Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

From Nicaraguan refugee to Army NCO

Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.

“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”

“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.


“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”

In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.

His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.

Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.

“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”

Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.

“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

This Vietnam War Veteran was reunited with his lost arm after 50 years

Captain Sam Axelrad was a U.S. Army doctor in the Vietnam War. One day in 1966, a North Vietnamese soldier, Nguyen Quang Hung, was brought to Axelrad to amputate an arm because gangrene had started to spread in his wound. What happened to the lost arm next might surprise you.


“When I amputated his arm our medics took the arm, took the flesh off it, put it back together perfectly with wires,” Axelrad told BBC World Service. “And then they gave it to me.”

Dr. Axelrad kept the arm for more than 50 years. In 2013, he returned to Vietnam determined to give Hung his arm back.

 

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

“I can’t believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years,” Hung said, adding that he was very lucky to only lose an arm when so many of his fellow soldiers were killed.

Hung, whose Army paperwork had been lost in the years since the end of the war, will use his arm as proof of service in an effort to get a veteran’s pension.

“I’m very happy to see him again and have that part of my body back after nearly half a century.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

North Korea is reportedly preparing missiles and rockets by the hundreds to parade around Pyongyang the day before the South Korean Winter Olympics kicks off in an attempt “to scare the hell out of the Americans.”


“Hundreds of missiles and rockets” will be on display, according to CNN’s Will Ripley. Ripley reports this will include “many dozens” of Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the type North Korea most recently tested that experts assess could hit the entire continental US with a large nuclear warhead.

South Korean media reports that launchers that stretch 250 meters and 50 meters have already been spotted at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang.

Ripley, who frequently travels to North Korea, cited diplomatic sources “with deep knowledge of North Korea’s intentions” as saying they would show off the missiles to “scare the hell out of” US citizens as the two countries’ leaders exchange nuclear threats.

But as is often the case with North Korea, the bark may be worse than the bite. Ripley notes that foreign media has been banned from the parade, meaning only North Korean imagery will come out of the event.

Also read: What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

This gives North Korea ample opportunity to doctor the images, as they often do. North Korea’s dozens of ICBMs may be faked, made of different materials, and almost certainly not coupled with actual nuclear warheads.

North Korea has made considerable efforts to capitalize on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as a propaganda coup, going as far as to rewrite their own history as the pretense for moving its usual military parade from April to February, when Pyongyang is bitterly cold.

Related: A failed North Korean missile crashed in its own city this year

Ripley reports that North Korea may conduct additional missile tests in the near future. If they do, the country runs a higher-than-ever-before risk of incurring the US’s military wrath, as talk of strikes on North Korea has reportedly reached a fever pitch in Trump’s inner circle.

Articles

Air Force investigates latest Reaper crash

Officials at an Air Force base in southern New Mexico say no one was injured after a drone crashed during a training mission.


The Alamogordo Daily News reports the 49th Wing Public Affairs at Holloman Air Force Base says first responders arrived at the May 2 crash site to assist military and civilian personnel.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
An MQ-9 Reaper flies in support of OEF. The Reaper carries both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Public Affairs spokesman Arlan Ponder says the MQ-9 Reaper had been on its way back to the base when it crashed.

He says an investigation will be done to determine what caused the drone to go down.

The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, remotely piloted aircraft assigned to the base’s 9th Attack Squadron. It is deployed against dynamic execution targets and used in intelligence operations.

The aircraft can cost up to $12 million.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what an unarmed chaplain brings to the battlefield

Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. While they’re exempt from the minor stresses of the military, like going to the range or pointless details, they’re not above doing the one thing every troop is expected to do: deploy.

This puts them in a unique position. Sure, they have an assistant that’s kind of like a mix between an altar boy and an armed bodyguard, but they themselves are not allowed to pick up a weapon of any kind to remain in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

But that minor detail has never held any chaplains back from serving God and country on the front lines.


Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

It doesn’t matter which religion is on your dog tag, everyone gets the same respect.

(U.S. Army)

Their main objective is to facilitate the religious and emotional needs of all troops within their “flock.” Even if a chaplain was, say, a Roman Catholic priest back in the States, they accept anyone from any faith into their makeshift place of worship down range. They remain faithful to their personal denomination and preach in accordance with their own faith, but they must also learn enough about every religious belief in the formation to properly accommodate each and every troop.

