily Bruin)

We field-tested the sauce at the WATM offices and, after going through five bottles in a week, we decided that we’d follow the Ranger officer to any culinary place he wanted to take us. You can check out the KPOP Foods site for some epic recipes, but we decided to create one of our own.

August Dannehl, WATM’s resident Navy veteran, chef, and host of KCET’s new show Meals Ready to Eat, created a special recipe using the KPOP sauce — one that he says blends the flavors of the NC forests with the fields of South Korea.

This is a crowd pleaser, so bring a couple of friends.

Camp Lejeune NC BBQ Sandwich w/ KPOP and Kimchi Slaw

Ingredients

Pulled Pork

1 (8lb) pork shoulder roast

1 qt apple cider

2 tbsp kosher salt

2 tbsp paprika

2 tbsp onion powder

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 lg onion chopped

BBQ Sauce

2 cups KPOP

5 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp onion powder

1/2 tbsp mustard powder

Kimchi Slaw

2 cup Kimchi(hot)

5 cup Napa Cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1 cup Japanese mayo

Salt and pepper to taste

Also need

Soft rolls w/ sesame seeds

3 cups hickory chips, water-soaked

Prepare

• Prepare the pork by rubbing 1/2 of all of the dry ingredients on the pork and then place the shoulder in a large pot. Pour the apple cider into the pot until it covers the pork. Place the pot in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.

• To prepare the slaw, add all of the shredded vegetables to a bowl. Chop the Kimchi and add to the bowl with the vinegar and mayo. Mix liberally and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.

• To prepare the sauce, add all of the ingredients into a small sauce pot and simmer at very low heat for 45 mins. Add water if reduction becomes to thick. Keep warm for service.

• After the pork has brined in the apple cider for at least 12 hours, remove cider brine and reserve. Prepare your smoker to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, pour in reserved brine, and place onion into water pan of the smoker. Spread remaining rub over shoulder and add to the center of the smoker.

• Smoke pork until fork tender; about 8-10 hours. Baste the shoulder with KPOP BBQ sauce about every 20mins to build a crust. Once falling apart, remove to a large receptacle and let sit for 15-20mins. Once juices have redistributed, pull pork apart using two forks and add more KPOP sauce. Place in warm oven or back in smoker to keep warm.

• To serve, remove slaw and allow to warm to room temp; about 15 minutes. To assemble sandwich, place pulled pork on bun, top with more KPOP BBQ sauce and Kimchi Slaw.

Enjoy!

MIGHTY GAMING

10 of the best games from this year’s E3

This year, at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, CA, game developers came out strong, teasing plenty of long-awaited games and announcing a couple of awesome surprises. We got updates on titles we’ve been waiting for, like Spider-Man, and a glimpse at a few we’ve been dreaming of, like The Elder Scrolls VI.

Here are ten games on display at E3 2018 that we can’t wait to get our hands on.


Gears 5 (Microsoft)

Gears of War has always been about pure, unadulterated violence. There was a legitimate story in the first three, but nobody could really take their eyes off of the chainsaw bayonets ripping through Locus faces.

Gears of War 4 took a step in the right direction when the protagonist role hopped from the admittedly bad-ass Marcus Fenix to his son, JD. It kept the awesome and added just the right amount of story. Gears 5 seems like it’s going to continue that trend.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Nintendo)

Nintendo didn’t really come out with a huge lineup of (new) games for the Switch. To be fair, the newest Smash Bros game doesn’t look like much of a departure from previous installments.

But finally being able to pit Solid Snake against Cloud against Pikachu against Ridley? Okay. We’re hooked. Just take our money already.

Jump Force (Bandai)

All those years of reading Shonen Jump back in high school are about to finally pay off. In the early trailers, we’ve already seen Goku, Naruto, Luffy, and Light make an appearance, but it’s obvious that other great Shonen Jump characters will also make an appearance. Keep an eye out for familiar faces from Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin, Fist of the North Star, Dragon Quest, and many more.

