Marines and sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise KAMANDAG 3 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, 2019, in the Philippines.
KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan.
KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.
Philippine marines operate an M102 105 mm howitzer gun line at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
Philippine marines observe US Marines wit during a fire mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
“KAMANDAG 3 provided us a unique opportunity to integrate with the Philippine Marine Corps while conducting realistic, valuable training,” said Capt. Trevor Hall, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th MEU.
“Over the course of our nine days ashore, we participated in several subject matter expert exchanges and joint exercises, which increased our interoperability with the Philippine marines.”
US Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel Alcantar, a howitzer section chief, opens the breech on a Philippine marine corps M102 105 mm howitzer during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
US Marine Corps Cpl. Dominic Rosado, a light armored reconnaissance Marine, fires an M107 .50-caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
“The US Navy has a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Philippines and Japan,” said Capt. Kevin Lane, the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).
“It truly is an honor to continue that tradition and to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”
A US Marine Corps light armored vehicle fires its main gun during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
US Marines bivouac at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 16, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment on May 1, and entered the US 7th Fleet on September 22 after roughly two months deployed to Central Command’s area of operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A handful of foreign tanks — including Russia’s — now match the power of the U.S. Army’s main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, an American general recently testified to Congress.
“I think for the very near term, the Abrams is still near the very top of its class,” said Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff for financial management, referring to the third-generation tank built by General Dynamics Corp. that entered service in 1980.
“I think we have parity,” he said during a March 22 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee. “I think there is parity out there. I don’t think we have overmatch.”
Murray’s comments came in response to a question from Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska and a Marine who served in Afghanistan. He later elaborated on the topic in response to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and chairman of the subcommittee, who asked what foreign tanks are competitive with the Abrams.
“I would say that the Israelis’ — the Merkava — would be one,” Murray said. “The [Russian] T-90 is probably pretty close. People talk about their Armata tank and that’s still, in my mind, not completely fielded. Probably the British tank [Challenger 2] is pretty close. I would not say that we have the world-class tank that we had for many, many years. I’ll be an optimist and say that we’re at parity with a lot of different nations.”
Here’s a closer look at the foreign tanks he mentioned:
Israel’s Merkava MK-IV
Israel Defense Forces’ Merkava first entered service in 1978, though the newest model, the MK-IV (Mark 4), entered production in 2004. The 65-ton tank was developed by Mantak and the IDF Ordnance Corp., and carries four crew members. It features a top speed of 40 miles per hour, a range of about 310 miles, a 120mm smoothbore gun. The IDF is moving forward with plans to add to the vehicle the Trophy Active Protection System, which is capable of destroying anti-tank missiles.
Russia’s T-90 is a third-generation tank that entered service in 1993, though an upgraded variant, the T-90A, became operational in 2004. The 46-ton tank is made by Ural Design Bureau of Transport Machine-Building (Uralvagonzavod), carries three crew members, and features a top speed of 37 miles per hour, a range of about 340 miles, a 125mm smoothbore gun, as well as an active-protection system.
Russia’s T-14 Armata
Russia has reportedly stopped buying the T-90 to develop and field the next-generation T-14 Armata tank, which is believed to still be in testing and not yet operational (see Murray’s comments above). The 50-ton tank being developed by Uralvagonzavod is designed to carry a crew of three and feature a top speed of as much as 56 miles per hour, a range of about 310 miles, a 125mm smoothbore gun and an active-protection system.
Britain’s Challenger 2
The United Kingdom’s FV4034 Challenger 2, made by the British defense giant BAE Systems Plc, entered service in 1998 to replace the Cold War-era Challenger 1. The upgraded variant weighs about 63 tons and carries a crew of four, including a commander, gunner, loader and driver. It features a top speed of 37 miles per hour, a range of 340 miles and a 120mm rifled gun.
Meanwhile, the latest variant of the U.S.-made Abrams, the M1A2, weighs about 72 tons, carries a crew of four, and features a top speed of 42 miles per hour, a range of 243 miles, and a 120mm smoothbore gun. The Army for years has talked about adding active protection to the tracked vehicle, but hasn’t yet.
Murray said the Army is “just about reaching the limits of what we can do with the Abrams, so it is time for us to start looking at a next-generation tank.” But, he added, “There is nothing on the horizon that indicates a fundamental breakthrough in technology where we can come up with a lighter tank.”
