Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn’t get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.
The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten “missions” in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea’s worked pretty well over the years.
Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.
According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.
France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.
It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we’re going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.
On Tuesday, the US dispatched two US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in response to North Korea’s largest nuclear test.
The long-range supersonic strategic bombers were joined by Japanese F-2s for training to “enhance operational capabilities and the tactical skills of units.”
The bombers were then joined by South Korean F-15s and US F-16s for a low-level flight in the vicinity of Osan, South Korea. Upon completion of the bilateral flight, the B-1Bs returned to Andersen Air Force Base.
“These flights demonstrate the solidarity between South Korea, the United States, and Japan to defend against North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions,” US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris said in a statement.
“North Korea continues to blatantly violate its international obligations, threatening the region through an accelerating program of nuclear tests and unprecedented ballistic missile launches that no nation should tolerate. US joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific are always ready to defend the American homeland. We stand resolutely with South Korea and Japan to honor our unshakable alliance commitments and to safeguard security and stability.”
“The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, said in the statement. The decision affects 700 spouses and children in these areas.
The ongoing threat of ISIS attacks in Turkey makes Incirlik and other U.S. installations prime targets for terrorism. U.S. security forces in the country have been a Force Protection Condition (FPCON) Delta for weeks. Delta is the highest alert level, meaning intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent. The base was locked down in July 2015 and voluntary departures for dependents were authorized in September. The latest order is mandatory.
Almost 100 people have died in the five terror attacks in Turkey in 2016 alone. Two of the attacks were claimed by ISIS, while the other three allegedly from Kurdish terrorist organizations, which is still a threat to U.S. forces, as the Incirlik Air Base is shared with the Turkish Air Force. Incirlik, located 100 miles from the Turkish border with Syria, houses 2,500 American troops.
“This step does not signify a permanent decision to end accompanied tours at these facilities,” said a European Command statement. “It is intended to mitigate the risk to DoD elements and personnel, including family members, while ensuring the combat effectiveness of U.S. forces and our mission support to operations in Turkey. The United States and Turkey are united in our common fight against ISIL, and Incirlik continues to play a key role in counter-ISIL operations.”
The U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program passed through the Army Requirements Oversight Council and received preliminary approval to set the capabilities development.
In replacing the UH-60 Blackhawk, the Army looks to modernize its aircrafts vertical lift capability. The idea is to complement the Army’s air assault mission and ability to move tactical level troops into and out of combat.
Brigadier General Wally Rugen told Defense News that, “we really are focused on our air assault mission configuration and what that means for the number of troops that would need to be aboard and what requirements are needed to conduct that mission in darkness. Otherwise, the FLRAA program won’t have a ton of mandatory attributes in order to leave a lot of space for innovation as long as we achieve that air assault mission configuration.”
“[When] it comes to joint when it comes to fires when it comes to the tactical objective, the air movement — which is a bit more administrative in nature and not as intense on the combat scale — when we talk about air assault, we want transformational reach,” Rugen added. “That ability to exploit any penetration and disintegration that the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft ecosystem, along with our joint partners has created.”
The two main competitors for the FLRAA are the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft and the combination of Sikorsky and Boeing with their SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter. Each entry will submit proposals within the first half of next year with eyes toward a contract award in fiscal 2022 for the winning prototype. Prototypes would be delivered in early-to-mid 2026, with production beginning in 2028 and the new aircraft being fielded in 2030.
The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant is a compound helicopter with rigid coaxial rotors. It is powered by two Honeywell T55s, and a pusher propeller in the rear of the aircraft. These give it a 115 mph speed advantage (100 knots) over the conventional helicopters it aims to replace.
Sikorsky is planning on replacing the T55 engines, which power the Chinook helicopters, with the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) to meet the radius requirement of 264 miles, (424 km). The crew compartment is 50 percent larger than the current Blackhawk helicopters. Recently in a test flight, the aircraft hit a speed of 205 knots, with a planned top speed of 230 knots which is the requirement and even up to 250 knots according to the company.
“Exceeding 200 knots is significant also because it’s beyond any conventional helicopter speed, and we understand that speed and low-level maneuverability is critical to the holistic survivability in a future FVL environment,” Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s Director of Future Vertical Lift Business Development said back in June.
Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor design is designed for a cruising speed of 280 knots (320 mph), hence the name V-280. It can reach a top speed of 300 knots (350 mph).
The maximum range of the V-280 is 2,100 nautical miles (2,400 mi). It has an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi (580 to 920 mi), which is nearly 1500 KM.
Unlike the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, the engines remain in place while the rotors and drive shafts tilt. A driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single-engine in the event of engine loss.
The V-280 has retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant flyby wire control system, and a V-tail configuration. The wings are made of a single section of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composite thus reducing weight and production costs. Dual cargo hooks will give it a lift capacity to carry a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) M777A2 Howitzer while flying at a speed of 150 knots (170 mph; 280 km/h). The fuselage is visually similar to that of the UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift helicopter. The V-280 will have a crew of four and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. In July, Rolls-Royce confirmed an agreement with Bell to develop a propulsion option for the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor program.
If you know one thing about U.S. Army veteran Clint Romesha, it’s that he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009 during the Battle of Kamdesh. If you know another, it’s that he wrote a book, “Red Platoon,” about that battle. What most people don’t know — or at least what’s not obvious to the casual observer — is that Romesha doesn’t particularly like the spotlight that being a Medal of Honor recipient has put him in.
“I’ve always been a very quiet personality,” Romesha said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “I like to have one-on-one conversations with people and not be the center of attention in the middle of a crowd. It’s just not my personality. So that was very much a shock, something I’m still trying to get used to.”
Romesha grew up in a small town in Northern California, and his family has a history of military service. His grandfather served in World War II, his father in Vietnam, and two of his older brothers joined the service when they turned 18. “It wasn’t one of those ‘to be a Romesha, you had to do it,’ but it was just always encouraged,” he said.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)
In 1999, Romesha enlisted in the Army, expecting to “just do three years, check the box, get the GI bill, grow up a little bit, come back home, have some silly stories of being too drunk in Germany and escaping the polizei or something like that.” He wasn’t going to make a career out of it — nor did he think his service would define his future.
The first sign that things wouldn’t be as cut and dry as he expected was the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Romesha was doing maneuvers in Germany when his unit was called into formation in the early afternoon and briefed on the situation. No one had been watching television or knew what was happening.
“We got there and formed up, and our colonel came out,” Romesha recalled. “He gave us a little pep talk like, ‘Hey, they flew planes into the towers there in New York, and everything from this day forward is going to change.'”
Romesha deployed four times during his nearly 12-year career as an armor crewman and cavalry scout. His final deployment was to Afghanistan in 2009, which would be his second sign that his military service would have a bigger impact on his life than he planned. That deployment is where he would earn the highest U.S. military award for valor. However, when asked about the most significant part of his military service, he doesn’t mention the Battle of Kamdesh — he talks about leadership.
Romesha with his unit.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“It was always pursuing that mentality to just be a good leader,” Romesha said, “to have those young kids look up to you just like when I was a brand-new private coming in, looking up to guys like Sergeant [Joseph] Garyantes, those NCOs. I was like, ‘Man, if I could be half the man those guys were, I’d be a fairly decent leader.’ And that really was the significance of staying in and really building my career throughout 10 years leading into Afghanistan.”
That leadership mentality is also part of what made it difficult for Romesha to accept that he was being awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I’ll be honest — part of it was embarrassment,” he said of his initial feelings about the award. “The fact that you sit there, and you’re about to get nationally recognized for ultimately what’s a really shitty day. And part of that embarrassment came from — I know I did a decent job that day, but we also lost eight guys. They never get to come home anymore. They never get to spend time with their families. They never get to have any more birthdays or Christmases or Thanksgivings. I’m still here. That just weighs on you — why am I getting all this attention when I got to come home and those guys didn’t?
“So, initially, it was, like I said, just a deep down sense of embarrassment because as a leader, as good as you think you are or you feel you are,” he continued, trailing off. “They say I saved a lot of guys that day, which I don’t doubt I did. But I feel as a leader, you almost feel like a failure any time you lose anybody, no matter how hard you try and how good the plan was.”
Romesha wrote about his experiences in ‘Red Platoon’.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha/Facebook.)
When he got the call about the award, Romesha had been out of the Army for almost two years and was working in the oil fields in North Dakota. He managed a smooth transition from military to civilian life by keeping in touch with his Army buddies and throwing himself into a demanding job.
