There’s a saying in the Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle community: “You ain’t tracks, you ain’t s—.”
It was in part that sense of bonding and pride that drew 2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke to the career field.
Tuesday morning, the 24-year-old became the first female officer to graduate from the Marines’ Assault Amphibian Officer course and the first to earn the military occupational specialty of 1803, qualifying her to command a platoon of AAVs, or Amtracks.
Klenke, whose hometown is St. Rose, Illinois, had to complete a series of physical requirements in addition to the 12-week course: She had to prove she could do a 115-pound clean-and-press and a 150-pound deadlift; she had to lift a MK-19 machine gun, weighing nearly 78 pounds, above her head; and she had to complete a 50-yard “buddy drag” with a 215-pound dummy to simulate a wounded comrade.
That buddy drag proved to be the most physically demanding element of the whole course, said Klenke, who played a variety of team sports while at Illinois’ Highland High School, and went to college on a soccer scholarship. She would graduate from the University of Tennessee at Martin with an accounting degree.
Klenke decided at The Basic School that she was interested in pursuing AAVs as a career field.
“Tracks keep the Marine Corps amphibious; I really like that part about them,” she said. “And it gives you the ability to work with the infantry and be in the battle if there ever was a battle.”
What she didn’t realize at the time was that there had never been a female officer in the field.
Since all ground combat jobs opened to women for the first time in 2016, the Marine Corps has welcomed its first female artillery and tanks officers.
There have also been two enlisted female Marines to complete required training and enter the AAV community. But until now, a female officer has not attempted the AAV officers’ course.
“Whenever my captain told me that was the MOS I was getting, he said, ‘You’re 1803 and you’re going to be the first female officer.’ I was kind of surprised and [it was] a little nerve-wracking being the first female, and it puts more pressure on yourself there,” Klenke said.
But, she added, she had no second thoughts. With her competitive sports background, she began to prepare mentally to face the challenge.
The assault amphibian officers course itself proved to be small, with only seven students in total, she said.
Other students would joke about her being the first woman in the course, but Klenke said the atmosphere was friendly, and she never felt singled out or ostracized because she was a woman.
“We were all good friends in the class, so it was just friendly jokes about everything,” she said.
She got a taste of the close bonds the tracks community shares during one of the most mentally challenging elements of the course: a week at Camp Pendleton staging AAV missions from the shoreline to inland objectives.
“We were doing three to four missions a day. It involved a lot of planning, and then operating too,” she said. “We were working on a couple of hours of sleep a night.”
The training made her more confident that she had chosen the right field, she said.
“You get the sense that it’s a very close-knit community and anybody will do anything for you, everyone works hard out there,” Klenke said. “Frankly, the Marines in the MOS, they’re very hard-working and they’ll have your back if they need to.”
For the AAV course, graduation is a quiet ceremony where certificates are distributed. In fewer than 48 hours, Klenke expects to be at her new unit: 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, at Camp Pendleton.
And she can’t wait.
“After a year of training, I’m finally just excited to get my platoon and start working for them, training them,” she said.
Hollywood has suffered yet another loss. Iconic TV and film actor Sam Shepard recently passed away at the age of 73 from complications with ALS. The Oscar-nominated and award-winning playwright’s career lasted almost five decades, and he’s accredited with over 65 movies roles.
The Illinois native was the son of Army officer, Samuel Shepard Rogers Jr., who served during World War II as a bomber pilot — which probably contributed to the longtime actor’s acumen in military roles.
Here are the four times Shepard played an outstanding military officer.
In 2005, Shepard played Capt. George Cummings, a “mission before the man” thinker, in charge of three radical Navy pilots picked to team up with a new fourth wing man — an independently thinking stealth jet.
After a fierce lightning strike, the AI stealth jet begins to create havoc and now must be taken down and destroyed at all costs.
