Russia has warned the United States that it will retaliate immediately if Syrian government forces come under fire from positions held by a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia in eastern Syria.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the comments in a statement on Sept. 21, five days after the US-led coalition said Russian jets struck Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, wounding several of them.
His remarks came amid rising concerns of a confrontation on the ground between Russia-backed Syrian government forces and the US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State militants who captured large swathes of Syrian territory in 2014.
Konashenkov said that SDF forces had taken up positions on the east bank of the Euphrates River with US special operations forces, and that Syrian troops operating alongside Russian special forces near the city of Deir al-Zor were “twice targeted with massive fire from mortar launchers and rocket artillery” from the SDF positions.
A representative of the US military command in Qatar was “notified in severe form that attempts to attack from districts where SDF fighters are located will be repelled,” Konashenkov said, adding, “Fire positions in these areas will be immediately suppressed with all available weapons.”
Ahmed Abu Khawla, an SDF commander whose unit is leading the fight in the Deir al-Zor Province, denied Russian accusations of shelling and accused Moscow of seeking to obstruct the US-backed advance, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The United States and Russia back separate military offensives in the Syrian war, both of which are advancing against IS militants in the east of the country near Iraq.
The government forces, backed by Russia and Iranian-allied militiamen, have gained control of most of the city of Deir al-Zor.
The SDF, supported by US-led coalition air cover, said on Sept. 20 that its campaign to capture the IS stronghold of Raqqa, north of Deir al-Zor, was in its final stages and that its fighters had seized 80 percent of the city.
Konashenkov claimed that Russian intelligence shows the coalition’s operation in Raqqa had stopped and that SDF fighters redeployed from there to Deir al-Zor. He did not provide evidence.
He also said that a Syrian government offensive captured two villages on the west bank of the Euphrates overnight, taking about 16 square kilometers of land.
On Sept. 16, the US-led coalition said the Russian warplanes struck SDF forces in Deir al-Zor Province, wounding several fighters. The Russian Defense Ministry denied it.
The Department of Defense identified a sailor killed in action on Nov. 24 during Operation Inherent Resolve as Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton.
The 42-year-old from Woodbridge, Virginia, died when an improvised explosive device detonated in northern Syria, near Ayn Issa, according to a release from the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve, which is coordinating the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Dayton was killed north of Raqqa, a key battleground pitting Syrian government forces, rebel units and militants aligned with ISIS against one another.
Dayton was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two, based out of the Norfolk area. According to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command website, explosive ordnance disposal personnel specialize in rendering explosive hazards safe, and have done anything from dismantling IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan to helping secure the Olympics to supporting a local police department.
Navy bomb technicians like Dayton often are assigned to special operations teams like SEAL Team 6, which is known to be operating with rebel units deep inside war torn Syria.
EOD is one field that can be very busy, even in peacetime, often due to unexploded ordnance from past wars. In recent years, BALTOPS exercises have come across live mines left over from World War II, and some Civil War souvenirs have caused major kerfluffles in the United States.
“I am deeply saddened by the news on this Thanksgiving Day that one of our brave service members has been killed in Syria while protecting us from the evil of ISIL. It is a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said in a statement released by the Defense Department.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, said, “The entire counter-ISIL Coalition sends our condolences to this hero’s family, friends and teammates.”
Over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, members of the anti-ISIS coalition launched a total of 90 strikes, 19 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Those nineteen strikes destroyed or damaged a number of targets, including fifteen mortar systems, eight vehicles, four vehicle-borne IEDs, 22 supply routes, five caches and two heavy machine guns.
Six strikes took place near Ayn Issa, engaging four ISIS “tactical units” and destroying a vehicle storage facility, a vehicle-borne IED, a vehicle-borne IED facility and damaged fighting position.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force posted a new video to an official social media page over the weekend touting its bomber force. The propaganda video includes several scenes from big Hollywood films.
The short video — “God of War H-6K, attack!,” a reference to its H-6 bomber — is set to dramatic music and shows an attack on an airbase.
