Hundreds of North Korean nationals in Europe and Russia are forced to undertake manual labour without breaks, sleep at their workplace, and send their earnings to prop up Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle, BBC Panorama has reported following an undercover investigation.
An unidentified North Korean worker in Vladivostok, Russia, told the programme: “You’re treated like a dog here. You have to eat trash. You have to give up being human.”
He added that he and his fellow workers had to hand over most of their earnings back to North Korea via an intermediary, known as a “captain.”
“Some call it ‘Party Duty.’ Others call it ‘Revolutionary Duty.’ Those who can’t pay it cannot stay here,” he said. “Ten years ago it was about 15,000 Robles ($242/£170) a month, but now it’s twice as much.”
These wages, combined, can generate as much as $2 billion (£1.4 billion) a year, The Washington Post reported.
It is then used to finance Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle and nuclear development programme, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK said.
Thae Yong Ho, who defected from the regime in 2016, told the BBC: “It financed the private luxury of the Kim family, the nuclear programme, and the army. That’s a fact.”
The North Korean leader recently travelled to China in a bulletproof train containing flat screen TVs and Apple products — a great show of luxury while millions of his citizens remain undernourished or lack basic access to healthcare. He also tested multiple short-range, medium-range, and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017.
North Korean slaves in Poland, are also forced to live where they work and aren’t allowed to take any breaks, the BBC reported.
A North Korean supervisor in charge of foreign workers at Szczecin, northwestern Poland, told the programme:
“Our guys are stationed in Poland only to work. They only take unpaid holidays. When there are deadlines, we work without breaks. Not like the Polish. They work eight hours a day and then go home.
“We don’t. We work as long as we have to.”
There are about 150,000 North Koreans foreign workers worldwide, many of whom are in Russia, China, and Poland. About 800 are in Poland, mostly working as welders and manual laborers.
The UN in December 2017, ordered countries to stop authorizing visas to North Korean workers and to send them home within two years.
Poland said it stopped issuing visas to North Korean workers, but that doesn’t mean the activity has stopped.
A Polish manager secretly filmed by the BBC acknowledged that he continued to employ North Korean workers, but complained that it was getting harder to get permits for them.
We regularly read about wars both past and present. Yet there are few of us who truly know what it’s like to be there. The accounts below are told by the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, as well as those intrepid reporters who documented war in person. From World War II to the battlefields of Vietnam, these seven works provide insight into the triumphs and terrors of armed conflict.
7. We Were Soldiers Once… and Young
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young examines Ia Drang, one of the most significant and brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, with the help of journalist Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground at la Drang—the book tells the harrowing tale of the American soldiers who never gave up, despite the devastation that surrounded them.
6. This Kind of War
The book that Defense Secretary James Mattis recently recommended in response to rising tensions in North Korea, This Kind of War analyzes the Korean War—as told by a man who was there. Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” Fehrenbach, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the war, provides a powerful reflection on its destruction and how unpreparedness led to the loss of so many lives.
5. Valor in Vietnam
Looking at the Vietnam War through the lens of those who were there, Valor in Vietnam offers 19 different stories of triumph and tragedy. Presented in chronological order, the accounts are emotional, intense, and personal.
4. Goodbye Vietnam
William Broyles’ memoir covers his life from the time he was a college student—hoping not to be drafted—to his service in Vietnam and his return to the country years later, in an attempt to come to terms with the bloody war. Though he was enrolled at Oxford when the Vietnam War began, Broyles realized he could not let his class or education stand in the way of his civic duty. He subsequently enrolled in the marines. And while he survived, he wasn’t able to move on until he confronted his past and returned to the former battlefields of Vietnam.
3. Eyewitness to World War II
This military bundle includes three books from Richard Tregaskis, a World War II reporter who bridged the gap between the soldiers on the front lines and those waiting at home. Including Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, and, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Tregaskis, who travelled with the Allies during WWII, recounts the bravery and sacrifice he witnessed.
2. Special Ops
Orr Kelly, a journalist who served as a war correspondent in Vietnam, tells the stories of the military’s elite forces. The bundle includes Brave Men, Dark Waters; Never Fight Fair!; Hornet; and, From a Dark Sky. From the Navy SEALs to the US Air Force Special Operations, Kelly details the courage and resilience of these unique fighters. In Never Fight Fair!, the Navy SEALs tell us, in their own words, about the history of their special force and what it takes to be one of the elite.
