Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.
As the nation mourns the passing of one its finest patriots, current and former members of the Marine Band remember President George H. W. Bush as a man whose love of music and uncommon graciousness elevated the unique relationship between the Chief Executive and “The President’s Own.”
“Although President Bush served as our Commander-in-Chief before my time in ‘The President’s Own,’ the close relationship he developed with the Marine Band is well-known,” Music Adviser to the White House and Marine Band Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging. He never missed an opportunity to connect with those around him and thank them for their contributions, and the men and women in the band who got to know President Bush both during his administration and in the many years beyond will always remember his ever-present appreciation and admiration for all those who served our nation alongside him.”
Col. John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.), Marine Band Director from 1979-96, recalled memories of President Bush with great ease. “Of all the presidents I served, he was the most conversive and was the kindest man in the world,” he said. He recounted how the president would make a point to bring the guest of honor from each state dinner over to Bourgeois and the Marine Chamber Orchestra to make introductions. “It was very much like being a part of the family,” Bourgeois said. It was during President Bush’s administration, in February 1990, when Bourgeois led the Marine Band on an historic 18-day concert tour of the former Soviet Union as part of the first ever U.S.-U.S.S.R. Armed Forces band exchange. “The president was integral to making that tour happen and while we were there we saw the end of the Soviet Union,” he said.
“The President’s Own” remembers and honors George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America.
(Official White House Photo)
On a more light-hearted note, Bourgeois recollected an event on Dec. 7, 1992, when the Marine Band performed Hail to the Chief at a White House holiday reception for the president’s staff. At the end of the fanfare, an unlikely gentleman made his way through the crowd and took the podium: comedian Dana Carvey, known for his uncanny impression of the president. But it was the annual Gridiron Club dinner where Bourgeois witnessed President Bush in a truly nostalgic moment. It was March 1993 and Gridiron president, Los Angeles Times bureau chief Jack Nelson, sat at the center of the head table with newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton on one side of him and former President George H. W. Bush on the other. As Bourgeois led the Marine Band to the dais for The Star-Spangled Banner, he saw both Clinton and Bush lean over to whisper to Nelson. Nelson later told Bourgeois that President Bush commented that there are many things he won’t miss about being president but the Marine Band isn’t one of them.
Few members of the Marine Band can boast of a better first performance at the White House than former Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boguslaw, USMC (Ret.). Although he had performed at the White House before May 14, 1992, this was the first time he performed solo in the private residence. As he played a medley of Broadway show tunes from “Carousel” and “Oklahoma,” President Bush and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stood in the well of his piano where he overheard the two leaders discuss perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “President Bush was always a gentleman and always came over to shake my hand and thank me,” he said.
Inaugural Parade of George H.W. Bush.
(George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)
Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Wilson, violinist and current string section commander, joined the Marine Chamber Orchestra in 1990, halfway through President Bush’s term. What impressed him about the president was that he always made a point to go out of his way to acknowledge and thank the musicians for their participation at assorted events, even if it meant shaking off his handlers to seek out the orchestra. It was during President Bush’s tenure that Wilson and several other musicians founded the Free Country ensemble and one of their early performances was at President Bush’s daughter Dorothy Bush’s wedding to Robert P. Koch at Camp David on June 27, 1992. In addition to Free Country, the Marine Band provided a brass quintet in the chapel for the ceremony and a dance band for cocktail hour. After the event, as the musicians packed up their instruments to leave, President and Barbara Bush found them to shake each of their hands, ask their names, and thank them for their music. Wilson said from that day forward, President Bush remembered his name and called him Pete each time he saw him at the White House. “He had an amazing ability with names and people,” Wilson said.
At a congressional picnic Wilson was singing with Free Country and he recalled President Bush seemed to appear from out of nowhere and shook hands with each of the musicians as they performed. Wilson considers it a point of pride that he was able to greet Bush and not lose a beat during the fast-moving lyrics of Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” It was another event, however, that Wilson can never forget. The Marine Chamber Orchestra was performing at the White House on Jan. 16, 1991 and President and Mrs. Bush were greeting visitors in a receiving line. Wilson noticed then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell walk up to the president in his green service uniform to pull him away. Bush didn’t come back to the event. When Wilson returned to Marine Barracks Washington, the news on the television in the lounge was reporting the first bombing attacks on Baghdad and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.
