Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide announced June 21 that U.S. Marines will continue rotational training and exercises in Norway through 2018, U.S. European Command said in a news release.
“Our Marines in Norway are demonstrating a high level of cooperation with our allies,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. “The more we train together alongside one another the stronger our Alliance becomes.”
Nelson said the decision to extend the presence of the Marine rotational force in Norway is a clear sign of the U.S. and Norwegian commitment to NATO and the strong partnership between the two countries on defense and security.
John Waters (right), USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez master, discusses maritime operations with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Helen G. Pratt, 4th Marine Logistics Group commanding general, and Norwegian Commodore Rune Fromreide Sommer, Norwegian Defense Logistics Organization, during offload operations at Hammersodden, Norway, June 6. USNS Lopez, a Military Sealift Command prepositioning vessel, was supporting the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, known as MCPP-N, with the delivery of supplies and equipment. MCPP-N enables the rapid deployment of a large, credible, and balanced force to support its NATO allies and partners. (Photo by Daniel Burton, MSCEURAF operations specialist)
Norway is an exceptional ally, one that is increasing its defense budget and is committed to acquiring critical capabilities. Both the U.S. and Norway are focused on strengthening the development of joint leaders and teams who understand the synergy of air, sea, and land power as a potent asymmetric advantage in the battlefield.
About 330 Marines have been stationed in Vaernes, Norway, on a rotational basis since January. They will now continue to rotate beyond 2017, with two rotations per year.
So yeah, celebrities are as susceptible as any other civilian for confusing Memorial Day and Veterans Day. After pointing out the difference, it’s best to just let it go…with most people. Every now and then, some tone-deaf stuff comes from a celebrity social media account.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.
Both officials underlined that the discussions are ongoing and that nothing is finalized. But the talks point to a consensus by both governments that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of American troops in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once the militants are driven out.
“There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on,” the U.S. official said.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The talks involve U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over “what the long-term U.S. presence would look like,” the American official said, adding that discussions were in early stages and “nothing has been finalized.”
U.S. forces in Iraq would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq’s border with Syria, the Iraqi government official said. They would continue to be designated as advisers to dodge the need for parliamentary approval for their presence, he said.
He said al-Abadi is looking to install a “modest” Iraqi military presence in Mosul after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded along with a small number of U.S. forces. The forces would help control security in the city and oversee the transition to a political administration of Mosul, he said.
The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troops levels would be “several thousand … similar to what we have now, maybe a little more.”
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. The forces include troops training Iraqi forces, coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, and special forces operating on the front lines.
The news comes as Iraqi forces are struggling to push IS fighters out of a cluster of neighborhoods in western Mosul that mark the last patch of significant urban terrain the group holds in Iraq, nearly three years after the militants overran nearly a third of the country.
Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the U.S. into a deepening role in Iraq.
At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 to combat sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces’ need for support.
During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.
“I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other,” Mattis said.
Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the United States will stay in Iraq.
But, he said, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul.” He added, “I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they’re going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul.”
The talks over a longer-term U.S. presence has greatly concerned Iran, which in turn is increasing support to some of Iraq’s Shiite militia forces, said Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia group with close ties to Iran.
“Iraq’s security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (mostly Shiite militia groups) have the ability to protect ( Iraq’s) internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?” al-Hussein asked.
Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq’s dependence on both the U.S. and Iran. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East.
Over the nearly three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition. But Iraq’s military is still in the process of rebuilding and reorganizing after it was largely gutted by widespread corruption under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Klapper reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
One of the largest joint combat search and rescue exercises in the Pacific region, Exercise Pacific Thunder 18-1, kicked into full swing yesterday at Osan Air Base, South Korea.
This year, the exercise is the largest it has ever been. More than 20 U.S. Air Force squadrons and nine South Korean air wings are involved, giving the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons opportunities to train in simulated combat search and rescue missions all while working alongside their South Korean counterparts.
“Pacific Thunder originally started in 2009 as a one-week exercise between the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, and has since grown into a [Pacific Air Forces]-level exercise,” said Air Force Capt. Travis Vayda, the 25th Fighter Squadron Pacific Thunder 18-1 coordinator.
