A senior member of Russia’s defense and security committee told Russian TV that Norway has been added to the list of potential targets for a nuclear strike after Norway agreed to host 330 U.S. Marines for a rotational training deployment.
Norway has allowed other NATO militaries to use its country for cold weather training for years.
He later said, “Because we need to react against definitive military threats. And we have things to react to, I might as well tell it like it is.”
It’s not clear how the Marines provide a definitive military threat to Russia. While significant U.S. hardware is cached within Norway, the 330 Marines would have to invade through famously neutral Sweden to use a 700-mile route. Going around would add on hundreds of miles of travel distance and logistics problems.
And even Marines would struggle if they took on the Russian military in such small numbers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. already has troops permanently stationed in Germany, which is about the same distance from Russia, as well as service members on training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine — all of which share a border with Russia.
The Air Force, meanwhile, has forces permanently deployed to Incirlik, Turkey, which is also much closer to Russia than Værnes.
So it’s doubtful that Russia’s bluster is really about countering a valid military threat. More likely, this is Russia protesting what it sees as its continuing isolation as more and more countries deepen their ties with NATO.
Norway, for its part, insists that the Russian reaction to a training rotation of Marines is ridiculous.
Tensions between Russia and NATO have been on the rise, partially due to conflicting agendas in Syria where the U.S. and Russia are both conducting air strikes. But the dispute also comes from disagreements over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatening actions, such as the Russian abduction and jailing of an Estonian intelligence officer.
The Trump administration on Aug 6, 2018, announced it would reinstate sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal — and Iran has made no shortage of vitriolic threats about what it may do in response.
Beginning Aug 7, 2018, the US plans to sanction Iran’s central bank, sending a clear message to the US’s European allies: Do business with the US, or do it with Iran, but not both.
The US plans to follow up with another round of sanctions in November targeting Iran’s lifeblood: its oil exports.
“It’s pretty clear the Iranians are suffering a fair degree of anger over the economy,” Dennis Ross, who has worked on Middle East policy in four US administrations, told reporters on a call set up by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Iran’s currency, the rial, has tanked this year, losing about half its value against the dollar. “In the past week, the price of toothpaste has risen three times,” Ross said.
Amid the economic struggles, Iran has seen wave after wave of protests from both rich and poor citizens, protests the government has often suppressed violently. Ross said that it was unusual to have bazaar vendors, truckers, and conservative towns protesting and beaten back by riot police and that the recent protests were “noteworthy.”
Ross said, however, that Trump’s election and a mounting anticipation that sanctions would return had some effect on Iran’s economy but were “not the root cause.”
He instead pointed to corruption, talent mismanagement, years of isolation from international business standards, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ massive role in the economy, and a lack of transparency as proving inhospitable to investment.
At the same time, Trump withdrawing from the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions dealt Iran a huge blow, which will significantly hurt its earning potential and liquidity. Ross said that while China may still buy Iranian oil amid the US sanctions, it could ask for a discount; while India may still buy Iranian oil, it may offer to pay only in rupees.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Iran makes big threats and takes little action
Michael Eisenstadt, an expert on Middle East security and defense, told reporters on the Washington Institute’s call that while Iran had talked a big game, it carefully measured its actions to avoid a strong US response.
“Iran faces a dilemma,” Eisenstadt said. “In the past, Iran’s main response was to redouble efforts in the nuclear domain” as a response to US pressure, but Iran has reduced its nuclear infrastructure as part of the nuclear deal with the US and other countries.
Iran has made threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, where about 30% of the world’s oil exports pass through, but Eisenstadt and other experts dismissed this as bluster.Instead, Iran could send missiles to its Houthi allies in Yemen to target oil shipping from US allies, as it already has. Iran could attack US troops in Syria. It could detain US citizens, wage a cyberattack, or harass US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.
“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast!” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter – it is up to them!”
A summit with Trump would greatly shame the theocratic rulers of Iran, as they frame their government as a revolutionary act opposing US hegemony and cry “death to America.”
But according to Ross, Iran may have another option: Russia.
“I have a suspicion that even if it doesn’t come directly, I can easily see in six months the Iranians turning to the Russians and letting the Russians be their channel,” to negotiate with Trump, Ross said. “Given the Trump-Putin relationship, we can see Russia coming and offering something, opening up a negotiation.”
