Reports that the Jan. 19 special operations intelligence-gathering raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and 30 local civilians dead and six more troops injured was a result of hasty planning are “absolutely incorrect,” the head of U.S. Special Operations Command said Tuesday.
Army Gen. Raymond Thomas briefly addressed reporters after speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, D.C. He declined to go into operational details but emphasized that such raids are common and infrequently reported.
The White House has maintained that the raid, which resulted in the first military casualty of President Donald Trump’s administration, was well-planned and executed, but multiple news outlets have cited military sources complaining that the raid was hastily assembled and poorly planned.
Thomas told Military.com he does not categorize such operations as successes or failures, a hotly debated question surrounding the Yemen operation. He said discussion of the raid lacked the context of the frequency of such U.S. operations around the world.
“I don’t think that there’s awareness in the great American public that we’re a country at war, that ISIL and al-Qaida are in countless countries,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “That an operation like Yemen is what goes on any given night out there. And unfortunately it wasn’t in that context.”
“But in context, I think America needs to know we’re in a tough fight right now,” Thomas said. “We’re making progress, but unless we get governance on the backside of our military efforts, this is going to be a long struggle.”
Thomas, who replaced Army Gen. Joseph Votel as head of SOCOM last March, repeatedly declined to comment on the workings and decision-making of the Trump administration.
But, speaking just hours after news broke late Monday night that retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn had resigned as national security adviser after 24 days in the position, he gave a nod to the tumult at the highest levels of leadership.
“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope we sort it out soon, because we’re a country at war,” he said.
When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.
When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.
Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.
While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.
1. Combat uniform pockets
It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.
With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.
But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.
Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.
Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.
2. Combat uniform material
By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.
Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.
But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.
Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.
Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.
3. Combat uniform camouflage
It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.
For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.
Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.
From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.
In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.
The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.
Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.
Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.
Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.
The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.
4. Combat uniform design
Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.
Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.
Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight. With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.
5. Combat armor
Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.
Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.
Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.
Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.
In a deployed environment, security forces airmen perform a unique mission that differs from their traditional roles at home station. From patrolling the flightline in armored tactical vehicles to providing security for all personnel and Department of Defense assets going to austere locations in Afghanistan, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron maintains a vigilant presence at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Security forces airmen are experts in base defense and provide support to the airfield and mission partners through offensive and defensive postures, quick response force capabilities, and fly away security teams that support C-130 Hercules missions to dangerous locations.
“Our job is to provide mission support and enable safe and secure airfield operations,” said Maj. Joshua Webb, 455th ESFS commander. “We do that by providing different security postures at different points to detect and deter enemies.”
These airmen patrol the flightline in Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, commonly known as MRAPs, with a standard heavy weapons kit that allows sustainability in a firefight by protecting them while they defend the airfield.
They are specially trained to have a unique skillset and fundamental understanding of what it means to defend an airfield and the requirements to securely launch airfield operations. Webb said 455th ESFS airmen understand airfield operations and are better equipped to detect and defend against different types of threats in multiple domains.
“They are the first and last line of detection for the premiere counterterrorism wing,” he added.
A C-17 Globemaster III taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012.
(U.S. Air Force phot by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)
As well as being fully capable of responding to any threat on the flightline, these airmen are trained fly away security teams, or FAST, members who provide security for personnel and equipment transiting through the region to austere locations.
“Being part of the fly away security team means these guys get more training in close quarters combat and are able to provide a flight deck denial capability,” Webb said. “We aren’t dealing with the same mission as at a home station where they do various bits of law enforcement.”
Master Sgt. Paul Vibar, 455th ESFS FAST noncommissioned officer in charge, said he enjoys the excitement of being on FAST missions and his team’s role in securing DoD assets.
“It’s about protecting people and aircraft, which is especially important in this environment,” said Vibar, who deployed from the 255th Security Forces Squadron at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. “You never know what we’re going to find at some of these locations, so we always need to be prepared.”
Despite long hours patrolling and shift work, Webb said morale remains high because his team knows they are contributing to a worthy cause.
“Here it is nothing but mission, nothing but defense, and they find a lot of value in that,” Webb said.
