There’s just something about the non-payday weekend after that sweet holiday break. Last weekend, everyone had some grandiose plans about getting out of town or spending three full days in a drunken haze. This weekend is different.
Sure, it’s another two days of having little expected of you — with the exception of what your first sergeant tells you at the obligatory safety brief. But it doesn’t feel like you’re getting some awesome time off compared to last week. So, I guess it’s time to actually do all that stuff you told yourself you’d do with your extra free time last weekend…
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Take a break from your chores or those SSD classes you keep telling your supervisor you’ll eventually do and enjoy some memes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.
In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.
The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.
The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.
The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.
Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.
A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.
Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.
The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.
Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”
Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”
Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.
Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.
The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.
Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.
In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.
“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.
“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”
Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.
He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.
Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.
McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.
Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day from the former Soviet Union on August 24 with a military parade through central Kiev.
Not only was Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, along with eight other foreign defense ministers, but about 230 troops from the US and seven other NATO countries also marched alongside Ukrainian soldiers.
It was the first time US soldiers ever participated in Ukraine’s Independence Day parade.
“We are honored to be here marching alongside other countries showing our support in Ukraine,” 1st Sgt. Clifton Fulkerson said.
As US troops marched down the street, a wave of cheers and applause reportedly went through the crowd of Ukrainians on hand.
But not everyone was thrilled with NATO’s involvement.
“That kind of parade is not a celebration of independence, but rather a show of dependence on the US and NATO,” a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Oleinik, told Russian media outlet Sputnik, which the Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted.
“In the reverse, it would be difficult to imagine Poroshenko coming to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington while Ukrainian troops marched in Washington.”
Two other Russian state owned media outlets, Russia Times and TASS, also uploaded videos headlining NATO’s involvement in the parade.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
After the parade, Mattis met with Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, such as the Javelin.
“Have no doubt the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things,” Mattis told reporters while standing next to Poroshenko after they met. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to international law and the international order writ large.”
“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. And despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”
KyivPost photo by Mikhail Palinchak. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
While he acknowledged that the US just recently approved giving Kiev $175 million worth of military equipment, he stopped short of saying whether the US would supply Kiev with $50 million worth of anti-tank missile systems.
“I prefer not to answer that right now,” Mattis said, adding that the proposal is under review.
Supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons has been a controversial proposition. Former President Obama did not support such a move, arguing that it would provoke Russia. France, Germany, and some analysts have expressed the same concerns.
Many Russian politicians and officials have also spoken out against the plan.
But Mattis appeared to slightly give away his own take. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor,” he said at the press conference, “and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”
You’ll never get a more true-to-life snapshot of the other branches than the one you get when you begin your deployment. Everyone from every branch (and occasionally every allied nation) is crammed in together in a transient barracks — also known as a “tent city.”
It doesn’t matter what type of unit you’re in, everyone gets put in the same tents and the results are hilarious. Here’s who you’ll meet in these temporary towns.
If you’re at a level where someone might accuse you of Stolen Valor while you’re deployed in Afghanistan, you might be a hyper-POG.
(Meme via /r/Army)
There’s no shame in claiming an MOS that doesn’t operate on the front lines. Your mission is just different and you’re out there doing your part, too. The playful rivalry between grunts and non-grunts is a good thing — a little banter back and forth between infantrymen and their radio operators is fun.
And then there’re the troops that give the rest of the POGs a bad name. These guys use rolling suitcases instead of duffel bags. They get upset that they’re made to drink Green Beans Coffee instead of enjoying Starbucks. They look they haven’t done PT since they left Basic. The list goes on…
Don’t expect much from the people who’ve turned their “however-long and a wake up” into just “a wake up.”
(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)
The tired grunts
These transient barracks are used for both incoming personnel and for outbound troops who are more than ready to get the hell out of there.
These grunts just did their time, maybe got extended, and are this close to going home. They are completely out of f*cks to give. Honestly, it’s probably best not to mess with these guys. They’re likely contemplating mugging the Hyper-POGs who suffered through a “two-beer limit” at Manas Air Base.
It’s usually the tired grunts that spread all the hilarious lies.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The gullible boots
These guys aren’t just the lower enlisted who’ve spent about two days in the military. This category includes anyone who acts like a boot moments before their first deployment. And man, are they fun to mess with.