Halo Infinite (Microsoft)

Halo 5 was good, but it felt like it had strayed a bit too far from the franchise that we all know and love. Halo Infinite seems like it’s going to fix all those problems by giving us a healthy bit of nostalgia and a breathtaking new engine.

Not much is known yet about this one, but just the fact that we’re going back to the Halos (from which the series gets its name) in the helmet of Master Chief is enough to win me back over.

Kingdom Hearts 3 (Square Enix)

It’s been 13 years since Kingdom Hearts II came out and side stories just aren’t going to cut it anymore. In the time fans have waited for a resolution to the trilogy, Disney has acquired Pixar, Lucasfilms, Marvel, and (soon) Fox.

The wait may finally pay off for die-hard fans or it’ll just be another Duke Nukem Forever.

HITMAN 2

There’s just a certain level of satisfaction unique to playing a Hitman game.

Hitman games have always prided themselves on requiring an insane level of detail from players in order to successfully (and quietly) take out their target. There are so many variables on each assignment that it feels like you’ve got a one-in-a-million chance to make things line up just right. But when they do….

Fallout 76 (Bethesda)

I know we’ve been hyping up Fallout 76 pretty heavily, but who isn’t excited to get their hands on this game?

Bethesda has always delivered games built on the premise that video games should always be ridiculously fun. Dropping a nuke on your friends seems fits that bill perfectly.

Devil May Cry 5 (Capcom)

Everyone in the gaming world is running around crying about how hard Dark Souls is like they’ve never played Devil May Cry on the “Dante Must Die” setting.

We’ll admit that the last installment, DMC, wasn’t that great — but it wasn’t as awful as everyone made it out to be. That being said, the series just isn’t the same without the old Dante. Well, he’s back, and the newest game looks amazing.

Insurgency: Sandstorm (New World Interactive)

Do you know refreshing it is to finally see a true-to-life take on the Global War on Terror? No blinged-out weapons that only a third-world dictator would have. No modded-out gear that only a fobbit would buy.

This is a no-nonsense action game that originated as a realistic Half-Life 2 mod. You better believe we’re going to be following this game closely.

Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt)

The best game of this year’s E3 has got to be Cyberpunk 2077. Hands down.

It just has too many perfect things going for it. The guy who made Cyberpunk 2020, Mike Pondsmith, is going to be working with the guys who made The Witcher series to create an experience that takes players into the hardcore underworld of the future. Oh, f*ck yes!

MIGHTY MOVIES

New show takes viewers behind the scenes of Coast Guard missions

A new series follows the Coast Guard on patrols of the U.S. coastline for drug runners, smugglers, human traffickers, and those in need of rescue.

Coast Guard: Mission Critical features real missions throughout the country. It is produced by Rumline for the History channel and it’s making waves; pun intended.


Watch episode 2

The Coast Guard has been involved in other shows in the past, but this one is different. Viewers will see multiple areas of responsibility and various unique Coast Guard missions throughout its six episodes. The average day in the life of a coastie includes search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, law enforcement, security boardings, and more. The show gives a glimpse into what it’s like.

According to Commander Steven Youde, who currently serves in the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office, the executive producer had been wanting to create this show for years.

“I think he has had this planned all along. He wanted to go a little further and make it more diverse by including not just one location but make it Coast Guard wide,” he shared.

“A doc-series like this is really great exposure to what happens behind the scenes in the Coast Guard,” Youde explained.

He added that big drug interdictions and counter narcotic missions aren’t witnessed just for the simple fact that they happen so far out at sea. Thanks to this show, the public will get to see how it all goes down.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

Photo credit: Credit Rumline Productions

Maritime Enforcement Specialist Second Class Michael Bashe is currently a part of the Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) in Miami. These detachments are highly specialized and deployable law enforcement teams. Their mission is to conduct and support maritime law enforcement, interdiction, or security operations. He was deployed to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro in the Pacific to assist with drug interdictions and the film crew came along for the ride.