“I think a lot of things are about timing,” he said. “And the [oil] boom [in North Dakota] was going on, and I fell into a job where I worked 42 days straight before my first day off. We were working 12- to 16-hour days, and I never had that low time of, ‘Oh, man. I’ve just left my entire known adult life behind and all those guys behind.’ I just rolled right into work that gave me a sense of purpose, a direction, and kept me super busy enough not to get caught in that reflection.”
Romesha also took advantage of his 76-mile commutes to and from work to call his battle buddies and catch up.
“Even though I didn’t get to see them every day […] I got to talk to at least one of them,” Romesha said. “And still having that connection was just powerful — to still feel part of that group, even though we were hundreds if not thousands of miles apart.”
He was told his life would change after receiving the Medal of Honor, but he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Romesha worked through his unease and natural quietness by continuing to shift the focus away from himself and onto the men who lost their lives during the battle.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“For me, Oct. 3, 2009, was just a date that I knew when I talked to my buddies I was there with, and we’d reminisce about it. But the rest of the world never really knew about October 3 until Feb. 12, 2013, the day I received the medal. And then almost overnight, on a national level, everybody knew what happened that day. And now you’re sharing that day with everybody,” Romesha said.
“And because sitting there talking to the guys and talking to the Gold Star families, it was also an opportunity to make sure, ‘Look, if I’m getting this attention, well, I can use it for good. I can make sure those guys — Gallegos, Scusa, Kirk, Mace, Hardt, Martin, Griffin, Thomson — those guys will never be forgotten. I can talk about them again. And even though they’re not here, they’re going to always be with us. And that’s what really got me over the embarrassment.”
Romesha applied that same reasoning when he decided to write “Red Platoon.” He didn’t want it to be the Clint Romesha story. So he talked to his platoonmates and the Gold Star families, making sure that they were on board to share their stories, too. For two years, he travelled the country, reconnecting with and interviewing those he served with.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“A lot of these guys hadn’t even talked about that day before with anybody,” Romesha said. “And it was capturing their perspective, and it was, at first, a very scary thing — how is this going to be received? I don’t even know what to expect from going out and doing this — and how are these guys going to react? At the end of the process, though, it was almost therapeutic.”
“Red Platoon” was optioned for a film the year it was released in 2016; however, there hasn’t been any significant momentum on that project. While he’s waiting for that call, Romesha currently spends his time “totally underemployed or overemployed, depending” on the day, with speaking engagements.
“I don’t want to be a career speaker my entire life, but it’s what pays the bills and gives me the flexibility right now to do a lot with veteran outreach and nonprofits,” he said. “Someday I’m going to have to grow up and figure out what my new occupational life’s going to be — but for right now, that’s what’s filling that spot.”
Whatever that next step is for Romesha, he credits the Army for instilling in him the work ethic and value system to get there. From a “check the box” enlistment to Medal of Honor recipient, Romesha has stepped outside of his comfort zone to be a voice not only for the soldiers he lost in Afghanistan, but for the veteran community as a whole.
“We can never forget about our service,” he said. “We can’t let it control us or dictate the rest of our lives, but we can never forget what we’ve been through and what we’ve experienced. It’s all about that follow-on mission and what we can do next and what we can accomplish going forward.”
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
Governments across the world are galvanizing every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us — our smartphones.
A live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.”
Samuel Woodhams, Top10VPN’s Digital Rights Lead who compiled the index, warned that the world could slide into permanently increased surveillance.
“Without adequate tracking, there is a danger that these new, often highly invasive, measures will become the norm around the world,” he told Business Insider. “Although some may appear entirely legitimate, many pose a risk to citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.
“Given how quickly things are changing, documenting the new measures is the first step to challenging potential overreach, providing scrutiny and holding corporations and governments to account.”
While some countries will cap their new emergency measures, otherwise may retain the powers for future use. “There is a risk that many of these new capabilities will continue to be used following the outbreak,” said Woodhams. “This is particularly significant as many of the new measures have avoided public and political scrutiny and do not include sunset clauses.”
Here’s a breakdown of which countries have started tracking phone data, with varying degrees of invasiveness:
The US is reportedly gathering data from the ads industry to get an idea of where people are congregating
Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the federal, state, and local governments have begun to gather and study geolocation data to get a better idea of how people are moving about.
