Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of United States Pacific Command, called Chinese criticism of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system “preposterous” during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The blunt talk comes in the wake of reports that China has unleashed hackers against South Korean government and business interests after the South Korean decision to allow deployment of a THAAD battery. According to Defense News, a battery has six launchers, and a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes each launcher has eight missiles. So, this battery has 48 missiles ready for launch.
While the United States has other missile-defense options to protect allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, THAAD is one of the more capable options according to ArmyRecognition.com, with a range of about 600 miles and the ability to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level. The system is also highly mobile.
The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which proved itself capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm, is already operated in the region by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, according to ArmyRecognition.com. The Patriot has a range of 43.5 miles and is capable of also targeting aircraft in addition to ballistic missiles.
Adm. Harris also declared support for a study into the feasibility of deploying Ground-Based Interceptors to Hawaii. This system currently is based in Alaska and California, with 30 interceptors split between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GBI has shown a success rate of almost 53 percent in tests, per the Missile Defense Agency.
A Hawaii basing option for the GBI would add another tier of defenses to that state, which along with Alaska are potentially in range of North Korean ICBMs like the Taepodong 2 and KN-08.
The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.
However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.
His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.
McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.
Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).
Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).
The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.
As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.
Pilots flying into Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday evening reported seeing a man in a jetpack flying at an altitude of around 3,000 feet and about 10 miles from the airport. The first pilot to see the mysterious aviator said he was only about 300 yards away from the plane.
You can hear the exchange of the actual transmission here.
“Tower, American 1997 — we just passed a guy in a jetpack”.
A second pilot also reported seeing a flying apparition in the sky in the same area.
The air traffic controller acknowledged the message and quipped, “Only in LA”.
He then sent a warning to other pilots to use caution when approaching LAX.
While one might think the pilots were seeing things or tired, aviation experts doubt that. Pilots are highly trained and have a great sense of vision and perception. For two pilots on two separate flights to notice the same man in a jetpack gives credibility to the story.
That begs the question. Who was this Rocketeer?
The FAA reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate it, but after a flyover of the area, the LAPD did not see any flying men.
Jetpack technology has been around for awhile. Anyone old enough to remember will recall the wonder of seeing one at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics. But the technology of jetpacks is limited by two things: altitude and fuel efficiency. Jetpacks can’t get too high off the ground and they can only be in the air for moments at a time. That is what makes this case so perplexing.
Was it a new military device? Did SpaceX create a new jetpack for their Mars mission? Is there a new tech company that is testing a new device?
Well, if there is one way to find out it’s the Feds. The FBI is now looking into the mystery and is hoping to find answers soon.
While there is some type of levity to the story (not the craziest thing to happen in 2020), there is concern of someone or something drifting into the path of an approaching plane. Pilots already must deal with birds and natural objects, but lately also have to keep an eye for drones, balloons and now…. Jetpacks.
On April 25, Iraqi troops drove out Islamic State militants from the largest neighborhood in the western half of the city of Mosul, a senior military commander said, a major development in the months-long fight to recapture the country’s second-largest city.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January, after officially launching the operation to retake the city in October.
In February, the troops started a new push to clear Mosul’s western side of IS militants, but weeks later their push stalled mainly due to stiff resistance by the Sunni militant group.
On April 25, special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi told The Associated Press that the sprawling al-Tanek neighborhood was now “fully liberated and under full control” of the security forces. Al-Saadi did not provide more details.
Also April 25, the government-sanctioned paramilitary troops, made up mainly of Shiite militiamen, launched a new push to retake the town of Hatra to the south of Mosul. The force’s spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, said the operation is being conducted from three directions with aerial support from the Iraqi Air Force. Al-Asadi did not elaborate.
Hatra is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site of the same name that was destroyed by IS as part of the militant’s efforts to demolish archaeological sites in and around Mosul. The extremists consider the priceless archaeological treasures — some dating back as far as 3,000 B.C. — as idolatry but have at the same time smuggled and sold many looted artifacts to fund their war.
Mosul fell to IS in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq.
“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet frames the US suspending war games, seen as a massive win for both China and North Korea in the negotiations, as a thrifty move from the US.
