Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the militant group’s chief negotiator, said that he will head the new department.
The Taliban has formed a new 20-member department responsible for holding intra-Afghan talks, as well as negotiations with the United States.
Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the militant group’s chief negotiator, told RFE/RL on August 26 that he will head the new department, which will be tasked with selecting the location and preparing the agenda for planned intra-Afghan peace talks.
The talks between the Taliban and the internationally backed government in Kabul are part of an earlier agreement reached between the militants and the United States in an effort to end nearly 19 years of war in Afghanistan.
However, the talks have recently been thrown into uncertainty after the Afghan government said it would not release more Taliban prisoners until the militant group freed more of its soldiers.
Stanikzai said the newly formed department is separate from the Doha-based Taliban political office and will be in direct contact with the Taliban leadership. He also said the intra-Afghan talks will be held in different countries.
First, on March 27, Business Insider reported that the USS Roosevelt, actively deployed in the Pacific, had two confirmed cases of COVID-19. WATM interviewed a spouse who learned this news on Facebook (and whose husband has since tested positive for the illness). As a result, families were asking for information, reporting that they hadn’t heard anything and wanted updates on whether or not their family members were okay. Days later, the plot thickened when a letter written by the captain of the USS Roosevelt, Brett Crozier, was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and published in its entirety.
In the four-page letter to senior military leadership, Crozier asked for additional support, stating that only a small number of those infected had disembarked from the deployed carrier, in port in Guam. A majority of the crew remained onboard, where, as anyone who has spent time on a ship knows, social distancing isn’t just difficult; it is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Crozier asked that the majority of his crew be removed, asking for compliant quarantine rooms on Guam as soon as possible. “Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care. …This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he continued in the letter. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
While the letter ultimately had the outcome Capt. Crozier intended — many of the crew were quarantined on Guam, it came at a high cost: Capt. Crozier was relieved of command.
Captain Brett Crozier.
He disembarked the carrier to the cheers of his ship, his sailors chanting “Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!” Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Moldy defended his decision to relieve Crozier, in a press conference April 2. Modly said Crozier was removed because he didn’t follow chain of command protocol in how he handled the situation.
While Modly praised Capt. Crozier, he ultimately relieved him because the captain “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.” You can read the full text of Modly’s statement, here.
But it didn’t end there.
Modly visited the carrier yesterday and gave a speech that contained both expletives and justifications for his decision. The full transcript of his remarks were leaked, which you can find here. But where Modly immediately came under scrutiny was for his strong criticism of Captain Crozier. “If he didn’t think—it was my opinion, that if he didn’t think,” Modly said, “that information was going to get out into the public, in this information age that we live in, then he was A, too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this…”
The backlash was immediate from citizens and lawmakers, many with military backgrounds.
Marine veteran Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “Modly should be removed unceremoniously for these shocking remarks — especially after failing to protect sailors’ safety health. He has betrayed their trust.”
Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran, wrote, “Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s remarks to the crew show that he is in no way fit to lead our Navy through this trying time. Secretary Esper should immediately fire him.”
Today @RepRubenGallego and I requested @EsperDoD to fire Acting @SECNAV Modly. SECNAV is no longer fit to lead the best Navy in the world. Our letter is below.pic.twitter.com/7qTUidZFtI
In September 2019, as Hurricane Dorian pummeled parts of the southeastern United States, the team of marine mammals from Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic in Kings Bay, Georgia, where they patrol the waters for enemy crafts or other intruders, were evacuated to Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Florida, to ride out the storm.
“At NSWC PCD, we personally understand the trials and tribulations that come with the devastation of a hurricane, especially after Hurricane Michael severely impacted our area in 2018,” Nicole Waters, the Machine Shops Project Manager in Panama City told Navy Times.
“We strongly support the ‘One Team, One Fight’ initiative and will always be willing to help protect any Navy personnel and assets.”
Read on to learn more about the roles animals play in today’s militaries.
