Mattis' ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.


Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”

It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

Also read: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”

However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”

He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.

Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.

“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”

Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.

“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.

Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”

“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.

“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”

In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”

The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.

“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”

There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.

He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.

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Woman helping to put faces to names on Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq


A mere mention of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in D.C. is enough to evoke emotional thoughts of the living remembering their fallen. On a daily basis, veterans, family members, friends and strangers alike are visibly impacted by the seemingly endless stretch of black granite that bears the names of 58,307 men and women who lost their priceless lives – or remain missing – due to that war. Some reach out their hand to touch the wall, some reverently read  names, and thousands each year will leave behind an item in tribute (NPS approximates that 400,000 items have been kept in the collection since 1982). Eight summers ago, one visitor walked away with an experience that compelled her to help others literally see the veterans whose names were represented on that wall.

During a vacation with her husband to Washington, D.C. in 2008, Janna Hoehn of Kihei, Maui was one of the 4 million a year who visit “The Wall”. This was an important visit for her.  She purposed to write down one name and learn more about that individual.

“Vietnam was my entire high school years, I recall the way the returning Veterans were treated. It always has stayed with me.” said Hoehn, “I have always had a huge place in my heart for Vietnam Veterans. Standing in front of the Vietnam Wall profoundly changed my life … I never dreamed how it would affect me.”

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
Janna Hoehn | KRGV.com

As she read through the etched names of soldiers, she noticed some had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross. The explanation of those symbols would aid her in choosing a soldier’s name:

“I asked a man standing next to me why most the names had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross, he explained to me the cross was an MIA. If the remains were ever returned to America then the cross could be easily made into a diamond. That is why I chose the name I did, I wanted an MIA after he explained it to me.”

She chose the name of Major Gregory John Crossman from Michigan. She found out that he was a 26-year-old pilot whose plane went down. April 25, 2016 marked 48 years that he has been missing in action.

She wanted to put a face to this name and story. “Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Vietnam Wall. It makes that person real. [It is] someone’s loved one, a son, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew, best friend…” she said.

Later, she heard about Faces Never Forgotten, an effort by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall Foundation to “put a face and a story to each name on The Wall”.  Hoehn sent over Gregory’s photo, and about a week later, was contacted by Jan Scruggs, the program’s founder and president. He called to thank her for the photo, and enlisted her to help find photos of Maui’s fallen. “I was honored to do so.”, Hoehn said. In 6 months she found all 42 photos for the Maui fallen, then went on to help complete the entire state of Hawaii.

Her mission was far from over. She is committed to the difficult task of tracking down these photo of the fallen state by state. At the time of writing, she has to find photos of fallen Vietnam veterans in seven states. Those being: California (many), Texas (many), Washington (16),  Colorado (15), Alaska (4), Utah (3), and Nevada (1).

The photos are displayed online on the “Wall of Faces”. The VVMF hopes to break ground by 2018 on a physical museum site. They will further recognize the fallen heroes by enlarging their photos on a floor to ceiling display on their birthdays.

Learn more about The Wall of Faces here. To provide missing information from the Wall of Faces (photos, biographical information), you can email Janna directly.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch: a Marine on Mt Everest, Syrian rebels taking on ISIS, and a badass Gurkha

Here’s a quick look at a few of our favorite stories of the week:


In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world. Semper Fi!

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition launched a new campaign to advance toward the ISIS capital at Raqqa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYcqrT0nU0I

To say that Gurkhas are simply soldiers from Nepal would be a massive understatement. They are known for their exceptional bravery, ability, and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. A great example is Dipprasad Pun, who singlehandedly held his post against more than 30 Taliban fighters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want artificial intelligence to help counter mines

After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps is looking to reorient toward its specialty, amphibious operations, while preparing for the next fight against what is likely to a more capable foe.

Peer and near-peer adversaries are deploying increasingly sophisticated weaponry that the Corps believes will make amphibious landings a much more challenging proposition in the future.


