In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.
Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.
In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.
While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it feels more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.
The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.
To be relevant beyond a few news cycles, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy must:
7. Connect the strategy with geopolitical reality.
The most recent generation of strategies has repeatedly watered down the Pentagon’s force-sizing construct with each iteration — from the aspirational objective of fighting two wars at once to the declinist “defeat-and-deny” approach. Since a 2014 defense strategy was published, the dangers of a lack of credibility in American military power and political willpower have become evident in Ukraine, Iraq, and North Korea — just to name a few.
The newest defense strategy should emphasize three theaters of importance. As it is getting harder for planners to differentiate between war and peace, the need for a strong American presence in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East cannot be wished away as politically inconvenient. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails.
To effect this change, the strategy must clearly differentiate between forces and capabilities required to prevent a war versus those needed to win one. Unfortunately, the panoply of threats spanning from North Korean ICBMs to ISIS demands the American military maintain a broad array of capabilities.
6. Tie means with ends.
Even with declining force-sizing constructs, U.S. forces have largely continued to do all that they have done under previous super-sized strategies. The armed forces have been asked to do more with less, resulting in various missions being shortchanged, ignored, or dropped altogether as the supply of American military power is consistently outstripped by demand.
Consequentially, there is now a general dismissal of strategy because the reductions in force structure proposed in each iteration have not resulted in substantive changes in operations of the force. Nowhere is this more tragically clear than in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command. It is time to stop putting the cart before the horse by constructing budgets and then diving strategies, as the budget caps have encouraged but unrealistic strategies have exacerbated.
5. Identify what missions the military can stop doing.
Effective strategy is about choices and tradeoffs. In the last year, cargo shipments to Afghanistan were delayed due to hurricane relief, a private contractor evacuated U.S. troops after the fatal ISIS ambush in Niger, and the Air Force outsourced “red air” adversary training to non-military pilots. Instead of papering over these realities, the new strategy should identify what needs to be restored and which ancillary assignments may actually be more efficiently conducted outside the military.
Combat missions should not be exempt, either. For example, the sustained use of naval aviation to provide fire support to counterterror fights in the Middle East that could be resourced with light attack aircraft or artillery is expensive and ties up increasingly scarce aircraft carriers better employed elsewhere, particularly in Asia.
4. Prioritize among threats.
Claiming the five challenges of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and persistent counterterrorism operations are all equally important is not a strategy — it is the absence of one.
Policymakers must clearly rank the relative severity of these threats to help planners prioritize and make tradeoffs. Given the limited supply of American defense resources, not all of these threats can receive the same amount of attention or bandwidth — nor should they.
3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough.
The military needs more extant force structure and capabilities rather than an obsessive hunt for technological silver bullets. Putting too much stock in the wonder weapons of the future could be the military’s ruin — not its salvation — if it comes at the expense of immediate and medium-term needs.
If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Leaders should balance the acquisition risks introduced by speculative technological gambles with tried-and-true systems suited for immediate use to diminish any window of opportunity for aggression.
2. Recognize the Pentagon is a more than a Department of War — it is a Department of Defense.
As the largest federal agency, the Pentagon engages in a bewildering variety of deterrence and presence missions every day, in addition to fighting. It also supports part-time forces, families and children all over the world.
It is called the Department of Defense for a reason, and the strategy should reflect these large organizational, financial, educational, and bureaucratic demands. For example, while achieving reforms and efficiencies are noble goals, the belief that ongoing organizational changes will result in tens of billions in potential savings that can be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget has yet to be proven.
1. Finally, stop scapegoating Congress and tackle problems head-on.
While sequestration has degraded the military’s capacity and capability gaps and encouraged the self-destructive practice of constructing budgets before inventing strategies to justify them, budget caps must cease to be the blame for all the military’s woes.
An over-emphasis on budgetary neglect creates the false expectation that a higher topline alone will solve the Pentagon’s problems overnight. The National Defense Strategy will need to address not just America’s declining fiscal ability to support all instruments of national power, but also the deteriorating international situation. Higher spending can alleviate the former, but new investments will need to be tied to clear strategic goals to address the latter.
