Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia, top ministers have said.
The move announced by Oslo’s foreign and defense ministers on June 12, 2018, comes amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
Nine nations along NATO’s eastern flank last week called for an increased presence by the military alliance in their region amid concerns about Russian aggression.
Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.
The initial decision to welcome the Marines in 2017 irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.
Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines starting in 2019, she said, with the additional troops to be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.
“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”
The Russian Embassy in Oslo was not available for comment.
To ease Moscow’s concerns, before becoming a founder member of NATO in 1949, Oslo said it would not station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of attack.
The ministers said Norway still abides by that commitment and claimed that the new U.S. troop presence would be “rotational,” not permanent.
The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, they said, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since 2017 was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly.
Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters in Oslo that the expanded military force in the country is intended to improve the training and winter fighting capability of NATO troops.
“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” he said. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”
In addition to posting more troops in Norway, the ministers said the United States has expressed interest in building infrastructure to accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 kilometers south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Crimea’s annexation.
Roland Emmerich is the writer and director behind some of the most badass military military movies of our time. He loves to combine state of the art computer graphics with amazing battle sequences. You can thank him for the dogfights in Independence Day and for the famous “Aim Small, Miss Small” quote from ThePatriot (I still whisper this line every time I snap in at the rifle range). But now, Emmerich is taking on the most pivotal moment in the U.S. Navy’s 244 year history: the Battle of Midway.
We Are The Mighty joined the director for a sneak peak into the film’s key scenes and to discuss how he had to convince the Navy that he was the right man to direct a film about their greatest comeback — a film that he’s been trying to make for over 19 years.
Roland Emmerich speaking with us at his edit bay in Hollywood
“You can’t tell the story of Midway without Pearl Harbor,” Emmerich explains before we watch the opening sequence. He’s right. That infamous day, December 7, 1941, was arguably the U.S. Navy’s greatest defeat, but it was also the first key moment that led the American Navy towards their victory at Midway. The film’s depiction of the surprise Japanese attack is incredibly accurate — especially the scenes on battleship row, as well as the salvage operations afterwards. The U.S. carriers were away from Pearl Harbor that day and this stroke of luck would come back to haunt the Japanese fleet.
“The Navy is a family and I wanted to show that,” Emmerich tells us. Many of the Naval Aviators who would be pivotal during the Battle of Midway returned to Pearl Harbor as the fires still raged and oil slicks covered the water. In the following hours and days, the sailors of the carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet would learn that their friends from basic training, prior deployments, and even the Naval Academy had been killed in the attack. Midway depicts the personal toll that the attack took on these sailors and we watch the seeds of revenge being planted.
Woody Harrelson stars as ‘Admiral Chester Nimitz’
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy and the entire military struggled to determine a response. With only a few carriers and support ships left to fight against the massive Japanese Navy, there could be no room for mistakes. The U.S. needed to make a comeback and fast. “It’s important for the audience to understand how bad the situation really was for Nimitz… morale was low,” Emmerich describes. He goes on to explain how Admiral Nimitz, played by Woody Harrelson, took command of the Pacific Fleet facing not only a daunting enemy but also a shortage of experienced sailors to strike back. The coming battle would depend upon a series of unknown heroes.
Patrick Wilson stars as ‘Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton’
However, Nimitz did have one advantage: the intelligence unit under command of Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, played by Patrick Wilson, had broken the Japanese code and were ciphering through thousands of messages in an underground bunker nicknamed the “Dungeon.” Even members of the Navy Band were pulled in to help with the effort. However, the codebreakers could only guess as to the location of the Japanese fleet and the leaders in Washington decided it was time to hit the Japenese homeland instead.
Despite their desire for revenge on the Japanese fleet, the crews of the carriers Enterprise and Hornet were assigned to escort duty, and to make matters worse they would be escorting Army Bomber pilots. The mission known as the “Doolittle Raid” is a key moment both in history and in the film. As the massive waves of the North Pacific rage over the carrier decks, we are transported into the ready room where dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Dick Best, played by Ed Skrein, is frustrated that the Army pilots are given the chance to strike the Japanese first.
