The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

After Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer made a special holiday appearance with troops deployed in Afghanistan, people in the military community took notice, and exception, to a picture of him with a pistol holstered on his thigh.


According to the Marine Corps, Spencer addressed a group of servicemembers at Camp Shorab, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Dec.23 with other top Marines, including Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald Green.

A photo of the gathering shows a group of servicemembers listening to Spencer, who appears to have a pistol that resembles the Beretta M9 — a standard-issue pistol used by many in the military — on a holster attached to his right thigh.

“Can someone explain why the [civilian] head of the Navy is wearing a sidearm,” CNN correspondent Barbara Starr asked on Twitter in response to the photo.

 

Spencer was reportedly offered the pistol and ammunition from Marine commanders, according to a Navy spokesman cited in a San Diego Tribune report.

“He was offered the weapon to carry while he was traveling around [Afghanistan] and he accepted that offer,” the spokesman told The Tribune. “It was not something that he specifically requested and it was offered to everybody on the travel team.”

Senior military officials and VIPs are typically accompanied by an armed military personal-security detachment (PSD) or contractors for visits to combat zones. While it would not be out of the ordinary to see a uniformed senior military official carrying a pistol in a combat zone, as a civilian, some people viewed Spencer himself carrying a weapon as an unorthodox move.

Spencer was sworn in in August to become the Navy Secretary — a president-appointed and Senate-confirmed position held by a civilian to oversee all of the Navy’s operations. As a former H-46 Sea Knight pilot in the US Marine Corps, Spencer would have most likely been familiar with a pistol; however, would most likely not have been the M9, which was fielded to the military after he completed his service.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks with Marines and Sailors assigned to Task Force Southwest at Camp Shorab, Afghanistan, Dec. 23, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

“It’s odd for a senior civilian political appointee to carry a weapon in a combat zone,” Phillip Carter, the director of the Center for a New American Security’s Military, Veterans, and Society research program, told The Tribune. “But if you’re going to carry then you should do so safely, with proper training, including both weapons [qualification] and [rules of engagement] training.”

Some saw his decision to arm himself as a form of showboating:

 

 

 

 

Also Read: Former Marine Corps captain is new Navy Secretary nominee

While others pointed to the inherent dangers of being in a combat zone:

 

 

 

Although the military is allowed to issue firearms to trained federal civilian employees, it was unclear whether Spencer received authorization from appropriate leadership or if he was certified to carry a firearm, The Tribune reported.

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North Korea blasts US arsenal in fresh propaganda video

A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.


In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.

Also read: The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.

The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
Screenshot via uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.

The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.

Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China parks unmanned vehicle on dark side of the moon

China has landed on the far side of the moon, according to state media, in a giant step for humankind — and a step towards China’s desire to match the United States and Russia in space exploration. The unmanned Chang’e 4 probe reportedly touched down on the moon at 10:26 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2019, according to China Central Television.

The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on Dec. 8, 2018, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and its sister relay satellite has been in orbit since May 2018.


China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the Chang’e 4 probe entered a planned elliptical orbit some 9 miles from the surface on Dec. 30, 2018, in preparation for a soft landing on the the South Pole-Aitken basin.

Six payloads

According to the award-winning US space author and journalist Leonard David, upon landing, the robotic probe will survey the geography, geology, and atmosphere on the previously unexplored moonscape.

Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces us down here on Earth. The side that does not face Earth is called the “dark side” not because it’s pitch black, because it’s lesser-known.

‘Dark side’ of the moon: China’s Chang’e 4 probe makes historic landing

www.youtube.com

The Chang’e 4 mission is to shed light on the dark side. This will include surveying terrain, mineral composition, and shallow lunar surface structure, along with other scientific observations, according to David.

The Chang’e 4 mission totes six kinds of scientific payloads, David says: “On the lander, it carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS). There are three kinds of payloads on the rover, the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).”

China’s space ambitions

President Xi Jinping wants to make China a space powerhouse within the next decade. Conquering the moon’s mysteries has been an early and critical first goal of China’s ambitious space program.

In 2013, China became the third country after the US and the former Soviet Union to “soft-land” on the moon.

The US made its own incredible firsts this week. On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past the most distant place ever explored by humankind — a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system.

