VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

Creating a sense of community may look different for each of us. While some Americans enjoy the close proximity of city life, those who live in rural areas welcome the less crowded towns and wide open spaces as signs of home.

Although many rural residents enjoy these perks, the very nature of life in rural communities may unintentionally isolate them from others. Rural Veterans often report lower quality of life related to mental health than their urban counterparts, a challenge exacerbated by a lack of qualified specialists or nearby medical facilities.


Mental Health Month is observed each May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. Many risk factors disproportionately affect Veterans, especially those in rural communities with shortages of mental health providers.

As the lead advocate for rural Veterans, VA’s Office of Rural Health implements multiple support programs to help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans. In 2019, ORH focused on eight critical mental health and suicide prevention programs, including:

  • Rural Suicide Prevention connects Veterans to comprehensive suicide prevention services and resources through enhanced education, public awareness campaigns, community training, crisis support, firearm safety, and care management for high risk individuals.
  • Vets Prevail Web Based Behavioral Support provides Veterans suffering from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder with tools to overcome these challenges. The program focuses on Veterans returning from recent conflicts, like Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
  • Military Sexual Trauma Web-Based Therapy uses telehealth to deliver specialized mental health care directly to the homes of Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.
  • Clinical Resource Hubs – Telemental Health connects specialists with rural Veterans to ensure access to mental health care services in rural areas.

To find out if these programs and others like them are available in your area, please contact your local VA medical center.

Support

If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Medal of Honor recipient was laid to rest after more than 60 years

A naval aviator who earned the Medal of Honor during the Korean War was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, April 4, 2018.

Family and friends of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., as well as a number of service members, attended the ceremony which began at the Old Post Chapel on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Va.


Rear Adm. William Galinis, Program Executive Officer, Ships presented the flag that draped Hudner’s casket to his wife, Georgea Hudner. Also in attendance was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, (Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command, and Cmdr. Nathan Scherry, Commanding Officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
Rear Adm. William J. Galinis presents the national ensign to the family of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. at Arlington National Cemetery.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)

Full military honors were rendered by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at the Old Post Chapel and at the final interment site at ANC. In addition, the ceremony also included a missing man formation flyover by Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32), the same squadron Hudner was assigned to when he earned the Medal of Honor. VFA-32 flew out of Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
Sailors render a 21-gun salute for Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. at Arlington National Cemetery during Hudner’s funeral.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)

Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. During a mission, one of his fellow pilots, the Navy’s first African American naval aviator to fly in combat, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, was hit by anti-aircraft fire damaging a fuel line and causing him to crash. After it became clear Brown was seriously injured and unable to free himself, Hudner proceeded to purposefully crash his own aircraft to join Brown and provide aid. Hudner injured his own back during his crash landing, but stayed with Brown until a rescue helicopter arrived. Hudner and the rescue pilot worked in the sub-zero, snow-laden area in an unsuccessful attempt to free Brown from the smoking wreckage. Although the effort to save Brown was not successful, Hudner was recognized for the heroic attempt.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
Four F/A-18 Super Hornets flyover the funeral of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)

“A hero the day he tried to rescue Jesse, a hero when he served our community, and a hero when he passed,” said Scherry. “Whenever I spoke to him, he always talked of Jesse and Jesse’s family. He never spoke of himself, or anything he did. It was never about Tom… We will, as the first crew of his ship, carry forward his legacy and his values of family, life, equality, and service every day of our lives.”

Hudner was the last living Navy recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Korean War.

After receiving recognition for his heroism, Hudner remained on active duty, completing an additional 22 years of naval service during which his accomplishments include flying 27 combat missions in the Korean War and serving as the executive officer aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) during the Vietnam War.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
Medal of Honor recipient retired Capt. Thomas Hudner salutes while taps is played during the Centennial of Naval Aviation wreath laying.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mikelle D. Smith)

PCU Hudner is expected to be commissioned in Boston later this year and will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to join the fleet.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia improving range of feared Kalibr cruise missile

The Russian Navy is apparently developing a new long-range cruise missile, Russia’s state-run Tass News Agency reported Jan. 8, 2019, citing a source in the military-industrial complex.

The weapon in the works is reportedly the new Kalibr-M cruise missile, a ship-launched weapon able to deliver a precision strike with a conventional or nuclear warhead as far as 2,800 miles away. That’s roughly three times the range of the US’s Block III TLAM-C Tomahawk cruise missiles.


