When you’re only given 280 characters, you better make them count. I can’t say most Twitter users succeed in this endeavor. I searched through the craziness to find the best military tweets of the week. Good luck finding another article that references poop, crayons, the McRib and the Sergeant Major of the Army. Enjoy these gems.
Hey, at least they’re not going to the VA.
2. Space Force
I’m not sure which amazes me more. A Space Force E-9 or all that Space Force swag.
3. The McRib is Back
The Army pioneered restructured meats in the 1960s and the world has never been the same.
4. For the Mantle
Marines and their crayons always make me laugh.
5. I Can’t Hear You
Does anybody leave the military without tinnitus?
This sounds like a fun ride.
We do meet many people with weird quirks in the military.
People will give the cyber folks crap, but they’re the ones laughing.
9. Potty on the Submarine
This child is going places! I may have searched how this works on a sub.
10. Holiday Card
This is either the best or worst command team, no in between.
11. Fortunate Son
I can hear this tweet. Can you?
12. We Can Make It Sarnt
At what point did they realize this was a bad idea?
I’m not sure the Navy will understand this horrible MRE trade.
14. Let’s Play Army!
A picture is worth a thousand words.
15. Uh Oh
When the Sergeant Major of the Army hops on the twitter feed, I know what runs downhill.
Airmen from the 815th and 327th Airlift Squadrons provided airlift and airdrop support for the Army’s exercise Arctic Anvil, Oct. 1-6, 2019.
Arctic Anvil is a joint, multi-national, force-on-force culminating training exercise at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, that runs throughout the month of October.
“The 815th (AS), along with the 327th Airlift Squadron, had the pleasure of supporting the (4th Brigade Combat Team, Airborne, 25th Infantry Division) for the exercise Arctic Anvil by providing personnel and equipment airdrop as well as short-field, air-land operations,” said Lt. Col. Mark Suckow, 815th AS pilot. “We were able to airdrop 400 paratroopers and equipment Wednesday night and 20 bundles of supplies Sunday into Camp Shelby.”
The 815th AS is an Air Force Reserve Command tactical airlift unit assigned to the 403rd Wing. The unit transports supplies, equipment and personnel into a theater of operation. The 403rd Wing maintains 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, 10 of which are flown by the 815th AS.
Maj. Nick Foreman (left) and Maj. Chris Bean, 815th Airlift Squadron pilots, fly a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft toward Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)
“We had the opportunity to provide three aircrews and two C-130Js to help execute the mass airlift and airdrop,” Col. Dan Collister, 913th Airlift Group deputy commander said. The 327th AS is a unit of the 913th AG based out of Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and is an associate unit of the 19th Airlift Wing, an active duty unit equipped with C-130J aircraft.
Col. Daniel Collister, 913th Airlift Group deputy commander and pilot, conducts a pre-mission brief with loadmasters, Army jumpmasters and Army safety crew prior to takeoff during the joint forces exercise Arctic Anvil at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 1-6, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)
“Our primary mission at the 913th is to provide combat-ready airmen, tactical airlift and agile combat support. Participating in a joint exercise such as this is a great way for our Reserve Citizen airmen to hone their skills and get experience working hand-in-hand with partner units and sister services,” Collister said.
More than 3,000 soldiers of the 4/25th ICBT (ABN), based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are participating in the exercise.
4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Soldiers stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, board a C-130J flown by the 327th Airlift Squadron during the joint forces training exercise Arctic Anvil at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 1-6, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)
“At Camp Shelby, our paratroopers have completed a mass tactical airborne operation followed by force-on-force exercises culminating with combined live-fire training that will prepare us for the brigade’s upcoming joint readiness training exercise in January,” said Army Col. Christopher Landers, 4/25th IBCT (ABN) commander. “Camp Shelby and the state of Mississippi have provided a remarkable training opportunity, that without their significant support, would not have been possible.”