A spokesperson for General Dynamics, which makes the Abrams, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.
But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.
This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!
Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek
Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.
Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.
On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:
“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.
And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.
And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.
Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.
And be alive.”
It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.
Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse
Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.
If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.
The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.
The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!
Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville
Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.
We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.
He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.
If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.
Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13
Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.
With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.
With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!
Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas
Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.
You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.
But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.
If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!
North Korea’s military parade on Feb. 8 rolled out seven intercontinental ballistic missiles that experts assess can strike the U.S. — and it’s more than the country has ever shown before.
Before the crowd in Pyongyang, where below freezing temperatures reddened the spectators’ faces, North Korea put on its usual display of military might with rows of troops and tanks, but also showed off two new inventions: the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15.
The missiles were both tested in 2017 and have demonstrated they have the range to strike the U.S. mainland. North Korea has used both missiles to threaten U.S. citizens.
The Hwasong-14, a smaller missile, was first tested on July 4, 2017, to the surprise of North Korea experts, some of whom thought that an ICBM capability would continue to elude North Korea for years. North Korea tested it again on July 28, when it flew over 2,300 miles above the Earth before crashing down 620 miles away in the Sea of Japan.
Experts assessed that even though the missile fit the definition of an ICBM by flying more than 5,500 kilometers, it still probably couldn’t haul a heavy nuclear warhead to important U.S. cities, like Washington D.C. or New York City.
But at the end of November 2017, North Korea again shocked critics by testing an entirely new, as of yet unseen design — the Hwasong 15.
The massive missile flew almost 2,800 miles above earth before crashing into the Sea of Japan. This time, experts were nearly unanimous. The larger warhead, with its larger nosecone, resembled the U.S.’s Trident missile, the most powerful warhead the U.S. ever deployed.
The consensus among analysts is that North Korea’s Hwasong-15 ICBM can strike anywhere within the U.S. with a heavy nuclear warhead, or multiple nuclear warheads.
But though the missile has the reach, it may not have the durability. North Korea has never tested an ICBM at full range, and therefore has not demonstrated its ability to build a warhead that can survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, let alone its ability to guide such a missile.
On Feb. 7, a U.S. envoy to North Korea said the country could likely master the technology needed to deliver a nuclear blast on Washington D.C. in only months.
North Korea, a paranoid country bent on regime survival as it defies international law, most likely would not display all its missiles at once, for fear that the U.S. would bomb the parade. Additionally, the missiles shown in the parade may not be operational or have been faked for propaganda purposes.
Exactly how many missiles it has in its arsenal is unknown, but North Korea has now told the world it has multiple missiles it can strike the U.S. with.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended several military exercises, but now that restrictive measures have been eased some are going forward, albeit in a scaled-down form.
Two kicked off in early June in Poland and the Baltic Sea, drawing particular interest around the world, and not just because of the logistics of holding them amid an ongoing pandemic. The proximity of the training to Russian territory is seen by many as a possible signal that the U.S. military is shifting its interest in Europe eastward.
What Are The Exercises?
The first exercise involves 4,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Polish troops in northwestern Poland. The bilateral training features a Polish airborne exercise and division-size river crossing from June 5 to June 19.
Dubbed Allied Spirit, the exercise was supposed be linked to a much larger U.S.-led multinational exercise in Europe, including NATO members, called Defender Europe 20, which had to be significantly scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second one, Baltops 20, runs from June 7 to June 16 in the Baltic Sea region. The maritime-focused exercise, which has been held annually since 1972, involves 28 maritime units, 28 aircraft, and up to 3,000 personnel from 19 countries, with Finland and Sweden being the only non-NATO participants.
Both exercises are designed to show international resolve against any potential threat and improve the “interoperability” of national armies’ land, sea, and air assets.
How Has COVID-19 Affected The Exercises?
The pandemic has forced military commanders to modify and reduce the scale of Defender Europe 20. The exercise was originally planned to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years, involving 20,000 soldiers and nine NATO allies practicing military maneuvers in several European countries.
Before the pandemic shut down most of the continent, more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment had already arrived in Europe. Most of the original plans were scrapped but the U.S.-Polish exercise received a green light in mid-May.
Baltops 20 has also been modified. There will be no land element to complement the air and sea operations to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This means normally standard features of naval exercises such as amphibious landings, exchanging personnel between ships, and merchant vessel boarding will not take place.
