Jimmy Ward was a 22-year-old pilot when he received the Victoria Cross. World War II had been ongoing for a year and the British Empire stood alone against Axis-occupied Europe. Things looked grim as a whole, but small time pilots with stories like Sgt. Ward’s added up to a lot in the end.
The New Zealander was flying with his crew back from a raid on Münster, in northeast Germany. The resistance was light; there were few search lights and minimal flak. He was the second pilot, positioned in the astrodome of his Wellington bomber when an enemy interceptor came screaming at them, guns blazing.
An attacking Messerschmitt 110 was shot down by the rear gunner before it could take down the plane, but the damage was done. Red-hot shrapnel tore through the airframe, the starboard engine, and the hydraulic system. A fire suddenly broke out on the starboard wing, fed by a fuel line.
After putting on their chutes in case they had to bail, the crew started desperately fighting the fire. They tore a hole in the fuselage near the fire so they could get at the fire. They threw everything they had at it, including the coffee from their flasks.
By this time, the plane reached the coastline of continental Europe. They had to decide if they were going to try to cross over to England or go down with the plane in Nazi-occupied Holland. They went for home, preferring a dip in the channel to a Nazi prison camp.
That’s when Sgt. James Ward realized he might be able to reach the fire and put it out by hand. His crewmates tied him to the airplane as he crawled out through the astrodome and tore holes in the plane’s fuselage to use as hand holds as he made his way to the fire on the wing.
He moved four feet onto the wing, avoiding being lifted away by the air current or rotor slipstream and being burned by the flaming gas jet he was trying to put out. He only had one hand free to work with because the other was holding on for dear life.
Ward smothered the fire on the fuel pipe using the canvas cockpit cover. As soon as he finished, the slipstream tore it from his hands. He just couldn’t hold on any longer.
With the fire out, there was nothing left to do but try to get back inside. Using the rope that kept him attached to the aircraft he turned around and moved to get back to the astrodome. Exhausted, his mates had to pull him the rest of the way in. The fire flared up a little when they reached England, but died right out.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally awarded Sgt. Ward the Victoria Cross a month later.
“I can’t explain it, but there was no sort of real sensation of danger out there at all,” Ward later said. “It was just a matter of doing one thing after another and that’s about all there was to it.”
Early Tuesday morning, Obama announced a four-part plan to ensure the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a goal that has eluded the president since he promised to shutter the facility during his 2008 campaign.
The plan would bring some of the 91 remaining detainees to maximum security prisons in the United States, while others would be transferred to foreigns countries. Although Obama called on Congress to lift a ban barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., the White House has also left open the possibility of unilateral action should Republican lawmakers refuse to cooperate.
“The plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo,” Obama said to the nation from the Roosevelt Room. “This is about closing a chapter in our history.”
With history in mind, it seems significant that the speech was given on this day, in this venue. Exactly 113 years ago, following the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt signed an agreement with Cuba to lease parts of Guantanamo Bay to the United States for use as a naval station.
This agreement was actually a follow-up to the Platt Amendment, a 1901 resolution that dictated seven conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops from Cuba, along with an eighth condition stipulating that Cuba include these terms in their new constitution. The amendment gave the United States full control over a 45 square-mile portion of Guantanamo Bay, in order to “enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba.” The deal was officiated on behalf of the Cubans by Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen who would become the first president of Cuba.
A cartoon protesting the Platt Amendment | Wikipedia
Three decades later, the 1934 Cuban–American Treaty of Relations repealed most provisions of the Platt Amendment as part of FDR’s “good neighbor policy.” The effort, ostensibly intended to give the Cuban government greater sovereignty, made the lease on Guantanamo permanent unless the United States abandoned the base or both countries agreed to terminate the agreement. The new treaty also updated the yearly lease payment from $2000 in U.S. gold coins to $4035 in U.S. dollars. This amount has remained unchanged in the 82 years since.
Since the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Castro government has cashed only one of these checks (this one supposedly by accident), keeping the rest untouched as a means of protest against what they consider an “illegal” occupation. According to the U.S., cashing even one check renders the treaty valid.
