Russia has accused the United States of supporting Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, enabling them to mount counteroffensive attacks there.
The Defense Ministry made the accusation on October 4 as Russian-backed Syrian government forces and fighters backed by the United States are racing to capture territory from the IS extremist group.
As the separate campaigns are being waged within close proximity of one another, the Russian and U.S. militaries have traded charges that their troops or allies were endangered or struck by the other side’s forces.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that a series of attacks launched by IS militants on Syrian government forces came from an area around Al-Tanf near the border with Jordan where a U.S. mission is located.
Konashenkov said the attacks took place last week near Al-Qaryatayn in the Homs Province and a highway linking the central city of Palmyra and Deir al-Zor to the east.
The spokesman said that the attackers had the precise coordinates of the Syrian government forces, which could only have been obtained through aerial reconnaissance.
“If the U.S. side views such operations as unforeseen ‘accidents,’ Russian aviation in Syria is ready to begin the complete eradication of all such ‘accidents’ in the zone under their control,” Konashenkov warned.
“The main thing preventing the final defeat of [the IS group] in Syria is not the terrorists’ military capability but the support and pandering to them by our American colleagues,” he added.
It is the latest of a series of accusations traded as Russian-backed troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the U.S.-allied, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces battle IS fighters in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor near the Iraqi border.
Moscow and Washington held a first-ever meeting between their generals last month to try to prevent accidental clashes between the two sides, but reports of deaths in continuing clashes suggested the problem was not resolved.
Despite persistent power shortages, North Korea is reportedly selling electricity to China for cash.
The deal, which reportedly began on Feb. 9, 2018, will see China pay between $60,000 and $100,000 a month for power generated by a hydroelectric dam close to the border between the two countries, according to Seoul-based news outlet Daily NK.
“The Supong Hydroelectric Generator in Sakju County is providing the energy to a Chinese factory that produces fire proofing materials. The [North Korean] authorities are accepting payments in the form of cash,” a source in the local North Korean province told Daily NK.
The source also said the export project has been named “The January 8 Fund,” after the birthday of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. His father, Daily NK reported, also had a similar project that earned foreign currency named after his birthday on Feb. 16.
According to Daily NK, North Korea’s usual priority is to first power “idolization sites” for the country’s two previous leaders, government organizations, and munitions factories, before civilian homes or buildings.
Fewer than one-in-three North Koreans have access to electricity, the World Bank estimates, and nighttime satellite images show what that looks like for most of the country.
Unsurprisingly, the Sakju generator doesn’t provide electricity for ordinary citizens, rather it reportedly usually powers a munitions factory, meaning military production could be affected by the power sale to China.
The desire to reroute electricity away from a munitions factory indicates how desperate sanctions have made Pyongyang to earn foreign currency.
After a brief absence of US aircraft carrier presence in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS George H. W. Bush will be returning to Syria’s coast to hammer ISIS forces in the region.
This marks the first time the US Navy has had a carrier in the region since US guided-missile destroyers struck Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force after his regime carried out a deadly chemical weapon attack on civilians.
In the immediate aftermath of that strike on April 6, Russia, Assad’s stalwart ally, sent two corvettes of their own.
The US has dispatched the Bush and four guided-missile destroyers as part of a carrier strike group.
The carrier arrives at a time when US and coalition forces have all but stomped out the last remaining ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, though they increasingly find themselves under attack from new adversaries — Iranian-backed pro-Assad forces.
Iran recently released footage of one of its drones scoping out a US drone, and the very next day the Pentagon announced a US aircraft had shot down a pro-Syrian drone.
Increasingly, US-led coalition forces find themselves bombing pro-Syrian and Iranian-backed forces that threaten US troops in deconfliction zones.
With the addition of the aircraft carrier, the US will have an additional few dozen F/A-18s handy to police the skies.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis personally intervened in Trump’s budget request to get more bombs to drop on ISIS, Defense News reports.
Mattis requested about $3.5 billion more in “preferred munitions” for the 2018 Pentagon budget, John Roth, acting undersecretary of defense and chief financial officer, told Defense News.