They’ll ask the dumbest questions. This is when people first hear about the dreaded combat drop and how terrifying camel spiders truly are. To all you gullible folks out there, remember to take these stories with a grain of salt.
Or when Cav Scouts take their stetsons to Afghanistan and wonder why everyone is on their ass for bringing it.
(Photo by Sgt. Richard Sherba)
The “kinda-but-not-actually-a-regulation” standard bearer
The military is filled with regulations. No doubt about that. If one NCO catches a lower enlisted doing something outside of regs, like walking around with their uniform jacked up, they have every right to call them out.
That being said, every unit is different and plays by different rules when it comes to the little things. One unit may not give a damn if you walk to the showers in sandals while others might. It only becomes a problem when units collide and suddenly you’re getting grilled for doing something the way you always have.
If you thought our POGs were kept to a lower standard…
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)
The foreign ally with no professional standard
America’s allies also bunk up with our troops in tent cities. The standard bearer is probably losing their sh*t over how things are done by foreign troops.
For example, I’ve witnessed a foreign ally misplace not one, not two, but three grenades and their assigned weapon in Afghanistan. This was addressed with a casual, “meh, it happens.” Meanwhile, every American troop there just looked on in amazement as EOD got involved.
If you smell like a burn pit but have never even seen one… Take the hint.
(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)
The American with no hygeinic standard
Now, let’s not pretend American troops are without fault. This one goes out to every single one of the nasty motherf*ckers who thinks that showering is optional. I’d like to express this from the bottom of my heart — not just for me, but for everyone who has ever shared a tent with you: f*ck you.
If this guy doesn’t care enough to stay clean for the single week while in transit, then they’re probably not going to stay clean for the next 12 months they’ll spend with their unit.
Their beards make us even more envious…
(Photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)
The contractor who won at life
Want to know who everyone really envies on a deployment? The contractors that are out there doing nearly the same mission as most troops, only for a sh*t-ton more money and countless other benefits.
You can’t even be mad at the contractors. Most of them are vets who’ve transitioned from active duty to contractor life. More than likely, they’re also probably the happiest people out there. I mean, hell, every vet says they’d kill to go back and these guys are making bank doing it.
OC qualifying is one of the most dreaded requirements in the military. Occasionally, you’ll run into some people who will try to act tough by saying that OC qualifying isn’t so bad but they’re lying. It is that bad.
Certain ranks in the military require that the troop first experience the pain of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. For the same reasons one might opt to experience the pain of a taser, the aim here is for the person carrying such a tool to understand how it feels so they think twice before using it.
This is extremely painful for any man to experience — but it’s still not as bad as getting pepper sprayed and then subsequently having to fight people and do workouts afterward.
Getting a toenail removed without lidocaine
Granted, any type of procedure is going to be painful without a sedative, but no matter how painful that procedure is, it’s still not as bad as taking pepper spray to the face.
Once you get some fresh air, you’ll be just fine.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Ashley Lawson)
CS gas qualification
This is probably the worst part of boot camp — getting put into a bunker filled with tear gas then being forced to pull the mask off your face. If you’ve got lungs of steel, no problem, just hold your breath. But, if you take the smallest breath, your entire respiratory system is going to be on fire. Even still, pepper spray is much worse.
This one will likely stir some debate, but let’s be real: At the end of a MARSOC screener, even if you don’t get picked, there’s the gratification of having completed some of the most grueling preliminary testing the military has to offer. At the end of OC qualification, you’re just in pain.
Some may prefer OC spray over getting tasered but they’re probably crazy.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Christian Robertson)
People who have done both taser and OC qualification will debate this all day. You’ll hear some may say they’d rather get tasered ten times than be sprayed once and vice versa. The truth, however, is that with tasers, the pain ends when the trigger is released. With OC, the pain lingers long after you complete training.
Training for a helicopter crash in water is fun for some, but a lot of people hate it. For those who don’t know, what happens is you get strapped into a simulated helicopter, which then gets dropped in a pool, submerged, and flipped upside down.
Your goal is to escape the grips of death and resurface. Once you get out of the helicopter, you’re done — that’s it.
This one might not be worth it in the end, though…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)
The most commonly despised word across the military is “reenlistment.” While the option to reenlist is not exciting, some might even choose it over getting pepper sprayed again.
US Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Raina Hockenberry
On August 5, 2014, Master Chief Raina Hockenberry, 41, was a senior chief midway through a deployment in Afghanistan. She was helping train Afghan forces. While leaving an Afghan military camp in Kabul, a rogue Afghan gunman opened fire. Hockenberry sustained bullet wounds in her stomach, groin, and tibia. This is where the story could’ve ended Hockenberry’s military career. But Hockenberry’s running life theme is never giving up.
Hockenberry celebrates after winning gold in the 50 meter freestyle at the 2018 DoD Warrior Games.
(Master Sgt. Stephen D. Schester)
According to The Navy Times, while she recovered at Walter Reed medical center she immediately asked for a laptop so she could continue to contribute.
“Being in the hospital, you’re a patient and you lose who you are. That laptop was huge. It gave me my identity back. It gave me something to focus on. I was useful again.” Hockenberry said, “My identity was Senior Chief Hockenberry.”
Hockenberry doesn’t take all the credit for staying engaged during the early stages of her recovery process. She extended her gratitude to the junior enlisted service members surrounding her at Walter Reed, “Every time I wanted to quit, there always seemed to be some junior sailor popping in saying, ‘Hey senior, you going to PT?”
One of the injuries sustained by Hockenberry.
(Dennis Oda/The Star)
Despite the complications from her injuries sustained in battle, Hockenberry takes part (and kicks ass) in multiple athletic competitions. Such as the Invictus Games, or the Warrior Games (a competition for wounded, sick, or injured troops). Just last year she set 4 new swimming records en route to 8 gold medals in the latter.
She will be returning with high hopes again this year.
Hockenberry receiving the George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award at 53rd USO Armed Forces Gala.
(Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Lewis)
Nowadays, when Hockenberry isn’t dominating the Warrior Games, she serves on board of the USS Port Royal, in Hawaii—and she’s grateful to be back.
“Today, I’m just another sailor,” She added, “Granted, I’m a master chief and that’s awesome, but I do drill, I do general quarters, I’m up and down ladder wells. I do what every other sailor does.”
Hockenberry serves as a beacon for other service-members who are battling injuries every single day. Hockenberry’s advice is simple, “You’ve got to fight for what you want,” she said. “If you really want it, there’s so many in the Navy who will help you, you just have to ask.”
She acknowledges the road to recovery is not linear, and that while injuries change how you interact with the world, they do not define the afflicted, “”You don’t have to be perfect. I don’t walk perfect, I sure don’t swim perfect. But that’s okay […] The four gentlemen I went with have all been through the gamut and now have productive lives. It’s just an injury. It’s not your life.”
Hockenberry set up “Operation Proper Exit” in 2016 as a way to bring soldiers wounded in action back to the place where they sustained their injuries, in order to give soldiers proper closure.
Hockenberry will be honored as the Sailor of the Year at the Service Members of the Year ceremony on July 10th.
If you love military movies, then it’s safe to say you’d recognize Max Martini. While his film career doesn’t only include military-centric roles, he’s built a reputation among the military community as both a proud supporter of service members and one of the most badass actors ever to portray them on screen.
I first remember recognizing Max Martini as a mil-actor way back during his days filming “The Unit,” a popular CBS TV series about elite special operators assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D), commonly known by those of us outside their elite fraternity as Delta Force. Since then, Max has played war fighters of all sorts in fan favorite movies like Saving Private Ryan,13 Hours, Spectral, Captain Phillips, and one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Pacific Rim.
Max Martini in “Pacific Rim”
His most recent foray into the military genre was Sgt. Will Gardner. The film depicts a Marine veteran who has struggled since separating from service and is now trying to reestablish a relationship with his young son. The movie was a passion project for Max, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in the titular role.
Importantly, however, making the movie wasn’t just about telling a powerful story about service and redemption, it was also about helping veterans in the real world. He’s pledged 30% of the film’s profits to veteran charities.
Sgt. Will Gardner
(Mona Vista Productions)
I was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Max (digitally) during this coronavirus quarantine, and ask him some questions about his career, his work on behalf of the military and veteran communities, and just what it takes to play some of the most badass characters ever put on screen.
Max has played both real and fictional special operators, and has made a name for himself among veterans for it. I asked Max what keeps him coming back to these sorts of challenging roles.
“My dad was an artist living in New York City, so I sorta grew up in the Arts. But that said, my mother was a cop. I grew up in the arts, went to art school, got my degree in fine arts and came out owing, ya know, a hundred and fifty gazillion dollars without a way to pay it off,” Max explained.
