Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

The family of a U.S. citizen being held by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over suspected spying says he is innocent and was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Paul Whelan, a retired Marine, was last heard from on Dec. 28, 2018, according to a statement from his family, obtained by RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019.

His failure to contact his family “was very much out of character for him,” the statement said.


“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” it added.

Whelan, 48, could face between 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Russian officials did not disclose any details of his alleged involvement in espionage.

David Whelan told RFE/RL in a direct message via Twitter that his brother “has a corporate security role” with BorgWarner, a U.S.-based supplier of automotive parts and components.

Brother of accused spy speaks out

www.youtube.com

BorgWarner said in a statement sent to RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019, that Paul Whelan was the company’s global security director. It added that he is responsible for overseeing the company’s facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “and at other company locations around the world.”

BorgWarner has 60 manufacturing sites in 18 countries, but none of them are listed as being in Russia.

A spokeswoman for BorgWarner told RFE/RL that the company “does not have any facilities in Russia.”

Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rostec said in 2013 that its truckmaker, KamAz, had a long record of collaboration with a subsidiary of BorgWarner known as BorgWarnerTurboSystems.

David Whelan told AP in a Jan. 1, 2019 interview that his brother had been to Russia “several times” before and was helping a former U.S. Marine friend of his plan a wedding with a Russian woman.

On the morning of the day he was detained, Paul Whelan had given a tour of the Kremlin museums to a group of wedding guests, his brother said. He failed to show up for the wedding on the evening of Dec. 28, 2018.

David Whelan said his absence led the family to fear he had been in a car accident or perhaps mugged, and were searching the Internet for news about “dead Americans in Moscow.”

The U.S. State Department has said it knows about “the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities” and had been formally notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The State Department said on Dec. 31, 2018, that it had requested consular access to Paul Whelan and expected “Russian authorities to provide it.”

David Whelan said in the AP interview that his family was told by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it has been unable to speak with Paul Whelan.

David Whelan said his brother had previously worked for Kelly Services, an international office-staffing company that does have offices in Moscow, and had been to Russia on business and to visit friends he had met on social-media networks.

Paul Whelan reportedly had a page on the Russian social-media site VKontakte on which he writes messages in basic Russian.

David Whelan said his brother was stationed in Iraq several times with the U.S. Marines and has been living in Novi, Michigan.

The announcement of Whelan’s detainment came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow remains open to dialogue with Washington in a New Year’s greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Relations between the United States and Russia remain strained over a raft of issues including Russia’s role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain.

At the end of November 2018, Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina, citing tensions after Russian forces opened fire on Ukrainian Navy boats before seizing them and capturing 24 Ukrainian sailors.

The detention of Whelan comes weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

In his annual year-end news conference on Dec. 20, 2018, Putin said Russia would “not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

This weekend, comic book fans all over the world were saddened by the terrible news that the father of superheroes had passed — and veterans lost a brother-in-arms who dedicated his life to the arts. This week, the Army Signal Corps says farewell to its most prominent member.

Stan Lee, WWII veteran, comic-book author, and editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, passed away on the morning of November 12, 2018. As painful as this news is to his family, friends, and fans around the world, we can all appreciate the fact that his life was a very accomplished one. The only way to truly honor a man so great is by reflecting on his storied life and “rise ever upward.” Or, as he’d put it, in it’s Latin form, “excelsior!


Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Captain America Comics #3 (1941)
(Marvel Comics)

Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, began his career in the comic book world in 1939 when he took on a position as an assistant at Timely Comics under Joe Simon. It wasn’t an easy job, but it needed doing. He’d get people lunch, make sure everyone’s inkwells were full, and even do some proofreading — these weren’t glamorous duties, but they kept the wheels turning. When he finally touched the comic book world directly, he changed it forever — he was given a small amount of creative control over Captain America #3, and he used it to give Cap his signature shield ricochet.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Many years later, and troops doodling things to pass the time hasn’t changed one bit.
(U.S. Army)

 

What was nothing more than a small writer’s credit at the time gave rise to immense goals. From that moment forward, Lee set out to create the next “Great American Novel.” As we all know, this ambition eventually morphed and developed into the greater Marvel Universe, a web of fictions that has today touched the lives of millions across the globe. But this lofty goal wasn’t outside of the scope of reality for a 19-year old Stan Lee — he believed in himself.

By then, World War II was heating up and Lee found himself enlisted in the Army by early 1942. Soon after that, he was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, learning to string and repair communication lines. In his downtime, he’d continue to draw and write to help pass the time.

