China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment warns, but that’s not what has officials most concerned.
China has been investing billions of dollars, possibly as much as $200 billion in 2018, into its military, which Chinese leadership is putting through a massive overhaul in hopes of building a modern, world-class fighting force capable of waging and winning wars.
“Indeed, China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space, and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley asserted in the preface to the report, noting that Beijing will likely become more insistent as its confidence grows.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
It is China’s growing self-confidence that has US officials most alarmed, not the development of various weapons platforms, be it unmatched anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons. There is a serious concern that China is moving closer to the point where it might be willing to use military force to achieve its ambitions.
“The biggest concern is that they are going to get to a point where the [Chinese military] leadership may actually tell [Chinese President] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” a senior defense intelligence official said on Jan. 15, 2019, just before the release of the DIA assessment, according to Defense News.
“As these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, our concern is we’ll reach a point where internally, within their decision-making, they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior official said.
That’s bad news for Taiwan, an autonomous, democratic territory that Beijing views as a rogue province.
The island is a top priority for Chinese leadership, according to the report on Chinese military power, the first-ever unclassified DIA assessment of China’s military might.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Senior Chinese military leadership made that point very clear in a recent meeting with US military leaders. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gen. Li Zuocheng argued in a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, the South China Morning Post reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made clear that military action remains on the table as a possible reunification tool. Other potential flash points include the East and South China Seas.
Despite fears within the military intelligence community about the use of force by the Chinese military, it seems that there is also a consensus that China may not yet be there. “I think in a lot of ways, they have a lot that they need to do,” an official said Jan. 15, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.
“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official added, referring to an assault on Taiwan. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”
China called the DIA report “unprofessional,” criticizing its findings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.
Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.
When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.
It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.
Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.
“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”
The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.
Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.
In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.
Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.
“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.
“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”
Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.
Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.
The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”
The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.
Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”
When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.
Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.
You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.
The United States has unveiled new sanctions against the Iranian metallurgical sector, blacklisting several companies, including domestic and foreign subsidiaries of the country’s main steel producer.
The Treasury Department said on June 25 that the sanctioned entities included four manufacturing companies and four sales agents as part of a crackdown on entities believed to fund Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” worldwide.
The United States “remains committed to isolating key sectors of the Iranian economy until the revenues from such sectors are refocused toward the welfare of the Iranian people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by the companies and generally prohibit Americans from dealing with them.
The move is part of U.S. effort to slash Iranian revenues since President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018 from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The new U.S. sanctions target one domestic and four foreign subsidiaries — operating in either Germany or the United Arab Emirates — of Iran’s Mobarakeh Steel Company, which Treasury said accounts for about 1 percent of Iran’s gross domestic product.
Mobarakeh Steel Company was blacklisted in 2018 for allegedly providing millions of dollars annually to an entity with close ties to Iran’s paramilitary Basij force, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Also targeted were three aluminum, steel, and iron producers in Iran, which Treasury said contributed to billions of dollars in sales and exports of Iranian metals every year.
A company which the Treasury said had addresses in China and Hong Kong was also sanctioned for allegedly transferring graphite to a blacklisted Iranian entity in 2019.
As the final season of Game of Thrones rapidly approaches, a lot of questions about the show remain: Will Dany and Jon be able to find a way to defeat the White Walkers? Is Cersei really pregnant? Will Jamie finally apologize to Bran for pushing him out a window so he could keep his incestuous love affair a secret? But one thing is abundantly clear: A lot of people are going to die in the last six episodes. And in anticipation of the onslaught of death that millions of us will be witnessing, we decided to create a list of 11 characters that need to be dead by the time the final credits roll.
To be clear, this isn’t just a list of the characters we hate the most (though there are a few of those). Instead, it’s a look at whose deaths make the most sense in the scope of the larger story. So we are offering our perspective on which character deaths are the most appropriate narratively. With that in mind, here is our Arya-esque list of 11 characters who need to join Ned, Joffrey, and Ygritte in the great orgy in the sky.