“My dad was a police officer for 25 years and was a prior Marine. He told me, ‘Coast Guard is where it’s at.’ The ME rating just came out and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The different missions that we do as ME’s and leadership responsibilities and roles that we have is incredible,” Bashe shared.

He’s spent his entire career on ships focusing on counter narcotics. Bashe has also been deployed overseas with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) in Bahrain to support the U.S. Navy. When Bashe returned stateside his number one pick was TACLET South in Miami.

“The rewarding feeling that you get when you have a successful interdiction is indescribable,” Bashe said.

He appears in the first three episodes when he and another TACLET member safely and successfully apprehend suspected drug smugglers. Bashe says he loves that the public gets to see this important aspect of what the Coast Guard does, but that there’s so much more.

“I like that they get to see what we do at TACLET, but I really like that they were able to integrate the small boat stations and air stations. They are such crucial parts of any coastal city,” he said.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

BM2 Hillary Burtnett. Photo credit: MK2 David Wiegman

The Coast Guard has small boat and air stations all over the country. US Coast Guard Station Marathon is located in the Florida keys and the film crew spent almost four months following coasties on their missions there. Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Hillary Burtnett was a part of the show and although she found it cumbersome to have the camera crew underfoot, she’s glad the public will get to see some of what they do.

As a female BM, Burtnett is definitely part of a heavily male dominated rate or job.

“It’s different, but the guys are very respectful. We are all a team, we are out there to get it done and work together,” she said.

Although her shipmates treat her equally, it doesn’t always happen everywhere she goes. Burtnett shared that in one of the episodes, a man they rescued became very inappropriate onboard with her.

“There was a whole bunch of stuff that they didn’t show. It was tough because I was just out there trying to do my job and he was borderline harassing me but I maintained professionalism,” Burtnett shared.

She doesn’t let it get to her though and instead chooses to focus on the mission.

Burtnett recently left US Coast Guard Station Marathon for a new adventure. She’ll be on a national security cutter headed to Bahrain. She is excited to head to a big boat again, explaining that there’s nothing like the comradery of being on one. Another aspect of the service that isn’t typically known by the public or other branches of the service: you can find coasties serving all over the world.

This show gives the public a rare, honest glimpse into the Coast Guard. Cork Friedman, Executive Producer of Rumline Productions, wants to show you even more.

“Quite honestly, most folks don’t know a fraction of what the US Coast Guard does, so my passion for creating this series is directed by three principle objectives, to show the world the diversity of missions that the Coast Guard performs each and every day, to deliver the most robust, accurate docuseries ever produced featuring the real life stories of our United States Coast Guard, and to capture the intrinsic character possessed by the men and women who wear the US Coast Guard uniform,” Friedman said.

Coast Guard: Mission Critical airs on the History channel every Saturday at 6 am or on demand through the app. It can also be viewed Sundays at 5 pm on FYI.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

China issued a warning to its citizens traveling to the US

The Chinese Embassy in Washington issued a notice on June 30, 2018, telling its citizens to take caution when traveling to the US over summer.

“First, the United States medical expenses are expensive,” the notice said, encouraging its citizens to organize health cover in advance of travel.

The notice also warned that “US law and order is not good, and shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent.” Gun violence is a leading cause of death in the US.


“You should be on alert to suspicious people around you and avoid going out alone at night,” the notice also said.

China has issued warnings against the high rate of gun violence in the US in the past.

In 2017, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles published a guide for citizens on how to respond to an active-shooter situation. And in April, 2018, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued an advisory on popular messaging platform WeChat urging citizens to “be careful and prepare for the possibility that gun crimes may occur at workplaces, schools, at home and at tourist sites,” the New York Times reported.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China headquarters.