The use of Guantanamo as a prison began in 1991, following the overthrow of Haiti’s first democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While the CIA secretly leant support to death squads killing Aristide’s supporters, the White House announced that it would be using Guantanamo as a “tent shelter” for those fleeing violence in Haiti. Of the 30,000 refugees interned at Guantanamo, those who presented discipline problems were held on a site that would later become Camp Xray, also known as the Guantanamo detention camp.
Following Bush Sr.’s disputed decision to send the exiles back to war-torn Haiti, the Supreme Court ruled that the Haitians were not entitled to U.S. rights because Guantanamo Bay fell under the sovereignty of Cuba. Interestingly, this rationale for the United States not technically having sovereignty over the land would come up again, twelve years later, as George W. Bush’s administration argued that Guantanamo prisoners should not be constitutionally entitled to habeas review.
This is all to say that, even before it became an international symbol for the War on Terror, the policies leading to and enforcing the U.S. ownership of Guantanamo Bay have been extremely controversial. As renewed attention is focused on the use of Guantanamo as a terrorist detention center, it’s well worth considering how this small Cuban harbor became a U.S.-run prison in the first place.
The Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban militants while casualties among security forces have reached record levels, a U.S. government watchdog says.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted in its latest quarterly report on Oct. 31, 2018, the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul.
“The control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter,” the agency said.
The Taliban have still not succeeded in taking a major provincial center despite assaults on the provinces of Farah and Ghazni in 2018, but they control large parts of the countryside, the SIGAR report says.
Data from Afghanistan’s NATO-led Resolute Support mission showed that government forces had “failed to gain greater control or influence over districts, population, and territory this quarter”, SIGAR said.
As of September 2018, it said the government controlled or influenced territory with about 65 percent of the population, stable since October 2017.
Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to depart from Afghan base Camp Maiwand in Logar province to go on a routine patrol.
(NATO photo taken by U.S. Navy Lt. Aubrey Page)
However, it reported that only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.
SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and Oct. 1, 2018, was “the greatest it has ever been during like periods.”
Figures for casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are no longer available after Washington in 2017 agreed to Kabul’s request to classify the numbers.
Before that, according to figures published by SIGAR, there were more than 5,000 casualties each year.
General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said last month that Afghan casualties were increasing from 2017.
The ‘Rambo’ series didn’t start off with John Rambo as a one-man Army, hell-bent on killing anyone who stood between him and his mission. But that’s what it turned out to be. And now few action movie images are more iconic than Rambo tightening up his trademark red headband.
You know the one.
The series began as a very poignant, yet action-packed treatise on the treatment of Vietnam veterans in the years following the end of their war. In First Blood, there’s only one onscreen kill, a guy who falls out of a helicopter for trying to kill Rambo. Rambo isn’t purposely involved in his death. If you want to know the whole point of the first Rambo movie, you can just watch John Rambo’s speech at the end of the movie.
By First Blood: Part II, the idea that John Rambo was just a simple guy with extraordinary training in extraordinary situations, was long gone. In the second Rambo movie, John Rambo is the perfect man to lead a mission back to Vietnam to rescue POWs still held there. Rambo is twice as ripped and definitely kills people in this movie. By Rambo III, he just lays waste to an entire army.
If you don’t remember any of that, Sylvester Stallone posted a helpful reminder to his Instagram account.
From G.I. Joe-level animation for First Blood, the VCR-level graphics in between the “trailers,” the backyard, action figure quality of the trailer for First Blood: Part II, to the 8-bit Nintendo-style graphics for the Rambo III trailer, everything about this rundown of John Rambo’s life is perfect. And perfectly chock-full of late 1980s to early 1990s nostalgia. Whoever came up with this idea – and it very well could have been Stallone himself – needs an award of some kind. A webby, a grammy, a Pulitzer. Something.
The fun doesn’t stop at the original three Rambo movies. The “trailer” for the fourth installment is a nod to a hilarious “Reading Rambo” meme. This comes in the form of a Rambo IV children’s book, narrated by Sly, describing the most epic and violent Rambo scene in the series’ history.
You know the one.
If you’re interested in watching the entire Rambo series recap, check it out on Stallone’s official Instagram feed. If you’re interested in recapping the entire series in its non-cartoon entirety, you can join me on my couch on Thursday as I attempt to contain my overwhelming excitement for the best action movie series since … ever.
