NATO allies agree that Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and have decided to start planning for a post-INF Treaty world, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels Dec. 4, 2018.
The secretary general spoke following a meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the meeting.
“All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system — the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.”
Tensions raised in Europe
The treaty — signed by President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – was a pillar of European security. The treaty eliminated an entire category of destabilizing weapons. Russia’s deployment ratchets up tension on the continent.
“This is really serious, because, of course, all missiles are dangerous, but these missiles are in particular dangerous because they are hard to detect, they are mobile [and] they are nuclear-capable,” the secretary general said at a news conference.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with reporters during a foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 4, 2018.
The new Russian missiles can reach European cities, thus reducing warning time. “And they also reduce the threshold for nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict,” he said. “That’s the reason why the INF Treaty has been so important, and that is why it is so serious that this treaty risks breaking down because of the Russian violations.”
Stoltenberg said the United States has made every effort to engage with Russia, and to seek answers about the new missile. “The U.S. has raised the matter formally with Russia at senior levels more than 30 times,” he said. “Other allies have raised it with Russia, too. We did so, a few weeks ago, in the NATO-Russia Council here in Brussels.”
Violation undermines allied security
But Russia has not listened and continues to produce and deploy the missiles. This violation “erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines allied security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior, intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States fully complies with the INF Treaty. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe,” he said. “Arms control agreements are only effective if they are respected by all sides. A situation where the U.S. abides by the treaty and Russia does not is simply not sustainable.”
The NATO allies call on Russia once again to comply with the treaty. At the same time, the alliance will take appropriate actions to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence and defense strategy, he said. “We will continue to keep Russia’s military posture and deployments under close review,” Stoltenberg said.
No one in NATO wants a new Cold War with a new arms race, he said. “We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” the secretary general said. “Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”
Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.
The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.
The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.
Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.
Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.
“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “
Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.
If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.
Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.
The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.
A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.
For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.
To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.
For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.
The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.
As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.
Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.
Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.
After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.
The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.
About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.
PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.
At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”
If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Andrea Fisher took to Twitter on March 1 after receiving a strange package addressed to her with a return address of “Commanding Officer 22th Marine Regiment.”
Fisher was shocked when she opened the package to find four separate containers labeled “CLINICAL SPECIMENS – URINE SAMPLES” that were addressed to the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory in Great Lakes, Illinois.
“The Marine Corps sent me a box full of piss. I’m not even f—— kidding,” she tweeted.
“PLEASE tell me this happened to someone else,” wrote Fisher, who recently tweeted a promotion certificate identifying herself as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, wrote on Twitter.
Fisher did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Maj. Kendra Motz, 1st Marine Division director of communication strategy and operations, affirmed the Corps’ mistake to the Marine Corps Times. She said that the Marines have since picked up the urine samples from Fisher and that the package was not intentionally sent to the wrong recipient.
The military has a zero-tolerance for troops possessing or using banned substances and performs random tests periodically to screen them. They generally test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, synthetic cannabinoids, and benzodiazepines, according to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, .
The Marine Corps recently expanded the scope of its testing in December 2020 after reports came out from the 2nd Marine Division in North Carolina that several Marines and sailors were caught using lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.ADVERTISING
According to 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Dan Linfante, the 2nd Marine Division planned to test for LSD in scheduled and random formats.
“The use of prohibited substances is unfortunately not new,” Linfante said. “What’s new here is that the 2nd Marine Division is now testing specifically for LSD, along with the many other substances we’ve long tested for — both randomly and in every other way possible.”
Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a public affairs officer in the Marine Corps, told the Marine Corps Times that the rest of the Department of Defense may soon begin randomly testing other branches and troops for LSD as well.
“Due to increased concerns regarding the usage of LYSERGIC ACID DIETHYLAMIDE by service members, the Office of the Under Secretary Defense for Resiliency approved adding LSD to the Drug Demand Reduction Standard Test Panel in August 2020, commencing in December 2020,” Butterfield said.
After ten years of silence, the Pentagon has offered a lukewarm confirmation on the exoneration of a group of special operations Marines wrongfully accused of committing war crimes during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007.
Even though it ostensibly appears to be a gesture of goodwill from the Pentagon towards the falsely accused Marines, it has done little to mitigate the public humiliation these elite commandos have endured in the decade since a routine mission went horribly wrong in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
On the morning of March 7, 2007, a platoon of MARSOC Marines of Task Force Violent was dispatched to Shinwar District within Nangarhar to meet with local elders and build rapport. What the Marines of Violent didn’t know was that they were rolling into a carefully-planned ambush and would soon find themselves in a fight for their lives.