While the military is a huge expenditure for the US, and military drills are costly, their financial cost is comparatively minor compared to the diplomatic bargaining chip they represented.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane)
But military drills do more than cost money, they keep the US troops and South Korea safe and ready for combat.
Without military drills, the US forces in South Korea would wither and fail to meet readiness standards. Also, by letting North Korea dictate what the US military does, Trump sends the US down a slippery slope.
I remember the major calling me into his office as an 18-year-old private for a discussion. The discussion came around to the importance of voting and how it was my duty to vote. I liked to do things the hard way at the time, and I was honest about how I wouldn’t vote. That went over like a lead balloon with the major.
After some yelling and cursing on his part, I agreed to look into voting. It would not be the only time that I spoke bluntly about voting and paid the repercussions for it. As many young service members have found out, no matter how much you push the ground, it doesn’t move anywhere. I did get stronger and times like these reinforced my stubbornness.
I ignored politics on both the local and national level. I focused all of my energies on being the best soldier that I could. At least that is what I told myself. I didn’t feel it was right to pick my bosses, like POTUS, who sits atop the command chain. I never looked into the issues because I didn’t care what happened locally as I was going to be moving anyway, and I certainly didn’t care about what went on in Washington, DC. Plus, I had a high level of disdain for politicians; well, that one hasn’t changed much.
Hindsight is a great knowledge enhancer. As I look back, I was wrong for not exercising my constitutional right to vote.I ignored issues that I should have spent a little time researching, instead of watching a movie or having a few cold ones. I could have dug into the problems instead of sticking my head in the sand. Now having been retired for 18 months, I acknowledge how ignorant I was.
We put our lives on the line so that others can vote in countries around the world, and I failed to do my civic duty at home. I’m now passionate about ensuring service members vote and that their vote counts.
I’m proud to support Count Every Hero, an organization committed to ensuring that every service member’s ballot is counted before a winner is declared. Count Every Hero (CHO) is a cross-partisan, nonprofit organization chaired by General (Ret) Tony Zinni. CHO has two principles: 1: Every service member’s right to vote must be protected and their votes must be counted. 2: Military voters must have an opportunity to register, request an absentee ballot, and cast a vote regardless of their location in the world. To date, 16 retired four-star Flag Officers have joined the movement to ensure every hero’s vote is counted.
General Zinni said, “We count on our troops to fight for our freedom so we owe it to them to count their ballots. No candidate should be declared an election winner until all military ballots are counted.” I fully support his message. Who you vote for is a personal choice. This right is part of why I served for 20 years, defending our freedoms. I don’t care who you vote for, but your vote should and must be counted before determining the winners of our elections.
As for me, I will be like the Afghans and Iraqis I saw with ink on their fingers, so excited to have voted for the first time. I may not have ink on my fingers come Nov. 3, but I will have the same smile and sense of pride partaking in a critical function of our democracy.
The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.
We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3
From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc
Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o via @YouTube
Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”
Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”
After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.
While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.
Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that he served, Had shattered all his nerves, And left a little shrapnel in his knees. But the morhpine eased the pain, And the grass grew round his brain, And gave him all the confidence he lacked, With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home Didn’t last too long. He went to work when he’d spent his last dime And soon he took to stealing When he got that empty feeling For a hundred dollar habit without overtime. And the gold roared through his veins Like a thousand railroad trains, And eased his mind in the hours that he chose, While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone When he popped his last balloon, Climbing walls while sitting in a chair. Well, he played his last request, While the room smelled just like death, With an overdose hovering in the air. But life had lost it’s fun, There was nothing to be done, But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill, For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.
Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.
Israel’s air force chief held “professional, open” talks with officials in Moscow in the aftermath of the shoot-down of a Russian warplane by Syria earlier in the week that Russian officials said was caused by Israeli actions.
Major General Amikam Norkin traveled to Moscow on Sept. 20, 2018, to share his military’s findings on the incident in which 15 Russian service-members aboard the Il-20 surveillance plane were killed off the coast of Syria.
Russia has acknowledged that antiaircraft forces of its ally Syria inadvertently brought down the plane, but it also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces around the same time.
A statement released by the Israeli military after Norkin’s Moscow visit said that “the meetings were held in good spirits, and the representatives shared a professional, open, and transparent discussion on various issues.”