Security forces airmen enable safe airfield operations and the safety of personnel at Bagram, but also back home.
“The mission we do here enables the men and women back home to be safe and secure,” Webb said. “We take the fight to the enemy and our role in that is to keep the aircraft and base personnel safe so they can perform their mission.”
Webb said he is proud of the work his airmen do each day and knows they believe in the mission.
“The expertise and mindset these airmen display on a day to day basis is unique, and that’s what allows us to adapt and overcome any issues we may encounter and mount a proper defense in the face of adversity,” he added. “I believe in my team and this mission with my whole heart.”
On May 18, 1291, Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the Middle East, fell to the Muslim Mamluks, ending Crusader control of the Holy Land.
European Christian Crusaders had been reeling from Sala-a-din’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187. The Third Crusade recaptured Acre (in modern-day Israel) for the next 100 years. But in that time, one by one, Crusader cities would fall to the Mamluk Sultanate.
The Muslim Mamluks came to power in the region in 1250, marking a shift in the balance of power in the region. The Muslims were then able to compete with the heavy cavalry of the Crusader knights – and they did.
Crusader cities in Caesarea, Haifa, Galilee, and Antioch sparked more Crusades from Europe, but they were largely ineffective. Latakia fell in 1278, Tripoli in 1289. Acre was surrounded.
The Crusaders hoped for either an army from Italy or an unlikely alliance with the Mongols. Neither materialized and the Mamluks laid siege to Acre on April 5, 1291. By May 18, Al-Ashraf Khalil’s 222,000-strong army entered the city and killed its Crusader defenders, ending the last Crusader control of the region.
The Siege of Acre, also known as the Fall of Acre, marked the end of further crusades to the Levant. With the fall of Acre, the Crusaders lost their last major stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and by 1302 with the loss of Ruad, they were no longer control any part of the Holy Land.
Featured Image: Siège d’Acre (1291) by unknown 14th century French artist (Gallica Digital Library)
The US Navy’s new supercarrier is going through shock trials, and that means setting off live explosives near the warship to simulate aspects of actual combat conditions.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of a new class of aircraft carriers, completed the first explosive event of the ongoing full-ship shock trials on Friday off the US East Coast, where the Navy detonated explosives near the carrier.
The Navy said in a statement the aircraft carrier was “designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship.”
The official Twitter account for USS Gerald R. Ford tweeted Saturday that “the leadership and the crew demonstrated Navy readiness fighting through the shock, proving our warship can ‘take a hit’ and continue our mission on the cutting edge of naval aviation.”
Though the Navy has conducted shock trials with other vessels, the latest trials with the Ford, the service’s newest and most advanced carrier, mark the first time since 1987 the Navy has conducted shock trials with an aircraft carrier.
The last aircraft carrier shock trials involved the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Navy.
Shock trials are designed to test how Navy warships hold up against severe vibrations and identify potential shock-related vulnerabilities in a combat vessel.
Nearby explosions, even when vessels were not taking direct hits, would send destructive, high-pressure waves toward them.
During the major global conflict, “it was discovered that although such ‘near miss’ explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the study said.
“This discovery led the Navy to implement a rigorous shock hardening test procedure,” the report said, referring to shock trials.
The Navy said that the trials are being conducted in a way that “complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area.”
The service further stated that it “also has employed extensive protocols throughout [full-ship shock trials] to ensure the safety of military and civilian personnel participating in the testing evolution.”
After completing full-ship shock trials, the aircraft carrier will return to the pier at Newport News Shipbuilding for its first planned incremental availability, a six-month period during which the ship will undergo “modernization, maintenance, and repairs prior to its operational employment,” the Navy said.
Check out these five military veteran comedians you should look out for in 2018.
5. Mitch Burrow
This Marine veteran served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Afterward, he started a career in manufacturing, but quickly realized that it sucked. He began his stand-up comedy career after driving down to the Comedy Store in La Jolla, drinking three shots of tequila and a couple of Budweisers, and getting on stage. Later, Mitch was told it went pretty well.