Upon moving into town, a suicide bomber in a van drove into the column of Humvees, his vehicle packed with explosives. Within seconds, gunmen hidden in nearby houses and on rooftops began raking the convoy with small arms fire. Quickly getting themselves out of the kill box, the MARSOC element drove off in a hurry, returning fire to cover their egression to safety.
Before the Marines had even made it back to their forward operating base, a grim and chilling story emerged of an intoxicated American fighting force brutally slaughtering civilians — children, women, and elderly men — at random in Shinwar.
MARSOC, short for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was the newest addition to US Special Operations Command in 2006. TF Violent, made up of 120 Marines from MARSOC’s Fox Company and helmed by Maj. Fred Galvin, would be sent overseas to Afghanistan the following year for its initial deployment.
With operators drawn from the remnants of the Marine Corps’ Force Reconnaissance units, MARSOC boasted highly-trained asymmetric warfare specialists, capable of taking on and executing missions analogous to those carried out by the US Navy’s SEAL teams or the Army’s Special Forces.
Just as Galvin and the platoon made it back to their post, tall tales abounded of American troops entering homes and shooting indiscriminately in a frenzied fury. Death tolls varied with some capping off at 19 or 20 civilians killed in cold blood by Marines.
The situation rapidly disintegrated into a mess. Galvin was relieved of command and TF Violent was recalled to the United States. USSOCOM leadership, worried about another My Lai Massacre on its hands, went on record saying that there was nothing to support the veracity of TF Violent’s account of the ambush and attack.
In essence, USSOCOM had just publicly admitted that one of its own had committed a major war crime before any form of investigation or inquiry had proven their guilt. Galvin and his fellow officers were relieved and shuffled around. The Marines of Violent were held in limbo, their futures uncertain. If found guilty, they would face dishonorable discharges and a lengthy incarceration at Fort Leavenworth’s military detention facility.
In record time, negative press, including an article from the New York Times likening Shinwar to the infamous killings at Haditha, worsened matters for the shamed members of Violent. Public opinion slanted against all Americans present at Shinwar that fateful day.
Then-Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, Deputy Commander of USSOCOM at the time, lashed out against TF Violent, taking legal actions against its members after determining that they apparently did not come under fire from enemy irregulars in Shinwar. Kearney would quickly be accused of unlawful command influence in his efforts to discredit TF Violent.
However, in the following months, the prevailing story surrounding Shinwar began to crumble. Preliminary investigations convened by the military determined that the Marines of TF Violent used excessive force and appeared, at a first glance, to be very guilty of the war crimes they were accused of committing.
An ensuing NCIS investigation and a court of inquiry convened by none other than then-Lieutenant General, James Mattis, absolved the Marines of TF Violent of any wrongdoing. There was little evidence to support that they had carried out a massacre of the civilian populace. Conflicting accounts from Afghan locals in Shinwar derailed the narrative and Navy investigators determined that only a handful of military-aged males were killed. A woman and a young boy did sustain minor injuries, but none as horrible as stories coming out of Shinwar claimed. Nevertheless, the Marines of Violent and the United States were the subject of weighty condemnations by the Afghan government, the United Nations, and Amnesty International.
Of the 120-strong complement of TF Violent, seven Marines, including Galvin, were singled out for charges and punishment, each due to their perceived role in what occurred in March 2007. Known as the MARSOC 7, these Marines were subject to threats, coercion, and even attempts at forced confessions through blackmail.
But by 2008, the Marines of TF Violent were released of any suspicion and absolved of all wrongdoing. The crimes they were accused of simply did not hold any water. Even after being declared innocent, in the past decade, the MARSOC 7 have suffered considerably from the stigma of being falsely accused of war crimes.
Unable to find jobs in the civilian world as a result of being labeled war criminals and faced with dead-end military careers, many were left to fend for themselves by a Corps that seemed to care more about its public image than its warfighters.
Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina has led a bipartisan effort to get these Marines a public apology and exoneration to once and for all put down the ghosts of Shinwar, so that the Marines can move on with their lives. Maj. Galvin, now retired after 30 years of service in the Corps, has been instrumental in getting the Pentagon to issue confirmation of Violent’s pardon.