The embassy notice issued on June 30, 2018, also discussed US border policy, and notified tourists that border patrol have the right to inspect travelers and to check their nationality and purpose of entry without a search warrant. But it also advised citizens to be vigilant.

“If the parties involved believe that the law enforcement officers have engaged in improper law enforcement or discriminatory practices, please keep the relevant evidence and ask to make a complaint to their superiors in person,” it said. “Sparking controversy with on-site law enforcement personnel is not helpful for resolving the obstruction of entry, and may even lead to a deterioration of the situation.”

The US has come under international scrutiny over the Trump administration’s tightened border security measures, including its “zero-tolerance” policy, which has seen more than 2,300 migrant families separated. Several videos have also surfaced showing border agents patrolling bus stations and asking travelers for identification.

In 2017, the US saw a drop in foreign tourism, which some dubbed the “Trump Slump.” According to Travel + Leisure, the US welcomed 72.9 million foreign visitors in 2017, down from the previous year’s 75.9 million, though the decline was only about 4%.

Under the Obama administration, the US saw record high numbers in 2015 with 77.5 million foreign visitors, Travel + Leisure added.

In 2016, nearly 3 million Chinese tourists visited the US and spent $33 billion, more than tourists from any other country.

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

Articles

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

For my crime of earning a Naval Flight Officer’s Wings of Gold and being selected for training as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer (like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”) I was sent to the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape – SERE – School in Brunswick, Maine during the winter of 1984.


My fellow trainees and I stepped off the C-9 from Norfolk and were hit by a biting wind, the kind that’s normal for Maine in January. I immediately wondered why I hadn’t tried to push off SERE School until June or July.

The first couple of training days were conducted in a classroom. The lead instructor had been in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom that was shot down over Hanoi and had spent nearly three years as a POW. He explained that since we were all aviators there was a likelihood that we could fall into the hands of the enemy as well, therefore we needed to pay attention and take SERE training to heart. “This is the most important school the Navy will ever send you to,” he said.

The crux of the classroom training was an in-depth review of the Code of Conduct, a list of six “articles” created after American POWs suffered at the hands of their captors during the Korean War. They were all tortured in one form or another. Many were brainwashed; some even refused to return to the United States after the war.

Here are the six articles of the Code of Conduct:

  1. I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  2. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  3. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  4. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
  5. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
  6. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

The night before we were bussed across Maine and dropped in the mountains that border Canada, we decided to stuff ourselves with KFC, hoping that would give us the energy we needed to get through the field portion of SERE. Early the next morning we were issued cold weather clothing and reminded that it was more than we’d have if we’d had our jets shot from under us. And the fact we were also given snowshoes should have been a warning sign that the weather where we were going was more brutal than the already miserable weather at Naval Air Station Brunswick on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.

After a four-hour drive westward into higher elevations we wandered off the bus and were greeted by a group of “partisans,” friendly locals who welcomed us to the Peoples Republic of North America – PRONA. The partisans explained that PRONA was a Soviet satellite (remember, this was 1984 and the Cold War was still in full swing) and that they were a small band of rebels fighting for freedom. (We found out later that the partisans, like everyone else in the land of PRONA, were actually a combination of local outdoorsmen on retainer and DoD personnel on loan to SERE School.) The partisans spoke English with thick eastern European accents. (They were acting, of course, but it was believable.)

The partisans broke us into groups of 10 and led us into the forest where they gave us instruction in some of the basics of survival, including how to use the snowshoes to navigate the massive snowdrifts we encountered. That night we were allowed to make a campfire and eat meat of unknown origin and huddle as a group to stay warm.

The next day our partisan told us that the army of PRONA was looming and we needed to break up the group and attempt to evade individually. I spent the balance of the daylight hours crunching through the forest trying to be sneaky in spite of the fact there was no way to be while wearing snowshoes. Right before it got dark I fashioned a quick snow fort as our partisan had instructed and climbed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of trying to keep the exposed part of my face from freezing.