By dealing through Putin and not Trump, Iran could save face while dealing with Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and its other economic issues.
The guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham seized an illicit weapons shipment containing 2,521 AK-47 rifles Aug. 28, 2018, U.S. 5th Fleet officials announced Sept. 6, 2018.
The weapons were found aboard a stateless skiff in international waters in the Gulf of Aden.
The full count follows an initial estimate of more than 1,000 rifles. The skiff was determined to be stateless following a flag-verification boarding conducted in accordance with international law. The origin and intended destination of the skiff have not yet been determined.
Searching for illegal weapons
“As a part of our countertrafficking mission, we are actively involved in searching for illegal weapons shipments of all kinds,” said Navy Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, and the Combined Maritime Forces.
“Ensuring the free flow of commerce for legitimate traffic and countering malign actors at sea continue to be paramount to the U.S. Navy and its regional partners and allies,” Stearney added.
The seizure comes after four weapons seizures in 2015 and 2016 accomplished by Combined Maritime Forces and U.S. 5th Fleet assets.
The first seizure was by the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Melbourne, Sept. 27, 2015, when it intercepted a dhow containing 75 anti-tank guided munitions, four tripods with associated equipment, four launch tubes, two launcher assembly units, and three missile guidance sets.
U.S. sailors stack AK-47 automatic rifles aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the Gulf of Aden, Aug. 30, 2018. The ship’s visit, board, search and seizure team seized the weapons from a skiff during a flag verification boarding as part of maritime security operations.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Clay)
The second seizure was by the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Darwin, which intercepted a dhow Feb. 27, 2016, and confiscated nearly 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 81 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 spare PKM barrels and 20 60 mm mortar tubes.
The third seizure was by the French navy destroyer FS Provence March 20, 2016, and yielded again almost 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 64 Dragunov sniper rifles, nine anti-tank missiles and six PK machine guns with bipods.
The fourth seizure was by U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship USS Sirocco, which was operating as part of U.S. 5th Fleet, March 28, 2016, when it intercepted a dhow containing 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns.
The United Kingdom-based investigative organization Conflict Armament Research studied and linked three of the caches to weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles.
Based on an analysis of all available information, including crew interviews, a review of onboard records and an examination of the arms aboard the vessel, the United States concluded that the arms from the four interdictions in 2015 and 2016 originated in Iran and were intended to be delivered to the Houthis in Yemen in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216.
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.
Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.
The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.
(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)
Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.
So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.
I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.
Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.
Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.
Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.
“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘
For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.
Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:
After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.
The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.
Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot? “You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”
But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.
The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.
Squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 flew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Sept. 9, 2019, for carrier qualifications as part of Tailored Ship’s Training Availability/Final Evaluation Problem (TSTA/FEP).
“Team Battle Axe is thrilled to be aboard the Mighty Ike once again and join the best crew in the fleet,” said Capt. Trevor Estes, commander of CVW 3.
“The training our aviators and air crew will accomplish during carrier qualifications will ensure we are all ready to meet the nation’s call at a moment’s notice as the ship becomes ready to fight. With grit and determination, CVW 3 will continue to improve on its successes and do our part to make Ike greater each day.”
CVW 3 squadrons from around the United States have joined Ike’s crew for the assessment, which will evaluate Ike and the embarked air wing as an integrated team and on their proficiency in a wide range of mission critical areas while maintaining the ability to survive complex casualty control scenarios.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Nicholas Harvey observes an F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Gunslingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 9, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist Seaman Apprentice Trent P. Hawkins)
“It’s a great opportunity for us to train at the air wing level and ultimately at the strike group level,” said Lt. Matt Huffman, a naval aviator attached to VFA 131. “It’s our first real combined exercise as part of the work-up cycle. We’ve done a lot of work at the squadron level and the unit level. This is the first time that we are going to be integrated together.”
The aircraft and crew of CVW 3 is comprised of HSC 7, the “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, the “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130, the “Screwtops” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32, the “Gunslingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, the “Rampagers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131.
