Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.
The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.
The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.
“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”
The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.
“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”
“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”
This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.
Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.
In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a massive collection of rules, regulations, standards and procedures that defines the justice system for those serving according to Uncle Sam. It is federal law enacted by Congress that spells out all the activities that can cause troops to get slapped with an Article 15, Article 32, a court martial, or a host of other not-so-fun punishments.
Servicemembers have all raised their right hands and sworn an oath to protect and defend this nation and its constitution and, by default, they have also agreed, for as long as they’re in uniform, to live according to the rules and regulations of the UCMJ. But, I’m willing to bet 60 days of rollover leave that most of them don’t have a good idea of how severe the consequences often are of violating the UCMJ.
Here are 10 ways servicemembers get themselves into big trouble most often:
1. Failing the whizz quiz
At one point or another, we have all likely been subjected to a “sweep urinalysis,” which tests an entire company for illegal drug use by way of urine samples. Company-wide urine tests are allowed by the UCMJ, but you need to be on the lookout for commanders who order these inspections hoping to single out one specific person – perhaps you – for illegal drug use. Illegal drug use violates Article 112a of the UCMJ and could cost you your military career. Commanders need probable cause to order you to take a urine test, but not for a company-wide urine test. A commander may want to conduct a company-wide urine test to catch one specific person using illegal drugs because they may not have the evidence needed to test this one person. Ordering a company-wide urine test with the goal of catching one person using drugs is not allowed by the UCMJ.
2. Taking one drug to hide another
As a member of the U.S. Military, you are not allowed to wrongfully possess, sell or use drugs or items used to take drugs (needles, syringes, crack pipes, etc). The Department of Defense (DoD) specifically disallows this in DoD Instruction 1010.04, which addresses “problematic substance use by DoD personnel.” The DoD says drug paraphernalia is anything involved in, meant to be involved in, or meant to hide drug use. This includes things like diuretics taken before a drug test in order to hide drug use. If you are caught using one drug, such as a diuretic, to hide your use of another drug, you could be charged with failure to obey a lawful regulation. This is a violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ.
3. Getting too drunk to remember what happened
There’s nothing in the UCMJ that says service members can’t engage in consensual sex or enjoy alcohol responsibly. But UCMJ violations often appear when a lot of alcohol is mixed with a lot of sex. The extreme consumption of booze is often tied to charges of sexual assault in the military. As a result, it is common for service members to face Article 120 charges under the UCMJ for sexual assault, even when the alleged sexual assault victim does not remember consenting to sex or engaging in any sexual activity at all. The alleged victim’s lack of memory leads to an Article 120 charge and the alleged-person-who-did-the-assaulting’s lack of memory moves the charge forward with nothing to disprove a sexual assault occurred in the first place. No bender, no matter how epic, is worth this risk.
4. Sex with someone who’s underage
The last thing you want is a visit from “To Catch a Predator’s” Chris Hansen. If you are caught having sex with a minor, you’ll receive much worse than that under the UCMJ. And don’t count on the fact that you “didn’t know he/she was only 16” saving you from the wrath of military prosecutors. It doesn’t matter if the minor consented to sex or if you did or did not know the minor was underage at the time of sex, you will be charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child under the UCMJ anyway. This offense is punishable by up to 20 years of confinement. The cliff note summary here is if he or she looks to be under 18, don’t get involved with him or her. It isn’t worth the punishment or the end of your military career.
5. Sexting using a government phone
The next time you feel the need to snap and send a pic of your unmentionables, I recommend thinking twice, especially if you are about to do so with a phone issued to you by Uncle Sam. If you engage in sexting on a government-issued phone, you could be slapped with the charge of failure to obey a lawful general regulation, which violates Article 92 of the UCMJ. You may also be unaware of the real age of the person you are sexting, and sexting a minor could get you charged with online sexual exploitation of a minor, indecent language or exposure, or possibly manufacturing and/or distributing child pornography. These charges all violate Article 134 of the UCMJ or any applicable federal statute. You should also keep in mind that it is very common for text messages to be used as evidence by military prosecutors to help prove adultery and fraternization.
6. Playing fast and loose with marital status
Military swingers beware: Your wife or husband’s thumbs up for you to sleep with other men or women will not save you from a conviction under the UCMJ. Your conviction could stem from a charge of adultery in violation of Article 134 of the UCMJ. Adultery, an offense unique to the military that non-military members do not have to worry about (just ask Tiger Woods or Arnold), occurs when a service member has sex with someone who is not his or her spouse or who is married to someone else. Take note that this offense is triggered by both consensual and non-consensual sex.