“As we closed out this budget, over the last two or three weeks in particular, a great deal of concern was being raised with current inventory levels, particularly given some of the expenditures in the CENTCOM area of operations,” Roth said. “So the secretary mandated and insisted we fully fund, to the maximum extent possible, the full production capacities for certain selected preferred munitions.”
The extra bombs and ammo Mattis asked for were (per Defense News):
7,664 Hellfire missiles, worth $713.9 million for Lockheed Martin
34,529 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), worth $874.3 million for Boeing
6,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), worth $889.5 million for Lockheed Martin
7,312 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB), worth $504.1 million to Boeing and Raytheon
100 Tomahawk Missiles, worth $381.6 million for Raytheon
An unlisted number of Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS), worth $200 million
All in all, the Pentagon is asking for about $16.4 billion in missiles and munitions in the 2018 fiscal year budget.
The DoD said it has spent about $2.8 billion on munitions since the August 2014 start of the campaign against ISIS up to the end of March 2017. And Air Force Maj. Gen. James Martin Jr. said on Tuesday that munitions reserves are “challenged” by the current operations.
In February, Trump requested an extra $54 billion in defense spending for 2018. The request has been criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as being too little, or cutting too much from domestic spending and foreign aid.
The US Navy hit a major milestone in its quest to make aircraft carriers a more deadly, potent force by sailing the USS Abraham Lincoln with F-35C stealth fighters training alongside F/A-18s for the first time.
The F-35C’s ability to launch off the decks of the US’s 11 supercarriers positions it as the replacement to the long-serving F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the first carrier-launched stealth fighter to ever take to the seas.
The USNI News reported on Aug. 28, 2018, that the F-35C has trained alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes early warning planes.
The new F-35C prepares to takeoff alongside an F/A-18E/F.
Rear Adm. Dale Horan, charged with integrating the F-35C into the Navy, told USNI News that unlike previous tests that merely saw carriers launching and landing the stealth jets, this time they’re “conducting missions they would do in combat, if required.”
Additionally, the crew of the carrier will become familiar with maintaining the F-35C while at sea.
Since the F-35’s inception, boosters have billed it as a revolution in aerial combat. Never before have stealth aircraft launched off aircraft carriers, nor have planes with such advanced sensors and capabilities.
The US’s move towards stealth platforms meant to challenge the defenses of top-tier militaries like Russia and China represents a broader shift towards strategic competition against great powers, rather than the usual mission of suppressing small non-state actors on the ground.
Just before the end of 2017, the Russian Navy commissioned its newest frigate, the Admiral Makarov. The ship, which will be based in Sevastopol, is an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate, a multi-purpose ship that is certainly loaded for bear.
Each frigate in the Admiral Grigorovich class is armed with eight Club-N land-attack cruise missiles, a variant of the Kalibr missiles used to strike ISIS targets deep inside Syria. Two Kashtan CIWS air defense missile/gun systems and 24 Shtil-1 anti-aircraft missiles make up each ship’s air-defense component, as well as one A-190E gun at its bow.
The frigate boasts a range of 4850 nautical miles, a top speed of 30 knots, an endurance of 30 days, and a crew of 193.
The bulk of the Russian Navy’s current fleet are corvettes, small craft armed with long-range missiles that cannot stray too far from the coast for long. Frigates have traditionally been the backbone of most of the world’s navies, and Russia still hasn’t given up on having large surface warships like it did during the Cold War.
“Russia has realized that capabilities matter far more than platforms,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, told Business Insider.
“The Russian Navy is quite able to carry out its key missions, such as coastal protection and (increasingly) conventional deterrence with cruise missiles in addition to the SLBM role in nuclear deterrence,” Gorenburg said in an email.
The Admiral Makarov will be the third Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate in the Russian Navy. Russia originally planned to have of six of the frigates in total, but recent events have put the program’s schedule in an uncertain state.
Shipbuilding problems in the Russian Navy
The Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is essentially a thorough modernization of the Krivak IV-class frigate, a ship that was built for and exported to the Indian Navy from 1999 to 2012.