In the Academy Award-nominated film “A War,” a platoon leader named Claus Michael Pederson finds his unit under heavy fire in Afghanistan. He directs a close air support on a nearby building he believes is housing Taliban fighters, but it turns out the building is actually full of civilians.
When he returns to his native Denmark, he faces a trial for violating the rules of engagement (ROE) in a way that allegedly caused the deaths of innocents killed in the air strike. He defends himself by stating that his primary responsibility was to save his men and the ROE put him in a position where he couldn’t do that.
Here are 5 trials in American military history that illustrate that war is never clean and often involves choosing the best among bad options:
1. General William “Billy” Mitchell
A member of the Army General Staff before WWI, Mitchell traveled to Europe to study aviation’s possible effects on warfare at the time and concluded that airpower would revolutionize war in every conceivable way… and he was very vocal about it. When a Navy airship crashed and killed his crew, Mitchell said, “These accidents are the result of the incompetency, the criminal negligence and the almost treasonable negligence of our national defense by the Navy and War Departments,” prompting President Coolidge to call for his court martial. He was convicted of insubordination and suspended without pay for five years.
The War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg lasted four years and brought to justice many of the highest ranking German officials and collaborators. Eleven of the 21 defendants were sentenced to death and 20 out of 65 others were summarily executed.
3. Major General Robert Grow
Grow was an heroic armor commander during World War II who became the military attaché to Moscow in the years following the war. In 1952, the Soviet Union stole Grow’s personal diary from a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany. When portions of the diary showed up in Soviet media, Grow was charged failing to safeguard classified information under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was convicted by court martial in 1952 and removed from his command.
4. Lt. William Calley
In March of 1968 Lieutenant William Calley was on his second tour in Vietnam when the company under his command murdered hundreds of unarmed civilians in the small village of My Lai. The incident was covered up, but a Life magazine photographer had a series of photos published the next year, which caused a huge public outcry. In his 1970 trial, witnesses testified that Calley had ordered the slaughter of the civilians he claimed were Viet Cong guerillas. He was given a life sentence for the murder of 22 civilians, but President Nixon paroled him after only three years. Calley apologized publicly for his crimes in 2009.
5. Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning
Manning was a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst in Iraq who sent a trove of classified intelligence data to an ascending website known as Wikileaks, which gave the world insight into the U.S.’ military dealings. Manning and Wikileaks were credited with information that helped spark the Arab Spring uprisings. She was charged with more than 22 violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth.
New documents released by the White House July 15 show both the FBI and CIA found substantial evidence that several of the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from officers with the Saudi Arabian intelligence service while preparing for their attacks on Washington and New York.
While the intelligence described in the documents leaves some doubt on how strong the link between the 19 terrorists and the Saudi government was, it is the first time since 2003 that information on any ties between al Qaida and Saudi Arabian intelligence connected to the 9/11 attacks has been made public.
“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report says. “There is information … that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”
The newly-released documents are 28 pages from the so-called “9/11 Report” ordered by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks that were removed from the final draft in an effort that some say was intended to shield one of America’s most important Middle East allies from embarrassment.
But pressure has been mounting on the Obama Administration to release the formerly classified pages by some in Congress and by attorneys for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks.
The documents describe tactical help several of the attackers received from suspected Saudi intelligence operatives here in the U.S., including housing assistance, meetings with local imams and even one case where officials believed a Saudi operative was testing airline security during a flight to Washington, D.C.
“According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeen of being [REDACTED],” the report says. “Al-Qudhaeen was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a ‘dry run’ to test airline security.”
While the newly-released pages paint a detailed picture of how some suspected Saudi government officials and intelligence agents had ties to the al Qaida attackers and may have helped them plan and execute the attack, it’s unclear whether the effort was officially sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.
Congressional investigators “confirmed that the intelligence community also has information … indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi government in the United States may have other ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups,” the report says. “Neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”
While not necessarily a “smoking gun,” the most damning evidence in the pages deals with Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, alleged Saudi intelligence officers who provided direct assistance to “hijackers-to-be” Kahlid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in 2000. Both men were financed by a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and they used those funds to secure housing and other incidentals for the future hijackers.
