Do you know someone who is going to Marine boot camp or who is already at boot camp? If so then your recruit is officially beginning their journey to becoming a United States Marine! Over the next 12 weeks, your recruit will be pushed beyond their limits and if successful be made into a Marine. Through this transformation, your recruit will need your support and motivation to help them succeed. Here is all you need to know about sending Letters to Marine boot camp.
MCRD San Diego Mailing Address
MCRD San Diego Mailing Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name #(st, nd, rd) BN “Company” Platoon #### ##### Midway Avenue San Diego CA 92140-####
RECRUIT John Doe 1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000 38001 Midway Avenue San Diego, CA. 92140-5670
MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address
MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name #(st, nd, rd) BN “Company Name” Platoon #### PO Box ##### Parris Island, SC 29905-####
RECRUIT John Doe 1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000 PO Box 16945 Parris Island, SC 29905-6945
What should I write in my Letters to Marine boot camp?
Over the next thirteen weeks recruits will be pushed beyond their limits and, if successful, transition into a United Staes Marine.
Mental and physical exhaustion will become a norm as the loved one you said goodbye to is transformed into a completely new person.
Mail call will be the most anticipated time of the day, and your recruit will enjoy receiving a lot of mail from your over the course of the next three months.
In case you ever face writer’s block, we’ve come up with some questions to ask your recruit when writing Letters to Marine boot camp.
1. What were your first thoughts when you got off of the bus and stepped onto the yellow footprints?
2. What time do your mornings start?
3. How delicious is the chow?
4. What has been the worst thing about boot camp?
5. If you could describe boot camp in one word what would it be?
6. How many recruits are in your platoon?
7. What’s the name of one friend you’ve made, where are they from?
8. On a scale of 1 to 10 how much fun are pugil stick battles?
9. What is one thing your platoon gets yelled at for the most?
10. What time do you normally get to sleep?
11. Have you been given a nickname?
12. Is there anyone in your platoon not receiving mail that I can write to?
13. Has it been hard to keep your rack area clean and in tip top shape?
14. What have you liked best about boot camp?
15. How hard is it to keep your M-16 clean?
16. How fast can you take your M-16 and put it back together?
17. What has been the funniest thing your DI has said this week?
18. What’s the best advice you have received at boot camp?
19. What was going through your head when you jumped off of the repel tower?
20. What is the dumbest thing you have seen or heard another recruit do?
21. Has boot camp been what you expected it to be?
22. What is your wish list of bases you would like to be stationed at?
23. What’s the first thing you want to do after graduation?
24. What homemade/fast food meal do you miss the most?
Your Letters to your recruit don’t need to be long and they don’t need to be fancy. What’s important is that you’re sending mail to support them through this journey.
Sending Letters via the Sandboxx app, will get your message and photos into your recruit’s hands within a couple of days (we overnight your Letters directly to the ship). We also include a return envelope with every Sandboxx Letter so your loved one can write you back!
Ready to send your first Letter to Marine boot camp?
Send your first letter to Marine boot camp with the Sandboxx app, write your message, include a photo and hit send.
Save and attach our week one image below to give your recruit motivation for their first week at Marine boot camp.
One of the joys of reading is the long-running book series. One-off stories are well and good but there is great joy in reading a multiple book series featuring the same cast of characters and watching them grow and deal with increasingly severe situations. Serialized fiction is not for everyone but if it is your jam, there are few literary joys equivalent to a good series.
One long running series is the Jonathan Grave series of books by John Gilstrap. Twelve books and counting, it is the sort of thing that can excite an appreciator of serial fiction. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.
This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.
Hi, John! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is John Gilstrap. I am a lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, as is my bride of 36 years. Since 1995, I have penned 21 thrillers and one nonfiction book. My passion has always been writing. In fact, I am one of precious few people I know who, in my sixth decade on the planet, is doing exactly what I would have told you I wanted to do when I was a teenager.
Hellfire is the latest novel in your long-running Jonathan Grave series of books. Please tell us a bit about this series and its protagonist.
Long-running indeed! Hellfire is the 12th entry in the series. I never dreamed that the series would have that kind of legs. What an honor!