President Bush is accosted by a gorilla carrying mylar balloons in celebration of the President’s 65th birthday, South Lawn of the White House, June 12, 1989.
“We all recall how very kind and appreciative he was of everything the band did at the White House,” said Former Executive Assistant to the Director Capt. Frank Byrne, USMC (Ret.). “Mrs. Bush was also wonderful. I do especially recall the two Desert Storm victory parades, one in New York City and one in Washington. I marched and played in both. In NYC the crowds were so big that we hardly had room to get the band through the streets at certain points. There was ticker tape, but also all kinds of paper, including big stacks of continuous feed letter sized paper that were a challenge to get through. President Bush and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf were in the reviewing stand and were so happy and proud. It’s not often the band gets to do a big street parade in good, not freezing, weather and it was a thrill to participate.”
“I remember several occasions at the White House that President Bush, upon seeing members of the Marine Band, would pause his entourage just long enough to personally thank the members of the Marine Band and relay how much he, the First Lady and the staff appreciate our musical contribution,” said former bassoon player Master Sgt. Dyane Wright, USMC (Ret.). “He stated that the music by members of the U.S. Marine Band is what they enjoyed the most about their White House events.”
“I will always remember President and Mrs. Bush as being unfailingly gracious, kindhearted and appreciative toward the members of the Marine Band,” recalled Former Director Col. Timothy W. Foley, USMC (Ret.).
The late Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Corrado, USMC (Ret.), served ten presidents from 1958-2003. His wife Martha reflected on “Charlie’s” many, many encounters with President Bush and recalled in particular when the president requested Corrado to perform at his residence at Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 10, 1991, while he and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan prepared for the upcoming Economic Summit of the Industrialized Nations in London. “I was jealous that he got to go!” she said. “He played in the sunroom while the meetings took place and the family was very appreciative of him being there.”
George H.W. Bush poses with Marine Band Drum Major MSgt Gary Peterson at the annual Alfalfa Club Dinner.
Former principal cello Master Gunnery Sgt. Marcio Botelho, USMC (Ret.), remembered an equally memorable performance for President Bush: “It was my first year in the band and sometime between April and June I was at home when I got a call from work. The question was, ‘How quickly can you get to the Barracks? Because we have to go to the White House.’ I came in right away and we immediately departed to the White House. Only three of us went, since we were the only available musicians: concertmaster Master Sgt. Bruce Myers, violinist Gunnery Sgt. Jim Diehl, and myself. President Bush was having a working lunch with Lothar de Maizière, the newly-elected prime minister of the old GDR (East Germany) and the White House staff had discovered that the PM had been a musician. At the time we were told he had been a cellist. Anyway, we rushed in to the house, put our cases in the mezzanine level holding room and went up to the state floor. President Bush and the PM had dined in the state dining room and we set up in the Blue Room. No sooner had we set up, the president and his guest walked in and took a seat about six feet from us. Bruce called out a tune: Haydn’s London Trio No. 3, 1st movement. We played it, they thanked us, we returned to the barracks. Possibly the shortest performance I ever played at the White House.” Botelho was also quoted in a Dec. 1989-Jan. 1990 issue of the Marine Band’s newsletter Notes saying, “It’s surprising because even though we are performing background music, people often make it a point to compliment us. In fact, at all of the state dinners the President and Mrs. Bush have greeted us and thanked us at the end.”
President George H.W. Bush escorts Queen Elizabeth II of England during a State Dinner at the White House on May 14, 1991.
(Official White House Photo)
In 2011, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library requested a Marine Band uniform for a new exhibit featuring a baby grand piano from the Bush’s collection. Then-Drum Major Master Gunnery Sgt. William L. Browne, USMC (Ret.) prepared the uniform and personally fitted the mannequin that would wear it. After Browne took the uniform to the tailor for alterations and cleaning, he carefully packed it in his carry-on luggage and traveled to College Station in December 2011 to ensure that it was installed correctly. He arrived to find the mannequin sitting at the piano with permanently bent legs that presented some technical challenges. He assisted curator Susanne Cox in putting the mannequin in place on the bench at the piano and made last minute adjustments to the fit and appearance. One thing he couldn’t adjust, however, was the length of the mannequin’s hair. “I know how hard it is to give a mannequin a haircut so I made an exception just this once,” he said with a wry smile. Browne was honored to participate in this exhibit for the senior former President Bush. “Every time I’ve seen him at an event, he and Mrs. Bush always made a point to come over to thank the band,” he said. “At my very first presidential event as Drum Major in 2008, President Bush stopped me in the hallway to say how much he appreciated the band and how good it was to hear us.”