Although the annual exercise now has a vast range of units participating, it is still centered on the 25th Fighter Squadron, which operates A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which operates HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.
“Combat search and rescue is one of the most important mission sets we have in the A-10 community because we are really the only fixed-wing asset in the Air Force who trains to the CSAR mission,” Vayda said. “We are the close muscle, so essentially we are the bodyguards of the person on the ground and the helicopters that are rescuing them. Obviously in a CSAR [situation], you don’t want to have another type of shoot down or anything happen.”
During the exercise, the 33rd Rescue Squadron is able to directly work with A-10 pilots from the 25th Fighter Squadron, a level of joint training that both units typically have to simulate.
“The realism of the exercise gives us an opportunity to really see how the 25th FS operates,” said Air Force Capt. Dirk Strykowski, the 33rd Rescue Squadron’s HH-60 Pave Hawk flight lead. “Back in Kadena, we pretend as best we can to know what these guys are going to sound like on the radio, what calls they’re going to make and what kind of information they are going to provide, but being able to come up here and refresh what that’s actually going to be like is probably the biggest take away from the exercise.”
To make the exercise even more realistic, pararescuemen and survival, evasion, resistance and escape personnel from the 31st Rescue Squadron are not only participating in rescue missions, but also role-playing as isolated personnel.
“The intent of this exercise is to train like you fight, and we are trying to replicate that as best we can,” Strykowski said. “We have a lot of support from our pararescue and SERE. They’re out there on the ground now pretending to be downed pilots. So every step of the way, we are making it as realistic as it can get.”
Through combined CSAR training, exercise Pacific Thunder enhances the combat effectiveness between U.S. and South Korean air forces. Exercises like Pacific Thunder ensure the region remains ready to “Fight Tonight.”
The Russian military successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new Borei A-class submarine, the nuclear-powered Knyaz Vladimir, or Prince Vladimir, according to TASS, Russia’s state-run news agency.
The missile, the RSM-56 Bulava, has a range of 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers, or more than 5,000 miles, can carry six to 10 150-kiloton nuclear warheads, and has a yield of 1,150 kilograms. While its speed is unknown, Michael Duitsman, a research associate specializing in Russian missile technology at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury College, estimates it’s in the range of Mach 16 to Mach 20. The Bulava has been in operational use since 2013, and it was fired for the first time from the nuclear-powered submarine on Oct. 29, 2019.
The Prince Vladimir is the first of the Borei A-class submarine, which has better noise reduction and improved communication equipment over the Borei class, Duitsman told Insider via email.
Russian Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarine Alexander Nevsky.
According to the Moscow Times, the missile was launched from the Arkhangelsk region and traveled thousands of miles to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East — across the entire country.
Once it enters service — it is expected to in December — the Borei A-class strategic submarine will carry up to 16 of the Bulava missiles with four to six nuclear warheads each, according to the Moscow Times.
The missile was launched from a submerged position in the White Sea — the same place a devastating nuclear accident occurred in August 2019. In that instance, Russian engineers were attempting to recover a “Skyfall” missile from the bed of the White Sea when the weapon’s nuclear reactor exploded, causing the deaths of at least seven Russians. Russia’s handling of the incident has been referred to as a cover-up by a senior official at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.
Russia’s Prince Vladimir submarine fires a Bulava missile into north Atlantic
The Bulava is understood to have a devastating payload — 50 to 60 times as powerful as the bomb the US dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. But just because it’s powerful, that doesn’t mean the Russian Navy is using the missile to menace its adversaries — in fact, it’s a defensive weapon.
The Bulava “forms part of Russia’s strategic deterrent force; the missiles are not for use in normal combat,” Duitsman told Insider. “Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, deter an enemy from attacking you with nuclear weapons, because it is very difficult to find and destroy all of the submarines.”
The US counterparts to the Borei and the Bulava — the Ohio-class submarines and Trident II missiles — are more powerful in combination than the Russian offerings. The Ohio-class can carry 24 Trident II missiles, which have a longer range at 12,000 kilometers, a speed of Mach 24, and a payload of 2,800 kilograms. But, as Duitsman notes, the Ohio-class is 20 years old, and its replacement, the Columbia-class, isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2031.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Infantry Marines will soon receive ultralight off-road vehicles that will improve mission readiness by providing rapid logistics support in the field.