A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft sits on the flightline at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss. Oct. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)
In addition to the 4/25th ICBT (ABN), soldiers from the 177th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade, the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment and airmen from various units collaborated for the exercise.
Airmen from the 403rd Wing, 319th Airlift Group, 321st Contingency Response Squadron and 81st Training Wing supported the Air Force’s role in Arctic Anvil. Airmen from the 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron and Operations Support Flight contributed to the exercise with ground vehicle transportation and airspace support for the soldiers who were rigging their supplies for airdrop.
The 815th Airlift Squadron completes an airdrop of container delivery systems during the Army joint forces exercise Arctic Anvil.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jessica L. Kendziorek)
“I am proud of our crews for this exercise,” Suckow said. “They executed the mission as planned and helped us to meet our objectives. Time over target for airdrop and air-land operations were executed flawlessly. The air-land portion into the (landing zone) was completed in less than minimal time from landing to takeoff. Having the opportunity to work with thousands of soldiers in a large scale exercise like this is very beneficial training for us, it prepares us for real world operations.”
Since operations began over the weekend to retake West Mosul from two years of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, Iraqi security forces have already retaken more than 125 square kilometers – more than 48 square miles – of ISIS-held territory near the city, Pentagon director of press operations Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.
The announcement of the Iraqi forces moving in on West Mosul came from the Iraqi government, the spokesman added.
Five Villages Liberated
Following their retaking of the eastern half of Mosul in recent weeks, the Iraqi forces moving in to liberate the western region are on the west side of the Tigris River and south of Mosul’s airport, he said, noting that they have liberated five villages in the past couple of days.
The most immediate focus is retaking the village of Abu-Saif in the southwestern region of the area surrounding Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are working while continuing to conduct defensive operations.
“The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul comes as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lived for more than two years under ISIS oppression in West Mosul, during which time ISIS has committed a number of horrible atrocities, terrorizing the people of Mosul,” Davis emphasized.
Proven as Capable
“Over the course of the past two years, and in particular in the past four months in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force,” he noted.
The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Iraqi operations with advice and assistance in addition to airstrikes in the past 24 hours, the captain said. “The coalition has conducted a total of eight strikes with a total of 59 engagements using 34 munitions in support of the operations to liberate Mosul,” he added.
While the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is the focal point in that country, 450 American service members are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, Davis said, adding that number does not include an undisclosed total of special operations forces deployed to Iraq to work with Iraq’s counterterrorism service.
Seen = killed. This was the objective of our entire marksmanship program when I served as a Special Operator in the 75th Ranger Regiment. “Seen” was the critical precursor to action; shoot the enemy combatants. Leave the non-combatants be.
Some of us out there have forgotten this critical point, today in America. Some of us are attacking the wrong people without “seeing” who we are targeting before we pull the trigger.
(2003. Konar Province, Afghanistan.)
The flash identified the origin of fire before the rocket motor etched a line across the night sky, burning a streak into my night optical device. Enemy contact. Only it was directed at the walls of our firebase, not our patrol.
We halted the convoy, a few kilometers from the safe house, identified the enemy position and marked it while air support was scrambled to the area. Bad situations turn worse quickly when you have multiple friendly elements in the battle space and you make enemy contact. Because of this, we knew how critical it was for our Joint Task Force to know where we were.
We confirmed our location with the JTF Command and then the men within the walls returned fire on the enemy. All of this happened within moments. Silently, invisible to all but our friendlies engaging the enemy position, we waited.
We felt helpless watching the fight. Our distance was too great to maneuver on the enemy, so our fires would do little more than give our position away. Masked by the night, we had the only dominant position in the fight. We did all we could: maintain discipline, calm our adrenaline and direct fires from the shadows. The engagement did not last long, but the feelings never left me. Helplessness. Guilt. Gratitude. Rage.
In all of this, I was angry. My strong sense of justice had been assaulted by these people who attacked us. We are here to help.