This is because there is no alternative for deployed troops. Chaplains are few and far between in a given area of operation. When the worst happens and a soldier falls in combat, that Catholic chaplain needs a complete understanding of how to perform funeral rites in accordance with that troop’s faith, no matter what that faith may be.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

“Oh father, who art in Heaven, have mercy on this F-16’s enemies, for it shall not.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

Given that there are so few chaplains deployed, and even fewer of any single denomination, they will travel the battlefield — sometimes an entire region command will be under the care of a single chaplain.

It’d be far too costly to send each and every troop around theater each week for a single religious service, so chaplains will come to them. It’s not uncommon for a chaplain to travel to a remote location to give a sermon to just three or four troops. And since there’s only one chaplain performing the ceremonies across the theater, this often means that Easter Mass won’t be given exactly on Easter Sunday, but sometime around then.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Being named as a Servant of God by the Pope means he’s on the first step to sainthood. If the church canonizes the miracles done in his name or designates him as a martyr, he could become the Patron Saint of the Soldier.

(Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a Jeep as his altar, Oct 7, 1950, Col. Raymond Skeehan)

A chaplain and their escort never go out looking for trouble, but trouble often finds them. They’re constantly on the move and, as a result, many chaplains have been tragically wounded or killed in action over the years. To date, 419 American chaplains have lost their lives while on active duty.

Captain Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, was said to be one of the few Catholic chaplains in his area during the Korean War. He personally drove around the countryside to administer last rites to the dead and dying, performed baptisms, heard confessions, offered Holy Communion, and conducted Mass — all from an altar that rested on the hood of his jeep. He’d often dodge bullet fire and artillery just to make it to a dying soldier in time to give them their final rites.

He was captured and taken prisoner by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. While prisoner, he often defied orders from his captors to lift the fighting spirits of the troops in the prison with him. Even while captive, he’d perform ceremonies — but was also said to have swiped coffee, tea, and life-saving medicines from guards to give to his wounded and sickly troops.

Father Emil would die in that prison, but not before giving one last Easter sunrise service in 1951. For his actions that saved the lives of countless troops in captivity, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the ninth military chaplain to be bestowed the Medal of Honor, along with being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.

For more in the dangerous, righteous life of an Army chaplain, be sure to catch Indivisible when it hits theaters on October 26, 2018.

Articles

Did Trump threaten to send US troops to fight Mexico’s drug war?

On Wednesday, journalist Dolia Estevez reported that during a brief, blunt phone call the previous Friday, US President Donald Trump threatened and cajoled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.


According to Estevez, who cited “confidential information” obtained from sources on both sides of the call, Trump disparaged Mexico and Mexicans, threatened to levy taxes on Mexican imports, and went so far as to hint at sending US troops to confront drug traffickers who, Trump said, Mexico’s military had been incapable of stopping.

The incendiary comments attracted instant attention, both for their vitriol and for their verisimilitude, as Trump frequently inveighed against Mexico throughout his campaign and has kept up his harsh rhetoric during the first days of his administration.

Estevez’s report also characterized Peña Nieto’s response as “stammering.” Much of the Mexican public has been frustrated with Peña Nieto’s response to Trump’s attacks, and the Mexican president has seen his approval rating fall to 12% in recent weeks.

Estevez described Trump as threatening Mexico with a 35% tax “on those exports that hurt Mexico the most” and referred to White House spokesman Sean Spicer restating the 35% tax idea after the call.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto | via flickr

However, while Trump has mentioned a 35% tariff on exports from US companies in Mexico, the most commonly floated number is a 20% tax on Mexican goods entering the US. The White House lists no press briefing by Spicer on January 27, the day of the call.

Hours after Estevez’s report surfaced, a report from The Associated Press corroborated some of the content of the conversation, but downplayed the tone.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to an excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

But, the AP said, the excerpt did not make clear who Trump was referring to as “bad hombres,” nor did it make evident the tone or context of Trump’s remark. Moreover, the excerpt did not include Peña Nieto’s response.

The Mexican government also issued a statement around the same time totally rejecting Estevez’s report.

“[It’s] necessary to clarify that the publication is based in absolute falsities and with evident ill intention,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Twitter.