1. A beluga whale was found off the coast of Norway in 2018, sparking suspicions that it was trained as a Russian spy.
The whale was initially found by Norwegian fisherman with a harness strapped to it that read Equipment St. Petersburg, The Washington Post reported at the time. The whale was extremely friendly toward humans, an unusual behavior for a beluga raised in the wild. It was speculated at the time that the whale’s harness may have held a camera or weapons of some sort.
More recently, another whale with a GoPro camera base strapped to it made its way to Norway, where locals named it “Whaledimir.”
A Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) California sea lion waits for his handler to give the command to search the pier for potential threats during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathleen Gorby)
2. The US Navy uses sea lions to recover objects at depths that swimmers can’t reach.
“Sea lions have excellent low light vision and underwater directional hearing that allow them to detect and track undersea targets, even in dark or murky waters,” the US Navy Marine Mammal program explains. They’re also able to dive much further below the water’s surface than human divers, without getting decompression sickness, or “the bends.”
They’re trained to patrol areas near nuclear-powered submarines and detect the presence of adversaries’ robots, divers, or other submerged threats.
U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) MK7 Marine Mammal System bottlenose dolphin searches for an exercise sea mine alongside an NMMP trainers. NMMP is conducting simulated mine hunting operations in Southern California during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), exercise, July 22. Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, and about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.
(SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific)
3. Dolphins, too, are used by the Navy to sniff out mines.
“Since 1959, the U.S. Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions as teammates for our Sailors and Marines to help guard against similar threats underwater,”according to the US Navy Marine Mammal program.
“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to science,” the program’s website says. “Mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are difficult to detect with electronic sonar, especially in coastal shallows or cluttered harbors, are easily found by the dolphins.”
Office of U.S. Quartermaster, Army Camel Corp training.
4. The Indian Army uses camels in its parades.
It also piloted a program in 2017 to introduce camels as load-bearing animals in high-altitude areas, specifically the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir from the part controlled by China.
The camels could carry 180-220kg loads, much more than horses or mules, and could travel faster too, according to the Times of India.
U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) ride horseback on a trail during the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Horsemanship Course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC), Bridgeport, Calif., June 19, 2019. The purpose of the SOF horsemanship course is to teach SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load and maintain pack animals for military applications in austere environments.
(US Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. William Chockey)
5. US special operators train on horses and mules, in case they’re working in particularly rugged environments where vehicles might now be able to go.
Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha 595 rode horses in the mountainous, unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan just after the US invasion, earning them the nickname “horse soldiers.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin McMahon, 39th Security Forces Squadron commander, congratulates Autumn, a 39th SFS military working dog, during the latter’s retirement ceremony at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, July 29, 2019. Autumn served seven years at Incirlik and earned the Meritorious Service Medal for her contributions to the mission.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)
6. Of course, man’s best friend plays several important roles in the military.
Perhaps the most famous US military dog is Chesty, the English bulldog mascot of the Marine Corps (Chesty XIV retired last year with the rank of Corporal). But Military Working Dogs (MWDs) perform the very serious duties of sniffing out explosives and drugs, and acting as patrols and sentries on military bases.
7. The Indian military uses mules and horses for transport in rugged terrains and high altitudes.
As of 2019, the Indian armed forces were using horses and mules to transport supplies in difficult terrain, although plans to replace the four-legged forces with ATVs and drones came up in a 2017 Army Design Bureau report, according to the Hindustan Times.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Navy has located the wreckage of a transport aircraft that crashed into the Philippine Sea in November, NHK World reported Jan. 6.
In a statement, the Navy’s 7th Fleet says a team of deepwater salvage experts detected an emergency beacon from the C-2A Greyhound. The wreckage rests on the seabed at a depth of 5,640 meters.
The salvage team had been searching the area since late December.