Our patrol had just escorted Civil Affairs soldiers into the valley to conduct meet and greets with the local mullahs. A rare mission for our JTF. They had gathered intelligence and offered assistance to the village. They provided generators and school supplies and promised to return with a MEDCAP (medical civil action program). Weeks prior, our medics had treated a boy with a near leg amputation from a construction accident in town.
Why are they attacking us!? We’re the “Good Guys!”
Things move fast overseas. Often times the lives of your teammates depended on your ability to react to contact with speed and accuracy. Two things stood out most from my experience that night: the discipline of the American Soldier and the feelings of betrayal by a people we were trying to help.
Both themes — discipline and betrayal — stand out today as I observe the way the veteran community reacts before understanding the facts.
I work with and for veterans every day and it is one of the greatest honors of my life. I humbly submit that veterans are the leaders America is reaching for right now, but sometimes I fear we do our community a disservice when we fail to seek the facts before we fire away with our voices. Once silent servants of the Republic, we did our jobs, regardless of whether we agreed or disagreed with the policy.
Today, as veterans, we have the opportunity to speak our minds. To opt in or out on a topic. Our countrymen are starving to hear from us and in some respects, we have a responsibility to them still, to serve and to lead.
In most cases I see veterans seizing that opportunity to make a big difference in their communities. They are leading within the home, the corporate sector, small business, government and nonprofits. Sadly, I also see entitlement, outrage and misplaced attacks from those of us who fail to do the work and lazily fall for the title of the hottest “click bait” article in the news cycle. I see outrage and indignation with little to no understanding of the facts. And I see made up controversies.
Two timely examples are with Walmart and Starbucks.
On Veterans Day 2015, Walmart rolled out their Green Light a Vet campaign. Many veterans were outraged at the fact that Walmart was selling green light bulbs in their name, and claimed it was all for profit. As if the sales of $.96 light bulbs would move the financial needle for Walmart!
Fact is that Walmart donated all the profits of the sales of green light bulbs to worthy Veteran Serving Non Profits. It was a statement: Veterans, we see you and we are here for you. We support you.
Why were we attacking them? They were the “Good Guys.” As a community, we should have just said, “Thank you.”
Fast forward to today. Recently, Howard Schultz announced that Starbucks will hire 10,000 refugees worldwide and the response from some in the community, again, is outrage. Many in our community are indignant that Starbucks would hire refugees over veterans or military. Fact is, Starbucks made a declarative to hire 10,000 veterans and family members back in 2013, and have since hired 8,800 veterans and military spouses. Meanwhile, Howard and Sheri Schultz’s Family Foundation has poured millions of their own dollars into supporting the veteran community.
Neither Walmart nor Starbucks (nor the Schultz Family) were even given a chance by the raw and reactive. The facts were never even examined. Some of us failed to “see” before going for the “kill”.
We know better.
We know to gather the facts of the situation prior to formulating our plan of attack. It has been beaten into us since day one of our time in service. We are no longer in service and the intel is no longer fed to us, which means we must be more responsible, more discerning in where we seek out the facts. It also means we must take our time and seek to understand prior to the “ready, fire, aim” attitude that is counterproductive to our unity as citizens. Counter-productive to our ability to coexist as Americans: different, yet united.
I fear that at some point, America is going to get tired of trying to support us if even the smallest “we” criticize the attempts to assist with little (to no) context and with such vitriol in our responses. That would be a shame, especially since we risked all to protect those who are now reaching out to us. Especially since many of the folks who work at these establishments and lead these programs are also veterans themselves. And especially since many of us know exactly how it feels to be attacked by the very people we are there to help.
If you’re looking for the next fight on social media, it has nothing to do with what’s on your news feed. It has nothing to do with a company’s policies, who’s the President or what the hottest controversy of the day is. It has everything to do with what’s going on inside of you.