2. Black Hawk Down
In 2001, Ridley Scott decided to cast Shepard as Maj. Gen. William Garrison, the overall commander of Task Force Ranger and the chief of Joint Special Operations Command. According to most accounts, Garrison did everything in his power to retrieve his men from the battlefield after a raid in Mogadishu quickly went south.
3. One Kill
Shepard starred as Maj. Nelson Gray alongside Anne Heche in 2000’s crime drama”One Kill.” The two actors played Marine officers who began an affair with one another in this TV movie directed by Christopher Menaul.
4. The Right Stuff
In 1983, Shepard took on the role of legendary Air Force test pilot Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager who became the first man to exceed the speed of sound during flight. In the film, Yeager has to help the original Mercury 7 astronauts get prepared for their upcoming space mission.
Nearly 17,000 World War I veterans and some of their families had made camp on the shore of the Anacostia River south of Capitol Hill by the summer of 1932. They were all unemployed, and many of them had been so since the start of the Great Depression in 1929. They wanted the money the government had promised them as a function of their wartime service, and they wanted it immediately.
But the benefit they were due was a little more complicated than that. In 1924 Congress overrode a veto by President Calvin Coolidge and passed the World War Adjusted Compensation Act. According to the act each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500, and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625 (about $7,899 in current dollars). Amounts of $50 or less were immediately paid. All other amounts were issued as Certificates of Service maturing in 20 years.
3,662,374 military service certificates were issued, with a face value of $3.638,000,000 ($43.7 billion today). Congress established a trust fund to receive 20 annual payments of $112 million that, with interest, would finance the 1945 disbursement of the $3.638 billion due the veterans. Meanwhile, veterans could borrow up to 22.5 percent of the certificate’s face value from the fund.
But in 1931, because of the Great Depression, Congress increased the maximum value of such loans to 50 percent of the certificate’s face value.
Although there was congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover and Republican congressmen opposed such action on the grounds that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout, and that would slow down any potential recovery.
On June 15, 1932, the House of Representatives passed the Wright Patman Bonus Bill which would have moved forward the date for World War I veterans to receive their cash bonus, but two days later the Senate defeated the bill by a vote of 62-18.
The Bonus Army, as the veteran squatters were known, decided to protest the Senate vote by marching from Anacostia to Capitol Hill. Once the march was over a number of vets decided not to return to Anacostia and instead they set up camp on Capitol Hill. They lived there for over a month waiting for lawmakers or President Hoover to do something on their behalf.
On July 28, 1932, Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the police to remove the Bonus Army veterans from their camp on Capitol Hill, and during that effort the vets rushed two policemen trapped on the second floor of a building. The cornered police drew their revolvers and shot at the veterans, two of which, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, later died.
When President Hoover heard about the incident he ordered the U.S. Army to evict the Bonus Army from Washington DC. The task fell to the 12th Infantry Regiment, commanded by one General Douglas MacArthur, who was supported by six tanks, under the charge of one Major George S. Patton who was attached to the 3rd Calvary Regiment.
When the vets saw the Army force they cheered, thinking they were there to support their cause. But MacArthur quickly showed them that wasn’t the case. The Army waded into the vets with tear gas and fixed bayonets. The vets retreated back to Anacostia, and President Hoover ordered the Army to stop the eviction. However General MacArthur, in a move that foretold his infamous showdown with President Truman years later during the Korean War, ignored Hoover’s order and continued his assault on the Bonus Army.
Fifty-five veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran’s wife miscarried. A 12-week-old boy died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack. The veteran shantytown was burned to the ground.
MacArthur later explained his actions by saying that he thought that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.
Though the Bonus Army incident did not derail the careers of the military officers involved, it proved politically disastrous for Hoover. He lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
MGM released the movie “Gabriel Over the White House” in March 1933, the month Roosevelt was sworn in as president. Produced by William Randolph Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Pictures, it depicted a fictitious President Hammond who, in the film’s opening scenes, refuses to deploy the military against a march of the unemployed and instead creates an “Army of Construction” to work on public works projects until the economy recovers.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt quipped that the movie’s treatment of veterans was superior to Hoover’s.