“Both sides emphasized the importance of the states’ interests and the continued implementation of the deconfliction system,” the statement said.
Israel and Russia have set up an exchange of information between their forces operating in and around Syria to reduce the risk of air incidents.
The Russian plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses on Sept. 17, 2018, after Israeli missiles struck the coastal region of Latakia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli military said its jets had targeted a Syrian site that was in the process of transferring weapons to Iran-backed Hizballah militants.
It added that Israeli planes were already in Israeli airspace when Syria fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane.
Israel insisted it warned Russian forces of its raid ahead of time in accordance with previous agreements.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Israeli warning came less than a minute before the strike, and it accused the Israeli military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defense systems.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir to express sorrow over the deaths of crew member, blaming Syria and offering to send Norkin with detailed information.
“I told him that we have the right of self-defense,” Netanyahu said on Sept. 20, 2018, adding that “there is also very great importance to maintaining the security coordination between Israel and Russia.”
Russia, along with Iran, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad support throughout the country’s seven-year civil war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
Russian air support has been particularly crucial in allowing Assad to hold off Islamic insurgents and Western-backed rebels and maintain power.
This article by James Clark and Michael Lane Smith was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.
For anyone who has worn the uniform, there’s a fundamental truth of service that never makes it into the commercials and recruiting ads: It can be boring as all hell.
Sometimes, either due to good intentions gone awry, frustration, or someone drank too much, service members and veterans make some bad decisions. In many cases, this ends with a hangover or a moment of public embarrassment. Occasionally, these choices lead to sprains and maybe a broken bone or two, like when a Marine decided to jump three stories onto a stack of mattresses.
But sometimes, someone does something so dumb and outrageous that it makes the news. Here are five of those moments.
1. The soldier who stole a puppy to save it from being neutered
In early June 2015, U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Duvel of the Missouri National Guard was caught on video stealing a mixed-breed puppy from the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri with his fiancée, according to ABC affiliate KSPR News.
Having heard from a veterinary hospital that it is unhealthy for dogs to be neutered within the first year of their lives, the couple wanted to make sure this puppy was protected from such an operation. After being denied the opportunity to adopt the puppy, the couple thought the best course of action was to take him anyway.
“Really, the criminal part never really came in mind at all to be honest,” Duvel told KSPR with a seemingly amused grin. “It’d gotten pretty serious so it was pretty much past the point of dropping off some money and saying I’m sorry.”
Presumably Duvel’s chain of command didn’t appreciate seeing “guardsman steals puppy” in the news either.
2. The drunk soldier who defected to North Korea
On the night of Jan. 4, 1965, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins crossed the heavily mined Korean demilitarized zone 10 beers deep and defected to North Korea.
According to Business Insider, Jenkins decided to get drunk and then defect because his unit was being ordered to lead increasingly provocative patrols, and he heard they might be heading to Vietnam. His time in North Korea involved 24-hour surveillance, making it more akin to imprisonment than defection.
Instead of continued service in the military fighting communism, Jenkins spent the next 40 years learning the works of Kim Il-Sung by heart, teaching English to presumed spies in training, and acting in movies as the villain. Needless to say, Jenkins quickly regretted his decision.
In a 2005 interview on “60 Minutes,” Jenkins described being constantly watched and told when to eat, sleep, and even when to have sex. According to Jenkins, the North Korean government eventually brought him an abducted a woman from Japan to teach North Korean spies Japanese, and before long, they were married. Not exactly the most beautiful love story, but it did yield the pair two daughters.
Upon being freed in 2004, Jenkins reported for duty in Japan and was swiftly court-martialed, receiving a significantly reduced sentence for the almost four decades of internment in North Korea. He now sells crackers at a historical museum in Japan.
3. The soldier who landed helicopter on the White House lawn
In the early hours of Feb. 17, 1974, U.S. Army Pfc. Robert Preston buzzed commuterson the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in a stolen Huey, and then approached the White House, landing briefly before Maryland State Police arrived in two choppers of their own.
Preston led them on an aerial chase, leading one officer to say afterward that he was “one hell of a pilot.” He proceeded to hover near the Washington Monument, nearly colliding with it, before returning to the White House, where he hovered 100 meters away on the South Lawn.