To that end, the Pentagon quietly confirmed to Jones that Galvin and his men had been found to be fully in the right on that fateful March day in 2007, and had executed the mission to the best of their training. Even still, this confirmation seems to be far less than what the Marine Corps and the Pentagon could do to fully clear the names of these MARSOC Marines.
Even with this latest move by the Pentagon, albeit a quiet and almost unnoticeable action, why was the Marine Corps so reticent about fixing the tarnished reputations of its most elite commandos?
The answer may lie within the considerable friction between MARSOC and the Army-led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), its overseer during its initial deployment. According to a Marine Corps Times series on the Shinwar affair in 2015, TF Violent’s Marines were generally under-supplied and ill-prepared for the environment they were thrust into.
While MARSOC Marines had to live a spartan lifestyle, feasting on packaged Meals Ready to Eat and going without replacement uniforms and gear, other special operations units operating under CJSOTF-A’s umbrella were provided with hot meals and well-stocked logistics and a supply chain.
During the March 7 attack itself, CJSOTF-A officers were seemingly unconcerned that a MARSOC platoon had been hit by an IED and was taking heavy fire. Though it was later recommended that officers manning the CJSOTF-A’s command post be charged with dereliction of duty, they were left uncharged.
By the end of 2007, public opinion was firmly against the actions of TF Violent and the MARSOC 7 were faced with a worsening uphill battle, nearly impossible to win.
In the wake of Shinwar, the higher echelons of MARSOC appeared to be concerned with petty issues surrounding Violent and Fox Company’s officer leadership. Some critics argue that the leaders of the fledgling special ops outfit were trying to save face.
In doing so, they turned the MARSOC 7 and the Marines of TF Violent into scapegoats.
Galvin and Jones have spearheaded an effort over the years to publicly restore the names of the Marines of Violent and, to that end, Jones has introduced a Congressional resolution that would permanently set the record straight on Shinwar and the actions of Fox Company’s warfighters.
Between 2007 and the present day, MARSOC has evolved into a highly competent and effective special operations asset. Now referred to as the Raiders — a tribute to the Marines’ WWII-era unconventional warfare force — with their own special insignia, they undergo deployments around the world as directed by USSOCOM.
Though the first of the new Raiders, Galvin and the MARSOC 7 have neither been awarded the title nor the insignia, largely due to the false allegations that just won’t go away.
Officers from both MARSOC and CJSOTF-A who were involved in attempting to wring confessions out of the MARSOC 7 and discredit their actions were allowed to continue their careers with their respective branches with no mark or mention on their record noting their at-all-costs crusade against the Marines of TF Violent.
While the Pentagon’s quiet confirmation of TF Violent’s innocence has been the most these Marines have had to alleviate some of the burden of the past ten years, there is still far more the Department of Defense and Marine Corps can do to right this wrong.
At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.
“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”
Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”
The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:
Light Machine Gunner
By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.
“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.
BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.
The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.
The Spanish-American War started after the USS Maine suddenly exploded in Havana Harbor in February 1898, an incident that was later found to be caused by faulty ship design but was blamed, at the time, on a Spanish mine. The resulting war was focused on Cuba, but the growing American military contested Spain across its empire, resulting in combat from the Atlantic to Pacific.
President Xi Jinping said China will “fight the bloody battle against our enemies” in a speech on March 20, 2018, striking a nationalistic and hawkish tone.
In his closing speech of the country’s annual legislative meeting, Xi discussed the benefits of China’s socialism, the Belt and Road initiative, and a string of domestic policies, zeroing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies … with a strong determination to take our place in the world,” Xi said, according to CNN.
Xi also said any separatist action to seek independence in these territories would be doomed to fail.
“The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence, and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said.
While it was not clear if China’s president was referring to any particular incident, state-run media one day earlier threatened “military pressure” and drills would resume if US and Taiwanese officials began visiting one another under the new Taiwan Travel Act.
China considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province of China that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Beijing refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that treats Taiwan as a country, and relations between China and Taiwan worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s independence-leaning leader, became president in 2016.
Xi, who oversees all Taiwan affairs, also focused on reunifying Taiwan and China during a major speech to the Communist Party in 2017. Analyzing that speech, some experts estimate that Xi’s is hoping for reunification by 2050 — by peaceful means, or by force, if necessary.
