Not sure about whether to stay in or get out as your enlistment nears its end within the next six months? Well, depending on your rating, the United States Navy could have as many as 100,000 reasons for you to stick around.
According to a NAVADMIN released February 2018 that was signed by Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education, the Navy has revised Selective Reenlistment Bonus levels for 39 skills across 24 ratings to encourage enlisted sailors to sign up for another hitch. The highest of these bonuses is $100,000, being offered to those sailors who ratings include explosive ordnance personnel, special operators (SEALs), and electrician’s mates with nuclear qualifications, depending on their Navy Enlistment Classification, or NEC.
Military.com notes that these bonuses vary given the needs of the service. Usually, half the bonus is paid out immediately, the other half will be given out in annual installments over the course of the re-enlistment. A servicemember can receive a maximum of two SRBs, totaling no more than $200,000.
Those who are eligible to receive the SRBs are sailors who hold the ranks of Seaman (or Airman, Hospitalman, or Constructionman), Petty Officer Third Class, Petty Officer Second Class, or Petty Officer First Class. Those selected for Chief Petty Officer are not eligible to receive the SRB.
The Navy Personnel Command website notes that to receive the SRB, the request must be made no less than 35 days before and no more than 120 days before the re-enlistment date. Sailors should contact their command career counselor for more information about possible eligibility for the SRB. They should do so quickly because the Navy “will continue to assess retention behavior and adjust SRB award levels accordingly,” according to the NAVADMIN.
Turkish forces have captured the older sister of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northwestern Syria, officials announced, about 50 miles from where he died by suicide vest in a US raid ten days ago.
Rasmiya Awad, 65, was detained in a raid near Azaz on Monday evening, the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters reported, citing unnamed Turkish officials.
She was captured alongside her husband and daughter-in-law in a raid in a trailer they had been living in near Azaz, the AP reported. Five children were with them during the raid, Reuters reported.
Azaz is a Turkish-controlled Syrian town near the two countries’ border. Al-Baghdadi, 48, died after detonating a suicide vest when he was chased into a tunnel complex by a US military dog in Barisha village, which is located around 50 miles southwest.
Turkish forces officially gained control over Azaz after it struck a deal with Russia to consolidate power in northwestern Syria October 2019. The agreement came after Turkey invaded Syria after President Donald Trump pulled troops out of the country in early October 2019.
Rasmiya Awad (sister of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) caught (Syria) – BBC News – 4th November 2019
Awad, her husband, and her daughter-in-law are now being questioned by Turkish officials.
“We hope to gather a trove intelligence from Baghdadi’s sister on the inner workings of ISIS,” the Turkish source told Reuters.
The AP also cited its source, also a Turkish official, as calling the capture “a gold mine.”
“What she knows about [ISIS] can significantly expand our understanding of the group and help us catch more bad guys,” they said.
Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center think tank, told The New York Times that the phrase “‘gold mine’ might be overstating the issue,” but said that depending on what she knows about her brother’s activities, her capture could provide insight into how ISIS makes decisions.
Al-Baghdadi was known for being highly suspicious of everyone around him, and only trusted his immediate family and a close circle of associates, The Times reported, citing separate interviews with former ISIS prisoners, aides, and Iraq’s director-general of intelligence.
The ISIS leader used to conduct strategy meetings in moving buses filled with vegetables to avoid detection, Reuters reported, citing a former top aide.
He had five brothers and several sisters, but it’s not clear how many of them are still alive, The Times said.
ISIS announced its new leader, Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, last week.
ISIS Names New Leader In The Wake Of Al-Baghdadi’s Death | NBC Nightly News
Turkey, meanwhile, has already hailed Awad’s capture as a counter-terrorism victory.
“Turkey’s fight against terror regardless of its ideology or origin continues unabated,” tweeted Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, early Tuesday morning.
“The arrest of al-Baghdadi’s sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations.”
He also claimed “much dark propaganda against Turkey [that had] been circulating to raise doubts about our resolve against Daesh,” referring to a pejorative name for ISIS.
It’s not entirely clear what he meant, but there had been multiple reports noting that the Turkish incursion into Syria allowed hundreds of ISIS prisoners to escape.