This one is simple. From day one, Cersei has been nothing short of a monster and any hope she had of redeeming herself disappeared when she revealed she was going to leave Jon and Dany to fight the White Walkers without her help. It could be Jamie or Arya or literally anyone but for Game of Thrones to have an ending that feels satisfying, Cersei has to die.
Westeros’ last remaining gossip (RIP Littlefinger) doesn’t really have a role to play now that the never-ending game of thrones has been temporarily tossed aside in favor of fighting the White Walkers. He seems to mainly just look concerned while other people make decisions. Plus, Melisandre has already predicted his death and so it would be kind of weird if he lived.
3. The Moutain
It could be argued at this point that, technically, Gregor Clegane isn’t even really alive, as he seems to be more of some kind of Frankenstein’s monster than a human. But regardless, viewers have been clamoring for the Cleganebowl since Season 1 and hopefully, we finally get to see Sandor complete his redemption tour by murdering the shit out of his brother.
4. Theon Greyjoy
The disgraced ruler formerly known as Reek has experienced a lot of grief over seven seasons (to be fair, a good portion of it was caused by his own selfishness and disloyalty) but he has made some steps towards cleaning his filthy conscience and is now leading a mission to rescue his sister Yara. At this point, the best ending for Theon would involve him sacrificing himself to save Yara and perhaps even kill off his dickhead uncle Euron for good measure. Bittersweet? Absolutely but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for the guy.
Game of Thrones is filled with iconic villains but Euron has been mostly disappointing as a wrongdoer who seems to have been tossed into the mix to stir up chaos, to underwhelming results. At this point, if he doesn’t die in some grotesque fashion, then what has all of this been about?
This one hurts to write but hear me out. Our favorite quick-witted mercenary has always made a point of choosing survival over loyalty every time but it seems only fitting that at some point, he’s going to decide to turn on Cersei and join Jamie and Tyrion in the fight against the Whites. And knowing this show, he will probably be rewarded for this choice by getting viciously killed doing something heroic.
7. Bran Stark
One of the Starks has to die, right? Sansa and Jon seem like the most likely to live and while most people will put their money on Arya, I think Bran dying actually makes the most sense. As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran clearly still has a large role to play in the final season. But once the war is over, what does an emotionless prophet like Bran do? Looking at his awkward reunion with his sisters, it’s pretty clear a return to normalcy isn’t an option. So is he going to hang out in a tree like his mentor? Sounds depressing so I think the best send-off would be him kicking the bucket while putting a plan in motion that will allow the remaining Westerosians to take down the Night King and his crew.
Game of Thrones 7×04 – Arya reunites with Sansa and Bran
Right now, these kissing cousins are blissfully residing in Bonetown but the idea of them both somehow surviving and then ruling Westeros together seems too good to be true for Game of Thrones, right? This is a show that delights in subverting happy endings so it feels like the bittersweet ending would be for one of them to die heroically in battle, leaving the other to rule on their own. My money is on Dany but don’t be surprised if Jon becomes the first person since Lazarus to die twice.
9. Jorah Mormont
The traitor turned Dany devotee has managed to avoid death over and over again, which naturally means death is going to catch up with him to collect at the end. It will make me sad but it feels right that he goes out in a blaze of glory, perhaps even saving his unrequited love.
10. A Dragon
A major theme of the last season is going to be the sacrifice it takes to achieve victory and while it will break all of our hearts, that tells me that a second dragon is going to have to die. Which one? Most people have predicted Rhaegal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the show goes for the gut-punch and kills off Drogo, Dany’s favorite. Brutal? Absolutely but let’s not forget this is a show that turned a wedding into one of the most visceral bloodbaths in TV or movie history.
11. The Night King
Do I even need to explain this one? He’s the main villain and if he is alive at the end, that means every non-White Walker is probably dead. So this motherfucker’s gotta go.
Jon Snow vs The Night’s King – Game of Thrones 5×08 – Full HD
It seems like everyone is doing that dumb “ten year’s difference” thing on Facebook. Personally, I think this is just depressing for the military community no matter how you slice it.
Either you’re a young troop who’s now reminded of how goofy they looked as a civilian, you’re a senior enlisted/officer who’s now reminded of how much of a dumb boot they once were, or you’re a veteran who’s being reminded of how in shape you once were ten years ago.