In 2013, Xi said the issue needed to be resolved, and couldn’t be passed on “from generation to generation.” Even still, Taiwan has noticed a tougher stance coming from Xi of late as he begins to focus on his goal of “national rejuvenation.”
Xi also focused on increasing the “national identity” and patriotism of citizens in Hong Kong and Macau.
On March 20, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report on plans for Hong Kong legislators to discuss a law that criminalizes the insulting of the Chinese national anthem. The punishment for those who alter the lyrics, score, or sing in a derogatory manner, could be up to three years in prison.
“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played down fears the bill could be politicized, saying it merely aims to encourage ‘respect’ for the anthem. Yet she has not acknowledged citizens’ concerns about forcing their political loyalty to Beijing, or how mainland authorities’ frequently jail people for peaceful criticism,” Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on China.
“Enacting this law will merely remind Hong Kong people just how tenuous their rights to free speech are.”
An excerpt of Xi’s speech:
“We will continue to implement One Country, Two Systems principle: Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy in the Special Administrative Regions (SARs). We will continue to stick to the constitution and basic laws in governing the two regions and support the SARs and its chief executives in implementing its functions and supporting Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into the larger picture of the country.
We will continue to strengthen and foster the national identity and patriotism of people in Hong Kong and Macau SARs and maintain long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and Macau SARs.
We should continue to stick to the One China principle, 1992 consensus, advance the development of cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. By doing so, we will make sure that people both in Taiwan and the mainland will share in the development and improve its well-being and also advance the unification of the country.
We should safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification of the motherland. This is the aspiration of all Chinese people and this is also in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Faced with this very important question of our nation and history, any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.
And these separatist actions will be met with the condemnation of the people and the punishment of the history. The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China.”
The final season of Game of Thrones is less than a week away, leaving fans wondering what’s next for the franchise. Which is what the cast of Saturday Night Live brainstormed last weekend. The episode, hosted by Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, featured every hilarious spin-off imaginable of the HBO hit show.
First up on the list of “prequels, sequels, and spin-offs,” is “Castle Black,” described as “a sexy, moody drama about forbidden love.” There’s also the animated “Arya,” a remake of ’90s MTV series Daria. And on the lighter side, Kyle Mooney and Cecily Strong spoofed sitcom The King of Queens with “The King of Queens Landing.”
Fans were then treated to a sneak peek of different crossover shows, like “Cersei and the City,” The Marvelous Mrs. Melisandre,” “No Ballers,” and “Wildling Out.” There are even some ideas for HBO Kids, including a parody of popular show Paw Patrol (renamed “Dire Guys” and featuring the dire wolves) and “Hodor’s House,” a nod to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
But perhaps the best spin-off idea was the final one: “Game of Thrones: Special Victims Unit,” starring real-life Law and Order: SVU stars Mariska Hargitay and Ice T.
“You tell me some sick son of a bitch cut this dude’s thing off, then fed it to his dog, then gouged the man’s eyes out, then fed him his own eyes, then wore his skin to an orgy, then got busy in the holes where his eyes used to be?” Ice T asks Hargitay in the teaser, as they investigate a murder at Flea Bottom on the east side of Rhaenys’ Hill.
Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.
For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.
The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.
If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)
The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:
Don’t drive and drive.
Don’t assault your spouse.
Don’t assault your children.
These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.
To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.
As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)
There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.
The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.
In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.
In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.
A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.
(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)
The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?
And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.
The U.S. Military is full of rules and regulations, so much so that it gives the lower enlisted plenty to complain about. But some of the things that seem like annoying POG tasks actually make a lot of sense and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.
Here are some of the tasks service members complain about doing that, realistically, make good sense.
This often feels like an annoying task only POGs worry about but, when you think about it, the purpose is to keep dirt and other unwanted particles from getting inside one’s boot.
It gets stupid, though, when higher-ups prefer to see them sit near or at the top of the boot, which may look good, but ultimately defeats the purpose.
4. Buckling the chin strap of a helmet
When troops of the modern age wear their combat gear, they like to call back to times of World War II and Vietnam, when troops would go on patrols with the chin strap of their helmets unbuckled.
But, when you look at why those troops did that, it becomes clear that, with the modern helmets and straps, it makes more sense to buckle up.