Aarron Eckhart stars as ‘Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle’
When the fleet is detected before the scheduled departure point, the bomber pilots under Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, played by Aarron Eckhart, make the pivotal decision to launch despite the weather and the risk of running out of fuel. Emmerich reinforces the tension in this scene on the flight deck where Navy pilots take bets that the massive B-25 bombers won’t even make it into the air. The entire scene is incredibly powerful and only reinforces Emmerich’s reputation for blockbuster filmmaking. While this is a scene we can watch over and over again, it was a moment the carrier crews would never forget. They wanted their own piece of history and it would soon come with a gamble from a gutsy Admiral Nimitz.
With only one chance left for a strike on the Japanese fleet, Nimitz relied on Layton’s codebreakers to determine the exact location of the next battle so that the U.S. could surprise the enemy just as they had surprised the U.S. months before. Layton and his team were not able to directly read the Japanese code, but they could make predictions based on bits of information. All signs pointed to Midway as the target, and even with the risk of failure, Nimitz ordered the two carriers into battle. In addition, Nimitz knew that his Naval Aviators, especially Lt. Dick Best, were prepared for the gloves to come off.
Dick Best (Ed Skrein, left) and Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank, right)
“The World War II generation was special and I wanted to ensure their heroism was not forgotten,” Emmerich explains, as we prepare to watch the final battle of Midway. We are in the cockpit of an American Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber above the same Japanese fleet that struck Pearl Harbor. With enemy aircraft swarming overhead and massive fires from anti-aircraft guns below, Emmerich’s Midway shows the insane odds these pilots faced as they thrust their aircraft into nosedive attacks. In a matter of minutes, a series of bombs strikes the Japanese fleet. The explosions and smoke remind us of the first few moments of the movie, when the Americans are left bruised, but not broken. As the lights come on, it’s obvious that Emmerich has indeed created a film that honors the U.S. Navy’s greatest comeback.
However, as we discuss the challenges of making a movie of such epic portions and detail, Emmirch recounts how the production was a series of endless problems. “None of the carriers from that time still exist, and it’s hard to even find aircraft… I knew we would need the Navy’s help,” Emmerich explains. But the Navy had to make sure Emmerich was the right man for the job.
The Battle of Midway is such a pivotal moment in U.S. Navy history that it had to be told right. When Emmerich met with the U.S. Navy Admiral he’d have to convince, he explained that this is “a movie about Dick Best and the other unknown heroes of the Enterprise and Hornet.” That’s what the Admiral needed to hear, and the Navy agreed to support the production and even provided current Naval Aviators to ensure every scene was as accurate as possible. In some cases, Emmerich had to start from scratch to rebuild 1942-era planes and carrier decks.
Director Roland Emmerich (right) behind the scenes on the set of Midway
From first look, Midway is poised to not only to be an iconic depiction of the Navy’s greatest comeback but also a film that depicts the human variables that are so crucial in determining the fate of battles. Roland Emmerich’s film Midway releases on November 8th, 2019, and will be an amazing way to honor the sacrifices of all servicemembers this Veteran’s Day.
It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.
More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.
All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.
This could be you.
(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)
On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.
The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.
The House Armed Services Committee will reexamine the Selective Service System’s viability and explore possible alternatives in this year’s review of the National Defense Authorization Bill, the legislation that sets the spending guidelines and policy directives for the coming fiscal year.
Congressional staffers told the Military Times that the move comes after all the hand wringing over the idea of women registering for the draft now that they can be assigned to combat jobs in the military. Some of the representatives who sit on the House committee were part of a group who entered legislation to abolish the Selective Service System entirely, which they deem to be obsolete and outdated.
U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. After the Vietnam War, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft, but President Jimmy Carter reestablished it as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The SSS costs roughly $23 million per year to operate, but nobody’s actually been drafted since 1973. Even at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the option of instituting a draft was deemed unnecessary.
The draft isn’t dead yet, however. Before any changes are made to the current system, the Senate would also have to approve the legislation, and then it would move over to the President’s desk for his signature (or his veto).
A team of Fort Bragg soldiers set their sights on one of the top officials within warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army late last year.
The soldiers, working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, tracked down the family of the official — communications chief Michael Omona.