1. In Pharaoh’s Army
A National Book Award finalist, In Pharaoh’s Army chronicles Tobias Wolff’s experiences as an army officer in the Vietnam War. Present during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns that took place during the war, Wolff tells his story and how it has affected him both in and out of Vietnam.
The US Army has failed to monitor over $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq, Amnesty International said in a report citing a 2016 US government audit.
The now-declassified document by the US Department of Defense audit was obtained by the rights group following Freedom of Information requests.
The audit reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment on hand in Kuwait and Iraq.
Some records were incomplete, while duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and the lack of a central database increased the risk for human error while entering data.
“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” stated Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher in the report.
The rights group stated in its report that its own research had “consistently documented” lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command, which had resulted in arms winding up in the hands of armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep occurring,” Wilcken said.
‘Irresponsible arms transfers’
The military transfers were part of the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, a program that appropriated $1.6 billion to provide assistance to military and other security services associated with the government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces.
The transfers included small arms and heavy weapons, machine guns, mortar rounds, and assault rifles.
“This effort is focused on critical ground forces needed to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL in Iraq, secure its national borders, and prevent ISIL from developing safe havens,” the DoD said in a report justifying ITEF.
“If support is not provided American interests in the region would be undermined.”
In response to the audit, the US Army has pledged to implement corrective actions.
“This occurred during the Obama administration as well, and groups such as Amnesty International repeatedly called on irresponsible arms transfers to be tackled, as the weapons were not only falling into the hands of groups like ISIL but also pro-Tehran Shia jihadists fighting for the Iraqi government,” Tallha Abdulrazaq, Security Researcher at the University of Exeter told Al Jazeera via email.
“While ISIL certainly needs to be fought, if this is achieved by hurling arms at groups that are just as extreme as the militant group, how does that resolve the situation?”
Amnesty International has urged the US to comply with laws and treaties to stop arms transfers or diversion of arms that could fuel atrocities.
If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.
But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.
That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.
What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.
Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.
The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.
The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.
So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.
Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.
VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.
Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.
He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.
“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”
Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.
“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.
The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.
Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.
“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”
The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.
“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.
Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.
“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”
About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.
Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.
The US Marine Corps wants to add another title in front of some of its officers’ ranks: Doctor.
The service is establishing two pilot programs to offer qualified majors through lieutenant colonels with a doctorate-level education on the Corps’ dime, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.
The program’s goal is to develop a “cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders capable of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security … to achieve the innovative thinking desired by the Marine Corps,” according to the announcement August 3.
“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”
The pilot will likely be competitive, since only four officers will ultimately be picked; two will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, while two others will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus.
Applicants will be required to already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.
The Corps wants officers to get technical degrees in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science, the announcement says. Strategy degrees should be geared toward national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.
Applications are being accepted until the end of August 2017.
After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.
“You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them. It’s a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD,” she said.
Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.
After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment,” Kaono said.
After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.
“When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn’t work for me,” the Hawaii-native said, “so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California.”
Dogs had always played a part in Kaono’s life from when, as a toddler, his family’s old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.
“I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better,” he said.
Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.
“The VA does equestrian therapy where they’ll take veterans to horse ranches and they get to ride horses … same premise, animal therapy works wonders,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Kaono, with a wealth of dog training knowledge from his time as a MWD handler, had veterans asking for help to train dogs so they could have their own service animals.
This support was especially important to Kaono since the average wait time for a VA-trained service dog can exceed two to five years.
“By then, we’ve already lost between 9,000 – 20,000 people due to suicide in a five-year period,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
That’s based on a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that showed roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide every day from 1999-2010.
“That’s just way too many,” he said.
During this time, while helping to train dogs for other veterans, Kaono decided to add his name to the list for a VA-issued service dog.
After a two-year wait, he was notified they were ready to pair him with a dog. During the interview process, however, he was denied an animal because he already had a couple of dogs as pets and service dogs can’t be added to a home unless it is pet free.
“I was disheartened,” he said, but he continued to help train animals for other veterans.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no mandated certification for a service dog and it allows people to train their own animals. So three years ago, when Kaono moved to San Antonio, his wife encouraged him to work on training his own service dog.
“I thought I’d just take one of the dogs we had at our house and train it to be a service dog,” Kaono said, until Alessa pointed out a Chihuahua probably wasn’t the best choice for his particular needs.
