The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.
The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.
The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.
The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields
The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.
JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.
“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”
U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)
The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.
“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”
Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.
The United States and Russia have agreed on a time and place for nuclear arms negotiations this month and invited China, President Donald Trump’s arms negotiator says.
“Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Sergei] Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June,” U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea wrote on Twitter on June 8.
“China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” he added, without providing further details.
There were no immediate comments from Russian officials.
Earlier, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department official as saying that Ryabkov and Billingslea would meet in Vienna on June 22.
The official didn’t rule out that the United States may be willing to extend the New Start nuclear-weapons treaty, if Russia “commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table,” according to Bloomberg.
New START, the last major arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in February 2021.
The accord caps the number of nuclear warheads and so-called delivery systems held by the two countries.
While Moscow has pushed for a five-year extension, Washington has balked, saying it wants the deal to be broadened to include China.
China, whose nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of Moscow’s and Washington’s, has said it was not interested in participating in such talks.
The Trump administration has pulled out of major international treaties, prompting warnings of an increased possibility of an arms race or accidental military confrontations.
Last month, Washington gave notice on withdrawing from the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.
The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations and said the United States was seeking to undermine international security.
Three multistate coalitions have formed, in the northeast, west, and midwest, to coordinate measures to reopen their economies, but they have yet to make concrete plans.
That’s because the reopening plans are dependent on various factors, like controlling the rate of infections and hospitalizations, making testing and contact tracing more widespread, making sure healthcare facilities are properly equipped to handle another resurgence, and employing social distancing practices in the workplace.
Some of these states (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina), were among the last to issue stay-at-home orders, doing so in April after many other states already had in March.
In several of the states that have begun to reopen, however, the number of new cases of COVID-19 seem to still be steadily rising. Where most cases early in the outbreak were reported primarily in urban areas like New York and Seattle, recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that from April 13 to April 27, rural counties saw an average 125% increase in new coronavirus infections, leaping from 51 to 115 new cases per 100,000 people.
Here are the states beginning to reopen their economies.
Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the state’s stay-at-home just 26 days after it began, and reopened beaches and retail stores.
Alabama had one of the shortest-lived stay-at-home orders, which began on April 4 and ended on April 30. Now, retail stores may operate at 50% capacity and beachgoers must stay 6 feet apart. Hair and beauty salons remain closed, and restaurants are restricted to takeout only.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy permitted some restaurants and nonessential services to begin reopening on April 24, with certain restrictions.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed some restaurants and nonessential services to reopen for business, with certain restrictions. Open restaurants must take reservations and refuse walk-ins, they can be filled to only 25% capacity at one time, customers must either dine alone or with members of their household (meeting up with friends is not allowed), and restaurants must provide hand sanitizer for guests to use. Also, restaurant employees must wear protective face masks while working.
Governor Dunleavy also eased restrictions on public gatherings, saying that they can include people from different households, as long as individuals stay six feet apart. If you plan on singing or projecting your voice, however, the minimum distance apart is 10 feet.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis initiated a new ‘safer at home’ order on April 27, allowing elective medical procedures to resume and curbside delivery options for retail stores.
Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired on April 26, replaced by a “safer-at-home” policy that permitted some businesses to open their doors. Childcare facilities could reopen under certain safety measures, including keeping rooms to less than 10 children, staggering meal times, and frequently sanitizing common areas. Some retail stores and beauty salons began reopening on May 1, allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
Gyms and nightlife destinations remain closed, however, and restaurants are still restricted to take-out service. Schools will remain remote for the rest of the semester.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order expired April 30, and he allowed some beaches in northern Florida to reopen as early as April 17.
On Friday, April 17, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed some beaches in northern Florida to reopen, The Associated Press reported, even though the state has continued to see an increase in coronavirus cases.
In a press conference, he said that some counties could start reopening their beaches if they wanted to, adding that it was important for people to get fresh air, the AP reported. “Do it in a good way,” DeSantis said. “Do it in a safe way.”