Are The Exercises Directed At Russia?
The U.S. military and NATO have been quick to point out that all exercises are “defensive in nature.” Lisa Franchetti, the commander of the Naples-based U.S. 6th Fleet, told journalists that Baltops 20 should not be interpreted as a threat to any specific country and exercises are held in international waters and international airspace. Franchetti encouraged the Russian military to behave professionally.
However, many observers expect the Russian Navy to make close approaches to the exercises and that Russian jets may “buzz” allied planes, meaning that they will fly so close as to create “wake turbulence.”
A NATO official recently told RFE/RL that, in 2019 alone, allied aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe. Even though the alliance doesn’t reveal numbers for specific regions, it is believed most of the incidents occurred around the Baltic Sea.
The Allied Shield exercise takes place in Drawsko Pomorskie, some 350 kilometers from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. When Defender Europe 20 was announced, Russia planned its own war games in direct response but called off its exercise as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Moscow has called on NATO to scale down military activity and move them away from Eastern Europe to reduce tensions.
Will The Russian Military Officially Observe The Exercises?
No. U.S. military officials told RFE/RL that they “were not aware of any Russian notification to inspect exercise Allied Spirit in Poland.” The threshold for required observation in accordance with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Vienna document on the transparency of military exercises is 13,000 troops — twice as many as will be present in Poland in June. Naval exercises such as Baltops 20 are not subject to notification and observation requirements enshrined in the Vienna Document.
Why Is The Presence Of U.S. Troops In Poland Politically Significant?
Because of what is happening in Poland’s western neighbor, Germany. U.S. President Donald Trump has authorized a plan to reduce the U.S. permanent troop presence in Germany by 9,500 from the 34,500 service members who are currently there. The move will also cap the number of American soldiers in Germany at 25,000. More than 1,000 of the troops leaving Germany may be redeployed to Poland, adding to the 4,500 already there on a rotational basis.
Poland, whose government enjoys close ties with the Trump administration, is pushing for an even bigger American presence on its soil and hopes to capitalize on its special relationship with the United States in the future. The very fact that a joint exercise has been resuscitated despite the pandemic can be seen in this light.
It can also be viewed against the backdrop of tensions between Washington and Berlin over everything from Germany wanting to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Germany failing to meet its NATO military-spending target, trade tensions, and a host of other disputes including the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.
The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago on March 20, 2018.
The invasion was approved by Congress and had majority support among the American public, but is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.
Former President George W. Bush’s administration sold it on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had, or was trying to make, weapons of mass destruction (most notably nuclear weapons), and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.
While Hussein’s links to terrorism and nuclear ambitions turned out to be untrue, the US occupied the country for nearly eight years before pulling out, creating a power vacuum that ISIS filled.
Two years later, the US military was back in the country — this time fighting a completely different enemy.
Here’s a look back at the last 15 years:
“The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade,” Bush said during the 2002 State of the Union Address.
For more than a year after 9/11, the Bush administration made similar comments about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, and also his ties with terrorism.
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in August 2002.
“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN in September 2002.
These statements, and others made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, turned out to be based on faulty intelligence.
Some disagreed with the Bush administration’s intelligence assessments, including former Commander of US Central Command Gen. Anthony Zinni, and even argued that the administration lied about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions and links to terrorism.
On March 20, 2003, after Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to relinquish power, the US launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on Baghdad in a strategy the Pentagon called “shock and awe.”
The “shock and awe” bombing strategy was followed by an invasion of about 130,000 US troops.
In early April 2003, Baghdad fell, symbolized by the toppling of a state of Hussein in Firdaus Square.
In May 2003, Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a fighter jet while wearing a flight suit, and announced that major combat operations in Iraq were over.
A large sign reading “Mission Accomplished” hung behind him as Bush spoke, but in reality, the US military would fight a long, brutal insurgency for years after his speech.
In March 2004, a few months after Saddam Hussein was captured near Tikrit, four Blackwater contractors were killed and hung by insurgents from a bridge in Fallujah.
The incident led to a nearly year-long battle for Fallujah.
The insurgents that US troops battled over the coming years were a diverse group, composed of criminals, former Iraqi soldiers, Sunni militias, and eventually foreign fighters such as al-Qaeda.