President Donald Trump has vowed to strengthen America’s supremacy in space, saying he wants to go back to the moon, and proposing a Space Force branch of the military.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Navy sub-hunting aircraft joins search for EgyptAir wreckage

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone


A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft joined the search Thursday over the Mediterranean for EgyptAir Flight 804 which went missing on a Paris to Cairo flight, the Pentagon said.

The P-3, flying out of Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, was the only U.S. military asset involved in the search thus far, said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. The U.S. did not have any ships in the area and there were no immediate plans to send any, Cook said.

“At this point, it’s just the aircraft that’s involved,” he said at a Pentagon briefing.

The four-engine turboprop planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. have been maritime surveillance and submarine hunting workhorses for the Navy for decades. The aircraft features a distinctive tail antenna, or “MAD Boom,” for the underwater magnetic detection of submarines and other objects below the surface.

EgyptAir Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN that what was believed to be the plane’s wreckage had been found in the Mediterranean about 160 miles north of the Egyptian coast. He said the search and rescue operation was on the verge of “turning into a “search and recovery” mission.

The signal from the EgyptAir Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew was lost at about 2:30 a.m. early Thursday local time as it began its approach to Cairo. None of the passengers were listed on terror watch lists and three security officials were on board the aircraft, according to CNN.

Cook declined to speculate on whether terrorism may have been involved but said U.S. law enforcement agencies were in contact with the Egyptians.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations for the disappearance of the aircraft.

“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 17 edition)

Now: This ill-fated PR flight kept the B-70 Valkyrie from changing Air Force history

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The 30th woman to attempt Marines’ Infantry Officer Course is dropped

A female Marine officer was dropped from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course when she failed to complete a ruck march for the second time. The unidentified Marine was the 30th woman to attempt the course. Two male officers dropped out during the same ruck march.


The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
A female Marine goes through infantry training in Germany. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps by Sgt. Tyler L. Main)

All three officers will move to the Marines Awaiting Training Platoon and will be able to restart training in July, according to Marine Corps spokesman Anton Semelroth.

While this is the 30th female Marine to drop out of training, she will be the first to be allowed to re-attempt the course. Only officers seeking an infantry MOS are allowed to restart the course. Previous female candidates were destined for non-infantry jobs and so were not allowed to repeat.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
Marine Corps officers in the Infantry Officer Course. Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

While women have made it through other challenging U.S. courses like the U.S. Army Ranger School and the Marine Corps’ enlisted infantry training, Marine Corps IOC has consistently stopped them. So far, only two women have even made it to the second week of the training.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus maintains that the standards will not be dropped so that women can make it through the course.

“I will never lower standards,” Mabus said.  “Let me repeat that: Standards will not be lowered for any group! Standards may be changed as circumstances in the world change, but they’ll be changed for everybody.”

Articles

The Navy may park its most advanced ship on Kim Jong Un’s doorstep

The U.S. offered to send its “most advanced warship” to the Korean Peninsula to curb threats from North Korea, South Korean defense officials revealed.


The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (U.S. Navy)

Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, suggested stationing the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt at a South Korean naval base at either Jeju Island or Jinhae to deter North Korea, Ministry of Defense spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press conference Monday.

The $4 billion multipurpose destroyer is armed with SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons.

Responding to North Korean provocations, South Korea has been calling on the U.S. to deploy strategic assets to the peninsula on a permanent basis. Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and around two dozen ballistic missile tests last year, and 2017 began with multiple threats of an impending intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“A deployment of strategic assets is something that we can certainly consider as a deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and military threats,” Moon explained, “We haven’t received any official offer in regard to the deployment of the Zumwalt, but if the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration.”

“If the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration,” he further said.

Some observers believe Harris’ proposal should not be taken literally and should, instead, be treated as a sign that the U.S. is committed to defending South Korea.

Given some of the Zumwalt’s issues, it is questionable whether the U.S. would actually deploy the Zumwalt to the Korean Peninsula.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured South Korea this weekend that the U.S. will stand by it against North Korea. “The United States stands by its commitments, and we stand with our allies, the South Korean people,” he explained.

“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region, Mattis added, “America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

Mattis reportedly agreed to send strategic assets to the peninsula.