“Almost all of the officers in the department grew up watching Hollywood movies, so in their minds, American war films have the coolest images,” SCMP’s source said.
SCMP reported that back in 2011, Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV presented footage of a training exercise that included scenes from “Top Gun.”
The scenes from Hollywood films are not the only notable inclusions in the PLAAF video though.
Included in the airbase attack scene is satellite footage of an airfield that Reuters reports “looks exactly like the layout of” the US military’s Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, an important strategic location for US operations in the Pacific and a likely target in a US-China conflict.
The Chinese PLAAF bomber force currently consists of variations of the H-6 bomber, a Chinese version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, though newer aircraft are being developed.
“The H-6K,” the report further explained, “can carry six [Land Attack Cruise Missiles], giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam from home airfields in mainland China.”
Among the Chinese military assets available for strikes on Guam are also DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.
Lately, China’s air force has been focused on Taiwan.
In just two days last week, the Chinese military conducted 37 sorties involving fighter jets, bombers, and other aircraft that saw planes crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait and crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a press briefing last Friday that the exercises were “legitimate and necessary action taken to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the current situation in the Taiwan Strait.”
The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.
Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.
The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.
Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.
The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds on Jan. 25, pushing humanity’s proximity to disaster at a symbolic and alarming two minutes to midnight.
The organization has adjusted the Doomsday Clock yearly since 1947. Though the Bulletin bases its clock’s position on multiple global threats, this year, it highlighted the bellicose behavior of President Donald Trump toward North Korea and his administration’s nuclear weapons posturing.
“To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin, said during a press briefing. It’s “the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday,” she added. “As close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.”
One of the Bulletin’s major concerns is about an “oops” moment of nuclear proportions involving the evolvingnuclear arsenal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” the Bulletin said in a statement.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, echoed this concern in an interview with Business Insider earlier in January.
“I don’t think the North Koreans would ever deliberately use the nuclear weapons unless they thought they were being invaded; that we might invade them, or they might think — wrongly — that we were invading them,” said Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.
Here’s how Lewis and others think North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., and possibly Japan could stumble into a limited nuclear exchange.
The dangerous and fuzzy math of miscalculation
Lewis, who has deeply studied East-Asian nuclear history, and especially that of China’s, points out that the apparent growing competence of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs has likely made Kim and his advisors feel more secure on a day-to-day basis.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a greater risk of panic within the isolated nation — and a grievous error.
“It’s called miscalculation, where one side makes a calculation that war is inevitable,” Lewis said. “They don’t think that they’re starting a war, they just think they’re getting a jump on the other.”
War history is peppered with instances of miscalculation and preemptive attacks, including Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor during World War II.
“The Japanese thought that they would probably lose. So you think, ‘Why in the hell are they doing this?'” Lewis said. “They thought war was inevitable, and that their best chance of surviving was to go first.”
Lewis added this is the canonical case of miscalculation: “Where one side says, ‘I don’t want to do this, and I’m probably even going to lose if I do this, but I’m certainly going to lose if I do nothing. If I do nothing, I will certainly be attacked and I will certainly be destroyed. Whereas if I take this opportunity now, maybe I have only a 10% or a 20% or a 30% chance of getting out alive … and then he pushes the metaphorical button.”
The scenario that Lewis, the Bulletin, and others who watch North Korean tensions with the U.S. — as well as allies South Korea and Japan — deeply worry about is if Kim and his advisors incorrectly interpret military activity around the Korean Peninsula.
“The North Koreans, when they write official statements about what their nuclear posture or doctrine is, the phrase they use is ‘deter and repel.’ So ‘deter’ means deter,” Lewis said, noting that the country’s nuclear arsenal is becoming its primary deterrent for conflict. “But ‘repel’ means if the deterrent fails, and the United States launches an invasion, they will use nuclear weapons to try and repel the invasion — to try to destroy U.S. forces throughout South Korea and Japan, rather than letting the United States … build up an invasion force and then roll in.”
