President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.
The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.
Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.
“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”
“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.
What did the strikes change on the ground?
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.
Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.
The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.
Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.
Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.
Performative allyship in cruise-missile form
Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.
But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.
The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI.
Mattis says we have to “find out what’s going on.”
Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman in the Nov. 5 attack, was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.
The United States says Moscow has deployed military jets to Libya to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle the North African country’s internationally recognized government.
The Russian military aircraft flew to Libya via Syria, where they were repainted to disguise their identity, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement on May 26.
“For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way,” said U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM.
AFRICOM said the Russian jets had arrived in Libya recently. It did not say how many aircraft were transferred.
Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces in their fight against the Government of National Accord (GNA). A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.
Moscow has denied the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.
There was no immediate comment from Russia’s Defense Ministry following the latest U.S. accusations.
But Andrei Krasov, deputy head of the Defense Committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, rejected the U.S. claim as “disinformation,” according to the Interfax news agency.
Townsend said that neither Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) nor Vagner had the ability to operate and finance the jets without Russian government support.
“Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya,” he said.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.
Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is now seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, and his LNA is battling GNA forces.
The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.
Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.
In a phone call with Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh on May 26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “there needs to be a constructive dialogue involving all the Libyan political forces” and “an immediate cease-fire,” according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
Haftar and the GNA have held several rounds of peace talks in France, Italy, Russia, and Germany, but they have failed to reach an agreement to end the fighting.
U.S. Air Force General Jeff Harrigian said that if Russia seized bases on Libya’s coast, it could potentially deploy permanent capabilities to deny area access.
“If that day comes, it will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank,” he said.
Two Army Rangers who were killed in Afghanistan earlier this week may have been struck by friendly fire, the Pentagon said.
Sergeant Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, both deployed from Fort Benning, Georgia, died during a Wednesday night raid targeting the emir of the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS and ISIL. A third soldier was injured during the operation but is expected to recover.
Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, said officials are investigating whether the soldiers were killed by American forces or Afghan commandos involved in the raid. He said it was “possible” the Rangers were struck by friendly fire but there are “no indications it was intentional,” he said.
“War is a very difficult thing, in the heat of battle, in the fog of war the possibility always exists for friendly fire, and that may have been what happened here and that is what we are looking into with this investigation,” he said.
Officials said 50 Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos were dropped by helicopter into the Nagarhar Province, located about a mile fro the site where the United States dropped the MOAB on April 13.
Several IS leaders and operatives were killed in the raid.
“We did know going in that this was going to be a very tough fight,” Davis said. “We were going after the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan and doing it in a way that required us to put a large number of people on the ground as part of this mission, and it was a mission that appears to have accomplished its objective but it did so at a cost”
Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.
Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.
“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.
AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.
Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.
“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.
There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.
As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.
But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.
AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.
He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.
“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.
To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.
They may seem like they’re tying troops’ hands behind their backs — especially given that today’s wars are very different from those when the former laws of war were written — but there’s a good reason why certain rules have been imposed to protect troops in combat.
While the major laws of war are well known, there are some provisions that may surprise the average reader.
#1: Filing down your bullet. (The 1899 Hague Declaration IV,3 and Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 35)
There is always the loophole of “military necessity” — that’s why flamethrowers are okay, because they have an actual purpose if used on foliage and clearing tunnels.
So while hollow points are legal, filing down a bullet to make in improvised dum-dum round is a no no. The purpose of doing that is to cause unnecessary harm.
So that 5.56 round some jackass took a Multi-tool to to “make it hurt more” committed a serious offense.
#2: A chaplain picking up a weapon. (Geneva Convention Art. 24)
If troops become shipwrecked or parachute out of a destroyed aircraft, they now have non-combatant status. They’re technically out of the fight.
The most protected service member in the ranks is still the chaplain, who should never enter combatant status.
Regardless of their denomination, chaplains have a duty to uphold the spiritual, moral, and religious well-being of everyone on the battlefield. They will enter combat zones, but only to provide aid. To date, 419 U.S. Chaplains have died in war and eight Medals of Honor were bestowed to chaplains.