In one example, a source said the data had shown people were continuing to gather in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and this information had been handed over to local autorities. The eventual aim is to create a portal for government officials with data from up to 500 US cities.
The data is being gathered from the advertising industry, which often gains access to people’s geolocation when they sign up to apps. Researcher Sam Woodhams says using the ad industry as a source poses a particular problem for privacy.
“Working closely with the ad tech industry to track citizens’ whereabouts raises some significant concerns. The sector as a whole is renowned for its lack of transparency and many users will be unaware that these apps are tracking their movement to begin with. It is imperative that governments and all those involved in the collection of this sensitive data are transparent about how they operate and what measures are in place to ensure citizens’ right to privacy is protected,” Woodhams told Business Insider.
South Korea gives out detailed information about patients’ whereabouts
South Korea has gone a step further than other countries, tracking individuals’ phones and creating a publicly available map to allow other citizens to check whether they may have crossed paths with any coronavirus patients.
The tracking data that goes into the map isn’t limited to mobile phone data, credit card records and even face-to-face interviews with patients are being used to build a retroactive map of where they’ve been.
Not only is the map there for citizens to check, but the South Korean government is using it to proactively send regional text messages warning people they may have come into contact with someone carrying the virus.
The location given can be extremely specific, the Washington Post reported a text went out that said an infected person had been at the “Magic Coin Karaoke in Jayang-dong at midnight on Feb. 20.”
Some texts give out more personal information however. A text reported by The Guardian read: “A woman in her 60s has just tested positive. Click on the link for the places she visited before she was hospitalised.”
The director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jeong Eun-kyeong, acknowledged that the site infringes on civil liberties, saying: “It is true that public interests tend to be emphasized more than human rights of individuals when dealing with diseases that can infect others.”
The map is already interfering with civil liberties, as a South Korean woman told the Washington Post that she had stopped attending a bar popular with lesbians for fear of being outed. “If I unknowingly contract the virus… that record will be released to the whole country,” she said.
The system is also throwing up other unexpected challenges. The Guardian reported that one man claiming to be infected threatened various restaurants saying he would visit and hurt their custom unless they gave him money to stay away.
Iran asked citizens to download an invasive app
Vice reported that Iran’s government endorsed a coronavirus diagnosis app that collected users’ real-time location data.
On March 3, a message went out to millions of Iranian citizens telling them to install the app, called AC19, before going to a hospital or health center.
The app claimed to be able to diagnose the user with coronavirus by asking a series of yes or no questions. The app has since been removed from the Google Play store.
“The goal is to stop people from running around and spreading the infection,” said Jyan Hong-wei, head of Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security. Jyan added that local authorities and police should be able to respond to anyone who triggers an alert within 15 minutes.
Even having your phone turned off seems to be enough to warrant a police visit. An American student living in Taiwan wrote in a BBC article that he was visited by two police officers at 8:15 a.m. because his phone had run out of battery at 7:30 a.m. and the government had briefly lost track of him. The student was in quarantine at the time because he had arrived in Taiwan from Europe.
Austria is using anonymized data to map people’s movements
On March 17 Austria’s biggest telecoms network operator Telekom Austria AG announced it was sharing anonymized location data with the government.
The technology being used was developed by a spin-off startup out of the University of Graz, and Telekom Austria said it is usually used to measure footfall in popular tourist sites.
Woodhams told Business Insider that while collecting aggregated data sets is less invasive than other measures, how that data could be used in future should still be cause for concern.
“Much of the data may remain at risk from re-identification, and it still provides governments with the ability to track the movement of large groups of its citizens,” said Woodhams.
Poland is making people send selfies to prove they’re quarantining correctly
Google has also indicated it is taking part in discussions.
Sky News also reported the NHS and NHSX (the digital wing of the NHS) have been working on an opt-in contact tracing app. The app would work similarly to Singapore’s, using Bluetooth and self-reporting to establish whether you’ve been near someone with suspected coronavirus.
According to Sky, alerts will be sent out on a delay to stop individuals from being identified. The app will be released either just before or just after Britain’s lockdown is lifted.