The new missile will be carried by large surface ships and nuclear submarines once it is delivered to the fleet, which is expected to occur before the conclusion of the state armament program in 2027.

The Kalibr-M, with a warhead weighing one metric ton, is said to be larger than the Kalibr missiles currently in service, which are suspected to have a range of roughly 2,000 km (roughly 1,200 miles).

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

US Block III Tomahawk cruise missile.

(US Navy photo)

Although state media, citing its unnamed source, reported that the Russian defense ministry is financing the weapon’s development, Russia has not officially confirmed that the navy is working on the new Kalibr-M cruise missile.

Senior US defense officials have previously expressed concern over the existing Kalibr missiles, noting, in particular, the weapon’s range.

“You know, Russia is not 10 feet tall, but they do have capabilities that keep me vigilant, concerned,” Adm. James Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe, told reporters at the Pentagon in October 2018.

“They’re firing the Kalibr missile, very capable missile,” he explained. “It has a range which, if launched from any of the seas around Europe, … could range any one of the capitals of Europe. That is a concern to me, and it’s a concern to my NATO partners and friends.”

The Kalibr missile, around since the 1990s, made its combat debut in attacks on Syria in 2015.

Russia is, according to a recent report from the Washington Free Beacon, planning to deploy these long-range precision-strike cruise missiles on warships and submarines for Atlantic Ocean patrols.

Featured image by Brian Burnell, CC-BY-SA-3.0.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In the IRR? The military may want you back if you served in one of these jobs

At least one of the military services says it’s looking for members of the Individual Ready Reserve to come back into the fold — and the call goes beyond just those who served in medical specialties.

As the country faces a potentially monthslong emergency over the novel coronavirus crisis, the military services could turn to a pool of veterans who thought their days in uniform were behind them.


President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month giving the Pentagon the authority to recall some members of the IRR to active duty — a move that likely sent many veterans rushing to check their discharge papers. Veterans can typically be recalled to active duty for eight years after the start of their service contracts, even once they’re out of uniform.

Most of the services say they’re still assessing their needs in the wake of Trump’s new order. But Lt. Col. Mary Ricks, a spokeswoman for Army Human Resources Command, said they’re seeking volunteers who served in at least four fields outside medical jobs.

“The Army is also looking for soldiers who served in the areas of logistics, aviation, as drill sergeants or recruiters,” Ricks said. “Protecting our citizens from coronavirus is a whole-of-nation call, and we need the help of our Individual Ready Reserve and our Retired Soldiers to maximize this critical effort.”

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, she added, is an “extraordinary challenge [that] requires equally extraordinary solutions.”

The Navy and Marine Corps are still reviewing whether there’s a need to recall members of the IRR, spokesmen for those services said.

The Air Force expects to target medical personnel for mobilization first, but it could expand to other specialties. That includes command-and-control elements and logistics personnel, said Sean Houlihan, an Air Force Reserve Command spokesman.

While there’s not an immediate plan to tap former airmen who served in those fields, Houlihan said the Air Force has the authority to do so.

“[Air Reserve Component] members must be prepared for mobilization at any time,” he said.

This wouldn’t be the first time the military has turned to voluntary or involuntary recall to carry out a critical mission. The Army notified around 21,000 members of the IRR they were needed during Desert Storm, Ricks said. About 18,000 of them reported for duty.

The Marine Corps got the authority in 2006 to recall up to 2,000 members of the IRR for a one-year period, said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a Marine Corps Forces Reserve spokesman. That was in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., when combat missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq ramped up.

The military services have activated at least a portion of the Reserves to carry out missions tied to the coronavirus pandemic. The Army Reserve has several sustainment, logistics and civil-authority units providing services in Utah, as well as New Orleans and other U.S. cities.

The Navy has nearly 200 reservists serving on hospital ships in New York and California, said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale, a Navy Reserve Force spokesman. Dozens more Navy reservists are serving on COVID-19 response missions across the joint force, he added.

If the pandemic requires a large-scale military response, officials say there are a host of benefits to being able to tap into the IRR to recall service members.

“It is a pre-trained pool of manpower that is available for recall on short notice to fulfill service requirements,” Hollenbeck said. “This means that most IRR Marines will require only minimal screening and training in order to return to active duty.”