Max Martini in “Saving Private Ryan”
“I got asked to audition for a movie because I’d dabbled in acting, and then the second movie I got was Saving Private Ryan. That was transformational for me. I had just just graduated from art school and I didn’t have much of a sense of politics or appreciation for the military. Then I did this movie, and I really started to understand more about our service members, and I really loved the community because there was obviously a lot of former military involved in making that movie.”
It wasn’t just that he developed an appreciation for service through filming Saving Private Ryan, he also quickly established himself as a solid actor capable of playing military roles.
“I don’t know, it’s like Steven Spielberg gives you this stamp of approval that says, ‘okay, he makes a good soldier,’ and everybody jumps on board,” Max joked.
Of course, because Max has played a member of Delta Force before, I felt the need to speak to one of my friends that actually served in that elite unit to see what he’d be interested to learn about acting in such a role. So I gave legendary Delta Force operator George E. Hand IV a call–and he wanted to know how actors like Max go about playing military roles in a realistic way on screen.
“Well, I think it’s a combination of things. Like, for instance, when I did Captain Phillips, we had a technical advisor from the Navy but it wasn’t somebody showing you how to soldier, it was somebody showing you the functionality of the ship,” he recalled. “But the guys around me were all former [special operations] team guys and they’d be like, ‘Dude, you should say this.’ One of the guys was about to relieve the team that was on the ship that took the shot, so he was familiar with the operation.”
He went on to talk about his time specifically playing a Delta Force operator in The Unit.
“The Unit was adapted from a book that Eric Haney wrote. He was one of the original Delta guys. So Eric was a producer on the show and he put us through a lot of training, and then he was there every day to watch over us technically.”
Max Martini on “The Unit”
Max points out that his resume isn’t all that helps him win military roles. Now, he’s close friends with a number of veterans and does a lot of firearm training on his own. He might do it because it’s fun, but the technical capability he develops by shooting with special operations veterans tend to translate into his realistic handling of weapons on screen.
“I think that’s also a consideration when people hire me. People go, ‘we’re not going to have to do much with him to get him ready for the show.’
Max’s appreciation for service members isn’t just born out of his real life friendships with veterans. He’s also made a number of trips overseas to visit deployed service members. Max’s decision to donate 30% of the profits from Sgt. Will Gardner speaks to his passion for supporting the military, which is something he says is a responsibility American’s share.
“I feel very strongly that if somebody enlists in the military, that we as Americans share a responsibility to ensure that when they return from combat, they have red carpet healthcare treatment and every resource available to them that’s need to reintegrate properly back into civilian life.”
Max Martini’s latest movie, Sgt. Will Gardner, is now streaming on a number of platforms, but Max points out that paying to see the movie on Amazon Prime helps support not only his endeavor to make more movies in that vein, but also supports the three veteran charities he’s splitting the profits with.
The US Navy has declared its F-35Cs ready for combat, but the service’s own testing data says the stealth fighters designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers are nowhere close to ready, an independent nonpartisan watchdog reports.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in February 2019 as the Navy announced that the fighter had achieved initial operating capability. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
But the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government-accountability group, warned March 19, 2019, that despite these claims, the F-35C, like the other variants, “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cybervulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”
An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)
While still secretary of defense, Jim Mattis demanded last fall that the Navy and the Air Force strive to achieve a fleet-wide mission-capable rate of 80% for their fighters by October 2019. The Navy’s carrier-capable F-35 variant is apparently nowhere close to that target, having consistently achieved unacceptably low fully mission-capable rates.
The mission-capable rates for the Navy’s F-35Cs dropped from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017, with figures remaining in the single digits throughout 2018, the oversight group reported, citing Navy documents. The US Navy, according to Military.com, also has only 27 of the required 273 F-35Cs, and the mission-capable rates do not apply to aircraft in testing, training, or depot.
“The fully mission capable rate for the full fleet is likely far below” the target set by Mattis, the watchdog concluded.
It said the Navy had opted to move forward with the aircraft “in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat” and that it could “put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight.”
The group’s analysis follows the release of a disconcerting report from the Defense Department’s director of operational, test, and evaluation in January that called attention to F-35 readiness issues, such as life expectancy, cybersecurity, and stagnant aircraft availability.
Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)
“Fleet-wide average availability is below program target value of 60% and well below planned 80% needed,” the official report said. “The trend in fleet availability has been flat over the past three years; the program’s reliability improvement initiatives are still not translating into improved availability.”
The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to that report, saying the problems presented in the report were being “aggressively addressed.”
The JPO told Business Insider that as of January 2019, the mission capable rate for the Navy’s F-35C was 56 percent. “The Program Office has identified the enablers to increase our mission capability rates,” a JPO spokesman explained.
“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment,” the Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore, Capt. Max McCoy, said as the Navy’s carrier-capable variant was declared “ready for combat” February 2019. “The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Marines will low crawl through a thousand miles of barbed wire and broken glass to help a brother Marine or a member of his family – even when they have never met.” – MSgt Andy Bufalo, USMC
On January 24th, Marine Corps veteran Bobby Donald Diaz suffered a major stroke. Diaz, 79, has been receiving treatment at The Woodlands Hospital in Texas for swelling of the brain. He has lost some function of his left side and some of his vision.
On Saturday, he asked his immediate family to call on his Marine family to visit him.
“He was getting depressed on his back for so long,” Diaz’ wife of 40 years, Marilyn, said. “He wanted to talk to one of his brothers, so my son-in-law put the word out.”
Within hours, Marines – many of whom Diaz had never met — came running. The former sergeant, who served for four years in the Korean War, has received a steady stream of visits and calls from Marines of all ages, from all over.
“I’ve lost count,” Marilyn said. “I’m overwhelmed; it’s unbelievable, and the stories [they share] are unreal.”
Marine vet Adam Blancas shared this about his visit with Diaz on his Facebook page:
I had the extreme honor of being able to show love and support to a Marine brother in need. Bobby Diaz had a bad stroke a few weeks back and had told his son/daughter in law he wanted to see a couple of his brothers (Marines). This was two days ago. When I saw him today the family said over 100 people have been by, not a single one knowing anything about Bobby other than his shared service with us.
About 45 minutes in Congressman Brady stopped by to visit. He couldn’t have been nicer and made sure the focus stayed on Diaz. Bobby’s reaction to being surrounded with brothers was amazing. He started talking and laughing while sharing old corps stories with anyone eager to listen, and we all were.
The oldest Marine on deck visiting was 82, I was the youngest at 26. Seeing that kind of love in action was an experience I’ll never forget.
“It just goes to show you that in the Marine Corps: once a brother, always a brother, no matter what,” Diaz told a KHON reporter. “When you feel bad, you can’t feel bad because all your brothers are here.”
In true joint military fashion, the Marine visitors discovered there was an Air Force veteran two rooms down from Diaz, and many of them visited him as well.
Watch video coverage of Marines visiting Diaz here.
Contribute to the gofundme campaign set up to assist with Diaz’ medical care costs here.
Among members of the Air Force, there’s a tendency to be interested in aircraft. More than just aircraft, though, aircraft in aircraft is the type of idea that has the potential to harken back to the science fiction imaginings of many early childhoods. But true to form, science fiction in the military scarcely stays fiction for long.
From Jan. 11 to 13, 2019, it was the job of the C-5M Super Galaxy aircrew and aerial port specialists at Travis Air Force, California to join in efforts with the Army to transport four UH-60 Black Hawks from California to the helicopters’ home base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
“Accomplishing the feat took no small measure of cooperation between the two sister services,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Chase, 60th Aerial Port Squadron special handling supervisor. “You figure some of the C-5M aircrew who are transporting the Black Hawks have never even seen one before,” Chase said. “It’s because of that, having the Army here and participating in this training with us is so important. Coming together with our own expertise on our respective aircraft is what’s vital to the success of a mission like this.”
Chase went on to explain that in a deployed environment, Black Hawks are usually ferried around on C-17 Globemaster IIIs because of their tactical versatility.
US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
Which is great, he said, but in respect to total force readiness, sometimes a C-5M is the better choice for airlift.
“Our job as a military isn’t only to practice the tried and true formula — it’s to also blaze and refine new trails in the event we ever need to,” he said. “By allowing us to train on mobilizing these Black Hawks, the Army is giving us the opportunity to utilize not only the C-17s in our fleet, but also our C-5Ms. As it pertains to our base’s mission, that difference can mean everything.”
The difference Chase speaks of is one of 18 aircraft — over five million more pounds of cargo weight in addition to the 2,221,700 afforded to Travis AFB’s mission by the C-17. In terms of “rapidly projecting American power anytime, anywhere,” those numbers are not insignificant.