Matthew Chialastri, Steven Combs, and Bryan Grosso (l to r) were killed in the C-2A Greyhound crash on Nov 22. Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot of the aircraft, is credited with saving the lives of the 8 surviving passengers. (Images from U.S. Navy)
The crash occurred on Nov. 22nd while the C-2A was flying from a military base in Iwakuni, in western Japan, to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Eight of the 11 crew and passengers were recovered. The U.S. Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force launched a combined search operation over several days, but failed to locate the three missing.
Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.
“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”
The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.
Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.
It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.
In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.
Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.
Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.
“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”
Wars are as culturally defining for a nation as its pop culture and politics. Each generation of war veterans breeds a new generation of writers who are willing to expose their scars and bleed them onto the page. The act itself violates a warrior-culture taboo: breaking the quiet professionalism ethos.
The Global War on Terrorism began when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues to this day. It has been operating in the background of American life for the past two decades. Over 2.77 million men and women have deployed in direct support of it, creating a new generation of veterans and war correspondents who have seen fit to share their experience and knowledge through literature. What follows are seven of the most defining books of the Global War on Terror.
Maximilian Uriarte is the creator of the popular comic “Terminal Lance” and the author/illustrator of the graphic novel “The White Donkey.”
1. “The White Donkey” by Maximilian Uriarte
A beautifully illustrated and written graphic novel by the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip, “The White Donkey” follows the story of Lance Corporal Abraham “Abe” Belatzeko, who joins the U.S. Marine Corps in the later stages of the Iraq War. In search of something he can’t explain, he trudges through the mundanity and physical discomfort of being a boot infantryman. Abe yearns for the opportunity to prove himself as a man and find enlightenment through spilling the blood of the enemy. But then the irreversible horrors of combat show him that war ain’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies.
When Abe returns home, the demons that were spurred from his experiences and regrets on that deployment cause him to disassociate from his fellow Marines, friends, and family. Uriate’s attention to detail in his realistic imagery is striking. He captures the essence of mid-2000s military and civilian life: The flip phones. The protests. The general population’s misunderstanding of the Iraq war. Through the story of this single Marine, “The White Donkey” takes us back to a war that has almost been forgotten.
Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author, and filmmaker. In addition to writing “War,” he is noted for his book “The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea,” which became a bestseller and for his documentary films “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which won awards.
2. “War” by Sebastian Junger
What’s it like at the edge of the world? “War” follows the paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as they establish a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The valley is a route used by the Taliban to smuggle in fresh troops and supplies for their Jihad against the Americans. The area has been left alone in the past because it was too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, and too autonomous to buy off.
Private First Class Juan Restrepo is amongst the first casualties of the platoon on this deployment. His death leaves such a rift that they name their FOB after him. Aside from the occasional resupply helicopters and their sister platoon in the valley, the men are completely cut off from the rest of the world, deep in hostile territory. Facing the ever-present threat of being overrun by a determined and skillful enemy, they eagerly await their next firefight, as the boredom and repetition of war sets in.
Evan Wright is an American writer known for his extensive reporting on subcultures for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He is best known for his book on the Iraq War, “Generation Kill.”
3. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright
In March 2003, on the dawn of the invasion of Iraq, Evan Wright (a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine) joined the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Taking a passenger seat in the lead Humvee full of colorful Marines, Wright followed them on a road trip to war. What makes this book so captivating is not the war itself, but rather how Wright was able to capture the personalities of the Marines he was with.
The dialogue between Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person are masterful examples of how humor is amplified by and transcends the chaos of war. The mean-street-influenced philosophy of Sergeant Espera offers surprising insight into human nature and how the white overloads really control the people. Trombley’s cavalier eagerness to get his first kill is strangely relatable.
Wright also captures many of the shortcomings of the chain of command, from overly strict enforcement of the grooming standards to its recklessness in abandoning a supply truck carrying the colors that their battalion had taken into combat since Vietnam. In a vivid scene, the company commander, known as “Encino Man,” attempts to call in artillery fire that is danger close to his men, only to be stopped by his subordinates because it may get them killed. The internal strife and politics alongside the basic discomfort of life in a combat zone wears thin on the morale of the unit.
Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore served in the United States Army for 14 years and went on 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.
4. “Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq” by Nicholas Moore
The true, firsthand account of Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore, who has spent more than a decade preparing for and going to war with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. When 9/11 occurred, Moore was a young private going through Ranger School. He was not scared of going to war — he was afraid of missing out on the action. Everyone thought that the war in Afghanistan would end quickly, similar to the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. Little did he know that he’d be taking part in some of the war’s most famous events, such as rescuing Jessica Lynch and Operation Red Wings, the latter involving the search for a U.S. Navy SEAL element that had been pinned down.
The foul-mouthed nature of Rangers is softened considerably in Moore’s account, which is due to the fact that Moore is a family man who wanted to set a positive example for his children. However, he has no qualms with friendly criticism of his fellow special operations units. In these pages, you’ll catch a glimpse of the intense operation tempo of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Moore’s personal and professional development from lower-enlisted to senior noncommissioned officer is in direct parallel to the changes the GWOT and Ranger Regiment underwent.
Fred Kaplan is an American author and journalist. His weekly “War Stories” column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy.
(Author photo by Carol Dronsfield)
5. “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” by Fred Kaplan
The post-Vietnam War American military had adopted a “never again” philosophy toward fighting an indigenous guerilla force. The hard lessons it acquired in Vietnam through bloodshed were tossed aside as it returned to the Cold War-era of mass manpower military in a superpower conflict like World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s vast tank columns during the first Gulf War left the U.S. the only super left on the planet. When the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ousted Hussein from power, a power vacuum occurred as the civil service administration run by the Ba’ath Party also collapsed.
General David Petraus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, found that he was fighting off an insurgency in Mosul, which was unthinkable to the top military commanders at the Pentagon. Petraus’ academic studies and military career had prepared him for such a mission. While his fellow field commanders were doing what the military does best — destroying the bad guys and asking questions later — Petraus knew that was counterproductive in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. To defeat an insurgency, the U.S. military needed officers who were well-versed in politics, diplomacy, economics, and military strategy.
There was a loose network of officers in the military who sought to fundamentally change the way America conducted its war. They argued that the small wars the U.S. had been reluctant to engage in would be the wars of the 21st century, and that there was a need for a deep and comprehensive counterinsurgency plan in order to win them. The military would be its own worst enemy during this period because of the bureaucratic pushback that change and reform entails. It required a paradigm shift in the role of the military in these conflicts.
Marty Skovlund Jr. is the senior editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a journalist, author, and filmmaker, as well as a U.S. Army 1/75 Ranger veteran.
6. “Violence of Action” by Marty Skovlund Jr., Lt. Col. Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins
The 75th Ranger Regiment really came into its own during the GWOT. Marty Skovlund Jr., a former batt boy himself, gives an ambitious and in-depth overview of the regiment’s transformation from 2001 to 2011. Skovlund captures details such as the evolution of the combat gear worn to the change in operating procedures and mission scope. “Violence of Action” adds a personal touch with essays written by Ranger veterans and a Gold Star mother.
What stands out is how different every individual Ranger’s experience is in their battalion, yet each seem to have an overwhelming eagerness to complete the mission. Many small stories that would otherwise be lost in time are captured in this collection. Readers will get a sense of Ranger humor and crassness as these elite warriors seek to make the best of otherwise heart-wrenching and painful situations.
Still, a strong sense of duty and pride radiates through the pages as each man recounts their experiences in the toughest infantry unit in the world. No other book on the 75th Ranger Regiment does as much for the average reader in terms of understanding this secretive and oft-misunderstood unit.
David Burnett is a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Making a Night Stalker” is his first book.
7. “Making a Night Stalker” by David Burnett
In the special operations world, all the glory goes to the ground pounders — Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, and the special missions units. Yet the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, is to aviation what Rangers are to infantry: an elite unit comprised of the best aviators in the Army.
