Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI.
Mattis says we have to “find out what’s going on.”
Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman in the Nov. 5 attack, was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.
May is a month to celebrate military spouses and mothers, so let’s give a salute to all the military spouse moms holding the family together and keeping things going on the homefront!
Military life is always challenging, but it’s especially difficult when your service member is away and you’re the solo parent. This month, we shine a spotlight on military spouse moms navigating through deployments. Thank you, mothers, for your generous love and sacrifices.
To the mothers missing their service member:
We know it’s difficult when your service member is gone. It doesn’t matter how long they are away, whether it is a deployment, a TDY, or just a few days of training. We salute you, moms who are on your own. We know there are times when you cry in the shower or in your car, just so the kids won’t see your tears. And we know that you have what it takes to keep going.
“I’ve temporarily had to say see you later to my best friend, my teammate, and my partner in crime. My husband deploying was extremely difficult on myself and our four children. However, going through all of this without my husband allowed me to experience first-hand that I can, I will, I do, and I did handle deployment like a boss.” – Megan, Navy spouse
To the pregnant mothers:
We see you, moms who are juggling the difficulties of pregnancy with the obstacles of military life. To all those trying to plan a baby in between PCS moves and deployments, and experiencing sickness and fatigue on your own—we salute you! Even when you feel exhausted, you are everything your baby needs.
“I’m about to be a mom of two Irish twins. My son is 9 months old right now. I’m due again in three months. I’m very nervous not having my husband by my side for this one but I have to be strong for the both of us.” – Meagan, Army spouse
To the mothers of little ones:
We salute you, mothers surrounded by diapers and bottles, unfolded laundry, and art projects. When you feel like you’re going crazy, remember that you are not alone! You’re part of an incredible club of mothers who are making things work one day at a time.
“I am a mom of four under 7. I took a leave of absence from my job a few months into this deployment. I mentally couldn’t handle my career and solo parenting. It was the best decision I made, and has given me an opportunity to experience being a stay-at-home mom. Because I have so many young children, routine is really important.” – Emily, National Guard spouse
To the mothers of teens:
We know you’ve been feeling invisible ever since the middle school years. Even when your kids treat you like a taxi and meal delivery service, know that you are still their rock. We salute you for all the times you stay up late, taking care of the emotional needs of these bigger kids.
“Working mom of three teenage daughters here. That means this momma goes 100 mph six days a week. As tired as I am sometimes, I enjoy taking them to practices and games.” – Terri, Army spouse
To the mothers struggling with infertility:
Our hearts go out to the mothers who have struggled with the pain, loss, and disappointment of infertility. Whether you are already a mother hoping for more children, or you are longing to someday hold your own child, we see you and we salute you.
“We were going through IVF treatment during a year-long deployment. It was the most difficult deployment by far because I was going through a medical treatment that was draining emotionally and physically. It was a hard year, but it was a year of growth.” – Linda, Air Force spouse
To the mothers who are caregivers:
As a mother, you already give your energy, your love, and your care to your children. To those who also care for their service member or take on the responsibility of aging parents, we salute your generosity and we wish you all the patience in the world.
“I’ve lost a lot of my own independence and free time which is probably the hardest. I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Moving my mother-in-law in actually ended up being way harder and less help than we had hoped.” – Caitlin, National Guard spouse
To the stepmothers and blended families:
They should call you the bonus mom when you take on bonus kids and open your heart to his, yours, and ours. We salute your love, your patience, and your perseverance.
“We are a quintessential blended family. We each have children from previous marriages. I am pregnant with our second “ours” baby. Sea duty life has rocked our world for the last three years. He’s been gone as much as he’s been home.” – Julie, Navy spouse
To the mothers in dual military marriages:
You are juggling all the responsibilities, and so much falls on your shoulders. You are supporting your spouse’s military career, while pursuing your own, and trying to do what’s best for your children too. We salute you and thank you for your service!