I hope we are willing to investigate the next story before we react. I hope we stop falling for the title of the next “click bait” article.
I hope we can we stop sharpening our swords just to fall on them and use them to attack the real issues. I hope we will fight for, not against, one another.
Brandon Young served 11 years in the U.S. Army, primarily with the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the 75th Ranger Regiment and conducted four combat rotations to Afghanistan. A Mighty 25: Veterans to watch in 2017, Brandon currently serves as the Director of Development for Team RWB, whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans.
The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.
Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.
In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.
The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.
As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.
“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”
One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.
Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”
According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.
The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.
Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.
The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.
The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.
IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.
Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.
The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.
Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.
The number of civilians dying in Afghanistan’s protracted 16-year war dropped slightly during the first three months of this year, the United Nations reported April 27, but in a surprising twist more women and children are among the dead and wounded than in previous casualty reports.
The report blamed the hike in casualties among women and children on aerial attacks. According to U.N. figures, there were 148 casualties from aerial bombings in the first three months of this year compared to 29 last year. Casualties from unexploded ordnance, which seemed to claim mostly children, was also up slightly.
“It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in a release.
Although there was a four percent overall drop in casualties during the first three months of the year, the U.N. suggested the drop may be the result of Afghan civilians fleeing their homes. According to the report there is an unprecedented number of Afghans displaced by war living inside the country. There are another 1.5 million Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Pakistan.
The U.N. blamed 62 percent of the civilian casualties on insurgents while ordinary Afghans caught in the crossfire accounted for nearly 35 percent of all casualties.
Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are present in Afghanistan. They are fighting each other and Afghanistan’s security forces.
Earlier this week, a half dozen Taliban attacked an army base in northern Afghanistan in one of the worst attacks against the security forces, killing as many as 140 soldiers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. NATO ended its combat mission in the country in 2014, and the primary role of U.S. troops is now to assist and train, though increasingly the U.S. has been called in by Afghan Security Forces for support.
The report accused anti-government elements, without specifying Taliban or the Islamic State group, of intentionally targeting civilians.
“During an armed conflict, the intentional killing and injuring of civilians is a war crime,” Yamamoto said in the release. “Anti-Government Elements must stop this deplorable practice and everybody must apply- and respect – the definition of ‘civilian’ provided by international humanitarian law.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The United States is considering sending more lethal weaponry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defenses, Washington’s special envoy for Ukraine said, as concerns mount that Russia may be stepping up operations in coastal waters.
In an interview with RFE/RL on Sept. 13, 2018, Kurt Volker blamed Russia for fueling the conflict. He also said that Washington and Moscow still have serious differences over a possible United Nations peacekeeping force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Volker said he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin was unwilling to negotiate much of anything related to the conflict at least until after Ukraine’s presidential elections in March 2019, or with “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko still in power.”
Volker said he has made several overtures to his Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meeting in Dubai in January 2018, but he has received no response.
In January 2018, Surkov showed interest in the idea of a phased deployment of peacekeepers, Volker said. Since then, however, the Russians “have backed away and have some objections.”
Another meeting is possible, he said, but “right now, there is nothing scheduled.
“Since fighting broke out between government forces and Russia-backed fighters in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
In recent months, Russia has stepped up naval operations in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volker said, “Ukrainians have virtually no naval capability or limited capability, so [the Russians] feel they can assert dominance there.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capabilities is a weakness Volker said Washington looks set on addressing.
“I think that’s going to be the focus as we develop the next steps in our defense cooperation,” he added.
International negotiators have twice reached a framework for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Minsk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.
That is due in large part to the fact that Russia continues to flood the territory with fighters and arms, Volker said.
In August 2018, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented — using drone footage — convoys of military trucks crossing to and from Ukraine and Russia on a dirt road under the cover of darkness. Early September 2018, the monitors said another convoy had been spotted in the area.
Russia has not responded to accusations that it was behind the convoys.