It is a part of their duty to never lose non-combatant status to help the needs of all. Picking up a weapon immediately revokes that status. If you ever wondered why armed chaplain assistants are so valuable, that’s why.
#3: Taking war trophies. (Fourth Geneva Convention. Art. 33-34)
There’s a fine line between taking a souvenir and pillaging.
Anything you take off the battlefield is pillaging — even if it belonged to an enemy combatant. It is subject to strict regulations after it’s turned over for inspection and clearance. If it’s a weapon, it must also be made unserviceable at the expense of whomever is taking it back.
Stashing it goes against tons of laws.
#4: Putting a large Red Cross on your equipment for combat operations. (Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 85)
The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal, and Red Shield of David are all protected as the international symbol for medical aid. When it is painted on a vehicle or on an armband, it lets everyone know that they are only there to render aid. Like chaplains having protections, so too do medics if they are performing aid and evacuation.
If a combat medic takes up arms, they lose their status as a non-combatant, which has been the norm in modern conflicts. If they drop their weapon to give aid, they regain that status.
But the red cross symbol doesn’t give you noncombatant status. If the symbol is on a piece of equipment, such as a first aid kit or pack, it is only signifying that the contents are for first aid.
#5: Not protecting journalists. (Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 79)
War corespondents are just as protected as any other civilian on the battlefield. They must never pick up arms or else they losing their status. The difference between members of the press and other non-combatants is that they are required by their job to be in the middle of a firefight to report what is happening.
In the modern era, journalists have been easier and more valuable targets than ever. If one is embedded in a unit, no matter how pesky and nosy as they seem, they are valuable assets to the war effort and still must be protected.
#6: Insulting prisoners of war. (Third Geneva Convention. Arts. 13-16)
Writer’s Note: For the final point on this list, there will not be a photograph of a prisoner of war, regardless of nationality, in reference to their mistreatment.
One of the goals of the Hague and Geneva Convention was to protect the rights of prisoners of war. They must be given medical attention (Art. 15). They keep the civil capacities they had at the time of capture (Art. 14) and must always be treated humanely (Art. 13).
The definition of humane treatment covers no physical mutilation (including torture). This also means you must provide protection from acts of violence, intimidation, and verbal insults.
It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they did before they are captured, they are now a prisoner of war.
Two months after a U.S. drone strike killed a preeminent Iranian general, the Pentagon’s top two military leaders said President Donald Trump made the right decision, one that has deterred Iran’s terrorist activities in the region.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that it was the right call to kill Iranian Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, describing him as a “terrorist leader of a terrorist organization that killed many, many Americans, wounded thousands more.”
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, said she agreed with the decision to carry out the Jan. 2 missile strike on Soleimani’s vehicle in Baghdad and asked Esper to talk about how the attack has affected Iran.
“It’s now been two months. Can you share at all what you have seen?” McSally asked. “I believe we have heard from you and others that it was a body blow, the impact that that is having on Iran’s terrorist activities.”
Esper said it’s clear that “taking him off the battlefield has set back the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Iranian government with regard to spreading their malign activity through the region.”
“I think at the same action, we have restored deterrence to a degree,” he said. “And so, for all those things, I still believe it was the right call made by the commander in chief.”
Iran retaliated for the death of Soleimani by firing 15 ballistic missiles at Al Asad Air Base, an installation in Iraq that houses U.S. troops. There were no immediate casualties in the attack, but since then more than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury from the concussive effects of the missiles.
At the hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley to reflect on the decision to carry out the strike on Soleimani.
“We all know General Soleimani wasn’t in Iraq on vacation,” Sullivan said. “He was there targeting the killing of more American service members, which he has a long history of doing.”
Milley responded by saying, “I believe the intelligence was compelling; I believe it was imminent” of Soleimani’s “command-and-control role and what he was about to do.”
“I believe that I, Secretary Esper, the president and many others would have been culpably negligent had we not taken the action we did … because I think many Americans would have died as a result,” Milley added. “I believe it was the right thing to do then, and I still believe that. And I believe we contributed to reestablishing deterrence of aggressive action from Iran.”