Turkey could use Monday’s capture to justify further violence against the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish-led militia force based in Syria that previously allied with the US to fight ISIS in Syria. Turkey sees its militants as terrorists, and have vowed not to leave Syria until they’re eliminated.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran’s malignant influence is the most significant threat to Middle East security, according to the top U.S. general in the region.
The Middle East remains a highly unstable region, ripe for continued conflict, Army Gen. Joseph Votel warned the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday. Of the multitude of challenges in the region, Iran is the primary concern in the long term, according to the general.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
He added that Iran’s support of the Assad regime in Syria and exploitation of Shia Muslim population centers are parts of its “malign influence.”
Votel’s assessment comes after a significant increase in Iranian provocation in the Middle East over the last several months. Iranian naval vessels harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf using boat swarm tactics and the regime in Tehran continues its fiery rhetoric against the U.S. and its allies.
Iran has also continued to support various proxy groups across the Middle East, including the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which is actively engaged against the U.S. and Saudi-supported government. The Popular Mobilization Units, a conglomerate of mostly Shia militia units backed by Iran, continue to play a major role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, allowing Iran to continue to entrench itself in the Iraqi government.
“Since Iran cannot strike the U.S. homeland conventionally the way the United States can strike the Iranian homeland with near impunity, Tehran seeks ways to balance the deterrence equation by threatening U.S. interests worldwide through proxy terrorism and asymmetric operations,” said J. Matthew McCinnis, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in Iranian strategy, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December.
McInnis added that Iran will likely continue to use proxy groups as a means of deterrence against the U.S., meaning Votel and the U.S. military will likely continue to face an Iranian threat for some time to come.
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The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.
Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.
What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)
To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.
The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.
Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.
Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.
Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.
Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?
If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.
So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.
(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)
Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.
The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.
Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.
Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.
In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.
Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.
The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.
In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.
A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.
Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.
Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.
After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.
American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.
After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.
The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.
Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.
Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.
People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.
Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.
Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.
Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”
People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”
Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.
Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.
But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.
Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.
British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”
Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”
Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”
“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Despite the record heat on July 19 and 20, 2019, in Davenport, Iowa, more than 600 veterans and their family members attended the Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at St. Ambrose University. The event was held to bring together community service providers, veteran service organizations, and other government partners to provide services, resources and information directly to veterans and those currently serving.
Planning for Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center began in May 2018 in collaboration with the Veterans Experience Office, the National Cemetery Administration, VBA regional offices, Iowa City VA Health Care System, the local Vet Center, two Community Veteran Engagement Boards, the Rock Island Arsenal, UnityPoint Health Trinity, the United Way, St. Ambrose University and many more; all came together to ensure veterans have the resources, services, and information needed to get to “yes.”
Community partners took on this challenging event knowing it would have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of veterans in their community, which made the many months of planning worth it.
A Veteran and his spouse learning more about many different resources available.
“I have desire to help the ones that served our Nation in uniform and knew there was a need in the Quad Cities area to bring together community partners and VA under one building to provide information and resources to Veterans,” said Daniel Joiner, Director of Community Engagement at UnityPoint Health Trinity and Quad Cities VEAC organizer.
During the two-day event, the Des Moines, IA, and Chicago, IL, Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices were on-site to assist veterans wanting to file a disability compensation claim, check on a claim decision, check on the status of an existing claim, obtain representation from a Veteran Service Organization, receive counseling services through the mobile Vet Center and learn about many other community resources.
After reading about the Quad Cities VEAC’s success on day one, Paige, a U.S. Army veteran, flew from Baltimore, MD, for the VEAC’s second day.
U.S. Army Veteran Paige waiting to meet with representatives from Veterans Benefits Administration.
“After reading the excellent reviews, I knew this event would be best opportunity for me to receive some answers. I was told by the representative from the regional office I would have a decision within a week,” said Paige.
Another veteran from Orlando, FL, heard about the VEAC in April 2019 and booked his flight and hotel room to attend. Army veteran, Vincent, had been struggling for years to get the help he needed. “This event was just what is needed for veterans. Today, I was able to get all of my issues resolved. I can now go back home and sleep peacefully,” he said.
Paige and Vincent were not the only two veterans that were from out of state. Veterans from Alaska, Texas and one Marine Corps veteran from Belgium and her mother, an Army veteran, attended to take advantage of the resources that were available.
