A South Korean decision to allow North and South Korean athletes to march together under a unified Korea flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may be costing President Moon Jae-in support.
A Gallup Korea poll released Jan. 26 indicates approval ratings for Moon, whose support had not dipped below 70 percent since he assumed office less than a year ago, now stands at 64 percent, local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
Moon’s nosedive in popularity comes at a time when North Korea may be taking advantage of the reconciliatory mood in Seoul, and calling for an “independent” unification that could split the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
The United States may be making it clear to North Korea its tactics are not working.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Joint Chiefs of Staff director, said suspending drills that occur regularly is not an option.
“We haven’t suspended, we’re de-conflicting during the period of the Olympics and exercises will continue immediately after the Olympics,” McKenzie said Jan. 25.
Senior South Korean and U.S. officials are expected to confirm the plans in Hawaii, with a ministerial-level meeting on the timing of post-Olympic drills and their scale, according to South Korean news network MBN.
But South Korea’s tough military stance on the North, which has shown no signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program, has not contributed to Moon’s standing in the polls.
According to Gallup, Moon’s approval rating has declined for two consecutive weeks, and decisions to unify the women’s ice hockey team and march in unison at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics are responsible for the fall.
Among South Koreans in their 20s, the approval rating dropped from 75 to 68 percent.
Other factors for the decline include a perception Moon’s administration is “retaliating” against past administrations and punishing conservatives, like former President Lee Myung-bak, according to the survey conducted this week.
The House Armed Services Committee will reexamine the Selective Service System’s viability and explore possible alternatives in this year’s review of the National Defense Authorization Bill, the legislation that sets the spending guidelines and policy directives for the coming fiscal year.
Congressional staffers told the Military Times that the move comes after all the hand wringing over the idea of women registering for the draft now that they can be assigned to combat jobs in the military. Some of the representatives who sit on the House committee were part of a group who entered legislation to abolish the Selective Service System entirely, which they deem to be obsolete and outdated.
U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. After the Vietnam War, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft, but President Jimmy Carter reestablished it as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The SSS costs roughly $23 million per year to operate, but nobody’s actually been drafted since 1973. Even at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the option of instituting a draft was deemed unnecessary.
The draft isn’t dead yet, however. Before any changes are made to the current system, the Senate would also have to approve the legislation, and then it would move over to the President’s desk for his signature (or his veto).
Starbucks Armed Forces Network, a private group within the company of Starbucks, released a statement yesterday asking that those calling for Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans instead of refugees check their facts.
Recently, Starbucks came under fire for announcing that they would hire 10,000 refugees. The general reaction was anger and calls for boycotts of Starbucks until they vowed to also hire 10,000 veterans.
The problem with that? Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 veterans in 5 years way back in 2013. And they’re ahead of schedule.
One of the many internal groups at the coffee giant, Starbucks Armed Forces Network, penned a note to their customers to explain why the anger at the refugee program was misdirected.
The note, simply signed by The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN), began, “We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company.”
The writers went on to express their gratitude to their customers and then they moved right into addressing the refugee and veteran initiatives.
“The false and inaccurate statements [about the veteran hiring initiative were] deeply troubling to those of us who’ve served,” the group wrote.
The statement described how the CEO and his wife, Howard and Sheri Schultz, had visited military installations around the country to learn more about how they could advocate better for veterans and military spouses after announcing the veteran hiring initiative in November 2013. The couple invested their own personal funds into “plans for transitioning service members,” according to the group.
“We respect honest debate and freedom of expression,” the statement read. “But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts. Starbucks is already there.”
The 5 year initiative has only used about 60 percent of its time, but has met 88 percent of its goal. This means that, if they continue at this rate, Starbucks will surpass their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018 by 4,600 veterans.
The company also offers Military Service Pay to employees who have to report for National Guard or Reserve assignments. Eligible partners can receive up to 80 hours of paid time to fulfill their reserve service obligations yearly.
Starbucks provides a Military Allowance to eligible employees that are called to active duty, as well.
Starbucks has made a name for themselves as a veteran friendly company, even being awarded Gold status by G.I. Jobs in this year’s annual “Military Friendly” list.
More than 1,500 US National Guard troops have been called up across the US to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has already infected nearly 5,000 people and killed at least 94 in the US.