Gatherings of 50 or more people are still banned, and people are encouraged to socially distance on the beach as they exercise or do activities like surfing, reported Business Insider’s Dominic-Madori Davis. But photos showed hundreds of locals flooding Jacksonville Beach, apparently without adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed many businesses, including gyms and movie theaters, to reopen in phases beginning in April.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed businesses to begin reopening in phases over the weekend, he said during a news conference on Monday, April 20.
Gyms, hair salons, barbershops, fitness centers, and massage-therapy centers were allowed to reopen on April 24, as long as they follow social distancing and “regular sanitation,” reported Business Insider’s Jake Lahut. On Monday, restaurants, private social clubs, and movie theaters could also reopen. But bars, night clubs, amusement parks, and other businesses will remain closed pending further advice from public-health experts.
Kemp didn’t give much specific detail, but said businesses should “adhere to the minimum basic operations.”
Kemp said Georgia’s rate of new infections had flattened. In response to backlash about the decision, Kemp told Fox News that “it’s a tough balance.”
“We are talking about a few businesses that I closed down to help flatten the curve, which we have done in our state,” he said. “But for us to continue to ask them to do that while they lose everything, quite honestly, there are a lot of civil repercussions of that, mental health issues. We are seeing more patients in our trauma centers in our state.”
But both President Donald Trump and local mayors have criticized the decision. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump said on April 22.
Kemp didn’t issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April 3, saying during a press conference at the time that a key part of his decision was that “we didn’t know … until the last 24 hours” that asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus could infect other people.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little initiated a four-phase process to reopen the state, beginning May 1.
Idaho’s stay-at-home order also expired on April 30, and Gov. Little enacted a four-stage reopening plan over the months of May and June. The first stage began on May 1 and allowed daycares, childcare centers, summer camps, and places of worship to reopen. Other nonessential business may begin reopening during the second phase, which starts May 16.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order expired on May 1, and a partial reopening began May 4.
Gov. Eric Holcomb rolled out a multi-phase plan that involves different reopening dates for different counties. Retail businesses and restaurants may operate at 50% capacity, and personal services salons may see customers by appointment only. Office workers can return to work in small or staggered groups.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds allowed gyms, libraries, and other venues to reopen in certain regions on May 1.
Gov. Kim Reynolds extended the state’s emergency declaration until May 27, but allowed businesses (including restaurants, gyms, libraries, and indoor malls) to reopen in select counties beginning May 1, under social distancing restrictions.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly began to lift the state’s lockdown measures on May 4.
Kelly’s “Ad Astra” plan breaks the reopening into three phases, which allowed some businesses to reopen May 4 as long as social distancing measures were in place, and crowds were limited to no more than 10 people.
The initial phase will last 14 days. Bars, casinos, fitness centers, museums, hair salons, and swimming pools will remain closed, and large community events will remain prohibited.
Phase two of the plan will start no earlier than May 18 and will allow childcare facilities, libraries and some organized sports facilities to reopen.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills extended a new ‘safer at home’ order through May 31, but allowed some businesses to reopen on May 1.
Beginning May 1, residents of Maine were able to resume hunting and fishing, go to drive-in movie theaters, get car washes, and visit beauty salons, under set social distancing restrictions.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 18, but allowed certain nonessential businesses to begin reopening on May 4.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves began easing restrictions on April 27, but backtracked the reopening after COVID-19 cases spiked in the state on May 1.
Restaurants and some retail stores began reopening on April 27 in Mississippi, and were told to operate at 50% capacity and maintain six feet of space between customers, while tattoo parlors, beauty salons, and gyms to remain closed. However, when the state’s infections and death count reached a new high on May 1, Governor Reeves decided to put additional reopening on hold.
Missouri’s stay-at-home order expired May 3, and Gov. Mike Parson has since reopened restaurants and stadiums.
Gov. Mike Parson allowed the reopening of movie theatres, sports stadiums, and other large venues, encouraging patrons to maintain social distancing regulations. Retail spaces are restricted to maintaining customers at 25% capacity.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock allowed select retail businesses to reopen on April 27, and restaurants and bars to resume dine-in service on May 4.