It took years for the Pentagon to realize its current predicament, and it will likewise be years before it overcomes its contemporary challenges. To get there will require a redoubled commitment to the military by Congress through stable, sustained, and sufficient defense funding. But the Pentagon must also do its part to ensure that when fiscal relief arrives, there is a thoughtful strategy in place commensurate with the multitude of threats assailing the United States today. Now is the time to go big and bold.
World military spending decreased steadily in the years after the 2008-2009 global financial crash but has risen in each of the five years since 2015, the latest in what SIPRI researcher Nan Tian described as four phases in military spending over the past 30 years.
The post-Cold War years saw spending decline in what many saw “as a peace-dividend period,” Tian said Tuesday during a webcast hosted by the Stimson Center and SIPRI.
That decline bottomed out around 2000, when the September 11 attacks prompted years of defense-spending increases that peaked around 2010 and 2011, Tian said. Spending fell again in the early 2010s.
“But more recently, in the last three years, we really see that spending has really picked up,” Tian said. “The reason is the US announcing really expensive modernization programs … and also the end of austerity measures in many of the world’s global spenders.”
US military spending grew by 5.3% in 2019 to a total of 2 billion — 38% of global military spending. The US’s increase in 2019 was equivalent to all of Germany’s military expenditure that year, SIPRI said.
Military spending in Asia has risen every year since 1989, with China and India, second and third on the list this year, leading the way. (Tian said SIPRI’s numbers for China are higher than Beijing’s because SIPRI includes spending it defines as “military-related.”)
“In the case of India and China, we’ve seen consistent increases over the last 30 years,” Tian said. “While India and China really [were] spending in the early 1990s far less than Western Europe … Chinese spending really starts to pick up since about 2000.”
China’s spending, now several times that of France or the UK, and India’s growing expenditures point to “a change in the global balance,” Tian said.
“Whereas a few years ago we saw … [for] the first time that there are no Western European countries in the top five spenders in the world, this is the first time where we see two Asian countries, in India and China, being within the top three spenders, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
Data is not available for all the countries in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest spender for which SIPRI could estimate totals. In terms of arms imports, the Middle East “has now the largest share it has ever had since 1950, as a region,” SIPRI senior researcher Siemon Wezeman said on the webcast.
“That’s partly related to ongoing conflicts [and] very strong tensions, Iran vs. the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia. It is a very strong driver of arms imports, especially by the Gulf States,” Wezeman added, noting that Iran, under arms embargo, is not a major weapons importer.
Most of Africa’s military spending, 57%, is done by North African countries. “They have the money,” Wezeman said, “especially Algeria, and Morocco to a lesser extent, are basically the big ones buying there.”
“Many of the other African countries buy a couple of armored vehicles — a helicopter here, a little aircraft there — and do that every few years. That’s basically their armed forces,” Wezeman said, adding that fighting insurgencies, like Boko Haram, or peacekeeping, as in Somalia, also drove increased military spending.
Sub-Saharan Africa has seen “extremely volatile spending” in recent years, related to the many armed conflicts there, Tian said.
“As countries need to fight … they need to allocate resources to the military. But conflicts, of course, are extremely destructive on a country’s economy,” Tian added. “So we see that countries are increasing spending one year, decreasing spending another year.”
Overall military expenditures by Western European nations fell slightly between 2010 and 2019, but Eastern European countries have increased their military spending by 35% over the past decade.
“Some of this is really down to a reaction to the perceived threats of Russia,” as well as the replacement of Soviet-era equipment and purchase of US and NATO equipment, Tian said.
“European countries, aside from seeing a bigger threat from Russia, also are going through a cycle of replacing their fourth-generation combat aircraft with fifth-generation combat aircraft. So there is a big load of new combat aircraft, mostly or almost all of them US-exported weapons, going to Europe,” Wezeman added.
But an economic contraction sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to bring down military expenditures.
“We’ve seen this historically following the ’08-’09 crisis, where many countries in Europe really cut back on military spending,” Tian said, noting that military spending as a share of GDP might increase if “GDP falls and spending doesn’t decrease as much as GDP.”
This time around, spending in Europe may “be stronger in the coming years” despite the coronavirus, Wezeman said, “because the contracts … in many cases have been signed.”