Specialist David Burnett started his military career as a CH-47 Chinook mechanic, but found the assignment unfulfilling. While he did maintain the helicopters in his unit, he didn’t feel like he was personally doing anything to fight the war. That changed when he saw a group of crew chiefs preparing their helicopters for a mission. Impressed by their professionalism and that they didn’t miss out on the fun of riding on the birds, he applied for selection for the 160th SOAR while deployed in Afghanistan. A good omen appeared to him that day when he saw, for the first time in his life, a Night Stalker’s signature black Chinook on the airfield.
A five-week smoke fest known as Green Platoon is the selection process that each candidate must endure to test their mental fortitude and commitment. Burnette graduated, earned the maroon beret, and was assigned to Alpha Company, which is a Chinook Flight Company.
When he reported to the 160th, his new platoon sergeant handed him a stack of manuals and a list of schools, including Dunker School and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School, that he had to complete before he would be allowed to fly. Getting used to the high operational tempo of his unit, Brunette learned that remaining a Night Stalker during the GWOT was harder than becoming one.
On Sept. 3, two Soldiers were working as volunteers and representatives for the “No DUI Program” coordinated by Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) and received a call asking for a ride home.
Spc. Basar Bozdogan, an automated logistical specialist, and Pfc. Jacob Kranjnik, an infantryman, both assigned to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, immediately jumped into action and drove their government vehicle to pick up a Soldier to ensure he made it home safely.
“After approximately 15 minutes into the drive, we called the Soldier saying that we were close by,” said Kranjnik. “He told us he found another ride.”
A little disappointed, they turned around and headed home. As they were driving southbound on Highway 24 on Fountain Boulevard, they saw a wreck.
“We noticed a three-vehicle collision,” said Kranjnik. “There was no one else around or on the road. I believed that the wreck happened maybe 30 seconds before we got there.”
Bozdogan and Kranjnik quickly pulled over to see what had happened.
“We noticed one person who was helping people get out of their vehicle,” said Kranjnik. “We assisted as well. Once everyone was out of their vehicles, I looked back and noticed someone was still stuck inside. At first, I didn’t want to move him because he looked like he was injured pretty badly. Then, I noticed there were flames under the vehicle. It started to get bigger really fast. I screamed to Bozdogan and yelled that the vehicle is catching on fire.”
Bozdogan immediately recognized that there was a person in the vehicle as well.
“We didn’t want to pull the guy out of the vehicle unless we had to,” said Bozdogan.
Bozdogan and Kranjnik jumped into action, flung open the door, took the injured man’s seatbelt off, and carried him to safety.
“As we were carrying him away, the whole car caught on fire,” said Kranjnik. “If we would’ve waited longer, it would’ve been a devastating situation. He could’ve also suffered burn injuries, or even died.”
Bozdogan said everything happened for a reason.
“That man would not have had a chance if it weren’t for us. In my heart, I knew right away that I was not going to watch him burn alive. We were meant to be on that road. We were trying to prevent an accident with a Soldier and ended up saving someone else’s life that night. What are the odds?”
Bozdogan and Kranjnik did not feel like heroes. They felt like they did the humane thing to help people who were in need.
“I joined the Army to save lives here and abroad,” said Bozdogan. “It doesn’t matter where I’m at, I just have that instinct to react when I see someone who needs help. It’s not all about being a hero, it’s about making a split second decision at the right moment to ensure the safety of others.”
Bozdogan and Kranjnik, two Iron Soldiers, have been nominated for the Soldier’s Medal.
The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, the directive that outlines military awards and decorations, the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
With everything from the fear of deadly snakes to alleged executions by anti-aircraftguns, it’s understandable why many North Koreans desire to flee the Hermit Kingdom.
What’s interesting to note, however, is the economic class of defectors that have found their way out of North Korea. According to a survey from the Korean Unification Ministry, the percentage of defectors from the “middle-class” rose from 19 percent in 2001 to 55.9 percent after 2014.