China, Russia, Malaysia, and other nations are failing to curb sanctioned financial dealings and trade conducted by North Korea in their countries, according to a U.N. report.
A U.N. panel of experts on North Korea said these nations and others are failing to stop the Kim Jong Un regime’s efforts to fund its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. CNN received key sections of the report.
Their draft report was distributed to a U.N. committee overseeing North Korea sanctions compliance. It then goes to the Security Council.
In violation of U.N. sanctions, North Korean exported roughly $200 million in coal and other commodities in 2017, the panel said. Much of the regime’s coal and fuel shipments passed through Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Russian ports.
More than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions are operating in foreign nations, including Russia and China, the investigators said.
North Korea “is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the document stated.
Several dozen times over the past decade, the report said, North Korean weapons have been shipped to Syria to develop a chemical-weapons program.
Syria told the panel no North Korea technical companies are operating in the country, and the only North Koreans there are involved in sports.
A member country also reported that Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles, according to the report.
Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, and Burmese embassies in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the U.N. Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea after several weapons tests, including nuclear ones.
On June 25, 1950 all-out war broke out when Communist North Korea invaded Capitalist South Korea after a series of clashes on the border. The devastation was insurmountable and the war has never officially ended between the two nations, even after a UN enforced partition along the 38th parallel. Kim Il-sung shut his nation from the world and established a cult of personality every despot could only dream of having. His nation either feared him because of his iron fist or worshiped him as a god-king.
Sidestepping entirely away from American politics and news outlets, the Korean Central News Agency is so fake even your gullible relative who falls for every Onion or Duffle Blog article would shake their head.
Once you’ve gone on air and state that “unicorns exist and are North Korean” or that “the North Korean famine has ended because Kim invented the hamburger,” your journalistic integrity flies out the window.
4. Their “history” and text books
History is always written by the winners, right? It also helps when you close yourself off from the rest of the world so no one can fact check every bullsh*t claim you make.
The lies even slide into math problems for their kids. Such as: During the Fatherland Liberation War, the brave uncles of Korean People’s Army killed 265 American imperialist bastards in the first battle. In the second battle, they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many American imperialist bastards did they kill altogether?
3. Film and television
The state news isn’t the only thing that is slathered with anti-Americanisms. Surprisingly enough, they have a full-fledged film industry that is either Anti-West or a cheap knockoff of something Japanese. In 1985, the North Koreans kidnapped a South Korean film director and forced him to make Pulgasari — an over the top knockoff of Godzilla set in feudal Korea. The link to watch it on YouTube with subtitles is right here, but be warned. It’s bad. Not like, The Room, where it’s so absurd it’s hilarious. Pulgasari is just… bad…
Keeping up with the indoctrination of children…holy crap are their cartoons ridiculous. One such cartoon is about how even you can help fight the American imperialist wolves (because we somehow get depicted as wolves a lot. Which is cool with me. Wolves are cool.) by learning to use a protractor and a compass to launch missiles at us.
But what about the youngsters eager to play video games like their South Korean cousins? Well. There’s “Hunting Yankee.”
This supposedly “very popular” game with graphics on the same level as a Playstation One puts you in the role of sniper and you shoot Americans. Yep. That’s it. Game of the Year quality content right there.
1. Staged photos
Of course everything is alright! There are photos that prove things aren’t bad in North Korea!
Almost every photo of Kim Jong-un touring his country that the previously mentioned state media runs is laughable. Sure, he and his cronies are laughing and enjoying themselves, but not a single soul outside of the regime seems to have an actual smile.
*Bonus* Boasting that they can stand a chance against America
Let’s just look at the stats for a quick second from what was considered the 5th greatest military in 1990, Iraq. They had the numbers, they had the skill and experience, they had the funding, they had the tech and then they messed with a nation we are cool with, Kuwait. America wafflestomped their asses in about four weeks.
Sure. North Korea boasts an impressive number of infantrymen; however, they’re malnourished and diseased, untrained, and under-equipped. Their planes, armor, and artillery are well over sixty years old. Their military consists of defectors, meaning they’re not willing to fight. And to top it all off, South Korea (North Korea’s main target) is America’s closest friend.
As part of the events surrounding Super Bowl 50, the Military Benefit Association sponsored the Wounded Warrior Amputee vs. NFL Alumni Flag Football game. The game was a chance for these veterans to compete against NFL greats while raising awareness about the issues wounded veterans face.
Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steeler great, Vietnam War veteran, and spokesperson for the Military Benefit Association, has been involved with the WWAFT games for the past five years.
Just after completing the final flight of the Southern Hemisphere winter Antarctic season, the 304th Expeditionary Air Squadron was alerted there was a medical emergency at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station Aug. 25, 2018.
In the face of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, the 304th EAS was able to redirect a mission to respond to the medical evacuation and use a local Christchurch New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to save time.
“We were in alert position to leave for Guam, and when I woke up, there was a note under my door that read we were now going to do a medevac mission,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Cohn, 97th Airlift Squadron pilot.
Planners worked throughout the night to switch from a ‘go home’ mission to medevac mission in order to airlift two patients to medical facilities in Christchurch. During the flight to the Antarctic, aircrew were able to interact with the New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to orient them to the C-17 Globemaster III.
“The team was great to work with, and this was their first aeromedical evacuation mission and flight on a military aircraft,” Cohn said.
Upon landing, weather impacted the medevac mission.
“Weather was favorable for the arrival except temperatures at the time of landing were much colder than previously forecasted,” said Lt. Col. Trace Dotson, the 304th EAS commander.
The crew worked quickly in negative 65.2 Fahrenheit conditions to safely evacuate one critically ill patient and another patient needing medical care.
A Christchurch New Zealand Life Fleet medical team loads response equipment onto the C-17 Globemaster III for an emergency medevac from the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.
“There was a lot of coordination with the New Zealand Life Fleet medical personnel as we usually work with Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation teams,” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Lewis, 7th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “The increased coordination helped us perform the medevac safely. It was so cold that we weren’t able to open up the back of the aircraft, so the patients were loaded through the crew door, which is located on the front left side of the aircraft.”
With a wind-chill of negative 94 Fahrenheit, crew minimized time on the ground due to the extreme cold and returned the patients to Christchurch within 24 hours from the time we were notified of the evacuation request, Dotson said.
“This mission was outside normal operations since it was an emergency situation,” Cohn said. “The rapidness of how we changed gear to respond really showed the teamwork of all who were involved.”
The rapid, life-saving response demonstrated the flexibility and capabilities of the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica to respond quickly to emergency situations in the Antarctic. The patients were treated in New Zealand medical facilities.
“This was a complete different mission from what we typically do,” Lewis said. “It was really special to be part of something that you weren’t expecting. I was expecting to go home, but then I got to participate in a medical evacuation to help two people.”
The last dedicated medevac mission the 304th EAS supported was in 2013. The 304th is comprised of blended aircrews from the active duty 62nd Airlift Wing and the reserve 446th Airlift Wing.
The NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program. Operation Deep Freeze is the logistical support provided by the DoD to the U. S. Antarctic Program. This includes the coordination of strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical intra-theater airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, search-and-rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements supporting the NSF.
This is a unique mission that demonstrates U.S. commitment to stability in the Pacific and research programs conducted for the betterment of all mankind.
Featured image: A C-17 Globemaster III sits on the runway at McMurdo Station in Antarctic.
The Navy has now completed at least one-fourth of the design drawings and begun advanced work on a stealthy “electric drive” propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines — as part of its strategy to engineer the quietest, most technically advanced and least detectable submarine of all time.
The Columbia-class, slated to begin full construction by 2021, is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.
“The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system,” a Congressional Research Service report on Columbia-Class submarines from 2018 states.
In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.
Designed to be 560-feet–long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will use a quieting X-shaped stern configuration.