At daybreak one of the partisans came and got me –obviously my hiding place sucked – and said that the enemy threat was gone for the time being and we were going to form up the entire group and march to a safe place. It was actually a trap (and a lesson in who not to trust during wartime).

The formation was interrupted by gunshots. The partisans disappeared into the forest and suddenly we were surrounded by military trucks and dudes in uniform yelling at us in a foreign tongue. Whatever training scenario context remained in our minds evaporated as our new captors slapped us – like hard – and threw us to the ground.

We were forcibly loaded into the back of the troop transports and driven along a long road down the mountain, repeatedly told during the trip not to look out the back of the trucks or we’d be shot. When the trucks stopped and we were yanked to the ground again I got a quick glance at my surroundings – a prison camp – before I was blindfolded and led to a cell.

The guard removed my blindfold and forced me to sit on a box that was barely a foot tall and place my arms along my legs with my palms facing upward – what he called “the po-seesh.” “Get in po-seesh!” he yelled, Prona-ese for “position,” I assumed.

The guard told me I was “War Criminal Number One Five” and that I should refer to myself as such. Then he pointed to a tin can lined with a plastic bag in the corner and explained that it was my “sanitary facility” in the event I had to use the bathroom, but I was not to use it without permission.

He slammed the door to my cell shut and then peered through the small hatch in the door and, seeing I was not in the po-seesh, promptly re-entered the cell and roughed me up for a bit. I spent the next hours doing the calculus of holding the uncomfortable po-seesh and relaxing with the understanding that if the guard caught me I’d weather another beating.

As I sat there wondering what was going to happen next a wide variety of psyops stuff blared through the speaker mounted high in one corner of the small cell. A mind-numbing cacophony of an out-of-control saxophone was followed by Rudyard Kipling reciting his poem “Boots” over and over in a very haunting voice. (No one who ever attended Navy SERE will forget “Boots.”)

Give it a listen (and try not to go insane in the process):

Occasionally instructions from the guards were piped over the speaker, for instance, the rules for heeding calls of nature: “War criminals wishing to use the sanity facilities must ask permission by saying, ‘War criminal numbering whatever wishes to urinate or defecate.’ Do not do so until you are told to do so!”

At some point a guard entered my cell, blindfolded me, and led me to an interview with the camp commander. His friendly demeanor led me to believe this was the “soft sell” portion of my interrogation. He asked me how I was feeling. I joked I was hungry. He looked concerned and said he’d get me some hot food right after I got back to my cell. I also joked that the music was terrible and I’d prefer the Beatles, and he said he’d make that happen right away too.

Then he asked me where I was stationed. I said I couldn’t answer that. He asked me what kind of airplanes I flew. I said I couldn’t answer that either. After a second round of refusals his friendly mood shifted into anger, and he ordered the guard to take me back to my cell, saying I was “insincere” and needed to see the provost marshal for further “re-edu-ma-cation.”

After another extended period in solitary confinement in my cell accompanied by “Boots” on repeat, I was blindfolded again and taken to another part of the camp. As I was led through the snow I heard loud banging and people screaming. Once inside the building my blindfold was removed and one of the guards told me to climb into a small box, barely big enough for me to fit.

Once I’d wedged myself in, the guard slammed the lid. He instructed me that when he banged on the box once I was to yell my war criminal number, and when he banged twice I was to yell my social security number. This went on for a while, and fortunately I don’t get claustrophobic, cause if I did the confined space would have freaked me out.

The box treatment was followed by some “up and jumps,” known to the rest of us as jumping jacks, and other calisthenics punctuated by guards slapping me and throwing me to the floor. When I was good and winded a guard led me to a room where a big burly man with a red beard was waiting.

Red Beard asked me a few questions about my military profile, and each time I didn’t answer he slapped me. He produced an American flag and threw it on the ground and told me to dance on it. I tried to avoid it but he pushed me and I wound up stepping on the flag and as I did a photographer appeared and snapped a shot.