Below, you can see who the top 10 defense spenders were and how much of the world’s military expenditures they accounted for in 2019.
Being promoted within the US military’s noncommissioned officer rank is a special occasion in a service member’s career, after which they are entrusted by their commanders to lead junior enlisted service members and are assigned more responsibilities.
One Marine marked the special occasion with what appeared to be his 3-year-old son.
In a video posted online last year, a newly minted Marine sergeant marches to the front of a formation for his promotion ceremony, standing at attention as a senior Marine reads out a commander’s order outlining his new responsibilities.
“As a sergeant of Marines, you must set the example for others to emulate,” the senior Marine says. “You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission, and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of the Marines of your charge.”
After the order was read out, a child approaches the formation and says, quietly, “good afternoon, gentlemen,” before the promoted Marine kneels so the child can remove his chevrons and pin on the emblems of his new rank.
The two share an embrace before the son scurries away.
It’s not necessarily the ship that comes to mind when you think about America flexing its muscles abroad to project seapower and dominance.
But when the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle, known as “America’s Tall Ship,” came into port here [Oslo, Norway] May 5, 2019, for the first time since 1963, the locals were eager to see it. More than 1,300 people visited the ship May 5, 2019; the vessel sees 90,000 tourists each year, officials said.
The ship trains hundreds of cadets each summer on the basics of navigation and seamanship — something the service believes can still make a tough and ready Coastie despite the emergence of a near-peer power competition.
It’s not always about learning on the newest technology. The Coast Guard thinks some things are just meant to be done old school.
As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)
“They don’t come here to learn how to sail, although that is a bonus,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Johnson, the training cutter’s command chief, master-at-arms and food service officer for the last three years.
“We’re teaching you how to work as a team,” he said during an hour-long tour of the ship. “And it’s tradition.”
Two groups of 150 cadets each will soon embark on the service’s 12-week summer program. The first group is comprised of third-class cadets, the second of first-class cadets.
The cutter will likely hit its max capacity of 234 crew with each group; 50 enlisted and eight officers man the ship year round. Roughly 40 percent of the trainees are women, Johnson said.
The ship, which has only basic radars for navigation, will also host a number of international cadets during the training program. Members “from as far as Micronesia” have come to learn team building and leadership on the Eagle, designated WIX-327, he said.
Coast Guard Academy cadets learn how to furl sail on the Eagle‘s bowsprit under the tutelage of a petty officer while sailing among the British Virgin Islands in 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Life onboard the ship is meant to give cadets the “life as an enlisted person” experience, demanding strength and discipline, he said. They’ll climb to the top of the mainmast, which towers above the deck at 147 feet. Most cadets know that “someone still has to put the flag up” and furl the sail by hand.
“They still climb the rigging,” Johnson said, adding that the small boats need to be lowered by hand.
He said two cadets have gone overboard during his tenure: one while touching up the hull en route to Ireland and another who lost balance on the rigging and fell into the water.
“They’re both OK,” said Johnson, a 19-year veteran of the service.
Helm station on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle.
The cadets will take their meals in five shifts, retire to the berthing quarters to sleep, and leave the ship to explore cities when “there isn’t work that needs to be done,” he said.
The 295-foot vessel is rooted in training. Built in 1936, it was formerly known as the Horst Wessel and operated by Germany for its cadet training program during World War II before it was captured by the British in 1945. It was then traded to the U.S. a year later.
During a four-year service life extension program, completed last year, more than 1,500 square feet of original German hull plate was removed and replaced, Johnson said. The ship was home-ported in Baltimore, Maryland, while the upgrades were being finished.
The Eagle requires “constant maintenance,” and the cadets and crew know it, he said. During its 19-day trip across the Atlantic en route to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom last week, two sails split during bad weather. One split more than once.
The New York Fire Department vessel, Firefighter, honors the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as it rests anchored at the Statue of Liberty, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.
“I think they even got the sewing machines out” to fix them, Johnson said. There are layers of baggywrinkle — old, fringe-like rope — meant to protect the sails from chafing.