Program Executive Officer Land Systems, the Corps’ acquisition arm for major land programs, is expected to deliver 144 Utility Task Vehicles to the regiment-level starting later this month — a mere six months from contract award.
The rugged all-terrain vehicle can carry up to four Marines or be converted to haul 1,500 pounds of supplies. With minimal armor, the UTV can quickly haul extra ammunition and provisions, or injured Marines, while preserving energy and stealth.
“The Marine’s pack is getting heavier, and they are carrying more gear than ever down range,” said Jessica Turner, team lead for Internally Transportable Vehicles/Utility Task Vehicles at PEO LS. “Infantry Marines were looking for a capability that would lessen the load while increasing the area of operation, and the UTV is that solution.”
The UTV is a new capability for the fleet. Measuring roughly 12 feet long, the commercially acquired diesel vehicle is modular, with back seats that convert into a small cargo bed. Thanks to its small size, the UTV fits inside MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53E helicopters for easy transport to remote locations and greater tactical support.
PEO LS joined a Marine Corps Special Operations Command contract to deliver the capability to Marines in such a short amount of time.
“We have taken an off-the-shelf capability and leveraged it with other commands to maximize the effort,” said Eugene Morin, product manager for Legacy Light Tactical Vehicles at PEO LS. “The continued challenge for the Marine Corps is finding commercial-off-the-shelf items that satisfy the needs of Marines. Through partnerships like this, we can find the solutions we need.”
In exchange, MARSOC partnered with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to run field user evaluations on the UTV to ensure it met the needs of the warfighter.
“One key takeaway from the MCWL testing was user feedback from Infantry Marines,” said Mark Godfrey, vehicle capabilities integration officer at Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration. “MCWL did demonstrations such as casualty evacuation and maximum payload, and were able to tell us Marines’ thoughts on the value of the vehicle.”
The UTV program also satisfies the infantry’s requirement to maneuver more rapidly and deeply throughout the battlespace.
Much like larger tactical vehicles, Marines authorized to drive the UTV will be required to complete operator training as well as additional off-road vehicle safety procedures.
“One reason for the driving course is the UTV is an off-road vehicle,” Turner said. “The UTV’s suspension, handling and the way it distributes power is a lot different than a regular vehicle.”
Eighteen vehicles will be delivered to specific infantry regiments, with the first shipment going to I and II Marine Expeditionary Force in February, and III MEF in March and April. The Marine Corps will continue to seek ways to leverage partnerships and speed acquisition for Marines.
“The UTV is a perfect example of how we can do acquisition faster and more efficiently,” said Godfrey. “It may be a model for obtaining items from industry quicker in the future.”
Under the Geneva Convention, hospital ships are immune from attack. Or, in very simple terms, shooting at them is a huge no-no.
But one American sub commander did worse – he actually sank a hospital ship. However, he managed to get promoted and retire as a two-star admiral nevertheless.
Charles E. Loughlin was the first commanding officer of the USS Queenfish (SS 393). The first three war patrols netted him a pair of Navy Crosses and a Silver Star, according to the Military Times Hall of Valor.
But it was on his fourth patrol that things went south.
CombinedFleet.com reported that in January 1945, the United States and Japan had come to an agreement to allow packages from the Red Cross to be delivered to American POWs. The Japanese selected the Awa Maru, a relatively new freighter (CombinedFleet.com reports she was completed on March 5, 1943), to carry out the delivery.
She was demilitarized, while American headquarters sent out a number of messages advising submarines that she was not a valid target.
According to “Sink ‘Em All,” the wartime memoirs of Vice Adm. Charles Lockwood, who served as Commander, Submarines Pacific, Loughlin was the victim of some mistakes from Lockwood’s staff. Lockwood, in particular, pointed to a message sent to “All Submarines” that outlined the route the ship would take and ordering submarines to let the ship pass that should have been sent to only those subs along the Awa Maru’s route.