Rear Adm. Paul J. Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, arrives aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 12, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Tatyana Freeman)
Sailors perform aircraft maintenance in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 10, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Sawyer Haskins)
A MK 31 Rolling Airframe Missile launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower during a Live Fire With a Purpose event, Sept. 11, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Tony D. Curtis)
Sailors observe flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 10, 2019.
The squadrons and staff of CVW 3 are part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, also known as the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG, which includes Ike, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Monterey (CG 61), USS San Jacinto (CG 56), and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); and the ships and staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NATO defense ministers have wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels during which they approved plans to create two command centers in response to what the military alliance called a “changing” security environment.
Speaking at the end of the meeting on Feb. 15, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies also planned to “scale up” the alliance’s presence in Iraq.
On the first day of their talks, the ministers approved the establishment of two new command centers aimed at supporting rapid troop movements across Europe and protecting sea channels between the continent and North America.
The new command center for logistics, reinforcement, and military mobility will allow NATO to respond to crises “with the right forces, in the right place, at the right time,” Stoltenberg said on Feb. 14, 2018.
The NATO ministers also agreed to set up a new cyberoperations center to help counter military hacker attacks, among other things.
“The security environment in Europe has changed, and so NATO is responding,” he also said.
Since the Cold War, the alliance has shrunk from 22,000 staff working in 33 command centers to fewer than 7,000 staff in seven centers, the secretary-general said.
The ministers are expected to decide on the required timelines, locations, and increased staff levels at their next meeting in June 2018.
The moves come as relations between Moscow and NATO have been severely strained over issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and its support for separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine. The war between Kyiv’s forces and the Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
Allegations of malicious Russian cyberactivity and a series of potentially dangerous close encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes and navy ships in recent months has added to the tension.
Stoltenberg said on Feb. 15, 2018 he was looking forward to meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Feb. 16-18 Munich Security Conference in Germany, saying “dialogue is particularly important when tensions are high.”
On Iraq, the secretary-general announced that the defense ministers agreed to start planning for a NATO training mission that he said would “make our current training efforts more sustainable.”
“We will also plan to help the Iraqi forces become increasingly professional” by “establishing specialized military academies and schools,” he added.
“We are planning to scale up NATO’s presence. But we are not planning for a combat mission,” Stoltenberg said. “We can make a big impact with our trainers and advisers — in full coordination with the Iraqi government, the global coalition, and other actors, such as the UN and the EU.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a press conference in Brussels that NATO allies “will go to a constant mission in Iraq to build the capabilities that [the Iraqis] believe they need to sustain this effort and protect their people from the uprising of another type of terrorist organization.”
NATO ministers also met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in the Belgian capital to discuss their concerns over duplication after members of the bloc agreed in December 2017 to develop new military equipment and improve cooperation and decision-making.
“There is a clear understanding to include in written EU documents that the common defense is a NATO mission and a NATO mission alone,” Mattis said.
The Mustang will appear at the Flying Legends Airshow on July 8 and 9, and then will take part in the International Air Tatoo on July 15 and 16 in Fairford, England. During that show, the “Berlin Express” will fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
The pilot of the plane, Dan Friedkin, owns one of the largest private military warbird collections in the world. In addition to the P-51, he has also flown the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, F-86 Saber, and T-6 Texan, among other aircraft.
“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Friedkin, who’s chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force.”
Friedkin founded the Horsemen Flight Team — an aerobatic demonstration team that flies vintage warbirds — and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, which honors the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.
The P-51B being flown to England was originally designated 43-24837 before it was restored and painted to look like the original “Berlin Express.” The 43-24837 plane crashed in the U.K. after its pilot bailed out during a training mission on July 10, 1944.
The “Berlin Express” was famous for a dogfight in which its pilot, William Overstreet, Jr., was engaging a German fighter. During the battle, the Nazi pilot tried to evade Overstreet by flying through the Eiffel Tower.
Overstreet followed the Nazi, flying between the tower’s arches, and proceeded to shoot the enemy plane down. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, Overstreet made good his escape.
In 2009, Overstreet was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, for the engagement. He died in 2013. The release did not mention whether or not there would be a repeat performance of the flight through the Eiffel Tower.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of 41st President George H. W. Bush, passed away in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. The mother of 6 and grandmother of 17 was 92.