Places of worship were permitted to open on April 26, and told to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people that make social distancing difficult. Restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries were allowed to reopen on May 4 if they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Businesses where sanitation and social distancing is less possible, such as gyms, music venues, movie theaters, and bowling alleys, were to remain closed.
Nebraska never had a stay-at-home order, and on May 4, Gov. Pete Ricketts eased restrictions to allow personal services businesses to reopen.
As of May 4, Gov. Pete Ricketts allowed dine-in restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. Beauty parlors and tattoo shops may also open, with a limit of serving 10 customers at one time.
Nevada’s stay-at-home order is in effect until May 15, but Gov. Steve Sisolak allowed all retail businesses to operate via ‘curbside pickup’ beginning May 1.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said certain areas upstate (not New York City) may be able to partially reopen beginning May 15.
Gov. Cuomo has placed some of the heaviest restrictions in the country on New York state, and has been hesitant to lift any so far. He is closely adhering to guidelines set by the CDC, requiring officials to show a steady, continual decline in new coronavirus infections in their area over a two-week period before considering reopening nonessential businesses.
Regions in New York that do meet this criteria by May 15 and are permitted to reopen will have to follow strict sanitary and social distancing precautions. While the infection rates in upstate areas may be more promising, Cuomo said that “unless a miracle happens,” it’s highly unlikely that New York City or nearby counties downstate will be able to anytime soon.
North Dakota never had a statewide mandatory stay-at-home order, and Gov. Doug Burgum invited most businesses to reopen when they want to beginning May 1.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum placed restrictions on schools, gyms, dine-in restaurants and bars, and movie theaters in early April through the end of the month. Other businesses which weren’t told to close were welcome to reopen at any time, the governor said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initiated a multi-phase reopening plan to begin May 1, with veterinarians and dentists allowed to return to work.
In Ohio, medical procedures, dental offices, and vet clinics were allowed to reopen on May 1. Later in the month, on May 12, retail stores can reopen with certain restrictions. Gov. DeWine has yet to say when beauty salons or dine-in restaurants will be able to welcome customers again.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt began a three-phase plan on April 24, and allowed personal care services such as spas, nail and hair salons, and pet groomers to reopen.
Under relaxed guidelines in Oklahoma for personal care businesses, customers must make appointments ahead of time and the business should maintain social distancing protocols as much as possible by staggering appointment times.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster opened up beaches and some businesses previously deemed nonessential on April 21.
South Carolina was one of the last to issue a statewide stay-at-home order from all the states that issued such orders, doing so on April 7.
On April 20, Gov. McMaster said that department stores and some other businesses previously deemed nonessential would be allowed to reopen if they abided by social distancing guidelines. That includes clothing stores, furniture stores, and florist shops, reported Josiah Bates for Time.
“We are still in a very serious situation … we must be sure that we continue to be strict and disciplined with our social distancing,” McMaster said in a press conference. “Our goal was to cause the most damage possible to the virus, while doing the least possible damage to our businesses. South Carolina’s business is business.”
South Dakota never had a stay-at-home order, and Gov. Kristi Noem began encouraging a ‘back to normal’ approach in late April.
Gov. Noem encouraged local people and businesses to resume activities, but also to be careful and maintain social distancing as much as possible. When asked about potential surges of COVID-19 infections, Gov. Noem said she will handle those locally as they come.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed restaurants to resume dine-in operations on April 27, and retail stores reopened on April 29.
In Tennessee, gyms were allowed to reopen on May 1 under rules to operate at 50% capacity and maintain a clean and sanitized environment. Reopened restaurants must also follow additional restrictions, including using disposable menus, limiting each table to six customers, and eliminating shared condiment stations.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants and movie theaters to begin operating on May 1, at 25% capacity.
Malls, retailers, and dine-in restaurants reopened in Texas on May 1 at reduced capacity. Curbside delivery and to-go service has already been permitted at certain eateries since since April 27. Gyms, bars, and salons remain closed.