He played a key role in the Ugandan warlord’s cultish militant group, which was built on the backs of former child soldiers abducted from their homes in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Fort Bragg soldiers – part of a regional psychological operations team deployed to Africa – weren’t targeting Omona with firepower. Instead, it was a campaign fueled by facts and meant to counter the misinformation Kony spread across his force.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, Col. Bethany Aragon, the commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group at Fort Bragg, described what happened next.
“If you can envision yourself walking through this dense jungle,” she said. “… As he’s walking through the jungle, he hears his mother’s voice begging him to come home.”
The voice came from a U.S. Army loudspeaker team, piping voices into the countryside.
A little while later, leaflets dropped from the sky. On them, images of Omona’s uncle, who raised him as a father, and his daughter; both pleading for Omona to turn himself in to authorities.
“We targeted him,” Aragon said. “And in January 2017… he walked for two weeks to defect.”
Omona’s defection gave authorities key information in the search for Kony and the LRA. He provided access to codes used by the group and inside information on the higher workings of the LRA.
It was one of the highest profile defections in the long-running effort to dismantle the LRA. And Aragon used the example to show the value psychological operations soldiers played in those efforts.
“For over two decades, they abducted over 60,000 children, massacred tens of thousands of civilians, displaced two million people and then really destabilized a region the size of California,” she said of the LRA.
Today, Aragon said the LRA has been rendered irrelevant. And a generation of stolen Uganda children have been returned to their homes as the LRA has dwindled from an army of thousands to less than 100 members.
At AUSA, Aragon and other special operations leaders presented case studies on the value of their forces during a panel led by Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Often working with foreign partners, conventional forces and other government agencies, Tovo said the Army’s special operations forces provide a set of unique capabilities that can’t be easily reproduced.
They are complementary skills, Tovo said, that when mixed with other capabilities and forces form a “symbiotic whole” to fuel national objectives.
“To quasi-quote Tom Cruse in ‘Jerry Maguire,'” he said. “We complete each other.”
Tovo said there are about 4,300 special operations soldiers deployed around the world in 78 countries. That includes Special Forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, Army Rangers and other special operations troops.
While the more violent aspects of special operations tend to make the most headlines, Tovo’s panel largely focused on the more unheralded aspects of the force – what he called an “indigenous approach” to operations around the world.
Members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force and the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) Soldiers deployed to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa stand for a class photo after the UPDF graduated from the third of a four-phase psychological operations training held at the Uganda Junior Command and Staff College, Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 15, 2017. The training was part of the U.S. mission of strengthening partner nation defense forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)
“We live among, train with, advise and fight alongside people of foreign cultures,” Tovo said. “We think this indigenous approach provides a low-cost, high-impact option.”
Joining Tovo on the panel were Aragon; the former ambassador to Ukraine and current ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt; Brig. Gen. David Komar, director of the requirements integration directorate at the Army Capabilities Integration Center; 75th Ranger Regiment commander Col. Brandon Tegtmeier; and Lt. Col. Tom Craig, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Tegtmeier discussed how the Rangers are working with Afghan partners. And Craig, who left Northern Syria about a week ago, discussed the task force comprised of Special Forces A-teams, special operations and conventional troops working to train and support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State.
“The indigenous approach is absolutely working,” he said, explaining how special operations forces are uniquely suited to the ongoing fight against ISIS.
Craig said his Special Forces soldiers have language skills and cultural understanding built up over multiple deployments that allow them to have influence on the nation’s Syrian partners.
“In Syria, it’s important to note,” he said. “We are advising a partner who is in the lead.”
He said the relatively light footprint of U.S. forces in Syria allow them to be agile and flexible, while also providing important support.
Craig said troops are training, equipping, advising and providing air support and intelligence to their partnered forces.
Pyatt said that in a world of diffuse power and shifting threats, most challenges to American national security will happen in so-called “gray areas” between diplomacy and hard power.
Those are the areas in which special operations forces thrive, officials said.
Pyatt said the relationships between SOF and diplomats were critical.
“There’s a very, very high return on investments,” he said. “They don’t cost a lot of money, but they get a lot done.”