The Corps is looking for high-tech weapons to counter those looming threats, but it’s also looking for a sophisticated system to counter a persistent, low-tech, but decidedly dangerous weapon — mines hidden close to shore.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

(U.S. Marine Corps Facebook Page)

According to a recent post on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps Rapid Capability Office is looking to autonomous and artificial-intelligence technology to “increase Marines’ ability to detect, analyze, and neutralize Explosive Ordnance (EO) in shallow water and the surf zone” — two areas where amphibious ships and landing craft would spend much of their time.

“Initial market research has determined multiple technically mature solutions exist that can assist Marines ability to achieve this capability,” the notice says.

Potential systems envisioned by the Corps’ request for information include autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with sensors and other gear to detect and evaluate explosive devices.

“Some solutions may provide the ability to neutralize detected ordnance, which is desired but not required,” the RFI states.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

Marines conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the West Coast, Dec. 8, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo)

The Corps wants contractors to submit up to three prototypes from a single family or multiple families of systems.

Requirements outlined in the RFI for contractor-submitted systems include being able to detect and identify explosive devices in waters ranging the surf zone, where depths are less than 10 feet, to very shallow waters, which range from 10 feet to 40 feet in depth.

The proposed system must also be able to navigate and avoid obstacles in the littoral zone, which includes shorelines out to coastal waters of 200 feet in depth or more.

The system submitted to the Corps must also be able to use geolocation information to “mark” explosive devices to within a meter in environments where communications and GPS are contested or denied.

The Corps is also looking for systems that are man-portable and can be launched and recovered by one- or two-man teams in a small boat, like the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

A US Marine Corps medium tactical vehicle replacement drives on shore during exercise Baltic Operations 2018 at Ustka, Poland, June 7, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

While mines have grown more sophisticated in recent decades, even rudimentary ones are still a potent threat.

An Iranian sea mine that almost sunk the US Navy frigate Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device. Since the end of World War II sea mines have destroyed or damaged more US Navy ships than any other weapon.

Mines have become a cornerstone of anti-access/aerial-denial strategies adopted by countries like Iran and China, which have plans to deploy them in important maritime areas like the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea.

The Navy has dedicated mine-countermeasures systems, including specially designed and equipped Avenger-class ships that are deployed around the world and rapidly deployable MH-53H Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany Avenger-class ships.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

A US sailor lowers a mine-neutralization vehicle from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief into the water to track mines and simulate delivering an explosive package, Nov. 27, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Crouch)

Those systems are aging, however, and the Navy has been working on a slew of remotely operated and unmanned mine-countermeasures systems that would be deployed aboard the service’s littoral combat ships, with the goal of “taking the man out of the minefield.”

While there has been recent progress with LCS-based anti-mine systems, the LCS program and those mine countermeasures have encountered delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns that have hindered the program and its implementation.

The Corps has also made progress with countering mines that Marines would encounter on shore.

In December 2017, Marines conducted the first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype, which was attached to an assault breaching vehicle and sent ashore on during an exercise on the West Coast.

The regular full-width plow was too big to fit aboard the Navy’s landing craft utility boats. The modified version is easier to transport and safer to use, a Marine Corps Systems Command official said earlier this year, and it gave commanders more flexibility with their ABVs.

Once ashore, the plow supplements the ABV’s other mine-countermeasure systems, helping clear a path for Marines to advance off the beach.

“This plow prototype makes the ABV transportable and gives the commander options to accomplish his tasks on the battlefield,” Alvin Barrons, an assault breaching vehicle engineer, said in a release at the time. “The capability makes the force more lethal because it helps keep other combat vehicles intact and saves the lives of Marines.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 ways the military prepared me to homeschool

Our family is discovering a new adventure as the pandemic continues and a normal school year is not on the horizon. I never, ever planned to be a homeschool mom. But when the pandemic hit and my boys were home each day, I realized how much I enjoyed their company and oddly how much I missed them each day they went to school. And while it requires a lot of flexibility to continue running my business, I know that homeschooling is the best option for our family. As a family, we have learned a lot about the advantages of homeschooling. And I’m quickly realizing my past life as an Air Force Officer is playing into my strengths when it comes to homeschooling. Here are a few ways the military prepared me to be a homeschool mom.


