Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

Iraqi forces “swiftly and thoroughly” ejected ISIS fighters from Al Qaim — a city at the western edge of Iraq’s Anbar province and the terrorist group’s last stronghold on the Iraq-Syria border — in early November.


ISIS has lost most of the land it once held and has largely disappeared as an organized fighting force. All that’s left of the group’s so-called caliphate, which once stretched from northwest Syria to the edges of Baghdad, is chunks of territory along the Euphrates River in Iraq and Syria.

For the close to 1,000 US Marines assisting Iraqi forces in the area, the campaign has led them back to familiar terrain to continue the fight against an enemy that appears set to evolve into a different kind of threat.

“Marines, in particular, understand western Iraq,” Marine Corps. Brig Gen. Robert Sofge told Marine Corps Times this month — an area Sofge called “old stomping grounds” for US Marines.

“We spent most folks’ career there and there are relationships there that endure,” Sofge said. “Even while priorities may shift in and around [US Central Command], that doesn’t make what’s going in Anbar [province] less important.”

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1st Marine Division, confirm map details about Fallujah, Iraq, before continuing patrols during Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Nov. 12, 2004. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan C. Knauth, U.S. Marine Corps.)

ISIS fighters have mostly withdrawn from Iraqi cities, Sofge said, but a Marine Corps task force is still in the area assisting Iraqi forces around Al Qaim with airstrikes and artillery support, as well as with intelligence and surveillance. But the expanse of empty desert in Anbar presents its own challenges in a new phase of the anti-ISIS effort.

Clearing and holding territory recaptured in Anbar will be “much more challenging,” said Marine Corps Col. Seth Folsom, commander Task Force Lion, which oversaw fighting in Al Qaim.

Folsom told the Associated Press that it was easy to motivate troops to fight to regain their country. “What’s less easy to motivate men to do, is to stand duty on checkpoints,” he said.

Read More: This is why Fallujah is one of the Marine Corps’ most legendary battles

Added to that challenge is the potential for a shift to irregular warfare.

“We believe that the enemy is in the deserts and also fading into the civilian population,” Sofge told Marine Corps Times. “There’s still a great deal of work to be done, even if it’s not against traditional formations in the cities.”

Sofge said the remnants of ISIS in the area have yet to adopt insurgent tactics that Al Qaeda, the group’s predecessor in Iraq, used against US personnel and Iraqis in the mid- and late-2000s. Marines on the ground there are not advising Iraqi forces on counterinsurgency tactics because such operations are not being conducted.

‘It’s quiet before the storm’

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
U.S. Marines huddle behind walls as they receive instructions about their next move after a M1A1 tank eliminates the Iraqi insurgents in a house the Marines were receiving fire from in Fallujah, Iraq, in support of Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Dec. 10, 2004. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris, U.S. Marine Corps.)

Resources in Anbar are stretched increasingly thin among a growing number of coalition troops stationed in the area.

Marines in Al Qaim ration water, according to the AP, while water-shortage notices adorn bathrooms and showers at Al Asad, the coalition’s main base in the province. Weather conditions and a lack of Iraqi escorts often delay supply convoys dispatched to outposts in Anbar.

Unlike coalition forces in northern Iraq, forces in western Iraq now also face the “tyranny of distance” as a complicating factor for their operations, Folsom told the AP.

Also Read: This Marine Singlehandedly Cleared A Rooftop After His Squad Was Pinned Down In Fallujah

A Marine staff sergeant who was in Anbar in 2007 told the AP that while mood among US personnel after ISIS’ ouster was one of accomplishment but not of finality. He said that while he initially didn’t think he’d be back, he now expects US forces to be there for generations.

“When my son joins the Marines, he’ll probably be deployed to Iraq,” he said with a laugh.

Some Iraqis in the area are anxious about things to come.

In Fallujah, a city in eastern Anbar that became a flashpoint for sectarian tensions and insurgent fighting during the US occupation in the 2000s, the mood remains tense, as Sunni-Shiite tension simmer.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Anti-government insurgents in Fallujah, 2004

While ISIS’ ouster has brought Iraq together in some ways, the success of the campaign has allowed old divisions to resurface in some parts of the country. At an military outpost in Fallujah, Iraqi Col. Muhammad Abdulla said the local population, largely Sunni in a Shiite-majority country, remained wary of the central government, which has been dominated by Shiite officials in the post-Saddam era.