If you’re an older vet who’s been out for longer than ten years, well, you’re probably the same salty person in the photo, and no one could tell the difference or that you aged. Maybe a bit more gray and less hair.
Anyways. The Coast Guard hasn’t been paid, but at least these memes are free!
Despite high demand, there are only a handful of B-1B Lancer bombers available to take off at a moment’s notice.
The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Air Force Gen. John Hyten, told Senate Armed Services Committee members the service has only six bombers that are ready to deploy.
“We have B-1B bombers; this is the workhorse of the Air Force today,” Hyten said during his tense confirmation hearing to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Right now, of all of our B-1 bombers, we have six of them that are fully mission capable: five split between Ellsworth Air Force Base [South Dakota] and Dyess Air Force Base [Texas], one is a test aircraft, 15 B-1s are in depot,” he said. “The remaining 39 of 44 B-1s at Ellsworth and at Dyess are down for a variety of discrepancies and inspections.”
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Air Force Central Command, takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
Hyten said the B-1 has borne the brunt of constant deployment cycles.
“We saw issues in the B-1 because we’re just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them. And so we had to pull back a little bit and get after fixing those issues. And the depots can do that if they have stable funding,” he said.
Gen. Tim Ray, commander of AFGSC, agreed that demand has outstripped available aircraft.
Earlier in 2019, Ray said the Air Force overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade, causing it to deteriorate more quickly than expected.
“We overextended the B-1s in [U.S. Central Command],” he told reporters during a breakfast with reporters April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Ray said that’s why he recalled the aircraft to the U.S. to receive upgrades and maintenance to prepare for the next high-end fight.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagle fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)
“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade. So the wear and tear on the crews, the maintainers, and certainly the airplane, that was my cause for asking for us to get out of the CENTCOM fight.”
Last year, B-1s returned to the Middle East for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years to take over strike missions from the B-52 Stratofortress. The last rotation of bombers from Dyess returned home March 11, 2019, according to Air Force Magazine.
By the end of March 2019, Ray had ordered a stand-down, marking the second fleetwide pause in about a year.
AFGSC officials said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet. Ray said his immediate concern was for the aircrews’ safety.
The aircraft resumed flights April 23, 2019.
The command again grounded the fleet over safety concerns last year over a problem also related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. Officials ordered a stand-down June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)
That pause was the direct result of an emergency landing made by a Dyess-based B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the B-1 had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow during an earlier in-flight problem.
Lawmakers took note this summer: The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in its markup of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requested that the Air Force offer a plan for how it will address the B-1’s problems. Committee members were aware that the B-1’s availability rates were in the single digits, according to Air Force Times.
The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to fly at any given time to conduct operations — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.
The Air Force has 62 Lancers in its fleet. It plans to retire the bombers in 2036.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL and special operations commander, is making a children’s book about his experiences and lessons learned from them.
The book, “Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal,” is an adaptation of the 2017 bestseller “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World” for kids that includes “life lessons from Navy SEAL training,” publisher Little, Brown, and Company said.
“As Skipper the seal embarks on Navy SEAL training, he and his hardworking friends learn much more than how to pass a swimming test or how to dive off a ship,” the publishing house wrote in a description of the upcoming book.
“To be a great SEAL, you also have to take risks, deal with failure, and persevere through tough times—just as you do in life,” it said.
“I found that stories of adventure and overcoming challenges helped shape their character and inspired them to be their very best,” he added. “I hope that ‘Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal’ is just such a book!”
McRaven’s first “Make Your Bed” book was based on a commencement speech he delivered to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas Austin, the admiral’s alma mater, and focused on ten important lessons he learned from training to become a Navy SEAL, who are among the military’s most elite special operators.
“They were simple lessons that deal with overcoming the trials of SEAL training,” McRaven wrote in the beginning of the book, “but the ten lessons were equally important in dealing with the challenges of life — no matter who you are.”