“During the call, President Peña Nieto was clear and emphatic in signaling the differences of position in respect to some statements made by President Trump in public and which he repeated during their dialogue,” the ministry said, adding:

“You assert that you obtained information from confidential sources from ‘both sides of the border.'”
“Only [Peña Nieto] and the foreign minister participated in that call and neither of them remember knowing you or having spoken with you ever. Whoever has been your confidential source on this side of the border, lied to you.”

Eduardo Sanchez, Mexico’s presidential office spokesman, said the conversation was respectful, not hostile or humiliating, as described by Estevez.

“It is absolutely false that President Trump has threatened to send troops to the border,” he said during a Wednesday-night interview with Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.

Later on Wednesday, the Mexican government issued a statement disputing the AP’s initial report, saying the details of it “did not correspond to reality.”

“The negative expressions to which [the AP report] makes reference, did not happen during said telephone call,” the statement, posted on Twitter, said. “On the contrary, the tone was constructive …”

The White House also disputed the account of a contentious call between Trump and Peña Nieto.

“The White House tells me POTUS did not threaten to invade Mexico,” Andrew Beatty, the AFP’s White House correspondent, tweeted a little before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, also tweeted a comment he attributed to a White House official: “Reports that the President threatened to invade Mexico are false. Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports.”

A more in-depth report from CNN published Wednesday night cited a transcript of the call that differed from the text published by the AP:

“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.”

A source told CNN that the AP’s report was based on a readout of the conversation between Trump and Peña Nieto written by aides, not on a transcript.

In a further qualification, the White House characterized Trump’s “bad hombres” remark as “lighthearted” to the AP in a story published on Thursday morning.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
President Donald Trump at the inauguration ceremony. | Defense Department photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

The White House said the comments were “part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.”

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the AP the conversation was “pleasant and constructive.”

While both sides has downplayed the content of the conversation and dismissed the reportedly hostile tone, the exact nature of the phone call is still unclear, and may remain so until a full transcript or audio (which the Mexican government traditionally does not record) is revealed.

In any case, Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders during his first two weeks as president have been concerning for observers, both at home and abroad.

“(Trump’s) interactions are naive in that he keeps suggesting we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries, but there is no substance to back it up,” a government official with knowledge of Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders told CNN.

“Source familiar with Trump foreign leader calls says the POTUS convos are turning faces ‘white’ inside the” White House, Acosta tweeted late on Wednesday.

“When he encounters a policy challenge, like with Turnbull, he responds with a tantrum,” the official told CNN, referring to a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

During that call, Trump bragged about his election victory and said Australia was going to send the US “the next Boston bombers” as part of an Obama-approved deal to taken in refugees held by Australia, which he criticized.

Descriptions of Trump’s calls are at odds with “sanitized” White House accounts, The Washington Post, which first reported the nature of the Turnbull call, said of Trump’s discussions with foreign leaders, adding:

“The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.”

The contentious nature of the Trump’s call with the Australian leader was especially troubling, in light of the longstanding and close-knit ties Washington and Canberra have developed over decades.

While the call with Mexico’s president appears to be less sensational that initially reported, that correction will likely do little to sooth the nerves of Mexicans and people of Mexican descent in Mexico and in the US.

Trump has made not indication of backing off his pledge to construct a border wall — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has said the wall could be completed in two years, and Kelly is already traveling to the border area to study plans for the wall’s construction.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Mexican Marines during an operation | Creative Commons photo

Moreover, Mexicans appear to have been caught up in the “extreme vetting” Trump has targeted at citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“We have reports of Mexicans who have been held for more than 12 hours … We have a case of a family who were held for more than 10 hours and we’re looking into that,” Marcelino Miranda, consul for legal affairs at Mexico’s consulate in Chicago, said on Tuesday.

Miranda said he believed stringent questioning faced by those Mexicans had nothing to do with the newly intensified vetting process, though others from the country likely see it as part of a broader hostility to the US’s southern neighbor.

Trump “wants to make an example of Mexico to show how he will deal with countries around the world,” Maria Eugenia Valdes, a political scientist at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, told journalist Ioan Grillo.

“This man is capable of anything,” she added.

“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it,” Trump said during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“We’re going to straighten it out,” Trump added. “That’s what I do. I fix things.”

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Chinese people called Kim Jong Un ‘Fatty on the Train”

As China banned all mention of Kim Jong Un on its internet during his secretive visit, people on the internet dodged the ban by calling him “fatty on the train” instead.