Komar said the conventional force was beginning to model some of its reforms after the SOF community, specifically with the creation of security force advise and assist brigades.
At the same time, he said the days of deconflicting between SOF and conventional forces were largely over. Instead, the Army has embraced and integration between the two types of units.
In addition to ongoing operations and recent case studies, the panelists discussed ways the special operations community was preparing for future fights.
Tovo said each special operations specialty has different skillsets, but complement one another.
Whether serving as a crisis response force or working alongside State Department personnel, special operations forces are able to provide unique perspectives and insight.
“When bad things happen in any part of the world and we’ve got SOF there,” he said. “… We provide the nation a suite of tools applicable across the full range of military operations.”
Aragon said the campaign against the LRA was the most effective psychological operations campaign in Africa to date.
She said the groundwork was laid in 2011, when a team of just four psyops soldiers from Fort Bragg deployed to the continent.
Aragon said Omona and other members of the LRA lived in dense jungle and worked for an unhinged leader. Most, like Omona himself, were former child soldiers abducted from their homes years ago.
“He’s susceptible,” she said. And so were others within the LRA.
The goal was to use radio, leaflets and area loudspeakers to reach disaffected members of the group.
Key to those efforts were buy-in from the Ugandan government, which offered amnesty for defectors, she said.
Early successes gave the psyops team additional weaponry – the voices and stories of former LRA members who could speak to the fair treatment they received.
The first mass defection came in 2013, Aragon said, when 19 combatants defected.
Omona’s name came up in latter conversations, identified through a nonprofit group dedicated to the reintegration of former child soldiers in Africa called Pathways to Peace.
Omona had been kidnapped by the LRA when he was 12. Twenty-three years later, he was personally in charge of Kony’s communications.
Aragon said soldiers enlisted the aid of Omona’s family. His defection helped the soldiers end their mission against the LRA earlier this year.
But for the next fight, potentially against a more advanced enemy force, Aragon said officials must begin their efforts now.
“We cannot wait until the deployment to find the next Michael Omona,” she said. “We have to be doing that persistently if we are to be ready and relevant.”
When Mykola Reshetnuk first heard the blasts at just after 3 in the morning, he just buried himself deeper in his blankets and stayed in bed. But with the deafening reports seeming to get closer and closer, the 57-year-old Ukrainian got worried and left. And with good reason.
Seconds later, a shell tore through his house.
Reshetnuk, a pensioner, doesn’t live in a war zone. Instead, he is one of around 12,000 residents forced out of their homes after ammunition stored at a military depot near the town of Ichnya, about 135 kilometers northeast of Kyiv, began exploding early on Oct. 9, 2018, sparking a huge blaze that the Defense Ministry suggested was the result of “military sabotage.”
After the deployment of repurposed tanks and aircraft to the scene, officials said on Oct. 11, 2018, that the depot fire had finally been “extinguished completely.”
“I rushed out. I was hiding over there, in a ditch,” he told RFE/RL one day earlier, motioning to the side of a nearby road spotted with rubble and debris. “Everything was blasting, exploding around me.”
Off in the distance, explosions periodically punctuated his words.
As the smoke clears from the blaze, Reshetnuk and others may be forgiven for feeling like they live in a combat zone.
Rows of houses for kilometers around the Chernihiv region depot bear the scars of incoming armaments that were launched by the heat of the blaze.
Charred frames of homes that were occupied just days ago continued to smolder as people returned to survey the damage.
A couple walked their bikes down one of the town’s narrow roads, careful to avoid the potholes from the hundreds of shells that rained down and now lay littered about the town.
“Did you get everything?” shouted one Emergency Services employee as crews armed with metal detectors and shovels scanned nearby yards after reports that some unexploded devices were still embedded in the ground.
They doubled back on his command, fearing the damage one overlooked hole in the ground could wreak on an unsuspecting victim. No casualties have been reported from the fire, and officials are hoping to keep it that way.
“From 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., we were hiding in the cellar. It was impossible to get out,” said Reshtnuk’s neighbor, Serhiy Ishchenko.
“We returned and the neighbor’s house and fence were in flames. All we could do was try to contain it so that the blaze wouldn’t spread to other buildings.”