The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Col. Fettig, will perform one last time for President Bush at his funeral service at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Selections include Gustav Holst’s Nocturne from A Moorside Suite, Kevin Siegfried’s arrangement of “Lay Me Low” from Shaker Songs, Aaron Copland’s Our Town, Paul Christiansen’s arrangement of “My Song in the Night,” John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen, and Samuel Augustus Ward’s “America, the Beautiful.”
In March 2018, the United States Paralympic Team sent 18 U.S. military veterans to PyeongChang, South Korea to compete for Olympic gold. That’s just under a quarter of the whole U.S. team. They competed in alpine skiing, curling, and sled hockey, bringing home more than a couple of gold medals — 36 medals in all.
They represented all branches of the U.S. military and have deployed to all areas of the Earth in support of the United States. According to the New York Times, the games are, in a way, getting back to their military roots. The Paralympic Games started off as the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 which, at the time, were specifically for wounded World War II veterans.
Today, funding for Paralympic athletes is more readily and widely available to aspirants who are also military veterans. Even as the number of returning, wounded veterans gets lower overall, the number of vets on the Team USA roster swells. It’s just more difficult for a non-veteran to get a start, considering the support that comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs and nonprofits like the Semper Fi Fund.
But once on the team, they’re Team USA — all the way. There is no rift between the veterans and non-veterans. This year’s USA Sled Hockey Team featured five Marines and two Army veterans among the 17 members of the team. They took home the gold.
I’m honored and proud to be able to wear our colors and the big ‘USA’ on the front of our jerseys,” says Rico Roman, one of the two Army veterans. “It’s great to be out there with other veterans and to be able to represent our country on the highest level of Paralympic athletics in our sport of sled hockey.
Justin Marshall, who is a non-veteran member of the USA’s Wheelchair Curling Team, says he would never be resentful of the extra funding available to veterans. They’re his teammates.
“Almost every guy in my family served in the military, and I probably would have followed except I had my spinal cord stroke when I was 12,” Marshall told the New York Times. “It helps them so I can’t be mad at them for it. I wish I had that extra funding, but I don’t, so I just try to find another way to take care of that.”
On April 17, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft safely returned to earth after suffering major malfunctions on its journey to the Moon.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Apollo 13 astronaut John “Jack” Swigert famously told the NASA Mission Control Center “Houston” during the Apollo 13 spaceflight.
200,000 miles from Earth, three astronauts and veteran test pilots were scrambling to adapt and overcome a seemingly impossible challenge. They were James Lovell — a Navy Captain and test pilot; Jack Swigert — a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard; and Fred Haise — a fighter pilot in both the Marine Corps and Air Force.
Two days into their mission to the Moon, an oxygen tank exploded, severely disrupting their supply of oxygen, electricity and water. They aborted their landing mission, and scrambled to implement creative and improvised solutions suggested by the support staff back in Houston.
They’d have to improvise a way to make a square filter fit into a round hole. They’d conjured up a makeshift lifeboat.
The support staff no longer cared what the spaceship had been designed to do – they had to figure out how to squeeze every bit of capability from the vehicle.
Overcoming nearly impossible odds, the crew guided the spacecraft back to earth, reentered the atmosphere and touched down in the Pacific Ocean, where they were recovered by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.
Featured Image: The crew of the Apollo 13 mission step aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter, which made the pick-up some four miles from the Iwo Jima are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise, Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. The Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down at 12:07:44 pm CST on April 17, 1970. (NASA Image)
The U.S. Marine Corps air and ground attack operations will be fortified by a new high-tech, heavy-lift helicopter designed to triple the payload of previous models, maneuver faster and perform a wider range of missions by the early 2020s, a Pentagon announcement said.