It wasn’t long until the Army realized that they needed to create training films to onboard the massive influx of new troops. Because of the highly-sensitive nature of the process, they couldn’t trust just anyone to create them — they needed soldiers. The Army began its Signal Corps Photographic Center at Fort Monmouth, which, coincidentally, was where Lee was stationed.

Lee’s superior officers recognized his creative talents from his hobbies and his earlier work with Timely Comics. So, they more or less hey-you’d him into using his talents for the Army. This was exactly the break he needed. He was laterally transferred to the Fort Monmouth Film Production Laboratory and worked side by side with some of the other greatest artistic visionaries of the U.S. Army.

He stood in formation with Frank Capra, the three-time Academy-Award-winning director for films like It’s a Wonderful Life, cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Lee was one of nine soldiers to ever earn the position of “playwright” for the U.S. Army.

Lee didn’t have any notoriety before then, unlike many of his famous fellow soldiers. He was, simply, that guy who wrote for comic books, but that didn’t phase him one bit. He kept giving the Army his all — and it showed. He was so good and so fast at what he did, in fact, that he was asked to slow down many times because it made everyone else look bad.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
This scene in Avengers 2 will always bring joy to my heart.
(Walt Disney Studios)

 

Lee’s service concluded in 1945 and he went back to Timely Comics. No longer was he just some kid grabbing coffee; he was a war hero. The skills he developed while quickly chugging out quality content for the Army was exactly the type of tempo needed in the comic world.

Lee used his Army experiences to perfect comic book making. He turned the process into a creative assembly line. Lee would write the captions in the bubbles, another artist would pencil in the scene, another would color it, and another would finalize the lettering. This style became known as the “Marvel Method.” It distributed the workload evenly and it gave everyone equal creative input.

Stan Lee may not have written the next Moby Dick as he planned while a bright-eyed 19-year-old, but there’s no denying that his life’s work — the Marvel Universe — stands tall as the most enduring, relevant collection of fiction of his era.

Rest easy, Mr. Lee. You made True Believers out of all of us.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why do we put our military community at risk with on-base quarantines?

In our small town of Pacific Grove, Calif., an email alerted us that our community would be “hosting” 24 Grand Princess cruise passengers who display mild symptoms of COVID-19. The other California “hosts” are military installations, Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., and Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.


A press release sent out by the governor’s office tells residents, “We have an opportunity to provide an example of a compassionate humanitarian response,” but omits specific measures being taken to quarantine the passengers and protect the community, which is known for having an elderly population. The town jokes that people move here to die or multiply, with many young residents coming for the excellent schools and the elderly for the moderate climate and breathtaking Monterey coastline.

Why then was this elderly community chosen, despite our population’s median age being 49, over 10 years older than the national average? Because the passengers will be quarantined on government-owned land. This is also why military bases are “go-to” locations for other, more serious cases.
Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

The Pacific Grove coastline is just across the street from where the 24 quarantined Grand Princess cruise line passengers are staying. They will be monitored for the next two weeks as part of the state of California’s plan to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Why is it that the military community is always the first to be put at risk? As a military spouse and mother of three, I’m not so much scared of the Coronavirus as I am perplexed.

If military communities are already being asked to sacrifice more than most, don’t we at least deserve concrete facts on how we are being protected instead of attempts to pull at heartstrings?

The military housing areas on Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station are less than a mile away from where exposed citizens are being housed. I can’t imagine what these military families are feeling. As some previously in quarantine leave, new patients arrive. I hope that they are looped in, that they feel taken care of and reassured that their lives are just as important as those they are being asked to support.

While some communities may be better at communication than others, the press release likely caused more panic than reassurance. Given the current climate, words sent out through official channels carry weight. So instead of adding to the hysteria, I emailed the local public officials quoted in the article for clarification.

No response.

However, within 24 hours, I did get reassurance from every travel-related company I have ever had an online shopping relationship with that they were on top of COVID-19 and take sanitation seriously.

Shortly thereafter, I finally received an update from my daughter’s elementary school, the only reliable source of information. It seems that clarification from public officials was possible. But instead of hearing from the governor’s office again, our small town’s City Manager set the record straight, or as straight as possible given all this confusion.

According to his release, “the state of California made the determination” to temporarily house 24 exposed passengers (less than two miles from my house). Thankfully, it turns out that he did have good news. The 24 have tested negative for the virus and “are not permitted to leave the confines of their hotel rooms.”