McRaven spent nearly four decades in the US armed forces, rising through the ranks and taking on various leadership positions. During his career, he led the 2009 rescue of Richard Phillips, then the captain of a merchant vessel that had been captured by Somali pirates, and oversaw the 2011 raid into Pakistan that eliminated terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
The admiral also has another book, “The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived,” that talks about some of the people he has met in his 65 years that have had an impact on his life. That book will come out in April. His first children’s book is expected six months later.
In addition to writing several books over the past few years, McRaven has also been an outspoken critic of the last administration, writing a number of widely-read opinion articles criticizing former President Donald Trump and members of his team.
One of his more famous op-eds was a 2019 article titled “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President,” in which he said: “If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.”
The only ship left in the U.S. Navy fleet that has sunk an enemy vessel is made of freakin’ wood.
Yeah, that’s right. The frigate USS Simpson (FFG-56) — which sunk an Iranian missile patrol boat in the 1980s — was decommissioned late last month. That means the 219-year-old USS Constitution is the last ship to have a kill on its scorecard.
First launched in 1797, the Constitution served until its retirement from active service in 1881, but the Navy continues to maintain the ship as a floating museum. It is perhaps best known for its exploits in the War of 1812, when the Constitution took out the HMS Guerriere, which earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides.”
Naval encounters involving the United States still occur, of course. Navy ships have been buzzed by aircraft on numerous occasions, and China has expressed concern this year about U.S. naval operations in the South China Sea. U.S. officials have downplayed any sign of conflict there, saying naval officers from the two countries regularly speak to each other while underway. The U.S. Navy also has continued to conduct aerial surveillance in the region despite warnings from the Chinese.
Meanwhile, the Simpson is being towed from Florida to Philadelphia, where it will be put up for sale to a foreign military, USNI reported. Unless of course, anyone wants to set up a Kickstarter campaign to buy their very own warship.
The Air Force has over the past few years grappled with operational demands that have drained its resources and strained its personnel.
Wars in the Middle East, ongoing tensions in Europe and Asia, and budgetary issues are a few of the issues that confront a leaner Air Force.
In recent months, the service, which celebrates its 70th birthday on Monday, is looking at personnel and administrative shakeups to streamline the way it recruits, trains, and deploys.
“We are a service that is too small for what’s being asked of us,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Air Force Times at the end of August.
“We have readiness issues at home already, and if we were to have to continue next year, either on a continuing resolution that [keeps Air Force funding] flat from last year or, even worse, under a sequester … it would be devastating, and [it would take] years to recover from it,” she added.
According to the Government Accountability Office, less than 50% of the Air Force’s units were at acceptable readiness levels. The highest-profile personnel issue facing the service may be its shortage of qualified pilots.
While the Air Force expanded its ranks during the 2016 fiscal year, as of April 2017 it was still short of its mandated 20,300 pilots by 1,555 — 950 of whom are believed to be fighter pilots. It also reported a shortage of 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, called the shortfall a “quiet crisis” in July 2016.
The Air Force is also outsourcing some of its “red air” needs by bringing in outside pilots to play the role of rival aircraft. It is also converting mothballed F-16s into training aircraft for manned and unmanned exercises.
But pilots are not the only Air Force members who find themselves taxed by a high operational tempo.
Air Force Special Operations Command has borne the brunt of 16 years of military operations. About 1,200 AFSOC personnel are deployed to over 40 countries at any given time, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb told Air Force Times. With only 14,461 active-duty officers and airmen in the the command, the scale of those deployments “can obviously create demands on them and their families,” Webb said.
“We have many airmen who have deployed more than a dozen times in the last 15 years. That’s a deployment rate our nation has not seen before,” Webb said, noting that his command has had to get waivers from the secretary of defense to allow more frequent deployments.
For regular airmen, demand is high as well. The pace of deployments was high in 2017 and is expect to remain the same in years to come.
“We can anticipate that the thickness of the training events and exercises that occurred in 2017 will be equally as thick in 2018, and we think those numbers of events are just about right,” Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, said on September 8.
The more than 30,000 Air Force personnel in Europe now are enough to meet the service’s needs, Wolters said. Despite concerns about pilot shortages and the amount of downtime, he added, “We certainly have the right number of airmen in theater at this time, when you take into account the ones we rotate in on an episodic, periodic basis.”