On May 1, Gov. Greg Abbott concurred with the dangers of reopening the state on a private phone call with members of the state legislature and Congress, according to an audio recording obtained by local Texas political site Quorum Report. He had publicly acknowledged the week earlier that “It’s only logical to see there would be an increase and the number of people that test positive.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert never enacted a stay-at-home order, and eased other restrictions starting May 1.
Dine-in restaurants, public parks, and gyms reopened in Utah on May 1, and Gov. Gary Herbert increased limits on public gatherings from 10 people to 20 people, provided they adhere to social distancing protocols. Schools, however, remain closed.
Vermont’s stay-at-home order is in effect through May 15, but Gov. Phil Scott allowed certain businesses to reopen on April 27.
Governor Phil Scott allowed “outdoor retail spaces” to return to in-person shopping on April 27, with a restriction of 10 shoppers at one time. Outdoor farmers markets also reopened on May 1, under rules to “transition away from shopping and social events, to primarily a food distribution system.”
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s new ‘safer at home’ order began on May 4, and allowed restaurants to open for outdoor dining.
Beginning May 4, hair salons, barbershops, and pet groomer were allowed to resume operations, and must maintain social distancing and proper sanitation between customers.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon had never put in place a stay-at-home order, and he began lifting other restrictions May 1.
On May 1, Gov. Gordon allowed the reopening of gyms, beauty salons, barber shops, massage parlors, and tattoo shops, among other personal service businesses.
Other states are slated to partially reopen later in May, including New Jersey, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Defense Secretary James Mattis put out his first all-hands message to everyone in the Department of Defense on Friday, and it tells you everything you need to know about how he intends to lead.
Mattis, a retired Marine general revered by his troops, probably made a good first impression among the roughly three million men and women who make up the active duty, reserve, and civilian force. That’s due to the notable language he used in his first sentence (emphasis added):
“It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.”
As many who served under him can attest, Mattis has always been a humble warrior who led Marines from the front — not from an air conditioned bunker. And the language that he used — serve alongside you, as opposed to lead, or manage you — shows that Mattis will likely bring his beloved leadership style of the Marines with him into the civilian post.
“He’s a leader by example,” retired Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent told Business Insider in December. “He’s not the type that’s ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ He’s out there doing it.”
Mattis kept his message short and sweet, praising the people who make up the DoD, calling America a “beacon of hope,” and pledging that he would do his best as Defense Secretary.
Here’s the full letter:
It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.
Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.
Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.
I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.
Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, provides one-on-one employment transition services to veterans leaving the military for civilian work.
The support program is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in Southern California and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.
The program aims to help veterans and their family members successfully return back into communities and pursue healthy, productive lives.
Veterans who recently left the military or service members who soon will be leaving military service can get one-on-one help from the program’s employment specialists — many who also are military veterans and understand the difficulties and struggles many face when leaving service and returning to their civilian life.
Veterans leaving military service get some help and information before they hang up their uniform, but that doesn’t mean they are really prepared to land into a new job or school or home.
“The sooner they start thinking about it, the better,” said John Funk, director of operations with Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veteran Support Program.
Funk knows that personally. In 2012, he retired as a Navy captain after a 30-year career that included ship and helicopter squadron commands and immediately began work as a federal civilian worker.
“I was in a great place, but it wasn’t me,” he said of the job.
His own networking and earlier volunteer work led him to Easterseals Southern California in late 2013, and his priorities include expanding the outreach to transitioning military service members and veterans across the region.
“As a senior guy, I had a lot of people who were working for me,” he said. For the younger veterans leaving service, “who is that support for them?”
Assistance is tailored to each veteran, whether it’s help finding a job, figuring out a new career field or profession, going back to college or technical school or starting a new business venture. They can get support to developing a new career goal and path, writing their resumes, networking, and interviewing with potential employers.
“Our services are very tailored and customized for each individual,” Funk said. “We spend a lot of time to get to know them and to listen to them. We are very outcome-based. Whatever the veteran defines as a success to them. Veterans ‘define the outcome.’ We are not nudging them in the direction they want to go. We are helping them navigate the direction they want to go.”