Only two women in American history have both served as First Lady and raised a son who would become president. The first was Abigail Adams, First Lady to President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. The second was Mrs. Bush, whose son George W. Bush would serve two terms as Commander in Chief beginning just 8 years after his father left office.
Yet Mrs. Bush’s legacy extends far beyond her role as the matriarch of one of America’s most consequential political families. She served as a close and trusted adviser to her husband during the first Bush Administration, and she tirelessly championed the cause of literacy throughout her life. The New York Timesreports that Mrs. Bush attended more than 500 events related to literacy just counting her husband’s time as Vice President in the Reagan Administration alone.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
“Amongst [Mrs. Bush’s] greatest achievements was recognizing the importance of literacy as a fundamental family value that requires nurturing and protection,” President Donald J. Trump said in a statement. “She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well.”
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
The outpouring of deeply personal remembrances in the hours following Mrs. Bush’s death is a testament to both her force as a public figure and her warmth as a friend. “When I first met Barbara Bush in 1988 as she entertained spouses of congressional candidates at the @VP Residence, her sage advice and words of encouragement touched my life in a profound way,” Second Lady Karen Pence wrote on Twitter. “Since becoming Second Lady, she has become a trusted friend. I will miss her.”
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
Those sentiments weren’t limited to public officials. “You were a beautiful light in this world and I am forever thankful for your friendship,” Houston Texans defensive end J. J. Watt wrote.
Remembering Barbara Bush
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
Mrs. Bush’s far-reaching work and plainspoken style made her a bipartisan symbol for women’s empowerment. She also embraced the value of accessibility in a First Lady. When she famously wore fake pearls to her husband’s Presidential Inauguration and throughout her time in the White House, her deputy press secretary quipped it was because “she just really likes them.”
(Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
Acutely aware of the public spotlight cast on First Ladies, Mrs. Bush served as America’s first hostess “with respect but without fuss or frippery,” Vanessa Friedman writes in The New York Times.
(Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
The Bush family shared personal tributes of their own. “Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions,” former President George W. Bush wrote. “To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother.”
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
First Lady Melania Trump will attend Mrs. Bush’s funeral in Texas on April 21, 2018. President Trump has ordered that all U.S. flags at Federal locations fly at half-staff until sunset of that day.
“Throughout her life, she put family and country above all else,” Mrs. Trump said in a statement. “She was a woman of strength and we will always remember her for her most important roles of wife, mother, and First Lady of the United States.”
NAVSUP FLC Bahrain’s transportation service providers carried a heavy box to the truck during the a household goods move amid the COVID-19 crisis. (U.S. Navy/ Kambra Blackmon)
The stop-movement order in effect for military families on permanent change-of-station moves, originally set to run through June 30, will be lifted in stages, with some installations to begin accepting transfers immediately, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
At select installations stateside that have met White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on preventing COVID-19, commanders will be able to “go green immediately” on PCS moves, said Matt Donovan, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
The installations approved for immediate lifting of restrictions and travel and permanent changes of station would be listed in a classified document Tuesday night and named publicly as early as Wednesday, Donovan said.
He and Lisa Hershman, the Pentagon’s chief management officer, said that, overall, the lifting of the stop-movement restrictions would depend on local conditions, both stateside and overseas.
Donovan cited the example of the Army‘s Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border, saying the installation commander would have to gauge whether local conditions in both states have been met.
Esper issued the stop-movement order on travel in March and on April 20 extended it to June 30, but thousands of exceptions have been approved for individual cases.
Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Command said about 30,000 military families had received conditional permission to move before June 30.
“So those are the families who have been approved or authorized to move, if conditions allow,” Rick Marsh, director of the Defense Personal Property Program for U.S. Transportation Command, said at a May 6 Pentagon briefing.
The overall travel restrictions will be lifted in five phases, mostly dependent on local conditions stateside and overseas and on bases themselves, said Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.
Both Hershman and Donovan said that there was no timeframe for going through the five phases on lifting restrictions — it was all dependent on local conditions and the decisions of installation commanders stateside and Combatant Commanders overseas.
Donovan said there were “two overarching [sets of] factors” to be considered in easing the travel and permanent change of station restrictions: first, state and local criteria on protection against COVID-19, and White House guidance on “reopening America.”
A second set of factors included conditions on the installations themselves, testing capabilities and the availability of essential services such as schools and hospitals, Donovan said.