7. Solving an argument with a fist
The military promotes confrontation. It is one of the reasons we love serving. But the military also requires good order and discipline and so confrontation and aggression are only allowed under specific circumstances, such as during drills, patrols, and obviously when deployed. Violent confrontation is not allowed by the military whenever and wherever. For instance, if two service members have an argument and agree to a fist fight to settle the disagreement, this is illegal under the UCMJ. If you take this approach to solving your disagreements while enlisted, you’ll likely find yourself charged with assault by battery in violation of Article 128 of the UCMJ.
8. Failure to be not fat
A negative fitness assessment (FA) or physical training (PT) test failure can have a disastrous impact on your military career. Depending on your status and whether any other poor fitness assessments are already in your records, just one or more failures can cause you to be kicked out of the military. If you feel your FA or PT failure was due to an error, you could challenge it up your chain of command. If you have already tried that or have already been kicked out of the military, you could go to your branch’s Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records (BCMR or BCNR) and request that the error be removed or corrected.
9. Failure to be a snitch
Let’s say you are deployed to Afghanistan like I was a few short years ago, and you have a friend also stationed there who is a mail clerk. Your friend begins showing up after his shift with all sorts of extra goodies clearly coming from somewhere off base (cigars, video games, home cooked meals, etc.). You ask where he is getting all the loot and he says he has been opening the mail coming into the base and stealing the goods. Your ongoing knowledge of this theft and failure to report it could amount to a conspiracy in violation of Article 81 of the UCMJ.
If you positively need to catch a high but are concerned about doing it with drugs that are labeled illegal by the UCMJ, you should know that “huffing” substances like dusting products, glue and gasoline can still get you in trouble with military prosecutors. If you use substances like these to get high, the military cannot punish you using Article 112a of the UCMJ, which addresses the wrongful use of a controlled substance. BUT, the military CAN charge you under Article 92 of the UCMJ for failure to obey a lawful regulation. There are various other branch regulations, such as in the Army and Navy, that also prohibit huffing. My recommendation – stick with runner’s high.
Mat Tully is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mat is the Founding Partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, a coast to coast law firm defending the legal rights of servicemembers. The above is not intended as legal advice.
Ships from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group are deploying without their carrier and accompanying air wing after the flattop suffered an unexpected electrical problem that required maintenance, the Navy revealed Sept. 12, 2019.
The destroyers USS Lassen, USS Farragut, and USS Forrest Sherman, along with the cruiser USS Normandy, will set sail from their homeports in Norfolk, Virginia, and Mayport, Florida, in the near future. These ships will be accompanied by helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Squadron 72 out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, however, will remain behind.
The move is unusual. Normally, if a carrier is down for maintenance or some other reason, it will simply be replaced with another carrier. But, the East Coast carrier fleet is currently short a suitable alternative in the inventory due to maintenance backlogs and delivery delays, among other issues.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) underway in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
In late August 2019, the Truman aircraft carrier experienced an “electrical malfunction within the ship’s electrical distribution system requiring analysis and repair,” US Fleet Forces Command spokesman Capt. Scott Miller told USNI News, which first reported the news of both the electrical issue and the unusual deployment.
US 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis characterized the latest developments as “unfortunate” in talks with USNI News. “The situation with Truman frankly is unfortunate,” he told the naval affairs outlet. “Obviously, we’re working really hard to fix it, and we will fix it, but it’s unfortunate — nobody wanted that to happen certainly.”
The Navy said Sept. 12, 2019, that “repairs are progressing and all efforts are being made to deploy the carrier and air wing as soon as possible.” But, as there are still a number of unknowns surrounding the issue, it is unclear when the Truman will again be ready to sail.
USS Harry S. Truman in drydock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
“Not having the aircraft carrier,” Lewis explained to USNI News, “it does detract from the symbolism and the deterrent effect, no question.”
“The aircraft carrier is a behemoth beast with an amazing capability, it shows up off your shores, and if you’re not our friend you become our friend quickly if you know what’s good for you. There is no question that that effect is lost with smaller ships.”
The deploying ships have formed a Surface Action Group, and the admiral insists that these ships bring the kind of capability to confront both low- and high-end threats.