Funk said military members, in particular, spent their careers focused on teamwork and mission without much thought about their own wants or needs, so many don’t readily seek assistance.
“They are cut from the cloth that they are service providers. So sometimes it’s more challenging to ask for help,” Funk said. “Asking for assistance is not asking for a handout.”
Helping them change their thinking to focus on their own transition are nine Easterseals Southern California employment specialists – that includes Funk – who work closely with each veteran. All but one served in the military and can share experiences that enable them to relate to each client on many levels.
“We are coach, advocate, cheerleader, motivator, providing input, holding them accountable,” he said, and are “real frank with them.”
Since its inception in 2014, the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Program has helped 750 veterans and family members with employment support and referrals. These include assistance in VA benefits, education, housing, physical and mental health support, financial, and autism therapy.
If you’re a military veteran who left service less than 24 months ago or will be leaving military service within three months, you can get more information about the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program by calling (760) 737-3990 or visiting http://www.easterseals.com/ESSCBobHopeVeterans.
You can donate to Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support program via their website, and 100 percent of donations go directly to the programs.
Missing Fort Hood Soldier, Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. (Courtesy: Fort Hood Press Center)
U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.
During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.
Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen’s family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.
“The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her,” the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. “We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.
“This gruesome murder should never have happened.”
Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.
“We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen,” Phelps said.
Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.
Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen’s disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.
Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.
Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.
“Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains,” Phelps said. “We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin.”
Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is “no credible information” that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.
“The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance,” Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance.”
At Efflandt’s request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.
Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen’s family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.
He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.
“After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation,” Phelps said. “Nevertheless, we are still investigating.”
The Afghan Army prioritized transporting captured ISIS fighters to Kabul over re-supplying one of its bases in the northern Faryab province that the Taliban had been besieging for weeks, according to a New York Times report.
The Taliban overran the base on Aug. 13, 2018.
Despite peace talks planned for September 2018 with the US State Department, the Taliban has racked up a string of victories in August 2018 against ISIS and the Afghan military.
But there was no help for the approximately 100 Afghan soldiers and border officers at a remote base in the northern Faryab province called Chinese Camp, which about 1,000 Taliban fighters had been attacking for three weeks before mounting heavier attacks in concert with the other assaults it launched across the country, the Times previously reported.
“Since 20 days we are asking for help and no one is listening,” one Afghan officer at Chinese Camp, Capt. Sayid Azam, told the Times over the phone. “Every night fighting, every night the enemy are attacking us from three sides with rockets. We don’t know what to do.”
Azam was killed on Aug. 12, 2018, the Times reported.
Before his death, Azam was apparently irate over the Afghan Army’s decision to use three helicopters to transport the ISIS captives from Jawzjan province to Kabul instead of re-supplying his base, the Times reported.
Azam said that one Army helicopter brought Chinese Camp “three sacks of rice” on Aug. 3, 2018, one day after the ISIS captives were taken to Kabul.
“Can you imagine? For 100 men?” he added.
Afghan politicians had also been taking military helicopters for their own use instead of re-supplying Chinese Camp, which angered Azam as well, the Times reported.
The Times reported that it was difficult to glean if the ISIS captives were being treated as “Prisoners or Honored Guests of the Afghan Government.”
“We lost everything to Daesh, and now the government sends helicopters for them from Kabul and brings them here and gives them rice and meat and mineral water, and provides them with security, and we are not even able to find food,” a resident of Jawzjan province, Abdul Hamid, told the Times in early August 2018.
Chinese Camp finally folded to the Taliban on Aug. 13, 2018, after dozens of Afghan soldiers and border officers were killed and several more surrendered to the Taliban.
The Afghan Defense Ministry, Resolute Support and Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Joe Owen served as an enlisted Marine in a forward observer squad during World War II, but as the 90-year-old vet looks back on his life, it’s his Korean War experience that really stands out to him.
“I was overseas in WWII when I got selected for OCS,” Owen remembers. “I went to the old man and begged him to let me stay with my squad. He told me I was given an opportunity rare among all Americans to become an officer of Marines and if I were successful I would be leading the finest fighting men in the world. That was the end of it. As it turned out, I am extremely proud that I was able to fight as an officer of Marines. It was my privilege.”