The Navy and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky will now build the first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopters as part of a new $300 million Low-Rate-Initial-Production deal.
CH-53 helicopters, currently operating from Navy amphibious assault ships, are central to maritime and land assault, re-supply, cargo and other kinds of heavy-lift missions.
The new “K” model CH-53 helicopter is engineered to lift 27,000 pounds, travel 110 nautical miles, before staying 30 minutes on station and then be able to return under high hot conditions. The existing “E” model CH-53 can only carry 9,000 pounds.
“This contract will benefit our Marine Corps’ ‘heavy lifters’ for decades to come. Future Marines, not even born yet, will be flying this helicopter well into the future,” U.S. Marine Corps. Col. Hank Vanderborght, Naval Air Systems Command program manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters program said in service statement.
The idea with the helicopter is to engineer a new aircraft with much greater performance compared to the existing CH-53 E or “Echo” model aircraft designed in the 80s.
Higher temperatures and higher altitudes create a circumstance wherein the decreased air-pressure makes it more difficult for helicopters to fly and carry payloads. “High-Hot” conditions are described as being able to operate at more than 6,000 ft at temperatures greater than 90-degrees Fahrenheit.
An on-board refueling system is engineered into the helicopter to extend mission range in high-risk areas too dangerous for a C-130 to operate, developers said.
The requirement for the “K” model CH-53 emerged out of a Marine Corps study which looked at the combat aviation elements of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, or MAGTF.
Engineers with the “K” program are using a handful of new technologies to achieve greater lift, speed and performance with the helicopter, including the integration of a new, more powerful GE 38 turboshaft engine for the aircraft.
“Fuel consumption of the engine is 25-percent improved. On a pure technology level it is about a 25-percent improvement in fuel efficiency,” Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky’s CH-53K program vice president, told Scout Warrior in a previous interview.
The helicopter is also being built with lighter-weight composite materials for the airframe and the rotorblades, materials able to equal or exceed the performance of traditional metals at a much lighter weight, said Torok.
“Technology allowed us to design a largely all-composite skinned airframe. There are some primary frames titanium and aluminum. Beam structure and all the skins are all composite. Fourth generation rotorblades are a combination of new airfoils, taper and a modification of the tip deflection of the blade. It is an integrated cuff and the tip geometries are modified to get additional performance,” Torok added.
The helicopter will also be configured with Directional Infrared Countermeasures, or DIRCM, a high-tech laser-jammer designed to throw incoming missiles off course. DIRCM uses sensor technology to identify and thwart fast-approaching enemy fire such as shoulder-fired weapons.
The CH-53 K uses a split-torque transmission design that transfers high-power, high-speed engine output to lower-speed, high-torque rotor drive in a weight efficient manner.
“With the split torque you take the high-speed inputs from the engine and you divide it up into multiple pieces with multiple gear sets that run in parallel,” Torok said.
The K model will be a “fly by wire” capable helicopter and also use the latest in what’s called conditioned-based maintenance, a method wherein diagnostic sensors are put in place to monitor systems on the aircraft in order to better predict and avert points of mechanical failure.
US Vice President Mike Pence agreed to hold a secret meeting with North Korean officials while at the Olympic Games, The Washington Post reported Feb. 20, 2018.
The meeting was set to go ahead Feb. 10, 2018, but the North Koreans pulled out less than two hours before. It was the same day North Korea’s visiting delegates, which included Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un, met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and invited him to Pyongyang for a meeting between the leaders.
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, told The Post.
The vice president’s office told The Post that the delegation pulled out of the meeting because the vice president met with North Korean defectors and had announced new sanctions. Before reaching South Korea, Pence said the US would soon unveil the “toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.”
Ahead of his tour of Asia, Pence had not confirmed whether he would meet with North Korean officials, once saying only, “we’ll see what happens.” The US State Department, however, had explicitly ruled out any planned meeting.
“There are no plans to meet with any North Korean officials during or after the Olympics; I want to be clear about that. There are no plans to do so,” the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Feb. 6, 2018. “The secretary and the vice president said we’ll see what happens when we get to the Olympics.”