In addition, Loughlin apparently had not been shown earlier dispatches by his communications personnel, and as a result, failed to grasp the importance of the March 30, 1945 dispatch. Two days later, in the evening hours of April 1, the USS Queenfish detected a contact on radar, going at a speed somewhere between 16 and 18 knots.
It was foggy, and with visibility down to about 200 yards. Contrary to the agreement allowing the ship free passage, the Awa Maru did not sound its fog horn. Lockwood would quote Loughlin’s patrol report noting that based on the data, the radar contact appeared to be a destroyer or destroyer escort. The Queenfish fired four torpedoes at the target at a range of 1,200 yards. All four hit, sinking the hospital ship.
After a recovered survivor revealed the identity of the vessel that was sunk, Loughlin reported the incident to Lockwood. The USS Queenfish was sent back to Pearl Harbor. Loughlin, though, would end up receiving only a letter of admonition from a general court martial – an action that, according to an NSA article on the sinking, prompted an enraged Nimitz to issue Letters of Reprimand to at least some of the court martial panel. Lockwood would report that one member of the court-martial panel would tell him that they came to the conclusion that Loughlin had never been shown the earlier dispatches, but that Loughlin had refused to throw his communications officer under the bus.
By all rights, Loughlin’s career should have been sunk, but instead, Loughlin would serve for over two more decades in the Navy.
How did this happen despite a such colossal screw-up? The reason is because intelligence information would reveal that the Awa Maru was, in the words of a Britney Spears song, “not that innocent.”
CombinedFleet.com noted that while the ship had picked up the relief packages, and was delivering them, she also carried 20 planes, 2,000 bombs, and 500 tons of other munitions. The Awa Maru dropped the planes, bombs, and ammo off in Saigon, prior to delivering the relief supplies to Singapore. When the ship was sunk, she was carrying bales of rubber and according to Lockwood, tins carrying granular material. The crew on USS Queenfish recovered some of the materials.
Lockwood would later come to believe that “Loughlin should have been awarded a commendation instead of a reprimand.” Fleet Adm. Ernest King sought to ensure that Loughlin would never hold a seagoing command again, but Navsource.org reports that Loughlin commanded the heavy cruiser USS Toledo (CA 133) and the oiler USS Mississinewa (AO 144). He rose to the rank of rear admiral, receiving the Legion of Merit for tours commanding Submarine Squadron Six and the Naval District of Washington.
In 1949, Japan quietly abandoned claims for compensation for the Awa Maru’s sinking.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew Barth a physical therapist with the 349th Medical Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., practices weapons safety with an M4 carbine at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 16, 2017, as part of exercise Patriot Warrior. More than 600 Reserve Citizen Airmen and over 10,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Wisconsin to support a range of interlinked exercises including Patriot Warrior, Global Medic, CSTX, Diamond Saber, and Mortuary Affairs Exercise (MAX). Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint and international partners in airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. This exercise is intended to test the ability of the Air Force Reserve to provide combat-ready forces to operate in dynamic, contested environments and to sharpen Citizen Airmen’s skills in supporting combatant commander requirements.
A German air force Tornado and an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 314th Fighter Squadron fly in formation together during the last joint flying mission at Holloman Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2017. The GAF has entered its final stage of departure, however they will not complete their departure from Holloman AFB until mid 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire an M777 towed 155 mm howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq, August 15, 2017. The 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., enables Iraqi security force partners through the advise and assist mission, contributing planning, intelligence collection and analysis, force protection and precision fires to achieve the military defeat of ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) participate in a division run August 16, 2017 at Fort Campbell, Ky. The run commemorated a “Legacy of Heroism” for the division’s 75th birthday.
Rendezvous with destiny, brothers!
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Richard Hill, right, welds a table leg aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with its carrier strike group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) departs Theoule-sur-Mer, France. Oscar Austin was in Theoule-sur-Mer, France, to participate in events commemorating the 73rd anniversary of Operation Dragoon, the liberation of southern France by allied forces during World War II.
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, and U.S. Airmen with the 496th Air Base Squadron, and Spanish Air Force members in a moment of silence and a show of solidarity and partnership in honor of those lost in the attack on Barcelona, Spain, at Morón Air Base, Spain, Aug 18, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.