The U.S. is expected to send the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying carrier strike group, as well as strategic bombers, to South Korea to take part in the Key Resolve military exercise.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The long and difficult road to changing Feres Doctrine

In high school, Jordan Way played football and lacrosse, as well as participating in ballroom dancing. He worked with the school’s Best Buddies program, partnering with special needs students in a mentoring capacity. “One of our nicknames for him was ‘Adventure,'” said his father, Dana Way. “Hiking, fishing, shooting, bow and arrows — he did not turn down a challenge.” Jordan was devoted to his family and devoted to his role as a U.S. Navy corpsman.

Yet only four years into his time in the Navy, Jordan was dead from opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at the military hospital at Twentynine Palms Base. His parents were shocked to discover that a longstanding legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine prevented them from suing the government for medical malpractice.


“My son never left the United States,” said Suzi Way, Jordan’s mother. “He was not in a war situation. He was having routine surgery, and he died. And he has no voice because of the Feres Doctrine.”

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

U.S. Navy sailor Jordan Way died following shoulder surgery and while under the care of military medical professionals.

(Photos courtesy of Suzi Way.)

Jordan was one of thousands affected by the Feres Doctrine in the 70 years it has been in effect. But as of Dec. 20, 2019, active duty military personnel will finally have legal recourse in cases of medical malpractice. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, which includes a new mechanism holding the Department of Defense accountable for medical malpractice in military medical facilities. It was a hard-fought battle, but one that has potentially far-reaching consequences for service members who suffer from negligent care.

In 1950, the case Feres v. United States was heard and decided by the Supreme Court. The court held that the United States cannot be sued by active duty personnel under the Federal Torts Claims Act for injuries sustained due to medical negligence. As clarified four years later in United States v. Brown, “The peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors, the effects of the maintenance of such suits on discipline, and the extreme results that might obtain if suits under the Tort Claims Act were allowed for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty, led the Court to read that Act as excluding claims of that character.”

Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing the Way family as well as other families that have been affected by Feres, saw this as a fundamental insult to the civil rights of active duty service members and has been fighting to change the precedent through an act of Congress. “We consider ourselves a superpower, but our military has less rights than our civilians, and less rights than other countries, our allies,” Khawam said. “Shame on us.”

Dana Way vociferously agreed. “Our active duty servicemen who volunteer by signing that line — where in that document does it say, ‘I give up my Constitutional rights’?”

In eighth-grade Pop Warner football, Jordan Way severely broke his wrist. “His hand was hanging almost 180 degrees off his arm,” said his mother Suzi. She added that he was a longtime “fitness nut” and injured his shoulder in 2017. His parents wanted him to return home to see the surgeon who had fixed his wrist years earlier. But as a corpsman, Jordan trusted in the team of military medical professionals who would be overseeing his care.

This proved to be a mistake. Following the shoulder surgery, Jordan was left in agony. Five hours after the surgery, he went to the emergency room and lost consciousness from the pain. ER doctors increased his oxycodone dosage and sent him home. The next day, when nothing had improved, his surgeon increased the dosage again. But the doctors had all failed to see what was happening.

“He was getting the physical effects of the opioids; he was not getting the analgesic pain relief,” explained Dana. As a result, the high dosage of oxycodone left his body unable to move food through his digestive tract — he was not processing any nutrients. He became hypoglycemic and his organs began to shut down. In the end, he fell asleep and never woke up.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

Jordan Way, back row center, with his family.

(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)

“These doctors, they didn’t maliciously kill our son,” Suzi said. “I pray for them all the time because I know they have to go to bed at night with the woulda, coulda, shoulda. But they also didn’t help Jordan. They were negligent. They were complacent. They didn’t do their jobs.”

After a long and arduous process of trying to determine what exactly had happened to their son, Army Colonel Louis Finelli, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director, admitted to the Ways that Jordan’s case was a “preventable and avoidable death.”

Dana Way sees the Feres Doctrine as a roadblock to quality medical care within the military. “The people in power know ultimately nobody’s going to get held responsible for it,” he said. “If you’re active duty military, you’re essentially a piece of equipment. You are a typewriter, you’re a calculator. If you break, you get thrown into a pile and they move on to the next one. To me, that’s wrong.”