Along with illustrating how protracted the terrorists’ 9/11 planning was — taking place over several years — this newly-released section of the report also shows that the FBI dropped the ball on several occasions, failing to share intelligence between headquarters and the San Diego field office and summarily ending an investigation into the suspicious funding of a mosque construction — an investigation that — in hindsight — may have allowed the FBI to stymie the chain of events that eventually led to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Editor-in-chief Ward Carroll contributed to this report.
The Air Force has just escalated its response to efforts by the airlines to hire away military pilots. They’re throwing huge retention bonuses to the pilots and boosting flight pay to $1,000 a month.
According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the flight pay boost will add an additional $1,800 a month to the paychecks of officers. Enlisted men will see their flight pay go from $400 to $600 a month, a 50 percent increase, and taking their pay up $2,400 a year.
“We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we’re working to do that,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in an Air Force release. “We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers.”
In addition to announcing the increased flight pay, Secretary Wilson announced the creation of an “Aircrew Crisis Task Force” under Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski. This task force’s formation is a sign that the pilot shortage the Air Force is facing has not improved. The Air Force release noted that at the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the Air Force was short 1,555 pilots overall, including 1,211 fighter pilots.
The Air Force is looking to bring back 25 retired pilots to fill staff positions through the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty program, allowing pilots who are still current to be returned to front-line duties. The staff positions are non-flying, but retired pilots could have sufficient expertise to handle them.
This past June, the Air Force increased its Aviation Bonus cap from $25,000 a year to $35,000. These bonuses are paid to pilots who commit to stay past their service commitment for up to nine years.
The Air Force was also seeking to reduce the number of non-flying assignments for pilots, including headquarters positions and developmental opportunities. The Air Force is also trying to reduce additional units and add more flexibility for Airmen with families and children.
It’s no surprise that troops love football and this year’s Super Bowl showed the military some love right back. Nearly everything, from the pre-show to the coin toss to the USAA Salute to Service Lounge, showed appreciation and respect to all those who have and are currently serving our nation.
Here are the highlights:
7th Annual NFL Honors
The night before the big game, Marine Corps veteran and comedian Rob Riggle hosted the 7th annual NFL Honors. Throughout his opening monologue, where he took priceless jabs at players, he wore an Honor Ring on his right index finger. The 22Kill Honor Ring is a black band, worn on the index finger, and a symbol of support and empowerment for the all military veterans seeking mental health treatment.
It serves as a reminder to us all of the estimated 18-22 veterans who commit suicide every day. While there is hope — these numbers are in decline — the ring Rob Riggle wore shows that the mission will continue until that number reaches zero.
Thankfully for everyone involved, Riggle kept his “Lt. Col. Knifehand” sheathed. (Screengrab via NFL YouTube)
2017 Salute to Service Award
At the Gala, a panel of prior recipients and USAA members recognized members of the NFL community for their contributions to the Armed Forces.
This year’s recipient of the 2017 Salute to Service Award is Andre Roberts, wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Roberts is the son of two Army veterans and played for The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. He was recognized for his many visits to VA hospitals, off-season travel to military installations, and his dedication to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). His coach, Dan Quinn, received the award last year.
The National Anthem
American singer-songwriter Pink performed a beautiful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and was accompanied by The President’s Own United States Marine Band and the Joint Service Color Guard from the Military District of Washington. The Philadelphia native came down with the flu earlier in the day, but she still channeled her inner Whitney Houston.
The most impressive addition to the National Anthem was flyover by the United States Air Force Heritage Flight. The Heritage Flight serves as the Air Force’s demonstration team and performs breathtaking maneuvers all across the country. This time, it was over the frigid Minneapolis sunset. All this and every single player stood with their hand over their heart.
The coin toss is a prestigious ceremony that is often reserved for presidents, NFL Hall of Fame players, and other such famous guests. This year, the toss was performed by Woody Williams, a WWII Marine who acted with extreme valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was accompanied by fourteen other Medal of Honor recipients — ten from the Vietnam War and four from the Global War on Terrorism.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said,
The NFL is proud to honor our Nation’s heroes at Super Bowl LII. These courageous individuals deserve to be recognized on America’s biggest stage. We are grateful for their service to our country and we are pleased to continue the NFL’s longstanding tradition of hosting special tributes to service members at the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots won the coin toss and deferred to the Philadelphia Eagles — it was time to play.