U.S. Army Veteran Vincent discussing how important it was for him to attend the Quad Cities VEAC.
The Iowa City VA Health Care System provided information, enrollment and eligibility representatives so veterans could enroll in VA health care. “Often times, many veterans are unsure if they are eligible for VA health care benefits, that’s why we are here today to assist veterans in registering for benefits they earned. During the two day event, we were able to enroll 46 veterans to receive VA health care benefits,” said the Iowa City VA Health Care System’s Director, Judith Johnson-Mekota.
Carmen Gamble, an Army veteran that retired at the rank of Command Sergeant Major and works for VA’s Veterans Experience Office explained, “Over the two-day event, more than 30 community partners and dozens of VA staff came together here in the Quad Cities to serve our Nation’s Heroes to help them receive what they need. We plan to engage other communities in other states to look at how a Veterans Experience Action Centers could benefit their veteran population.”
Several more Veterans Experience Action Centers including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep. 4-6, 2019; and Cary, North Carolina, Sep. 18-21, 2019, are being planned.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board. Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.
The idea is at once simple and complex. Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.
“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said. “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”
Mitchell’s process is simple. “I don’t know any of these people,” he said. “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total. They reach out to me online. I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit. And I show up at their house. I don’t usually ask questions.”
The subjects decide on the composition of the essay. “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said. “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.
“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”
The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror. In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.
“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said. “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better. Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.
“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said. “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”
Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.
“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said. “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it. He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want. You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”
And how did the result impact Dowling? “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said. “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”
Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.” “But I’m a student,” he added. “I like to learn.”
After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.
“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said. “Just like any community. The military is no different. That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this. Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community. They’re still people.”
For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.
To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.
For an average service member, it takes an obligation of 20 years to retire from the military. For their furry four-legged counterparts, it takes over 30 years to accomplish the same goal in dog years of course. Marine Corps working dogs date back to Nov. 1, 1943, during World War II when 1st Marine War Dog Platoon out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina attacked the beach of Bougainville, Solomon Islands.
Today, working dogs lead regular Marine Corps careers by deploying, taking official photos and even attaining rank. A Marine Special Operations Command working dog, however, has much more rigorous training, increased mission capability and known as a Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC).
“A dog handler is around for about five years,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler, Marine Special Operations Command, “around the same time as them leaving we try to retire their dog.”
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler with Delta Company, 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, awaits command during the retirement ceremony of his multi-purpose canine, Roy, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 29, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)
Roy is one such multi-purpose canine with MARSOC, and Koman just so happens to be his handler. On March 29, 2019, the command held a formal retirement ceremony to honor Roy’s five years of faithful service as a specialized force multiplier within the special operations world. After spending 16 weeks developing skills in explosives detection, tracking, controlled aggression, Roy’s amphibious capabilities, such as water insertion and extraction techniques, prepared him to serve in combat. For this accomplishment, Roy received the Military Working Dog Service Award, an award presented to working dogs and MPCs that deploy into combat.
As a Marine receives a ceremony after 20 years, MARSOC conducts the same for MPCs. Once the MPC retires, it is put up for adoption and given priority to the owner. According to results from recent data from the Department Of Defense Military Working Dog Adoption Program, more than 90 percent of military working dogs and MPC’s adopted by their handlers.
“The handler and dog have been through so much together,” said an unnamed MPC master trainer with MARSOC. “It’s a no brainer for the dog to go to the handlers.”
Before Roy was ready to transition into civilian life, the unit was required to ensure that there are no signs of aggression towards humans and animals. After this assessment, Koman was able to proceed in filing the necessary paperwork for adoption.
“When I first saw him I knew he was the dog I wanted,” added Koman, “it’s just surreal that he’s officially mine today!”
When asked about his and Roy’s plans for the future, Koman stated that he plans to give Roy the most relaxing life possible.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.
Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.
“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”
Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.
“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”
Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.
“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”
Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.
“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”
On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.
“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”
It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.
“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”
Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”
It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.
“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”
CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.
The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.
“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.
Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.
“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”
Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).