Sig Sauer Inc. on Sep. 3, 2019, offered a first look at the automatic rifle and rifle prototypes for the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) effort, after the service selected the company to advance to the next phase of testing for the 6.8mm weapon system.
Sig Sauer, maker of the Army’s new Modular Handgun System, was selected recently along with General Dynamics-OTS Inc. and AAI Corporation Textron Systems to deliver prototypes of both the automatic rifle and rifle versions of the NGSW, as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds of special 6.8mm ammunition common to both weapons, to Army testers over the next 27 months.
The service plans to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin replacing M4A1 carbines and M249 squad automatic weapons in an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023, Army modernization officials have said.
As part of the NGSW effort, the Army tasked gunmakers to develop a common cartridge using the government-designed 6.8mm projectile.
Sig engineered a “completely new cartridge,” resulting in a “more compact round, with increased velocity and accuracy, while delivering a substantial reduction in the weight of the ammunition,” according to a Sept. 3, 2019 company news release.
Sig Sauer automatic rifle prototype (left) and rifle prototype (right) designed for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon.
(Sig Sauer photo)
The high-pressure, 6.8mm hybrid ammunition is a “significant leap forward in ammunition innovation, design and manufacturing,” Ron Cohen, president and CEO of Sig, said in the release.
Sig’s automatic-rifle version of the NGSW features a side-opening feed tray, increased available rail space for night vision and other accessories, and a folding buttstock. The rifle prototype features a free-floating, reinforced M-LOK handguard, side-charging handle, and fully ambidextrous controls, as well as a folding buttstock, according to the release.
Both prototypes will also feature a newly designed suppressor that “reduces harmful backflow and signature” during firing, the release states.
“The Sig Sauer NGSW-AR is lighter in weight, with dramatically less recoil than that currently in service, while our carbine for the NGSW-Rifle submission is built on the foundation of Sig Sauer weapons in service with the premier fighting forces across the globe,” Cohen said in the release. “Both weapons are designed with features that will increase the capabilities of the soldier.”
The new prototyping agreements call for each vendor to deliver 43 6.8mm NGSW automatic rifles and 53 NGSW rifles, as well as 845,000 rounds of 6.8mm ammunition, according to the original solicitation.
U.S. Army Pvt. David Bryant of the 3rd Squadron 71st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division mans his position behind his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
(U.S. Army photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Javier Amador, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs )
Textron announced Aug. 30, 2019, that it will lead a team that includes Heckler Koch for its small-arms design, research and development, and manufacturing capabilities. It will work with Olin Winchester for its small-caliber ammunition production capabilities.
Textron Systems’ rifle and auto-rifle prototypes will feature its signature case-telescoped ammunition technology developed under the Army’s Light Weight Small Arms Technology effort over the last decade.
“The design features improved accuracy and greater muzzle velocity for increased performance, as well as weight savings of both weapon and ammunition over current Army systems,” according to a recent Textron news release. “It also incorporates advanced suppressor technology to reduce the firing signature and improve controllability.”
Textron is not releasing any images of its NGSW prototypes at this time but plans on showing off the weapon system at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in October, company spokeswoman Betania Magalhaes told Military.com.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.
In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.
Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.
“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”
The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.
2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.
Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.
The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.
3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.
Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.
“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”
4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.
Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.
The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.
Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.
While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.
“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”
5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.
Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.
Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.
Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).
There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.
On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.
Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.
Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.
Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.
Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.
Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.
In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.
To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”
Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.
For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.
Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.
With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.
Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.
The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.
“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.
Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.
Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.
Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”
By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.
Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.
Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.
“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.
Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”
Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.
“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A Hawaii lawmaker and Army officer who was serving his first term in the U.S. Congress died July 20 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.
Congressman and Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Takai succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his home in Aiea surrounded by his family, USA Today reported. He was 49.
Takai was born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii. Before being elected to Congress, Takai represented his home district in the Hawaii state House of Representatives for 20 years. He joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 1999 and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.
The first-term Democrat announced earlier in 2016 that he would not seek re-election due to his condition.
His military service took him to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He first served as a company commander for the 29th Brigade Support Battalion and then as the Camp Mayor for Camp Patriot, Kuwait. He not only served in the military in Hawaii, he also represented the military in Hawaii, as his district included Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Fort Shafter.