There were originally no plans for any more modernization of the Krivak series, but the Russian Navy began to have problems with the building and integration of the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate — the ship intended to be the center of the Russian Navy’s modern frigate fleet.
“It was just taking to long to finish,” Gorenburg said. “There were issues with some of the systems — it was a kind of brand new construction — and so they realized they really needed new ships more quickly than those were going to get approved.”
Russia then turned to and modernized the Krivak IVs, which they knew could be built and fielded faster, creating a new class in the process.
Construction of the ships hit a snag when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and war broke out in Ukraine. The ships needed a specific gas turbine engine that came from a Ukrainian company, which, after the annexation and breakout of war, was prevented from selling them.
As a result, Russia announced that it would sell two of the three Grigorovich-class frigates under construction to India, who will be able to buy the engines separately themselves.
Russia maintains that it will eventually have a total of six frigates for the Black Sea Fleet, after a domestic gas turbine engine is produced.
“There are still some problems in the shipbuilding industry, but they are not as bad as five years ago,” Gorenburg said in an email. “On the whole, the Navy is going to be quite successful at building effective small ships while putting off big ships (destroyers, aircraft carriers) for the indefinite future.”
A coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has the Navy scrambling to test the entire crew. At the current testing pace, it could be stuck in port for almost a month, but the Navy is trying to cut that time down.
Three cases were reported aboard the TR on Tuesday. By Friday morning, more than 30 sailors aboard the carrier had reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Fox News.
In response to the outbreak, the Navy, as acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Tuesday, is testing 100 percent of the crew for the virus. The ship is at port in Guam, and it is unclear exactly when the ship will head to sea again on its deployment.
The ship has the ability to test about 200 people per day, Modly told radio show host Hugh Hewitt Friday. The aircraft carrier has roughly 5,000 people on board including its crew, aviation squadrons and onboard staffs.
“At a pace of 200 a day, that could take 25 days,” the acting secretary said. “Obviously, that’s not acceptable, so we’re driving towards a quicker ability to do that.”
“We’re flying in more test kits from other large deck ships that we have,” he said, adding that the Navy is “also sending certain number of samples off the ship so that we can get responses more quickly.”
The TR is one of two US carriers in the Pacific, the other being the USS Ronald Reagan, which is currently in port at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. Fox News reported Friday that at least two cases have been reported aboard the Reagan.
Modly has repeatedly insisted that the TR remains ready to fulfill its mission if it was ordered to do so in an extreme situation, like the US entering a war.
“If there were a reason for her to go into action, she could easily go do that. We would just go,” he said Friday.
Modly told Hewitt that he does not have a date on when the TR will return to its assigned mission. “We’re just working through this as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.
Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.
Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.
A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.
The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.
“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.
The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.
Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.
Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.
The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.
U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.
The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.
The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”
US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.
Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds
Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.
During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.
He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.
Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.
Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.
Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.
On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.
“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”
It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.
For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.
Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.
“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”
No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.
He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.
Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.
“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.
Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.
“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”
Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.
She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.
Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”
“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”
Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.
A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.
“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”
Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.
“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”
After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.
Twitter’s “head of editorial” in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also serves as a part-time officer for the British Army’s information unit in the UK, a new report revealed.
Middle East Eye, which was first to report the news, shared a screenshot of Gordon MacMillan’s LinkedIn page in which he listed his dual roles. His role in the army has since been removed from his page.
A source familiar with the matter told The Financial Times that MacMillan spends a few days a year acting as a consultant to Britain’s information warfare unit, the 77th Brigade.
The 77th Brigade was created in 2015 with the intention of using psychological operations and social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to help fight wars “in the information age.” It is made up of reservists and regular troops.
It writes online: “Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.
“77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives in support of Commanders, whilst reducing the cost in casualties and resources.”
MacMillan’s LinkedIn page has since been edited to remove his secondary role.
Neither MacMillan nor the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment when contacted.
In a statement shared with The Financial Times, a spokesperson for the MOD said: “We employ specialist reserve personnel from a variety of civilian occupations in order to utilize the skills and experience of senior professionals.