Explaining that the ships have anti-submarine, air-and-missile defense, and strike warfare capabilities, he insisted that this is a “very capable group” that is ready “to do the nation’s bidding in this great power competition,” an apparent reference to 2nd Fleet’s role in countering a resurgent Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Do you love beer? Do you love money? Are you a military veteran who owns a business? Would you like to improve your business strategy and learn from experts through mentoring in essential business disciplines, such as social media, sales and distribution, marketing, and package design?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then listen up. The StreetShares Foundation is teaming up with Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream to provide the military and veteran-community with access to capital and mentoring through StreetShares’ Veteran Small Business Awards.
The StreetShares’ Veteran Small Business Award will provide $100,000 in business grants to the chosen recipient in addition to educational resources and support. By connecting you with experts and hosting speed-coaching events all across the country, StreetShares gets to help you, a veteran and entrepreneur, succeed!
To apply, submit a video pitch and short application to the StreetShares Foundation website. In your application, be sure to include a business idea, how you’d use reward funds, how your product or service fits your target market, team and company history, and how your business impacts the military and veteran community.
The StreetShares Foundation was launched on Veterans Day, 2016, with the goal of educating, inspiring, and supporting veteran business owners across America. The Foundation is run by veterans and is based just outside of our nation’s capital.
“Research shows military veterans give back to their communities in powerful ways. But studies also show this special breed of entrepreneurs need coaching and better mentor networks,” said StreetShares Foundation Board Member, Mark L. Rockefeller. “Our partnership with Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream addresses these needs head-on. Together, we’ll provide community-impact veteran business owners with free coaching, mentoring, and grants to put their dreams in motion.”
Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream is a philanthropic program that embodies Sam Adams’ pursuit for greatness by providing food and beverage startups with real-world business advice. Since 2008, they’ve provided coaching and loans to over 40 breweries across the country totaling more than id=”listicle-2557006807″ million.
As the US still attempts to formulate a response to China’s massive hack of the US government’s Office of Personnel Management — a breach that affected some 22 million people, including federal employees with security clearances — the massive size and scope of Beijing’s intelligence gathering operations continues to come into focus.
Unlike other nations, China uses a broad array of both professional and citizen spies to gather data, Peter Mattis explains for War On The Rocks.
As Mattis describes it, the first level of Chinese intelligence-gathering resembles that of just about any other government. A Ministry of State Security carries out surveillance of targets within China and monitors potential threats, while the Ministry of Public Security has control over China’s national databases and surveillance networks.
China also has various levels of military intelligence organizations within the People’s Liberation Army. Most of the operatives for these organizations are also based in China, although Mattis notes that “defense attachés and clandestine collectors do operate abroad.”
This also isn’t all that different from how countries normally operate. The US has some 17 intelligence agencies, several of which are organized under branches of the military. They weren’t under the oversight of a single Director of National Intelligence until 2005.
Where China begins to differ from other nations is its use of operatives who aren’t intelligence professionals and who may technically be outside Beijing’s already sprawling security sector. According to Mattis, Chinese media agencies and their foreign-based journalists have likely collected non-classified data on such sensitive topics as foreign governments’ stances towards Tibet or the South China Sea. These journalists then file reports directly to the Central Committee in Beijing.
“Although most Chinese journalists are not intelligence officers and do not recruit clandestine sources, good journalists can provide information that is not publicly available, but also not classified,” Mattis writes.
Mattis also describes “market incentives for economic espionage:” The process by which Beijing facilitates the theft of intellectual property from other countries by providing state support for their cover activities.
In July of 2014, Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese entrepreneur at the request of the FBI. The entrepreneur, Su Bin, and two China-based accomplices hacked into the networks of Boeing and other US defense contractors from 2009 to 2013.
Bin allegedly stole data for 32 different US projects, including data related the F-22 and the F-35 fighter jets, as well as Boeing’s C-17 cargo plane. US authorities believe Bin and his colleagues tried to sell the stolen intelligence to state-owned companies within China.
China’s People’s Liberation Army also carries out cyber attacks and cyber espionage against US companies in order to help boost the Chinese economy. In particular, Chinese hackers have been proven to have stolen US trade secrets related to nuclear power, metal, solar production, and the defense industries.
In addition to using civilians to gather non-classified but sensitive material, Beijing has also facilitated a process for Chinese academics to gather potentially sensitive technological information, and built up institutions capable of rapidly building upon technological espionage gains.