He then decided to work with San Antonio’s Quillan Animal Rescue to find a potential service dog. The rescue suggested a Doberman at first but Kaono wasn’t interested in such a large animal. One of the workers then recommended a mixed breed animal named Romeo that was in need of rehabilitation after being hit by a car. The only drawback was Romeo had already been promised to another family in California after his recovery.
“I said yes because that would give me the opportunity to work with a dog again,” Kaono said.
That was February 2016 and by May, he and Romeo were inseparable, Kaono said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
By June, Romeo had recovered and he was sent to California. Kaono said he was heartbroken.
“I secluded myself. I didn’t want to go to work. I took sick leave … I just didn’t want to be around anybody and make connections with people like I did with him and have them shattered,” he said.
“Romeo was kind of a fluke,” he added, because the California family decided they couldn’t keep him so Romeo returned to San Antonio.
When Romeo arrived back in Texas, Kaono had a trainer from Service Dog Express assess him. The local organization works with veterans to train service animals. Romeo passed the evaluation and was accepted as a service dog in training.
Kaono and the trainer then used techniques from Assistance Dogs International, considered the industry standard for dog training, to ready Romeo. Two months later, Romeo took the organization’s public access test, the minimum requirement for service dog training, and “blew the test away,” Kaono said.
He’s been going to work with the AFIMSC employee every day since passing his assessment on Aug. 1, 2016.
For Kaono, Romeo is much more than a four-legged companion. He’s a lifesaver who is trained in various disability mitigating tasks to help the veteran cope with PTSD.
These include deep pressure therapy where Romeo climbs into Kaono’s lap when he can sense anxiousness, agitation or frustration. He then applies direct pressure to the veteran’s body, considered a grounding technique, to bring focus to him instead of what’s causing the anxiety or agitation.
“Before him, I would have to sit there through it until it essentially went away,” Kaono said. “Now within two minutes I’m back to normal. I’m back to being productive again.”
Romeo also applies blocking techniques when the duo are in a group or crowded space to create a buffer between Kaono and those around him.
“People are cognizant of him being there so they give me the space to actually feel comfortable,” Kaono said.
The service dog also fosters personal interaction, Kaono added.
“I don’t make solid relationships with people,” he explained. “I would prefer to be and work alone. Having Romeo actually forces me to interact with people on a regular basis. He causes people to talk about things that aren’t necessarily work related. He’s a calming factor, not just for me.”
Romeo has completely changed Kaono’s life to allow him to better “live” with PTSD, Alessa said.
“I’m sure many people say this about their dog or service dog but Romeo’s truly a godsend,” she said. “He has changed and impacted our lives in so many ways.
“He’s gotten Ryan out more when it comes to crowds,” Alessa said, and Romeo is Kaono’s “sidekick and stress reliever at work.”
When the duo get home, Alessa added, Romeo “is just like any other dog … he loves to play and loves treats, especially ice cream.”
American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding, the top U.S. general in the country said Nov. 20.
Gen. John Nicholson said the raids were carried out Nov. 19 in the southern Helmand province, as part of the strategy unveiled by President Donald Trump in August. Afghan and American aircraft — including B-52 bombers dropping 2,000-pound bombs and F-22 attack planes — took part in the raids.
Nicholson said the insurgents generate an estimated $200 million a year from poppy cultivation and opium production.
In a news conference with the Afghan army chief of staff, Nicholson said the Taliban were becoming a criminal organization. “They fight so that they can keep profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities,” he said. He added that there are 13 major drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan, of which seven are in Helmand.
Afghanistan’s opium production has nearly doubled this year compared to 2016, while areas that are under poppy cultivation rose by 63 percent, according to a joint survey released last week by the United Nations and the Afghan government.
Production stands at a record level of 9,000 metric tons (9,921 U.S. tons) so far in 2017, with some 328,000 hectares (810,488 acres) under cultivation, according to the survey, carried out by the Counter-Narcotics Ministry and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
Afghanistan is the world’s top cultivator of the poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced.
The Taliban prohibited poppy cultivation when they governed the country in the late 1990s, but have since come to rely on it as they wage an increasingly potent insurgency against the government and its foreign backers.
The Taliban have seized several districts across the country and have carried out a series of major attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces, since U.S. and NATO forces officially shifted to a support and counterterrorism role at the end of 2014.
Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.
According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.
Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.
Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.
According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.
While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.
Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.
North Korea returned the remains of 55 bodies , thought to belong to US service members on July 27, 2018, coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the armistice that paused the Korean War.
The symbolic move represents the single, hopeful thread of President Donald Trump’s North Korea policy, as the rest of it crumbles.