Some in the area were still sympathetic to extremists, while others doubt US or Iraqi forces can protect them, leading most to not cooperate, Abdulla said.

“We say it’s quiet before the storm,” Sheikh Talib Hasnawi Aiffan, head of the Fallujah District Council, told Ben Kesling, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was stationed in Fallujah as a Marine lieutenant in 2007.

“We are scared,” Aiffan told Kesling. “We have experienced it before.”

Articles

Army round triggers problems in Marine M27 auto rifle

Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, service officials say.


The Marine Corps in March added the M27 and the M16A4 rifles to the Army’s ongoing testing of M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after lawmakers questioned why the Army and the Marines use two different types of 5.56mm ammunition.

Also read: Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

“One of the reasons we were doing that test was because of congressional language from last year that said ‘you two services need to look at getting to a common round,’ so we heard Congress loud and clear last year,” Col. Michael Manning, program manager for the Marine Corps Infantry Weapon Systems, told Military.com in a Dec. 15 Interview.

Lawmakers again expressed concern this year in the final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act, which includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
A Navy corpsman performs immediate action on the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palm, Calif. | US Marine Corps photo

Congress has approved the provision, but the bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The report must be submitted within 180 days after enactment of the legislation, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

“The 2017 NDAA language doesn’t surprise us; we kind of figured they were going to say that,” Manning said.

Lead-free round

The Army replaced the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 EPR, the result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have said. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials maintain.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
The US Army’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. | US Army photo

The Marine Corps still uses the M855 but since 2009 has also relied heavily upon the MK 318, a 5.56mm round that’s popular in the special operations community.

The Army’s M855A1 test, which involves the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines and the Marine M16A4 and M27, is still ongoing and Marine officials are expecting a final test report in the April-May 2017 timeframe, Manning said.

Preliminary findings of the test show that the Army’s M855A1 round meets all the requirements for a 5.56mm general purpose round in Army weapon systems, “but does not meet the system reliability requirement when fired from the USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder said in a Dec. 16 email.

The Marine Corps began fielding the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads.

The M27, made by Heckler Koch, is a version of the German gun-maker’s HK 416, an M4-style weapon that used a piston gas system instead of the direct gas impingement system found on the M4 and M16A4.

The Marines like it so much that the service is considering making it the next service rifle for infantry battalions in the Corps.

“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.

Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.

“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”

New magazine

After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.

Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.

“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.

“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.

Preliminary tests also show that the M855A1 also causes durability problems in the M27, Woodburn said.

“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.

“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.

Previous setback

In 2008, the Marine Corps came out with a requirement for a new 5.56mm round that would penetrate battlefield barriers such as car windshields with our losing performance better than the older M855 round, Marine officials maintain.

The service had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the earlier, bismuth-tin slug design proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The Army quickly redesigned the M855A1 with its current solid copper slug, but the setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology, or SOST, round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo, Marine officials maintain.

The MK 318 and the Army’s M855A1 “were developed years ago; they both were developed for a specific requirement capability separate and aside from each other,” Manning said. “The bottom line is both of these rounds are very good rounds.”

Both the Army and the Marine Corps “would like to get to a common round,” Manning added.

The Army, however, maintains that it is “committed to the M855A1” round and so far has produced more than one billion rounds of the ammunition, Stalder said.

“It provides vastly superior performance across each target set at an extremely affordable cost and eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead that would otherwise be deposited annually onto our training bases,” Stalder said. “More than 1.6B rounds have been produced and reports on combat effectiveness have been overwhelmingly positive.”

Articles

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

The US Navy made history on March 5, 2018, by putting to sea, for the first time ever, an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets.


And by deploying them in the Pacific, it’s a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.

The US Marine Corps’s Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed aboard the USS Wasp, a smaller-deck aircraft carrier that used to operate harrier jump jets and helicopters before getting special modifications to field the F-35.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“This is a historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer in a US Navy press release. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a Marine rifleman on the ground.”

The deployment marks the culmination of years of planning. Since its inception, the F-35 has been designed with the idea of accommodating short takeoff, vertical landing variants. Initially, the design compromises forced by the massive tail fan and unique capabilities caused complications, compromises, and long and expensive delays.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun)

But the US has still beaten China, Russia, and the entire world to the punch with a navalized stealth fighter that can fight for air superiority, pull off precision strikes, penetrate enemy airspaces, and coordinate with the two US Navy guided-missile destroyers to guide ship-fired missiles to targets ashore.