Although Feres has not been overturned, it will be substantially diminished in scope by the NDAA signed last week. Service members will still be unable to sue in federal court for damages caused by medical malpractice, as was originally proposed in the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. That act was part of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, named after another of Khawam’s clients who is battling terminal stage 4 lung cancer. Instead, active duty military personnel will be able to submit claims to the Department of Defense itself.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

Rich Stayskal and lawyer Natalie Khawam in Washington.

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Khawam.)

Khawam sees this as an unmitigated victory. “I don’t think anybody will be upset that they can’t go to federal court if they have the remedy, the recourse, of federal court decisions,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.” As specified in the NDAA, the Department of Defense will be held to the same standards as those outlined in the Federal Torts Claims Act, and Khawam hopes that it will actually lead to much faster resolution of claims than if the cases were to be seen in federal court.

In its original form as the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, all claims would have been seen in federal court, but that proposal faced a roadblock from Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham was a staunch opponent of any changes to the Feres Doctrine, stating that such changes would be like “opening Pandora’s Box.” Despite a concerted effort among Stayskal and his advocates, any attempt to contact Graham was met with “crickets,” according to Khawam.

In an innovative tactical maneuver, by taking the process out of federal courts and into the Department of Defense itself, the proposal was approved by the far-more-amenable Senate Armed Services Committee. By doing an end-run around Graham, the act, in its new form, made it into the final reconciled version of the NDAA and was signed into law by the President.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

Jordan Way’s funeral.

(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)

Fittingly, Trump was revered by Jordan Way, who was buried with a Trump/Pence button on his dress uniform. Given their struggle to get answers about their son’s death from the military, Suzi Way is wary that claims will now be handled by the Department of Defense. “I know how exhausting it has been for my husband and I to find out how and why our son died. That took hundreds of phone calls, hundreds of emails to our elected officials, hundreds of emails to DOD from the very top of the food chain down. How can one ensure the standards are being upheld if they are standards that are privileged to the DOD’s eyes only?”

Khawam, however, is “on cloud nine,” she said. “I feel like it’s been Christmas every day. 70 years of this awful injustice — I felt like it was this locked-up vault that everybody kept saying, ‘It’s never going to change, it’s never going to change.’ And we finally unlocked that vault and cracked it open.”

Of course, “now the work starts from here,” Khawam added. The next step is actually pursuing the claims for Stayskal, Way, and others who have been denied legal recourse because of the Feres Doctrine.

Even Suzi Way, despite her hesitance about the final form of the bill, is glad that there has been momentum. “I went to bed last night,” she said, “and for the first time in almost two years, I didn’t hear Jordan in my mind saying, ‘Mom, I did nothing wrong. I did everything the doctors told me to do, let people know!’ My son’s voice is being heard that was once silenced due to Feres, and this is balm to my grieving soul.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US calls off search for F-35 that disappeared in the Pacific

The US military announced it is calling off its search for an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific this time last month.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019, the first time this version of the F-35 has crashed. The US sent the destroyer USS Stethem, P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and a U-2 spy plane to assist Japan in its search for the fifth-generation fighter and its pilot. Later, a US Navy salvage team joined the hunt.

The destroyer and maritime patrol aircraft scoured 5,000 square nautical miles of ocean over a period of 182 hours at sea before concluding their search. The Navy salvage team managed to recover the flight recorder and parts of the cockpit canopy.


The US Navy is ending its support in the search for the missing fighter, US 7th Fleet announced May 8, 2019. Japan is, however, planning to continue looking for the aircraft.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

“We will continue our search and recovery of the pilot and the aircraft that are still missing, while doing utmost to determine the cause,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced, according to Japanese media. It is unclear if, or at what point, Japan would abandon the search.

It is highly unusual for a country to continue the search for a missing military pilot longer than a week, with near certainty they are dead and that the ships and planes have more pressing missions than finding a body in thousands of miles of ocean. But this is the first time an F-35 stealth fighter has gone missing and some observers have said the missing plane would be an intelligence windfall to rivals like China.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the most expensive weapon in the world today. It’s secrets are well protected, but currently, one of these fighters is in pieces on the ocean floor. Amid speculation that it might be vulnerable, both US and Japanese defense officials dismissed the possibility of another country, such as Russia or China getting its hands on the crashed fighter.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Dying soldier’s organs save the lives of two other veterans

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
(Whalen family photo)


“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.” – Minot J. Savage

On Saturday December 19th Staff Sergeant Matthew James Whalen suffered a massive stroke from which doctors determined he would not recover. The family decided to remove the 35-year-old four-combat-tour veteran from life support once they knew that his organs could save the lives of others.