To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: MitchBurrow.com.
4. Thom Tran
After enlisting in the Army at 18, Thom spent most of his career as a Communications Sergeant and Civil Affairs Sergeant. Thom decided to become a comedian after sustaining an injury during combat operations.
In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and soon created The GIs of Comedy tour — a show that travels the world performing for both military and civilian audiences.
3. Isaura Ramirez
After serving 13 years in the Army, this former captain deployed to Iraq for 15 months. When she returned home, Isaura enrolled herself in a comedy class as a form of expression.
This Philadelphia native joined the Marine Corps at 18, serving as an infantry rifleman (0311) with 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. After leaving the Corps in the mid-90s, Rocco moved to Los Angeles where he’s had luck landing gigs, including headlining his act at several comedy stores throughout the U.S.
This comedian and Marine veteran also serves the community as a knowledgeable yoga instructor
Before James was cracking up audiences with his flawless stand-up routine, he was giving orders while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. This former captain served in both Operation Desert Shield and Storm before exiting from the Corps.
Now, he performs wherever he can find work, but you follow him on his website JamesPConnolly.com.
They will be here all week and don’t forget to tip your waiter.
Got any vets you think will make us laugh? Leave a comment.
As Pyongyang continues to erode mountains with weapon tests and exchange fiery rhetoric with President Trump, the U.S. Army has been hard at work prepping for the possibility of open conflict by creating a strategic megabase.
3,500 acres of space, housing for 36,000 inhabitants, and $11 billion worth of recent renovations: Welcome to Camp Humphreys. In addition to an airstrip, communication facilities, and barracks, the base, about 40 miles south of Seoul, houses shops, schools, churches — and even a golf course.
Nice amenities aside, you might be wondering why, with an existing 174 bases in South Korea, the U.S. Army needed such a powerhouse. The answer is two-fold:
1. Consolidating Forces
Camp Humphreys is located just a few miles both from Osan Air Base and Pyeongtaek harbor. Whether forces and assets are coming in via air or sea, they’re just a short jaunt from this megabase, making it an ideal waystation for troops funneling into the peninsula and moving toward the front.
Expanding Camp Humphreys is also a way for the US to consolidate forces in the country. Just a little over a decade ago, forces were spread across over 170 bases in South Korea. With a bolstered Camp Humphreys, the U.S. is on track to reach their goal of dividing forces among under 100 bases by 2020. Plus, if conflict does open up, the U.S. will have a single, central meeting place for quick communications and decision-making.
2. Moving the Battlefield
Previously, the U.S. Army garrison at Yongsan in Seoul was seeing heavy use. While it’s good to maintain a force in South Korea’s capital, it’s probably not a good idea to keep your primary base within range of Northern artillery lined up along the border.
Additionally, the North has threatened (as they love to do) to attack key military installations — going as far as to honor Camp Humphreys with the distinction of target #1. Moving the North’s bullseye south, away from civilian-dense Seoul, just makes good sense for the unlikely event that Kim Jong-un makes good on a threat.
Although it’s out of artillery range, as a prime strategic target, Camp Humphreys needs to be protected from North Korean ballistics. To this end, the base is protected by Patriot Air-Defense missiles installed at Osan Air Base and THAAD missiles further to the south.
Of course, the best outcome in Korea doesn’t involve open conflict. However, nobody prepares for the best and an expanded Camp Humphreys has been ramped up to deal with the worst if it comes.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., March 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.
A CV-22 Osprey deploys a tactical air control party onto the ground of Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Mar. 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint combat rescue and aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.
Soldiers assigned to 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT), conduct air assault operations during a field training exercise at U.S. Army Fort Campbell, Ky., March 14, 2016. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers partnered with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to prepare for their upcoming rotation to JRTC and Fort Polk, La.
A soldier, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, fires a M2 machine gun during an exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, March 13, 2016.
Soldiers assigned to the Louisiana National Guard, use a bridge erection boat to assist residents impacted by recent flooding near Ponchatoula, La., March 13, 2016
EAST SEA (March 16, 2016) Forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) conducts fueling operations with guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is participating in Exercise Ssang Yong 2016. SY16 is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward-deployed forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.