Moving forward with confidence

The military teaches you to make a choice and move forward. When our school district came out with the options for the upcoming school year, the options laid forward by the district didn’t feel like the right choice for our family. So, my husband and I decided to start looking into homeschooling. The more research we did the more confident we were in the choice to homeschool. Now that school is starting all over the country, I realize homeschooling was the best option for our family and I am thankful we made this choice months ago. I did the research, made a choice and am now moving forward with confidence. Just like the military trained me to do.

Know the Objectives, Create a Mission Plan

When people hear I am homeschooling they often ask what curriculum I am using. My answer: I’m not. I have done enough research on the standards that my boys need to meet by the end of the school year and am working to create tools we need to get there. I guess I have always been part of the unschooled philosophy and find lesson plans too restrictive. We have a schedule and a plan for each week, the military trained me for that too, but I also know where we need to go and don’t need any one person to tell me how to get there. My military background has me focused on the mission and I even have created waypoints throughout the school year to help access where we are, where we are going and I am ready to make adjustments along the way.

Delegate when necessary

While I’m really excited about teaching math and science, oddly enough, even though my job is to write, I don’t feel confident in teaching my son how to read. He is entering second grade and is behind in reading. Most of the homework around reading last year was filled with frustration on both my son’s and my part. So, my husband and I decided to delegate this responsibility. My husband and I did our research and we have started using the Easy Read System. It is a program that helps my son while I work along with him. It is a team effort and the best part? There is no yelling or frustration. It is actually fun, for both of us. He is making progress with reading and writing with this tool and I am excited to see what he learns over the next few months.

We also have been long time subscribers to Kiwi Co Science Crates. Each month we get a new Kiwi Crate for both my seven and four year olds. In the past, we focused on the activity and often didn’t dive into the extra resources provided. But now we are planning to not only enjoy the project that comes each month, but use the additional resources for science learning.

We are also relying on our Disney+ subscription, but not to watch Mickey Mouse. Both our boys also have a love of animals so we have been using Disney+ Natural Geographic Channel to learn about different animals each week. We also are big fans of PBS Kids, Khan Academy Kids and Sesame Street’s Alphabet Kitchen.

Think outside the box

I’m also planning lessons throughout the year for things I have always wanted to do and never have had the time to do. We are planning to use Truth in the Tinsel’s Advent calendar and crafts for the Christmas season. We already planted pumpkins in the Spring and have been using them to learn about how things grow throughout the summer. And we are planning to plant a garden in the Spring. We use the kitchen to expand our classroom by creating yummy treats like Taffy and Blueberry Pie.

Almost every question my boys ask can turn into a classroom adventure. And as long as we stay focused on the standards set by the school, we are finding a lot of flexibility in our home classroom.

Yes, the military training even applies to homeschooling and oddly enough it isn’t as rigid as I expected. What does your school year plan look like? What tools from your life experience are you using to help get through this unsettling time?

Articles

Marines collect intel, pinpoint ISIS targets as Mosul fight draws near

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis


Behind the scenes in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq areMarine intelligence analysts who work around the clock to produce what are called, in military euphemism, “target development products” — essentially, information about enemy equipment and personnel to be destroyed.

As Iraqi security forces, supported by a U.S.-led coalition, fight ISIS militants with hopes to retake Mosul in the north by year’s end, troops with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command provide “intelligence surge support,” developing from one to six or more targets in a given week, task force commander Col. Kenneth Kassner told Military.com this week.

Speaking via phone from a location in the Middle East, Kassner said operational tempo had maintained its intensity since the unit rotated into the region in April.

Deploying in six-month rotations, the unit was created in 2014 as a contingency force for the region, based in six countries and on standby for operations in 20.

But since the 2,300-man task force stood up, operations in support of the fight against the Islamic State have dominated its responsibilities.

Four months into this rotation, Marine F/A-18D Hornets with the unit have conducted more than 1,500 sorties to take out enemy targets in Iraq and Syria.

Task force Marines also provide security at the Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Iraq, enabling training of Iraqi troops and advisory support at key locations near the fight.

And while the unit’s Marines are not in combat on the ground, they quietly perform a number of background roles in the warfighting machine against ISIS.