Becoming an officer changed his world, to put it mildly.
Owen was a second lieutenant in command of a mortar platoon when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Later Owen was at the Chosin Reservoir, the site of one of the iconic battles of Marine Corps history. Seventeen Medals of Honor were earned in the battle that saw 10 divisions of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the 1st Marine Division. The Marines were forced to withdraw, but not before inflicting massive casualties on the Chinese.
“Our Marines beat the enemy, position by position, with no safety margin and under heavy fire because the enemy could see everything we did,” he said. “So we had to keep our guys moving in the heavy snow and cold. The fatigue factor is serious. The guys forced themselves to keep going because they had to keep going, first for survival and because that was their nature. That’s the fighting spirit of Marine riflemen. That’s how we beat them.”
“When were fighting in the cold, we couldn’t dig holes in the ground. It was completely frozen,” Owen remembers. “So we would take Chinese bodies, stack ’em up and that would be our position. The sons of bitches would come at us and keep coming and keep going down and they would be piled up, running over each other to get at us. The sons of bitches would never stop, so we had to keep on killing them. Can you imagine that?”
If not for the victory at the Chosin Reservoir, the entire U.S. X Corps, nearly 200,000 troops and civilians, would have been lost and maybe then the entire U.N. effort in Korea. The 1st Marine Division received the Presidential Unit Citation for their tenacity. The fighting was often close and brutal.
“We never figured out why, but when we go in close, it’d be a fight with grenades,” Owen said. “We had fragmentation grenades. They had concussion grenades. So we would toss frags at ’em and kill ’em and they’d throw theirs at us and stun us. I got hit by one of those things one time. It blew me up in the air and I came back down, I didn’t know where the hell I was. Well, that’s when they broke through. Fortunately, I had my bayonet on my carbine, and I just turned around and the leader of the Chinese ran right into my bayonet and I couldn’t get the thing out. The poor son of a bitch just struggled there. We both went down. I couldn’t get my weapon out. So I picked up his weapon and from there on in it was a fight with rifle butts. I was swinging that thing and knocking ’em out, one by one.”
In Owen’s mind, the confidence enlisted Marines have in their leaders is what sets Marines apart. Lieutenants are the first line of that confidence in combat. This is why Owen calls Korea a lieutenant’s war.
“You have to be visible. Anyone who stands up under enemy fire… that takes balls. You become a target and the sons of bitches try to kill you and you have to return fire or move forward. You gotta keep the men going, give ’em direction, let them know you’re moving with them.”
This spirit was embodied in Chew Een-Lee, the Marine Corps’ first Chinese-American officer, who served with Owen.
“A guy like that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Owen says of Lee. “If you spent time with him it was rewarding. It lasts forever. We said things to each other that can only be stories, experiences that you talk about and you think son of a bitch, I should have done that.”
Lee died on March 3, 2014 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Owen gave the eulogy at his funeral.
“He was a conceited, self-centered sonofabitch but he was my pal,” Owen said. “We had some classic arguments. What I say about him may not be entirely complimentary, but it was a great experience to know him. And when you think of it, that’s better.”
“He and I and another guy named McCluskey, we used to get together to talk about combat leadership,” Owen recalls. “Chinese officers were very emphatic, screaming and yelling at their people to keep on going. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill the foot soldier who didn’t move forward. They had no feeling for the men who got killed under their command. In contrast, every time I lost a man, I felt as though I lost a son. Even though I was only 23-24 years old. I just felt my men trusted me and were entrusted to me. I had to bring them forward with care – to be damn sure that they were in a position where they could effectively use their weapon and defend themselves.”
He never felt sympathy for the enemies at the reservoir, but he remembers the Chinese differently from the North Koreans.
“They were trying to kill me,” Owen says. “I didn’t forget that. Anyone trying to kill me, I’m gonna kill them.”
Owen was injured at the Chosin Reservoir; doctors almost amputated his arm, but his verve convinced them he would survive his injuries without losing his arm.