After another round of questions I didn’t answer, Red Beard decided it was time for stronger measures. He pushed me to the floor and made me sit on my hands. He straddled my legs as he fired up some pipe tobacco and started blowing smoke into my face using a large rubber tube.

I couldn’t breathe. The room started spinning. My head hit the floor. I puked.

And to my horror – even though I’d hadn’t quite finished puking – Red Beard blew more smoke in my face.

This felt like real torture, and I was convinced he was going to kill me. As I fought to get a clean breath of air, I managed to beg him to stop and offered to tell him something, hoping to employ the technique where you try to bend but not break by throwing out some meaningless bullshit.

I told him I was stationed in Florida even though I was really stationed in Virginia and that I flew helicopters even though I flew jets. Red Beard laughed and called the guard back in, telling him to give me as much food and water as I wanted because I’d been very helpful.

As I was led back to my cell blindfolded I felt like a total pussy who’d caved too easily.

After another period in solitary with my morale at an all-time low, a guard came and got me and led me back to the camp commander’s office. The camp commander told me about a junior enlisted man who’d gone through the same torture but instead of talking he’d come off the floor screaming “Article Five!” – a reference to the Code of Conduct where it states a POW should only give name, rank, and date of birth. “You are supposed to be an officer, but an enlisted man is stronger than you,” he said. “And you are insincere. You told us wrong information. I am sending you back to the provost.”

Sure enough, after more time in my cell to contemplate my shortcomings as an officer, I was back in front of Red Beard.

I hated Red Beard. I hated PRONA. And I felt another emotion that was like an epiphany: I wasn’t about to let America down again. The nation was depending on me to be strong. That’s why they’d given me my Annapolis education and put me through flight school. (Seriously, all of these things ran through my brain in that torture chamber.) If I had to die, so be it. Let the smoke blow . . .

After some more passing out and puking followed by more passing out and puking, Red Beard let me go.

The next day we were let out of solitary confinement and forced to do hard labor around the camp where our tasks included carving a “heli-mo-copter pad” in the ice-covered ground – an impossible task for which we were beaten for our lack of progress. One guy was stripped to his underwear and forced to stand at attention as his clothes were burned in front of him.

The camp commander gathered us together and, holding a Bible aloft, told us our beliefs were bullshit and that the only religious figure Americans truly worshiped was St. Walt Disney. He threw the Bible down and stomped it, which caused some of the prisoners to react enough that the guards felt obliged to slap them and throw them on the ground.

This cycle of hard labor in the freezing cold followed by “re-edu-ma-cation” sessions from PRONA’s propaganda machine went on for hours and hours, until the sun was about to set on our miserable existence once again. Morale was low. We were sure we were never getting out of there and our lives as we knew them were over.

Suddenly there was another burst of gunfire and a group of guys in cammies rappelled over the walls of the compound at various spots. They took the camp personnel into custody and announced that they were Navy SEALs. The flag of PRONA hung against the main guard tower was replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played over the camp PA.

There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we sang along. We were Americans, and we were free again.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s enhanced torture techniques during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has restarted discussions about DoD’s methods and where they’re taught and learned. The SERE School curriculum has been lumped into those discussions.

But for me SERE wasn’t about the torture. It was about the realization that the pomp and ceremony, the pageantry and adulation that surrounded wearing a Navy officer’s uniform was meaningless without the courage and commitment that underpins them.

SERE taught me a big lesson in sacking up, and I can say without any hesitation that it was, in fact, the most important school the Navy ever sent me to.

(Editor’s note: This story deals with a specific SERE curriculum that no longer exists.)

Articles

The Marine Corps’ Security Force Regiment is an old hand at special ops

The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.


But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.