Later, they would find out that two recipients were veterans.

This video posted by friend Sean Hatton shows Honor Guard and former service members standing at attention in the halls of Plaza Fort Worth Medical Center as Whalen was wheeled past them en-route to his last heroic act. The emotional clip has been viewed over 10 million times and shared close to a quarter-million times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCvbMYtUtMI

Whalen is survived by his wife, Hannah and three children: Logan, Mattix, and Sadie. A GoFundMe page was set up by friends to help provide for them, and pay for Matt’s hospital bills. To date, over $78,000 has been raised. In an update to donors, Brandon Bledsoe, the campaign’s originator wrote: “You have done God’s work, you have shown compassion to the reaches that only the best of humanity can achieve. You have helped a family in need, whether you knew them or not.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.


In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.

The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.

The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.

The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.

Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.

Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.

The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.

Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”

Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”

Also Read: A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.

Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.

The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.

Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.

In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.

“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone
ISIS in Syria.

Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.

“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”

Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.

Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.

McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marines take the Humvee’s replacement out for a spin

Multiple units on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton have started to introduce the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to their Marines by teaching them the basic operations of one of the Marine Corps’ newest ground vehicles.

“The JLTV is a lot more capable than the Humvee,” said Mario Marin, the JLTV lead instructor with the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course. “The ability for the driver to actually manipulate the system itself, using what’s called a MUX panel, a multi-plex panel, or the driver smart display. The driver has, at his finger tip, a lot of control of the vehicle. It has a lot of technological advances that the Humvee does not, and that is just your basic JLTV.”


The JLTV is meant to replace the Humvee all across the Department of Defense. The JLTV is equipped with more highly evolved technology compared to the basic equipment of a Humvee.

The JLTV is mechanically reliable, maintainable with on-board diagnostics, all terrain mobile, and equipped to link into current and future tactical data nets.

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marine Lance Cpl. Xavier Puente, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, listens to an instructor during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marines familiarize themselves with the inside of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marines take notes in a class during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marine Pfc. Nailey Riviere, a motor vehicle operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, loosens a bolt on the wheel of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marines conduct cone skill drills during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marines conduct cone skill drills during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marines drive Joint Light Tactical Vehicles at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

US Marines drive a Joint Light Tactical Vehicles through the water at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

A US Marine parks a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, October 24, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

“This license is better than any other license that I’ve had,” said Cpl. Devonte Jacobs, a motor vehicle operator with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “This vehicle is capable of doing a lot more than any other vehicle, and it will help Marines become better.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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2 Americans killed, 2 wounded during heavy fighting in Afghanistan

The U.S. Central Command has announced that two American service members were killed and two more wounded during fighting in the Kunduz District of Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 3.


“On behalf of all U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives today. Our wounded soldiers are receiving the best medical care possible and we are keeping them and their families in our thoughts today, as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A, said in a press release. “Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation.”

Afghan government and insurgent forces are fighting fiercely for Kunduz District, an area near the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz is a six-hour drive down Afghanistan Highway 76 from Kabul, the country’s capital. The city is one of Afghanistan’s largest.

Dozens of civilians were also killed in the fighting on Nov. 3, according to the New York Times. The incident is under investigation, but it is believed that most of the civilians killed and wounded were victims of an errant airstrike. Both U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting airstrikes during the fighting in Kunduz.

“As part of an Afghan operation, friendly forces received direct fire and air strikes were conducted to defend themselves,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told Reuters.

“We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.”

The Taliban told Retuers in a statement that Afghan commandos and U.S. troops were on a raid to capture a rebel commander when the fight took place.

The area was fiercely contested for most of Afghanistan’s so-called fighting season in 2016. Kunduz district was hit by a force of 100 or more fighters in July, and the Taliban took the Khanabad district of Kunduz province for a short period in August. The Kunduz district center even fell to the Taliban for a brief period in 2015 before being recaptured by Afghan forces.

It is Department of Defense policy not to release the names of killed service members until 24 hours after the next of kin has been notified.

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