“When I woke up at the Naval Hospital near Tokyo, I was in an examination room, and I see several doctors looking at X-rays on a light panel,” he said. “One of them says ‘we don’t have any choice, we have to amputate.’ I figured some poor son of a bitch is gonna lose something. I look around, and mind you I just came out of the morphine, and I see I’m the only guy in there. I figure they’re gonna cut something off me. So I yelled out fuck you. In my head I had to go back up on line with my men. If I lost parts, I can’t go back up. That saved it. The spirit saved my arm.”
He did lose full use of the limb and was soon discharged from the service, but Owen’s life didn’t stop there. He credits his longevity to the same spirit that kept his men going and saved his arm.
“If I could muster Baker 1-7 today, I would tell them we’re alive because you kept fighting,” he said. “You were invincible. You maintained the fighting spirit. You went through one of the most difficult fights ever experienced by American fighting men and you damn well held the line. You became the best goddamn rifle company in the Marine Corps.”
Chalk up yet another win for Yankee rifle designs.
It turns out the culturally protective French military is set to ditch its iconic FAMAS rifle for a German-made M4 variant that’s a favorite among U.S. special operations forces and is based on the popular Stoner design American troops have used since the Vietnam War.
It’s easy to ID French troops using their unique, French-made FAMAS rifle. With its distinctive carry handguard, top-mounted charging handle, integral bipod, and bullpup action the FAMAS has become as Gallic as the Citroen automobile. But that’s about to change as its military is set to outfit troops with the Heckler Koch 416.
A Marine with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and French Army soldiers with 92nd Infantry Regiment practice close quarters battles during a French Armed Forces Nautical Commando Course at Quartier Gribeauval, New Caledonia, August 15, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)
The FAMAS came in two versions: The original version, the FAMAS F1, fired the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Its proprietary 25-round magazine was mounted to the rear of the bolt, which allowed the rifle to be more compact but still have the ballistic advantage of a rifle-length barrel.
The FAMAS weighs just under 8 pounds, and had options for safe, single-shots, three-round burst, or full-auto (“Rock and roll”). It also came with an integral bipod. In the 1990s, the FAMAS was upgraded to the G2 standard. The biggest improvement was replacing the proprietary 25-round magazine with a NATO standard 30-round one. This made the French rifle interoperable with other NATO allies. The G2 was about eight ounces heavier than the F1.
The FAMAS had some export success, notably to the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti, but it also has seen service with the Tunisian Presidential Guard, Indonesian special operations forces, and the Philippine National Police. Over 700,000 FAMAS rifles were built.
But few militaries use the so-called “bullpup” design, most notably the U.K. and Australia with their L85 and Styer AUG rifles and the Israeli Defence Force with its Tavor.
The rifle replacing the FAMAS in French service will be the HK 416. This firearm is best known for being what members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), formerly known as SEAL Team Six, carried on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The Army’s Delta Force (now known as the Combat Applications Group, or CAG) also is said to prefer this rifle for most of its operations.
The HK-416 is a conventional M4-style rifle design, featuring an adjustable stock with a standard rifle action in front of the grip and trigger. The rifle fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round, has a 30-shot mag, and weighs about 7 pounds. The advantage of the HK 416 as compared to the M4, for example, is that it uses a piston operating system, making it less susceptible to fouling and cooler running.
The HK-416 has been more widely exported. American units aside from DEVGRU and CAG that use versions of this rifle include the U.S. Border Patrol and the Marine Corps, which replaced some M249 Squad Automatic Weapons with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles.
The German rifle is also used by French Air Force commandos, the Norwegian military, and many special operations units across the globe, including Germany’s GSG9 and KSK, the Army Ranger Wing of the Irish Defense Forces, and the Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei of the Italian Navy.
Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.
The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.
Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.
The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.
Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.
The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.
Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.
“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”
While this figure could easily be true, it’s difficult to verify, given Russia’s continual game of misinformation. It’s also unclear if that figure included Russian mercenaries who operate in the country, namely to guard oil fields.