Ricks said former soldiers and retirees possess the skills, training and education to augment the Army’s COVID-19 responses.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

That could prove invaluable, she added, “to ultimately win this fight.”

The likelihood of involuntary recalls being used will probably depend on how many veterans who recently left the service volunteer to fill in-demand requirements.

The Army over the last several weeks has seen an influx of volunteers after asking medical professionals in eight specialties to return to service to backfill hospitals after troops were called on to fill emergency field facilities in areas hard hit by coronavirus outbreaks. More than 25,000 retired and former soldiers have offered to return to their former uniformed roles.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Marines drop photo requirements for promotion, selection process

The Marine Corps is the latest service branch to announce a policy removing official photos from promotion considerations.

The directive states “photographs are not authorized information for promotion boards and selection processes pertaining to assignment, training, education, and command,” according to MARADMIN 491/20. It takes effect Tuesday.

The Army implemented a similar policy in August.

For those Marines who have already submitted promotion packages or have included recently-updated selection photos to their Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), those photos will not be considered by the board when selecting candidates for promotion, assignment, training, education, or command.


The move is in response to a larger effort to address diversity in the military, which includes the establishment of a Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion by Secretary Dr. Mark Esper.

Esper released a memorandum in mid-summer calling for “immediate actions to address diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in the military services.” The document outlines several tasks on how the different branches are to address these issues within the services including updating the department’s equal opportunity and diversity inclusion policies, increasing training regarding diversity, racial bias, and equal opportunity, updating policies on grooming with regards to racial differences and removing photographs from promotion boards and selection processes.

Read the full memo here: Immediate Actions to Address Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Military Services

Though photographs will be removed from OMPFs, additional guidance is expected that includes “provisions for establishing diverse selection panels and the removal of all references to race, ethnicity, and gender in personnel packets reviewed by panel members.” These processes will help to ensure that promotion boards and selection processes “enable equal opportunity for all service members, promote diversity … and are free from bias based on race, ethnicity, gender or national origin.” The USD(PR) has until the end of September to provide this additional guidance to all branches.

The Council of Foreign Relations examined diversity rates across all branches of the military. For the Marine Corps, about 90% of male enlisted recruits and 70% of female enlisted recruits are white. Only 15% of male and female enlisted recruits are Black, and Asians only represent about 5% of the enlisted recruit population. However, the Marine Corps has a higher rate of Hispanics than any other branch — outweighing the civilian workforce — with about 30% male and almost 40% of female recruits being of Hispanic ethnicity.

CFR also found that racial diversity decreases at the upper ranks with data showing generals to be disproportionately white. Complete findings can be found at Demographics of the U.S. Military.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What the world’s top 25 militaries have in their arsenals

President Donald Trump has reemphasized military strength, reportedly planning to ask for $716 billion in defense spending in 2019 — a 7% increase over the 2018 budget (though spending is currently limited by budget caps).


US defense spending is the highest in the world, more than the combined budgets of the next several countries. But US plans to ramp up acquisitions of military hardware will only add to an already booming arms industry.

More: Everything you need to know about the massive new defense bill

Between 2012 and 2016, more weapons were delivered around the world than during any five-year period since 1990.

Below, you can see the world’s top 5 militaries, as ranked by Global Firepower Index.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
(Screenshot from GlobalFirepower.com)

The ranking assesses the diversity of weapons held by each country and pays particular attention to the manpower available.

“Balance is the key — a large, strong fighting force across land, sea, and air backed by a resilient economy and defensible territory along with an efficient infrastructure — such qualities are those used to round out a particular nation’s total fighting strength on paper,” the ranking states.

But a few defining aspects of those countries’ ability to muster military power are not directly related to their armed forces.

Geographical factors, logistical flexibility, natural resources, and local industry all influenced the final ranking, Global Firepower said.

Also read: NATO’s second-largest military power is threatening a dramatic pivot to Russia and China

Each of the top 10 countries have a labor force of more than 30 million people. Three of the top five — the US, China, and India — have more than 150 million available workers.

The following 15 countries vary more widely in labor-force size — from 123.7 million in Indonesia to 3.9 million in Israel — but they still have more than 37.2 million workers on average.

Industrial and labor capacity are complemented by robust logistical capabilities, including extensive railway and roadway networks, numerous major ports and airports, and strong merchant-marine corps. Extensive coastlines and waterways also facilitate the movement of goods and people.