The squadron aboard the Wasp has also trained heavily on a new set of tactics meant to keep the US dominant in the Pacific region. Leveraging the short-takeoff, vertical landing ability of the F-35B, the pilots and maintainers drilled on setting up improvised refuel and reloading points, and how to quickly restock the jet for battle, much like mechanics performing pit stops during NASCAR races.

More: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Additionally, the F-35B has the option of equipping a gun and opening it up as a close-air-support platform to support Marines making a beach landing.

The result is a stealth fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet well-suited to the Asia-Pacific region, which US adversaries, like China and North Korea, will be sure to recognize.

US competition in the region and around the world put on notice

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. (US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)

“You’re about to put, for the first time ever, fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

Related: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

As Beijing pushes on with its massive land grab in the South China Sea by militarizing artificial islands, intruding in territorial waters of its neighbors, and performing increasingly aggressive fighter jet drills around the Pacific, the F-35B deployment gives the US an advantage in terms of air power at sea.

China has struggled to field its own stealth jets that many see as an answer to US air power in the region.

North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it cannot track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.

Here’s a video of the F-35B landing vertically on the Wasp at sea:

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 22

America has a new tax code, no one at the UN cares what Nikki Haley thinks about Jerusalem, and this week, the President presented his plan to keep us all safe.


Those are just a few of the more political stories we didn’t cover because we don’t really do politics.

I present you the gift of memes. These memes. Merry Christmakkah.

1. When the father of our country wants to stab people, you let him.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Father knows best.

2. It only took 3 uniform changes over 10 years, but…

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
And Navy still comes in with ridiculous blue uniforms. They never learn.

3. Turns out ‘Groundhog Day’ was the story of one man’s enlistment. (via Marine Corps Memes)

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

Also read: 6 crazy things actually found in amnesty boxes

4. Does it count if a recording answers the phone?

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Or any millennial.

5. Who calculated this?

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
And where are they stationed?

6. “And you better dress for it.”

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Also, any pills you take will end your career.

Now read: This is why the U.S.military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

7. Oh look, the Empire has a National Guard.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?

8. But… Pew. Pew?

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
The learning curve in Vietnam was a b*tch.

8. “Honk if parts fall off.”

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
There’s no in-between.

9. Now show me Petty Officer 1st Class Keef before his promotion. (via Pop Smoke)

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
I don’t want to be in that safety briefing.

Classic: That time CBS captured an intense firefight in Vietnam

10. “This song’s about me!”

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

11. That’s the Christmas spirit. (via Decelerate Your Life)

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Be not led into temptation.

12. Somebody call the medic, we have a sick burn. (via the Salty Soldier)

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
When a recruiter is on an all-salt diet.

13. This is only the half-truth. (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
We wouldn’t eat that garbage cut. Filet or nothing.

Now Check Out: 9 reasons you should have joined the Army instead

Articles

Air Force data breach exposes Channing Tatum

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” star Channing Tatum is among over 4,000 people who may have had personal information exposed on an unsecured backup drive owned by an unidentified lieutenant colonel.


According to a report by the International Business Times, the information exposed on the unsecured drive, which was able to be accessed via an internet connection, included passport numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers, security clearance levels, and completed SF86 applications for security clearances.

The drive was secured with a password when the leak was discovered by a researcher.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
(Photo: Capt. Kyle Key)

The information contained is considered the “holy grail” by some experts in the field of national security, the website noted. Former government officials told ZDNet that the information could be used for blackmail purposes.

SF86 forms contain information that is used to determine what sort of classified material an individual can have access to. That information includes convictions, financial information, personal or business relationships with foreign nationals, mental health history and similar information. The data breach puts the individuals at risk for identity theft and financial fraud.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Romanian hacker “Guccifer”, who is known for many cyber intrusions against the United States. (NBC News screenshot.)

The materials on the drive included the spreadsheet that had information on Tatum gathered prior to a six-day tour the actor took in Afghanistan. Other unidentified celebrities also had their contact information compromised.

Information on various probes of American officials was also compromised in the hack. Some of those probes involved allegations of abuse of power. Bank information was also on the compromised disk, as well as years of e-mails.