Lewis says the trigger to such a crisis has become more likely with the election of President Trump and his use of bellicose tweets and statements targeting Kim.
Let’s say we’re doing a large military exercise with South Koreans, which always — to the North Koreans — looks like preparations for an invasion, where you’re flooding forces in,” Lewis said. “If that occur against a crisis, where the North Koreans actually think an invasion is likely, and the Trump says something that they misinterpret, you might get into spot where it’s not that they wanted to use the nuclear weapons, but they concluded an invasion was likely, and this was their last best chance to repel. And that’s what scares the shit out of me.
The move would likely trigger a powerful U.S. military response. To illustrate the consequences of a return attack, consider a different and “best-case” scenario of limited conflict with North Korea, where the U.S. and its allies try to neutralize Kim’s nuclear and conventional weapons — and no nukes are used.
“[Suppose] in the space of, say, three hours, we could destroy all of the 8,000 to 10,000 hardened sites of North Korean artillery that Seoul, South Korea, is in range of,” Kori Schake, who studies military history and contemporary conflicts at the Hoover Institution, said on a Nov. 17 episode of the Pod Save The World podcast. “Even in that [scenario] — which would be a level of military virtuosity unimaginable — you’re still probably talking 300,000 dead South Koreans.”
Other estimates suggest millions could die, since Seoul (South Korea’s capital) and its 25 million residents, including tens of thousands of U.S. forces, are just 35 miles from the North Korean border.
How to step back from the brink
Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said Thursday that there is still time to turn back the clock.
“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said.
The Bulletin makes a few recommendations to ease tensions with North Korea and avert a nuclear disaster:
First and foremost, it said: “U.S. President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, recognizing the impossibility of predicting North Korean reactions.”
Second, the U.S. should preemptively open military and diplomatic lines of communication with North Korea — not to signal weakness, but to show “that while Washington fully intends to defend itself and its allies from any attack with a devastating retaliatory response, it does not otherwise intend to attack North Korea or pursue regime change.”
And finally: “The world community should pursue, as a short-term goal, the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years. Over time, the United States should seek North Korea’s signature on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — and then, along with China, at long last also ratify the treaty.”
Paradoxically, Lewis says the advent of a proven and substantial North Korean nuclear arsenal itself could open communications channels and opportunities for diplomacy.
The deterrence it provides could prompt the U.S. and its allies to relax military activity and reduce the chances of a deadly mistake.
“That is generally a good bargain, but if it goes wrong, the consequences are tremendous,” Lewis said.
On the other hand, Lewis said, North Korea could use its deterrence “and spend it on being awful” by “sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises” and continuing its history of horrifyinghuman-rightsabuses.
“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive. But we should wait and see,” Lewis said. “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”
Tomorrow, almost 70,000 U.S. troops and veterans will pack Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to watch two college football teams with records that could barely be called “winning” go head-to-head for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.
SAN ANTONIO – USAA, the presenting-sponsor of the 121st Army-Navy Game on Dec. 12, is launching the “Army-Navy House” sweepstakes ahead of this year’s game to help fans continue to celebrate the game’s rivalry and traditions despite COVID-19 restrictions.
One of college football’s most revered and storied rivalries will continue as the Army Black Knights take on the Navy Midshipmen at Michie Stadium on the campus at West Point, NY. However, only the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets, the students at each academy, will be allowed in the stands. No outside fans will be able to attend in person.
USAA has planned the Army-Navy House sweepstakes to allow fans to carry on the rivalry from the comfort of their home. Fans can visit www.ArmyNavyHouse.com and upload a photo that shows off their fandom to be entered into the sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to the 2021 Army-Navy Game in New York City. One winner from each fandom will be chosen. Fans can also share their uploaded photos to social media using the hashtag #ArmyNavyHouse.