“It’s not date-related, we’re looking at the conditions,” Hershman said.
The Pentagon building itself and other facilities on the Pentagon reservation have remained open, but entrances have been restricted and those reporting to work have been required to wear face masks and observe social distancing.
Hershman said that the move by Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ease the conditions for opening facilities will also apply to the Pentagon building itself and other facilities on the Pentagon reservation.
She said that the basic requirement for reopening moves at the Pentagon will be Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia showing a downward trend in coronavirus cases that continues for at least 14 days.
About two-thirds of the Pentagon’s workforce of more than 20,000 has been teleworking during the pandemic. Hershman said the Pentagon was looking to set conditions that would “enable their return in a controlled and steady manner,” but there was no timeframe.
She also said many in the Pentagon’s workforce could be allowed to continue teleworking.
“That’s something we’re considering. We’re encouraging the leadership to do what makes sense.”
Service members who move themselves instead of relying on a government-contracted moving company will also be paid more, effective immediately, as part of a temporary incentive, according to new guidance released by TRANSCOM Tuesday.
Typically, troops who move themselves as part of a Personally Procured Move (PPM), also known as a DITY, are reimbursed 95% of what the government would pay a contracted moving company. The new authority increases that reimbursement by 5%, putting it on par with what the moving company would be paid.
“This item revises Joint Travel Regulations … to temporarily authorize a monetary allowance that is equal to 100% of the Government’s ‘Best Value’ for personally procured moves due to COVID-19,” the guidance states.
The increase will be available for moves May 26 through December 31. The proposal, first floated by Army officials in late April, aims to clear out a backlog of PCS moves created by the Defense Department’s global stop-movement order.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been credited with major medical advancements since its research office was created in 1925 — the cardiac pacemaker, shingles vaccine and the first successful liver transplant topping its list of accomplishments.
Now, a group of lawmakers wants VA researchers to turn their attention to marijuana.
Lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — led by the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress — are calling on the VA to initiate research into the efficacy of medical cannabis. In a letter Thursday to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the lawmakers cited the country’s opioid crisis and the growing demand from veterans and major veterans service organizations that want cannabis available as a treatment option for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
VA research into medical marijuana, the lawmakers wrote, is “integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation.”
“There’s the possibility research can help inform not just veterans’ care, but everyone’s care,” said Griffin Anderson, press secretary for Democrats on the committee.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is the ranking Democrat on the committee and a retired command sergeant major with the Minnesota ArmyNational Guard. He’s one of nine Democrats and an Independent who signed the letter Thursday. The others are: Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Kathleen Rice, D-NY; J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.; Kilili Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.
The letter marks the first instance that the leadership of veterans’ affairs committee in the House or Senate has urged a VA secretary to conduct research on medical marijuana, Anderson said. Only recently, medical marijuana was thought of as a “fringe issue” by staff of committee Democrats.
The timing of the letter was based on Shulkin’s comments regarding medical marijuana in May, followed by months of advocacy from groups such as the American Legion. During a “State of the VA” address at the White House, Shulkin — who is also a practicing physician — acknowledged there was some evidence marijuana could be effective as a medical treatment and said he was open to learning more about it.
“The secretary expressed interest to look into this. I think he was speaking from a personal standpoint, but it was on a public stage,” said Megan Bland, a staff member for committee Democrats. “When you look at that, and take the veterans’ suicide rates, the opioid crisis and the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder, it just makes so much sense that if there’s a solution, we should explore it.”
Since May, the American Legion has strongly advocated for more research into medical marijuana. At its national convention in August, the organization adopted a resolution urging the VA to allow doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. That’s in addition to a resolution that the group passed the previous year asking for marijuana to be removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, which include with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others designated as having no medical use.
The Legion has been supportive of research in Phoenix, Ariz., that is the first federally approved study of marijuana’s effects on veterans with PTSD.
Louis Celli, a leader within the Legion, said the organization is trying to prove to lawmakers that medical marijuana is a politically safe topic.
Celli described the letter that lawmakers sent Thursday as “the beginning of the snowball.” He noted it carried weight being led by Walz, whom Celli called a “major player in the veteran community.”