PACIFIC OCEAN (March 10, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrols the eastern Pacific Ocean. Lassen is currently underway in support of Operation Martillo, a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard and partner nations within the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 13, 2016) The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. San Jacinto is currently underway preparing for a future deployment.
U.S. Marines with Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Republic of Korea Marines assigned to Bravo Battery, 11th Battalion, 1st ROK Division, conduct artillery fire missions at Sanseori, South Korea, as part of Exercise Ssang Yong 16, March 15, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations.
A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Oliver Blair, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines – “The Lava Dogs” reads during exercise Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea, March 7, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations – from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.
Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters stand ready at Air Station Elizabeth City Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.
Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews fly flight formations at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.
President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.
The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.
According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.
That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.
Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”
Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.
Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.
His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”
The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.
Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.
Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.
In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.
Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.
In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.
Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.
The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.
Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.
Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)
Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.
To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.
Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.
But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.
From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.
The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.
The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.
Two men in Rogers, Arkansas, were arrested for taking turns shooting each other while the other wore a bulletproof vest, law-enforcement officials said.
Charles Ferris, 50, and his neighbor, 36-year-old Christopher Hicks were drinking on the deck of Ferris’ house on March 31, 2019, when they came up with the idea to shoot each other in the chest with a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, Arkansas Deputy Dorian Hendrix of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in an April 1, 2019 affidavit of probable cause.
According to the affidavit, Ferris had a bulletproof vest on and told Hicks to shoot him. The bullet hit the top left of Ferris’ chest, and it hurt but did not penetrate the vest, the affidavit said.
Hicks then put on the vest, and Ferris “unloaded the clip” — the rest of the five rounds in the gun’s magazine — at his neighbor’s back, Hendrix said. Ferris had been “pissed” about getting shot and the wound hurting, the deputy said.
None of the bullets penetrated the vest while Hicks was wearing it, the affidavit said.
Map showing the approximate location of Charles Ferris’ house, where he and his neighbor Christopher Hicks shot each other while wearing a bulletproof vest.
Law-enforcement authorities were called to hospital shortly before 11 p.m. on March 31, 2019, after Ferris was admitted with gunshot wounds, the affidavit said.
Ferris initially refused to disclose the truth about the shootings, Hendrix said. Instead, he gave an elaborate tale about being shot while trying to protect a man he called an “asset,” who he said paid him 0 to keep safe.
Hendrix later got the truth out of Ferris’ wife, Leslie Ferris, whose identity Charles Ferris initially refused to reveal because “he said he didn’t want her to know he had been in a gun fight,” the affidavit said. However, she was the one who took Charles to hospital on March 31, 2019, after he complained of a pain in his chest, Hendrix said.
Charles Ferris also later admitted to inventing the story about the “asset” to protect Hicks, according to the affidavit.
Both men were arrested over aggravated assault, a Class D felony. Both were freed on ,000 bail on April 2, 2019, the New York Post reported, and ordered not to speak to each other, the affidavit said.
Prosecutors have yet to file a formal charge against either of them. They are due in court on May 13, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Urgent new orders went out earlier this month for US Navy warships that have been plagued by deadly mishaps this year.
More sleep and no more 100-hour workweeks for sailors. Ships steaming in crowded waters, like those near Singapore and Tokyo, will now broadcast their positions as do other vessels. And ships whose crews lack basic seamanship certification will probably stay in port until the problems are fixed.
All seemingly obvious standards, military officials say, except that the Navy only now is rushing the remedies into effect after two collisions in two months left 17 sailors dead, despite repeated warnings about the looming problems from congressional watchdogs and the Navy’s own experts dating to 2010.
“Many of the issues we’re discussing today have been known to Navy leaders for years. How do we explain that, Admiral?” Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, demanded of Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, at a hearing last week.
“Senator, there is no explanation,” Richardson said.
The orders issued recently by the Navy’s top officer for ships worldwide, Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, drew on the lessons that commanders gleaned from a 24-hour fleetwide suspension of operations last month to examine basic seamanship, teamwork, and other fundamental safety and operational standards.