The ship has been largely Atlantic-based, sailing to the Caribbean and various European locations. The Eagle has visited Australia, but otherwise hasn’t made its way to other parts of the Pacific Rim. “Not yet, anyway,” Johnson said.
The Eagle, which can hit 17 knots max speed under sail, heads next to Kiel, Germany, to pick up the first summer class of cadets. It will then sail to Copenhagen, Denmark; Antwerp, Belgium; the Netherlands; the Azores; and finally back to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, which will be its homeport after this summer.
The German-turned-American trainer will also participate in events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 2019
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter..
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians here are working with a custom-made, next-generation robot that will pick apart bombs and study them.
Brokk — a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts with pieces of high-tech ordnance disposal machinery, as well as large construction demolition mechanics — replaces 20-year-old “Stewie,” the previous EOD robot.
EOD techs haven’t had a chance to fully test Brokk’s capabilities yet, but anticipate a live bombing exercise in the next few months will put it to work.
But the $1.3 million upgrade has been worth it so far, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, who said the older robot had him operating more like a mechanic than an EOD technician.
“I don’t have to mop up hydraulic fluid right now. I’m not fixing wires that have [overheated] because of the sun or that have deteriorated over the years,” among other issues, he said during a tour here. Military.com spoke with Hoagland during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.
The one-of-a-kind, electric-powered Brokk provides smooth extraction with its control arms, operated remotely from a mobile control trailer nearby, Hoagland said.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)
Some movements can be programmed into Brokk, which weighs around 10,000 pounds. But typically, it takes at least two airmen to operate a controller for each arm, plus another to steer the robot, he said. Technicians will watch a live video feed from cameras fastened to it.
Brokk will allow teams to dismantle bombs — often live — after a range test, in which munitions might have penetrated 30 feet or more underground.
EOD techs then collect data from the bomb, providing more information to the weapons tester on how the bomb dropped, struck its target and or detonated.
“Basically, [it’s] data to figure out what happened, and why the item didn’t perform the way it was supposed to,” Hoagland said. “We hope the test goes well. If it doesn’t, we then go in there with this and take care of it.”
The robot, made by Brokk Inc., was named after the Norse blacksmith “who forged Thor’s hammer,” according to a base press release in April 2018. Part of its arms were manufactured in conjunction with Kraft Telerobotics.
Hoagland said the service could incorporate a few more capabilities into Brokk in the future, depending on necessity.
The military doesn’t always get things straight and sometimes it takes a little nudge to right a wrong. In Daniel Crowley’s case, the military took 76 years to get his records straight. And the nudge was thanks to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society (ADBC-MS). But the 98-year old Connecticut citizen was there to be finally recognized.
On Monday, January 4, 2021, Crowley was awarded his long-overdue sergeant’s chevrons, his Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), and his Prisoner of War Medal.
The ceremony was held at the Bradley International Airport/Air National Guard hanger in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, which is home to the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing. Gregory Slavonic, the acting undersecretary of the Navy presided over the ceremony. He was assisted by his Executive Assistant G. J. Leland, a former commanding officer of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The two worked with the secretary of the Army to research and confirm all the awards and promotions that Mr. Crowley had earned during World War II, including his promotion to sergeant which he was never made aware of.
Crowley enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1940. He said that he was hoping to see the world at the government’s expense. In March 1941, he was assigned to Nichols Field, in Manila in the Philippines. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they bombed the Americans in the Philippines as well, destroying the airfield and the aircraft stationed there. The Americans were shuttled over to the Bataan Peninsula.
Crowley served on Bataan, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December 1941, as a member of the Army Air Corps. When those units were turned into the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan, he fought there until the Americans, out of food, ammunition, and medicine, surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.
But Crowley wasn’t done fighting. He and several other troops refused to surrender. They hid among the rocks along the shore, and by doing so, missed the horrific Bataan Death March. At night, they swam the treacherous, shark-infested waters for three miles over to the Corregidor bastion that was still fighting the Japanese. There, he fought with the 4th Marines against the Japanese until they too surrendered about a month later. Read Next: New Leaders, New Direction: Reinvented MIA Agency Impresses
The Japanese brought the prisoners back to Manila and forced them to march through the streets in what was characterized as the walk of shame. Then they were shuttled off to Camp Cabanatuan. Conditions at Cabanatuan were horrific. To escape that, Crowley and others volunteered to work to help build a Japanese airfield on Palawan Island. There, they build an airstrip using only hand tools.