“The U.S. government has to address this issue… they can’t turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not coming to critical mass,” Celli said. “If veteran research could lead the way for a national, medical shift in the efficacy of cannabis and start that dialogue, that’s good for America.”
Staff for Democrats on the House committee found no regulatory barriers that would prevent the VA from immediately researching medical marijuana. Bland said the VA already possesses a Schedule I license, which is required by the Drug Enforcement Administration to study marijuana.
Lawmakers asked Shulkin to respond to their letter by Nov. 14, with either a commitment to develop research into medical marijuana or a detailed reason for why the VA can’t.
“Everything we looked at suggests the VA can pursue this tomorrow,” Bland said. “And if they can’t, we want them to tell us why they can’t, with the idea that hopefully we’d be able to help them overcome those barriers in the next year.”
Prosecutors have accused a man of sending threatening and harassing messages on Instagram to relatives and friends of people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Brandon Fleury, a resident of Santa Ana, California, said he sent the threatening messages for nearly three weeks using numerous Instagram accounts, according to a criminal complaint filed in the US District Court of Southern Florida and seen by INSIDER.
“One post threatened to kidnap the message recipients, while others sought to harass the recipients by repeatedly taunting the relatives and friends of the [high school] victims, cheering the deaths of their loved ones and, among other things, asking them to cry,” the affidavit said.
Following the search warrant on his home, Fleury said he created multiple Instagram profiles referencing Nikolas Cruz, who is accused of killing 17 people in the Parkland shooting.
Nikolas Cruz being arrested by police in Florida, Feb. 14, 2018.
At least five accounts with usernames such as “nikolas.killed.your.sister,” “the.douglas.shooter,” and “nikolasthemurderer,” were traced to an IP address linked to Fleury’s home during the course of a law-enforcement investigation.
Some of the messages contained emojis with applauding hands, a smiling face, and a handgun:
“I killed your loved ones hahaha”
“With the power of my AR-15, I erased their existence”
“I gave them no mercy”
“They had their whole lives ahead of them and I f—–g stole it from them”
“Did you like my Valentines gift? I killed your friends.”
“Little [AS] will never play music again,” one message said on New Year’s Eve, in an apparent reference to the death of 14-year-old student Alex Schachter, who performed in the school’s marching band and orchestra.
Fleury said in a statement that he posted the messages “in an attempt to taunt or ‘troll’ the victims and gain popularity,” according to the FBI. Fleury also said he had a “fascination” with Cruz and other mass shooters, and specifically targeted the victims’ family, who he said were “activists” with large followings on social media.
Multiple news outlets cited authorities who said Fleury did not show remorse for his actions.
Law-enforcement officials investigated similar threats made on Instagram in 2018. Two days after the Parkland shooting, a 15-year-old Florida teen was arrested on charges of threatening to kill people in the same school district. The teen at the time “appeared to be remorseful and claimed his post was a joke,” according to the Broward Country Sheriff’s Office.
This article originally appeared on INSIDER. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
*This story was updated on 1/29 to reflect input from the Department of the Army*
Early in the world wars, many American women found roles open to them. While they were usually kept far from the direct combat (nurses excluded), the positions they filled were usually designed to “free a man to fight.” Female units formed throughout the U.S. military, though not without debate or criticism. Many of these were based on similar British organizations for women. After visiting Americans observed these female units in action, they brought the good ideas home.
The Women’s Flying Training Detachment was one such unit. Created by Legendary Air Force (then-Army Air Corps) General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, these women pilots were hired to fill jobs flying aircraft stateside from base to base. They received hundreds of flying hours in training, but were not considered a real part of the Army and thus could not received veteran status. The WFTD and the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce Ferrying Squadron (WAAFS) were both formed separately in 1942. The WAAFS would take fighters, bombers, and transports from the factories to stateside bases. Both the WAAFS and WFTD would later be merged with the now-famous Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.
The first director of the WASPs was Jacqueline Cochran, a contemporary of famed pilot Amelia Earhart. She was only woman to win the Bendix Transcontinental Aeronautical Race and also a five-time Harmon Trophy winner, which was awarded to the world’s foremost leading aviator. Cochran would also become the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean, the first woman to break the sound barrier, and many more female firsts. She also currently holds more distance and speed records than any pilot of any gender, living or dead. If that wasn’t enough of a pedigree, Nancy H. Love, commander of the WAFS, was the Executive Officer for the new unit. Love was also an accomplished pilot by any metric. She was certified in 19 military aircraft and was the first woman to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress. After the creation of the independent Air Force, Cochran and Love would both joint the U.S. Air Force Reserve and rise to the ranks of lieutenant colonel.