The Army, likewise, used the training as an opportunity to reinforce its own mission set.
“The decision to come to Travis mostly had to do with our needing a (strategic air) asset to facilitate our own deployment readiness exercise to Elmendorf,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, C Company platoon leader. “Travis was the first base to offer up their C-5M to get the job done, so that’s where we went.”
Amarucci’s seven-man team supervised the Travis AFB C-5M personnel in safe loading techniques as well as educated the aircrew on the Black Hawks’ basic functionality to ensure the load-up and transport was as seamless as possible.
Amid all the technical training and shoring up of various workplace competencies, the joint operation allowed for an unexpected, though welcomed, benefit: cross-culture interactions.
“It’s definitely been interesting being on such an aviation-centric base,” said Private 1st Class Donald Randall, 2-158th AHB, 15 T Black Hawk repair. “Experiencing the Air Force mission
Airmen and soldiers offload a UH-60 Black Hawk from a C-5 Galaxy at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
definitely lends to the understanding of what everyone’s specialties and capabilities are when we’re deployed.”
“Plus, the Air Force’s food is better,” he laughed.
Chase also acknowledged the push to bring the Air Force and Army’s similar, yet subtly different cultures to a broader mutual understanding during the times socializing was possible, an admittedly infrequent opportunity, he said.
“Outside of theater, there aren’t too many opportunities to hang out with members from other branches,” he said. “So when the chance to do so kind of falls into your lap, there’s this urge to make the most out of it. A lot of the differences between branches are very nuanced, like how the Army likes to be called by their full rank and stuff like that, but knowing them and making an effort to be sensitive to those differences can pay huge dividends when it comes time to rely on them during deployments.”
Along with finding room in our demeanors to give space for cross-cultural interactions, Chase also underscored the importance of a positive mindset to ensure successful interoperability.
“It’s the idea of taking an opportunity like this that was very sudden and probably pretty inconvenient for a few people’s weekend plans and asking, ‘Well, I’m here, so how can I help — what lessons can I learn to help benefit my team and take what I’m doing to new heights?'”
A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.
According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.
Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.
Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.
A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”
Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.
Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.
That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.
“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.
“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.
“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.
“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”
Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.
But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.
All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.
Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.
Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.
Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.
“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.
“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.
“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”
When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S.-backed coalition effort to retake the city of Mosul officially began Monday, but experts say the end of the battle against ISIS is far from over.
Pentagon officials warned reporters before the operation began that ISIS was likely to convert to insurgency after losing the city of Mosul. “If anything, it’s gonna be more difficult,” is how Canadian Army Brig. Gen. Dave Anderson described the coming fight against ISIS as an insurgent force.
The retaking of Mosul highlights the Obama administration’s central belief that retaking territory from ISIS constitutes victory against the group. “It’s as if we’ve decided by taking territory back, they won’t be terrorists anymore,” Dr. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
As ISIS reverts to a guerrilla insurgency, Iraq must begin to grapple with the underlying sectarian tensions that threaten to engulf it after the defeat of ISIS. The operation to retake Mosul is composed of the U.S., Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Turkish troops. Each group has its own vested interest in the future of Mosul and greater Iraq.
“What has emerged from the conflict is a complex patchwork of ethnic, tribal and religious militias that claim fief over particular territories,” Ramzy Mardini of the Atlantic Council leveled a stark warning on the administration’s pursuit of defeating ISIS in a recent op-ed for The New York Times.
Shiite militias participating alongside Iraqi Security Forces in anti-ISIS operations have well known ties to humanitarian atrocities against Sunni civilians. The United Nations estimates nearly 1.5 million civilians remain in Mosul, and if Sunni citizens are harassed or outright killed by militias it could lend sympathy to defeated ISIS terrorists. ISIS’s history lies in a guerrilla insurgent force that capitalized on sectarian tensions to seize territory.
Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus parroted Mardini’s thinking in August, saying failure to stabilize post-ISIS Iraq could lead to the rise of another version of ISIS. “The challenge of Mosul and Nineveh is the considerable number of ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and other elements that make up the province.”
Ultimately, Petraeus warns the biggest challenge in Iraq is not the defeat of ISIS, but is “to ensure post-conflict security, reconstruction and, above all, governance that is representative of and responsive to the people.” He warns, “Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.”
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