U.S. Marines exit the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft Aug. 18, 2017, in Hokudaien, Japan, marking the first time the aircraft has landed in northern Japan. Col. James Harp, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander of Northern Viper 17, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Iwana, deputy commander of Northern Army 11th Brigade, particpated in a joint interview to discuss the Osprey’s capabilities. This aircraft allows Marines to have the ability to rapidly respond to any contingency worldwide.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205), a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Honolulu is shown coordinating search efforts with a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu, for five crewmembers aboard a downed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter off Ka’ena Point, Oahu, Aug. 17, 2017. Two Black Hawk aircrews were reportedly conducting night training Aug. 15, between Ka’ena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost with one of the helicopters.
A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro small boat crew transits international waters in support of Operation North Pacific Guard Aug. 15, 2017. Operation North Pacific Guard is a multilateral effort by North Pacific rim nations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing to include high-seas drift net fishing.
Along with the USO, the company delivered 32,000 three-pack servings of its ready-brew coffee to Bagram Airfield, where it could then be further distributed to the approximately 9,800 service members stationed throughout the country.
“Getting a cup of coffee is something your average American takes for granted. But for our troops a cup of coffee is a special taste of home,” Alan Reyes, USO Senior Vice President of Operations, said in a statement. “Imagine a soldier coming off an arduous patrol or hostile fire, and then seeing that Starbucks logo – it takes their minds out of the war zone, even for a few minutes.”
The coffee giant is providing much more than just free coffee for U.S. troops. In March 2014, the company donated $30 million for research into post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and promised to hire 10,000 veterans or their spouses over the next five years.
“This is not charity, this is not pity. This is the right thing to do for them and for us,” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, told NPR’s Marketplace.
Schultz recently wrote a book with Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran that highlights the courage and sacrifices of Post 9/11 troops entitled “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.”
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.
Please help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
A diplomatic security agent testified Sept. 2 that after militants stormed the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, he turned to US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was hiding in a safe room, and said, “When I die, you need to pick up my gun and keep fighting.”
Agent Scott Wickland was the government’s first witness in a trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan suspected of orchestrating the attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. Wickland took the stand and gave a harrowing account of how he tried without success to save the ambassador and Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer.
The smoke from weapons’ fire and explosions was so thick and black that it blinded the three. They dropped to the floor and crawled on their bellies, gasping for air. Wickland said he was trying to lead them to a bathroom where he could close the door and open a window.
“I was breathing through the last centimeter of air on the ground,” Wickland said. “I’m yelling, ‘Come on. We can make it. We’re going to the bathroom.’ Within 8 meters, they disappeared.”
Wickland kept yelling for them. He was feeling around on the floor through the toxic smoke, which made the lighted room darker than night.
“To this day, I don’t even know where they went. I was right next to them, and then that’s it,” Wickland said. “I had my hand on Ambassador Stevens. I could hear Sean shuffling.”
Twelve jurors and three alternates assembled for the opening day of one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years. Abu Khattala is being tried in US District Court, a civilian court, at a time when the Trump administration has said terror suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
During Wickland’s testimony, Abu Khattala hung an arm over his chair and held his chin, covered in a long, grayish white beard. He listened through earphones to an Arabic translation of the proceedings.
The opening testimony was aimed at turning the jury against the defendant, but his name was never mentioned throughout Wickland’s nearly three hours on the stand. He is expected to retake the stand on Oct. 3.
An 18-count indictment against Abu Khattala arises from a burst of violence that began the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Stevens and Smith were killed in the first attack at the US mission. Nearly eight hours later, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack on a CIA complex nearby
Abu Khattala, who appeared in court wearing a white shirt and dark pants, has pleaded not guilty to his charges, including murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists, and destroying US property while causing death.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson called Abu Khattala a “Libyan patriot” who fought on America’s side in the war against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He said Abu Khattala didn’t mastermind the attack. The lawyer said the defendant simply went to the attack site because he heard there was a protest and wanted to see what was happening.