In the aftermath of the Soleimani strike, the Pentagon ordered thousands of soldiers and Marines to the Middle East to prepare for future Iranian aggression.
Gen. Abidin Ünal, Turkey’s Air Force Chief of Staff, waves during takeoff in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. Ünal flew with the 1st Helicopter Squadron during a U.S. visit to build U.S. – Turkey relations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier)
On Apr. 6, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Abidin Ünal smiled and waved as the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Squadron took him on an aerial tour of the Washington, D.C. area. What Ünal’s hosts probably never mentioned was that their “White Top” UH-1N Twin Hueys are getting dangerously old.
The flying branch bought their first Twin Hueys nearly five decades ago. Despite numerous attempts to replace the choppers, the UH-1Ns continue to fly security missions around nuclear missile fields, shuttle dignitaries around the nation’s capital and stand ready to help out after a disaster or other emergency.
“[The] UH-1N doesn’t satisfy many assigned mission requirements,” Air Force officials wrote in a presentation for defense contractors in August 2015. “Emphasis is on expedited fielding of replacement aircraft.”
We Are The Mighty obtained a redacted copy of this document through the Freedom of Information Act. According to the “rules of engagement” section, the hosts banned attendees from recording the industry day gathering or taking photographs.
First flown in 1969, the Bell UH-1N has a top speed just shy of 150 miles per hour and a range of over 300 miles. Compared to earlier Hueys, the N models have twin Pratt and Whitney T400-CP-400 turboshafts – hence the “Twin” nickname.
Depending on the internal configuration, the Twin Huey can carry up to 13 passengers in addition to its crew of three, at least on paper. Unfortunately, temperature and other weather conditions can dramatically change how much any helicopter can lift.
The briefing highlights three missions that were driving the push to replace the choppers. The first two were convoy escort and security response operations around missiles silos and related sites. The third, but equally important mission was carrying “distinguished visitors” like Ünal in and around Washington, D.C.
So, since the release of the Pentagon’s latest budget in February, and with serious concerns about these limits and overall age of the Air Force’s UH-1N fleet, American lawmakers have begun to demand action. But the safety of the country’s nuclear missiles has been at the center of the outcry.
“I look at the helicopters and I see glaring weaknesses and vulnerabilities which put our nation and … the mission at stake,” Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Republic congressman for Montana, said in a statement on Mar. 9. “This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”
Armed with fast-firing miniguns and rocket pods, the Air Force originally rushed the UH-1Ns to Southeast Asia to schlep commandos around South Vietnam and Laos during the final years of the Vietnam War. By the end of the 1980s, the flying branch had largely replaced them in the special operations role with the more powerful HH-60G Pave Hawk.
Of the 62 UH-1Ns, 25 eventually wound up serving with squadrons guarding nuclear sites across the western U.S. The 582d Helicopter Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming oversees those units and their missions.
However, nearly as many Twin Hueys are busy transporting “distinguished visitors” at home and abroad. The 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews owns 20 of the choppers, while the 459th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan has another four aircraft.
Commonly known as “White Tops” because of their striking blue and white paint jobs, the 1st Helicopter Squadron’s choppers fly foreign officials like Turkey’s Ünal around on a regular basis. On top of that, the unit is prepared to act if a natural disaster or major terrorist attack threatens the most powerful city in the free world.
In 2011, the 479th‘s white and gray UH-1Ns got put the test after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan. The choppers and their crews help moved critical American and Japanese personnel around the disaster area – including near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – to survey and assess the situation.
On Feb. 29, the Air Force announced that two of the Twin Hueys in Japan had gotten new hoists to help rescue trapped or injured individuals in a crisis. Unfortunately, on the same day, the service admitted that one of the UH-1Ns had made a “precautionary” landing at Chofu Airport in Tokyo after experiencing engine trouble.
If a UH-1N were to crash while carrying an American or foreign government official, it would be a major embarrassment for the Air Force and Washington as a whole, if nothing else. Depending on who was involved and if there were any fatalities, the fallout could be just as devastating as a breach of nuclear security.