Coincidentally, the remaining POWs in Cabanatuan were rescued in one of the most daring and successful Special Operations raids in our history. In January 1945, before the Japanese could execute the POWs, members of the 6th Ranger Battalion under the command of Henry Mucci raided the camp and rescued them.
In March 1944, after Crowley and the other soldiers had finished working on the airstrip, they were shipped off to Japan to provide slave labor in a copper mine.
Crowley was released from hellish captivity on September 4, 1945. He returned to his Connecticut home and family. In April 1946, he was honorably discharged from the Army at Ft. Devens, MA.
The ADBC-MS is the leading voice for Pacific War veterans and their families. It promotes education and scholarship about the POW experience in the Pacific. It supports programs of reconciliation and understanding and advocates for a Congressional Gold Medal for the POWs of Japan.
Of the 26,000 American POWs who were prisoners of the Japanese, more than 11,000 (over 40 percent), died or were murdered in captivity. By comparison, only 1.5 percent of the POWs captured by the Germans died in captivity.
In honor of Mr. Crowley and the other POWs, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has proclaimed January 4, Pacific War Heroes Day.
We would like to thank Mindy Kolter from ADBC-MS, who furnished SOFREP with the details of Mr. Crowley’s story. You can watch a video on Mr. Crowley below.
“We must act decisively to fully understand both the nature of these attacks and how to prevent further loss of vital military information,” he added.
Although the secretary did not mention China specifically, evidence indicates that Beijing is responsible for what is considered a debilitating cyber campaign against the US.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.
In 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post, citing US officials, reported in June 2018.
China has been striving to boost its naval warfighting capabilities, and there is evidence that it is relying on stolen technology to do so.
And it’s not just the US Navy. Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018 that Beijing is “stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”
China is believed to have been behind multiple cybersecurity breaches that facilitated the theft of significant amounts of data on the F-22 and the F-35, among other aircraft. That information is suspected to have played a role in the development of China’s new fifth-generation stealth fighters.
Beijing denies that it engages in any form of cyberespionage.
A senior US intelligence official warned Dec. 11, 2018, that concerning Chinese cyberactivity in the US is clearly on the rise, and there is evidence that China is targeting critical infrastructure to lay the groundwork for disruptive attacks, Reuters reported.
National Security Agency official Rob Joyce, a former White House cyber advisor for President Donald Trump.
And US officials say Chinese state hackers are responsible for a data breach at Marriott that affected 500 million customers, according to recent reports. The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized Beijing for the alleged theft of US intellectual property that’s worth several hundred billion dollars a year, one of several sticking points in the ongoing trade spat.
The breaching of US defense contractor networks is particularly problematic as China modernizes its force, building a military capable to challenge the US.
“It’s extremely hard for the Defense Department to secure its own systems,” Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, told The Journal. “It’s a matter of trust and hope to secure the systems of their contractors and subcontractors.”
Contractors and subcontractors across the entire military lack the desired cybersecurity capabilities and regularly suffer serious breaches, an intelligence official said.
The most active Chinese hackers are reportedly a group known as Temp.Periscope or Leviathan, which is focused on maritime interests but also hits other targets.
One defense official told The Journal that China was targeting America’s “weak underbelly,” calling cybersecurity breaches “an asymmetric way to engage the United States without ever having to fire a round.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Times’ journalists scanned the locations of nearly 150 coalition airstrikes across northern Iraq and found the rate of civilian deaths to be more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.
Such negligence — a combination of simply flawed and outdated intelligence — amounted to what the Times noted “may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”
Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Department of Defense agency overseeing the US-led coalition, said “US and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes.” He told the Times that the US has been “conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.”
The reality on the ground reportedly tells a much different story.
Data from coalition forces reported Iraqi civilian deaths have resulted in about one of every 157 airstrikes. The Times found that civilians were killed in one out of every five.