“There is no relationship or agreement between 77th Brigade and Twitter, other than using it as a social media platform.”
A spokesperson for Twitter told Business Insider that “Twitter is an open, neutral, and independent service.
“We do not allow our data services to be used for surveillance purposes or in any other manner inconsistent with people’s expectation of privacy. Employees who pursue external volunteer opportunities are encouraged to do so in line with company policy.”
In most cases, reservists would need to provide their employer’s details to their commanding officer. However, according to the UK government guidelines, they do have the right to not to tell their employer they are a reservist if there’s a good reason for it. For example, if it would put them at a disadvantage if their employer knew.
Twitter confirmed, however, that MacMillan’s dual role was reviewed by its compliance teams and is not currently in violation of its policies.
MacMillan joined Twitter in 2013 after working at various media companies. He previously trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy before studying journalism and then media studies at Cardiff and Bournemouth universities.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.
As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.
Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.
Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.
In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.
When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”
In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.
Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.
From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.
Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
On June 25, 1950 all-out war broke out when Communist North Korea invaded Capitalist South Korea after a series of clashes on the border. The devastation was insurmountable and the war has never officially ended between the two nations, even after a UN enforced partition along the 38th parallel. Kim Il-sung shut his nation from the world and established a cult of personality every despot could only dream of having. His nation either feared him because of his iron fist or worshiped him as a god-king.
Sidestepping entirely away from American politics and news outlets, the Korean Central News Agency is so fake even your gullible relative who falls for every Onion or Duffle Blog article would shake their head.
Once you’ve gone on air and state that “unicorns exist and are North Korean” or that “the North Korean famine has ended because Kim invented the hamburger,” your journalistic integrity flies out the window.
4. Their “history” and text books
History is always written by the winners, right? It also helps when you close yourself off from the rest of the world so no one can fact check every bullsh*t claim you make.
The lies even slide into math problems for their kids. Such as: During the Fatherland Liberation War, the brave uncles of Korean People’s Army killed 265 American imperialist bastards in the first battle. In the second battle, they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many American imperialist bastards did they kill altogether?
3. Film and television
The state news isn’t the only thing that is slathered with anti-Americanisms. Surprisingly enough, they have a full-fledged film industry that is either Anti-West or a cheap knockoff of something Japanese. In 1985, the North Koreans kidnapped a South Korean film director and forced him to make Pulgasari — an over the top knockoff of Godzilla set in feudal Korea. The link to watch it on YouTube with subtitles is right here, but be warned. It’s bad. Not like, The Room, where it’s so absurd it’s hilarious. Pulgasari is just… bad…
Keeping up with the indoctrination of children…holy crap are their cartoons ridiculous. One such cartoon is about how even you can help fight the American imperialist wolves (because we somehow get depicted as wolves a lot. Which is cool with me. Wolves are cool.) by learning to use a protractor and a compass to launch missiles at us.
But what about the youngsters eager to play video games like their South Korean cousins? Well. There’s “Hunting Yankee.”
This supposedly “very popular” game with graphics on the same level as a Playstation One puts you in the role of sniper and you shoot Americans. Yep. That’s it. Game of the Year quality content right there.
1. Staged photos
Of course everything is alright! There are photos that prove things aren’t bad in North Korea!
Almost every photo of Kim Jong-un touring his country that the previously mentioned state media runs is laughable. Sure, he and his cronies are laughing and enjoying themselves, but not a single soul outside of the regime seems to have an actual smile.
*Bonus* Boasting that they can stand a chance against America
Let’s just look at the stats for a quick second from what was considered the 5th greatest military in 1990, Iraq. They had the numbers, they had the skill and experience, they had the funding, they had the tech and then they messed with a nation we are cool with, Kuwait. America wafflestomped their asses in about four weeks.
Sure. North Korea boasts an impressive number of infantrymen; however, they’re malnourished and diseased, untrained, and under-equipped. Their planes, armor, and artillery are well over sixty years old. Their military consists of defectors, meaning they’re not willing to fight. And to top it all off, South Korea (North Korea’s main target) is America’s closest friend.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.