“It’s hard being the service member and the spouse. Sometimes it’s easier to go to work and focus on a mission than it is to stay at home with the kids and not hear from him.” – Lauren, Navy married to a Marine
Whatever stage you are in, military spouse, we support you and wish you a happy Mother’s Day!
A U.S. Army veteran and green card holder with a felony drug conviction could be deported as soon as this week, his attorney said Jan. 29 after a federal court denied his appeal to remain in the U.S.
Miguel Perez Jr., 39, a Chicago resident who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and recently finished a prison term on a drug conviction, had sought to remain in the U.S., arguing his life would be in danger if he were deported to Mexico, where he has not lived since age 8. A three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument last week.
Perez’s attorney, Chris Bergin, said the case highlights hypocrisy in how the country treats some American military service members.
“If you’re going to put your hand on your hearts every time at a game, you’re going to say thank you for your service and wear American flag lapel pins, and you’re going to criticize football players for taking a knee during the national anthem, it seems that’s all superficial and false patriotism if you’re not caring about an actual military veteran,” Bergin said.
In a statement, Perez’s supporters said Jan. 29 the ruling has left his family “distraught.”
“From the beginning, Miguel has fought his deportation, not only for himself, but in solidarity with other green-card veterans who have been or who are now facing deportation after having served their country in combat,” they said.
Perez, who has two children who are U.S. citizens, is one of many legal permanent residents who served in the U.S. military then confronted the possibility of deportation to their native countries after committing a crime.
Perez said he mistakenly thought he became a U.S. citizen when he took an oath to protect the nation. His military superiors never offered to help him expedite his citizenship, Bergin reiterated in court Jan. 31.
After his military service, Perez sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was supposed to return for more tests to determine whether he also had a traumatic brain injury.
In the meantime, he reconnected with a childhood friend who provided free drugs and alcohol. On Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.
While Perez was convicted of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine, prosecutors have said he was arrested for delivering much more and received a reduced sentence after a plea deal. Prosecutors also pointed out that Perez was given a general discharge from the military after a drug infraction.
Perez said he discovered the citizenship oversight when he was summoned to immigration court shortly before his September 2016 release from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. Instead of heading home to Chicago from prison, Perez was placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to a Wisconsin detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation.
When legal residents or people who are here illegally commit crimes, ICE’s standard protocol is to let them serve most of their sentence for the crime in the U.S., then deport them.
Roughly 18,700 legal permanent residents are in the U.S. armed forces, and about 5,000 join every year, according to the Department of Defense.
After oral arguments to the appeals court panel this month, Perez’s mother, Esperanza, fought back tears. In Spanish, she said she could not bear hearing her son’s fate discussed in such callous terms.
“He defended this country, and the same system wants to throw him away like garbage,” she said through a translator. “It’s so sad for me to think if they send him back to Mexico he’d be just another statistic.”
In court, Perez cited the United Nations Convention against Torture, a protection that resembles asylum. Under that international provision, the U.S. agrees not to deport people who are not American citizens or nationals to another country where they could face imminent danger.
Prosecutors rejected the argument that the danger allegedly facing Perez qualifies under the torture provision and asked the judges to affirm the immigration court’s order for removal.
Bergin said he has filed a stay on two grounds. One is based on a medical evaluation finding that Perez needs immediate attention for PTSD and his brain injury. The other seeks retroactive citizenship for Perez to when he joined the military in 2001.
Perez and his supporters are also preparing, if necessary, to file an appeal to the full panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit and have asked Gov. Bruce Rauner to grant a pardon to Perez for his criminal conviction, supporters said. If Rauner grants the pardon, it’s not clear how that might affect the deportation case.
Congress should also address the problem facing green card veterans, supporters said.
Bergin hopes somebody at ICE “has a sense of decency and says, ‘Look, we’ve got to credit the service this guy did.’ ”
“Every step of the way, we’ve tried to get somebody to be sympathetic and reasonable,” Bergin said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.
The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.
Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.
The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.
“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”
The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.
The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.
The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.
“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)
Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.
The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.
“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.
And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.
“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”
The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.
Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.