Jonathan Grave and his team are freelance hostage rescue specialists. As a team, they often work outside of the law, but never on the wrong side of it. When the police run a hostage rescue operation, their primary objective is to make sure that the bad guys go to jail. When Security Solutions, Jonathan’s team, run a rescue, their sole focus is to save the good guys. What happens to the bad guys is not their concern.
Uncle Sam is aware of what the team is capable of, and it is not uncommon for the director of the FBI to engage them to do things that governments simply cannot do.
I don’t think of the Grave books as a series, though. They are standalone thrillers with recurring characters. I work hard to make sure that each book can stand on its own without confusing readers, while including treats for the benefit of fans who have come along for the whole ride.
To me, one of the interesting things about this novel is the cast of characters at Grave’s company Security Solutions and his contact at the FBI. Please tell me about them and how they have evolved as the series has progressed.
Thank you. Jonathan does not suffer fools. He surrounds himself with a team that is extraordinarily competent, and they are 100% committed to each other. Of the three main operators, Jonathan and Boxers are former Delta Force operators, and Gail Bonneville was part of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). The fourth member of the team, Venice Alexander, is a world-class hacker who can work wonders in cyberspace.
Jonathan has a special relationship with Irene Rivers, director of the FBI. Back in the day, when Irene was still a special agent for the FBI and Jonathan was still in the Army, Jonathan and Boxers broke more than a few laws to save Irene’s young daughters from a predator. That’s their special secret and their special bond. After Irene was named FBI director, that bond took on special importance.
Jonathan’s team is the only family he has.
A lot of thriller books in this genre seem dominated by former military or law enforcement writers. But I learned in preparing the review for another of your books, Nathan’s Run, your background was as a firefighter and safety engineer. How has that informed your writing style?
Beginning when I was 23 years old, I entered the worst moments of strangers’ lives and brought order to chaos. Over the next fifteen years, over thousands of emergency responses, I delivered two babies and counseled countless grieving spouses, parents and children. I was burned, shot at, and threatened with one very large knife. Along the way, I saved far more lives than I lost and formed deep bonds with some fine public servants. And I did all of that without being paid a dime. Those experiences affect everything that I think and do. How can it not?
Professionally, my safety engineering dealt mainly with explosives and other hazardous materials. I conducted well over 1,000 accident investigations, from minor cuts to fatalities; from small fires to major explosions.
I don’t know exactly how that all informs my writing style, but I figure it must. Again, how could it not?
I was interested to learn that your one non-fiction book was about the rescue of Kurt Muse during the Panamanian Invasion. Did the people you meet researching that book help build your portrayal of Jonathan Grave?
The people I met doing the research for Six Minutes to Freedom serve as the models for both Jonathan and Boxers. The men and women of the American Special Forces are a breed unlike any other. They are dedicated not just to God and country, but also to each other and to their mission. Those are all traits and principles that drive Jonathan Grave and his team.
As with any long running series, one often wonders ‘What next?’ What is next for Grave and his company of Hostage Rescue professionals?
The 13th entry in the Grave series will be Stealth Attack. It is still too deeply in the development phase to describe it.
After the end of this book, there was a sample chapter for a new series you are writing called Crimson Phoenix. Could you take a moment to tell us about it?
The Crimson Phoenix series takes my work in an entirely new direction. In it, World War III lasts about eight hours, and when it is done, the United States is left in ruins. With all the infrastructure gone, and elected leaders unable to communicate with people outside of the bunkers that protected official Washington, it falls to individual citizens to figure out a way to continue living. It doesn’t take long for the weak to turn feral. In one corner of West Virginia, though, a single mom named Victoria Emerson turns out to be the leader that everyone’s been looking for.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today!
The personnel chiefs for the Navyand Marine Corps revealed Tuesday that both services are considering updating their policies to require mandatory processing for administrative separation for troops found to have engaged in abusive social media activity, a move that would make online violations akin to drug use and sexual assault.
Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Marine Corps deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com that a task force organized to address the aftermath of a social media scandal implicating Marines is considering the option.
The scandal centers on a private Facebook page called Marines United, where hundreds of active-duty troops and reservists apparently viewed and exchanged nude and compromising photos of female service members without their consent. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into the illicit activity has since expanded beyond the page to other groups and users, NCIS officials said last week.