“There is no other rivalry that matches the passion, tradition and patriotism of the Army-Navy Game,” said USAA Chief Brand Officer Tony Wells, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. “Brothers and sisters in arms all year, this is the one afternoon when they are rivals. While we share fans’ disappointment that we cannot celebrate these future leaders in person, we can still share our support through Army-Navy House and come together virtually as we have learned to do during this pandemic.”
In addition to the two grand prize winners, 1,000 fans from each Academy who upload a photo will be eligible to win a commemorative ticket from this year’s game. Many Army-Navy fans have ticket stubs from games they have attended for the past 10, 20 or 30 years in a row. The commemorative ticket is a chance for fans to keep their streak alive even though they can’t be there in person.
This year’s playing of “America’s Game” marks the first time the Army-Navy Game will be played at a home site since World War II when Annapolis hosted the 1942 game and West Point the 1943 game.
The 121st playing of the Army-Navy Game presented by USAA will air on CBS at 3:00 pm ET on Saturday, Dec. 12. The annual Army-Navy Game is normally the last regular season matchup in college football, and Navy leads the series 61-52-7, having snapped a three-game Army winning streak last year .
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — The first seven joint light tactical vehicles were turned over to the Army and Marine Corps in September by Oshkosh Defense for testing at different sites around the force.A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.The JLTV is a tactical wheeled vehicle with a chassis that offers protection from underbelly blasts and an “intelligent” suspension system that can be raised and lowered for off-road conditions. It also touts greater fuel efficiency than current tactical vehicles.
The JLTV is a tactical wheeled vehicle with a chassis that offers protection from underbelly blasts and an “intelligent” suspension system that can be raised and lowered for off-road conditions. It also touts greater fuel efficiency than current tactical vehicles.In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.
In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.”It’s on schedule,” said Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, about the JLTV program. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”
“It’s on schedule,” said Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, about the JLTV program. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”The JLTV has four different variants: a general-purpose truck, a close-combat weapons carrier, a heavy guns carrier, and a two-door utility pickup version. The group of trucks delivered last week included all but one of the variant types, the close-combat weapons carrier. That variant should be included in the next delivery in a few weeks, according to an Oshkosh spokesman.
The JLTV has four different variants: a general-purpose truck, a close-combat weapons carrier, a heavy guns carrier, and a two-door utility pickup version. The group of trucks delivered last week included all but one of the variant types, the close-combat weapons carrier. That variant should be included in the next delivery in a few weeks, according to an Oshkosh spokesman.Col. Shane Fullmer, project manager for the JLTV program, said the decision on the caliber of the weapons to be fielded on the variants will be made over the next few months.
Col. Shane Fullmer, project manager for the JLTV program, said the decision on the caliber of the weapons to be fielded on the variants will be made over the next few months.Once full production begins on the JLTV program in 2019, Army acquisition officials expect to shave five years off the original fielding schedule. The schedule reduction is expected to save $6 billion from previous estimates, Davis said.
Once full production begins on the JLTV program in 2019, Army acquisition officials expect to shave five years off the original fielding schedule. The schedule reduction is expected to save $6 billion from previous estimates, Davis said.
“Based on our original budget-planning figures for the vehicle, if it now comes in at a lower price, we’ll be able to buy more each year, which shrinks the total length of the contract,” Davis said. “Of course, as you shorten things up, you accrue cost avoidances.”
Originally, plans for the program called for fielding all 54,599 vehicles for the Army and Marine Corps by the early 2040s. However, as a result of the unit cost savings, the Army should be able to buy more trucks faster. The Army may acquire the full complement by as early as the mid-2030s, officials said.
Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, called the JLTV is “a marvelous construct” designed by brilliant engineers.
The JLTV program has already been recognized as a model in acquisition, winning the Department of Defense’s prestigious David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence twice — in 2013 and 2015.
Just this week, at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition, Army leaders honored the program with the 2015 Secretary of the Army’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Weapon System Acquisition.
By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.
The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.
Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.
On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”
The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.
“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.
Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”
Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.
The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.
Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.