“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”
December 2017, the Marine Corps wowed a small audience in Quantico, Virginia, with a demonstration of a fully autonomous UH-1 Huey helicopter that could navigate, conduct pre-set missions, and even assess landing conditions, all without a human in the loop.
The secret ingredient was the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System, or AACUS, a kit that can be mounted on a rotary-wing aircraft to transform it from a manned aircraft to an autonomous one. And now, AACUS is a finalist for an elite aviation award.
According to the Office of Naval Research, which leads the AACUS program, it’s now a finalist for the 2017 Robert J. Collier Trophy, awarded by the National Aeronautic Association for “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”
Previous recipients have included the NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity Project Team; the X-47B, developed by Northrop Grumman and the Navy as a carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle, and still reportedly in the running for the MQ-25 program; and the team that designed the F-22 Raptor, among others.
“We at ONR are very excited and proud of the AACUS team that was selected as a finalist for this very prestigious Collier Trophy,” Dr. Knox Millsaps, director of the division of Aerospace Sciences in ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, said in a statement released by ONR. “But our greatest sense of excitement and pride comes knowing we’ve provided a technology that could help the Marine Corps warfighter stay out of harm’s way during resupply missions.”
AACUS, which is designed to be so easy to use that a Marine can program a mission after a few minutes of training, is expected to be an asset for logistics and resupply missions, providing a way to get beans, bullets, medical supplies and more to units downrange without risking a human pilot and crew.
The Corps next plans to place the technology in units for realistic testing as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 experimentation effort later this fiscal year.
The AACUS is competing against eight other finalists for the Collier trophy, according to the ONR announcement.
They include: Boeing 737 MAX; Cirrus Aircraft Vision SF50; Edwards Air Force Base F-35 Integrated Test Force; NASA/JPL Cassini Project Team; Perlan Project; TSA, ALPA and A4A Known Crewmember and TSA PreCheck Programs; Vanilla Aircraft VA001; and Zee Aero Division of Kitty Hawk Corporation.
A winner is expected to be announced March 23, 2018.
The US Navy is planning to finalize weapons integration on its new USS Ford carrier and explode bombs in various sea conditions near the ship to prepare for major combat on the open seas, service officials said.
Service weapons testers will detonate a wide range of bombs, to include a variety of underwater sea mines to assess the carrier’s ability to withstand enemy attacks. “Shock Trials,” as they are called, are typically one of the final stages in the Navy process designed to bring warships from development to operational deployment.
“The USS Gerald R. Ford will conduct further trails and testing, culminating in full-ship shock trials. The ship will then work up for deployment in parallel with its initial operational testing and evaluation,” William Couch, an official with Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.
Testing how the carrier can hold up to massive nearby explosions will follow what’s called a Post Shakedown Availability involving a final integration of various combat systems.
“The Post Shakedown Availability is planned for 12 months, with the critical path being Advanced Weapons Elevator construction and Advanced Arresting Gear water twister upgrades,” Couch added.
The Navy’s decision to have shock trials for its first Ford-Class carrier, scheduled for deployment in 2022, seems to be of particular relevance in today’s modern threat environment. In a manner far more threatening than most previously known threats to Navy aircraft carriers, potential adversaries have in recent years been designing and testing weapons specifically engineered to destroy US carriers.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet approaches USS Gerald R. Ford for an arrested landing.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
One such threat is the Chinese built DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship missile. This weapon, now actively being developed and tested by the Chinese military, can reportedly hit moving carriers at ranges up to 900 nautical miles.
Accordingly, unlike the last 15 years of major US military counterinsurgency operations where carriers operated largely uncontested, potential future conflict will likely require much more advanced carrier defenses, service developers have explained.
A 2007 Department of Defense-directed Shock Trials analysis by the non-profit MITRE corporation explains that many of the expected or most probable threats to warships come from “non-contact explosions where a high-pressure wave is launched toward the ship.”
MITRE’s report, interestingly, also identifies the inspiration for Shock Trials as one originating from World War II.