The increase stems from the fact that more defectors from higher statuses in the North possess the resources to escape, said the Unification Ministry.
So far this year, 894 North Koreans have escaped the country, compared to the 777 in the previous year during the same period. The Unification Ministry claims that this 15 percent increase is on track to bring the total amount of defectors to 30,000 by the end of the year.
Although the reasons to cross the border, or in some exceptional cases remain away from, are numerous, it’s noteworthy that one of their highly publicized punishments in North Korea seems to have decreased: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is estimated to have executed about 130 officials in the 5 years he’s been in power, while Kim Jong Il, his father, had put to death over 2,000 officials in a 6 year span.
The latest high-profile defection comes from Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to London, who has since been accused by his former country of leaking state secrets, embezzlement, and child rape. As one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials to have defected, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that others will eventually follow suit.
Spain has long had a maritime tradition. For example, Christopher Columbus was sponsored by Spain for his fateful voyage that discovered America. There was also the Spanish Armada, which, well… didn’t turn out so well for Spain.
Now, Spain has built a relatively small but powerful navy — still called the Spanish Armada. These days, its flagship is the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, named after the king of Spain who brought the nation into the 21st century. Its hangar can hold a dozen helicopters or eight EAV-8B/B+ Harriers. This vessel weighs in at 19,300 tons, roughly the size of the Yorktown-class carriers that held the line in the early part of World War II, and has a top speed of 21.5 knots. It is capable of hauling just under a thousand troops and can also carry up to 110 vehicles.
In addition to being the flagship of the modern Spanish Navy, the Juan Carlos I-class design has been exported. Australia bought two of these vessels, naming them HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide. Now, according to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the Turkish Navy is going to get one of these ships. The vessel, to be named TCG Anadolu, just had its keel laid. This is part of an expansion program which will give Turkey not just this amphibious assault ship, but an amphibious transport dock and some smaller landing craft.
The Turks are not the only country in the eastern Mediterranean to acquire such vessels. Egypt acquired two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships originally built for Russia from France after the French canceled the deal in the wake of Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The two vessels were purchased with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.
Three military spouses recently ran for political office in their local communities and won their campaigns in the most recent November election.
Kalish Morrow, a Navy spouse currently stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, was elected as the City Councilperson for Hanford, California. Although Morrow was not always involved in politics, her work as a small business owner in Hanford motivated her.
“As a business owner, I got involved with our Main Street program and quickly started seeing the issues our small businesses faced with onerous red tape and high fees,” she said.
“In 2016, when a seat opened up on our city council, I threw my hat into the race.”
However, Morrow didn’t win that election. She ran again in 2020, with support from the Libertarian Party.
“My campaign had a huge focus on the voice of the people … and rallied community involvement through leading by example,” Morrow said.
She spent her campaign doing things like organizing park cleanups, building with Habitat for Humanity, and driving donated items out to Fresno for victims of the recent wildfires over the summer.
Although her background as a military spouse did not have a direct effect on her decision to run for political office, Morrow does believe her experience with the military lifestyle will impact the way she leads her constituents.
“Over the years I’ve had to learn how to compartmentalize and keep moving forward when things get difficult,” Morrow said. “I’ll be stepping into a big role right in the middle of COVID and when the effects of the shutdowns begin to take its toll on the economy. My biggest job … will be to make sure the city keeps providing important services to its people while not placing any additional financial burden [on the people].”
Morrow learned a lot during her two campaigns in 2016 and 2020, but her biggest takeaway is that votes are about the people.
“Votes are earned one person at a time,” she said. “People do not like their votes are taken for granted so they appreciate you taking the time and putting in the painstaking effort of going and meeting with them to show you truly care about your community.”
For military spouses who are also interested in getting involved in politics, Morrow has a few pieces of advice.