The Air Force is also looking to fill gaps in its ranks of officers and enlisted personnel through promotions.
This month, it said 2,001 enlisted airmen had been picked for supplemental promotions, which are typically given to airmen who face extended temporary duty assignments or are deployed to work on contingency operations.
In December, the Air Force will also offer 100% promotion opportunities to officers at captain rank.
As long as they’re qualified, recommended for promotion, and have an unblemished conduct record, the promotion is assured.
The sweeping promotion opportunity comes in response to mission demands requiring more field-grade officers, which includes majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. The Air Force is currently at 92% manning for field-grade officers and 74% manning for non-rated field-grade officers, who typically fill support roles.
“There have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a release announcing the promotion opportunity.
Those promotions come as the service is also reviewing and implementing other changes meant to adjust the administrative burden faced by airmen, as well as the strain service puts on their personal life.
“We strive across the command to encourage our airmen to achieve work-life balance,” said Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Air commandos are proud of what we continue to accomplish alongside our joint [special operations] partners, but we also know the importance of resiliency.”
US airmen “are doing some amazing things,” Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the Air Force’s top enlisted man, told Air Force Times. But they’re also dealing with manpower shortages, a lack of funding and resources, a high operational burden, and a plethora of extra duties, all of which has inspired frustration and stress.
“We can’t ask the world to calm down and not be so unstable,” Wright added. “Absent that, the best thing we can do to make our force more efficient and more effective and lethal is, with some of these additional requirements that we’ve levied upon them over the years, let’s slowly take them away, right?”
Wright said the Air Force is weighing the elimination with some performance evaluations and some units have pursued programs to improve mental health and resiliency. The Air Force has lost 62 airmen to suicide this year and looks set to match the 100 suicides seen in most years.
In addition to mental-health and professional-development initiatives, Grosso said the Air Force has started a broad overhaul of its personnel information technology systems.
The service’s personnel operations run on 200 applications using 111 different systems that date to the 1990s. Streamlining those operations will ease the manner in which airmen can handle personnel issues, like problems with paychecks that roughly 5,000 airmen deal with each month.
Grosso also said the service was looking at a two- to three-year overhaul of its performance management and evaluation systems.
“We’re not trying to speed through this,” Grosso told Air Force Times this month. “We need to get this right.”
The operational demands the Air Force faces look unlikely to ease in the near future. Despite a series of victories against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, partner forces there will need support going forward.
That, coupled with the potential expansion of Air Force duties in Afghanistan, will come as the US military faces heightened tensions in Eastern Europe and northwest Asia.
“Owning the ultimate high ground is continually going to be important as we go forward,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News.
“Air superiority is not an American birth right. It’s actually something we have to plan for, train for, fight for and win,” he added. “I see it as nothing short of a moral obligation that when any soldier or airman hears a jet noise overhead, they don’t look up. They know it’s us.”
Lt. General Charles “Chuck” Pitman passed away this past Thursday at age 84. His career spanned over 40 years, including three combat tours in Vietnam. He also was involved in Operation Eagle Claw, the attempted rescue of the American hostages in Tehran in 1980. He commanded an Air Wing and was the Deputy Chief of Staff for Marine Corps Aviation. He earned the Silver Star, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. But for all his achievements in uniform, Pitman is better known for ignoring military protocol and breaking a bunch of regulations so he could save lives.
That was the thought process of then, Lieutenant Colonel Pitman. On Jan. 7, 1973, Pitman was the commander of the Marine Air Reserve Training in Louisiana. Pitman had turned on the television to see a horrible scene unfolding. A gunman had taken position on top of a hotel and was shooting and killing police officers. The sniper had a full view of all on comers, and any attempt to enter the hotel was met with murderous gunfire.
Pitman didn’t even think twice about asking permission to help. He grabbed another pilot and two crew members and jumped in a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter and headed toward New Orleans.