Basim Razzo was almost one of the victims, according to the Times. In September 2015, Razzo was sleeping in his bed in Mosul — then under ISIS control — when a US coalition airstrike reduced much of his home to a heap of rubble. He awoke drenched in blood. The roof of his house had been torn apart. Worst of all, he didn’t know if his family had been hurt. He soon discovered his wife, daughter, brother, and nephew had been killed.
Later that day, the US coalition uploaded a video to YouTube entitled, “Coalition Airstrike Destroys Daesh VBIED Facility Near Mosul Iraq 20 Sept 2015.” The military claimed it had successfully demolished an ISIS car-bomb factory, but it now appears they actually struck the homes of Razzo and his brother, killing four innocent civilians in the process.
Human rights concerns
In July, the Iraqi Army liberated Mosul from ISIS forces, but people like Razzo couldn’t move on. Many still live with the fear of being misidentified as ISIS sympathizers, and the tragedy of losing innocent loved ones.
“We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the Central Command, told the Times regarding civilian casualties. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”
That’s not enough for human rights organizations, who often criticize coalition forces for poor reporting procedures that leave dozens, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of dead civilians unaccounted for. Human Rights Watch also called on President Donald Trump to do more to protect civilians abroad as news surfaced that he was modifying US military rules of engagement with suspected terrorists.
“Trump’s reported changes for targeting terrorism suspects will result in more civilian deaths with less oversight and greater secrecy,” Letta Tayler, a HRW researcher, said earlier this month. “The US should be increasing civilian protections off the battlefield, not dismantling them.”
A US soldier accused of supporting the Islamic State believed that Hitler was right, the moon landings were fake, and 9/11 was an inside job.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Erik Kang, arrested by an FBI SWAT team over the weekend after being accused of attempting to aid ISIS, was a noted conspiracy theorist, according to a soldier who knew him.
His former Army bunkmate from 2013, Dustin Lyles, told The Associated Press that he and Kang practiced martial arts together and discussed conspiracy theories, particularly the idea that the US staged the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Kang, who belongs to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and worked as an air traffic control operator, pledged allegiance to ISIS, and attempted to send classified and unclassified military documents to members of the terror group. He had no idea that these supposed members were actually undercover FBI agents.
Kang apparently told a confidential human source as recently as March that “Hitler was right, saying he believed in the mass killing of Jews,” according to court filings. He also said that America was the only terrorist organization in the world.
In addition to embracing conspiracy theories, Kang sought to provide support to ISIS in numerous ways, including wanting to provide combat training to help ISIS members.
Kang’s long history of strange statements and support for ISIS resulted in him losing his security clearance in 2012. For an unknown reason, his security clearance was reinstated in 2013 after he “complied with military requirements stemming from the investigation.” The Army finally referred Kang’s case to the FBI in 2016 for more serious investigation, which culminated in an arrest.
The Army declined to elaborate to The Daily Caller News Foundation on why Kang was permitted to regain his clearance after making pro-ISIS comments.
The past year has been a busy time for the US Army.
US soldiers remained engaged in operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and took the lead in multi-national training exercises throughout the world. Army veterans received high honors during a memorial to the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, while one Afghanistan veteran received the Medal of Honor.
The Army compiled a year in photos to show what they were doing 2014.
These are some of the most amazing photographs of the Army from the past year.
In March, members of the US Army Parachute Team conducted their annual certification test.
The past year saw the first instance of the Spartan Brigade, an airborne combat team, training north of the Arctic Circle. Here, paratroopers move to their assembly area after jumping into Deadhorse, Alaska.
Elsewhere, in Alaska’s Denali National Park, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, hiked across Summit Ridge on Mount McKinley to demonstrate their Arctic abilities.
Beyond the frozen north, the Army took part in training exercises around the world. In Germany, members of Charlie Company trained Kosovo authorities in how to respond to firebombs and other incendiary devices.
Charlie Company also fired ceremonial rounds from their M1A2 Abrams tanks during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Latvia. US forces were in the country to help reassure NATO allies in the Baltic as well as provide training to Lavia’s ground forces in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Members of the US Army, Marines, and Alaska National Guard also participated alongside the Mongolian Armed Forces in the multi-national Khaan Quest 2014 exercise in Mongolia.