“During World War II, it was discovered that although such “near miss” explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the MITRE assessment, called “Navy Ship Underwater Shock Prediction and Testing Capability Study” states.
The MITRE analysis further specifies that, following a nearby explosion, the bulkhead of a ship can oscillate, causing the ship to move upward.
“Strong localized deformations are seen in the deck modes, which different parts of the decks moving at different frequencies from each other,” MITRE writes.
The existence and timing of USS Ford Shock Trials has been the focus of much consideration. Given that post Shock Trial evaluations and damage assessments can result in a need to make modifications to the ship, some Navy developers wanted to save Shock Trials for the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy. The rationale, according to multiple reports, was to ensure the anticipated USS Ford deployment time frame was not delayed.
Artist impression of the John F. Kennedy.
However, a directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shannahan, following input from the Senate Armed Services Committee, ensured that shock trials will occur on schedule for the USS Ford.
Data analysis following shock trials has, over the years, shown that even small ship component failures can have large consequences.
“A component shock-qualification procedure which ensures the survivability of 99% of the critical components still is not good enough to ensure a ship’s continued operational capability in the aftermath of a nearby underwater explosion,” MITRE writes.
Also, given that the USS Ford is introducing a range of as-of-yet unprecedented carrier-technologies, testing the impact of nearby attacks on the ship may be of greater significance than previous shock trials conducted for other ships.
For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons, and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
In addition, stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons, and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said.
Several years ago, the Navy announced that the V-22 Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Board Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.
A V-22 Osprey.
However, despite the emergence of weapons such as DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of the weapon like this to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away.
Targeting, guidance on the move, fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.
Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control — Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology, which travels in carrier-strike groups, combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon.
The Navy is also developing a new carrier-launched tanker, called the MQ-25A Stingray, to extend the combat range of key carrier air-wing assets such as F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The range or combat radius of carrier-based fighter jets, therefore, is fundamental to this equation. If an F-35C or F/A-18 can, for instance, only travel roughly 500 or 600 miles to attack an inland enemy target such as air-defenses, installations and infrastructure – how can it effectively project power if threats force it to operate 1,000-miles off shore?
Therein lies the challenge and the requisite need for a drone tanker able to refuel these carrier-launched aircraft mid-flight, giving them endurance sufficient to attack from longer distances.
As for a maiden deployment of the USS Ford slated for 2022, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven the ship will likely be sent to wherever it may most be in need, such as the Middle East or Pacific.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia has been on a buying spree as of late, acquiring a lot of high-end weaponry. Much of it has come from the United States, with a focus on dealing with the threat from Iran. However, the Saudis are also looking elsewhere, including an effort purchase the SA-21 Growler from Russia. But that search could lead to a very surprising conclusion — for the Saudis.
According to a report by Swiss Journal, the Saudis are looking at acquiring a third missile defense system. Their choice: Iron Dome, a system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a defense technology company with origins in Israel — a country that, historically, hasn’t had good relations with Saudi Arabia.
According to Raytheon, an Iron Dome battery consists of a battlefield radar and three or four launchers, each of which carries 20 Tamir missiles. Israel has deployed ten of these batteries to protect its major cities against rocket attacks.
The radar is able to determine whether a rocket will hit or miss a city. If not deemed a threat, the rocket is ignored. If it is a threat, a Tamir missile is fired to intercept. The Tamir has a maximum range of 37 nautical miles and uses electro-optical guidance to home in on its target.
Despite poor relations, Saudi Arabia and Israel do operate a number of weapon systems in common. Both countries operate the MIM-104 Patriot, acquired during and after Operation Desert Storm to counter SS-1 Scud missiles fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The two countries also are both operators of the F-15C/D Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle.
The Swiss Journal reported that Saudi officials examined the system during an air show in Dubai. The Israelis also recently have offered to work with moderate Arab countries in order to counter the Iranian threat. In the past, Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.