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

Costco runs feel like hoarding, but they are not. However, you might be a hoarder if you are one of the people who purchased all the paper towels, water and toilet paper.

Slightly relieved, I chuckled when I saw that “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman was trending on Netflix. Watching it served as a reminder that Americans don’t like rules or borders. We rebelled against the British. We conquered lands that weren’t our own. We believe rules are made to be broken. I hope these 24 are rule followers who regret our forefathers breaking from England and “displacing” Native Americans.

Unsurprisingly Costco was packed, leaving me either highly exposed or highly prepared. In the hidden back corner of the warehouse, a lady was positioned, not with samples, but with a clipboard and bouncer-like confidence, “we are out of water, paper towels and toilet paper.”

Twenty four hours after the first press release, I’m not scared of death or quarantine. We have Cheerios, bread, shelf-stable milk, charcoal and… champagne, because if I have to stay in the house with my three kids and husband for a month without toilet paper, I’m gonna need it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 fallen JROTC cadets honored for heroism in the Florida shooting

The Army has awarded Medals of Heroism, the service’s highest medal for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets, to the three JROTC students killed defending their classmates from a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14, 2018.


The Medal of Heroism, awarded to students Peter Wang, Alaina Petty and Martin Duque, recognizes JROTC cadets whose achievements “involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy courage and fortitude.”

All three students were among the 17 people killed by former Stoneman Douglas High School JROTC cadet, Nikolas Cruz. According to eyewitness accounts, Wang was last seen holding a door open to allow his fellow students to escape. The Army confirmed the news, first reported by The Daily Beast to Task Purpose on Feb. 20, 2018.

Further reading: A heroic JROTC student protected classmates in the Florida school shooting

The Army presented Petty’s family with her Medal of Heroism at a Feb. 19, 2018, memorial service, according to The Daily Beast, while Duque’s family will receive his medal on Feb. 24, 2018. Wang’s family received his medal during his Feb. 20, 2018, memorial service.

“It’s my understanding that this is an open casket service and the family requested their son be buried in his JROTC uniform,” U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox told Task Purpose. “The JROTC Heroism medal will be on his uniform, but a second ‘keepsake’ medal will be given to the family.”

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the U.S. Military Academy planned on providing the Wang family with a letter posthumously accepting Peter to West Point Class of 2025:

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
(Photo via U.S. Military Academy Twitter)

Related: Petition demands military funeral for JROTC hero killed in shooting

Broward County Public High School system’s JROTC program claims an average enrollment of 7,650 students in 28 of its 34 schools annually. According to the Wang family, proceeds from a Peter Wang Memorial Fund GoFundMe campaign will support the JROTC program at Stoneman Douglas, whose members exhibited exemplary acts of heroism during the shooting.

“Awards for other possible Cadets are going through a review process, to include the two Cadets who were on the news,” Maddox told Task Purpose. “However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these cadets and their families.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Intense bombing brings Syrian rebels to the bargaining table

Rebels in besieged areas of southwestern Syria say they are returning to negotiations with Russia over a possible pullout after an intensive bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian forces.

The move by rebel forces on July 5, 2018, comes after a brief suspension of the Moscow-brokered negotiations that have produced agreements already to return more than 30 towns to government control in the strategic zone of southern Syria bordering both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A brief collapse of the talks on July 4, 2018, ushered in a blitz of Russian and Syrian air strikes, barrel bombs, and missiles, following a pattern Russia and Syria have pursued repeatedly to regain control over rebel territory.


The bombing barrage sent an estimated 320,000 civilians fleeing the area in what appeared to be one of the fastest displacements in Syria’s seven-year civil war, prompting an international outcry and meetings at the United Nations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s goal is to recapture Syria’s entire southwest, one of the last rebel strongholds in the country.

Within 24 hours of the resumed bombing, rebels said they wanted to return to negotiations, with the talks focusing on their pullout from the territory they still control in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the provincial capital.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Daraa is considered to be the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Assad that triggered the devastating war, which has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions.

Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the south’s joint rebel command, accused Russia of pursuing a “scorched-earth policy” to force rebels back to the negotiating table.

As rebels agreed to renewed talks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported a halt to both Russian and Syrian government air strikes over the south.

Rebels say Russia has insisted that opposition factions hand over their heavy weapons all at once, while rebels want to relinquish their arms in several phases.

Moscow also reportedly has refused rebel requests for safe passage to opposition-held territory in other parts of Syria, as was granted to rebels who agreed to pull out of Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo.