“There is mandatory processing for administrative separation in a number of different cases. Use of drugs requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual harassment requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual assault requires mandatory administrative processing,” Brilakis said, following a congressional hearing on military social media policies on Capitol Hill.
“We are considering whether events wrapped up in Marines United, those things, would rise to the level where the commandant would recommend or direct me to begin mandatory administrative processing for separation,” he said.
Processing does not guarantee that an individual will be separated from the service, but it does direct that the relevant commander begin a review, and an administrative board review the case of the service member in question. Such a move would require a change to the Marine Corps separations manual, Brilakis said.
The Navy, which organized a senior leader working group in the wake of the scandal, is considering a similar step, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel Tuesday.
“We are reviewing the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and Navy policy governing mandatory administrative separation to ensure they are adequate,” he said.
The fact that both services are considering such a move, reserved for violations for which the military has a zero-tolerance policy, underscores how seriously the military is now addressing the problem of social media harassment and the pressure from lawmakers to produce results fast.
Similar policies implemented in the 1980s to combat drug use in the services resulted in a huge reduction. According to Defense Department statistics, 47 percent of troops were found to have used drugs in 1973, compared to just 3 percent by 1995. More recently, the military has worked to apply the same approach to sexual harassment and assault, though the results to date have been more muted.
The policy reviews come as multiple lawmakers express outrage at service members’ alleged behavior and call for decisive action.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire, called on the military to boot offenders, reading aloud from an enlistment document that states troops will be subject to separation if their behavior falls short of military standards.
“I don’t know why we have to debate and you tell them at the very beginning and you sign off saying their behaviors are unacceptable,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to then pursue many various avenues. Do you still have the power to throw them out if it’s very clear they can’t do this?”
Brilakis, however, emphasized that everyone in uniform deserves due process and will continue to receive it.
“Whether it be through an administrative procedure or a military justice procedure, there are processes,” he said.
A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.
The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.
If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.
The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.
The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.
Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.
The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.
“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”
The Central Issuing Facility loans plenty of great and not-so-great items to the troops. Many pieces of gear, like the load-bearing vest and the elbow pads, were tossed back with no remorse, but others are just too damn useful to part with.
Whether they’re listed as expendable, given to the troops with no intention of reclamation, or they’re swapped with a second one bought at the surplus store off-installation, troops just can’t part with these things.
The MOLLE straps let you know that it’s legit — not some imitation.
(Photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)
Go to any college campus in America and within ten seconds, you’ll identify who’s using the GI Bill to pay for tuition. Rarely will a vet switch back to a civilian backpack after using the assault pack.
It’s much sturdier than anything you can find in the back-to-school section and it’s free, so… why not?
Even if vets have the options, they’ll only use the multi-tool.
(Photo by Pedro Vera)
Most civilians will stockpile an entire drawer full of miscellaneous tools. Veterans who were issued a multi-tool will just use the one.
Sure, civilians can get their own versions, but there’s just something badass about fixing stuff around the house with a Gerber that has a front sight post adjuster.
Basically what every veteran’s closet looks like.
(Photo by Mike Kaplan)
Throughout a troop’s career, they sign off a lot of junk that’s never going to be touched again — even after they clear CIF for the last time. This leads to every veteran owning their very own “duffel bag full of crap.”
The bag may get re-purposed for storing other things, but nine times out of ten, it’s still full of the same crap that was stuffed in there years ago.
I’m totally not talking about myself… Totally.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor Newman)
Standard shovels are far too bulky to keep around. Collapsing an entrenching tool and tossing it in the trunk is kind of necessary if you live in a state that gets terrible snowfall.
Even if you’re not using it to get your car out of a snowbank because you’re too damn proud to call someone for help and you want to prove to yourself that you’re still a competent survivor and driver, it still makes for a great way to dig holes at a moment’s notice.
Just sayin’. After people stop mocking you for wearing snivel gear, your resistance to the weather goes down — fast.
(Photo by Airman Areca T. Bell)
Troops don’t often get the chance to wear their thermals while in the military without enduring ridicule from their peers. The moment they get out, they finally have the opporunity.
The same thermals can be spotted on both veterans who are out hunting and veterans that just don’t feel like wearing civilian pajamas.