In 1839, the forces of Great Britain and the British East India Company invaded Afghanistan in the first major conflict of the “Great Game” – the struggle between Great Britain and Russia for control of Asia. The British quickly defeated the opposing forces of Dost Mohammad and garrisoned the capital Kabul, as well as the major cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad. However, by mid-1841 the situation in Kabul was deteriorating. The British forces made camp in an indefensible position just outside the capital. Meanwhile, two senior British officials were murdered with no reprisal from the British forces, further emboldening the Afghans.
Unfortunately for the soldiers of the garrison, a confluence of events meant trouble for them. First, the appointment of the incompetent General Elphinstone to command the British forces in Kabul. The second was a new government in London calling for increased cost-savings from the ongoing campaign. The combination of these two events led to the fateful decision for the garrison in Kabul, along with their camp followers, to conduct a retreat to Jalalabad and then back to India to escape the rising unrest in the capital. After the first unit to travel to Jalalabad in November has been harassed and sniped throughout their journey, General Elphinstone trusted the assurances of an Afghan warlord that his column would be granted safe passage.
On 6 January 1842, Elphinstone’s column of the British 44th Regiment of Foot, three regiments of Bengal Native Infantry, British and Indian cavalry, the Bengal Horse Artillery – about 700 British and 3800 Indian soldiers – as well as 12,000 camp followers – set off on their march through the treacherous Afghan winter towards Jalalabad. Almost immediately, they began receiving harassing fire from the Ghilzai tribesmen and were ambushed and attacked repeatedly over the next several days. The weather also took a toll on the Indian soldiers and camp followers who had been recruited from the more tropical climate in India. On 9 January, after losing over 3,000 casualties and having only covered twenty five miles, General Elphinstone, along with the wives and children of the officers accepted the offer of a warlord to be taken into his custody for safety, and immediately became his hostages instead. The remainder of the force trudged on, hoping to clear the snow-choked passes and reach the safety of the garrison at Jalalabad.
By 12 January, the column had been reduced to around one hundred men, mostly infantrymen of the 44th Regiment of Foot, as well as a few remaining officers on horseback. As they tried to clear a barrier erected on the valley floor many were killed while the survivors gathered on a hillock outside the village of Gandamak to make their last stand. When offered a surrender by the Ghilzai tribesmen surrounding them a British sergeant reportedly yelled back “not bloodly likely!” and thus sealing their fate. In the ensuing chaos the British infantry fired their remaining ammunition before fighting on with bayonets. Only a handful of men survived to be taken captive.. Though some officers on horses managed to escape they were hunted down and killed as well; all except for one.
“You will see, not a soul will reach here from Kabul except one man, who will come to tell us the rest are destroyed.”
– Colonel Dennie, British Army of the Indus, Nov. 1841
At Jalalabad on 13 January, Colonel Dennie was manning the fortifications awaiting the arrival of the column from Kabul when he spotted a lone man on horseback approaching the city. Upon seeing the man he is said to have remarked “Did I not say so? Here comes the messenger.” The lone survivor of the column was Dr. William Brydon, an assistant surgeon, who straggled in exhausted and severely wounded on a horse that was also severely wounded. Dr. Brydon had survived a sword strike to the head, which had cleaved off a small portion of his skull, thanks to a copy of a magazine he had stuffed into his hat for extra warmth. His horse apparently cleared the gates of the city and promptly laid down, never to rise again. Brydon was the sole survivor of some 16,000 who started the trek a week earlier to arrive at Jalalabad.
Brydon would survive his wounds and later survive another harrowing incident when we was severely wounded during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. General Elphinstone died in captivity. Shortly after the news of the massacre reached British officials, the decision was made to withdraw all British forces from Afghanistan, but not before retribution was sought. By the summer of 1842 the Army of Retribution had been raised and marched through Afghanistan, releasing many of the prisoners taken during the retreat from Kabul as well as exacting their vengeance before finally withdrawing on 12 October 1842.
“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.
Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.
But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.
The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news
“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.
Capt. Josh Powers (far left) of the 101st Airborne Division gathers the males of the village for a shura in eastern Afghanistan.
COMBAT OUTPOST YOSEF KHEL – The brief was held in the early morning in front of battalion headquarters in the shadow of a Conex box. The mission was to get the governor of Paktika Province from the capital of Sharana to a shura – a traditional Afghan meeting of regional tribal elders with government officials – at the small town of Yahya Khel 25 miles to the south. Because of the threat of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs along the route, the men of the U.S. Army charged with getting the governor safely to the shura and back elected to use a convoy of four MRAPs.
Once off of the forward operating base and at Sharana’s town center the American convoy was joined by a handful of up-armored Humvees from the Afghan National Army and nearly a dozen armed pickup trucks from the Afghan Uniformed Police. The Afghan governor was placed in the second MRAP in the convoy along with the American battalion commander and his interpreter (known simply as “Chewy”).
As the convoy started its push out of Sharana, the battalion commander expressed concern to the governor that the sub-governor of Yahya Khel had heard about the shura from an unauthorized source, which in turn was an indicator of possible hostile activity along the route. The colonel’s concerns were somewhat mitigated by a stronger than usual presence of Afghan National Army troops along the roadway, and the convoy made it through the bottleneck hotspots without incident.
As the lead vehicles made it to the bazaar at Yahya Khel – the largest in the province – The colonel suggested to the governor that he lead the meeting that would take place before the shura, thereby furthering the impression that the governor was fully in charge. The governor agreed.
Once inside the confines of the combat outpost at Yahya Khel, the parties dismounted their vehicles. While the security forces set about bolstering the perimeter, the military and civilian officials made their way to the “pre-brief,” joining a handful of their peers who’d preceded them.
Inside the small room the participants sat on weathered chairs and rugs and pillows against the far wall. Sun-faded posters of Afghanistan and Harmed Karzai dotted the plaster walls. Several attendants dutifully poured milky tea into clear mugs as officials got into place.
The governor took the lead as the American colonel had suggested.
“Can somebody explain the situation to me?” he asked in Pasto. “How many of the enemy do we have?”
The sub-governor answered matter-of-factly: “The government cannot guarantee the security of the people against the Taliban.” With that, the discussion grew heated, with various officials either pointing fingers at other agencies or explaining that they couldn’t do their jobs because of improper resources. The sub-governor complained that the ANA didn’t listen to his needs. The Afghan Uniformed Police chief said one of the ANA generals told him he couldn’t have ammunition because the police force was “not for fighting.”
A U.S. Army company commander, the American military officer most keenly focused on the area around Yahya Khel, added his thoughts during a brief lull in the discussion: “The main problem is a population that is willing to work with the Taliban because many of the Taliban are from the area.” He also pointed to a lack of Afghan-generated intelligence fusion around Yahya Khel, which kept forces from seizing the initiative and proactively preventing attacks on the district center and surrounding areas.
After several displeased officials walked out in the middle of a discussion about cell phone tower security, the governor bemusedly declared the meeting over. The group shuffled out of the pre-brief room and walked down a dirt and gravel alley bordered by high walls and guard towers pockmarked with large-caliber bullet holes and RPG shrapnel. Inside an adjacent building the district elders had gathered for the shura.
With the help of an interpreter (center), First Lieutenant Marcus Smith (right) discusses the needs of the village of Mest with tribal elders. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
The elders (a misnomer of sorts as some of them appeared relatively young) crouched on the dusty concrete floor in front of the governor, who stood behind a modest table at the front of the room.
“I am here to hear your problems,” the governor pronounced. He considered the faces of those before him and asked, “Why are you so sad? You have to be happy. Afghanistan is not like it was 30 years ago. Other countries are spending money in Afghanistan. Don’t send your children to Pakistan or Iran to work. They need to stay here.”
The governor went on to outline his strategy and what he needed from the elders and their charges. He asked them to help the security forces and not work with the Taliban. He urged them to send their children to school. And, like any good politician, he reminded them of the election coming up and told them that they were a very important part of the process.
The governor finished his opening remarks by insisting that the insurgents are not as numerous as their propaganda might have indicated, and further, they were not true Muslims. “Stop an insurgent and ask him to recite one of Muhammad’s speeches,” he said.