3. Police call
This is the practice of picking up every little piece of trash in front of the battalion headquarters until it looks pretty for the base commander — what a beautiful practice. After all, who doesn’t like standing in a straight line and combing the lawn for used gum and cigarette butts? But, when you think about it, this is good practice for when you’re leaving a bivouac site or sleeping area.
You want to pick up every piece of trash — yes, even the gum and cigarette butts — to make sure there’s little to no evidence of human occupation because it makes your unit harder to track.
This is a common complaint because everyone just wants to be an operator. But the truth is, having a clean shave can save your life. The requirement started during World War I to ensure a perfect seal when the gas masks go on to prevent, you know, dying from a cloud of mustard gas.
These days, having a clean shave is a part of military uniformity and discipline. It takes some discipline to wake up and shave every morning and takes no effort to just let it grow.
On the other hand, special operators are allowed to grow beards because they’re immune to chemical weapons and don’t need gas masks.
“Stand-to” is a command that means to stand guard or be prepared for an enemy attack. This is especially annoying since it usually happens from before until after dusk, and before until after dawn.
No one likes being woken up half an hour before the sun rises to stand guard but, realistically, these are the times where attacks have been known to happen. The enemy likes to strike when you’re either focused on going to bed or getting up.
The Yazidi women who have fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will be the subject of a new feature film in production by Amazon Studios and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.
This will mark Shapiro’s feature film directorial debut.
According to a report by Deadline.com, the exact plot details are unclear, but Shapiro has done much research into the plight of the Yazidi. Among the stories Shapiro has looked into is that of captured humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller.
The report notes that Mueller was forced into sex slavery and a marriage to ISIS leader Abu Bake al-Baghdadi, and that both the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders and the Obama Administration failed to negotiate for her release.
Mueller’s parents claimed they were told that if they did make an offer to the terrorist group, they would risk prosecution. Details of Mueller’s captivity were provided by at least one former sex slave who escaped ISIS, and a letter smuggled to her family.
Mueller died in February 2015, with ISIS claiming she had been killed in an air strike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, after being held for 18 months. Earlier this month, some reports claimed that Al-Baghdadi was also killed by an air strike.
Shapiro is also reportedly researching the so-called “European jihadi brides” in preparation for the project. Some of the worst torture suffered by Yazidi sex slaves has been at the hands of the spouses of ISIS fighters.
Shapiro is best known as the creator of the Lifetime series “UnREAL,” starring Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, and also worked behind the scenes on the ABC Reality show “The Bachelor.”
Every Marine is a rifleman. This is evident in every photo of a Marine donning the service alpha uniform, courtesy of the shimmering marksmanship badge over their left breast pocket. Oftentimes this rifle marksmanship badge is accompanied by another badge, indicating the Marine is qualified with the Beretta M9 service pistol.
The pistol qualification is one that is not required by every Marine; instead, only certain military occupational specialties, officers and staff non-commissioned officers require annual qualification on the service pistol. In order to ensure these Marines are properly trained with the weapon, the Marine Corps implemented the Combat Pistol Program.
The CPP was introduced in 2012 after the Corps decided it needed to revamp its pistol qualification, the entry level pistol program. The ELP course of fire was less combat-oriented and was more inclined to promote fundamentals and accuracy.
While these are essential aspects of pistol marksmanship that challenge the shooter to maintain pinpoint accuracy, the ELP lacked sufficient tactical drills to prepare Marines to draw their weapon and engage a target. Thus, the CPP was introduced.
“The goal of marksmanship training is to develop this proficiency to a combat-effective level,” states Weapons Training Battalion Training Command lesson plan CPP.
One of the hallmarks of the CPP is how the first two stages of qualification start with the weapon in the holster, requiring the Marine to present the weapon and engage the target in one motion – this gives the training a more combat-oriented and tactical approach.
While the CPP is known for its tactical application, the fundamentals and coaching are not abandoned.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Bradley Binder conducts pistol qualification with a Beretta M9 service pistol at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 6, 2018.
Marine Corps Order 3574.2L states, “The execution of dry practice conducted by properly trained CMT [combat marksmanship trainer] and CMC [combat marksmanship coach] Marines is a critical element in the development of a Marine’s fundamental marksmanship skill, speed, and accuracy in the Combat Pistol Program.”