Doesn’t matter if our older brothers hate it. We don’t mind be hated and comfortable.
(Photo by Spc. Michael Sharp)
After veterans get out, they’ll be cuddling on the couch with their significant other, watching TV while draped in some regular old throw blanket. But it just isn’t the same. It’s not their poncho liner or, as it’s more affectionately known, their woobie.
That throw blanket from Bed, Bath, and Beyond didn’t deploy with them. That throw blanket wasn’t their only companion in the bizarrely cold desert nights. That throw blanket wasn’t the only piece of military gear that was fielded with the express intention of being used for comfort.
No, only the woobie holds that special place in the hearts of younger veterans.
The greatest ten-cent beer opener ever!
P-38 can openers
These items aren’t really ranked in any particular order. But if they were, the can opener would certainly top the list. Many troops swear that their beloved woobie is the most cherished, but older generations of veterans will confess a deep love for their can opener.
A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged.
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February.
The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.
It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays.
Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.
‘Early Stages Of Forming’
Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizeable Afghan population.
“It’s still in the early stages of forming,” said Giustozzi, adding that the military strength and the leadership of the faction is unknown.
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the new splinter group has not been “officially announced.” The official said members of the group included radical Taliban commanders and members of small Taliban offshoots.
A new report by a United Nations monitoring team made public on June 1 said that “at least one group of senior Taliban” had “formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement.”
The breakaway faction was “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” said the report, which was based on information provided by Afghan and foreign intelligence and security services, think tanks, experts, and interlocutors.
Iran Building Taliban ‘Combat Capabilities’
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami joins a growing list of Taliban factions that support continued fighting against Afghan and international troops.
“There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran,” said Giustozzi.
Among them, he added, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
That is despite Haqqani’s op-ed in February in The New York Times, in which he voiced support for the peace deal with the United States.
Haqqani, who is the Taliban’s operational chief, has a million U.S. bounty on his head. He is the son of the late radical Islamist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.
The Haqqani network has strong ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But Giustozzi said the network is “getting closer” to Iran as Islamabad and Riyadh cut funding to it.
Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. A former inmate in the infamous U.S. prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.
Mullah Zakir leads a conservative Taliban faction along with Ibrahim Sadr, the Taliban’s former military commission chief. In October 2018, Sadr was among eight Taliban members designated global terrorists by the U.S. Treasury Department.
“Iranian officials agreed to provide Ibrahim with monetary support and individualized training in order to prevent a possible tracing back to Iran,” the Treasury Department said, adding that “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities.”
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new splinter group included the followers of Sadr.
The officials said the new group also includes members of the Feday-e Mahaz (Suicide Brigade) a small, hard-core offshoot of the mainstream Taliban.
The group is believed to be led by Haji Najibullah, a loyalist to radical Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led attack in Helmand Province in 2007.
Iran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Tehran also provided help to U.S. forces as they toppled the Taliban regime. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
Tehran has confirmed it has contacts with the Taliban but insists that it is aimed at ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join peace talks.
But U.S. officials have accused Tehran of providing material support to the Taliban, an allegation it denies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January accused Tehran of “actively working” to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that Iran was supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
In a report released in November, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said Iran provides financial, political, training, and material support to the Taliban.
“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said, adding that Iran’s support enabled it to advance its interests in Afghanistan and attain “strategic depth” in the country.
Taliban Divided Over Peace
The emergence of the Taliban splinter group has exposed serious divisions within the militant group.
The Taliban is believed to be divided over a peace settlement.
Its political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to a peace deal but hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan demand the restoration of the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001.
Internal Taliban divisions have intensified after the death of founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Some Taliban commanders accused his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and assuming leadership of the extremist group without proper approval.
Mullah Mansur struggled to quell the internal dissent and reconcile feuding factions, with some commanders splitting from the group and challenging his leadership.
Mullah Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The succession of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a low-key Islamic scholar who was Mullah Mansur’s deputy, was also opposed.
But experts said the Taliban has overcome the succession crises, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite a deadly war against foreign and Afghan forces.
Borhan Osman, an independent analyst and a leading expert on Islamic extremism and the militant networks operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said divisions within the Taliban are not yet visible.