In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
Marines engage an armed objective during a room-clearing exercise at Advanced Interior Tactics training aboard Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va., Dec. 7. During the course, Marines were taught to identify the hands of an individual to determine whether or not they posed a threat, in order to control the scene and conduct thorough house clearings. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kayla D. Rivera)

When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.

The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.

Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.

AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.

According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
U.S. Marines and British Royal Commandos enter a building together in the first phase of security forces training in New Castle Upon Tyne, England, Sept. 21-25, 2015. Training included various breaching techniques, close-quarters battle, live-fire ranges, training simulators with various military and the state-of-the-art training facility in Gateshead with the Northumbria Police Department. (USMC photo)

The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.

In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.

To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how air crews learned to navigate in World War II

These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.

But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.


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Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.

Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.

(USAF)

During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.

Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQrGbz1dczY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

“When was the last time you actually met the animal you ate for dinner?”

Jon Darling, a former Army Ranger and scion of a long line of farmers and restaurateurs, now runs one of the most humane livestock farms in South Carolina, where he strives to be a shepherd to the sheep he raises and to the people who eat them.


When Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl visited Darling’s farm, he found himself in a world where things are done with purpose and uncommon care.

Though his family had always been in the food business, Darling turned to a new brotherhood after the attacks on September 11th: the Army. When he got out, he looked for peace in other places, and found it the moment he stepped on a farm.

Working with other people in that way gave him the same feeling of fraternity that being in the military did, and his interactions with the animals he raises brings him a calm sense of satisfaction as he delivers meat to restaurants with a humane guarantee.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
(Meals Ready to Eat screenshot)

Darling raises his sheep to live free and happy lives, and professes to feeling no fundamental conflict when it comes time for him to bring one of those lives to an end.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
(Meals Ready to Eat screenshot)

Unlike factory farming operations, which treat animals as commodities and people as thoughtless consumers, farms like Darling’s are working to reconnect people to an awareness of the sacrifice that keeps us humans at the top of the food chain. Through quiet leadership and outreach in the form of regular community dinners that center around the slaughter, preparation, and enjoyment of one of his lambs, Darling is reawakening the people he serves to the circle of life on Planet Earth.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
A gathering of conscientious diners at Darling Farm. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Darling’s community appreciates the work he does, and agrees that the animal that dies for a meal should be celebrated. That’s why they join him for meals at his farm; to celebrate the animal that nourishes them. They attribute his ability to listen, rather than just to act, to his military service.

Small farming is both Darling’s family legacy and his way of healing—but his neighbors add that his style of farming is also therapeutic for the community, and society. Knowing the animal rather than only viewing it as meat makes a difference in the level of respect given to the earth. Darling points out that his method is healthier for the animals as well as the land he uses to farm them.

Here’s hoping that sharing his story and life’s work with Dannehl and Meals Ready to Eat will help spread the good word far and wide.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
Have some respect, you baaahhhd boy. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 21st

It’s official. U.S. troops in South Korea will have their curfew lifted. The United States Forces Korea put out the memo on June 16th, and it’s now in effect on a temporary basis to try this whole “treating troops like grown-ass adults” thing out. It’ll be up until around September 17th, when they will evaluate if the troops can handle not f*cking up the one good thing they’ve gotten in years.

Every U.S. troop in Korea has been briefed on this. One single f*ck up and it’s over for everyone. They’ll be on their best Sunday Morning behavior the entire time. This may have something to do with it not being a payday weekend and everyone’s NCO will be hounding them all weekend to not even consider doing dumb sh*t.


Who am I kidding? We know there’s still going to be that one asshole who screws it all up anyway and it’ll be gone before next weekend… Here are some memes for everyone not planning to be the biggest Blue Falcon in USFK.

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Not CID)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme by WATM)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Articles

Osprey flights in Japan halted after mishap

The commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force has ordered a stop to all MV-22 Osprey flight operations in Japan until safety procedures can be reviewed after one of the tiltrotor aircraft was forced to make an emergency shallow-water landing off the coast of Okinawa on Tuesday.