Even those who don’t care about sports still tuned in for the commercials. While everyone waited for the newest Star Wars and Avengers commercials, for the first time in 30 years, the USMC surprised viewers by airing its newest Marine Corps recruitment commercial during the Super Bowl — you might’ve missed it, though.
The ad didn’t air on television, but rather to everyone viewing from a computer or mobile device. Since most views between 18 and 24 intake most of their content through the internet as opposed to television, it was targeted perfectly to prospective recruits.
USAA teamed up with the NFL to offer current former military members discounted tickets to the Super Bowl Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The experience was an interactive NFL theme park that completely filled a 30,000-foot retail space. As part of this massive event, USAA invited current military, veterans, and their families to visit an exclusive Salute to Service Military Appreciation Lounge on Saturday.
USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge was the only stop of its kind during the entire Super Bowl weekend, allowing those who came by the chance to meet some of their favorite NFL personalities, get signed memorabilia, and listen to NFL stars talk about their experiences in football and with the military.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 26th that China would “probably” pose the greatest threat to the United States by 2025.
In a hearing before the Committee votes to reappoint Gen. Joseph Dunford in his current role as the top military advisor to the president, he addressed the rise of China, Russia’s increasing use of electronic and cyber warfare, and worries over threats from North Korea.
“The Russians, Chinese, and others are doing what I describe as conducting competition at a level that falls below conflict,” Dunford said. “In my judgment, we need to improve our ability to compete in that space and in the areas specifically … our electronic warfare and information operations capability.”
Although Dunford is expected to easily win support from Congress to remain on the job, he was asked about a variety of issues. Here’s what he said in response to a number of senator’s questions:
On how the US is faring in Afghanistan:
“I do not believe that we can attain our objectives in Afghanistan unless we materially change the behavior of Pakistan.”
Dunford’s answer was in relation to the Taliban and Haqqani Network’s use of Pakistan as a sanctuary, and its government’s lack of ability to combat those groups within the country.
On what’s going on in North Korea:
Although the war of words between the United States and North Korea has seemed to reach a fever pitch, Dunford told the commit ee the Pentagon had not “seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces.”
We are applying “economic and diplomatic means” on North Korea to denuclearize, he said, although he admitted that Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions were a means to assure his regime’s survival. When one senator noted the tension stemming from rhetoric between the two nations, Dunford said that the military had been careful not to “exacerbate” the situation with statements about destroying the Kim regime, but he would not comment on “senior political leadership.”
Senior political leadership — i.e. President Trump — has repeatedly threatened North Korea with military strikes. In his recent speech to the United Nations, he said he would “totally destroy North Korea” in response to military action from Pyongyang.
As far as Pyongyang’s pursuit of a viable nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching US shores, Dunford said he agreed with US Strategic Command’s assessment that North Korea would likely develop that capable by the end of 2018.
“There are military options available to the president if our economic and diplomatic pressure campaign fails,” Dunford said.
On recent ship collisions and accidents that have resulted in the deaths and injuries of US troops:
There have been a number of deadly incidents in recent months involving ship collisions, helicopter crashes, and most recently, a Marine armored vehicle catching on fire at Camp Pendleton.
“I am confident,” Dunford said, that fiscal constraints and high operational tempo were behind at least some of those incidents.
When it comes to the Navy, which has had four ship collisions this year, Dunford said the demands on sailors “does exceed the supply.” Some sailors work 100 hours per week while underway, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.
Dunford told the committee that he had recently been onboard the USS Barry, which he learned had been out to sea for more than two-thirds of the past year.
“70% of the time underway is an unsustainable rate,” he said.
On the fight against ISIS:
Dunford was asked about the fight in and around Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital. That fight is currently underway, and while the general cautioned against giving timelines, he said that combat operations in the city would likely be complete within the next six months.
“We’ll continue to see a reduction in territory,” Dunford said. He added, however, that ISIS would not be completely destroyed, and the group would likely continue to carry out terror attacks despite losing its home base.