The North Korean leader made an “unofficial visit” to Beijing late March 2018, China finally announced on March 28, 2018. But while the visit was in progress, nobody would say what was going on, despite huge speculation and the fairly obvious signal of Kim’s personal armored train pitching up in the city.

Also read: Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un to end the Korean nuclear crisis

In an attempt to keep the visit under wraps, China censored the characters for “Kim Jong Un” and “North Korea” from its internet — as well as longstanding nicknames for the North Korean leader, such as “Fatty Fatty.”

To circumvent the ban, some Chinese people picked other unflattering nicknames, like “fatty on the train” and “the obese patient,” Reuters reported. Others used more diplomatic terms, like “the visitor from the northeast” and “the sibling next door.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Kim with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. (Xinhua News)

The Chinese term they used for “fatty on the train” is pronounced “pang zuo huoche” in Mandarin.

Since the visit ended, references to Kim and North Korea have reappeared on China’s internet.

On March 27, 2018, four of the top 10 blocked terms on the microblogging site Weibo were “Kim Jong Un,” “Fatty the Third,” “North Korea,” and “Fatty Kim the Third,” according to FreeWeibo, a site that tracks censorship on the platform. (The “third” refers to the fact that Kim’s father and grandfather, also surnamed Kim, were also North Korean supreme leaders.)

Related: Kim Jong Un received a South Korean delegation for the first time

China most likely knew to censor those nicknames because it had done so in the past.

Beijing temporarily barred terms like “Kim the Fat,” “Kim Fat III,” and “Kim Fatty III” from the internet in late 2016, as people speculated over the North Korean leader’s weight gain.

Pyongyang had asked China to scrub the unflattering nicknames at the time, The Guardian cited Hong Kong media as saying.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the latest on the new US Air Force uniforms

Trainees entering into basic military training at the 37th Training Wing the first week of October 2019 were the first group to be issued the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms.

When Air Force officials announced last year they were adopting the Army OCP as the official utility uniform, they developed a three-year rollout timeline across the force for the entire changeover. Last week put them on target for issue to new recruits entering BMT.

“Each trainee is issued four sets of uniforms with their initial issue,” said Bernadette Cline, clothing issue supervisor. “Trainees who are here in (Airmen Battle Uniforms) will continue to wear them throughout their time here and will be replaced when they get their clothing allowance.”


The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Initial Issue Clothing outfits nearly 33,000 BMT trainees every year and maintains more than 330,000 clothing line items.

“We partner with Defense Logistics Agency who provides the clothing items upfront to be issued,” said Donald Cooper, Air Force initial clothing issue chief. “Then we warehouse and issue to the individuals’ size-specific clothing.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Air Force basic military training trainees assigned to the 326th Training Squadron receive the first Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms during initial issue, Oct. 2, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

After taking airmen feedback into consideration, the uniform board members said they chose the OCP for the improved fit and comfort and so that they will blend in with their soldier counterparts’ uniforms in joint environments, according to Cooper.

“Right now, if someone deploys, they’ll get it issued,” Cline said. “And now that everyone is converting over to this uniform, (the trainees) already have the uniform to work and deploy in.”

Following the timeline, the OCP should now be available online for purchase as well.

The next mandatory change listed on the timeline, to take place by June 1, 2020, will be for airmen’s boots, socks, and T-shirts to be coyote brown. Also, officer ranks to the spice brown.

Switching from two different types of utility uniforms to just one, multifunctional uniform could also simplify life for the airmen.

“I think the biggest value is going to be the thought that they aren’t required to have two uniforms anymore once they convert to a uniform that is for deployment and day-to-day work,'” Cooper said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 conducted its first ever airstrike in Afghanistan

The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has seen some action over Syria – but now it can also add Afghanistan to the places where it has fought. The fifth-generation fighter made its combat debut against the Taliban on Nov. 20.


According to a report by the Aviationist, the Raptors took part in strikes against Taliban-operated drug labs that produced opium. Opium can then be refined into heroin, which is worth $200 a gram in the United States.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq, Jan. 30 2015. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Released)

A release by Operation Resolute Support headquarters noted that the F-22s were selected due to their ability to use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, or SDB. The release noted that the reduction of collateral damage was a consideration in the selection of the F-22 to carry out the attack.