For the US, those logistical capacities have been tested by increasing activity in Afghanistan as well as efforts to built up its presence in Europe.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
Vehicles and other cargo are unloaded from the USNS Bob Hope by the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, November 1, 2017. (US Army by Sgt. Jaccob Hearn)

The US Army’s 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade served as the logistics headquarters in Afghanistan in 2017. During its six-month deployment, the unit distributed more than 380 million gallons of fuel throughout Afghanistan — a landlocked country roughly the size of Texas.

“It’s not easy to [transport] fuel. You have to get it to the right place at the right time. You have to make sure it’s of the right quality, and you have to make sure you have storage on one end and distribution capability on the other end,” Col. Michael Lalor, the brigade commander, said in late February. “That’s what always kept me up at night.”

US Military Sealift Command (MSC), which oversees the US Navy’s fleet of mostly civilian-crewed support ships, is adding ships to boost its presence around Europe and Africa, in response to both insurgent activity and growing tensions with Russia — all of which have added tension to the US’s already strained supply lines.

Also read: The 25 most powerful militaries in the world 2018

In 2017, MSC moved twice as much ordnance, three times as many critical parts, and one-third as much cargo in Europe and Africa as it did in 2016.

“I definitely don’t see (activity) going down anytime soon,” Capt. Eric Conzen, MSC commander in Europe and Africa, told Stars and Stripes of his unit’s workload. “There’s a desire for it to increase.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fake text messages about a military draft are being sent to Americans

The US Army issued an warning against “fraudulent” text messages that claimed the recipients were selected for a military draft.

A spokesperson from US Army Recruiting Command (USAREC), the organization responsible for attracting prospective soldiers, told Insider the text messages were being sent “across the country from different brigades” this week.

USAREC said it received multiple emails and calls about the text messages, and that it was in no way associated with the US Army; the people behind the emails claimed to serving in the Army.


The text messages claimed that the sender was “contacting you through mail several times and have had no response,” according to photographs obtained by Insider.

The messages, which advised the recipient to “come to the nearest branch” in the Florida and New Jersey area, falsely claimed that the recipient would be “fined and sent to jail for a minimum 6 years” if there was no reply.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

U.S. Army recruits wait in line for their initial haircut while still partially dressed in their civilian clothes during basic combat training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

The decision to enact a military draft is initiated by the Selective Service Administration. All American males between 18 and 25 years of age are required by law to register with the organization. The database for these individuals are compiled in the event Congress declares a military draft.

“The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual,” the Selective Service System previously said in a statement. “In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft.”

The text messages comes amid the US airstrike against Iran’s elite Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday. Following the attack that also killed the leader of the Shiite Iran-backed militia responsible for the assault on the US Embassy in Iraq, search queries like “World War III” and “military draft” began trending on social media platforms.

The last time the draft was implemented was in 1973, during the Vietnam War.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

The United States is banking on the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning to provide an advantage in a major war with China or Russia. These high-performance planes use stealth technology to evade enemy radars.


VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

The first operational stealth combat jet, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, was a gamechanger. It was able to penetrate air defenses, giving the enemy no idea that they were overhead — until the bombs hit their targets. The F-117 was followed by the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Those planes gave China and Russia some real problems. Although they weren’t entirely invisible, the detection range was so short that… well, let’s just say that by the time you detected them, you had mere seconds to find cover before the bombs hit.

According to The National Interest, Communist China now claims they have a way to counter stealth aircraft: The KJ-600, a carrier-launched airborne radar plane that will be launched from the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 002 and 003 classes of aircraft carriers. One of the biggest weaknesses of China’s carrier aviation was the lack of a plane comparable to the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the latest variant of the long-running E-2 Hawkeye series of aircraft, which employs long-range radar and electronic communications capabilities to oversee the battlespace and detect threats beyond the sensor range of other friendly units. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Farbo)

The KJ-600 aims to fill that gap in capacity. The Chinese Communists claim that this plane can detect stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35 at a range of 200 miles through use of an Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, but this capability may be oversold. An expert, quoted in the South China Morning Post, admitted that the 200-mile range comes from “a certain angle.”