“We have a very robust intelligence capability here in the [Marine air-ground task force] and what that enables us to do is, my intelligence analysts are able to better assess targets in support of the Iraqis’ ground maneuver,” Kassner said. “And once we develop that target, we’re looking for different types of patterns of analysis associated with that target.”

The intel, derived through air reconnaissance and other methods Kassner declined to describe, is submitted through coalition channels and used to inform the fight.

“Whether or not it is identified for a particular strike, that doesn’t reside with this MAGTF,” he said. “What we are providing is really a supporting effort to that larger target development process.”

U.S. airstrikes have wiped out more than 26,000 individual ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since the fight began, according to U.S. Central Command data compiled by Time Magazine. On the ground, Iraqi troops have celebrated several high-stakes victories; in June, they reclaimed Fallujah after nearly two years in the hands of enemy forces.

Kassner said the MAGTF also continues to keep its squadron of MV-22 Ospreys at the ready for tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) missions in support of the ISIS fight.

Amid constant and complex drills and training, both at home and downrange, he said, Marines had been able to “dramatically improve” TRAP response time, shaving minutes off every step of the mission, from equipment preparation to runway taxi.

While the task force has not been called to recover downed coalition aircraft or personnel since Ospreys deployed to recover an Air Force MQ-1 Predatordrone in southern Iraq last June, Kassner said, the unit has forward-positioned aircraft at the ready in support of coalition strikes multiple times.

“Every minute is precious when conducting a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dunford warns that Russia, China pose serious threats

The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Oct. 1, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland.

The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.


“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”

Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.

Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities, and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.

Great power competition

These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.

“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”

Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.

However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.

The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”

He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in 2018. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

US to confront China on ‘unsafe’ intercept of Air Force spy plane

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
The WC-135W Constant Phoenix perfroms worlwide air sampling and is also used for limited nuclear test ban treaty verification. | U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger


Officials with U.S. Pacific Command concluded the two Chinese J-10 jets that intercepted an Air Force RC-135 spy plane during a routine patrol over the East China Sea were flying unsafely and improperly, but not being intentionally provocative.

In a statement released Wednesday by the command, officials said the Defense Department planned to address the problem with Chinese authorities using appropriate diplomatic and military channels.

The intercept, officials said, was unsafe because one of the Chinese jets approached the American aircraft at an excessive rate of speed.

“Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” they said in a news release.

A spokesman for the command, Cmdr. David Benham, told Military.com that the speed with which the J-10 had closed on the RC-135 had not been determined.

“We’re still reviewing the details of the incident,” he said. “Generally speaking, when assessing the intercept, we evaluate factors such as distance, closure, weather, maneuvering and visibility.”

The release cited the chief of Pacific Command, Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who emphasized that unsafe intercepts by Chinese aircraft were a rare occurrence, and that most recent U.S.-Chinese maritime interactions “had been conducted safely and professionally.”

But this intercept maneuver comes less than a month after a May 19 incident in which two Chinese J-11 aircraft conducted an unsafe intercept of an American EP-3 reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea. In that incident, the Chinese planes came within 50 feet of the American aircraft, according to media reports.

This most recent incident comes as U.S. and Chinese officials exchange stern words over the contested South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that China risked building a “Great Wall of self-isolation” if it continued to alienate neighbors with aggressive sovereignty claims and militarization activities in the region.

China fired back on Monday, when Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying

accused “certain countries” of conducting a “negative publicity campaign” regarding Chinese activity in the South China Sea.

“By sensationalizing the so-called tensions in the South China Sea, and driving wedges between countries in the region, they are trying to justify their political and military involvement in the South China Sea issue,” Hua said. “That is what they really want.”

Articles

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes Forest that caught the Allies off guard. As the Battle of the Bulge erupted, depleted American forces were rushed into the lines to shore up the defense. One of those units was the 1st Infantry Division’s 26th Infantry Regiment.


One of the veterans of the battalion, Henry Warner, was assigned to lead a 57mm anti-tank gun section in the battalion’s anti-tank company.

Warner had joined the Army at the age of 19 in January of 1943. After being assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, he fought through northern Europe with the 26th Infantry Regiment and received a promotion to Corporal.