“After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un,” Trump tweeted .
“We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change,” the White House said in a statement.
Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University previously told Business Insider : “The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations.”
“It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic.”
That Trump and Kim Jong Un’s joint statement at Singapore lists the “immediate” repatriation of the bodies shows the historical and symbolic importance of the repatriations, but it wasn’t easy getting here.
US Treasury photos show a ship-to-ship transfer with a North Korea-linked vessel.
Trump agreed to the summit with Kim on vague promises of denuclearization which met with near universal doubt.
Many former top experts advised Trump to skip the meeting entirely, seeing it as providing Kim with international legitimacy even though he oversees some of the worst human rights violations in the world, including keeping an estimated 2.6 million “modern slaves.”
Trump’s policy hangs by a thread
After the summit, Trump saw his greatest success on the North Korean front swiftly undone.
The “maximum pressure” regime of economic, diplomatic, and military pressure completely evaporated, even though the administration insists it is still in effect.
The China-North Korea border again hums with commerce and activity, and Chinese tourists again crowd the streets of Pyongyang, analysis from NK News points out . Fuel prices have dropped, indicating an increased supply.
“Numerous” sanctioned North Korean ships have appeared in South Korean ports, NKNews found .
North Korea has realized a primary goal of its US-facing diplomacy — sanctions relief — while only providing minimal, reversible, and unverifiable dismantlement of a tiny fraction of its nuclear arsenal.
Meeting between United States North Korea delegations in Singapore on June 12, 2018
The audacity of hope
Viewed as a transaction, the North Korea process has ripped off the US by handing over international legitimacy and an end to US-South Korean military drills in exchange for baby steps towards disarming .
Viewed as a budding relationship, Trump has made unprecedented progress in healing relations with Pyongyang.
Returning the bodies of US soldiers doesn’t change anything on the ground in the Koreas. North Korea still has artillery guns and missiles ready to bear down on Seoul, and possibly the US, and they haven’t budged.
At the Aspen Strategy Forum, Commander of the US forces in Korea General Vincent Brooks shed light on how US objectives in North Korea have shifted from military to diplomatic:
“Our challenge now, candidly, is to continue to make progress but to make that progress in an environment that is essentially void of trust, and without trust, we’ll find it difficult to move forward.
“So, building that trust while that pressure continues and while the efforts for diplomacy continue is the order of the day. In many ways, the lack of trust is the enemy we now have to defeat.”
Trump has not denuclearized North Korea, or even gotten close. But he’s presented a different US position and in doing so offered a path, however perilous, towards a new future between Washington and Pyongyang.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy deployed two carrier strike groups to the Mediterranean Sea to send an unmistakable message to Russia.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John C. Stennis and their escort ships began dual carrier operations in the region April 23, 2019, the US Navy said in a statement. The combined force includes more than 130 aircraft, 10 ships and 9,000 sailors and Marines, a force that no other power has the ability to bring together.
USS John C. Stennis.
(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
In addition to the carrier, a strike group typically includes a guided-missile cruiser, two to three guided-missile destroyers, an attack submarine, and a supply ship.
The last time two carriers operated in the region simultaneously was in 2016, when the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman carrier strike groups were deployed to the Mediterranean.
Current operations are being conducted alongside allies and partners in the region.
“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” Adm. James Foggo III, the head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said.
“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously, while also integrating and advancing interoperability with our highly capable NATO allies and partners, provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” he added. “It also should leave no doubt to our nation’s shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”
Standing on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln, he stressed that “we are not going to be deterred by any potential adversary and we are going to support our interests as Americans and also those of our allies as we steam throughout the world,” CNN reported.
USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean since 2015, when the Russian military joined forces with Damascus in Syria.
Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, said that the carriers, each of which represents “100,000 tons of international diplomacy,” are intended to send a message. “Diplomatic communication and dialogue coupled with the strong defense these ships provide demonstrate to Russia that if it truly seeks better relations with the United States, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world.”
“When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy, this is forward operating diplomacy — nothing else needs to be said,” Huntsman added, according to CNN.
“You have all the confidence you need to sit down and try to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.”
Russian media accused the US military and the ambassador of unnecessary “saber-rattling” near Russia’s “doorstep.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s 1987, I’m four years old and watching Predator. It was the 80s, so yeah, I lived on the edge. Arnold Schwarzenegger is yelling, “Get to the chopper!” and using mud to hide his thermal signature from a nasty, invisible alien. As I watch and re-watch Predator, awed as Arnold plays Major “Dutch” Schaefer, a Green Beret leading a covert, rescue mission, an idea pops into my mind: “I should be in Special Forces.”