Other odds and ends:
Dunford said he was “concerned” about a recent Kurdish independence vote, which he said may possibly have some effect on cooperation between Kurds and Iraqi forces that are currently engaged against ISIS.
On transgender soldiers — which are currently in limbo as the Pentagon reviews the issue — Dunford said, “I do,” when asked if he believed that trans soldiers have served with honor and valor by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
He also told Gillibrand that he didn’t think “any of us are satisfied” with where the military is in terms of addressing the problem of sexual assault, and committed to working with her on the issue.
Dunford said that he supported lethal military assistance for Ukraine, which was still pending approval from The White House. “Their ability to stop armored vehicles would be esssential to them to protect themselves,” he said.
The general also said the military was working to support people devastated by the hurricane in Puerto Rico but they were having trouble with damaged ports and air fields. He said Secretary Mattis’ guidance was, “What they need they get. Just make it happen.”
Finally, Dunford and the committee exchanged a few book and television recommendations. At the opening of the hearing, Republican Sen. John McCain told Dunford he should be watching the Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War, and later, he was asked whether he had read Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s book “Derelection of Duty,” about the failures of the Joint Chiefs during the Vietnam War (he had).
The first American to visit Afghanistan decided he was going to take the wild land by force. That’s just what Americans did back then, I suppose. The young man was born into a privileged life for the time, and lived a life of globetrotting adventure as a young man. When the love of his life decided to marry another man, Josiah Harlan decided to make his world a little more interesting.
But so were the Afghan rulers and warlords.
Having grown up learning Greek and Latin and reading medical books and journals for fun, Harlan decided to join the British East India Company’s expedition to Burma as a surgeon, even though he had never attended medical school. But he didn’t stay for all of the company’s wars. He left the company in 1826 to live in an Indian border town called Ludhiana. That’s where he met Shuja Shah Abdali Durrani, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan that would shape Josiah Harlan’s future.
The two men hatched a plan to oust the leader who deposed the Shah, Dost Mohammed Khan using a coalition of Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim fighters, then foment a full-scale rebellion in Afghanistan. Once the Shah was back on the throne, he would make Harlan his vizier. Things did not go according to plan. Khan defeated Shah at Kandahar and was forced to flee once more.
Dost Mohammed Khan can sleep soundly knowing the British got what was coming to them.
Harlan next fell in with Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, a great warrior king who had conquered most of what is today Northwest India and Pakistan. Singh, it turns out, knew how to party unlike anyone since the good ol’ days of insane Roman emperors. He was also a hypochondriac, one that “Doctor” Josiah Harlan could treat. Harlan did treat the Maharajah, earning his trust and the governorship of Nurpur, Jasota, and later, Gujerat. But he eventually fell out of Singh’s favor and turned to Dost Mohammed Khan – the man he tried to usurp in the first place.
Acting as a special military advisor to Khan, Harlan took to the battlefield against armies allied to the Maharajah, having taught the Afghans the “Western way of war,” which basically meant using numerical superiority to your supreme advantage. With Khan, he was made royalty and led armies against the Sikhs in India, against Uzbek slavers, and even led punitive expeditions in the Hindu Kush. But upon returning from those raids, he found Khan was deposed, and the British occupied Kabul and had replaced Khan with ol’ Shuja Shah.
The Maharajah’s life was so great it gave him Forest Whitaker Eye before that was even a thing.
Even though Harlan was the Commander-In-Chief among all Afghans by Khan’s decree, Khan was out and Shah was in. All the tribes and their warlords were now allied with Shah – that was just the Afghan way. Khan already fled, so it was time for Harlan to return to America and to his life in Pennsylvania.
Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania had a marked lack of exotic spices, royal orgies, and international intrigue, so Harlan found himself trying to drum up American support to challenge Russia and Britain for supremacy in Afghanistan. America, however, had enough problems back home around the time the man returned in 1841, and there was little interest in it. Josiah Harlan moved to San Francisco where he spent the rest of his days practicing medicine.
Officials say a suicide bomber in an explosives-packed vehicle has attacked a NATO convoy north of Kabul, wounding two U.S. soldiers and at least three civilians.
“We had two U.S. soldiers wounded and their injuries are not life-threatening,” Navy Captain William Salvin, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on September 11.