As of Friday, roughly 400 Guardsmen were responding to the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, in six states. By Monday, the number had increased to more than 650 Air and Army National Guard professionals operating across 15 states to combat the coronavirus, the National Guard said in a statement Monday.
The Guard announced Tuesday that the number of Guardsmen who have been mobilized to battle the virus has more than doubled, jumping to more than 1,560 personnel, which are active in 22 states.
“The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state, and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19,” the Guard said in a statement last Friday.
Current missions include work at drive-through test facilities, logistics support for healthcare professionals, and disinfecting and cleaning public spaces, among others. “Guardsmen and women have been distributing food, sanitizing public areas and coordinating response efforts with state emergency managers,” the Guard said in a statement Monday.
There have been calls for additional military support as the virus, which first appeared in China last year, spreads.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo insists that US healthcare system is at risk of being overrun. “States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough,” he wrote in an opinion article for The New York Times Sunday.
“At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers.”
“Doing so still won’t provide enough intensive care beds,” he said, “but it is our best hope.”
At a press briefing Monday morning, Cuomo said that he has been having conversations with the White House on this issue, but talks have so far been inconclusive.
The Department of Defense said in a press briefing Monday that it is aware of the governor’s comments and is evaluating its capabilities, which may be limited. At this time, the department has yet to receive a request for assistance.
It’s no secret: America loves the legendary generals who have taken key positions of power in the Trump administration.
But the nation’s trust and dependence on these men to lead them through challenging political times may be misplaced, retired Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday.
Mullen, who served as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, said the way the nation is turning to these generals betrays a tendency not inherently American.
“I am increasingly — I’m not surprised, but I am concerned about the dependence of the American people on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly and Rex Tillerson,” he told an audience at the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2017 Naval History Conference in Annapolis.
(Adm. Mullin is a member of the We Are The Mighty board of directors)
Mattis, McMaster and Kelly — who serve as secretary of defense, national security adviser and White House chief of staff, respectively — all attained four-star rank in the military. McMaster remains on active duty.
“The question that I ask is how did we get here, to a point where we are depending on retired generals for the stability of our citizenry,” he said. “And what happens if that boulder breaks, first of all, and when.”
President Donald Trump has encouraged reverence for the generals in his administration, particularly Mattis, whom he has referred to by the nickname “Mad Dog” and praised on Twitter as a “general’s general.”
Mattis, who was lionized by troops while in the Marine Corps for his care for his men and straightforward style, had been out of uniform for only four years when he was nominated to serve as defense secretary.
Congress passed a one-time waiver of a law requiring defense secretaries to have been out of the military for at least seven years to allow Mattis to serve.
In a congressional hearing held prior to the waiver vote, military experts advised that Mattis be confirmed, but warned the waiver should not be used again for a long time to preserve the tradition of civilian leadership of the military.
In the past, Mullen has been outspoken about the civilian-military divide and has publicly criticized the recent trend of general and flag officers becoming keynote speakers at political conventions and publicly endorsing candidates for president.
He reiterated these views Thursday, saying that while retired officers have the right to endorse, they do damage to the military by eroding its reputation for impartiality.
Mullen qualified that he knows Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, and called them “extraordinary individuals in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
But he suggested it sets a dangerous precedent to turn to them as a focal point for national leadership.
“I have been in too many countries globally where the generals, if you will, gave great comfort to their citizens,” Mullen said. “That is not the United States of America. It may be temporarily now; I can only hope that it won’t be in the future. And despite each one of these individuals’ greatness, there are limits.”
In addition, he said, experience on the battlefield does not translate directly to leadership in the political sphere.
“When I walked into the Oval Office for the first time, that is an environment I’d never been in before, ever,” Mullen said. “… There is no reason these individuals, who are exceptionally good, had any better preparation in that regard. They are trying to figure it out as we go.”
Recent press reports, he said, have called the generals the “bulwark” of the administration.
“And one of the questions is, will that bulwark last, and what happens if and when it doesn’t,” Mullen said. “My own belief is, it won’t.”
Deploying to a war zone is a risky proposition, even for the most highly trained commandos like SEALs. While on deployment in Iraq in 2007, retired Senior Chief Mike Day and his team set out on the crucial mission to locate a high-level al Qaeda terrorist cell in Anbar province.
While running point on the raid, Day was the first to enter a small room defended by three terrorists who opened fire.