Twenty-five years later, I don my Green Beret and earn my tab. Today, there’s still no question in my mind that Hollywood movies had a lasting impact on my decision to serve, and I’m not alone — you know it’s true.
Thirty years later, Arnold continues to inspire the next generation of military movies — even if he’s not hunting aliens or a robot sent from the future. Anyone who’s served knows the age-old saying, “attention to detail” and today, Arnold’s team at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy is committed to helping Hollywood storytellers get the details right about military life. The Schwarzenegger Center recently hosted a workshop that combined the best of the Hollywood world with some of the best military leaders from across the globe, many of whom will become Generals/Air Chief Marshall (gotta love the foreign ranks). Regardless of what flag was Velcroed to their flight suit, the mission for those in the room was clear: build relationships that can extend into an idea, a script, and even a movie.
Arnold told We Are the Mighty,
“Hollywood wouldn’t be the same without the stories of our military’s heroism that have inspired Americans and taught the world our values. I’m proud the Institute can support this important collaboration by bringing together top military and entertainment talent.”
Heroism, unshakable values, and collaboration brought the best of the best together. Participants in the discussion included Jerry Zucker (Director of Airplane!), Sarah Watson (Creator/EP of The Bold Type), Jon Turteltaub (Director of National TreasureThe Meg), and actor Jamie G Hyder (True Blood, Call of Duty), along with pilots from the Air War College International fellow program, which included officers from 20 nations, as well as representatives from the U.S Navy’s Hollywood liaison office. This pairing of two seemingly different worlds couldn’t come at a better time. All branches of the military continue to work tirelessly each year to meet their recruiting, retention, and readiness goals, while Hollywood has continued to push mega-movies with a military spin, like the freshly released Captain Marvel, and create new platforms for military storytelling, like Netflix, Hulu, and We Are The Mighty (yeah, yeah… shameless plug).
L-R: Jerry Zucker, Sarah Watson, Jon Turteltaub, Katie Johnson discuss their roles as storytellers
Both sides discussed the various similarities and challenges in their respective fields. The pilots in the room, who almost unanimously admitted that they earned their wings as a result of Top Gun (unfortunately not a Schwarzenegger movie), asked the writers and directors how to best share their own stories, to which Director Jon Turteltaub fired back, “Hang out with us. Even just a personal story can spark an idea.”
In addition, many of the writers expressed how participating in a short visit with the military changed their entire view of military stories. Writer and showrunner Sarah Watson recounted how impressed she was with the female sailors she met on an aircraft carrier visit. As a result, Sarah has dedicated herself to creating a female military character in her next project.
The respect was mutual. Col Ken Callahan, Associate Dean, USAF Air War College, added,
“The opportunity to interact with the entertainment industry at the Schwarzenegger Institute event was priceless. Helping future Air Chiefs from allied and partner nations better understand the role Hollywood plays in expressing American values globally is exactly what we are trying to achieve. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Schwarzenegger, his staff, the team at USC, and all of the amazing and talented individuals that took time out to help forge new partnerships with our group.“
Lt. Col Andreas Wachowitz, German AF (left), chats with writer Will Staples
The discussions throughout the day included deep dives into how various successful collaborations between the US military and Hollywood, such as The Last Ship and Transformers, can shape public affairs, recruiting, and soft power diplomacy. Basically, the military leaders asked if movies can make the world safer, and the answer was a resounding yes (especially if we are one-day attacked by Predator aliens).
The real question of the day came from Norman Todd, EVP of Johnny Depp’s company, Infinitum Nihil, who asked, “Who is the greatest Hollywood Actor?”
“We love Arnold,” Capt. Russell Coons, director of the Navy Office of Information West responded immediately. Even an Army guy can agree with that answer. We’ll continue to keep you updated as Arnold, both a great actor and leader, continues his effort to bring the military and Hollywood closer together.
During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.
We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started
U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.
Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.
The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.
“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.
This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.
Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.
Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.
“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”
Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.
So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.
Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.
To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.
Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.
(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)
This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.
“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”
The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.
Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.
(U.S. National Archives)
“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”
“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”
Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.
Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.
(U.S. Air Force)
“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”
While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.
“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”
And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.
Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.
(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)
“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”
“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”
Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.