Volker also criticized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukrainians living in separatist-held territories. He said Poroshenko’s government has also failed to develop a reintegration plan for when the conflict does end.
Preliminary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong political backing and there is little emphasis that this should be a priority for the Ukrainian government to figure out how it can reach its own citizens and be as proactive as possible in trying to make their lives better.”
“It’s a shame because those people [living in separatist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It causes them to be very sour on the government in Kyiv,” he added.
He highlighted the cases of elderly people, “people with the least mobility,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get government pensions to those people.
Changing U.S. Policy?
Volker’s appointment, in July 2017, came amid concern that U.S. President Donald Trump was looking to soften Washington’s position on the Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s role in it.
However, the Trump administration has all but continued U.S. backing for Ukraine, a policy set in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Washington has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces, and sanctions imposed for the annexation and for fueling the conflict remain in place.
More notably, the Trump administration in early 2018 sent Ukraine 210 advanced antitank missiles known as Javelins, a move Obama had resisted for fear of antagonizing Moscow.
“It’s true that we haven’t achieved anything on the ground and we haven’t gotten Russia to really resolve the conflict,” Volker said. “So we have to keep that under advisement.
“On the other hand, what we’ve done over the last year has been very important,” he said.
“We’ve created a policy framework for the United States; we’ve coordinated that with our allies, specifically France and Germany; we’ve given clear support for Ukraine and restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity; we’ve clarified Russia’s responsibility here,” he said.
In August 2018, Trump suggested in an interview that he would consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia “if they do something that would be good for us.”
Asked about Trump’s commitment to Ukraine, Volker said that everything the United States has done for Kyiv “has been done with the president’s approval, so there’s no policy gap.”
“The way I read what the president is doing, [he] is trying to keep a door open for Putin to be able to climb down, negotiate some kind of agreement, see if we can reduce the risk of conflict, see if we can actually create peace in Ukraine,” he said.
“At the same time, the policy has been to continue to layer on additional steps of pushback on Russia and support for Ukraine as a way to induce Russia to negotiate,” he said.
Featured image: Kurt Volker, the special representative of the U.S. State Department for Ukraine.
The Marine Corps recently fielded its new M320A1 grenade launcher to Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, bringing the service closer to its goal of equipping all infantry units with the side-loading 40mm weapon in fiscal 2021.
The Heckler & Koch-designed M320A1 is set to replace all the Corps’ Vietnam-era M203-series grenade launchers by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024, according to a recent news release from Marine Corps Systems Command.
Weapons officials recently trained members of II Marine Expeditionary Force at Lejeune on the new launcher.
“Reloading it and unloading it are easy compared to other systems we’ve had in the past,” Gunnery Sgt. Jason Wattle, squad adviser for the Infantry Small Unit Leader course, said in the release.
Marines learned how to assemble, dissemble and troubleshoot the weapon, before participating in live-fire exercises.
The U.S. Army first began fielding the M320 in 2009 and later upgraded to the M320A1, which is designed to be mounted under the M4 carbine. Colorado company Capco, Inc. first received a million contract in 2015 to manufacture the weapons.
Grenadiers load and unload the M320A1 from the side of the weapon rather than from underneath it, compared to the M203A2, a “major advantage because the breach of the weapon is clearly visible and the shooter can more easily load while in the prone [position],” Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC project officer for the M320A1, said in the release.
“Additionally, if the Marine experiences a misfire and the round must be removed from the barrel, it is safer to have the barrel release from the side and retain the ammunition than to have it release and potentially fall to the ground,” Berger said.
The M320A1 has a maximum effective range of 150 meters on a point target such as a window and a 350-meter max effective range on an area target, according to the Army’s technical manual for 40mm grenade launchers.
Unloaded, the M320 series weighs about 3.4 pounds in the mounted configuration and about 6.4 pounds in the stand-alone configuration.