He managed to take one of them down as he started taking rounds himself. He kept firing, and dropped another terrorist who detonated a grenade as he went down.
Dazed and confused, the skilled operator switched to his sidearm and started re-engaging the insurgents, killing the rest. Day had been shot a total 27 times, 16 found his legs, arms, and abdomen. The last 11 lodged into his body armor.
Nevertheless, Day remained in the fight and cleared the rest of the house before walking himself to the medevac helicopter located close by.
“I was shot both legs, both arms, my abdomen. I mean you throw a finger on me, anything but my head I got shot there” — Day stated. (Source: CBN News/ Screenshot)
Day lost 55 pounds during his two weeks in the hospital, and it eventually took him about two years to recover from his wounds.
After serving in the Navy for over 20 years, Day now serves as a wounded warrior advocate for the special operations community.
Iraqi government forces launched an operation against Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces over the weekend to capture Kirkuk, a disputed, oil-rich city in the country’s north.
The Kurds defeated Islamic State fighters to take control of Kirkuk in 2014, but Iraq’s central government had refused to recognize their sovereignty over the city since it falls outside of Kurdistan’s internationally recognized autonomous region.
As the details continue to develop, here’s a breakdown of the basics.
Conflicting stories emerged Oct. 16 as clashes broke out in areas outside the city, causing an unknown number of casualties. Iraqi forces claimed they had seized military bases and oil fields around Kirkuk, and had forced the Kurds to withdraw from the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected those claims.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the US military said it believed any clashes between the Kurds and Baghdad “was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”
Army Major General Robert White, the commander of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, called for both parties to reconcile their differences through peace, and “remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy,” ISIS.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday afternoon, as well, saying the US would not back one side over the other. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump said in a press conference.
Three days before clashes erupted, rumors surfaced of an impending Iraqi government assault on the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to Twitter to debunk the accusation.
“Our armed forces cannot and will not attack our citizens, whether Arab or Kurd,” he said. “The fake news being spread has a deplorable agenda behind.”
Amid reports of a looming attack, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani ordered Peshmerga forces on Sunday to not “initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga have been given a green light to use every power to stand against them.”
By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that thousands of Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk, which has a population of over 1 million people. About 6% of the world’s oil comes from Kirkuk province, according to CNN.
Kurdish nationalism has long been a source of tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, both of which are strong US allies.
This tension was exacerbated after close to 93% of Kurds, which control a large swath of territory in northern Iraq, voted to declare Kurdistan an independent state on September 25. Baghdad has condemned the referendum and urged Kurdish leaders to reject it. Neighboring countries Iran and Turkey also opposed the vote.
The White House also warned against holding a vote on independence and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue dialogue with Baghdad.
“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement before vote.
Why does it matter?
The independence referendum and latest round of clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi forces puts the Trump administration in a particularly strangling bind. Over the years, the US has trained and supplied weapons and equipment to both sides of the conflict with the intention of defeating ISIS. Now those very same weapons are being used by US allies against other US allies.
Iran’s interference in the conflict also remains a top concern for American officials. The Iraqi-backed Popular Mobilization Forces — Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary units that have been fighting against the Kurds — presents another challenge for US mediation efforts in the region. Iran not only supports these Popular Mobilization Forces, but provides direct training and weaponry to its fighters.
The New York Times reported in July that Iran’s presence in Iraq was a consequence of former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country in 2011. This move has divided Republicans and Democrats in the US, and was a key campaign issue in the 2016 elections.
What could happen next?
No one is really sure. The situation is still unfolding, with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders shifting blame on their opponents for the escalation in violence.
Even though the US has downplayed the clashes as simply a “misunderstanding,” it’s difficult to ascertain the true level of tension on the ground.
Conflicting claims from Iraqi government and Kurdish officials further complicate the situation. No matter what happens, these developments will surely add to Trump’s challenges in the Middle East.
A Lockheed Martin executive hinted at a recent aerospace conference that the SR-72, the hypersonic successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, may already exist, according to Bloomberg.
Jack O’Banion, a vice president at Lockheed’s Skunk Works, made mysterious comments about the ultra-secret project at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ annual SciTech Forum.
O’Banion said that new design tools and more powerful computers brought about a “digital transformation” and “without [that] digital transformation, the aircraft you see there could not have been made,” Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman reported, adding that O’Banion then showed a slide of the SR-72.