Pointing to how the explosions appeared to go off at intervals in different parts of the depot, Ukrainian authorities blamed saboteurs.
There have been other major explosions and fires at Ukrainian arms depots in recent years, amid fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a few hundred kilometers southeast of the depot site.
The war has killed more than 10,300 people since it began after Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and fomented separatism following the ouster of Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled after months of pro-European unrest in Kyiv.
Cease-fire deals signed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015 have failed to end the bloodshed despite near-constant dialogue among European, Russian, and U.S. officials over ways to resolve the four-year crisis.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
In March 2017, a massive firestorm at a munitions depot near the eastern city of Kharkiv prompted the evacuation of about 20,000 residents within a 20-kilometer radius of the site.
And in September 2017, more than 30,000 people were forced from their homes after artillery warehouses on a military installation exploded in the Vinnytsya region, southwest of Kyiv.
Authorities have frequently blamed the blasts on sabotage, and the government has allocated 100 million hryvnyas (.6 million) for the protection of the country’s ammunition-storage facilities.
But that does little for Reshetnuk as he surveys the damage to his home.
“The furnace is the only thing left here. Where will I keep myself warm now? What will I do in winter? How will I rebuild my house? My monthly pension is just 1,400 hryvnyas,” he says, spreading his hands to the sky to show how his house no longer has a roof.
When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.
With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.
While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.
The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.
That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.
“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”
Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”
Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.
Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.
The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.
Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.
The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.
The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.
Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.
“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”
When the Axis attacked the town of Sommocolonia the day after Christmas, 1944, they thought they made quite a breakthrough. Dislodging elements of the 92nd Infantry Division, they stormed through the town intent on retaking it.
They didn’t reckon on running into Lt. John R. Fox.
Fox grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio before attending Wilberforce University outside of Dayton. While at Wilberforce, Fox was a member of the University’s ROTC detachment and studied under retired Chief Warrant Officer Aaron R. Fisher.
Fisher was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross during WWI for holding his position against superior odds while a member of the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division.
Upon his graduation in 1940, Fox was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of artillery in the U.S. Army. When World War II broke out, Fox, being African-American, was assigned to the segregated 92nd Infantry Division as part of the 598th Field Artillery Battalion.
The 92nd arrived in Italy in August 1944 and participated in actions in the Allied drive northward. The Division crossed the Arno River and contributed to the attack on the Gothic Line. By November, the division was holding the line and conducting patrols in the Serchio River Valley.
Around this time, Fox was transferred from the 598th Field Artillery to the Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment – the same regiment his mentor, Aaron Fisher, bravely served in 26 years earlier.
Opposite the Americans was an amalgamation of Italian and German infantry forces preparing for a renewed offensive.
On the morning of Dec. 26, 1944, this group of eight Axis battalions launched Operation Winter Storm and crashed into the 92nd Infantry Division’s positions in the Serchio River Valley.
Caught off guard by the surprise attack, units of the 92nd fell back across the line.
As his unit retreated from Sommocolonia, Lt. Fox volunteered to remain behind to call for defensive fire against the attacking enemy. Several other members of his forward observation party agreed to stay behind as well.
They took up a position in the second story of a house which offered an excellent vantage point as the Germans poured through the streets. While the Germans pressed the attack, Fox rained down fire into the village.
The Germans came closer and closer to Fox’s position, and as they moved, so did the artillery fire – until it was nearly right on top of him.
At this point, the Germans must have realized where Fox was positioned as they were swarming around the house. He radioed, “that last round was just where I wanted it, bring it in 60 yards more.”
He was asking for the fire to be brought down right on top of his position.
The man on the other end was confused and asked Fox if he was sure of what he was asking. “There are more of them than there are us,” Fox said “fire it.”
American artillery obliterated the house, but Fox had not died in vain. His heroic deeds held up the German advance and allowed for American forces to regroup for a counterattack.
When the Americans retook the village, they found the rubble of the house Fox had made his stand in. In the ruins were the bodies of Fox and eight Italian partisans who had been fighting alongside him. Surrounding the house, the bodies of over 100 German soldiers were counted.