This contradicts the latest report from The Post, which said that the meeting between Pence and North Korean officials took two weeks to organize and that efforts began after the CIA received word North Korea wanted to meet with Pence.
Pence agreed to the meeting before leaving for his Asia trip on Feb. 5, 2018. President Donald Trump; the White House chief of staff, John Kelly; CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were all reportedly involved in the discussions.
According to The Post, the purpose of the meeting was to convey the US stance on sanctions and denuclearization, rather than open the door to negotiations.
“The president made a decision that if they wanted to talk, we would deliver our uncompromising message. If they asked for a meeting, we would meet,” Ayers said in a statement to CBS News. “As we’ve said from day one about the trip: This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics. Perhaps that’s why they walked away from a meeting, or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down.”
The meeting was set to take place at the Blue House, the South Korean equivalent of the White House, with Pence, a National Security Council representative, an intelligence representative, and Pence’s chief of staff meeting Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s official head of state, Kim Yong Nam.
The Post said North Korea confirmed the meeting the morning of the day it was to take place but pulled out hours later.
“At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting. We regret their failure to seize this opportunity,” Nauert told the news media.
“We will not allow North Korea’s attendance at the Winter Olympics to conceal the true nature of the regime and the need for the world to remain united in the face of its illicit weapons programs. The maximum-pressure campaign deepening North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation will continue until North Korea agrees to credible talks on a way forward to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
North Korea and the US do communicate
The news of the meeting discussions shows that while the two countries don’t have diplomatic relations, North Korea and the US do indeed communicate.
Last year, Tillerson confirmed there were “three channels open to Pyongyang.”
It’s unclear what these channels are, after North Korea ended communication to the US via its mission to the United Nations in New York in 2016.
No misconduct was involved in the decision by personnel in the American-lead Combined Air Operations Center to carry out an air strike that killed a number of Syrian-government aligned forces on Sept. 17.
That is the central finding of an investigation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Coe.
“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said of the personnel on duty when the incident happened, according to an official report released Nov. 29.
The strike took place near Dayr Az Zawr. A release from Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve for that day noted the incident, stating that one strike “believed to have engaged an ISIL fighting position, may have mistakenly struck a Syrian military unit and destroyed Syrian military vehicles.”
While “friendly fire” is nothing new — in the War on Terror, coalition forces had over three dozen such incidents — the question is always the same: How did such a mistake happen?
Well, that’s been asked over the years after other incidents, like when Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate soldiers on a picket line, or when Allied ships off Sicily opened fire on C-47 transports carrying elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, downing 23 transports.
The report reveals a few of the causes. First, the Syrian forces were not exactly in uniform when they were first detected by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Yet they were packing a lot of firepower, and were near tunnels and other fighting positions.
This lead planners to believe they’d spotted an ISIS unit out in the open. It was a classic case of mistaken identity, compounded by a misunderstanding (the United States personnel used the wrong reference point when informing the Syrian allied Russians of the strike).
And it was made worse by some good old-fashioned Russian paranoia.
According to the report, when the Russians called on a de-confliction hotline, they waited 27 minutes for their normal point of contact to arrive before passing on the news that Syrian forces were being hit. During that time, 15 of the 37 attack sorties were carried out.
Coe’s report not only recommended that in the future both sides not only pass critical information immediately, but also that the entire Flight Safety Memorandum of Understanding that helps keep Syrian and Russian targets from being struck by coalition air power be reviewed and updated.
Top CENTCOM commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian has ordered Coe’s recommendations be implemented, saying, “In this instance, we did not rise to the high standard we hold ourselves to, and we must do better than this each and every time.”
While the changes recommended will hopefully lessen the chance of friendly fire incidents in the future, friendly fire will still always be a risk on a complex battlefield.
Hurricane-like winds roared across the state of California, creating a catalyst that ignited wildfires Oct. 8, 2017. The fires tore through northern California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.
One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, which lost 3,000 homes to the Tubbs fire.
Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and his wife Marissa, were sleeping in their home in Santa Rosa, when they were startled awake by a pounding at their door at 2 a.m. that first morning. As they answered the knock, Marissa’s family stood outside. Their house was gone.
“We were dead asleep, just like everyone else,” Baglien said.