For instance, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC) catalogues foreign scientific publications, facilitates graduate programs for research around the world, and supports the professional development of academics throughout the country. This centralization of technological information has played an important role in China’s rapid modernization, and sources tell Mattis that ISTIC likely reduced the cost of scientific research by 40-50%, while cutting research time by upwards of 70%.
Army veteran Russell Davies knows all about taking the big plunge back into civilian life after military service. As a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.
Now a professional whitewater kayaker, Davies has made a name for himself both in competition and as a dominator of the biggest, burliest whitewater on the planet.
“Yeah, sometimes Class V just isn’t enough.” “Totally.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)
“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis caught up with Davies in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, to see what a day on the water is all about, but what he found there goes a whole lot deeper.
As a civilian, Davies has given himself a new mission: to help returning veterans address the challenges of PTSD and depression through participation in extreme sports. His organization aims to connect vets to the kind of positive, purpose-driven adrenaline rush that he found through kayaking.
But, lest you fear the day was all mutual support and quiet healing, our host — true to form — came through with an 11th hour challenge that once again pushed him to the brink of washing out.
Watch as Davies shows Curtis why real men wear (spray) skirts and the only water worth knowing is white in the video embedded at the top.
Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?
That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.
This is his story:
Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’
The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.
Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.
Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.
“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)
Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.
Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.
After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,
“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The resemblance is uncanny.
Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Tim, O.V., and Blake speak with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about all the A-level training our service members receive but don’t capitalize on it when they get out.
Every veteran’s journey after the military is different.
While some of us pursue the career along the lines in which the military trained us for, others take a different path and sometimes fall short of their full potential.
“They [veterans] have a set of skills, they have leadership abilities, and there is so much more we can do,” Blake passionately states. “Granted, I’m a writer, and I have five degrees, and none of them have to do with writing.”
A veteran finding his or her purpose is essential to life outside of the military.
So when did TMR decide to become a rapper after serving the Corps?
“When I started getting better at it,” TMR jokingly admits. “In the Corps, I wasn’t at the level I am now.
If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”
Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.
After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.
For countless years, various interrogation techniques have been used to locate the bad guys, gain confessions and convict criminals. In 1996, the CIA and Army intelligence officers were forced to release a collection of writings called “Kubark” after a Freedom of Information Act request.
This former secret document reveals practices used against the nation’s enemies to admit wrong doings and learn information to prevent future attacks.
Section nine (shown below) describes the stages of coercive techniques used to extract vital information from sources. Once you look closely, you may realize you’ve experienced one or more of these techniques up close and personal during your stay in boot camp.
Here’s how 8 out of 12 forms of counterintelligence interrogation techniques are used on recruits in basic training.
In this case, arrest doesn’t mean being handcuffed and hauled off to jail, we’re talking about using the element of surprise to achieve the maximum amount of mental discomfort. Picture a few drill sergeants barreling into a squad bay screaming and yelling waking up their recruits at moments notice — it’s the same principle.
According to the NSA archive, the continuity of a man’s surroundings, appearance, daily habits, and actions define his identity. In boot camp, the recruit has no control over any of these aspects in his new military life.
3. Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli
Basic training is known for breaking down recruits before they’re built back up. So recruits are banned from anything positive at least until graduation.
4. Threats and Fears
When a DI tells you that nothing you can do is right and you’re a complete failure, it takes a toll on the mind. Even worse, if you fail you’re going to have to repeat the tough evolution if you don’t get a move on.
Living in close counters with up to 80 other people means getting sick is almost guaranteed. Getting a head cold and forced to hard days work can break anyone’s spirit. The interrogation doesn’t stop for a detainee if they have a little fever.
Everyone’s threshold to tolerate pain is different. As many would collapse and quit, others use it as motivation to push forward and fight. Boot camp is all about mental and physical toughness and so is surviving a harsh interrogation.
7. Heighten Suggestibility and Hypnosis
This state of consciousness means getting someone to accept suggestion without them thinking about it and taking action. In military terms, it’s building up muscle memory.
Today it’s mainly known as sleep deprivation. Everyone needs rest or they can make vital mistakes. Boot camp is widely known for keeping military hopefuls up for multiple hours conducting various tasks to see how they respond to the stress.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended several military exercises, but now that restrictive measures have been eased some are going forward, albeit in a scaled-down form.
Two kicked off in early June in Poland and the Baltic Sea, drawing particular interest around the world, and not just because of the logistics of holding them amid an ongoing pandemic. The proximity of the training to Russian territory is seen by many as a possible signal that the U.S. military is shifting its interest in Europe eastward.