Unfortunately, due to the pervasive racism of the time, Fox’s sacrifice was not immediately recognized. A later review in 1982 recognized the error and awarded Fox a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.
A second review in the 1990s once again came across Lt. Fox’s actions and upgraded his award to the Medal of Honor. His widow received the award from President Bill Clinton in 1997.
The grateful Italians of Sommocolonia erected a monument to the sacrifice of Fox and the eight Italians who died by his side.
The first trailer for No Time to Die interrupts James Bond’s short-lived retirement when an old CIA buddy asks for help. Felix Leiter (played by Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright) reaches out to his old pal Bond (rumored to be played by Daniel Craig for the last time) to help locate a missing scientist.
Bond partners with a new 00 agent, Nomi, (Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch) who rocks some excellent and understated swagger in the trailer, and his ol’ buddy Q (with Ben Whishaw returning) and the team are off to face a new enemy and an old flame.
The trailer kicks off with the possibility that Bond has been betrayed by a woman yet again. Léa Seydoux returns as Madeleine Swann, who is keeping a secret that will to lead them to Rami Malek’s villain, Safin.
“You gave up everything for her. When her secret finds its way out, it will be the death of you,” taunts Christoph Waltz’ Blofeld.
Leiter calls Bond “brother” so we know how close they are.
No Time to Die, Universal
After the reunion and the surprise encounter with Swann, the trailer cleverly plots the stakes: the woman — and the world.
“Your skills die with your body. Mine will survive long after I’m gone,” hints Safin. We can all agree that Malek was born to play a Bond villain right? Especially one that is armed with some kind of creepy technology?
There’s some kind of human experimentation going on here and I don’t care for it.
No Time to Die, Universal
“History isn’t kind to men who play god,” warns Bond.
Daniel Craig has been playing James Bond since 2006’s Casino Royale, and after five films, this will finally be his swan song. The film has every reason to succeed.
The Pentagon will send a proposal to the White House in early May laying out America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan, senior defense officials said May 4. The plan will likely include a request for more U.S. troops.
U.S. military officials have said they need greater forces to meet the growing training and advising mission in Afghanistan, where local forces are fighting a Taliban insurgency. And there is a new push for NATO members to step up their commitments of troops and other resources to help the country in its struggle for stability.
Theresa Whelan, who is currently working as the Pentagon’s assistant defense secretary for special operations, told senators the new plan likely will go to the White House next week.
“We are actually actively looking at adjustments to the approach in Afghanistan right now,” Whelan told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The interest is to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.”
Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and other senior military leaders have repeatedly described the fight in Afghanistan as a stalemate. Officials have said they need more trainers and advisers to increase the capabilities of Afghan forces.
But the United States doesn’t want to carry the burden by itself.
A senior NATO official said the U.S. has sent letters to allies asking them to increase their commitments. The official was not authorized to discuss the letters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Appearing with Whelan, Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate panel he has enough forces for the military’s counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, which is targeting Islamic State, al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Thomas said a critical factor in ongoing discussions about a new Afghanistan strategy is the need for an enduring U.S. presence in the country. The new plan would set the parameters for how that could look.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter).
So-called “burn pits” have been used to dispose of waste material at American military bases overseas since the 1990s. They were used to keep potentially sensitive materials out of local waste dumps and to leave as small a footprint as possible when U.S. troops leave an area.
Installations have used burn pits to destroy all kinds of material, from standard trash and food waste to chemicals, paint, human waste, metal containers, petroleum products, rubber and even unexploded ordnance.
In the years since, we’ve learned the fumes created by those burning pits of various trash materials have exposed veterans to harmful, toxic substances and were potentially inhaled by everyone in the area. The veteran service organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has dubbed the burn pits of the Middle East “the Agent Orange of our generation.”
While the Department of Veterans Affairs has yet to recognize the burn pits as the Agent Orange of the post-9/11 era of veterans, some members of Congress have decided to take up the issue for themselves, introducing what some call the most significant veterans legislation in history.
Veterans affected by burn pit exposure can feel a wide range of symptoms, from mild irritations and sore throats to long-term headaches, nausea and difficulty breathing. The long-term effect of burn pit exposure is not fully known at this time.