Both ZDNet and the International Business Times noted that the device was accessible to anyone and searchable, so it may be impossible to determine who has accessed the drive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump envoy: U.S., Russia to hold nuclear arms talks in June, China invited

The United States and Russia have agreed on a time and place for nuclear arms negotiations this month and invited China, President Donald Trump’s arms negotiator says.

“Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Sergei] Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June,” U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea wrote on Twitter on June 8.


“China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” he added, without providing further details.

There were no immediate comments from Russian officials.

Earlier, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department official as saying that Ryabkov and Billingslea would meet in Vienna on June 22.

The official didn’t rule out that the United States may be willing to extend the New Start nuclear-weapons treaty, if Russia “commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table,” according to Bloomberg.

New START, the last major arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in February 2021.

The accord caps the number of nuclear warheads and so-called delivery systems held by the two countries.

While Moscow has pushed for a five-year extension, Washington has balked, saying it wants the deal to be broadened to include China.

China, whose nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of Moscow’s and Washington’s, has said it was not interested in participating in such talks.

The Trump administration has pulled out of major international treaties, prompting warnings of an increased possibility of an arms race or accidental military confrontations.

Last month, Washington gave notice on withdrawing from the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.

The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations and said the United States was seeking to undermine international security.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first openly transgender recruit joins the US military

The first openly transgender person has signed up to join the U.S. Armed Forces.


On Feb. 27, the Pentagon confirmed that the recruit signed a contract to join the military after a federal judge ruled that transgender individuals who meet the standards for military service must be allowed to join.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
A protest held July 26, 2017 in Times Square outside the U.S. Army Recruiting Center in response to President Trump tweeting that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. (Image via Jere Keys)

Here is a brief timeline of recent events concerning transgender military eligibility: 

June 30, 2016: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. was lifting the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

June 30, 2016: A RAND study determined medical care for individuals who transition would cost roughly $2.4 to $4 million annually, thus amounting to no more than 0.13% of spending on healthcare for active duty armed service members.

July 26, 2017: President Donald Trumped announced on Twitter that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

Aug. 29, 2017: Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that currently serving transgender troops would be allowed to remain in the armed services, pending the recommendations of a panel study and consultation with Homeland Security.

Jan. 1, 2018: Transgender individuals were allowed to join the U.S. military after the Pentagon was forced to comply with a federal court ruling issued in December 2017.

February 23, 2018: The Pentagon confirmed that there is one transgender individual under contract for service in the U.S. Military.

Under the guidelines effective Jan. 1, 2018, transgender applicants must be certified by a medical provider as stable without “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” for 18 months in order to be eligible to serve.

Secretary Mattis maintains that “our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.

Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.


This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.

Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.

Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]

Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.

(Photo by Ingrid Cold)

I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.

Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.

This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.

Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.

You are never truly alone.

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For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)

I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.

I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.

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I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.

(Picture by Eric Milzarski)

It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.

If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘having guts’ actually meant being an able U.S. troop

These days, having the guts to do something just means someone is brave enough to take on what seems to be an overwhelming undertaking. Any herculean task could require guts: quitting a job, suing city hall, or voting third party could all require a gut check by today’s standards. In days past, however, a gut check was only required by the soldiers who were about to fight in combat.


Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

For the record, it still is.

Armies in the days of yore – before the 20th Century – faced very different problems than the ones deployed American troops face today. Where we have been known to wince every time we see a runner missing his reflective belt or wonder why I always get the goddamned vegetarian MRE, the Army of the pre-World War I days was more worried about things like clean drinking water, cholera, and dysentery.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

It’s amazing how they can smile even when the stupid chow hall is out of Diet Coke *again*

In days gone by, if someone asked a soldier if they had the guts to fight the coming day or the next day, it wasn’t just an affirmation of macho willpower, it was a real question of a soldier’s ability to maintain his position and discipline in the ranks instead of running off to the latrine every ten minutes to evacuate his bowels.

The asker’s “gut check” was real – and literal – checking to see if his comrade in arms was suffering from diarrhea or a similar illness of the bowels that would keep him from performing at the front lines. Maintaining the integrity of certain infantry formations used to be integral to the survival of the whole unit.

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

“Jesus, what is that smell, Kenneth?”

At the time of the U.S. Civil War, microbes were only just being accepted as cause for disease. In that war, 620,000 men were killed, but disease actually killed two-thirds of those men. A single illness such as measles could wipe out entire units. Battlefield sanitation was the order of the day, but if Civil War troops chose to ignore an order, that would be the one. Latrines were dug near camps, wells, and rivers as horse and mule entrails and manure permeated their camps.