Unfortunately, Pentagon and the Air Force have had serious problems trying to fix the problem. Since 2004, the service has repeated pushed back the plans due to budget cuts, competing priorities and delays with other projects.
Had these sailors saved this Huey in ’75 (pushed overboard to make room on the flight deck during the evacuation of Saigon) it might still be flying VIPs around DC today. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
In 2009, the Pentagon dealt one of the biggest blows to the plan by canceling the program to replace the HH-60G rescue choppers. Three years earlier, the flying branch had hired Boeing to supply new HH-47 Chinooks.
Other competitors quickly filed official complaints accusing the service of mismanaging the contracting process. After the Government Accountability Office sided with the protesting companies, the Air Force tried and failed twice more to jump-start the program.
Ultimately, the flying branch inked a deal with Sikorsky to supply an updated HH-60W version of their iconic Black Hawk. But the Connecticut-based company, now part of Lockheed Martin, doesn’t expect to deliver any of those aircraft to the Air Force before 2019.
There’s no guarantee that these new aircraft would free up any of the older Pave Hawks either. In their 2015 briefing, the flying branch was willing to consider upgrading the choppers as a possible solution.
The Air Force made it clear that they wanted a single, common replacement for all the UH-1Ns scattered across the service, including another dozen assigned to training and test units. But, at the time, the presenters added that there was no program of record or funding stream for any replacements for the aging choppers.
On Feb. 26, Zinke and 13 other legislators co-signed letters to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee asking them to put money for new helicopters in the 2017 budget. Their proposal would involve adding to an existing U.S. Army plan to purchase HH-60M Black Hawks, but sending the extra aircraft to the Air Force.
“By adding Black Hawks … we can address the problem immediately rather than more delayed action,” the messages explained. “Not only does the Huey create security vulnerabilities, it has been proven inefficient and costly to operate and maintain.”
Neither congress nor the Pentagon has made a final decision on how best to proceed. In the meantime, foreign officials like Ünal will have to continue riding in the old Twin Hueys when they visit Washington.
Jan. 15, 2019, was the first missed payday for the US Coast Guard, the only military branch who’s working without pay during the government shutdown that started on Dec. 21, 2018.
A work-around secured money for Dec. 31, 2018 paychecks, but no such maneuver was possible for Jan. 15, 2019, and communities around the country have stepped in to support Coast Guard families amid protracted uncertainty.
The strain at home comes after a busy year at sea.
In 2018, the Coast Guard apprehended five times as many migrants at sea off the coast of Southern California as it did in 2017, according to records seen by The Washington Post.
Coast Guard crews interdicted multiple Dominican migrants attempting to illegally enter Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Jan. 11, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
The 1,022 migrants picked up off Southern California through the end of the 2018 fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2018, exceeded the 213 and 142 intercepted in fiscal years 2017 and 2016, respectively.
But across the entire US, the number of migrants caught at sea between 2017 and 2018 decreased from 2,512 to 1,668, according to The Post.
Most of the Coast Guard’s apprehensions at sea were for a long time off the coast of Florida; many of those caught were Cubans, who were allowed to pursue citizenship once reaching the US under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.
The Obama administration rescinded that policy in January 2017, and most migrants intercepted there now come from Haiti or other islands in the Caribbean.
While the number of people picked up in the area has fallen, the route remains active. The service said on Jan. 11, 2019, that 66 migrants were picked up around Puerto Rico in a 72-hour period and that 708 had been intercepted there since Oct. 1, 2018.
Migrants picked up off the California coast come from throughout the region, from Mexico to Bolivia. High-value migrant smuggling — which involves people who’ve paid large sums to come to the US from countries as far afield as China and Sri Lanka — has also increased, including in the waters around Florida, Coast Guard officers told Business Insider during a patrol over Miami in November 2018.
An overloaded vessel with about 35 migrants is interdicted approximately 34 miles west of Desecheo, Puerto Rico, Jan. 7, 2019.
Out in the Pacific, Coast Guard crews were busy with a more nefarious activity in 2018.