The governor was followed by several government officials – the chief of police and the education minister – who shared a common theme: “Tell us your problems and we will work to solve them.”
But when the floor was turned over to the elders, one-by-one those who stood up emphatically said they had asked the government for help but their requests had fallen on deaf ears.
The elders’ airing of grievances was suddenly interrupted by the dull thud of an explosion in the distance followed by another and another, each sounding closer to the city than the last. There were four total. Uniformed personnel (including American forces present) hurried out of the entrance to investigate as the elders exchanged concerned glances. Governor Sameen continued the proceedings, expression underselling the potential threat the explosions might have posed to those in attendance.
The governor ended the shura with a simple sentiment: “Right people always win; wrong people always lose.”
Meanwhile, as the elders and government officials sat for a traditional post-shura lunch, the American military forces were in the tactical operations center busily trying to figure out from which direction the mortars had been fired. The TOC’s laptop computer screens showed images broadcast from high-powered cameras mounted on the roof. The cameras repeatedly moved side to side, scanning the surrounding fields and tree lines but came up empty.
On the roof gunners focused along their designated fields of fire. The American Army company commander explained that one of the enemy’s common tactics was to lob mortars into the fields to the north as a misdirection play followed by small arms fire and RPGs from the wooded grove to the southwest. Overhead a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet awaited tasking from the radio-laden Air Force tactical air controller standing next to the Army captain.
A half hour passed without any follow-on attacks or any sign of where the original attack had emanated from. Without any coordinates to offer, the controller requested that the Super Hornet perform a “motivational pass.” The carrier-based Navy jet complied, roaring loudly overhead at about 500 feet then pulling dramatically into a climb.
The post-shura lunch concluded, and the security situation was deemed stable enough to allow the convoy to man-up and move out, back-tracking along the route it had taken a few hours earlier. In the command vehicle the colonel asked the governor if he shared his sense that the elders had done a lot of complaining about those trying to help them while letting the Taliban off the hook. The govenor pushed back a bit, pointing out the stat he had put out during his opening remarks that the Taliban were killing one elder a day – 30 a month. In return the governor pronounced the shura a qualified success.
And as the convoy snaked and bumped its way north, the insurgents re-initiated their attack on Yayha Khel, this time more brazen. They pinned down a U.S. Army dismounted patrol on the outskirts of the city with small arms fire while their mortars fell into the bazaar and closer to the observation post. Reports crackled over the radio that the walls to the city had been breached. Units in adjacent areas were put on alert and made ready to assist their comrades. A Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter answered the call for airborne firepower, but by the time it had arrived American ground forces had pushed the insurgents back into the ether from which they’d emerged.
The enemy message associated with the timing and intensity of the attack was unmistakable: Shuras don’t mean peace.
Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide announced June 21 that U.S. Marines will continue rotational training and exercises in Norway through 2018, U.S. European Command said in a news release.
“Our Marines in Norway are demonstrating a high level of cooperation with our allies,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. “The more we train together alongside one another the stronger our Alliance becomes.”
Nelson said the decision to extend the presence of the Marine rotational force in Norway is a clear sign of the U.S. and Norwegian commitment to NATO and the strong partnership between the two countries on defense and security.
John Waters (right), USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez master, discusses maritime operations with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Helen G. Pratt, 4th Marine Logistics Group commanding general, and Norwegian Commodore Rune Fromreide Sommer, Norwegian Defense Logistics Organization, during offload operations at Hammersodden, Norway, June 6. USNS Lopez, a Military Sealift Command prepositioning vessel, was supporting the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, known as MCPP-N, with the delivery of supplies and equipment. MCPP-N enables the rapid deployment of a large, credible, and balanced force to support its NATO allies and partners. (Photo by Daniel Burton, MSCEURAF operations specialist)
Norway is an exceptional ally, one that is increasing its defense budget and is committed to acquiring critical capabilities. Both the U.S. and Norway are focused on strengthening the development of joint leaders and teams who understand the synergy of air, sea, and land power as a potent asymmetric advantage in the battlefield.