“So far the Taliban has been successful in spinning the agreement with the United States as an outright victory,” he said.
Osman said the Taliban’s unity will be tested during intra-Afghan talks, when Afghan and Taliban negotiators will discuss a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.
The negotiations were scheduled to start in March but were delayed by disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners by the government and escalating militant attacks.
“The Taliban will be forced to come up with specific positions on issues and present their vision for a future Afghanistan,” said Osman.
The Taliban has been ambiguous on key issues, including women’s rights, the future distribution of power, and changes to the Afghan Constitution, reflecting the divisions within the group.
Many expect intra-Afghan negotiations to be complex and protracted, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and the sharing of power between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Internal rifts and rivalries have led to the emergence of various Taliban offshoots over the years, although many lack the military strength and support to pose a threat to the mainstream group.
The High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul — has been engaged in deadly clashes with fighters from the mainstream Taliban in southern and western Afghanistan since 2015, leaving scores dead on both sides.
The clashes have left the offshoot severely weakened, experts said, with many considering the group to be militarily irrelevant.
Mullah Rasul is believed to receive arms and support from Afghan intelligence in an attempt to divide the militant group.
Sunlight peeks through the treetops as the Marines make their way through a dense and humid jungle.
Rations and water have been consumed — there is no opportunity for resupply for several days. The Marines are hungry and thirsty.
Yet, the Marines will continue on with their mission because they’ve had jungle survival training.
American and South Korean Marines were taught jungle survival skills by members of Thailand’s Marines here, Feb. 19, 2018.
Learning survival skills
“Today we’re teaching jungle survival to U.S. and [South] Korea’s reconnaissance Marines,” said Royal Thai Marine Corps Master Sgt. Pairoj Prasansai, a jungle survival training instructor. “Survival is an important skill for all troops to learn, especially troops who may only have experience in urban combat but not in jungle survival.”
The class taught Marines basic skills to help them survive and thrive in a hot, dangerous environment.
“The course curriculum teaches troops how to find water sources, start fires, the differences in edible and nonedible vegetation, and finding vines suitable for consumption and hydrating.” Prasansai said. “They also learn about dangerous animals and insects — both venomous and nonvenomous — that are native to Thailand and are suitable to eat.”
Reconnaissance Marines gather vital intelligence and relay information up to command-and-control centers, enabling leaders to act and react to changes in the battlefield. Recon troops operate deep into enemy territory with limited backup.
Royal Thai Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Chaiwat Lodsin, a jungle survival training instructor from Sattahip, Chonburi province, Thailand, peels the skin off of a cobra during jungle survival training Feb. 19, 2018, in Sattahip, Chonburi province, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)
“We fight at any time and place,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Stephen South, who hails from Goodyear, Arizona, and is assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “This training can be used during recon if we find ourselves far away from support options. Knowing what we can and can’t eat is very beneficial.”
Marines were given the opportunity to try some of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, insects, and animals that can be found in the jungle, and were shown how to safely capture, handle, and consume both venomous and nonvenomous snakes.
Drinking cobra blood
“In the wilderness, you can drink the blood of a snake to stay hydrated,” Prasansai told the Marines as he picked up a cobra. “Snakes can provide you with both the food and water you need to survive.”
After preparing the snake, students were given the opportunity to drink the cobra’s blood.
“It tastes like blood with a hint of fish,” Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Fiffie, a 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, said.
Many students enjoyed the new experience and gained valuable knowledge to help them in the field.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, and I didn’t know you could eat most of those plants,” said Marine Corps Sgt. William Singleton, who hails from Franklin, Georgia, and is assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
“Seeing the different animals that you can eat is pretty mind-blowing. It will help us recognize [edible food sources] easier in the wilderness,” Singleton added.
A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.
The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.
Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:
What happened and where?
The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.
Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.
Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.
But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.
According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.
Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.
Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.
As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.
At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.
Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.
Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?
From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.
At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.
Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.
With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.
But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”
“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”
The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.
The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.
The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.
As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”
Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”
Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.
The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.
Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.
There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.
Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.
Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly statedthat holding elections under martial law would be possible.
Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunkin recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.
But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.
How did we get here?
Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.
The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.
Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.
Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.
How will the international community respond?
An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.
Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.
Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”
But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.
What’s Russia’s next move?