After taking shotgun and submachine gun fire, Preston put the Huey down and attempted to escape on foot, but was tackled and arrested. President Richard Nixon, who was in the middle of the Watergate scandal, was not at the White House during all of this.
Even though he led two police choppers, and scores of other law enforcement personnel on a high speed chase, broke a host of laws and military regulations, Preston only served six months in the military stockade, before receiving a general discharge.
4. The drunk Marine who set off the fire suppression system in a hangar
At about 1:45 a.m on May 23, 2015, a Marine drunkenly triggered the foam-based fire suppression system at an Air Force hangar on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Marine Corps Times reported that it’s unclear how the Marine entered the hangar, what specific punishment he may have faced after his arrest, and just what his level of intoxication was.
5. The British soldier who stole an armored vehicle, crashed it, stole another
In February 2009, an 18-year-old British soldier went for a drunken joy ride, stealing not one, but two armored vehicles before running a military police patrol off the road, reported Daily Mail.
German authorities said that the unnamed soldier was “highly intoxicated” when he stole an armored command car, swerved through the entrance at Hoehne Barracks in Northwest Germany, before careening off the road minutes later, reports the Daily Mail.
Astonishingly, the soldier crept back on base, which was now on high alert, and stole another armored vehicle — a tracked ambulance this time — and sped off again. A military police patrol tried to stop him, but was forced off the road before the driver crashed the second vehicle into a tree.
When Master Sgt. Mike Maroney was a staff sergeant he rescued 3-year-old LeShay Brown a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. An Air Force Combat Photographer happened to be on the mission, and snapped a now-iconic photo.
“They just happened to snap a photo of this little girl who really, for me, made the day. It was a rough day,” Maroney told the cast of The Real, a nationally syndicated daytime talk show. “It was seven days into Katrina. Earlier in July, I just got back from a deployment to Afghanistan, it was my worst deployment. To see New Orleans under water and destroyed just really took a toll on me, so when she gave me that hug I wasn’t even on the planet at that point.”
Maroney saved 140 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but the memory of that hug stayed with him. Maroney, now 40 years old and a 19-year Air Force Veteran kept that photo on his wall for the past decade which he says helped him through a lot of dark times stemming from his service.
He never knew that little girl’s name. One day, he decided to find her and posted the photo on Facebook, hoping it would go viral. Someone reached out to Maroney after noticing the search for the girl had not gone very far.
“I had the idea to put it on Facebook to see if anyone is looking for her,” Maroney said. “It got 42 likes. Nothing. Up ’til last year, nothing. Then a young man named Andrew [Goard] wrote me and said, ‘Hey, its my life’s goal. I’m gonna help you find this little girl.”
Goard is a high school student in Waterford, Michigan whose grandfather served in Vietnam, and he idolized Pararescue Jumpers (he even has an Instagram page devoted to them). He helped the hashtag #FindKatrinaGirl go viral. The story was eventually picked up by Air Force Times and distributed around to smaller news outlets, until it ended up in front of LeShay Brown, who is now 13 and living in Waveland, Mississippi.
“I wish I could explain to you how important your hug was,” Maroney told LeShay Brown. “Your small gesture helped me through a dark phase. You rescued me more than I rescued you.”
“In my line of work, it doesn’t usually turn out happily,” Maroney said. “This hug, this moment, was like – everybody I’ve ever saved, that was the thank you.”
It had to have been a simultaneously proud and awkward moment in his career: The day U.S. Navy Commander James Kirk got promoted to captain.
Of course any Trekkie would know the reason, as the real-life captain shares the name of the fictionalized character played by William Shatner on “Star Trek.” But the real Kirk is a serious officer, taking the helm of the futuristic USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), a ship christened earlier this year.
“Unfortunately I can’t be with you when your vessel is commissioned and obviously your captain, Captain Kirk, is dear to my heart,” Shatner wrote. “So forgive me for not attending, my schedule won’t allow me, but know that you are in our thoughts — Mr. Mrs. Shatner — and that we bless you and hope that you have a safe journey wherever your ship takes you.”
Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.
So, she decided to join the military.
She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.
At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.
The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.
She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.
Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”
This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.
Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.
Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.
Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).
Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.
When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”
The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.
“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.
Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.
When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.
After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.
Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”
These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.
While experts acknowledge that Iran is “playing with fire” against the best navy in the world, don’t expect these incidents to stop any time soon.
“The number of unsafe, unprofessional interactions for first half of the year is nearly twice as much as same period in 2015, trend has continued. There’s already more in 2016 than all of 2015,” Commander Bill Urban of the Navy’s 5th fleet told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Urban stressed that despite the Iranian navy fast-attack craft being several orders of magnitude less potent than US Navy ships, the threat they pose in the gulf is very real.
“Any time another vessel is charging in on one of your ships and they’re not talking on the radio … you don’t know what their intentions are,” said Urban.
Urban confirmed that Iran sends small, fast attack ships to “swarm” and “harass” larger US Naval vessels that could quite easily put them at the bottom of the ocean, but the ships pose a threat beyond firepower.
According to Urban, these ships are “certainly armed vessels with crew-manned weapons, not unarmed ships. I wouldn’t discount the ability to be a danger. A collision at sea even with a much larger ship is always something that could cause damage to a ship or injure personnel.”
In the most recent episode at sea, Urban said that an Iranian craft swerved in front of the USS Firebolt, a US Coastal Patrol craft, and stopped dead in its path, causing the Firebolt to have to adjust course or risk collision.
“This kind of provocative, harassing technique risks escalation and miscalculation.”
The messages Iran wants to send
“In my view, Khamenei (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic) decided it’s time to send a message — I’m here and I’m unhappy,” Cliff Kupchan, Chairman of Eurasia Group and expert on Iran, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
According to Kupchan, the Iranian navy carries out these stunts under directions straight from the top because of frustrations with the Iran nuclear deal. Despite billions of dollars in sanction relief flowing into Iran following the deal, Kupchan says Iran sees the US as “preventing European and Asian banks from moving into Iran and financing Iranian businesses,” and therefore not holding up their end of the Iran nuclear deal.
But despite their perception that the US has under delivered on the promises of the Iran nuclear deal, Kupchan says Iran will absolutely not walk away from the deal, which has greatly improved their international standing and financial prospects.
The lifting of sanctions on Iran’s oil has resulted in “billions in additional revenue … They’re not gonna walk away from that.”
So Iran seems to be simply spinning their wheels to score political points with hardliners, but what if the worst happens and there is a miscalculation in a conflict between Iranian and US naval vessels resulting in the loss of life?
“The concern is miscalculation,” said Kupchan. “Some guy misjudges the speed of his boat, people could die. There is a lot on the line.”
According to Kupchan, as well as other experts on the subject, Iran’s navy doesn’t stand a serious chance against modern US Navy ships.
“Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps boats and the Iranian Navy are not very capable or modern,” said Kupchan. The fast-attack craft we’ve seen challenge US Navy boats have simply been older speed boats, some Russian-made, outfitted with guns.
The Iranian craft can certainly bother US Navy ships by risking collisions and functioning as “heavily armed gnats, or mosquitoes” that swarm US ships, but a recent test carried out by the Navy confirms that the gunships wouldn’t have much trouble knocking them out of the water. The ensuing international incident, however, would dominate headlines for weeks.
“The wood is dry in US and Iranian relations,” said Kupchan, suggesting that a small miscalculation could spark a major fire, and that harassing these ships is “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam.”
“Hardliners on both sides would go nuts,” said Kupchan, referencing both the conservative Islamist Iranians and the conservative US hawks who would not pass up any opportunity to impinge Obama over his perceived weakness against the Iranians.
Yet Kupchan contends that even a lethal incident would not end the deal. Both sides simply have too much riding on the deal’s success: Obama with his foreign policy legacy, and Iran with their financial redemption and status in the region as the main adversary to Western powers.
However Iran’s Khamenei may be sending a second message to incoming US leadership, specifically Hillary Clinton, who seems likely to be the next commander in chief. “They know Clinton is tough,” said Kupchan, and Khamenei may be addressing Clinton with a second message, saying “Madame Secretary, I’m still here, I know you’re tough, but I’m ready.”
For now, Kupchan expects these incidents at sea to carry on as Iran vents about their larger frustrations, and that a violent exchange would “not be the end of the deal,” or the start of a larger war, “but a serious international incident.”