During the renewed fighting, regime forces retook control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, the monitoring group said.

Rebels then handed some 275 square kilometers of territory near the border to government forces without a fight, said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Nearly 150 civilians have died since the government assault in the south began two weeks ago, according to the observatory.

Many of the area’s 320,000 displaced people have been fleeing south to the borders with Jordan and the Golan Heights, the UN says.

But both Israel and Jordan have kept their borders closed, despite mounting calls to let Syrians escape to safety.

The International Rescue Committee said displaced families are struggling to cope with 45-degree heat, scorpions, and snakes in the open desert area.

Rebel territory in southern Syria was included in a cease-fire zone created last year in a deal between Washington, Amman, and Moscow, but that did little to halt the government’s assault.

Near the start of the government’s offensive, Washington indicated it would respond to violations of the cease-fire deal, but it has not done so yet and rebels said it had told them to expect no American military help.

The onslaught has sparked calls for restraint and an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on July 5, 2018. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that an “estimated 750,000 lives are in danger.”

But Russia blocked the council from adopting a statement on the issue. A diplomat said on condition of anonymity there had been a fruitless push to persuade Moscow to accept a pause in fighting to distribute humanitarian aid.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX just brought 2 NASA astronauts back to Earth in its Crew Dragon spaceship, kicking off ‘the next era in human spaceflight’

SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.

On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.


Ahead of the landing, the crew undocked from the $150 billion International Space Station, where they’d spent 63 days, then performed a series of maneuvers to return home to their families. The capsule handily survived a blistering 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit return through Earth’s atmosphere, a high-stakes parachute deployment, and the final splashdown.

Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.

“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”

“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.

With Demo-2’s completion, SpaceX has put an end to a nine-year drought of crewed spaceflight from US soil. The company also resurrected NASA’s ability to reach the ISS, where the agency hopes to ramp up work to help it return humans to the moon and eventually reach Mars.

“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.

“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.

The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.

“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.

He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”

In a news briefing following the landing, officials and astronauts remarked on how uneventful the astronaut’s return flight was (except for a few surprises on the ground, such as civilian boats pulling up to the space capsule).

“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.

“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.

American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil

Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.

During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.

Over time, Russia charged more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost rose from about million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than million per seat on a planned flight for October. A seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost million (not including NASA’s .7 billion in funding), according to NASA’s inspector general.

Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).

Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.

With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.

“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”

giant.gfycat.com

In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.

“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)

Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars

With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.

The company plans to fly tourists into space: In February, SpaceX announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that the company Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX.

There’s even a flight of actor Tom Cruise aboard Crew Dragon in the works — part of a plan to film a movie aboard the ISS.

But Musk’s primary aim is to launch people around the moon, later land others on the lunar surface, then move on to establish Martian cities. His ultimate goal is to put 1 million settlers on the red planet.

NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.

Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.

“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.

‘I doubted us, too’

During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.

“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.

He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”

Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard is patrolling deeper and has $500 million in cocaine

While scouring the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean over the past several months, the crew of the US Coast Guard cutter James seized 19,000 pounds of cocaine.

The James’s haul was about half of the 38,00o pounds of cocaine its crew offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Those drugs were seized in 19 interdictions at sea carried about by six US Coast Guard ships — nine of which were conducted by the James.

The total haul had an estimated wholesale value of about $500 million.


“Operating in the dark of night, often under challenging conditions, these outstanding Coast Guard men and women … driving our boats, flying our armed helicopter swiftly interdicted drug smugglers operating in a variety of vessels used to move these tons of narcotics, from the simple outboard panga to commercial fishing vessels to low-profile high-speed vessels and even semi-submersibles designed to evade detection,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, the commander of the James, said Nov. 15, 2018.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

A pallet of interdicted cocaine being offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter James by crane in Port Everglades, Florida, Nov.15, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

The drugs were unloaded just a few weeks after the end of fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 30, 2018. During that fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine — the second highest total ever. Fiscal year 2017 set the record with 493,000 pounds seized, topping the previous record of 443,000 pounds set in fiscal year 2016.

The increase in seizures comes amid growing cocaine production in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of the drug and the main supplier to the US market. Production of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, has steadily risen since hitting a low in 2012.

Colombia is the only South American country that borders both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but most of the cocaine it sends to the US takes a westerly route.

“In 2017, at least 84 percent of the documented cocaine departing South America transited the Eastern Pacific,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration said in its most recent National Drug Threat Assessment.