“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven several months ago.
The “X”-shaped stern will restore maneuverability to submarines; as submarine designs progressed from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve quieting, submarines lost some surface maneuverability, senior Navy officials told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.
Navy developers explained that electric-drive propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and create steam to power turbines. However, the electricity produced is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to spin the boat’s propellers.
The use of an electric motor brings other advantages as well, according to an MIT essay written years ago when electric drive was being evaluated for submarine propulsion.
Using an electric motor optimizes use of installed reactor power in a more efficient way compared with mechanical drive submarines, making more on-board power available for other uses, according to an essay called “Evaluation and Comparison of Electric Propulsion Motors for Submarines.” Author Joel Harbour says that on mechanical drive submarine, 80-percent of the total reactor power is used exclusively for propulsion.
“With an electric drive submarine, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical power and then delivered to an electric propulsion motor. The now available electrical potential not being used for propulsion could easily be tapped into for other uses,” he writes.
Research, science and technology work and initial missile tube construction on Columbia-Class submarines has been underway for several years. One key exercise, called tube-and-hull forging, involves building four-packs of missile tubes to assess welding and construction methods. These structures are intended to load into the boat’s modules as construction advances.
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland.
(US Navy photo by James Kimber)
“Early procurement of missile tubes and prototyping of the first assembly of four missile tubes are supporting the proving out of production planning,” Couch said.
While the Columbia-Class is intended to replace the existing fleet of Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarines, the new boats include a number of not-yet-seen technologies as well as different configurations when compared with the Ohio-Class. The Columbia-Class will have 16 launch tubes rather than the 24 tubes current on Ohio boats, yet the Columbias will also be about 2-tons larger, according to Navy information.
The Columbia-Class, to be operational by the 2028, is a new generation of technically advanced submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world to ensure second-strike ability should the US be hit with a catastrophic nuclear attack.
The nuclear-armed submarines are expected to serve all the way into and beyond the 2080s.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has begun acquiring long-lead items in anticipation of beginning construction; the process involves acquiring metals, electronics, sonar arrays, and other key components necessary to build the submarines.
Both the Pentagon and the Navy are approaching this program with a sense of urgency, given the escalation of the current global threat environment. Many senior DoD officials have called the Columbia-Class program as a number one priority across all the services.
“The Columbia-Class submarine program is leveraging enhanced acquisition authorities provided by Congress such as advanced procurement, advanced construction and multi-year continuous production of missile tubes,” Couch added.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Hiring managers and recruiters are intrigued and excited about the idea of hiring former military service members. More and more, they recognize that a veteran job candidate brings qualities of leadership, integrity, commitment, problem-solving, adaptability, and much more!
By the year 2023, reports estimate we will see 3.5 million veterans in the civilian workforce in this country. On the surface, that should indicate a great opportunity for employers who seek to hire employees who bring exceptional value to the company. Instead, many employers are hesitant or overwhelmed at the prospect of hiring veterans because they don’t know how to navigate and overcome perceptions, myths, and the divide between the military and civilian cultures.
In a recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), I spoke to employers about realities of common misperceptions. You, the job candidate, can help employers clarify some of those myths by having data and insights to dispel these misconceptoins. For instance:
1. Myth: Only men serve in the military
How many times has a female veteran heard a civilian remark, “You’re a veteran? You don’t look like a veteran!”? There are misperceptions around the number of men and women who put on the uniform. The Pew Research Center reports that female veterans are less likely to have served in combat (30 percent of women compared to 57 percent of men). In peacetime and wartime, there are a great number of women who serve, and that number will grow as new military occupations are opened up to female service members.
2. Myth: All veterans have PTSD
You, as a veteran, have surely encountered the perception that veterans must have some form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). After all, how could anyone experience what you did in the military without coming back “different” in some way? Perceptions that veterans bring PTSD issues with them into their civilian careers lead many employers to question whether these job candidates are then “unstable” and “unreliable.” Here are some facts:
• 8 percent of all Americans suffer from PTSD (approximately 24 million people), and the number of military veterans with PTSD is relatively low when compared to the total number of those who have served. “According to the VA, experts estimate that up to 20 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, up to 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, and up to 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD,” reports PTSD United.