When the Germans launched their major offensive, known to them as Operation Watch on the Rhine, Warner and the rest of his outfit were regrouping in Belgium after bitter fighting.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
U.S. troops of the 26th infantry at Butgenbach positioning an anti-tank gun. (U.S. Army Center for Military History)

The 26th Infantry Regiment had been engaged in the brutal fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. The second battalion had been particularly hard hit. The unit had been so depleted that nine out of every ten men in the battalion were green replacements — and they were still understrength. At the outset of the Battle of the Bulge, only seven officers in the entire unit had been with the battalion the previous month.

While the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions blunted the initial German thrust at Elsenborn Ridge, the 1st Infantry Division went south to shore up the defenses and stop any attempts of an encirclement by the Germans. Linking up with the 99th Infantry Division was the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. The battalion commander dispersed his understrength unit to hold the Belgian town of Butgenbach.

The defenders at Butgenbach just happened to be right in the way of the planned German assault.

Although the 2nd Battalion was short on many things, including men, machine guns, and grenades, they were determined to hold the line.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
U.S. troops defend their position near Luxembourg in Jan. 1945. (U.S. National Archives)

Stationed along a pivotal roadway was Warner’s anti-tank gun section. Thanks to the valiant efforts of the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions, Warner and his men had ample time to dig in and prepare their positions.

The first German attacks came on Dec. 19, but were beaten back by the American forces. The Germans then continued to probe American lines throughout the night.

On the morning of Dec. 20, the Germans came hard down the road manned by Warner and his men. At least ten German tanks supported by infantry fought their way into the American position. All along the line Americans and Germans engaged in close combat.

Anti-tank gunners and bazookas blasted the German tanks at point blank range as they tried to drive through the lines.

On that morning, three German tanks approached Warner’s position. Manning his 57mm gun, he promptly knocked out the first tank with a well-placed shot.

As the tanks continued to advance, Warner skillfully lined up another shot and put a second German tank out of action.

As the third tank neared his position, Warner’s gun jammed. He fought to clear the jam until the German tank was within only a few yards. Then, in a move that can only be deemed crazy, Warner jumped from his gun pit brandishing his .45 caliber 1911 pistol.

With the German tank right on top of him — and disregarding the intense fire all around from the attacking German infantry — Warner engaged the commander of the German tank in a pistol duel. Warner outgunned the German, killing him, and forcing his now leaderless tank to withdraw from the fight.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
U.S. troops march a German prisoner past a burning Nazi tank. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo | Dec. 17, 1944)

Supporting American artillery broke up the German infantry assault and, along with Warner’s heroics, had repelled the German attack.

Warner and the rest of the battalion continued to resist the German onslaught, turning back numerous infantry advances. The Germans rained down mortar and artillery fire throughout the rest of the day and that night, as well.

The next morning the Germans came in force once again. And once again Warner was manning his 57mm gun. As a Panzer Mark IV emerged into Warner’s view, he engaged it with precision fire. He set the tanks engine on fire but paid for it with a blast from a German machinegun.

Not out of the fight, Warner ignored his injuries and struggled to reload his gun and finish off the German tank. A second burst from a German machine gun cut him down before he could complete his task.

For his actions in stopping the German attacks, Cpl. Warner was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The rest of the 26th Infantry Regiment, spurred on by the bravery of soldiers like Warner, held its position against repeated German attacks.

The 1st Infantry Division, along with the 2nd, 9th, and 99th Infantry Divisions, now made up the northern shoulder of “the Bulge” and the strict time table for the attack was severely behind schedule.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 New Year’s resolutions every military spouse will break

There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.

However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!

This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.


Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite

I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS

Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.

But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves

Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.

But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

4. Stay on Top of the Laundry

Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized

Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone

This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!

Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

7. Learn to Better Manage my Time

Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”

This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Op tempo is killing our troops… and their families

In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.


The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?

How much is it really costing us?

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

Their lives

Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.

This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.

According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.

Their families

At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:

DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).

Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?

Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.

Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.

Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.

Their mental well-being

The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.

Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.

With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

The way forward

Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.

Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.

Articles

7 lies sailors tell their parents while deployed

College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.


Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.

While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:

1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”

3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq
Photo: U.S. Navy

4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”

5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”

6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”

7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”

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