What Are The Exercises?
The first exercise involves 4,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Polish troops in northwestern Poland. The bilateral training features a Polish airborne exercise and division-size river crossing from June 5 to June 19.
Dubbed Allied Spirit, the exercise was supposed be linked to a much larger U.S.-led multinational exercise in Europe, including NATO members, called Defender Europe 20, which had to be significantly scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second one, Baltops 20, runs from June 7 to June 16 in the Baltic Sea region. The maritime-focused exercise, which has been held annually since 1972, involves 28 maritime units, 28 aircraft, and up to 3,000 personnel from 19 countries, with Finland and Sweden being the only non-NATO participants.
Both exercises are designed to show international resolve against any potential threat and improve the “interoperability” of national armies’ land, sea, and air assets.
How Has COVID-19 Affected The Exercises?
The pandemic has forced military commanders to modify and reduce the scale of Defender Europe 20. The exercise was originally planned to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years, involving 20,000 soldiers and nine NATO allies practicing military maneuvers in several European countries.
Before the pandemic shut down most of the continent, more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment had already arrived in Europe. Most of the original plans were scrapped but the U.S.-Polish exercise received a green light in mid-May.
Baltops 20 has also been modified. There will be no land element to complement the air and sea operations to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This means normally standard features of naval exercises such as amphibious landings, exchanging personnel between ships, and merchant vessel boarding will not take place.
Are The Exercises Directed At Russia?
The U.S. military and NATO have been quick to point out that all exercises are “defensive in nature.” Lisa Franchetti, the commander of the Naples-based U.S. 6th Fleet, told journalists that Baltops 20 should not be interpreted as a threat to any specific country and exercises are held in international waters and international airspace. Franchetti encouraged the Russian military to behave professionally.
However, many observers expect the Russian Navy to make close approaches to the exercises and that Russian jets may “buzz” allied planes, meaning that they will fly so close as to create “wake turbulence.”
A NATO official recently told RFE/RL that, in 2019 alone, allied aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe. Even though the alliance doesn’t reveal numbers for specific regions, it is believed most of the incidents occurred around the Baltic Sea.
The Allied Shield exercise takes place in Drawsko Pomorskie, some 350 kilometers from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. When Defender Europe 20 was announced, Russia planned its own war games in direct response but called off its exercise as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Moscow has called on NATO to scale down military activity and move them away from Eastern Europe to reduce tensions.
Will The Russian Military Officially Observe The Exercises?
No. U.S. military officials told RFE/RL that they “were not aware of any Russian notification to inspect exercise Allied Spirit in Poland.” The threshold for required observation in accordance with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Vienna document on the transparency of military exercises is 13,000 troops — twice as many as will be present in Poland in June. Naval exercises such as Baltops 20 are not subject to notification and observation requirements enshrined in the Vienna Document.
Why Is The Presence Of U.S. Troops In Poland Politically Significant?
Because of what is happening in Poland’s western neighbor, Germany. U.S. President Donald Trump has authorized a plan to reduce the U.S. permanent troop presence in Germany by 9,500 from the 34,500 service members who are currently there. The move will also cap the number of American soldiers in Germany at 25,000. More than 1,000 of the troops leaving Germany may be redeployed to Poland, adding to the 4,500 already there on a rotational basis.
Poland, whose government enjoys close ties with the Trump administration, is pushing for an even bigger American presence on its soil and hopes to capitalize on its special relationship with the United States in the future. The very fact that a joint exercise has been resuscitated despite the pandemic can be seen in this light.
It can also be viewed against the backdrop of tensions between Washington and Berlin over everything from Germany wanting to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Germany failing to meet its NATO military-spending target, trade tensions, and a host of other disputes including the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.
Have you ever woken up to the same hellish nightmare of three-phase cycles repeatedly until you no longer know what day it is? Have you felt the uncontrollable urge to wield the greatest noncombative, yet lethal weapon known to mankind in every conversation? Does your forehead bear the markings of greatness from a wide-brimmed hat of woolen death?
There are signs. These are the signs you may just be or have been a drill sergeant.
You are basically a vampire
It’s 4 a.m. on a good day and long before the crack of dawn. You’re there, in the dark, ready to delicately wake the trainees from their slumber. Likely, with an airhorn. Fast forward to sundown, and you’re three energy drinks in, waiting to put 200 almost soldiers, Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen or airmen to bed. Up before the dawn, home under the moonlight. You’re basically a vampire.