• Brainline.org reports that PTSD can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event, including natural disasters, car crashes, sexual or physical assault, terrorist attack, or combat during wartime.
• An estimated 1 out of 10 women will get PTSD at some time in their lives. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. (Sidran.org)
3. Myth: Every veteran saw combat
As you know, there are over 7,000 military occupational codes, indicating different jobs in service. Not all of those jobs are in-theater. The Department of Defense shows that less than 20 percent of service members serve in frontline combat roles. Perhaps you worked as a cook, radio operator, pilot, tower equipment installer, logisticians, procurement clerk, medic, personnel manager, or mechanic during your military career? Help employers see that while all military jobs focus on the mission, they are not all combat jobs.
4. Myth: Skills gained in the military are non-transferable
Employers are often motivated to hire veterans for their qualities of teamwork, work ethics and values, resiliency, focus on mission, and accomplishment. These characteristics make veterans great candidates for matching a company’s core values and culture. What sometimes gets overlooked is that veteran job candidates also bring tremendous hard skills that are transferrable to a civilian employer. Veterans bring a documented work history, security clearance, technical and subject matter expertise, and specialized training which can be quickly applied to industries such as healthcare, aviation, finance, logistics, administration, and others.
I advise employers who seek to hire military veterans but are unfamiliar with the military experience, work history, or skills to listen, learn, and engage others in understanding the benefits (and realities) of hiring and growing veteran talent. As you interview, discuss, and grow your civilian career, you can serve those coming up behind you by helping employers overcome some of these same misperceptions and myths.
Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.
President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.
When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.
“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”
He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”
The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”
Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.
“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”
The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.
“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”
U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.
“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”
U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.
The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.
Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”
Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.
“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”
Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.
“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.
The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.
“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”
The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.
The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.
“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”
Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.
“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.
His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.
“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.
Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .
While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.
That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.
“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.
The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.
Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.
The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.
“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”
“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.
“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”
The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.
The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.
“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.
The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.
The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.
Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.
The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”
“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”
The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”
“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.
Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.
The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.
“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”
The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.
But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.
“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”
While the prospect of negotiations between North Korea and the US are beginning to look very promising, experts say there is “no way” North Korea trusts the US and would ever sign off on its nuclear weapons program.
Early March 2018, South Korean president’s office, the Blue House, announced that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was willing to abandon his country’s nuclear arms if certain conditions were met. The Blue House also said North Korea would suspend provocations, like nuclear and missile testing, during negotiations.
After meeting with South Korean officials, President Donald Trump seemed optimistic about the North’s proposal, and agreed to meet with Kim by May 2018, with the potential to discuss denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
However, experts remain skeptical of North Korea’s pledges to halt its nuclear weapons development.
John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, said there is “no way” North Korea could trust the US enough to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons,” Mearsheimer said at a lecture hosted by the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies in Seoul on March 20, 2018, according to Yonhap. “The reason is that in international politics, you could never trust anybody because you cannot be certain of what their intentions are.”
Mearsheimer said that “there’s no way North Koreans can trust the U.S.” when it comes to a denuclearization deal. He cited examples of the US’ unsuccessful denuclearization deals in the Middle East, including Muammar Gaddafi who gave up Libya’s chemical weapons and was killed less than a decade later.
“If you were North Koreans, would you trust Donald Trump? Would you trust any American presidents?”
Mearsheimer added that there was no country that “needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea,” in order to protect its leader. While the US has not explicitly stated its intention to pursue a regime change in the North, Trump and his administration have certainly alluded to the possibility.
Mearsheimer added that North Korea was even less likely to give up their weapons in the current climate.
“Give up their nuclear weapons? I don’t think so, especially as security competition heats up in East Asia. You wanna hang on to those weapons.”