“Above all else, you must knock on doors. It sounds tedious … but … people appreciate your willingness to take the time and meet with them personally,” she said. “[Also], having an organized campaign with a great campaign manager. … Your team is precious and vital to a successful campaign.”
Morrow also suggests military spouses get involved in their city councils if they are interested in making a change in the community, even if you will only be there for a short time. She recommends going to the city council and county supervisor’s meetings, or join a citizen’s advisory board. You can also attend local meetings.
She also notes that getting involved in the local community helps military spouses meet other like-minded people they might not otherwise have the chance to meet if they stay in their little military bubble. Those connections can become valuable tools if you’re interested in getting more involved in politics in the future as an elected official.
Allison Russo and Erin Pare, both military spouses, also won elections in their local communities on opposite sides of the political aisle.
Russo, a military spouse of a combat veteran, was re-elected as the state representative for the 24th District in Ohio. She first ran for the position in 2018 and flipped the seat from Republican to Democrat in that election.
“My plan was never politics, but as a combat veteran’s wife I have seen firsthand what a call to duty looks like. I know that to make a difference in your community, you have to know when to stand strong for what you believe and when you must put aside your differences to work together,” a statement on Russo’s campaign website said.
Erin Pare, a former Army spouse of 12 years, recently won the North Carolina State Representative seat for District 37 running as a Republican. She and her husband have strong ties to the small community of Holly Springs, North Carolina, where they live and own a sporting goods store. As a small business owner, Pare found herself wanting to make changes in policies regarding small businesses in their area. Her platforms include a pro-growth economy, education, public safety and more.
The Marine Corps wants to know whether the defense industry can transform its heavy weapons-mounted Joint Light Tactical Vehicles into mobile air defense systems for tracking and killing enemy drones, helicopters and fighters.
Marine Corps Systems Command recently invited defense firms to submit ideas for creating the Direct Fire Defeat System being developed by Program Manager Ground Based Air Defense, according to a March 27 request for information.
The program is designed to arm Marine air-ground task force commanders with JLTVs equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, 30mm cannons and electronic warfare technology to “detect, track, identify, and defeat aerial threats,” the solicitation states.
“This system will provide new and improved capability to mitigate the risk of attacks from Unmanned Aerial Systems and Fixed Wing/Rotary Wing aircraft while maintaining pace with maneuver forces,” according to the document.
The U.S. military has begun to beef up its air defense capabilities as it prepares for a possible future war against near-peer militaries with sophisticated aviation capabilities.
The Army is in the process of modernizing its air-defense units with the Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (MSHORAD) system, which will feature Stryker combat vehicles armed with Hellfire missiles, a 30mm chain gun, a 7.62 machine gun and four Stinger missiles.
The Army is also working on equipping a platoon of four Stryker vehicles with 50-kilowatt lasers that are capable of engaging drones and combat aircraft, as well as rockets, artillery and mortars in fiscal 2022.
The Marine Corps’ direct fire system will be part of the initial phase of the Marine Air Defense Integrated System, or MADIS, which will feature the command-and-control software integrated into Mk1 and Mk2 variants of the Corps’ JLTV Heavy Guns Carrier, according to the document.
The MADIS Mk1 features turret-launched Stinger missiles, multi-functional electronic warfare capability and a direct-fire weapon such as a 30mm cannon on a remote weapons station. The MADIS Mk2 will be the counter-UAS variant, with a 360-degree radar and command-and-control communications equipment, in addition to a direct-fire remote weapons station and electronic warfare tech.
The Mk1 and Mk2 form a complementary pair and are the “basic building block” for modernizing the service’s Low Altitude Air Defense Battalions, according to Marine Corps Systems Command’s website.
Companies have until April 13 to submit proposals, including proof that they are capable of delivering 26 systems in support of low-rate initial production in the third quarter of fiscal 2021, as well as 192 systems in the third quarter of fiscal 2022, according to the document.
If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.
But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.
That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.
What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.
Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.
The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.
The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.
So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.