“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.
Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.
Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”
Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.
“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”
When Baca checked out the truck, the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”
2019 San Francisco 49ers Season: Playoffs: Super Bowl LIV 2020 Kansas City Chiefs vs San Francisco 49ers Sunday, February 2, 2020 Santa Clara, CA (49ers Photo)
When Air Force Academy football player Ben Garland broke his left hand at practice in 2009, Head Coach Troy Calhoun thought he might miss the rest of the season. Garland played that week.
“You thought, ‘My goodness, this guy, he’s a pretty special human being,”’ Calhoun said.
Garland, 32, is now entering his sixth NFL season overall and his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. For the last nine years, the offensive lineman has spent his offseasons with the Colorado Air National Guard.
Garland was 5 years old when he attended an Air Force football game with his grandfather, who was a colonel. That experience led the determined boy to vow to play on that field someday and become an officer.
Garland played on the defensive line at the Air Force Academy from 2006 to 2009, earning all-Mountain West conference, second-team honors as a senior. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and placed on the reserve/military list for two years so he could honor his military commitment.
Garland became an offensive lineman in 2012 and has been on three teams that reached the Super Bowl — the Broncos after the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season and the 49ers last February. Garland started at center during San Francisco’s 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
“I’m definitely known around the wing as the guy who plays in the NFL,” said Garland, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 308 pounds.
Capt. Ben Garland. Courtesy photo.
Garland has worked primarily in public affairs with the Air National Guard, handling media and community relations as well as internal communications. He has deployed abroad, including to Jordan in 2013.
He was also the recipient of a 2018 Salute to Service Award, in part, because of actions off the field including donating game tickets each week to service members, visiting the Air Force Academy annually to speak to students, working with Georgia Tech ROTC and mentoring local young officers, according to the NFL.
“Once you join the military, you are always an airman or soldier or whatever branch you choose, but we’re all service members,” said Major Kinder Blacke, chief of public affairs for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard. “I don’t really think you take that uniform off. I guess I would say I see him as a guardsman who’s an excellent football player and has pursued both of those dreams at once. It’s really admirable.”
Garland said he cherishes his time at Air Force.
“It was extremely challenging and physical, and you were exhausted at times, but the challenging things in life mean the most to you,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have some of my closest friends from it.”
Garland served on active duty from 2010-12 after graduation. He was already a member of the Air National Guard by the time he made his NFL debut for the Broncos against the Raiders in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2014.
“The way he is able to have a full plate but to do it with such drive and energy, he has an enormous amount of work capacity,” Calhoun said.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports calendar and left a question mark over Garland’s NFL career. There is no guarantee that Garland will be with his teammates for the 49ers’ scheduled opener against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sept. 13.
Regardless, Garland still possesses a clear vision for what lies ahead.
“Once my NFL career is over, I’d love to do more stuff with the military,” he said. “It just depends where my body’s at. …[In] the military, you get people from all walks of life to come together to be one of the best teams in the world. These selfless, incredible, courageous people, you get to know and be friends with. I definitely want to be a part of that as long as I can.”
Keep up with Garland’s career updates by following him on Instagram.
Just under 54 years ago, two years into his presidency, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a visit to Dallas, Texas.
An investigation by the Warren Commission determined a former US Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a nearby book depository, but the murky facts of the case have led to a number of alternate theories.
They include a CIA conspiracy, a mafia hit job, a covert operation by Lyndon B. Johnson, and more.
In anticipation of the National Archives releasing 3,100 documents related to the assassination on Oct. 26, here are the top theories that have swirled ever since.
The CIA theory
People who believe the CIA was behind Kennedy’s assassination speculate the agency strongly opposed a number of the president’s stances on Cuba and Communism.
The theory posits that Kennedy’s refusal to offer air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a CIA-sponsored mission to overthrow Fidel Castro, triggered the CIA to eliminate Kennedy from the picture altogether.
Theorists tend to believe the CIA set Oswald up as its scapegoat.