MCSC worked with its Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC) to speed up the fielding process, according to the release.
The AMOC is equipped with 3D printers, which helped quickly manufacture the special hammer strut tools needed for removing the launcher’s trigger assembly, it added.
The manufacturer is still required to produce the parts, but the program office chose to expedite this process with a 3D-printable version of the tool to field the system ahead of schedule, according to the release.
“Without AMOC’s assistance, Marines couldn’t have maintained the system if it broke and [the Program Manager for Infantry Weapons] would have had to limit the number of weapons we put in the hands of fleet Marines,” Berger said in the release. “Thanks to AMOC, more than a dozen infantry battalions, [School of Infantry East], [School of Infantry West] and The Basic School will all receive M320A1s this fiscal year.”
In continuation with the complete catastrophe that is 2020, voters on both sides of the aisle agree Father’s Day 2020 official theme to be, “Sorry we forgot, this gift had express shipping.”
We’re just kidding, but you’re welcome for reminding you that Sunday, June 21 is Father’s Day. Since we all know you forgot, we’ve compiled a list so good that you won’t even mind paying the extra to get it there in time.
For the veteran
Yea, we went big and bold out of the gate, but for good reason. CBD products legalized by the Farm Bill have been destigmatized over the last few years. When the carpool moms are doing it, you know it’s pretty legit. Veteran-owned CBD companies like Patriot Supreme are advocating for non-narcotic options as a better alternative for pain, anxiety and all kinds of other benefits we won’t make claims for here. Military life ages the body at warp speed, so do your veteran a favor by offering some relief.
The first step in becoming the iconic “vet-bro” is to grow yourself a mighty fine beard. How does a modern military man call himself one without? Whether they’ve got an Abe Lincoln, chin curtain, (these are legit, we promise) or are in the infantile stages of some stubble, do their face a favor with some premium product like from Warlord.
For the brand
Entrepreneurship or the fast-growing area of solopreneurship is as American as it gets. The fight, the grind and the ridiculous amount of grit it takes to run your own business, especially on the heels of steady government paychecks from military life is tough. But tough doesn’t stop veterans. If yours is even remotely considering this route, you can’t go wrong with the suggestions below. Bonus points here since these options can be “ordered” at 11:59 the day before without looking sloppy.
Repurposing military surplus materials into high quality, durable travel or duffel bags and more is the kind of awesome Sword Plough is all about. Repurposed .50 cal casings made into money clips make a damn fine conversation starter and something dapper for all their new beard oil you ordered.
There’s one thing you can’t go wrong with this Father’s Day and that’s trying something new backed by hundreds of raving reviews. If you haven’t already, try using the store locator feature and grabbing a bottle of Mutt’s Sauce, the universal flavor loved across generations and oceans alike. Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr’s legacy is still alive today thanks to his granddaughter and Air Force Veteran, Charlynda.
Natural products…to combat all the unknown MRE ingredients they eat
Doc Spartan has exploded since their appearance on Shark Tank. Their line of natural first aid ointments and sprays should be a go-bag staple for any military member. While you’re at it, check out their lineup of natural, aluminum-free deodorants called “armpit armor.”
What is often gifted to kids is actually a great option for Father’s Day too. Gifting fathers with a prerecorded favorite read in the voices of their children is a deeply personal choice. Most books can be re-recorded to accommodate for growing families over the years.
As a US-led coalition hammers ISIS’s oil infrastructure and other financial institutions in the Middle East, the terrorist group has cut salaries and infighting has broken out within the rank and file and senior leadership.
Reports of infighting within ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — aren’t new, but increased financial and territorial losses might be worsening the stress fractures that are splintering the group.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that ISIS is now facing an “unprecedented cash crunch” as the coalition ramps up strikes on its sources of wealth. Strikes have been hitting oil refineries and tankers as well as banks and buildings that hold hard cash.
ISIS salaries are taking a hit as a result of the financial losses. Some units reportedly aren’t being paid at all, and some fighters’ salaries have been cut in half, according to The Post.
The salary cuts specifically appear “to have significantly hit the organization’s morale,” according to Charles Lister, a resident fellow at the Middle East Institute.
“There are more and more frequent reports … of infighting, armed clashes breaking out in the middle of the night in places like Raqqa between rival factions,” Lister said on Friday during a panel discussion in Washington, DC, referring to ISIS’s de-facto capital in Syria.
“These are all indications of a significant drop in morale and a decrease in internal cohesion. And the cohesion argument was always something that analysts like myself always said was one of ISIS’ strongest strengths,” he said.
Part of what has made ISIS’s message so potent is the money that has come along with it — which is said to be a major factor in ISIS’s recruiting success. For locals in war-torn Syria especially, ISIS has been able to offer more money than people could hope to make elsewhere.
But the salary cuts have strained the loyalties of fighters to the group.
Abu Sara, a 33-year-old engineer from Iraq, told The Post that ISIS members are becoming disillusioned.
“Their members are getting quite angry. Either they are not getting salaries or getting much less than they used to earn,” Sara said. “All of the people I am in contact with want to escape, but they don’t know how.”
Some fighters “throw down their weapons and mingle with the civilians” in battle, according to Sara.
ISIS’s financial problems are compounded by the group’s territorial losses. Syrian forces recently retook the ancient city of Palmyra, while Iraqi forces are starting to move in toward Mosul, ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq.
Territorial losses could hurt ISIS’s recruiting efforts because they run counter to the group’s central message of “remaining and expanding.”
The losses also hit at ISIS’s coffers because taxation and extortion make up a large share of ISIS’s revenues. Unlike other terrorist groups that rely on outside donations from wealthy individuals, ISIS squeezes money from the local populations it controls.
But ISIS isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.
Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi military strategist, told The Post that ISIS still controls significant oil resources across the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.
“They’re not going through a financial crisis that will lead to their collapse,” Hashimi told the newspaper. “They still have 60 percent of Syrian oil wells and 5 percent of Iraq’s.”
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day which serves as a day to honor all those who serve in the sister-service branches.
The men and women of the military have made exceptional sacrifices and so on Armed Forces Day and all other military appreciation days, we can do small acts to show our gratitude to them.
Below are some ideas of how to show your appreciation:
1. Volunteer at a VA hospital or donate your time to a veterans group. There are 152 veteran medical centers in the US as well as hundreds of clinics, outpatient and nursing facilities. Call your local VA medical center or community to learn more about donating your time.
2. Talk to veterans or an active service member. Ask questions about their service, why they joined the military and listen to their stories. A little interest can go a long way.
3. Visit a memorial. All across the US, military members are honored through monuments that memorialize their service and sacrifice. Washington DC is home to 8 but monuments dedicated to members of the military can be found throughout the nation. If you’re near D.C., we suggest reflecting in Arlington National Cemetery.
4. Put together a care package. With so many USO centers sending a comforting package is easy. Check with your local center to ensure that they can send out the package. You can fill them up with snacks and non-perishable food, toiletries, stationery or purchase a pre-made package. Microsoft is matching gifts to servicemen and women during May in honor of Military Appreciation Month so send a gift to a soldier.
6. Attend a parade. Cities across the US celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades. Some of the most famous parades can be found in the cities of Torrence, California, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.
7. Offer to help a military spouse. While expressing gratitude to service members is encouraged, so is helping out their families. With one person at home, daily tasks can get overwhelming and a break is welcome. Offer to cook a meal, drive them somewhere or watch their children for a few hours.
8. Fly a flag, the correct way. Sometimes the simplest expressions of gratitude are the most appreciated. Make sure that if you do fly America’s Stars and Stripes you follow the code.
9. A simple thank you. Sometimes this is the most honest expression of gratitude to those who serve our country.