As a result, dysentery was the single greatest killer of Civil War soldiers. Having the guts to fight only meant you were one of very few troops not suffering from the trots.

Articles

DARPA’s parasails make submarine hunters more lethal

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Photo: YouTube/DARPA


The Defense Advanced Research Projects agency’s drone submarine hunter — more properly known as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel or ACTUV — just successfully tested a new piece of equipment that dramatically increases the range of its sensors and communications gear.

The ACTUV is designed to patrol the oceans without a human crew, searching for potentially hostile submarines and then following them. But the small vessels have a limited sensor range since all of their antennas are relatively close to the water’s surface. Getting these antennas and sensors higher would give the ship a larger detection radius.

The TALONS — Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems — is basically a parachute towed behind a vessel like what would carry a tourist on a parasailing trip. But instead of flying your drunk Uncle Greg, the TALONS sports a sensor and antenna payload of up to 150 pounds. This raises those sensors to altitudes between 500 and 1,000 feet above sea level.

A DARPA press release detailed the gains in sensor range:

While aloft, TALONS demonstrated significant improvements to the range of the sensors and radios it carried compared to mounting them directly on a surface vessel. For example, TALONS’ surface-track radar extended its range by 500 percent—six times—compared to its range at sea level. Its electro-optical/infrared scanner doubled its observed discrimination range. The TALONS team plugged in a commercial handheld omnidirectional radio; that radio’s range more than tripled.

Ships besides the ACTUV could use the TALONS to extend their sensor ranges as well. Even carrier islands sit just a few hundred feet above the waterline, meaning that carriers could get greater range for their sensors by towing the lighter ones on the TALONS — provided that engineers could find a setup that wouldn’t interfere with aircraft traffic.

Articles

This is how Team Red, White & Blue supports more than those who served

When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.


It wasn’t easy.

But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.

“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.

It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

 

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Support Team Red White, Blue by donating today!

Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.

Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.

So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.

“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I  feel like I have a purpose.”

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
Flores and his team biked over 100 miles across the Arizona desert in support of Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay. (Photo from Team RWB)

For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.

So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.

And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.

“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”

In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.

“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay, so check out their website to get more information – or text ‘OGR’ to 41444 to learn more and donate! You can track the flag on its journey across America at the OGR Live tracking page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new campaign will tell the stories of vets and their connections to refugees

Many veterans have a unique perspective on the state of the world — with continued deployment tempos to foreign countries (especially those impacted by conflict), our veterans are exposed to life outside the continental United States. They also work alongside our allies and build relationships with them.


On Veterans Day 2017, Human Rights First’s Veterans for American Ideals project is launching the #WhatIFoughtFor campaign to tell the stories of U.S. veterans with deeply personal and profound connections with refugees. 

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’
U.S. Air Force Colonel Len Profenna, left, chief of internal medicine, and Major Nathan Piovesan, a general surgeon from the 96th Medical Group, screen earthquake victims in the University of Miami medical tent Jan. 25, 2010, at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The doctors are screening 27 patients to be medically evacuated to the United States following a 7-magnitude earthquake that hit the city on Jan. 12, 2010. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock, U.S. Air Force)

Veterans have seen firsthand the devastation of war. According to #WhatIFoughtFor, “many of them have worked in communities around the world that have suffered from violence and oppression. They have even fought alongside many of these individuals as allies during wartime. They understand why refugees flee their homes, and that refugees want the same safety and opportunity for their families that we do.”

As a result, many veterans believe that commitment extends beyond their military service. Veterans for American Ideals is one such organization, and their mission is to stand with refugees, to tell their stories, and to help the American people make educated and informed decisions about America’s relationship with refugees.

Also read: This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

According to their website, “Veterans for American Ideals is a nonpartisan group of military veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals. After taking off the uniform, we seek to continue serving our country by advocating policies that are consistent with the ideals that motivated us to serve in the first place: freedom, diversity, equality, and justice. It is those same ideals that make the United States a beacon to the world’s refugees.”

The campaign chronicles seven stories of family, friendship, brotherhood, and camaraderie between U.S. veterans and refugees. You can find more information about the Nov. 11, 2017 launch on Facebook or Twitter

Check out the trailer for the campaign below:

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