In a press conference in Okinawa following the incident, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson said the aircraft had been conducting aerial refueling operations over water when the rotor blades hit the refueling line, causing damage to the aircraft.

Also read: NATO is hunting for this Russian submarine in the Med

“After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently,” Nicholson said, according to a III MEF news release. “The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab … and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa.”

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

All five Marine crew members aboard the Osprey were rescued from the aircraft and taken to the naval hospital at Camp Foster for treatment following the crash. According to the release, three have been released, and two remain under observation. Their current condition was not described.

III MEF officials said a salvage survey is being conducted to determine how best to recover the damaged Osprey safely, while protecting the environment. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

During the press conference, Nicholson thanked the Japan Coast Guard and the Okinawan police for their assistance in responding to the crash.

“I regret that this incident took place,” Nicholson said. “We are thankful for all the thoughts and prayers the people of Okinawa gave to our injured crew.”

The Marines’ use of the Osprey on Okinawa has long been a point of contention among residents, many of whom fear that the aircraft might be especially prone to crashes given its history of deadly incidents in its early days. When additional Ospreys arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in 2012, locals held protests to oppose the move.

This is the second time in four months that Nicholson has ordered an operational pause for aircraft in Japan. In September, he ordered AV-8B Harriers in the region to temporarily halt operations after one of the aircraft crashed off of Okinawa.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

Take a look at the jerseys for the sports teams of the United States Military Academy at West Point. At first glance, you’d probably assume that their mascot is a golden knight — which is strange, because they’re known as the “Black Knights.” What’s even more strange is that their mascot isn’t a knight at all; it’s a mule.

That’s right. The West Point mascot is the crossbreed between a horse and a donkey — just as it is for the rest of the US Army. It isn’t the best looking animal by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it anywhere close to being the most majestic. But all of the things it represents — strength, wisdom, and stubbornness determination — sum up the Army as a whole.


Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

And the U.S. Army has been using mules ever since.

(U.S. Army)

Shortly after Army and Navy football teams first met on the gridiron in 1890, both sides went to working coming up with a mascot. The Navy was first to field one. The goat named named El Cid made his first appearance in 1893 at the fourth meeting between the two branches. Navy tried out a few mascots over the years, but eventually decided that the goat was their best choice. Since 1904, they’ve been represented by the cleverly named Bill the Goat.

The Army, however, didn’t waiver between selections. They quickly settled on and stuck with the mule, as the animal has a rich history within the military. In fact, the earliest accounts of mules being recognized for their warfare potential date all the way back to the dawn of recorded history in Egypt. Even George Washington was fond of mules, having been the first to raise them in the colonies. He was the driving force behind their use by the Revolutionary Army.

West Point officially adopted the mule as their mascot in 1899, but the life of an animal mascot was a little different back then. Instead of selecting a single animal to enjoy some pampered time in the spotlight, the Army would simply select a random mule from the stables to proudly march about the field. They continued this practice for roughly forty years.

If the Army was playing a home game, they’d borrow one from a nearby handler. If they were playing an away game, they’d try to find one wherever they ended up — typically, a less-than-successful endeavor. In 1939, the Army decided to finally settle on a single, official mascot. A mule named Mr. Jackson became the first Army mule.

While many mules have since taken on this duty, it’s important to note that at least one mule in the stable must always be named Ranger after the elite infantrymen. This is part of a stipulation put in place by Steven Townes, a graduate of West Point from the class of 1975, former mule rider and Army Ranger. Townes would eventually become the CEO and founder of Ranger Aerospace LLC. after his military career concluded.

As his way of giving back to West Point, the Ranger regiment he served in, and the mules he once cared for, he established an endowment to forever fund, house, and maintain the mules at West Point. For his generosity, he has unofficially been granted the title of “mule donor in perpetuity.”

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