During that period, the service seized 458,000 pounds of cocaine — less than the record 493,000 pounds seized in 2017 but more than the 443,000 pounds seized in 2016, which was itself a record.
Having faced those challenges at sea in 2018, the Coast Guard begins 2019 with a government shutdown that at 25 days is the longest in US history.
Unlike the other four branches of the military, which are part of the Defense Department, funding for the Coast Guard, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, has yet to be approved.
Some 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members remain on duty without pay. The majority of the service’s 8,500 civilian employees have been furloughed, though about 1,300 remain at work.
A Coast Guard crew oversees the salvage of a privately owned Hawker Hunter aircraft off of Honolulu, Jan. 7, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Russ Strathern)
Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray said in a Jan. 10, 2019 letter that Coast Guard “leadership continues to do everything possible … to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation,” but “I do not know when that will occur.”
In a letter two days later, Ray cautioned that “there is a distinct possibility that Retiree Pay and Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) payments may be delayed if this lapse continues into late January.”
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, who has missed his own paycheck, told Military.com that without a budget appropriation for fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2019, a continuing resolution, or some other funding measure, the service won’t be able pay its 50,000 retirees on Feb. 1, 2019.
Measures have been introduced to Congress to pay the Coast Guard amid the government closure.
The Pay Our Coast Guard Act was reintroduced to the Senate on Jan. 4, 2019, and assigned to the Senate legislative calendar. The Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 9, 2019, and is with the Appropriations and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
Those measures would have be approved by the other house of Congress and by the president in order to go into effect. On Jan. 15, 2019, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she was working with the White House and Congress on legislation to fund the service.
“Like the other branches of the U.S. military, active duty @USCG should be paid for their service and sacrifice to this nation,” Nielsen said on Twitter.
Despite support from each other and their communities, Coast Guard families around the country are feeling the strain.
“This is talking an emotional toll on us and all the families here at Fort Wadsworth,” Rebeca Hinger, a Coast Guard spouse and mother of three, told Staten Island Live. “Many of us here … live paycheck-to-paycheck, and without money we can’t pay our bills.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Messing around with your fellow Joes is always good fun. It’s a lighthearted way of letting them know that they’re one of the guys.
If you didn’t care about someone, you wouldn’t mess with them, right?
Every unit, from combat arms to support, has a communications (commo/comms) person. They range from being tasked to operate the radio systems to being a full specialization, from grunt AF to fobbit. These guys are there for us, but that doesn’t mean they’re not above some playful ribbing every now and then.
Doing any of the things on this list should always come from a place of mutual friendship. Don’t be a dick about it. Basically, don’t anything that would get you UCMJ’ed, impede the mission, or lose your military bearing.
1. Yell that you can’t hear anything on channel “Z”
Zeroize is a neat tool. It is designed to wipe out all of the information on the radio in case the worst happens. It’s also coincidentally very easy to access. Watch as their eyes grow big and run to your vehicle to set your radio back up.
2. Say “is this chip thingy supposed to come out of the SKL?”
For some reason, you get your hands on the most protected piece of equipment of a radio guy.
A quick explanation of what that key does is that it allows you to load Comsec. Ripping it out would essentially zeroize it. Don’t actually rip it out. But saying that you did will make commo guy sh*t himself.
3. During radio checks, say “Lickin’ Chicken” instead of “X this is Y, Read you Loud and Clear, over.”
Radio checks are boring. And it’s usually the last thing before rolling out on the 0900 convoy that we all arrived at 0430 to prep for.
When one person starts saying “Lickin’ Chicken,” it spreads like wildfire. Before you know it, everyone will say it during radio checks. On the commo guy’s end, it’s like hearing the same joke 100 times over and over again.
Most commo dudes are perfectionists (emphasis on most). If the SKL was their baby, the OE-254 (cheap ass FM antennae) is the bane of their existence.
Theoretically, just attaching it will make it work. But that won’t stop radio operators from trying to get it juuuust right.
5. “Hotkey” your mic
Everything is set up. Everything is green. Things are finally working. Then someone leaves their hand mic under something that pushes the button down.