Local Afghan officials said at least three civilians were also wounded in the attack, which took place near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which comes on the 16th anniversary of the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks in the United States. The attacks triggered the U.S.-led military operation that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
On September 6, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Bagram Airfield, wounding several people. The Taliban claimed the attack was in revenge for a U.S. leaflet deemed highly offensive to Muslims.
The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.
Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.
The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.
To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:
Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.
Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.
TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.
The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.
Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.
The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:
Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.
DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.
The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.
Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.
Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.
The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.
This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.
ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.
There’s something about football that just lends itself to the melodramatic emotions of our youth. It’s the closest socially acceptable approximation to gladiatorial combat young men in our modern civilized world can pursue, and as such, it tends to hold an honored place in our hearts. The gridiron is where we proved our mettle; Where we found that toughness within us we always hoped was there.
And then, just like that, it’s gone. For most of us, football ends right around when real life begins, and you’re left with no choice but to trade in your pads and passion for a steady job and a pile of bills. Although I once had college football aspirations, an injury cost me that opportunity, and I found myself working as a race mechanic alongside a dozen other “coulda beens”–if only we’d made that one last tackle, dodged that one block, or chased the dream while our knees were still strong enough to hack it.
I joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old and with no intention of finding my way back onto the field. I had found my way to rugby after my college football “career” ended, but as I checked in to my first duty station at 29 Palms, California, neither was on my mind. That is, until I noticed the battalion team practicing just a few blocks away from my barracks room.
The next season, I earned myself a starting spot on the battalion team, which led to a spot on the base team, and eventually, to the first of two Marine Corps championships. Those successes, however, were hard earned… as playing ball for the Corps wasn’t quite like it had been back home in the hills of Vermont.
Playing pulling guard meant I at least got a running start before I tried to smash these dudes.
You’re playing against Marines, some of whom are battle-hardened veterans.
As Al Pacino once so eloquently put it, football is a game of inches. For all the strategy, practice, and technique involved, football is one of the few places left that sheer toughness remains a high-value commodity. Sometimes, when everything else is even, it’s the guy that’s willing to hurt that’ll get the job done. Sometimes you have to choose between the game and your safety. Knowing that reaching for that ball thrown across the flats against a zone defense will almost certainly mean taking a helmet to the sternum and choosing to do it anyway isn’t something you’re taught. It’s just who you are.
In most leagues, you’ll be lucky to find a few players willing to throw their bodies into the grinder for a “W.” In the Marine Corps, we already live in the grinder. Infantry units field teams between combat deployments, Marines attend football practices between training rotations in martial arts and on the rifle range. Mental and physical toughness is a prerequisite to success in the Corps, and as such, the playing field is ripe with men willing to hurt in order to achieve their goals.
The things we do to have a Sergeant Major hand us a wooden football.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Schmidt)
Service members thrive on competition (and that can really suck).
Playing football in the Marine Corps comes with a level of competitive social pressure that can really only be compared to some high-level college teams. When you’re on a squad with a shot at some trophies, you’re representing more than the team itself, you’re representing your unit. The commanding general may not give a sh*t about your last inspection, but he does about the score of this week’s game. A slew of wins can make you feel like a celebrity, but a bad loss can make you ashamed to show your face at work… or in front of your commanding officer.
Marines, perhaps more than other services, are in a perpetual state of competition. Like Ricky Bobby, if we aren’t first, we’re last… and nobody’s going to let you forget it.
We’re all here with a job to do.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Albert F. Hunt)
The Corps always comes first.
If you play football for a successful college program, you’re expected to keep up with your grades, but otherwise, the sport is your job. Marine Corps football can be a lot like that–with the obligations of the sport occasionally taking precedence over other duties (like when you go TAD/TDY for away games), but at the end of the day, the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution.
Infantry units, for instance, often had their seasons cut short by field requirements or combat deployments. Players on your team would be pulled from the roster to augment a deploying unit. Last season’s star quarterback may miss this season because he has to travel for training or worse, because he’s been injured or killed since we last took the field. Football is a way of life for most that love the sport, but nothing supersedes the Corps. We’re Marines first, football players second, and if we’re lucky, we eventually get to be old men writing stories about our days with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on our helmets.