According to Designation-Systems.net, the GBU-39 comes in at 285 pounds, has a 250-pound blast-fragmentation warhead, and a range of over 60 nautical miles. A F-22 Raptor can carry up to eight in its internal weapons bays. Improved versions, like the GBU-40 and GBU-53 add multi-mode seekers to engage moving targets.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The F-22 strikes come in the wake of President Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan. As part of the new strategy, rules of engagement were loosened. Prior to the announcement of the new strategy, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a tunnel system.

The war in Afghanistan has also seen the employment of a very old aircraft. During Operation Enduring Freedom, NASA used a version of the B-57 Canberra over the combat theater.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fourth US soldier dies from deadly roadside bomb in Afghanistan

A US soldier critically injured by a roadside bomb that killed three US service members in Afghanistan last week died of his wounds over the weekend.

Army Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary, a 24-year-old native of Export, Pennsylvania, died Sunday in Landstuhl, Germany from injuries sustained from the improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni, Afghanistan on Nov. 27, the Department of Defense said in a statement Monday.

McClary was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado. That blast also killed three special operations troops — Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin.


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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Eagle Scout became the kingpin of a drug empire

Aaron Shamo went from being a clean-cut Eagle Scout and deacon in the Mormon church to a clean-cut but alleged fentanyl drug lord on the darknet. When police raided his home in 2016, they found $1.2 million, another $2.2 million worth of product – some 95,000 pills.


Shamo was just 26-years-old, living in a quiet, affluent suburb in Utah when police took him into custody. He was playing his Xbox like any other twenty-something when DEA agents and a SWAT team kicked in his door.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Shamo grew up like most kids in Suburban Utah, a member of the church of Latter-Day Saints, and a pretty normal kid by his sister’s account. He may not have been good at sports and didn’t excel at his studies, but he wasn’t in any serious trouble as a teen, either. His parents still thought he was headed down a bad path because he rebelled against their authority, skipped school and church, and began smoking marijuana, so they sent him to a “lockdown facility” in La Verkin, Utah. That’s where Aaron graduated from high school and earned his Eagle Scout status.

He seemed to have changed, no longer had a temper, and was even pleasant to be around. He soon went to college, but that wasn’t for him. He would much rather spend time outdoors than going to class. His parents soon stopped paying his tuition. It was in college he got interested in Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency. He thought he could make real money in Bitcoin. But he went a different route.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

A Dark web drugstore similar to the one Aaron Shamo ran as “Pharm-Master.”

Shortly after his interest in Bitcoin grew, around 2014, he and a partner ordered latex gloves, postage, bubble wrap and gelatin capsules – everything needed to set up a pill press. His skills using the dark web for Bitcoin also provided an area of exchange to ship those pills. Aaron Shamo was now Pharma-Master on AlphaBay, the biggest darknet market. He was ordering his product from China and having it delivered to the homes of nearby friends and was the only bulk distributor around.

Pharma-Master offered anything from valium, Xanax, oxycodone, and MDMA, to Viagra and fentanyl powder. His wealth surged during this time, and everyone thought it was solely due to Bitcoin. Because few people truly understand how Bitcoin works, that was usually as far as the questioning went. Not for U.S. Customs or the Drug Enforcement Agency, however.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Pure fentanyl is so powerful, it can cause an overdose with direct skin contact. Officers wore HAZMAT suits to raid Shamo’s house.

The Feds began seizing his shipments in June 2016, but that didn’t stop Shamo from conducting business as usual. His longtime partner became less involved with the business. Shamo began to feel like he was being followed, and he was right. Homeland Security flipped a number of confidential informants who spilled the beans on his whole operation. Shamo was shipping fentanyl labeled as oxycodone around the country, significantly contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis and causing potential overdoses everywhere he shipped.

On Aug. 30, 2019, Shamo was convicted by a federal jury in Salt Lake City of organizing and directing a drug trafficking organization that imported fentanyl and alprazolam from China and used the drugs to manufacture fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and counterfeit Xanax tablets.

“The opioid crisis has devastated individuals, families, and entire communities across the nation. Aaron Shamo controlled and led a highly profitable organization that delivered fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills to every state in the union. Though his customers remained faceless on the dark web, their despair was real. Shamo profited off that despair and a jury of his peers has held him accountable,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said.

Shamo will be sentenced on Dec. 3, 2019. Prosecutors want him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

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