In 2004, and in the coming years, US troops battled insurgents not just in Fallujah, but all across Iraq, including Mosul, Samarra, Najaf, Abu Ghraib (where it was discovered US troops were torturing and abusing detained Iraqis), and many more.
In January 2005, photographer Chris Hondros captured US troops accidentally killing the parents of 5-year-old Samar Hassan seen below.
The incident shined light on a growing concern that US troops were often accidentally killing civilians.
One of the most egregious incidents came in 2007 when Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad.
By 2007, as Iraq was in chaos and US troops were battling a bloody insurgency that some characterized as a game of whack-a-mole, the US decided to deploy 30,000 more troops to the country in what became known as the “surge.”
With nearly 900 killed, 2007 was also the bloodiest year for US troops in Iraq, which added to the growing anti-war sentiment among the American population.
Some of the sentiment, however, had been tempered over the previous four years by Bush’s decision to not allow the media to photograph the coffins of returning US troops — something they knew helped the Vietnam protesters in the 1970s.
Growing anti-war sentiment led not only to the Republicans losing Congress in 2006, but also the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.
Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, he announced the drawdown from Iraq, which culminated in the last troops leaving in December 2011.
In total, the war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, 4,500 American troops, and cost over $2 trillion.
But the Iraqi government and army could not fill the power vacuum left behind by the departing US military. In 2014, a new terrorist group called ISIS began taking large swaths of northern Iraq.
ISIS, which was founded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2004, entered Mosul in June 2014.
In 2014, a few thousand troops were sent back to Iraq to dislodge ISIS, but this time the US had a new strategy.
Whether learning from old mistakes or simply because there was a new administration with a different agenda, US troops this time were deployed mainly to train and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias battling ISIS.
Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.
The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”
He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”
The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.
U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen
Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.
Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.
The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.
The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.
Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.
Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.
“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].
The Afghan Air Force has been making major changes in its inventory lately. Once a user of primarily Russian aircraft, the Afghans are switching to American systems — and they’re buying a lot of them.
At present, the Afghan National Air Force is operating four Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters, 40 Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters, 12 A-29 Super Tucanos, 10 UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters, 24 MD530 attack helicopters, and four UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. This is already a varied force, with more on the way.
An Afghan Air Force member inspects a UH-60 Black Hawk as air crews prepare for their first Afghan-led operational mission on this aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)
The Afghan Air Force has 154 MD530s on order along with 155 UH-60As. This gives them a lot of rotary-wing capability for taking on the Taliban and is a level of force the country hasn’t seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. What few planes and helicopters remained flyable after Soviet support evaporated with the end of the Cold War were taken out by the United States of America. Rebuilding that lost capability has been a long process.
The UH-60A, the baseline version of the highly versatile H-60 airframe, has a crew of three and can haul 11 troops or up to 8,000 pounds of cargo. It entered service in 1979 and has been used internationally ever since. By comparison, the Mi-8/Mi-17 entered service in 1967, has a crew of three, and can hold 26 passengers or up to 8,800 pounds of cargo.
A graduate from UH-60 Mission Qualification Training proudly holds his certificate of training at a graduation ceremony the day before the Afghan Air Force launched its first operational mission with the UH-60A Blckhawk.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)
One step on that long road to restoring a national force was recently taken when three Afghan Air Force UH-60s took part in a mission to support provincial elections in Afghanistan. The mission took place the day after Mission Qualification Training for the Afghan personnel.
The United States has been fighting the Taliban for almost 17 years, but this mission is a clear sign that the Afghan government is starting to bring more power to the fight.
Watch the Afghan Black Hawks leave for their first mission in the video below.
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II. When those brave veterans of the ‘Greatest Generation’ returned home, many of them refused to talk about it. Now, in a race against time, one veteran’s son took on the mission of making sure their stories are told.
Charley Valera’s father Giovanni “Gene” Valera was in the legendary 8th Army Air Force’s 93rd Bombardment Group in the European Theater. But Charley didn’t know anything about it until a full ten years after his father passed away.
Now, the younger Valera is trying to help families in a similar situation by interviewing and collecting the stories of WWII veterans from all ranks, all theaters, and all branches. With veterans recalling the stories they never did – or never could – tell their families, he hopes to devote equal time to every story he can capture forever. Stories like Santo DiSalvo’s (below), who was drafted into the Army on Mar. 5, 1943.