The incident Pitman was flying into actually started several days earlier on New Year’s Eve. Mark Essex was a Navy vet who had been kicked out due to behavior issues. He had ended up in New Orleans, where he fell in with radical groups. One of those groups was the Black Panthers. Essex had grown angrier over time with what he perceived to be injustices he faced in the Navy and now as a civilian. After learning of a civil rights protest in which two students from Southern University were killed by police, Essex lost it.
He went to New Orleans police headquarters, where he shot and killed an African American cadet; shooting him from behind. He then fled and tried to break into a warehouse. When police arrived, unaware that he was linked to the shooting at HQ, Essex ambushed them, mortally wounding one. By the time backup arrived, he had vanished into the night.
On Jan. 7, Essex reappeared, and entered a Howard Johnson hotel in downtown New Orleans. As he made his way to the roof, he murdered a newlywed couple and the hotel’s manager and assistant manager. He then set fires in several rooms and made his way to the roof.
Essex had set an ambush. The shooting and fires would draw first responders to the scene. Then he would carry out his horrible plan to kill more cops.
As the police and firefighters arrived, they attempted to enter the hotel. Essex killed three police officers and wounded several more. He was able to pin down anyone that attempted to move toward the hotel and was completely concealed from return fire by concrete barriers on the roof.
By this time, the TV cameras had shown up. Broadcasting over the airwaves, they told viewers of the horrible situation unfolding in downtown New Orleans.
One of the viewers was Lt. Colonel Pitman.
Pitman flew the CH-46 toward the hotel without any idea what he was actually going to do. He just knew he had to do something. When he arrived on site, Pitman located an empty parking lot next to the hotel. He landed, headed to the command center, and quickly became apprised of the situation. The cops on the scene sought his advice, and his years of service in Vietnam kicked in. Essex had the high ground, so Pittman would go higher.
He put several New Orleans police officers on the helicopter and took off. He started flying passes over the roof of the hotel, slowing down and turning so that the police could get a good shot. They could not. Essex would take shots at the aircraft from afar but would take cover the minute they closed in. Pitman noticed this and kept making passes to lure Essex into thinking this was his routine. Finally, after one pass, he turned immediately around and caught Essex in the open. The police in the helicopter unloaded on the sniper.
When all was said and done, Essex was found with over 200 rounds in his body.
Pitman was lauded as a hero by the police and citizens of New Orleans and just about everybody…except the United States Marine Corps.
It turns out that Pitman (kind of… sort of) violated a few rules and regulations when he took the helicopter. He wasn’t allowed to use military personnel or aircraft for anything other than a rescue mission (like evacuating flood victims).
You would think that the Marine Corps would look at the badassery that Pitman just pulled off and call it a public relations coup. But, they didn’t (of course) and started the process of a court-martial.
It was only due to the intervention of Democratic Congressman and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Edward Herbert that the issue was dropped.
Pitman would continue his amazing career, retiring in 1990 as a Lt. General.
Lt. General Pitman, rest easy, and Semper Fidelis.
Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.
Sadly, his mother did too.
From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.
No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.
Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.
Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.
Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.
Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.
Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
Now, United may have taken it one step too far – at the expense of one of its own.
Daniel Fandrei is a United Airlines pilot who says he was not credited with his employee benefits – his accrued sick leave – while he was deployed to Southwest Asia as Air Force Reserve pilot Lt. Col. Fandrei. He reportedly filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
Fandrei is a KC-10 Extender pilot who spent December 2012 to March 2013 conducting mid-air refuelings in support of combat operations in the CENTCOM theater. According to the Justice Department, United did not give him the same benefits as other employees during that time.
The Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ensures military reserve and guard members called to active duty do not experience penalties as a result of their service.
Under the USERRA, the federal government will file legal actions against things like car repossessions and home foreclosures for activated servicemembers. Fandrei joined the Air Force as an officer in 1990 and started working for United in 2000.
“Lt. Col. Fandrei has made many sacrifices to serve our nation honorably, including spending months away from his job and family,” U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. “When our servicemembers are deployed in the service of our country, they are entitled to retain their civilian employment and benefits, and to the protections of federal law that prevent them from being subject to discrimination based upon their military obligations.”
Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.
Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.
“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.
Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.
Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”
And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.
Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”
Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.
Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”