The Mafia theory
A related theory suggests the CIA worked with the Mafia to have Kennedy killed. At the time, the two organizations had a shared interest in overthrowing Castro, as the Mafia held a number of investments in Cuban casinos at-risk of being shut down.
Government documents show the CIA did work with the Mafia to take down Castro; some conspiracy theorists claim the two also worked together, along with anti-Castro Cubans, to assassinate Kennedy.
The Cuban exile theory
Some believe the effort was far less sophisticated than a federal conspiracy, but carried out by a group of rogue Cuban exiles who saw the failed Bay of Pigs invasion as sufficient evidence that Kennedy was unfit as president.
Between 1959, when the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power, and Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, his popularity among exiles had eroded considerably. In October of 1963, anti-Castro Cubans met with right-wing Americans to discuss frustrations with Kennedy.
Theorists speculate the meeting may have been a tipping point for the assassination a month later.
The Lyndon B. Johnson theory
One theory speculates that LBJ feared getting dropped from the Democratic ticket in the 1964 election so intensely that he plotted to have Kennedy assassinated.
According to a 1968 memoir written by Kennedy’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, it is true that Kennedy planned to replace Johnson as vice president. Kennedy told Lincoln as much on Nov. 19, 1963 — three days before he was killed.
Conspiracy theorists point to the timeline as partial evidence that Johnson might have had a hand in orchestrating the murder.
The KGB theory
Some theorists believe a band of Soviet officers carried out Kennedy’s assassination, directed by Premier Nikita Krushchev.
Toward the end of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev was ultimately forced to remove the intercontinental ballistic missiles he’d deployed in Cuba due to US militaristic threats against the Soviet Union.
Conspiracy theorists claim the move motivated Krushchev to have Kennedy killed.
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget guidance is asking for $1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard at a time when the service is doing more than ever, and is already severely under-resourced.
Trump’s budget would cancel a $500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specializes in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.
“Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Business Insider in a phone interview, adding that even with its success and consistent operational tempo, the service is strained.
“With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events,” Zukunft said. “We are really besieged down there,” he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.
In addition to its operations targeting drug smugglers and human traffickers, the Coast Guard has been in and out of the Arctic region with its ice-breaking ships, especially as Russia attempts to claim parts of the region, and its rich resources, for itself.
The Arctic, which has roughly 13% of the world’s oil and about one-third of its natural gas, could potentially turn into a South China Sea-like situation. That’s because, like China has done with its creation of artificial islands in that region to gain control of shipping lanes, Russia and its fleet of 40 icebreakers has exerted itself in the Arctic to become the dominant player.
The Polar Start icebreak. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
“We’re starting to see militarization of some of their outposts,” Zukunft said.
The Coast Guard has only two icebreakers, one medium and one heavy — the latter being nearly 40 years-old.
“We’re challenged in our ability to exert leadership when, you’re the world’s most prosperous nation, yet we can only seem to afford two icebreakers,” Zukunft said. He said that ideally, the service would need a fleet of 3 heavy and 3 medium icebreakers to remain competitive.
Cuts to the budget are likely to strain other parts of the Guard, such as its coastal maritime security teams, which help to the protect the president when he’s near the shore in Mar-a-Lago, and the service’s inland fleet that maintains navigational aides and markers on waterways and in ports.
“That’s been neglected probably for a half-century,” he said of infrastructure which sees roughly $4.5 trillion in commerce pass through.
Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Langston fights the boat fire from the Coast Guard 29-foot response boat in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The was no one aboard at the time of the fire. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said in a letter to President Trump that such cuts “egregiously” conflict with his stated goals to strengthen national security.
“These proposed cuts … will guarantee negative consequences,” Hunter wrote, adding that it would “create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”
The Coast Guard occupies a unique role as a military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump is seeking to up the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion by taking money from non-defense areas, such as the State Department.
Since the budget has not been finalized, a spokesman for the Coast Guard declined to comment on the matter.