“To honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must renew our commitments to those currently serving our nation, many currently in harm’s way around the world,” Takai said in a statement on Memorial Day. “Their willingness to answer the call of duty deserves our unwavering gratitude every day.”
Takai served on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Small Business. In November 2015, he introduced the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, extending government compensation to those affected by cleanup operations after bomb tests on Pacific islands.
Takai’s military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
“Today, the people of Hawai’i mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawai’i Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”
One thing that’s great about being in the military is you get legitimate, professional license to practice sneaking up on people. It’s the ten year old’s dream…and no adult has ever, in the history of maturity, grown out of it.
Pictured above is “Creeping With Intent To Scare Someone Crapless”, a perennial favorite. Note that it isn’t actually the raptor costume that makes this effective. This can be perpetrated to equal or greater effect “eu naturale.”
And here’s an example of the classic game, “Who’s Hunting Whom?” Watch closely. Which dog do you most identify with? Your answer to this question will force irrevocable conclusions to be drawn about your personality.
For instance, Max is Dog #1, the hunter of the hunter of the hunted.
Why is he Dog #1?
Because this is Max. Max doesn’t sneak. Kids sneak. Max stalks. Stalks like a fox. His prey? Other jocks. And he doesn’t wear socks. Max wears stalkings.
In this episode, Max gets down and dirty with the core-connected muscles that make it possible for you to low crawl toward your target and then lay down some suppressing fire from the prone position.
But admit it. You thought you’d sneak out today without doing PT. Well, sorry, but Max has been hunting your ass since lunch break. He’s got you in his crosshairs and there’s nowhere to run. Because he can take anything you cherished during childhood and turn it into a regimen for self-improvement (for example, rope swings).
Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks took bronze in the men’s pole vault in the XXXI Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil on Aug. 15 with a successful vault of 5.85 meters, about 19.2 feet.
Kendricks took the top spot in Olympic qualifications as the first competitor to hit 5.7 meters, about 18.7 feet. But all top nine jumpers hit 5.7 meters in the qualifications, including Kendricks’ top rivals, Renauld Lavillenie from France and Shawnacy Barber of Canada.
Lavillenie is the world record holder and took home the gold in the London Olympics in 2012 while Barber was ranked second worldwide.
Kendricks just missed his first attempt at 5.65 meters and his only one at 5.75. He hit his second attempt at 5.65 and then crossed 5.85, making his 5.75-meter struggles immaterial. Barber failed three times to clear 5.65, which knocked him out of the competition.
Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion and holder of the world pole vault record since 2014, entered the competition at 5.75 meters and cleared the bar easily, putting the pressure back on Kendricks.
Kendricks fought his way to 3rd with an impressive series of jumps, but he failed to beat the 5.93-meter bar to stay in the running for gold. Kendricks personal best is 5.92 meters.
Rio’s hometown hero, Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva, traded Olympic records with Lavillenie. When the dust settled, Silva was on top with a 6.03-meter jump, about 19.78 feet, for the gold while Lavillenie left at 5.98 meters for silver.
Kendricks made it to the podium partially in thanks to the assistance of his coach and father, Scott Kendricks, a 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps.
Another military pole vaulter, Air Force 1st Lt. Cale Simmons, was knocked out during the qualifiers after a disappointing 5.30-meter jump, not good enough for a berth in the Olympic finals.
“What happens if somebody knocks on the door of the Oval Office and says, ‘Mr. President, they’ve launched’?” Sen. Jim Risch said.
Mattis replied: “Our ballistic-missile-defense forces at sea and in Alaska and California … the various radars would be feeding in, and they would do what they’re designed to do as we make every effort to take them out.”
“The response — if that’s what you’re referring to — would, of course, depend on the president,” Mattis said. He explained that the president would see a “wide array” of options that included cooperation with US allies.
“Defenses will go,” Mattis said. “The president will be woken up or whatever, but our commands are — we rehearse this routinely.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added: “Some judgment would be made over whether a necessary and proportionate response is required.”
But neither Tillerson nor Mattis would categorically rule out a nuclear first strike on North Korea. Both made statements to the effect that if the US knew a North Korean nuclear attack on the US was imminent, President Donald Trump reserved the right to preempt it with a launch.
“The fact is that no president, Republican or Democrat, has ever forsworn the first-strike capability,” Tillerson said. “That has served us for 70 years.”