“He didn’t shoot anyone. He didn’t set any fires. He did not participate in the attacks,” Robinson said.
Robinson also said Abu Khattala was a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran. He reminded jurors that in America, people are not prosecuted because of their religious beliefs.
The prosecution gave a starkly different portrayal of the defendant. Assistant US Attorney John Crabb said that when Abu Khattala’s hatred of America boiled over, he orchestrated the attacks and then triumphantly strode around the attack site carrying an AK-47.
Crabb said that later, the defendant told someone at his apartment: “I attacked the American Embassy” and would have killed more Americans that night if others had not intervened.
He said Abu Khattala “hates America with a vengeance.”
“He killed Ambassador Stevens — a man of peace.”
The trial is expected to last for weeks. Crabb said the prosecution would show the jury videos of the attack site and Abu Khattala’s phone records, which he said showed a spike in activity during the attacks. He said witnesses would include weapons and fire experts and a man named Ali, who was paid $7 million to befriend Abu Khattala and help US forces capture him in Libya.
After he was captured, he was taken to a US Navy ship that transported him to the United States. During the 12-day journey, he was first interrogated by intelligence personnel and then by FBI agents. Crabb said Abu Khattala told FBI agents that America was the “root of all the world’s problems.”
His defense lawyer said Abu Khattala cooperated aboard the ship and he “continued to deny, as he denies today, any participation in planning or masterminding the attack.”
Adjacent to the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial sits on a four-acre site along the National Mall’s Tidal Basin. It shares a direct site line between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials.
The MLK memorial is one of the few at the Mall to have an official address. Its address is 1964 Independence Avenue, SW, in honor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He became an iconic figure because of his use of nonviolent resistance and powerfully moving speeches. King led the March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech on the Lincoln Memorial’s steps. The bas-relief statue is intended to give the impression that King overlooks the Tidal Basin toward the horizon. Cherry trees that are at the site bloom every year during the anniversary of King’s death.
The memorial opened in 2011 after more than twenty years of planning, fundraising, and construction, making it the newest at the National Mall. It’s the fourth in Washington, DC, to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color. The site is designed to be a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy. This isn’t the first memorial to a person of color in Washington DC, but it is the first memorial of a person of color o or near the National Mall. Dr. King’s memorial is the fourth non-president to be memorialized in such a way.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope and emerges from two large boulders, the “Mountains of Despair.” Text from the “I Have a Dream” speech is cut into the rock of the Stone. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” A 450-foot long inscription wall includes excerpts from King’s sermons and speeches. On the crescent-shaped wall, fourteen of King’s quotes are inscribed, the earliest from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama and the last from his final sermon in 1968, delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, just four days before his assassination.
A ceremony dedicating the memorial was initially scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, but it was postponed until October 16, the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March.
The memorial is the result of the early efforts of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. King was a member of that fraternity while he attended Boston University to complete his doctorate. King was heavily involved with the fraternity after he graduated. He delivered the keynote speech at the fraternity’s 50th-anniversary banquet in 1956. In 1968 after King’s assassination, Alpha Phi Alpha proposed erecting a memorial for Dr. King in Washington, DC.
In 1996, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to allow Alpha Phi Alpha to create a memorial on the Department of Interior Lands in the District of Columbia. Congress gave the fraternity until 2003 to raise $100 million and break ground. Two years later, the Washington DC Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc was established to manage the memorial’s fundraising efforts and design.
In 1999, the US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission approved the memorial’s site location.
ROMA Design Group was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries to create the memorial. On December 4, 2000, a marble and bronze plaque was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha members to dedicate the site. Shortly after, a full-time fundraising team began the promotional campaign for the memorial. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 13, 3006, in West Potomac Park.
By August 2008, leaders at the foundation estimated it would take an additional 20 months to construct the memorial with a final cost of $120 million. By December of that year, the foundation had raised about $108 million, including contributions from celebrities, large corporations, and other nonprofits, as well as the NBA, NFL, and filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. US Congress provided $10 million in matching funds as well.
Construction began in December 2009 and was completed two years later. As with all other memorials at the National Mall, the MLK memorial is free and open to the public.