Even with the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan, US Army personnel are still active in the Middle East. Here, a soldier loads rockets into an AH-64 Apache during a Forward Arming and Refueling Point exercise in Kuwait.
Linguistic and cultural training for the Army is also continuing. Here, ROTC cadets participate in a training mission in Africa through the US Army Cadet Command’s Culture and Language Program.
Here, an M1A2 tank drives past a camel during multi-national exercises in the Middle East.
This past year marked the end of US-led combat operations in Afghanistan. In this picture, US Special Forces soldiers fight alongside the Afghan National Army against Taliban insurgents.
Here, US Army soldiers go on a patrol in Sayghani, Parwan province, Afghanistan to collect information on indirect fire fire attacks against Bagram Air Field, outside of Kabul.
Throughout 2014 US Army Rangers engaged in constant training operations to maintain their tactical proficiency.
Here, Rangers fire a 120mm mortar during a tactical training exercise in California.
An MH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment provides close air support for Army Rangers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conducting direct action operations during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, California.
A Ranger carrying an M24 rappels down a wall during a demonstration at an Army Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Rangers took part in the grueling Best Ranger competition at Camp Rogers, Fort Benning, Georgia. Through a series of physical challenges, the event finds the best two-man team in the entire US Army.
US Army Medics also competed in the All-American Best Medic Competition, a series of tactical and technical proficiency tests.
Everyone in the army receives combat training, whatever their job may be. Here, Pfc. Derek Evans, a food service specialist, engages targets during a live-fire waterborne gunnery exercise
Training exercises allow the Army to maintain its readiness for all possible battlefield scenarios. In this scenario, MH-47G Chinook helicopter move watercraft over land or water to a point of deployment.
Soldiers were picked up by a Black Hawk helicopter as part of a survival training exercise called Decisive Action Rotation 14-09.
Here, a soldier from the California Army National Guard takes part in Warrior Exercise 2014, a combat training mission.
The Army National Guard had a busy 2014 responding to natural disasters. Here, members of the Washington National Guard’s 66th Theater Aviation Command respond to wildfires.
Members of the Oregon National Guard trained in firing the main gun of an Abrams M1A2 System Enhanced Package Tank during combat readiness exercises.
One member of the Army received the nation’s highest recognition for combat bravery. On May 13, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to former US Army Sgt. Kyle White for his actions in Afghanistan.
On May 28, newly commissioned second lieutenants celebrated commencement at the US Military Academy, at West Point, New York.
The past year also marked the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. To honor America’s role in liberating France from the Nazis, a French child dressed as a US soldier held a salute on the sands of Omaha Beach for 2 hours.
You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.
For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”
According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.
“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”
The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.
“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”
“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.
The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.
At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.
Good news, Marines. On Nov. 27, 2017, MARADMIN 644/17 was signed and with it comes a few changes to your uniforms and seabags.
The first, and perhaps most widely applicable change, is that watch caps, combat utility gloves, and inserts are to be placed on the minimum requirement list for seabags. This means that each and every Marine needs to keep these handy.
In addition to putting a few more required items in the Marine seabag, MARADMIN 644/17 includes a few changes to the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform. One of these changes is yet another something for which your commanding officer can get on your ass. The document will:
Authorize commanders to direct the MCCUU blouse be tucked into the MCCUU trousers in a neat manner, when doing so will enable Marines to deploy and employ mission critical equipment.
The justification for this change is that by tucking in the MCCUU blouse, Marines will be able to more easily deploy military police belts, duty belts, or pistol belts, expanding that tactical toolbox just a tiny bit further.
MARADMIN 644/17 is also helping unmanned aircraft operators get a little more credit. Starting now, both enlisted and officers who pilot drones can wear the unmanned aircraft systems breast insignia on Marine Corps uniforms. Recognizing the troops behind the controls of unmanned aircraft is becoming more important as drone warfare becomes more prevalent. In fact, the US Air Force recently updated their awards to ensure that drone pilots would get their just honors.
Finally, the document also mandates that combat instructors at the School of Infantry East/West and The Basic School should have an additional pair of hot weather Marine Corps Combat Boots. Expect a slight bump to supplementary allowances to get these boots in your bag.