Following classroom instruction and non-fire sessions, Marines participate in live-fire drills — training blocks one through three. During these training blocks, range coaches have the opportunity to mentor and guide Marines during practical application where the ELP did not provide this luxury, which results in a more qualified, skilled and effective Marine with the service pistol.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Schuster, a CMT with the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, vehemently supports coaching and its effects – “If we can hone those qualities, those little things…we can take your shooting to another level.”
The ELP was conducted on a National Rifle Association 50-yard bullseye target. To replace this, the Marksmanship Program Management Section combat pistol target (MPMS-1) was introduced. This scoring system trains Marines to see, present their weapon, and engage the target, rewarding shooters for hitting vital areas – the tighter the grouping in the center, the higher the score.
The MPMS-1 is a favorite with Schuster who states, “The scoring rings, while they’re bigger, they’re more applicable… You’re not grading on a circle, you’re grading on – did you neutralize the target?”
Gunnery Sgt. Jarod Vedsted, the lead instructor with 3rd LE Bn, III MIG and former instructor of the protective services course, states “we’re in tandem with them” when asked how the CPP correlates with civilian counterparts in the sense of basic pistol training.
Tables one through five of the CPP teach basic pistol skills and marksmanship, but any further pistol training does not exist in formal standards in the Marine Corps.
“I do think that’s the direction we’re headed. Now how fast do we get there? And at what varying degrees? I don’t know,” states Schuster, “but from my experience with Marine Gunners, they are always looking for ways to better the program.”
The CPP is just one of the ways the Marine Corps has made efforts to make its training more realistic and combat-oriented to better prepare Marines. “Programs evolve as we learn new things about marksmanship,” says Schuster.
Marines are supporters of the CPP, and five years after its official release, it still receives praise among marksmanship instructors. “I prefer it,” said Schuster, “The CPP definitely introduced a more tactical mindset on the pistol range.” Wherever the Marksmanship Program Management Section goes next, Marines are likely to be enthusiastic and motivated to send rounds down range.
After 21 years in an Army, mostly as a recruiter, Curtez Riggs promised himself one thing. Once he left the military, he would not accept a job that felt too much like work, left him uninspired or unfulfilled.
Riggs founded the Military Influencer Conference, which links veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses with entrepreneurs, industry leaders and other creative minds. Now Riggs’ company is taking the next step with Honor2Lead, an inaugural event that will originate in Atlanta and be livestreamed on leaderpass.com from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“I want [the military] to learn how to lead, thrive and grow in these crazy times that we’re all experiencing,” Riggs said. “We understand how our country currently is politically. You see the impact that COVID is having on nonprofits and also businesses. This should be an event that people come to, and they’re rejuvenated. They’re understanding how to pivot what they’re doing in order to grow and thrive.”
WWE star Lacey Evans served in the Marine Corps. Courtesy photo.
The speakers lined up for Honor2Lead, which will occur one day before Veterans Day and on the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, all have military ties. Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and WWE wrestler Lacey Evans are scheduled to participate, as are actor Alexander Ludwig, Fox News host Harris Faulkner and VFW Commander-in-Chief Hal Roesch II. The list of 24 speakers also includes Phyllis Newhouse, the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year; Elena Cardona, an investor and author; and Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon.
Riggs expects Honor2Lead to attract at least 10,000 registrants. Early-bird pricing is available for tickets now, at . To register, go to Honor2Lead’s website.
“What excites me most is the number of people that we have the potential to reach,” said Riggs, who retired as a first sergeant. “Our desire [is] to reach as many people as we possibly can to educate them and to help them change what they currently see in front of them.”
After the livestream, Riggs said Honor2Lead will be available through On Demand. This event continues his company’s vision of creating content to empower the military community. It began with the Military Influencer Conference, and debuting in 2021, Riggs’ company plans to announce a venture with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to help military women access financial resources to start their own businesses.
Military Influencer Magazine, which was inspired by the Military Influencer Conference, made its debut in September.
“Create your own results,” Riggs said. “We have a ton of skill sets that we’ve been taught that we can rely on to do some great things. A lot of us, we just don’t have faith in ourselves. The people that come to the event, they’re seeing people just like themselves. They’re seeing retirees. They’re seeing young service members that have separated, and they’ve started something and put them on a new trajectory to success.”
The Military Influencer Conference was postponed this year and rescheduled for May of 2021. In the meantime, Riggs is eager to see how Honor2Lead impacts the military community.
“When you leave the military, you don’t necessarily have to leave the military and get a job doing something that you’re not happy with,” Riggs said.