“No problem!” thinks the radio operator. Just double tap on their own mic to mute that person until they release the mic.
But if you intentionally hold down the push-to-talk button after they mute you to keep messing with them…?
6. During a convoy, ask why we don’t have any music playing
Different type of radio system. And there’s totally no way to solder an aux cable onto a cut up W-4 cable to connect your iPhone up to the net, blasting music out to everyone in the convoy.
Nope, never done it…
7. Ask us to fix your computer
Not all Signal Corps soldiers are the same. Radio operator/maintainers are the less POG-y specialization. They only pretend to be POGs to get out of Motor Pool Mondays or bullsh*t details.
Ask the other S-6 guys for that. If they do know how, it’s not their main task. It’s the computer guy’s.
“Sure, F*ck it. Whatever. Case of beer and I’ll look at your personal computer” (Photo credit Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T)
8. “Run out” of batteries
Batteries weight around 3 lbs each. A rucksack full of them surprisingly runs out faster than you’d think. So it’s fairly often that comms troops have to run back and forth to get more batteries.
Tell your radio maintainer that you’re running low and then just stockpile them for later, making them run around the convoy with a full ruck.
9. Tell them that a drop test does nothing
This one is how you really dig into the saltier, more experienced radio guys.
A comms guy’s bread and butter is a fully-functioning radio. In most cases, the problem is simply putting the correct time in the radio. Others is making the radio work with their “commo magic.” That magic is almost always just kicking the damn thing or picking it up a few inches off the ground and dropping it. Ask any radio operator and they’ll tell you it works.
There’s no explanation — it just works. Saying that “It’s a bunch of circuits, why would that work?” will just have them bullsh*tting you on why they went all caveman for no reason and miraculously having things work.
Is there anything that we missed? If you have any ideas on how to mess with other job specialties?
Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.
Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab, the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean. These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it. Like Lego blocks, amino acids build on one another to form proteins, which make up all living things.
A time-lapse video of a miniature hydrothermal chimney forming in the lab, as it would in early Earth’s ocean. Natural vents can continue to form for thousands of years and grow to tens of yards (meters) in height.
“Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said Barge, the lead investigator and the first author on the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet.”
Found around cracks in the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are places where natural chimneys form, releasing fluid heated below Earth’s crust. When these chimneys interact with the seawater around them, they create an environment that is in constant flux, which is necessary for life to evolve and change. This dark, warm environment fed by chemical energy from Earth may be the key to how life could form on worlds farther out in our solar system, far from the heat of the Sun.
“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study.
Barge and Flores used ingredients commonly found in early Earth’s ocean in their experiments. They combined water, minerals and the “precursor” molecules pyruvate and ammonia, which are needed to start the formation of amino acids. They tested their hypothesis by heating the solution to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) — the same temperature found near a hydrothermal vent — and adjusting the pH to mimic the alkaline environment. They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because, unlike today, early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide, or “green rust,” which was abundant on early Earth.
The green rust reacted with small amounts of oxygen that the team injected into the solution, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Alpha hydroxy acids are byproducts of amino acid reactions, but some scientists theorize they too could combine to form more complex organic molecules that could lead to life.
“We’ve shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor,” said Barge.
Barge’s creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life. Past studies, which built on the foundational work of co-author and JPL chemist Michael Russell, looked at whether the right ingredients for life are found in hydrothermal vents, and how much energy those vents can generate (enough to power a light bulb). But this new study is the first time her team has watched an environment very similar to a hydrothermal vent drive an organic reaction. Barge and her team will continue to study these reactions in anticipation of finding more ingredients for life and creating more complex molecules. Step by step, she’s slowly inching her way up the chain of life.
Laurie Barge, left, and Erika Flores, right, in JPL’s Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena, California.
This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts. Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules.
Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet’s rusty surface, which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water. Exoplanets — worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes — may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future.
“We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”
This research was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s JPL Icy Worlds team.
Featured image: An image of Saturn’s moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon’s icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.
Would military spouses be happy with any ol’ job, as long as they were out of the house and earning an honest income?