Now, having collected so many stories and interviews, Charley Valera has compiled them into a book, My Father’s War: Memories From Our Honored WWII Soldiers. His hope is that families can learn about their loved ones’ sacrifices and bravery in the biggest conflict ever fought by mankind.
“We all know someone who was there, fighting in WWII,” says Charley Valera. “We also know they didn’t talk about their war efforts. The simply say ‘I was just doing my job.'”
My Father’s War contains ten stories (and some very honorable mentions) from World War II veterans of many ranks and branches, in their own words. Included are personal photographs and letters from their time on the battlefields that detail what happened and how they felt about it – then and now.
The book is a fascinating compendium of personal narratives. You don’t have to jump in and read it cover to cover. It’s a book that is easily put down and picked back up so you can consume these stories and truly think about the fortitude and bravery it took to swallow your fear and do the job.
And then keep it all bottled up inside when you come back home.
Charley Valera’s mission is personally driven but his motivation is a beautiful and altruistic one. Consider that only 9 surviving Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and Korea are alive today — while those stories are firmly in the history books, imagine how many were never told and never seen, but still worthy of high praise.
Furthermore, this book details how men went from citizen to soldier, fighting the good fight, seemingly overnight. They aren’t just war stories, they’re personal stories from a generation that will soon be gone, enshrined forever.
A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been stuck at sea for months due to a viral outbreak of what’s likely the mumps, and servicemembers are continuing to fall ill as the medical workers try to get the situation under control, Fifth Fleet told Business Insider March 28, 2019.
As of March 23, 2019, 27 sailors and Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry have been diagnosed with parotitis, which the Navy described in a statement earlier this month as a “viral infection which has symptoms similar to mumps.”
Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps.
The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) later explained to BI that “based on clinical presentation and laboratory testing, these cases are currently classified as probable cases of mumps,” one of a number of illnesses that all US military personnel are vaccinated against.
Twenty-six of the affected sailors and Marines have recovered and returned to duty.
The first troubling case appeared on Dec. 22, 2019, shortly after the ship departed Mayport Naval Station in Florida for its current deployment. “The point of origin has not yet been determined,” Fifth Fleet told BI.
Amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry in the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 24, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci)
In response to the outbreak, the Navy and Marines Corps Public Health Center has deployed health professionals to the quarantined Fort McHenry to conduct an in-depth epidemiologic investigation, a process which has not yet been completed.
The Navy has been working hard to contain the outbreak. “Since the onset of the first case, the ship’s medical department has implemented health protection measures, provided an additional outbreak-specific dose of vaccine to the crew, and managed patients to stop the spread of the illness,” BUMED explained.
Complications from the mumps are rare, but can be life-threatening.
As of March 9, 2019, just a few days before CNN first brought the story public, 25 servicemembers aboard the Fort McHenry had fallen ill. By March 17, 2019, Fifth Fleet had informed BI that all 25 affected personnel had made a full recovery and returned to duty.
A new case popped up March 26, 2019, CNN reported at the time, and since then, the number has risen again.
“The health and welfare of our Sailors and Marines is paramount,” the Navy said, “Our servicemembers are receiving the best care to treat this illness and prevent it from spending to others.”
In addition to making the decision to quarantine the ship at sea while sick servicemembers received treatment, the Navy, exercising caution, also gave all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.
The amphibious dock-landing ship USS Fort McHenry arrives in Dublin
(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael Lewis)
“The Navy’s position is that vaccines are effective at reducing the incidence and severity of vaccine-preventable diseases,” BUMED told BI. Unfortunately, “the mumps portion of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the least effective of the three components, providing 88% effectiveness after completion of the two dose series.”
While outbreaks of influenza and other common illnesses occur every year aboard Navy vessels, the situation on the Fort McHenry is unusual, the Navy explained. “It is not common for us to see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable viral infections.”
The ship hasn’t made a port call since early January 2019 and now isn’t likely to for at least another month — a very long stretch at sea that’s a morale killer for the crew. Typically deployed US warships have port calls at least once a month to repair systems and rest the crew.
It is difficult to know how long the Fort McHenry’s ongoing quarantine at sea will last as a situation like this cannot be considered fully resolved until two full incubation periods have passed without incident. “This ensures that the virus is no longer spreading, as infected individuals sometimes show no symptoms of illness,” BUMED said.
For the mumps, the incubation period is 25 days, so it will be another 50 days after the last affected servicemember recovers before the Navy can declare the situation under control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.