Collectively, current and former officers said, the new rules mark several significant cultural shifts for the Navy’s tradition-bound fleets. At least for the moment, safety and maintenance are on par with operational security, and commanders are requiring sailors to use old-fashioned compasses, pencils, and paper to help track potential hazards, as well as reducing a captain’s discretion to define what rules the watch team follows if the captain is not on the ship’s bridge.
“Rowden is stomping his foot and saying, ‘We’ve got to get back to basics,'” said Vice Adm. William Douglas Crowder, a retired commander of the 7th Fleet and a former deputy chief of naval operations, who reviewed the four-page directive issued on Sept. 15, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. “We ought to be doing this anyhow.”
Richardson is expected to announce additional guidance to the Navy in the next several days that builds off Rowden’s directive. “We took some time to stop, take a break, and review our fundamentals, to ensure that we’re operating safely and effectively and to correct any areas that required immediate attention,” Richardson told the senators last week.
The new orders come as the fallout continues from four Navy accidents in the western Pacific this year, including the two fatal crashes: the destroyer USS Fitzgerald colliding with a freighter near Tokyo in June, and a second destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, colliding with a tanker last month while approaching Singapore.
The commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott H. Swift, said this week that he would retire after being notified that he was no longer in the running to take charge of the Pentagon’s overall Pacific Command, which would oversee any military operations against North Korea.
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the former head of the 7th Fleet, based in Japan and the Navy’s largest overseas, was removed last month in connection with the accidents. And Rowden himself has also said he will retire early.
It has been a sobering time for commanders not just in the 7th Fleet, which has been closely scrutinized, but also the Navy’s other fleets based overseas. They are all taking a hard look at how to balance their operational requirements against eroding training and maintenance standards.
“We found some things about risk that didn’t match what we thought, and we’re making changes in things we discovered,” Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, commander of the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said in a telephone interview.
“When we have something like this happen, we do rigorous homework,” Donegan said. “We’re not standing fast.”
There is little argument, however, that a shrinking Navy is performing the same duties that a larger fleet did a decade ago, and that constant deployments leave little time to train and maintain ships amid their relentless duties.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators during a hearing on Sept. 26 about his visit to the Navy destroyer USS Barry several months ago, and of his learning that the ship had been at sea for 70 percent of the past 12 months.
“When we go back now and we look at were they able to do all the training necessary, and what was their life like during those 12 months, 70 percent of the time underway is an unsustainable rate,” Dunford said. “We’re going to have to make adjustments in the demand. That will incur managing operational and strategic risk, there’s no doubt.”
Many of the changes in Rowden’s order smack of simple common sense.
Hard to see and track electronically, naval vessels have long posed special perils to nighttime navigation. In addition to radar, all but the smallest commercial vessels use the so-called Automatic Identification Systems to broadcast information about their position, course, and speed. Military vessels typically carry the systems but often turn them off because the captains do not want to reveal so much information. That will change under the new orders.
“Successful mission accomplishment cannot be our sole measure of effectiveness,” Rowden said in his directive. “We must take greater heed of the manning, maintenance, training, and certification pillars that collectively foster success.”
Rowden also ordered standardized rules for watch teams on the bridge when the captain is not present; new reporting requirements for major equipment failures and near misses; and manually tracking vessels that come with 5,000 yards of a Navy ship to avoid collisions.
The Navy has allowed ships to rely on grueling watch schedules that leave captains and crews exhausted, even though the service ordered submarines to abandon similar schedules two years ago. A Government Accountability Office report from May said sailors were on duty up to 108 hours each week.
The new rules essentially will adopt studies by the Naval Postgraduate School to develop a shorter watch schedule to match circadian rhythms, which uses three hours of watch duty and nine hours off. Recognizing the benefits, the Navy ordered submarines to move to a similar schedule in 2015.
Senators harrumphed last week that sleep-deprived sailors presented an obvious problem begging for a solution. “If we know that somebody’s working a 100-hour workweek, I’m not sure we need a study,” McCain said acidly.