With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.
Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.
If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.
“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.
“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”
It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”
A U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government told the AP that talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq were ongoing.
The U.S. official emphasized that discussions were in early stages and that “nothing has been finalized.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In his statement, Haider al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once IS militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges.”
While some U.S. forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against IS, al-Abadi has maintained that the forces are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around a required parliamentary approval for their presence.
Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official had told the AP.
Regardless of how the troops are designated, talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once IS militants are driven out — a contrast to the full U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces’ need for support.
One look at the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), and you know you are looking at a powerful vessel. Just the size alone – about 40,000 tons – makes it a significant asset. But much of what makes the Wasp such a lethal ship isn’t so easy to see when you just look at her from the outside. In this case, what’s on the inside matters more.
One of the biggest changes between the Wasp-class vessels and their predecessors, the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships, is the fact that they can operate three air-cushion landing craft, known as LCACs. Tarawas can only operate one. This is because when the Tarawa-class was being designed, the LCAC wasn’t even in the fleet.
The Wasp, of course, was able to be designed to operate more LCACs. As such, while these ships are the same size, the Wasp is able to unload the Marines on board with much more speed. Since Marines and their gear are her primary weapons, this makes her much more lethal. It doesn’t stop there.
Despite both displacing about 40,000 tons, USS Wasp (LHD 1), the fatter ship on the left, is far more capable than USS Saipan (LHA 2).
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
The Wasp is surprisingly versatile. In Tom Clancy’s non-fiction book Marine, he noted that the Wasp-class ships in the Atlantic Fleet that are not at sea are part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s emergency planning. The reason? These vessels can be configured as hospitals with six operating rooms and as many as 578 hospital beds.
Yeah, she has helos, but she can also haul a couple dozen Harriers. So, pick the method of your ass-kicking: Air strikes, or 2,000 ticked-off Marines.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
These ships can also carry MH-53E Super Stallion and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters configured for the aerial minesweeping role. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, two of the Wasp’s sister ships operated a couple of dozen AV-8B Harriers each as “Harrier carriers.”
In a pinch, the Wasp can even refuel her escorts. Why risk a tanker when the amphibious assault ship can top off a tank?
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
The eight ships in the Wasp class will be around for a while. According to the Federation of American Scientists USS Wasp is slated to be in service until as late as 2039! Learn more about this versatile and lethal ship in the video below!
What the folks back home think troops do while deployed is just a fraction of what actually happens downrange. In many ways, the average Joe is doing the same busy work that they’d be doing back stateside — this time, with the added “benefit” of doing it in full battle rattle with a weapon slung across their back.
Sometimes, Private Snuffy deserves to be put on the detail, but most times, he probably doesn’t. The fact of the matter is that things just need to get done. Having to sweep the motor pool back in the States may suck, but sweeping the motor pool while you’re deployed in the middle of the desert is futile. Details suck, but these tasks particularly suck when you’re deployed.
5. Sandbag Building
Even with the concertina wire, Hecso barriers, and giant-ass concrete walls, the military still seems to think that the only thing separating troops from certain death is having the Joes fill sandbags and use them to haphazardly barricade everything.
This isn’t to discredit the 30lbs of sand stuffed into an acrylic or burlap bag — they probably work. The problem is that they’re a pain in the friggin’ ass to fill, carry, and painstakingly stack.
4. Guard Duty
At first, it sounds like fun. This is what you signed up for and you’re going to do your part to save freedom, one field of fire at a time. Then, the heart-crushing reality sets in. You’re stuck in the same guard tower for 12 hours with someone who smells like they haven’t showered in 12 days. There you are, just watching sand. Occasionally, you get lucky and there’s a farmer out in the distance or a camel herder to break the monotony.
On the bright side, the cultural barrier between you and the ANA (Afghan National Army) guy you’re stuck with can lead to some hilarious conversations.
3. TOC/COC Duty
In a near tie with guard duty, being in the command center for 12 hours blows just a little bit worse. In the guard tower, you have some sort of autonomy. In the TOC, you’re stuck with higher-ups breathing down your neck.