“Shipments around the Galapagos Islands increased to 17 percent of overall flow in 2017, up from four percent in 2016 and one percent in 2015,” the DEA report found. “In 2017, 16 percent of cocaine moved through the Caribbean, nine percent traveling through the Western Caribbean and seven percent through the Eastern Caribbean.”

The Coast Guard’s activity in the eastern Pacific, where it works with other US agencies and international partners, is meant to stanch the drug flow at its largest and most vulnerable point: at sea.

“The Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts really employ what I call a push-out-the-border strategy. We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Adm. Karl Shultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said Nov. 15, 2018, during the offload.

“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence, corruption, instability,” Shultz added. “It’s just very hard to govern in that space when there’s that much associated disarray here that surrounds these drugs, so we’re really proud of the ability to push that border out.”

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

The Coast Guard Cutter James crew, Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District with 18.5 tons of interdicted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida.

(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)

Coast Guard officials have said after having success against self-propelled semi-submersibles, which are like subs but typically can’t fully submerge, the service has seen an uptick in the use of low-profile vessels, which look similar to speedboats but sit lower in the water, often with their decks right at water level.

“The low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz told Business Insider in a 2018 interview. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes,” he said, adding that the increase “reflects the adaptability” of traffickers.

Asked on Nov. 15, 2018, about smuggling trends the Coast Guard has observed above and below the water, Schultz said again pointed to increased use of low-profile vessels.

“We’re seeing these low-profile vessels now, which is a similar construct [to semi-submersibles] but with outboard engines,” Schultz told reporters. “They paint them seafoam green, blue. They’re hard to detect … from the air.”

Semi-submersibles and low-profile vessels are pricey, running id=”listicle-2620650428″ million to million each. But the multiton cargoes they carry can fetch hundreds of millions of dollars, making the sophisticated vessels an expense traffickers can afford.

Schultz and Randall both touted the Coast Guard’s work with its US and foreign partners.

Claire Grady, third in command at the Homeland Security Department, put the service’s high-seas interdictions squarely within the government’s broader efforts to go after drugs and the smugglers bringing them north.

“We must take actions abroad in addition to our actions at home. This merging of the home game and the away game represents the layered defense that we employ to keep the drugs off our streets and dismantle the criminal organizations that wreak violence and instability,” Grady said aboard the James on Nov. 15, 2018.

“The Coast Guard is critical to this effort, and the seized narcotics that you see behind me represents a major victory.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

The weekly, funny military memes rundown! Now with more Chris Farley!


1. Seriously, she’s been an E4 for decades. You’re not getting her (via The Salty Soldier).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Grandma’s gotta skate.

2. Air power for the win (via Pop Smoke).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

SEE ALSO: Here’s who’d win if an Airborne brigade fought a MEU

3. Remember to drink lots of water with it and be sure to take a knee (via Devil Dog Nation).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
If you’re really sick, you may need Ibuprofen as well.

4. When you finally realize you’ll never escape the barracks, not really (via Coast Guard Memes).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

5. Why are all these people arriving at the same time as me? Don’t they know I have formation!?

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Work faster, gate guards!

6. Seriously, should have joined the Air Force (via The Salty Soldier).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

7. Ponchos and poncho liners have more uses than duct tape (via The Salty Soldier).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Wet weather and cold weather, shower curtain and towel, tent cover and blanket ….

8. Having duty is no reason to let your Tinder game suffer.

(via Sh-t my LPO says).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
You still need to find someone to help you get out of the barracks.

9. Very close, sir (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

10. It’s required that you keep the muzzle out of the water…

(via Do you even Marine, bro?).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
… it’s recommended that you keep the water out of your nostrils as well.

11. Should’ve kept track of them a little better (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Lose them one more time and they’re getting an anchor attached.

12. From back when mustache proficiency and fighting proficiency went hand-in-hand:

(via Air Force Nation)

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
If he had grown a full beard, the Soviet Union would have fallen 5 years earlier.

13. The Marine Corps has a new retention strategy (via Military Memes).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
It’s funny because it’s true.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wild photos show US Marines munching on scorpions and washing them down with snake blood as they learn to survive in the jungle

US Marines are eating scorpions and drinking snake blood in the jungle, and no, it’s not because someone forgot to pack the Meals Ready to Eat.


Check out these wild photos and see how the Marines are connecting with nature in a way a lot of people would probably rather not.