After answering the door, he ran into the street.
“You could see the glow all around us, a total 360,” he said. “You couldn’t know the extent of it.”
To get an idea of the scope of the fire, he and his wife drove to a high point.
“From there, we could see how massive this fire was,” he said. “It was obvious how bad things were getting.”
Driving around, they saw downed power lines and office buildings burning with no one around.
“It was truly humbling seeing my city burn,” he said.
“We went around to friends’ houses, families’ houses, neighbors’ houses, waking up everyone we could,” Baglien continued. “A lot of people had no idea.”
The next move was to go and grab water and start giving it to whoever needed it.
“We just drove around wherever they would let us,” he said. “It was a battle of trying to get in somewhere before they would block off the road. We were just trying to do whatever we could to help, whether that was finding stray animals, waking up neighbors, or bringing people water.”
The homes on the street his family lived on were completely burned to the ground. Chimneys stand above the ashes, like gravestones in a cemetery, tin rememberance of what once was. Charred cars and appliances are all that remains of families’ possessions.
“The neighbors next to my family have four kids, which is pretty hard to deal with,” Baglien said. “They worked out of their home. To see it gone is humbling, to say the least.”
The next day, after his family arrived, the Bagliens drove around giving out clothes, blankets, and water to anyone who was distraught. While trying to figure out where the fire was, they determined what actions to take.
The second day of the fires, he got a call from a friend with bad news.
“My buddy, he works in ambulances, told me, ‘Hey, I just got a radio call. The fire is coming over your ridge. You’ve got to pack your [things] because it’s coming,'” Baglien said.
They immediately drove home to find their neighborhood in chaos.
“People were freaking out, which is just so unnecessary,” he described. “We were seeing fights at gas stations and over water.”
So, Martin, his wife, and in-laws all evacuated. The Airman and his wife sent their family to Petaluma where they would be safe with other family members. However, the firefighter and his wife felt wrong about leaving.
“After we sent them down to Petaluma, my wife and I headed to our evacuation center and just started helping, doing everything we can,” he said. “I told them I was a firefighter and they said, ‘Hey, we can totally use you.'”
The scene was chaotic, he described. He ran around unloading ambulances, hooking people up to oxygen, scrambling to find extension cords, and passing out clothes.
“People were coming up to me saying, ‘I just want to go home,'” he said. “And you just had to look at them, smile, and say, ‘We’ll figure this out.'”
In the midst of all the chaos, Baglien said he saw a lot of joy.
“The community really came together,” he said. “We saw a lot more smiles than frowns, which is truly beautiful.”
Baglien and his wife, a nursing student, devoted themselves to volunteering and doing everything they could to help people out. As an Air Force Reserve firefighter, he really wanted to help out in that way.
“Everyday I would get up, put on my wildland gear, and go to either the nearest strike team or go to the evacuation center where they staged,” he said. “I’d get turned away, which is understandable. But, I’d tell them, ‘I’ll roll hoses, I’ll cook, I’ll clean,’ because you got to look at the bigger picture.”
But Martin and Marissa were not deterred. Whenever he got turned down, the two would just find another place to volunteer.
“You just give time,” he said. “Because it’s all about your family, your friends, your community. It was really important to do whatever we could for those people in need.”
Even though he and his wife were working themselves to exhaustion every day, Baglien still felt something was missing.
“I was getting up and doing everything that I could,” he said. “But, it didn’t feel like enough. I never had that fulfillment.”
Finally, he got a call from Travis Air Force Base to report to base. The Atlas Fire was rapidly spreading in Solano County.
“I jumped at the chance to go to base,” he said. “I was on standby, that’s where you start to see the bigger picture. In the fire department, everyone wants to be on the fire line; fight the fire, do the job, and be a hero. But at the same time, you have to know where your response is and where you are needed.”
The fires have since diminished, leaving desolation in their wake. Now, the recovery begins for thousands across California. Many have taken notice of what is truly important in their lives and have leaned on their community members for support.
“I think with all the destruction and chaos and horrible things we were seeing, a lot of people still got out with their skin,” Baglien said. “Seeing people lose everything, but they still had those smiles, because they still had each other; and that’s all that matters. They realized the things they lost were just [things]. It’s really good for people to see this.”