About 330 Marines have been stationed in Vaernes, Norway, on a rotational basis since January. They will now continue to rotate beyond 2017, with two rotations per year.
Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.
His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.
Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.
On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.
“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”
All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.
“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”
Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.
When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.
“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”
Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.
Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”
When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.
“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”
For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.
“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”
Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.
“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”
Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.
Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.
“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”
Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.
“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.
“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”
On his first visit to the tense but eerily quiet frontier between North and South Korea as US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis conveyed the message he hopes will win the day: Diplomacy is the answer to ending the nuclear crisis with the North, not war.
He made the point over and over – at the Panmunjom “truce village” where North literally meets South; at a military observation post inside the Demilitarized Zone, and in off-the-cuff comments to US and South Korean troops.
“We’re doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically — everything we can,” he told the troops after alighting from a Black Hawk helicopter that had ferried him to and from the border some 25 miles north of central Seoul.
“Ultimately, our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines,” he added, “so they speak from a position of strength, of combined strength, of alliance strength, shoulder to shoulder.”
At Panmunjom, where the armistice ending the Korean war was signed in July 1953, Mattis quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying, “Our goal is not war.” The aim, he said, is to compel the North to completely and irreversibly eliminate a nuclear weapons program that has accelerated since President Donald Trump took office.
Despite unanimous condemnation by the UN Security Council of the North’s missile launches and nuclear tests, “provocations continue,” Mattis said.
As Mattis arrived at Panmunjom alongside South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo, a small group of apparent tourists watched from the balcony of a building on North Korea’s side of the line that marks the inter-Korean border. Uniformed North Korean guards watched silently as Mattis and Song stood just yards away.
Atop Observation Post Ouellette, where he could see deep into North Korea and hear their broadcast taunts of the South, Mattis listened to Song recount some of the history of the 1950-53 Korean war in which thousands of Americans and perhaps more than a million Koreans died in a conflict that remains officially unsettled.
“It reminds us that we fought together in very difficult times, and we stick together today,” Mattis said inside a Demilitarized Zone of craggy terrain, millions of landmines, and ghost-like reminders of the war.
The US has about 28,500 troops based in South Korea and has maintained a military presence there since the Korean War ended.
Mattis’s counterpart, Song, gave the former four-star Marine general the lay of the land, noting that the North has 342 long-range artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, among other weapons. That’s a threat that cannot be defended against, Song said, so Washington and Seoul must come up with “new offensive concepts” to be able to eliminate the artillery before it can be used, should war break out.
Mattis called the North “an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare, and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery in order to threaten others with catastrophe.”
He noted that earlier this week in the Philippines, he and Song joined Southeast Asian defense ministers in committing to a diplomatic solution to the North Korea problem, even though Pyongyang and its young leader, Kim Jong Un, show no interest in negotiations.
Two other developments Oct. 26 showed the US intention to continue building diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang. The Trump administration imposed sanctions on 10 North Korean officials and organizations over human rights abuses and censorship, including a diplomat in China accused of forcing North Korean asylum seekers home.
Meanwhile, a rare military exercise involving three of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier strike groups was being planned for next month in the Asia Pacific, a US official said. The likely exercise would happen around the time that Trump travels to the region, including to Seoul.
The three Navy carriers and the ships that accompany them are currently thousands of miles apart in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. But they are moving through the region and could be closer together in weeks.
Trump entered office declaring his commitment to solving the North Korea problem, asserting that he would succeed where his predecessors had failed. His administration has sought to increase pressure on Pyongyang through UN Security Council sanctions and other diplomatic efforts, but the North hasn’t budged from its goal of building a full-fledged nuclear arsenal, including missiles capable of striking the US mainland.
On Oct. 28, Mattis will be joined by Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in annual consultations with South Korean defense officials. They are expected to admonish North Korea, vow to strengthen allied defenses, and discuss prospects for eventually giving South Korea wartime control of its own forces.