To add insult to injury if you’re a grunt, you’re listening to all of your buddies do the real sh*t while you’re stuck on the bench. You’re just listening to them do all the things you enlisted for while you’re biting your lip. If you’re a POG, I guess watching the same AFN commercial 96 times over sucks, too.
2. Connex Cleaning
Replacing containers, prepping for redeployment back stateside, grabbing that one thing that your Lieutenant swore was in there — whatever the reason, anything to do with the pain-in-the-ass that is heavy lifting inside a Connex that’s been baking in 110 degree heat is just unbearable.
No matter what the lieutenant was looking for, it’s not there. It’s never going to stay clean. Everything inside is going to get shuffled around, regardless of how much effort you put into it.
1. Burn Pit
Whether you’re opting for the quick and easy solution to getting rid of classified intel, destroying old gear left behind, or burning human waste, nothing about burn pit duty is enjoyable.
Big military said that they’ve done away with burn pits and that everything is peachy keen now — too bad that’s not even close to true. Whether being exposed to the pits by KBR facilities or command directed, anything dealing with burn pits is a serious concern for your health. No matter how hard it gets denied in court, veterans are still dying from the “quick and easy way.”
If you believe you might have been affected by burn pits, register with the VA here. It’s a very serious health concern and the more veterans that stand up, the more seriously the issue will be taken.
Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.
So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.
To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.
The German Kriegsmarine was once one of the most feared military forces on Earth, particularly the U-boat fleet. While the German surface fleet was smaller and weaker than the navies of its opponents, the “wolf packs” patrolled beneath the waves, shattering Allied convoys and robbing Germany’s enemies of needed men and materiel.
A German sailor works on U-boat communications.
But the U-boats didn’t do this on their own. One of the most successful code-breaking efforts in the war was that of the Beobachtung Dienst, the Observation Service, of German naval intelligence.
The German service focused its efforts on decoding the signals used by the major Allied navies — Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union — as well as traffic analysis and radio direction finding. With these three efforts combined, they could often read Allied communications. When they couldn’t, the traffic analysis and radio direction finding made them great guessers at where convoys would be.
Allied merchant marine and navy personnel were rightly afraid of U-boat attacks, but they seem to have underestimated how large a role the B-Dienst and other German intelligence services played. This led them to make errors that made the already-capable B-Dienst even more effective.
First, Allied communications contained more data than was strictly necessary. The chatter between ships as they headed out could often give German interceptors the number of ships in a convoy, its assembly point, its anticipated speed and heading, where it would meet up with stragglers, and how many escorts it had.
A destroyer, the USS Fiske, sinks after being struck by a German U-boat torpedo.
This allowed B-Dienst to identify the most vulnerable convoys and guess where and when the convoy would move into wolf-pack territory.
Nearly as damaging, the British would sometimes send out the same communications using different codes. When the British were using some codes the Germans didn’t know, these repeated messages end up becoming a Rosetta Stone-like windfall for the intercepting Nazis. They could identify the patterns in the two codes and use breakthroughs in one to translate the other, then use the translations to break that code entirely.
When the Allies weren’t repeating entire messages, they were sending messages created with templates. These templates, which repeated the same header and closer on each transmission, gave the Germans a consistent starting point. From there, they could suss out how the code worked.
All of this was compounded by a tendency of the British in particular and the Allied forces in general to be slow in changing codes.
So, it took the British months after they learned that the Germans had broken the Naval Code and Naval Cypher to change their codes. The change was made in August 1940 and was applied to communications between the U.S. and Royal navies in June 1941.
But with the other missteps allowing the B-Dienst to get glimmers of how the code worked, the code was basically useless by the end of 1942.
German U-boats in World War I had to hunt for their targets. Their World War II counterparts still hunted, but frequently benefited from their great intelligence services.
(Painting by William Stower, The Sinking of the Linda Blanche)
This had real and devastating effects for Allied naval forces who were attempting to pass through U-boat territory as secretly as possible. 875 Allied ships were lost in 1941 and 1,664 sank in 1942, nearly choking the British Isles below survivable levels.
But, despite the B-Dienst success, the Battle of the Atlantic started to shift in favor of the Allies in 1942, mostly thanks to increases in naval forces and advanced technology like radar and sonar becoming more prevalent. Destroyers were more widely deployed and could more quickly pinpoint and attack the U-boats.