This digital transformation reportedly gave Lockheed the ability to design a three-dimensional scramjet engine. Scramjet is a kind of ramjet air-breathing jet engine where combustion happens at supersonic speeds.
O’Banion said that five years ago Lockheed “couldn’t have made the engine itself — it would have melted down into slag,” according to Bloomberg.
“But now we can digitally print that engine with an incredibly sophisticated cooling system integral into the material of the engine itself and have that engine survive for multiple firings for routine operation,” O’Banion said.
Jack O’Bannion, VP of Strategy at Skunk Works, is speaking today at SciTech conference. He showed a slide of the SR-72 and said: “Without digital transformation that aircraft you see there could not have been made.” Soooo … does that mean that aircraft was made? pic.twitter.com/dD7ovOG0rg
Lockheed Martin did not respond to any Business Insider’s request for comment, and declined to answer any further questions from Bloomberg. The U.S. Air Force also declined to answer any questions from Business Insider.
Lockheed announced it was developing the SR-72 in 2013, and that the “Son of Blackbird” would hit Mach 6 — over 4,500 mph — and possibly be operational by 2030.
Last year, reports emerged that Lockheed might test an “optionally piloted” flight research vehicle in 2018, and an actual test flight in 2020.
Reporters at Aviation Week also reportedly caught a glimpse last year of a “demonstrator vehicle” that may have been linked to the SR-72.
And, in perhaps a more far-fetched development, an American man named Tyler Gluckner, who runs a popular YouTube channel about aliens and UFOs called secureteam10, recently posted a video of images from GoogleEarth that he surmised looked like a hypersonic craft, reported by The Sun and Mailonline.
The satellite images were taken outside of a Pratt and Whitney building, which is not part of the Lockheed conglomerate.
Coincidentally or not, Boeing also unveiled a conceptual model for a new hypersonic jet that would hit Mach 5 and fulfill the same missions as the SR-71 at the same aerospace conference O’Banion spoke at.
Lockheed and Boeing are two of the largest defense contractors and political donors in the U.S.
One thousand service members from around the U.S. are set to call Tyndall Air Force Base’s “Tent City” their temporary home while supporting base recovery efforts.
In just over two weeks since Hurricane Michael made landfall along the base’s coastline, a blend of civil engineering airmen have worked around the clock and successfully brought basic necessities to the installation, which was heavily damaged in the storm.
Master Sgt. Angela Duran, 49th Civil Engineering Squadron team lead, arrived on Tyndall AFB Oct. 13, 2018, just a few days after the storm hit. She and her team of 27 from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, landed in a C-17 Globemaster III filled with equipment.
“When we came in, we had to build our tents first to house us,” she said. “We didn’t really have anything. We brought everything with us so we were able to start tent city.”
The team has since grown to 41, and what started as a 60-tent project has now expanded to 80.
“We put up the first 60 in three and a half days,” said Master Sgt. Jeremie Wilson, 49th CES team lead. “The new 20 will be done in two days.”
Tents aren’t their only task. They have also put in latrines, showering facilities and air conditioning units for the tents – bringing comfort to the city’s inhabitants.
Airmen from the 23rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and the 635th Material Maintenance Squadron, Holloman AFB, N.M., add to the dozens of housing tents they have helped construct on Tyndall AFB, Fla., Oct. 25, 2018.
“It is so rewarding to see people actually be able to go in and use the showers and have a climatized environment to sleep in after their hard day of work,” Wilson said. “They are able to come home, a deployed home, and have some kind of normality.”
Being able to help is especially important to Wilson, who is from New Orleans.
“When Katrina hit, I was deploying and a lot people did a lot of great things for my community and family,” he said. “It feels good to be paying it back, since I have been on the other side.”
For the other members of the team who may not have such strong emotional ties, the work is still rewarding, Wilson said..
“It can be trying work and repetitive,” Wilson said. “They are constantly counting parts and operationally checking equipment, but they are getting the opportunity to actually see the equipment working and being used for a purpose. Everyone is taking a lot of pride in that.”
Duran echoed his sentiment.
“They enjoy it,” she said. “They get to say, ‘this is what we do and what we do it for and we are helping these people out.’ They are getting fulfillment and satisfaction. For some, it is their first time putting training to work.”
NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.
A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.
June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.
Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.
“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”
Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”
Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.
Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.
Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.
Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.
The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.
In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.
In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.
This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.
Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.
“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.
“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”
Two days before millions of Americans were expected to feast on turkey for Thanksgiving, a flock of birds is theorized to have been responsible for the White House lockdown in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 26, 2019.
The White House was placed on lockdown between 8:30 and 9:15 a.m. because of an unauthorized aircraft flying in restricted airspace, according to reporters on the scene.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, the US and Canada’s first responder to an aerial threat, scrambled US Coast Guard helicopters to investigate the scene. No military fighter jets were dispatched, the US military spokesman Maj. Andrew Hennessy told The Washington Post.
By the time the lockdown was lifted, it was unclear what prompted the warning.
“Upon further investigation, we found there was no aircraft,” Hennessy said, according to WRC-TV.
The WJLA reporter Sam Sweeney said the scare may have been because of a flock of birds. Birds are known to migrate south by way of the US Capitol in late October, according to The Washingtonian.
In an unrelated event several hours later, President Donald Trump pardoned one of two turkeys named Bread and Butter. The White House tradition dates back to President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Trump ended up pardoning Butter, and Bread will also live the rest of its short life at “Gobblers Rest” on the Virginia Tech campus.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made the Trump administration aware of his concerns with the appropriation of the US military’s uniforms by law-enforcement agencies as they face off with protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.
“We saw this take place back in June, when there were some law enforcement that wore uniforms that make them appear military,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said to reporters, referencing the George Floyd protests throughout the country earlier this year.
“The secretary has a expressed a concern of this within the administration, that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he added.
The confusion became apparent after video footage and pictures showed law-enforcement officials, many of whom refused to identify themselves or the agency they were working for, wearing the US Army’s camouflage uniform as they confronted demonstrators.
This confusion has been compounded after other activists, such as members of the Boogaloo movement, wore pieces of the same uniform or carried with them military-style gear to the same protests throughout the country.
Customs and Border Protection’s immediate-response force, also known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, often wear military uniforms with custom patches.
Members of this group were sent to Portland to quell the protests, which went on for over 50 days and were linked to the defacement of federal buildings, according to CBP. The Border Patrol Tactical Unit’s actions at the protests were scrutinized after video footage showed its agents detaining someone suspected of assault or property destruction and whisking them away in an unmarked minivan. The incident prompted lawmakers to demand an investigation.
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously highlighted his concerns about the optics of law-enforcement officials dressing like military service members while responding to protests, saying there needs to be clear “visual distinction” between the two organizations.
“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley said during a congressional hearing on July 9. “Because when you start introducing the military, you’re talking about a different level of effort there.”
About a mile from the Iraqi-Syrian border is a US military fire base where approximately 150 Marines and soldiers are still hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery.
“To get to the firebase, you fly by helicopter over Mosul,” NPR’s Jane Arraf reported on July 2, 2018.
“And then just a little more than a mile from the Syrian border, there’s a collection of tents and armored vehicles in the desert,” Arraf said, adding that the US troops have been at the remote, temporary base for about a month.
In early June 2018, the US Army released a dozen photos showing the base and the troops firing M777 howitzers and M109 Paladins to support the Syrian Democratic Forces clearing ISIS from the Euphrates River Valley.
Then a few weeks later, the Army released photos of the troops playing an improvised game of baseball as dusk sets in and smoke clouds billow in the background.
Check them out below:
(U.S. Army photo)
Here’s part of the base, which appears to be surrounded by a sand barrier for protection.
It’s about 100 degrees at the camp, and is crawling with scorpions and biting spiders, NPR reported.
U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.
Iraqi Security Forces fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo)
As well as M109 Paladins.
Read more about the Paladin here, and watch a demo video of it firing from inside here.
(U.S. Army photo)
Here’s a wide shot of how the M777s are set up.
But US troops are not alone at the base as they’re operating alongside Iraqi forces.
“Iraqi commanders normally select the targets,” NPR’s Arraf said. “The strikes are mostly in remote areas. The U.S. military says it takes care to avoid civilian casualties.”
Iraqi Security Forces are ready to fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo)
U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo)
(U.S. Army photo)
The 155mm rounds “weigh about a hundred pounds each,” Sgt. Jason Powell told NPR. “And sometimes we get up to 12-round fire missions. So with your gear on and hauling these rounds, these guys are fricking animals.”