Baglien credited his Air Force Reserve training for helping him stay calm in such a stressful situation.
“The training we get with the 349th [CES] is wonderful and I truly love it,” he said. “We get very good training from everyone there. I could watch everything – combining the classes we’ve taken and the lectures – you start getting into it, and watching the fire and winds and understanding how hot it is. It really helped me to stay calm.”
Baglien’s home still stands, though his in-laws’ is gone. But, they are getting help.
“We are getting a lot of support from the community for our family,” he said. “Right now, they are living with us and various family members. Someone even just donated us a trailer to use for a while.”
“It’s really beautiful to see the community come together, and definitely for the better,” the firefighter said with hope. “It’s really important that we continue to overcome and we continue to push forward from this, because it really is just another day.”
The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
The US Navy bragged on social media Tuesday morning that it currently has seven aircraft carriers underway, a major improvement over the situation in late October, when half the carrier fleet was in a non-deployable state.
“The Navy has 7 aircraft carriers underway today. NBD,” the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) tweeted Tuesday in a humble-brag; “NBD” is an acronym for “no big deal.”
Less than two months ago, the Navy had that many carriers stuck pier-side due to maintenance issues, preparation for mid-life overhauls, unexpected malfunctions, and new construction challenges.
On the East Coast, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) was winding up to a deployment after an extended maintenance availability.
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) was in the yard for its Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) pier-side, apparently in preparation for its mid-life overhaul.
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was in extended maintenance. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was down for an electrical malfunction.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was in an extended post-shakedown availability.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
And, on the West Coast, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was in maintenance, leaving only handful of the 11 carriers readily available.
Even with less than half of its carriers available, the Navy still had ready an unmatched carrier force, but the problem is that with that many ships in the yard, it makes it harder to meet the demand for carriers, important tools for the projection of American military power.
“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill. The combatant commanders want carriers,” Richard Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, said at that time.
Right now, the Truman is underway in the 6th Fleet area of operations while the Stennis, Ike, and Ford are all underway in the Atlantic. The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) are underway in the 3rd Fleet AOR, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) remains in the 5th Fleet AOR, the Navy told Insider.
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is forward-deployed in Japan, but it is currently in port.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.
The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.
However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.
Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.
Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.
The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.
Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.
“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.
Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.
The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.
North Korea unveiled a remarkably powerful bomb in its latest nuclear test, one with the ability to level entire urban centers.
In the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, state media claimed that the rogue regime had successfully tested a staged thermonuclear weapon – a hydrogen bomb. Explosive yield estimates range are around 150 kilotons, orders of magnitude larger than any bomb the North has tested before. While the international community has been trying to figure out what to do about this alarming development, Pyongyang has been celebrating its entry into the elite thermonuclear weapons club.
When North Korea’s nuclear scientists and engineers returned home, they were given a heroes welcome in Pyongyang. Similar celebrations were held after the successful test of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, on which Kim Jong Un plans to mount his newest bomb.
Officials held another celebration Saturday to honor the individuals who contributed to the development of the latest addition to North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal. During Saturday’s celebratory concert, images of North Korea’s achievements were presented on the big screen, a not uncommon pastime for the regime.
The North revealed images of the nuclear bomb tested last Sunday at the celebration this weekend.
The bomb used in the test appears to be a slight variation of the warhead North Korea presented just hours before its shocking nuclear test. The shape suggests that the device may very well be a thermonuclear weapon, with one chamber for the fission reaction and another for the fusion reaction to produce a substantial explosive yield.
In the wake of the country’s sixth nuclear test, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new ICBM, which can effectively strike parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. While it is difficult to know for certain, it would appear that the North is “locked and loaded” for intercontinental strikes if it needed to do so.
“The recent test of the H-bomb is a great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,” young North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said at the banquet Saturday, referring to North Korea’s success in the face of tough international sanctions and mounting pressure.
The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.
It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.
But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”
Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:
Snipers know why there’s some truth there…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)
1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak
Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.
If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.
“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)
2. It’s ironic
The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.
We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)
3. Marines have better insults for each other
The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.
The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?
Didn’t think so.
They’re laughing at you, not with you.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)
If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.