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink water from a plant as part of jungle survival training.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Alicia Yoo with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats watermelon during jungle survival training.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lance with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats a live scorpion as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

Then, of course, there is one of the most iconic aspects of the Cobra Gold jungle survival training, and that is drinking cobra blood.

A King Cobra can grow to 13-feet-long and carries venom that attacks the central nervous system of its prey. A person bitten can die within 30 minutes.

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Sgt. Etrice Sawyer a native of Miami, Fla., with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, drinks the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

“We don’t do this for fun, but to survive,” a Royal Thai Marine instructor explained previously, adding, “It won’t fill you up, but it will keep you alive.”

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

popular

This company owns a private fleet of aerial refueling tankers

The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?


Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.

According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.

 

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
The Omega 707 tanker. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Omega’s KDC-10. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

 

All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.

 

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
An Omega 707 refuels the X-47B over the Atlantic Ocean. (US Navy photo)

The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
A plane comes in to refuel from Omega’s KDC-10. Note the drogue at the end of the fuel hose. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An NFL player and West Pointer reenlisted troops before the Cardinals-Rams game

In the hours before the Arizona Cardinals kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, an even more special thing happened in the Cardinals’ end zone. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was only one of two events that took place in their end zone all night. Arizona fell to Los Angeles 31-9, but 45 U.S. troops were sworn in or reenlisted that night.


You win some, you lose some.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
West Point NFL player conducts mass oath of enlistment ceremony

But wait a minute. According to 10 U.S. Code § 502, the oath has to be administered by a commissioned officer. So who is swearing in these kids and troops? That’s 1st Lt. Brett Toth, who is a beneficiary of the recent rule changes to service academy athletes. Toth’s military service requirement was deferred in order to play offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals while he was in prime physical condition. Toth is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former player for the Army Black Knights football team. He played in two of Army’s most recent wins over Navy.

The group of 45 future soldiers and Marines gathered in front of him before the game’s kickoff were recruits from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion and was part of the local Salute to Service celebration within the Cardinals franchise. The Cardinals, former home of a deceased Army ranger and former Cardinal Pat Tillman, are very excited to celebrate Salute to Service every November. It doesn’t hurt to have an actual lieutenant on hand, either.

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

(U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas)

As Toth, who is currently on the team’s disabled list, led the mass Oath of Enlistment, the crowd began to cheer wildly. After taking the oath, the 45 newly-christened U.S. troops were able to stay for the game. When the Cardinals took the field, the first people out of the locker room were Capt. Edward Donaghue, commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Hunter, one of the battalion’s recruiters.

Though the game started on a very high note for the Cardinals players and for America’s newest troops, it didn’t take long to turn for the worst. The Cardinals were soundly defeated in a 31-9 loss to the Rams.

Articles

13 funniest memes for the week of April 7

Tomahawks are flying, tensions are rising, and we’re just over here collecting memes and giggling. Here are 13 of our favorite funny military memes from this week, starting with a little shout out to the ships that conducted the strikes:


1. Congrats to the Navy for getting to set off some fireworks last night (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
But y u no shoot more?

2. Digital security is important (via Team Non-Rec).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
ISIS is coming for you with stock photos of models.

ALSO READ: The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

3. Navy Capt. Bender got the hookers out before the NCIS raid began (via Military World).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Best. Cruise. Ever.

4. You’ve got to earn that nap time by holding up that book she’s going to read to you (via Decelerate Your Life).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

5. If it’s stupid but it works … actually, this is still stupid (via Coast Guard Memes).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Would love to the new safety briefing when this goes awry.

6. Poor Jody never gets any respect (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
#JodiesServeToo

7. Grade-A, Tier-One killers (via Devil Dog Nation).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Just make sure they’re home before dark.

8. Every paratrooper’s spirit animal on a Saturday jump (via Military World).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Unless it’s a Chinook, Sherpa, or foreign jump. Then, it’s all smiles all around.

9. Shut up, POG (via Pop smoke).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
POGs who wish they weren’t POGs are 1,000 percent more likely to call people POGs than an infantryman is.

10. Yeah. This is worth the next four years of my life (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
Career counselors are basically Mephistopheles made flesh (Google it, then print one out and tape it to the career counselor’s door).

11. “Potato” isn’t too shabby (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

12. Good ol’ National Training Center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
So many great memories there.

13. You’ll never run faster than when you’re told you don’t have to run that morning (via The Salty Soldier).

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges
One word. One syllable. So many feelings.

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