“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”
In a deployed environment, security forces airmen perform a unique mission that differs from their traditional roles at home station. From patrolling the flightline in armored tactical vehicles to providing security for all personnel and Department of Defense assets going to austere locations in Afghanistan, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron maintains a vigilant presence at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Security forces airmen are experts in base defense and provide support to the airfield and mission partners through offensive and defensive postures, quick response force capabilities, and fly away security teams that support C-130 Hercules missions to dangerous locations.
“Our job is to provide mission support and enable safe and secure airfield operations,” said Maj. Joshua Webb, 455th ESFS commander. “We do that by providing different security postures at different points to detect and deter enemies.”
These airmen patrol the flightline in Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, commonly known as MRAPs, with a standard heavy weapons kit that allows sustainability in a firefight by protecting them while they defend the airfield.
They are specially trained to have a unique skillset and fundamental understanding of what it means to defend an airfield and the requirements to securely launch airfield operations. Webb said 455th ESFS airmen understand airfield operations and are better equipped to detect and defend against different types of threats in multiple domains.
“They are the first and last line of detection for the premiere counterterrorism wing,” he added.
A C-17 Globemaster III taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012.
(U.S. Air Force phot by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)
As well as being fully capable of responding to any threat on the flightline, these airmen are trained fly away security teams, or FAST, members who provide security for personnel and equipment transiting through the region to austere locations.
“Being part of the fly away security team means these guys get more training in close quarters combat and are able to provide a flight deck denial capability,” Webb said. “We aren’t dealing with the same mission as at a home station where they do various bits of law enforcement.”
Master Sgt. Paul Vibar, 455th ESFS FAST noncommissioned officer in charge, said he enjoys the excitement of being on FAST missions and his team’s role in securing DoD assets.
“It’s about protecting people and aircraft, which is especially important in this environment,” said Vibar, who deployed from the 255th Security Forces Squadron at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. “You never know what we’re going to find at some of these locations, so we always need to be prepared.”
Despite long hours patrolling and shift work, Webb said morale remains high because his team knows they are contributing to a worthy cause.
“Here it is nothing but mission, nothing but defense, and they find a lot of value in that,” Webb said.
Security forces airmen enable safe airfield operations and the safety of personnel at Bagram, but also back home.
“The mission we do here enables the men and women back home to be safe and secure,” Webb said. “We take the fight to the enemy and our role in that is to keep the aircraft and base personnel safe so they can perform their mission.”
Webb said he is proud of the work his airmen do each day and knows they believe in the mission.
“The expertise and mindset these airmen display on a day to day basis is unique, and that’s what allows us to adapt and overcome any issues we may encounter and mount a proper defense in the face of adversity,” he added. “I believe in my team and this mission with my whole heart.”
With more than 200 USO locations throughout the world, their mission never ends, connecting American’s troops to their friends and families back home.
For more than seven decades, the USO — or United Service Organizations — has thrived on boosting the morale of service members stationed around the globe with various musical performances and celebrity appearances.
Famous for entertaining the troops, the USO has established a program that will continue to support service members as they transition back into civilian life called Pathfinder.
Cpt. Jason Pak takes time with his interpreter for a quick photo op during his Afghanistan deployment.
The USO Pathfinder transition program offers personalized and hands-on services to those exiting from their military obligation.
USO Pathfinder services are co-located with USO centers at 13 locations across the U.S. for one-on-one support.
This Pathfinder program connects service members and military spouses to the resources that are best fit for them across a variety of focus areas, including employment, education, financial readiness, veteran’s benefits, housing, legal family strength wellness, and volunteerism.
The Defense Department will deploy more than 5,000 active-duty personnel to aid the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to harden the southern border,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command.
“Border security is national security,” the general said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building Oct. 29, 2018. He briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan.
The active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot, the general said.
“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” the general said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”
The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, the general said.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, discusses the Defense Department deployment to the Southwest border during a joint news conference in Washington, Oct. 29, 2018.
The troops will be in support of law enforcement with Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan said. The agency is facing something new. “What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats,” he said at the news conference. “Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.”
The agency has requested aid in air and ground transportation, and logistics support, to move CBP personnel where needed. Officials also asked for engineering capabilities and equipment to secure legal crossings, and medical support units. CBP also asked for housing for deployed Border Protection personnel and extensive planning support.
The commissioner said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said. “Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.
Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”
Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, the general said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.
Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts.
The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.