Through the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, where veterans potentially exposed to burn pit toxins have registered to report their service in various affected areas, we’ve learned that an incredible 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to the toxic fumes of the burn pits. A full 89% of those who reported exposure have reported ongoing symptoms as a result of that exposure. That number only grows as more veterans register.
Worst of all, the burn pits are still in use in deployed facilities around the world. The VA currently requires veterans to prove their symptoms are a result of toxic exposure. Agent Orange exposure has a number of “presumptive” conditions of exposure, such as respiratory cancer, Hodgkin’s Disease and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Any one of these symptoms is automatically recognized by the VA as a result of Agent Orange and is immediately service-connected.
There are currently no presumptive symptoms of burn pit exposure – nor is there any way for many veterans to prove their symptoms are a result.
In March 2021, the Senate introduced the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act, which would force the VA to recognize 11 presumptive conditions for veterans suffering from burn pit exposure. It would apply immediately to veterans of all eras. It would also add hypertension to the VA’s Agent Orange exposure list.
Instead of forcing veterans to prove their conditions are a result of burn pit fumes, the COST of War Act would put the onus on the Department of Veterans Affairs, making the federal government responsible for reviewing veteran records for toxic substance exposure.
The bill will also establish a transparent system for determining which cases have their causes in the burn pits, and increasing training requirements and funding for Veterans Affairs health care and disability claims processing.
The act was also introduced into the House of Representatives on July 1, 2021, and despite a hefty $1 trillion price tag, is expected to pass through both houses of Congress.
The US’s first test of a missile since withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has Russia and China rattled, with each nuclear-armed rival warning that the US is igniting a great-power arms race.
Arms-control experts have said that a “new missile race” is underway, arguing that strategic rivals are likely to match US weapons developments “missile for missile.”
The US military on Aug. 18, 2019, conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile that would have been banned under the INF Treaty a little over two weeks ago.
The 1987 treaty was a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow that put restrictions on missile development, prohibiting either side from developing or fielding intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, systems with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. China — never a party to this pact — has been developing missiles in this range for decades.
Accusing Russia of violating the agreement through its work on the Novator 9M729, a missile that NATO refers to as SSC-8, the US said earlier this year that it would “move forward with developing our own military response,” a position supported by NATO.
When the US formally withdrew from the treaty at the start of August 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper explained that the Department of Defense would “fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles.”
Sixteen days later, the US tested its first post-INF missile — alarming not only Moscow but Beijing.
“We will not allow ourselves to get drawn into a costly arms race,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian state media, according to The Guardian.
Urging the US to let go of a Cold War mentality, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, said that the US test and future tests would ultimately “lead to escalated military confrontation” that would harm “international and regional security.”
Russia, which insists it did not violate the INF Treaty, has repeatedly warned the US against deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
The weapon tested Aug. 18, 2019, as The War Zone explains, was a ground-launched BGM-109 Tomahawk, a variant of the BGM-109G Gryphon, a US missile system that together with the Pershing II mid-range ballistic missile comprised the forward-deployed tactical nuclear forces in Europe before the INF Treaty was signed and all relevant weapon systems were destroyed.
On Aug. 18, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. PT, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California.
(DoD photo by Scott Howe)
In an apparent response to Moscow, the US said it had no plans to put post-INF Treaty missiles in Europe. Beijing may actually have more reason to worry.
The Pentagon — and specifically the new secretary of defense — has expressed an interest in positioning new intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific to counter regional threats like China.
Esper told reporters recently that at least 80% of China’s inventory “is intermediate-range systems,” adding that it shouldn’t surprise China “that we would want to have a like capability.”
The US has not announced where any of these missiles would be deployed.
While some observers see the US wading into a major arms race as it focuses more on great-power competition, others see this as a reasonable strategic evolution in US military capabilities.
“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think ‘This is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,'” Tom Karako, a missile-defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.
Over the years, China has developed increasingly capable missiles designed to target US bases across the Pacific and sink US carriers at sea, while the US has expressed an interest in deploying new capabilities to tilt the scales back the other way.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.