The WASP program would train over a thousand pilots as light training instructors, glider tow pilots, towing targets for air-to-air and anti-aircraft gunnery practice, engineering test flying, ferrying aircraft, and other duties. They were considered civil services employees, never being accepted into the Army Air Forces despite their proven ability. WASPs were capable of flying any aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, including the P-51 Mustang and B-29 Superfortress,, often remarked by men as being difficult to fly. In fact, the first person to fly an Army Air Forces jet was WASP Ann Baumgartner.
WASPs were required to complete the same training as male Army Air Corps pilots, save for combat flying, such as gunnery and acrobatics. WASPs did their training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas and were stationed at 120 air bases across the U.S. They would deliver more than 12,000 aircraft of 78 different types.
Thirty-eight WASPs died during the program’s run. The accident rate was similar to that of males doing the same work. Hap Arnold himself would address the last class of WASPs to graduate from training.
“You … have shown that you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. If ever there was doubt in anyone’s mind that women could become skilled pilots,” Arnold said. “The WASPs dispelled that doubt. I want to stress how valuable the whole WASP program has been for the country.”
The WASP program was classified and sealed until 1977, when a false press release from the Department of the Air Force announced that the first women would be trained to fly military aircraft. Then-Colonel Bruce Arnold, son of General Hap Arnold, lobbied Congress for full recognition of the WASPs as veterans. President Carter ordered their recognition as veterans in 1977 and in 1984, they received their World War II Victory Medal. In 2009, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, with 300 surviving members on hand to receive them.
The family of WASP Elaine Danforth Harmon started a petition to get WASPs their recognition as veterans eligible for inurnment at Arlington. According to the Department of the Army, WASPs have never been eligible either for inurnment or burial at Arlington.
“The service of Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II is highly commendable and, while certainly worthy of recognition, it does not, in itself, reach the level of Active Duty service required for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery,” Lt. Col. Patrick Seiber of the Army’s Media Relations Division clarified.
“The confusion is caused, in part, by Public Law 95-202 Section 401,” Seiber continued. “Which authorized the Secretary of Defense to declare that certain groups be considered active duty for the purpose of allowing certain Veterans Affairs benefits, which include burial and inurnment at national cemeteries maintained by VA.”
“Arlington is not administered by the VA, and its eligibility criteria are far more stringent, due to space limitations. Burial space at Arlington National Cemetery is ultimately finite. Based upon current demand and capacity, Arlington will exhaust interment and inurnment space for any Active Duty service member or veteran in the next 20 years, by the mid 2030’s.”
Harmon was too young to volunteer for the war effort, but she got her parents’ permission to join. Her 40 hours of flight time earned her a training spot in Sweetwater, Texas, and then later a spot for more training at Nellis, in Nevada. It was a rare opportunity, only one woman was accepted for every ten males. Even then, they were treated like the backwater of the flying corps. WASPs did not even have uniforms until about seven months before they were deactivated. They wore coveralls when they flew and had to wash them in the showers.
“My grandmother was just a generally very adventurous person. When she saw an advertisement for a program to learn how to fly, she said ‘Oh that sounds like something I’d be interested in doing,'” Harmon’s granddaughter Erin Miller told PRI. “My grandmother and the women she served with, the other WASPs, were just really excited to be able to serve their country, like they would gladly have gone overseas if they had been allowed to — they had no hesitation about that. They were just very glad to serve their country.”
If you somehow are on the internet and haven’t seen the viral BBC interview of an expert on South Korea being interrupted during a BBC interview by his children, then you can see it here.
The dad is impressively collected as his wife rushes in to grab the children and pull them out, but the internet had a field day with the interview.
Now, a U.S. Air Force crew has created a spoof video where a pilot is attempting to read her takeoff clearance back when the crew starts stumbling in. Another airman, probably the chief, has to rush in and grab the other crewmen out of the cabin.
The results are pretty great. You can check the video out below: