Normally, James Martin is the very model of a modern major general. But the Air Force officer, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, recently collapsed at the podium while answering questions about the F-35.
Air Force Deputy for Budget Carolyn Gleason held Maj. Gen. Martin up, while aides came to help Martin, who regained his senses seconds later.
“That’s what the F-35 will do to you,” Gleason laughed.
The struggle over at the USAF Budget Office is real.
On Wednesday, journalist Dolia Estevez reported that during a brief, blunt phone call the previous Friday, US President Donald Trump threatened and cajoled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
According to Estevez, who cited “confidential information” obtained from sources on both sides of the call, Trump disparaged Mexico and Mexicans, threatened to levy taxes on Mexican imports, and went so far as to hint at sending US troops to confront drug traffickers who, Trump said, Mexico’s military had been incapable of stopping.
The incendiary comments attracted instant attention, both for their vitriol and for their verisimilitude, as Trump frequently inveighed against Mexico throughout his campaign and has kept up his harsh rhetoric during the first days of his administration.
Estevez’s report also characterized Peña Nieto’s response as “stammering.” Much of the Mexican public has been frustrated with Peña Nieto’s response to Trump’s attacks, and the Mexican president has seen his approval rating fall to 12% in recent weeks.
However, while Trump has mentioned a 35% tariff on exports from US companies in Mexico, the most commonly floated number is a 20% tax on Mexican goods entering the US. The White House lists no press briefing by Spicer on January 27, the day of the call.
Hours after Estevez’s report surfaced, a report from The Associated Press corroborated some of the content of the conversation, but downplayed the tone.
“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to an excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
But, the AP said, the excerpt did not make clear who Trump was referring to as “bad hombres,” nor did it make evident the tone or context of Trump’s remark. Moreover, the excerpt did not include Peña Nieto’s response.
The Mexican government also issued a statement around the same time totally rejecting Estevez’s report.
“[It’s] necessary to clarify that the publication is based in absolute falsities and with evident ill intention,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Twitter.
“During the call, President Peña Nieto was clear and emphatic in signaling the differences of position in respect to some statements made by President Trump in public and which he repeated during their dialogue,” the ministry said, adding:
“You assert that you obtained information from confidential sources from ‘both sides of the border.'”
“Only [Peña Nieto] and the foreign minister participated in that call and neither of them remember knowing you or having spoken with you ever. Whoever has been your confidential source on this side of the border, lied to you.”
Eduardo Sanchez, Mexico’s presidential office spokesman, said the conversation was respectful, not hostile or humiliating, as described by Estevez.
“It is absolutely false that President Trump has threatened to send troops to the border,” he said during a Wednesday-night interview with Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.
Later on Wednesday, the Mexican government issued a statement disputing the AP’s initial report, saying the details of it “did not correspond to reality.”
“The negative expressions to which [the AP report] makes reference, did not happen during said telephone call,” the statement, posted on Twitter, said. “On the contrary, the tone was constructive …”
The White House also disputed the account of a contentious call between Trump and Peña Nieto.
“The White House tells me POTUS did not threaten to invade Mexico,” Andrew Beatty, the AFP’s White House correspondent, tweeted a little before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, also tweeted a comment he attributed to a White House official: “Reports that the President threatened to invade Mexico are false. Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports.”
A more in-depth report from CNN published Wednesday night cited a transcript of the call that differed from the text published by the AP:
“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.”
A source told CNN that the AP’s report was based on a readout of the conversation between Trump and Peña Nieto written by aides, not on a transcript.
In a further qualification, the White House characterized Trump’s “bad hombres” remark as “lighthearted” to the AP in a story published on Thursday morning.
The White House said the comments were “part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.”
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the AP the conversation was “pleasant and constructive.”
While both sides has downplayed the content of the conversation and dismissed the reportedly hostile tone, the exact nature of the phone call is still unclear, and may remain so until a full transcript or audio (which the Mexican government traditionally does not record) is revealed.
In any case, Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders during his first two weeks as president have been concerning for observers, both at home and abroad.
“(Trump’s) interactions are naive in that he keeps suggesting we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries, but there is no substance to back it up,” a government official with knowledge of Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders told CNN.
“Source familiar with Trump foreign leader calls says the POTUS convos are turning faces ‘white’ inside the” White House, Acosta tweeted late on Wednesday.
During that call, Trump bragged about his election victory and said Australia was going to send the US “the next Boston bombers” as part of an Obama-approved deal to taken in refugees held by Australia, which he criticized.
Descriptions of Trump’s calls are at odds with “sanitized” White House accounts, The Washington Post, which first reported the nature of the Turnbull call, said of Trump’s discussions with foreign leaders, adding:
“The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.”
The contentious nature of the Trump’s call with the Australian leader was especially troubling, in light of the longstanding and close-knit ties Washington and Canberra have developed over decades.
While the call with Mexico’s president appears to be less sensational that initially reported, that correction will likely do little to sooth the nerves of Mexicans and people of Mexican descent in Mexico and in the US.
Moreover, Mexicans appear to have been caught up in the “extreme vetting” Trump has targeted at citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.
“We have reports of Mexicans who have been held for more than 12 hours … We have a case of a family who were held for more than 10 hours and we’re looking into that,” Marcelino Miranda, consul for legal affairs at Mexico’s consulate in Chicago, said on Tuesday.
Miranda said he believed stringent questioning faced by those Mexicans had nothing to do with the newly intensified vetting process, though others from the country likely see it as part of a broader hostility to the US’s southern neighbor.
Trump “wants to make an example of Mexico to show how he will deal with countries around the world,” Maria Eugenia Valdes, a political scientist at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, told journalist Ioan Grillo.
“This man is capable of anything,” she added.
“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it,” Trump said during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.
“We’re going to straighten it out,” Trump added. “That’s what I do. I fix things.”
A Royal Air Force Reaper MQ9A remote piloted aircraft interrupted a planned public execution that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attempted to carry out earlier this month, giving the would-be victims of the terrorist group a chance to escape.
According to a May 19, 2017 British Ministry of Defence release, the Reaper was over the Syrian village of Abu Kamal on May 9 when it noticed ISIS fighters gathering civilians in the village. When the crew saw that the ISIS fighters were removing two prisoners from a van, they chose to act.
Unable to directly target the would-be executioners due to the British rules of engagement that require the minimization of civilian casualties, the Reaper crew instead fired a single AGM-114 Hellfire missile at the roof of a building where two other ISIS terrorists were acting as sentries. The missile killed one of the tangos outright, and sent both the crowd of civilians and ISIS scrambling for cover.
The ultimate fate of the would-be victims is not known.
AmericanMilitaryNews.com reports that such executions are becoming more common as ISIS loses ground to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. ISIS was known for a series of beheading videos released since 2014, including one earlier this month of an alleged spy for Russia. A British subject, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” was one of the more notorious executioners until he was killed by a strike carried out by American and British UAVs.
According to the RAF’s web site, the British Reaper MQ9A, which is assigned to XIII Squadron, 39 Squadron, and 54 Squadron, is usually armed with four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs. The MQ-9 is also used by the United States Air Force, the Italian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, French Air Force, and United States Customs and Border Protection.
After he retired from the Air Force in 1970, he started an art gallery with his wife Peggy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
He successfully battled cancer, but vowed if it ever came back, he’d hike into the desert with a chest full of booty and wait for treasure hunters to find him and his loot.
“If it comes back, I’m going to grab a pocketful of sleeping pills, take a treasure chest filled with treasure and a copy of my bio, and I’m going to walk out into the desert,” Fenn told writer Margie Goldsmith. “Sometime they’ll find my bones and the treasure, but my bio will be inside the box, so at least they’ll know who I was.”
But the cancer never came back. So Fenn, “tired of waiting,” went ahead and buried the treasure in the Rocky Mountains near his home.
“It’s difficult so it won’t be found right away, but it’s easy enough so that it’s not impossible to find it,” Fenn told Goldsmith who wrote about the treasure for the Huffington Post. “I want sweaty bodies out there looking for my treasure — they just have to find the clues.”
The treasure is buried in an honest-to-God treasure chest and contains gold nuggets, gold animal figurines, and gold coins, as well as some gems and valuable historical artifacts.
Before you lace up your hiking boots, note that the search may not be an easy one. More than one hiker has gone missing looking for the treasure and digging on public lands could be problematic.
As of this writing, the treasure has not yet been found. Fenn, now 80 years old, advises people to wait until after the snow melts in spring to begin their search.
“The treasure is not hidden in a dangerous place,” Fenn told the Daily Mail UK. “I’ve said many times not to look for the treasure any place where an 80-year-old man couldn’t put it.”
Clues to the treasure’s location can be found in Fenn’s book about his life. “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” is only available at the Collected Works Bookstore in downtown Santa Fe. Proceeds from the book benefit cancer patients who can’t pay for treatments.
Fenn says the following poem contains at least nine clues. Good luck!
He was asked if the US should reinstate the draft.
Yes, he replied, but not to grow the size of the armed forces.
He argued that since only 1% of Americans serve their country, America lacks in shared experience — there’s almost no common background between the upper class and the middle class, the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban.
The solution, then, wouldn’t be mandatory military service, but national service — programs like Teach for America and City Year, but made accessible to a full quarter of a yearly cohort rather than an elite few.
Since that conversation, McChrystal has campaigned for making a “service year” a part of young Americans’ trajectories. The goal is to “create 1 million civilian national service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 to get outside their comfort zones while serving side by side with people from different backgrounds.”
In an interview with Business Insider, McChrystal, who has held positions as head of US Joint Special Operations Command and as the top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, explained his plan for making that happen, and the effects national service could have on American society.
Business Insider: What does the word “citizenship” mean to you, and how does national service inform it?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal: When I think of citizenship, I think of a nation as a covenant. It’s an agreement between a bunch of people to form a compact that does such things as common defense, common welfare, whatnot. The United States is not a place; it’s an idea, and it’s basically a contract between us.
BI: So if a nation is an agreement, then citizenship is putting that agreement into action?
SM: That’s exactly what it is.
BI: What does citizenship have to do with having a common experience?
SM: We’ve become a nation that’s split 50 ways.
There are fewer ties to the community today than when you lived in a small town, and everybody had to get together to raise a barn. You knew your neighbors because you had to. Grandparents tended to live in the same town as parents, and kids grew up there. Nowadays, we don’t live that way.
BI: But service programs today are unreachable for most people, so how can they serve as a common link? Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps — these programs have acceptance rates comparable to Ivy League schools. How do you make service more accessible?
SM: What has happened is that many of our service practices have become almost elitist programs. They do it because they can, and also it protects their brand and their reputation so they can survive in tough times. But it’s not solving the problem because most of people who go do those kinds of things, I think they come out better citizens, but it’s too small a number — it’s less than 200,000 kids a year.
BI: There are a ton of social structures at work here. How do you make a change?
SM: We’ve got 4 million young people in every year cohort in America, so we think that in the next 10 years we’ve got to get to about a million kids every year to do a year of national service. That would be 25% of the year group.
Now, I can’t prove this, but our sense is that if we get to 25%, you probably get the critical mass, because what we’re trying to do is get this into the culture of America so that service is voluntary but it’s expected. Meaning if you go to interview for a job, you go to apply to a school, you go to run for congress, people are going to naturally ask, Where did you serve?
BI: OK, so how do you make that happen?
SM: Creating a big government agency isn’t the mechanism to do this.
We’re trying to take existing organizations like Teach for America and expand those. Then Cisco, the corporation, has donated money and helped to develop a digital platform that is going to give us a 21st-century ability to match opportunities and people looking for a service year opportunity.
I think we create a marketplace to do this that obviously starts slowly and then builds up momentum. And then once we get to the point where people really believe that service is not only a good thing to do — in an altruistic sense as citizen — but it also advantages them.
BI: There seems to be a lot of anxiety around doing “a gap year.” Are any programs already in place that take away that anxiety?
SM: There’s a program that Tufts University rolled out that’s called 1+4. And I was up there when they announced it. And what you do is, you apply for Tufts — I think there are 50 slots for the class that came in last September — but you do your first year doing national service, kind of like you’re red-shirted for football, and then you do your four years.
You’re already accepted, so the family doesn’t worry, Is Johnny going to go to college? If you’re on financial aid, Tufts pays for it. They pay for the national service. Tufts believe they get a more mature freshman. We’re pushing this in a lot of universities now because it’s a win-win for a university.
They do get a more mature person, and parents don’t worry about the vagaries of the gap year. There could be a lot of different permutations of that kind of thing, but those are the kinds of things that we see as practical steps.
BI: How will you know when the plan has succeeded?
SM: The key part of the ecosystem is the culture that demands national service. At some point, my goal is to get it so that nobody would run for Congress who hadn’t served, because they think they’d get pummeled for not having done a service year.
In section 42 of Beaufort National Cemetery is a modest private marker for Emma Morrill Fogg French. In addition to her name and years of birth and death — 1831-1898 — is the simple inscription “Hospital Nurse.”
Emma (or Emeline) M. Morrill was born in 1831 in Standstead, Canada, along the United States border in Vermont. It is likely that her family lived on both sides of the border over the next two decades. Emma was residing in Lowell, Massachusetts, when she married distiller Charles P. Fogg on March 1, 1852. There is little historical evidence of the Foggs after their marriage. Charles appears in the 1855 New York census as a boarder in Brooklyn. Emma shows up on the 1860 U.S. census without Charles, presumably having been widowed by that time. She too was living in Brooklyn.
Emma arrived in the Sea Islands of South Carolina in 1863 to serve as a nurse for the Union Army at the U.S. General Hospital in Hilton Head. While her time in service was relatively short — from March to October — she apparently made quite an impact on the soldiers under her care. A notice in the Nov. 14, 1863, edition of The New South newspaper, noted that Mrs. Fogg received “an elegant Gold Pen and Pencil” from several of the wounded soldiers.
Newspaper clipping on her departure from the hospital.
Emma returned to New York but came back to teach in South Carolina for the National Freedman’s Relief Association in April or May 1864. The Association was formed in February 1862 at the Cooper Union Institute to “relieve the sufferings of the freedmen, their women and children, as they come within our army lines.” Rev. Mansfield French, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, who had initially become interested in the education of African Americans in Ohio in the 1850s, was one of the main forces behind the organization. After the start of the Civil War, Reverend French went to Washington, D.C., and in a meeting with President Lincoln convinced him of the need to care for the enslaved African Americans who had been abandoned on the plantations of Hilton Head and Port Royal, South Carolina. The reverend was eventually commissioned as a chaplain in the U.S. Army and assigned to the U.S. hospital in Beaufort. An avid abolitionist, Reverend French continued to advocate for both the end of slavery and the recruitment of former enslaved men into the Union Army.
Cooley, Sam A, photographer. Rev. Mr. French’s residence, Beaufort, S.C. Taken between 1863 and 1865.
(Library of Congress)
Emma remained in costal South Carolina after the war and continued teaching with the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau). In April 1868, she married the eldest son of Reverend French – Winchell Mansfield French, who had joined his father in Beaufort in 1864 and became involved in land and cotton speculation. The couple reportedly resided at the former Thomas Fuller House on Bay Street in Beaufort. The house — later referred to as the Tabby Manse — was purchased by Reverend French in January 1864 at public auction, having been abandoned by its owners.
The Frenches lived in Beaufort through at least June 1880 when the U.S. population census was taken. Winchell, who was engaged in numerous business pursuits during the Civil War and after, was by this time the editor of a local newspaper. Living with the couple were several boarders including two families and a single young man.
By 1885, Emma and Winchell had moved to Orlando, Florida, and were running a hotel. Within a decade, the couple had departed the Sunshine State for Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is where Emma filed her pension application related to her service in the Civil War. Nurses were finally granted the right to pensions when the U.S. Congress passed the act of Aug. 5, 1892.
Page from pension record of Emma M. French formerly Fogg, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
At the time of her death on July 18, 1898, Emma was receiving twelve dollars per month from the federal government — the amount allocated in the 1892 pension act. She was interred at Beaufort National Cemetery among the soldiers she served.
In addition to Emma, there are other notable Civil War nurse buried in the national cemeteries — at Annapolis National Cemetery are three nurses who died during the war: Mrs. J. Broad, Mary J. Dukeshire and Hannah Henderson; and Malinda M. Moon, who died in 1926, is interred at Springfield National Cemetery.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban militants while casualties among security forces have reached record levels, a U.S. government watchdog says.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted in its latest quarterly report on Oct. 31, 2018, the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul.
“The control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter,” the agency said.
The Taliban have still not succeeded in taking a major provincial center despite assaults on the provinces of Farah and Ghazni in 2018, but they control large parts of the countryside, the SIGAR report says.
Data from Afghanistan’s NATO-led Resolute Support mission showed that government forces had “failed to gain greater control or influence over districts, population, and territory this quarter”, SIGAR said.
As of September 2018, it said the government controlled or influenced territory with about 65 percent of the population, stable since October 2017.
Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to depart from Afghan base Camp Maiwand in Logar province to go on a routine patrol.
(NATO photo taken by U.S. Navy Lt. Aubrey Page)
However, it reported that only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.
SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and Oct. 1, 2018, was “the greatest it has ever been during like periods.”
Figures for casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are no longer available after Washington in 2017 agreed to Kabul’s request to classify the numbers.
Before that, according to figures published by SIGAR, there were more than 5,000 casualties each year.
General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said last month that Afghan casualties were increasing from 2017.
Two teenagers on opposite sides of the country paid tribute to their fathers — one a cop, one a firefighter, both killed on the job — as they graduated from high school last week.
In Anderson, South Carolina, Karlee Burdette crossed the graduation stage at Crescent High School wearing her father’s graduation cap and gown, applauded by about 30 members of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Her father, Alex Burdette, was an Anderson County sheriff’s deputy when he died in 2005 helping to clear a traffic accident.
In California, Joslyn Carlon was saluted by lines of over 100 firefighters as she arrived to her Saugus High School graduation ceremony outside Los Angeles. She accepted her diploma wearing a turnout coat worn by her father, Tory Carlon, who was shot and killed in a workplace shooting while on duty in Agua Dulce just two days before the ceremony.
Tory Carlon was 44 and a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. A firefighter captain wounded in the shooting remains in the hospital.
In South Carolina, Karlee Burdette graduated as the valedictorian of her high school, the same school her father, Alex Burdette, had attended.
“I had to get a little bit creative to find a way to get him to be here,” Burdette told WSPA. “I thought I would wear his cap and gown as a way to honor him and also to have him with me on that stage.”
Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride brought 30 deputies and employees, some who had known Alex and even been present at his death, and saluted Burdette as she crossed the stage.
“I was actually very surprised at how many of them actually came,” said Burdette’s mother, Nicole Burdette. “Some of the guys that were here, were working with Alex that night. One of the guys was the first one on scene. So I know it means a lot to me to have him here and have them all here.
In California, where the death of Tory Carlon was only two days old, over 100 firefighters attended Joslyn Carlon’s graduation. As she received her diploma, the group took a knee.
At a Tuesday vigil, according to KABC-TV, a fellow firefighter said of Carlon, “When it comes to being a father, when it comes to being a fireman, when it comes to being a mentor, there was nobody that could parallel that.”
President Donald Trump warned Russia on April 11, 2018, that US missiles are coming for Syria, whether or not Russia will try to defend against them.
Such a strike would call on the US’s most high-end platforms and present one of the most difficult military challenges on Earth.
Russia has deployed advanced air-defenses to Syria, and they’re pretty much the top of the line. A Russian diplomat and several Russian lawmakers also threatened to shoot down US missiles, the platforms that fired them, and to otherwise impose “grave repercussions.”
But the US has stealth jets and Navy destroyers that can send missiles over 1,000 miles. If the US does intend to strike targets under Russia’s air defenses, it will carry out perhaps the most complicated, technologically advanced military skirmish of all time.
1. The US’s best stealth jets vs. Russia’s best air defenses
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute, an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, previously told Business Insider that US planes can beat Russian air defenses, but not without a fight.
“Yeah they can do it. In theory, they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” Sutyagin said, referring to long-range missiles as “standoff weapons.”
“The tactics of these low-visibility planes, as they were designed originally, was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through the gap and launch standoff weapons,” he said.
“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” Sutyagin concluded.
Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col David Berke, a former F-35 squadron leader and an F-22 pilot, also told Business Insider that US stealth jets were built to take on Russia’s air defenses specifically.
2. The Navy option
(U.S. Navy photo)
But the US already struck Syria’s government successfully in 2017, using cruise missiles launched from US Navy guided-missile destroyers.
“One air defense battalion with an S-300 [advanced Russian air defense system] has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?” Sutyagin said.
“The Russian military in Syria has air defense systems theoretically capable of shooting down US Tomahawk missiles but these can be saturated and, in the case of the S-400 [another Russian air defense system] in particular, are largely unproven in actual combat use,” Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at RUSI, told Business Insider.
But the cruise missile strike of April, 2017, did little to actually stop chemical weapons attacks or violence against civilians from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Within 24 hours, warplanes took off from the damaged airfield again.
Russia has heavy naval power in the region, but Bronk predicted that Moscow won’t have the stomach for a full-on fight against the US Navy, as it could easily escalate into all-out war between the world’s greatest military and nuclear powers.
3. Trump’s next strike may make the last one look tiny
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
President Donald Trump is now weighing a much larger strike to send a clear message, the New York Times reports.
To do this, the US will have to carefully weigh how much it wants to risk against Russia, a competent foe.
The scale of the US’s strike “depends on the risk appetite,” Bronk said, as the US will be “risking escalation directly with the Russians.”
“If the US decides on an option that involves more than cruise missiles and potentially a few stealth aircraft, it will have to suppress the Syrian air defense network and threaten or potentially even kill Russians,” Bronk said.
The Marines in Afghanistan are definitely in combat, even if they are not being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the former commander of Task Force Southwest said on Feb. 1.
“It’s absolutely a combat mission,” Brig. Gen. Roger Turner Jr. told reporters at a roundtable. “The only difference is we’re not maneuvering directly on the enemy. From the command element perspective: It’s full spectrum combat. We shoot at the enemy, they shoot at us.”
Turner led the task force of roughly 300 Marines from April 2017 until January 2018. During that time, Marines helped Afghan troops and interior ministry forces go on the offensive in Helmand province, the home of many senior Taliban leaders and a significant source of the opium that feeds the Taliban’s coffers, he said.
Despite being deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, none of the Marines in the task force were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Times has reported. The CAR is a coveted decoration, especially by younger Marines, because it certifies combat experience.
But on Feb. 1, Turner cautioned against using the CAR as a litmus test to determine if the Marines in Afghanistan are on a combat mission.
“It’s too simplistic to say that nobody earned the Combat Action Ribbon; therefore, they weren’t in combat,” Turner said. “They’re very much in combat. We just weren’t achieving the criteria of the Combat Action Ribbon.”
Sgt. Mohamed Amin and his cadre of fellow instructors at the Camp Commando School of Excellence outside Kabul have their work cut out for them. They have been given the arduous task of executing President Ashraf Ghani’s order to double the commando force in four years, without sacrificing quality.
The CAR recognizes Marines who have taken part in direct action against the enemy, according to the decoration’s requirements. Marines who come under direct fire or are exposed to explosions can be eligible for the award. The CAR is typically not given to Marines who come under indirect fire unless they engage in offensive counter-fire operations.
With help from the Marines, Afghan security forces went on the offensive for 250 days of the 280-day deployment, Turner said. The Marines advised the Afghans at various levels of command and helped coordinate artillery and air support.
Even though the Marines did not fight alongside Afghan units, they were attacked by Taliban rockets and mortars about 20 times during the deployment, Turner said. None of the Marines were wounded.
On Jan. 15, Turner transferred command to Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, who commands a larger task force that will be able to have U.S. military advisers permanently assigned to Afghan battalions, Turner said.
Watson has told Task Purpose that he has the authority to allow Marines to accompany Afghan troops and police into battle, if needed.
“Whether or not we exercise that authority is going to depend on how we assess the situation at the time, and obviously I’m not going to get into specifics on that,” Watson said in a Jan. 15 interview.
After nearly 16 years of war in Afghanistan, it is not clear how much of territory the Taliban controls outright or is contesting. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, said the U.S. estimates that the Afghan government controls about 60%of the country, but a recent BBC report claims the Taliban is active in 70% of Afghanistan.
McKenzie said he does not believe the BBC story is accurate, adding that he “couldn’t completely follow their logic as stated in the article.”
“We certainly don’t think that the Taliban has a presence to some degree in 70% of the countryside – and we would disagree with that,” McKenzie told reporters Feb. 1 during a Pentagon news briefing.
It leads the United States’ war against ISIS and with 75 aircraft on its deck has the ability to carry out numerous combat sorties a day. On July 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the USS George H. W. Bush docked opposite the Haifa Port and became the first sitting head of state to visit America’s largest and most lethal floating war machine.
The docking of the ship on July 1 marked the first time an aircraft carrier visited Israel in 17 years.
“The visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters during a visit to the ship. According to a statement by the US European Command, the ship’s visit is meant “to enhance US-Israel relations as the two nations reaffirm their continued commitment to the collective security of the European and Middle East Regions.”
According to Pennington, the crew is constantly engaged in cooperation with Israel, including sharing intelligence.
“There is a tremendous network of shared intelligence. As you are aware the airspace in the region is very, very, busy with lots of different actors so the need to deconflict that and make sure that everyone understands their missions is very important,” he said.
Visiting the ship with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu recalled his visit to another aircraft carrier 20 years ago.
“So much has changed since the first time I visited… our ties have gotten stronger and deeper,” he said. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory.”
The USS George H.W. Bush was in the region to participate in the fight against ISIS, carrying out its last operational mission on June 30. With 20-25 sorties per day, aircraft aboard the ship have carried out 1,600 sorties over both Syria and Iraq, striking targets in Mosul and in the vicinity of Raqqa on missions that can last seven to nine hours.
The targets which are directed by the coalition ground commander, are sometimes known prior to take-off and pilots have sometimes also received targets while in the air.
According to Carrier Air Wing 8 Captain James A. McCall, one of the real-time targets was the Syrian jet that was downed on June 18 in southern Raqqa province by one of the jets stationed on the aircraft carrier.
“The jet came within visual distance” McCall said, stating that US jets “warned the Syrian aircraft that they were approaching coalition friendlies. They (the Syrian regime jet) ignored the warning and even dropped bombs on the friendlies,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Force who are supported by the coalition.
Towards the end of its seven-month deployment, the USS George H.W. Bush arrived in Haifa after a 40 day voyage from Dubai.
While the ship will not be taking part in any joint exercises with the Israeli Navy, Israel provided security as it pulled into the Haifa Bay allowing the ship’s strike group to continue to other missions and port calls.
“We are very tightly linked with our colleagues and partners and allies from the IDF and have been for very many years,” Pennington said.
Speaking at a ceremony aboard the carrier, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, stated that the visit marks “a special moment” between Israel and the United States which “has had long standing military to military engagements with Israel.”
“In this visit to Israel, the ship’s might is a metaphor for the strength of the bonds between our countries. I’d like to thank the Israeli people for hosting us and for taking care of our Sailors,” she added.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who visited the ship on Sunday stated that it was “a timely show of American power projection and deterrence capability.”
“Its support for the countries fighting Islamic extremism and terror and Iran is very important, especially now when Iran is working to create facts on the ground in Syria, including a port on the Mediterranean, and Hezbollah continues to build its arsenal with more advanced and precise missiles.”
The Navy announced Aug. 4 that its much-maligned blue digital camouflage uniform will be removed from service and replaced with the Naval Working Uniform Type III, a digital woodland camouflage pattern commonly worn by SEALs and other Navy expeditionary forces.
Despite years of development and millions of dollars spent on replacing the old Navy dungarees, sailors hated the so-called “blueberry” uniforms, joking that the pattern was only good at hiding sailors who’d fallen overboard and that the material felt heavier and less comfortable than other working uniforms.
“As the CNO and I travel to see sailors deployed around the world, one of the issues they consistently want to talk about are uniforms,” said Navy Sec. Ray Mabus in a press release. “They want uniforms that are comfortable, lightweight, breathable … and they want fewer of them.”
Mabus said that the sea service will begin moving to the woodland digital NWU Type III and away from the blue digital NWU Type I for all sailors ashore starting Oct. 1.
The Navy said the blue NWU Type I will still be authorized for wear for three years, but the service will soon stop issuing it to new sailors. Instead, enlisted sailors will be given funds to buy the NWU Type III, which is based on the AOR 2 pattern developed for SEAL Team 6.
“Over the next three years, sailors may wear either the NWU Type I or III, but effective Oct. 1, 2019, all Sailors will be expected to wear the NWU Type III as their primary Working Uniform when ashore or in port,” the Navy said.
Officers will have to buy the new uniforms with their own funds.
WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2016) The Dept. of the Navy announced that it will transition from the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I to the NWU Type III as its primary shore working uniform. While the NWU Type I will be phased out over the next three years, effective Oct. 1, 2019, all Sailors will be expected to wear the NWU Type III as their primary Working Uniform when ashore or in port. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper/Released)
Some NWU Type I items, including the black parka, will be authorized for wear with the NWU Type III. For now sailors will be required to wear black boots with the Type III uniform, while expeditionary forces and those forward-deployed may wear desert tan boots at the commander’s discretion.
“This change is the first step in a multi-phased process that will streamline and consolidate the Navy’s uniform requirements, and ultimately improve uniformity across the force,” the Navy said. “The Navy has listened to Sailors’ feedback and is incorporating their desires to have a working uniform that is better fitting, more breathable and lighter weight.”
Atlanta Falcon offensive lineman Ben Garland knows the meaning of service, but he took the NFL’s Salute to Service program to the next level.
Each year for Veteran’s Day, the NFL pays tribute to our nation’s servicemembers in a number of ways, but one of the most meaningful is during November’s Salute to Service. Players wear the initials of the fallen on their uniforms, the NFL donates money to non-profit organizations like the Pat Tillman Foundation or TAPS, and military families are invited to meet their favorite teams and experience some VIP fun.
A captain in the Colorado Air National Guard, the Veteran’s Day events are particularly meaningful to Garland. In 2017, he wore the initials of Air Force veteran Robert Dean, who took his own life in June 2016. At the game, Garland met Dean’s wife, Katie, and their 3 year-old son, Cooper, and the meeting left a lasting impression on him.
On Dec. 11, Garland was honored for his community service with his team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and he decided to invite Katie and Cooper as his guests — what they didn’t know was that he had a big surprise in store for them.
When accepting his award, Garland invited them onstage and presented them with tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl.
Whether in the military, on the field, or helping others, it’s clear Garland lives by the Air Force Core Value of “Service Before Self.” From visiting cancer patients in hospitals, to fighting human trafficking with SōDE Solution, to helping families like the Deans, Garland proves how impactful service after service can be.
“This incredible connection with Ben Garland and the Dean family is just extraordinary and means so much to Katie and Cooper,” said Diana Hosford, vice president of sports and entertainment at TAPS. “Ben being in the Air Force just like their fallen hero and also being so kind, caring and thoughtful just like the man they loved and lost, makes this bond even stronger.”