My guess is, generally, no.By and large, military spouses are calling for employment that does much more than pay the bills. They want meaningful, purposeful employment that helps them advance their goals. Numerous studies support this, and the military spouse employment movement is making enormous strides.
So, if you’re a military spouse looking for meaningful employment, where should you start? What are viable career options?
Given your lifestyle, you’re probably looking for something portable, flexible, universally necessary and barrier-free. It just so happens that a number of our country’s growing industries have opportunities that fit the bill.
Let’s take a look at five promising industries that military spouses should consider for employment.
1. Health care
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the health care industry will have the highest growth over the next decade, predicting over 3.4 million additional jobs by 2028. That’s a lot of opportunity!
Nurses, home health care aides, social workers and medical aides are examples of jobs in this field. These jobs generally pay well and are necessary everywhere (check!), making you highly marketable every time you PCS. While the process of transferring licenses or honoring licenses from other states has yet to be completely smoothed out, officials are working to lift those barriers (check-almost!).
One thing to consider is that not all health care-related jobs require a license. For example, home health aides, the fastest-growing subsection of the industry, may not have to be licensed, but certification requirements vary depending on the state.
You probably can’t go a day without hearing that a friend has started a home-based business, quit her job to become a freelancer or established his own web-based company. Entrepreneurship isn’t a trend that will soon fade; it’s a legit movement, which many military spouses are joining, excited to take ownership of their own careers.
While entrepreneurship can be risky, it offers you portability and flexibility (check! check!). Depending on the type of business you’re running, you may need to maintain and transfer licenses across state lines, but you’ve probably done your homework and found a niche that’s needed in the market (check!), making any paperwork worth it.
Plus, numerous organizations have established training and support programs, designed to help military spouse entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground in the strongest way possible. As a military spouse entrepreneur, you’ll have a wide community of experts and supporters ready to offer advice and mentorship, as well as cheer you on.
3. Leisure and hospitality
Like health care, BLS predicts favorable opportunity for the leisure and hospitality industry. Over the next 10 years, BLS says that over 1.5 million jobs will be added to this sector.
This industry is growing across America, including right in the backyard of every military spouse. It just so happens that these leisure and hospitality companies were named among the 2020 Military Spouse Friendly Employers: Motel 6/Studio 6, Hilton and La Quinta by Wyndham.
These companies offer tailored onboarding practices, career portability and flexibility (check! check!), opportunities for advancement and more – specially for military spouses. Plus, you generally won’t have to worry about transferring a license or going to school for decades to begin working (check, check and more checks!).
4. Professional services and business
As a military spouse, you’re resourceful, adaptable, cool under pressure and organized. These “soft skills” make you an excellent contender for the types of jobs in the professional services and business sector.
This sector, which BLS projects will add 1.66 million jobs by 2028, includes a wide variety of jobs, such as sales managers, human resources managers, executive assistants, advertising, financial managers, operations managers and more. It even includes highly technical jobs like architects and engineers.
You can adapt your mad military spouse skills to suit a number of different career paths, and many of them could lead to remote work (check!). For example, virtual assistants are becoming hugely popular with real estate companies, corporations and high-achieving entrepreneurs. Many companies are outsourcing managerial and research work to remote employees, too.
Think about this industry as your oyster. With so many options to consider, you can zero in on just the right job that suits your ever-changing lifestyle – talk about flexibility! (Check!).
5. Information Technology
Technically, this bad boy falls under the professional services industry, but since it’s such a behemoth, it makes sense to discuss it separately. There’s not a corner of civilization that isn’t wired, making information technology experts absolutely essential to any business or organization (check!).
Despite what you might think, this industry offers a lot of flexibility, too (check!). Although your particular skill set might be defined, the type of company you can apply it to (i.e., your work environment) ranges far and wide.
From schools to ski resorts, national corporations to nonprofit offices, information technology specialists are needed everywhere. Whether you prefer working solo or with a team, in an office or at home, chances are that no matter where you PCS or how often, you’ll be able to take your work in computers with you.