Those three words may be the catch for Communist China. There is no guarantee that the F-35 will come in at “a certain angle” conducive to 200-mile detection. It is far more likely the KJ-600 won’t detect the F-35 until the American fighter has fired a pair of AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Then, the Chinese Communists will find their navy’s been blinded, and are now sitting ducks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan sends armored vehicles overseas for first time in decades

A small contingent of Japanese troops and armored vehicles engaged in military exercises with the US and the Philippines in the Philippines on Oct. 6, 2018, assisting in a humanitarian role during an amphibious exercise simulating recapturing territory from a terrorist group.

A total of about 150 troops took part in the landing on Oct. 6, 2018. Fifty Japanese troops, unarmed and in camouflage, followed four of their armored vehicles ashore, moving over beach and brushland while picking up Filipino and US troops playing wounded.


Japanese Maj. Koki Inoue stressed that Japanese personnel weren’t involved in the combat portion of the exercise but added that the drills were the first time the Japanese military’s armored vehicles had been used on foreign soil since World War II. After being defeated in that war, Japan adopted a pacifist constitution.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force prepares to embark on the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles during KAMANDAG 2 in Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

“Our purpose is to improve our operational capability, and this is a very good opportunity for us to improve our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training,” Inoue said, according to AFP.

The exercise, called Kamandag — an acronym for the Tagalog phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea” — started in 2017 and has focused on counterterrorism, disaster response, and interoperability.

2018’s iteration of the exercise runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, 2018, and the US has said it is not directed at any outside power.

“It has nothing to do with a foreign nation or any sort of foreign army. This is exclusively counter-terrorism within the Philippines,” 1st Lt. Zack Doherty, a Marine Corps communications officer, told AFP.

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovanny Rios guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill during KAMANDAG 2, in the Naval Education Training Center, Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

But the drill’s timing and location put it in the middle of simmering tensions between China and its rivals in the region.

The landing took place at a Philippine navy base in the province of Zambales on the northern island of Luzon. The same base hosted an expanded annual US-Philippine military exercise in early 2018.

About 130 miles west in the South China Sea is Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocks long administered by Manila until China seized it after a stand-off in 2012.

China has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that rejected its expansive claims in the South China Sea and found that it violated the Philippines’ territorial rights.

China has built up other islands and reefs it claims in the South China Sea, adding military outposts and hardware. It has not done that on Scarborough, and doing so would have strategic implications for the US and the Philippines. Manila has said such activity would be a “red line.”

The exercise also kicked off after a series of shows of force by US and Chinese forces in the East and South China Seas, including numerous flyovers by US bombers and a close encounter between US and Chinese warships.

Japan’s presence was one of several recent firsts for that country’s military, which has looked to increase its capabilities and readiness.

Early October 2018, British troops became the first non-US military personnel to be hosted by Japan for military exercises, joining members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force for Exercise Vigilant Isles.

In spring 2018, Japan stood up an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II. Japan has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, and that force, which has carried out several exercises already, would likely be called on to defend those islands.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US extends its Pacific Command to include India

On May 30, 2018, during a change-of-command ceremony for US Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the command will change its name to US Indo-Pacific Command to better reflect what he described as linkages and values in the region.

“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis said in prepared remarks during the ceremony, which marked Adm. Phil Davidson’s assumption of command from Adm. Harry Harris, who will take over as US ambassador to South Korea.

“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we’re to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace,” Mattis added. “Further, in recognition of increasing stability [between] the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades this command has repeated adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”

US Pacific Command has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to it. It covers more of the world than any of the five over geographic combatant commands and shares a border with each of its counterparts.

The renaming does not mean more resources will be assigned to the command, and Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the change would be “ultimately a symbolic act” unless the US pursues more investment and initiatives in the region.


VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
The area of responsibility for US Pacific Command, now known as US Indo-Pacific Command.
(U.S. Defense Department)

The change is meant to underscore the US’s growing military relationship with India, with whom the US has worked to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.


Davidson, the incoming head of the command, said during his confirmation hearing in April 2018, that the US-India relationship “is potentially the most historic opportunity we have in the 21st century, and I intend to pursue that quite rigorously.”

The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is not new in US foreign-policy discussions, but it has been embraced by President Donald Trump as a way to dilute China’s primacy by expanding the conception of the region.

“I don’t think that’s just a ploy by the US and others. I think it’s a reflection of reality,” Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at Australian National University who has written about the term, told Politico in 2017.

Some countries in Asia have grown concerned about Trump, believing his stated policy goals could mean a reduced US presence in the region at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence. (Some have sought alternatives to partnering with the US for defense.)

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month
President Donald Trump

The US, for its part, has continued to try to counter Beijing. During his hearing in April 2018, Davidson told senators that China has a particular focus on undersea warfare and was “stealing [US] technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”

China has also used its One Belt, One Road initiative to grow its sway in Asia and across the Pacific, offering loans and financing for an array of infrastructure and other development programs. Beijing has been criticized for using those economic relationships to gain leverage over smaller countries.

US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in March 2018, that China was “weaponizing capital” around the globe.

“Americans’ vision is shared by most nations in the region, where every state’s sovereignty is respected, no matter its size, and it’s a region open to investment in free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion,” Mattis said May 30, 2018. “For the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia took Israel’s most advanced missile from Syria

The Russian military has reportedly obtained one of Israel’s most advanced air defense missiles from the David’s Sling battery, the Times of Israel reports, raising the possibility that Russia could quickly figure out how to defeat a cutting-edge system designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight and share that with US and Israeli foes like Iran.

The Russian military reportedly obtained the missile in July of 2018, when Israel fired it against Russian-made Syrian rockets headed toward Israeli terrority. Of the two missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Syria, one was self-detonated by the Israeli Air Force when it became clear the Syrian weapons wouldn’t breach Israel’s border.


The other missile reportedly landed intact within Syria, where, as Chinese news agency SINA reported Nov. 2, 2019, it was picked up by Syrian forces and handed over to Russia, which is fighting alongside the regime troops under Bashar al-Assad.

The David’s Sling is a medium-range missile interceptor and was built by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US company Raytheon as a replacement for the Patriot missile battery built to defeat ballistic missiles. Israel first obtained the system in 2017; July 2018 is believed to be the first operational use of the system, which fires the Stunner missile.

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David’s Sling Weapons System Stunner Missile intercepts target during inaugural flight test.

(United States Missile Defense Agency)

“It’s certainly a concern. If I was at Rafael, I’d be nervous right now,” Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, told Insider.

The concern, Williams said, is not so much that Russia will produce a copy of the system for its own use as other countries might. “If Iran captured this thing, we would see an identical system two years from now,” he told Insider.

But if Russia has indeed got its hands on the Stunner missile, it could study the technology and figure out how to defeat the David’s Sling system, which would be a massive problem for the countries — like Poland — where Israel is attempting to sell the system, not to mention Israel itself.

“If I was Israel, my big concern is that if Russia can get the intelligence to defeat the interceptor to Iran,” Williams said.

David’s Sling Missile System -⚔️ New Israel Missile Defense System [Review]

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Dmitry Stefanovich, Russian International Affairs Council expert and Vatfor project co-founder, told Insider that Russia could also potentially use the missile to refine its own systems — “both offensive and defensive.”

“In terms of air defense interceptors, they’re no slouches themselves, they do have pretty advanced, very sophisticated interceptors as is,” Williams said, citing the S-300, S-400, and S-500 systems.

SINA also reported that the United States and Israel requested that Russia return the missile to Israel; however, that effort was unsuccessful. Neither Russia nor the IDF has confirmed reports of the missile coming into Russian possession, according to the Times of Israel.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns ‘Vietnam War’ documentary series

Until this week, the Vietnamese government has remained silent about the release of The Vietnam War, which premiered in the U.S. after a big buildup.


In Vietnam’s lively online sphere, many commentators speculated that authorities had remained silent about the series because it presented what the government considered sensitive material about towering Communist Party figures, such as Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap.

The 10-part documentary film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which premiered September 17, covers the war’s main events and focuses on the experiences of Americans and Vietnamese during the war. American broadcaster PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) is streaming it online with Vietnamese subtitles.

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Marine Sgt. Williams ‘Budda’ Biller of the Combat Action Program makes a routine check of a villager’s ID Card. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang issued a statement saying, “The Anti-America War of the Vietnamese people was a righteous revolution that mobilized the entire nation, and was supported wholeheartedly by friends and people worldwide.

“Positive developments in the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the United States are the results of great efforts by the two counties,” Hang continued. “The policy of Vietnam is to put the past behind us, overcome differences, promote our mutual interests and look forward to the future.”

She added, “I personally hope that American people and filmmakers understand the righteousness of the revolution as well as Vietnam’s goodwill.”

Like the government, the Vietnamese press has remained muted in its response to the well-reviewed documentary that has been a major event in the United States.

Only the Thanh Nien newspaper has covered the effort by Burns and Novick, reporting last month that the “U.S. consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City would hold a screening and discussion session” based on a 90-minute synopsis of the documentary. Vietnam’s top daily added that “film director and producer Lynn Novick is here in Vietnam to meet and discuss with the guests and the audience during the screening.”

One of the people who attended the screening, a former journalist, wrote on Facebook that after the screening, another attendee, a young woman, asked Novick why in the excerpts “do I only see characters from North Vietnam being interviewed? Will people from the South be interviewed?”

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A North Vietnamese soldier atop his foxhole (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

The journalist noted that Novick said people from the South had been interviewed and “that will be evident when you see the complete documentary being shown on the PBS website.”

The former journalist, who once worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), added on Facebook, “Lynn’s answer raised an uneasy suspicion about whether the shown clip was heavily censored before it was screened to young people, who really wanted to understand the Vietnam War beyond the simple division over red and yellow flags [of the current and former regime respectively].”

About 70 percent of Vietnam’s 96.1 million citizens were born after the April 1975 fall of Saigon.

Brian Moriarty, the press spokesman for the filmmaking team, told VOA Vietnamese, “There have been two successful screenings in Vietnam, and the clips can be shown to those interviewed in the movie.”

Moriarty added he “could not comment” on the Facebook posts in Vietnam that Hanoi’s Central Department of Propaganda, the media watchdog, has forbidden “media coverage” because The Vietnam War documentary has “sensitive details about the 1968 Tet Offensive, about Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan or Vo Nguyen Giap.”

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VIETNAM. Hue. US Marines inside the Citadel rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive. 1968

The Tet Offensive is widely considered to be the turning point of the Vietnam War. While communist forces ultimately lost the Tet Offensive, they won a propaganda victory that prompted Americans to lose support for the conflict.

Revered CBS-TV anchorman Walter Cronkite, after reporting on one of the Tet Offensive battles, in Hue, broadcast an editorial calling for a negotiated end to the war.

Vietnam’s Central Propaganda Department could not be reached for comment.

Moriarty added that people in Vietnam “can still watch the Vietnamese documentary film with Vietnamese subtitles” on the PBS website. He also said they have “people in Vietnam [who] have checked and confirmed this.”

But there have been hiccups, according to Facebook posts speculating that the sensitive material in the work makes the current Vietnamese government uncomfortable.

Ho, a founding member of the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, was president of North Vietnam from 1954 until his death in 1969. He abstained from a Politburo vote to approve the Tet Offensive, widely seen as the bloody turning point in growing U.S. opposition to the war.

Le Duan, head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, presided over a severe postwar economic slump, and took an anti-Chinese stance that included border clashes as well as the expulsion of ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese citizens, before his death in 1986.

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Lê Duẩn. Wikipedia image.

Vietnam today looks to China as its primary trading partner, even though the two communist countries have a long-running dispute over the South China Sea that has pushed their relationship to a new low.

Giap, a general who defeated the French and the U.S. in Vietnam, came to support economic reform before his death in 2013. He “fell into disfavor and became sensitive to the Communist Party of Vietnam because of his anti-China point of view and the disapproval of an all-in attack [on] the South in 1968,” said Bui Tin, a former party member and colonel in the People’s Army of Vietnam who is now a dissident living in France.

Giap presided over the 1968 Tet Offensive and at least 2,800 Vietnamese civilians were believed to have been massacred by communist troops during the battle fought over Hue.

On Facebook on September 17, the day the film was shown on public television in the U.S. and available for streaming in Vietnam, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius wrote: “In order to build a just and bright future, we must acknowledge and be honest about the past. While many of you will not agree with all that is featured in the film, it’s important to consider that, as the film says, ‘There is no single truth in war.’ Once we accept this, we can move forward from the past, deepen ties between our two peoples, and build a brighter future for all.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Taliban’s special forces unit

On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.


Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.

The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.

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When did it emerge?

The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighters published photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.

In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.

But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.

Also Read: The Taliban killed 15 Afghan police in separate attacks

Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during which dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.

On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, was killed in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.

How is it different from other Taliban units?

“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

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“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.

Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.

Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.

In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.

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Screengrab from released Taliban video.

The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.

“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”

The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.

Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.

“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”

The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.

 

 

How much of a threat is it?

“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”

Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.

But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.

Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”

Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.

“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.