Caffeine is your new blood type
The regulation states 6-8 hours per night, but cycle 2 has shown you humans can live (sort of) off much less. How do you function? Caffeine, copious and copious amounts of caffeine. Has anyone ever seen a drill instructor without a coffee or energy drink in hand? I think not. Pushing 18-20-hour days, seven days a week for two miserably long years requires such.
Your stare is so terrifying, it produces cries on demand
Perhaps nothing is as terrifying as a silent drill sergeant. Am I in trouble? Was that good? Is this horribly, horribly wrong? They have no idea, and that’s the entire point. What’s even worse? Dark glasses and silence. The memory will (hopefully) haunt their dreams.
Multiple personalities are part of the gig
It takes far less than sixty seconds to royally piss off a drill instructor. Fear then rage, then empathy and more fear are all emotions drills can flip between without pause. It’s the terrifyingly good performance you must put on daily to keep the illusion that you still actually care. The daily goal is keeping the entire company on their toes.
You speak in catchphrases
Yes-no, criss-cross pizza sauce, it’s not rocket surgery. Did you get that? You live the same three-phase cycle for two years, with hundreds of faces making almost the same mistakes as the last cycle. You’ve got to keep it interesting somehow. The more ridiculous you are, the better your impersonation will be when the trainees imitate you at the end of the cycle.
You are the knife hand, and the knife hand is you
The knife hand is strong with you. Its power is the multi-tool you never knew you were missing. It commands attention, corrects stupidity, instills fear, shows direction, and slices the air with precision. Its powers are so great, you no longer need to speak to converse clearly with trainees as to what they better hurry up and do.
You produce legendary nicknames
You’re reading off the roster and have no idea or could honestly care less about how to pronounce the next name. Instead, you improvise, gifting the lucky trainee with whatever condiment, thought or mistake they’re likely to make. Mistakes are often the go-to for renaming trainees to more accurately reflect the personality they are growing into. No shower shoes? Flip-flop is your new name, enjoy it buttercup.
You are perpetually pissed
Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, the sheer stupidity you witness day in and day out, or the fact that your last unit just deployed without you. Or maybe it’s all of it. Either way, you’re salty. Without the salt, you’d be normal, and normal is not part of the personality description behind drill instructors. The hatred boiling inside keeps you warm at night.
Life on the trail is the hellish nightmare you love to hate. It’s an experience engrained in who you’ve become. Every service member remembers their drill sergeants, both with a fondness and fear that they’ll never forget.
The history of the Army Rangers dates back to before the United States was an independent nation. The official history of the Rangers lists units that fought in both King Phillips War and the French and Indian War. The Army also had ranger units that fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
During the Civil War, the U.S. Army split into two factions, Union and Confederate. Army Rangers fought on both sides of the conflict, but for the Confederate Army, there was no more famous or effective ranger than John Mosby.
Mosby not only scored a slew of victories in raids against Union positions and towns, he was well-known for his ability to elude Union forces sent out to capture or kill him. He did it all with his unit’s greatest advantage: speed.
Mosby’s Rangers, as his unit was called, were so effective and dominant against Union forces that the northern central area of Virginia became known as “Mosby’s Confederacy.”
Aged only 28 years by the time the Civil War broke out, Mosby was never in favor of leaving the Union. As a native Virginian, though, he enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army when Virginia seceded from the Union. He soon formed his own mounted volunteer unit in time to fight at the First Battle of Bull Run.
In 1862, after a series of skirmishes, being captured by the Union and exchanged, he and a group of other Virginia horsemen decided to form what would become Mosby’s Rangers. With the blessing of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and Robert E. Lee, he took command of a cavalry battalion to fight as partisans in northern Virginia.
While there, he led raids as far north as Fairfax, just miles outside of Washington, as well as deep into Maryland. He captured supplies, weapons, ammunition, as well as high-ranking officers in the Union Army and took them all back to the Army of Northern Virginia. He soon started taking on new recruits, personally interviewing them and requiring them to bring their own horse.
The Union had no answer to Mosby’s lightning fast raids. They began to seriously disrupt Union supply lines by 1864 and even came close to capturing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant himself. Grant could stop Mosby’s raids, so he considered capturing the families of the rangers in Mosby’s unit to hold hostage at Fort McHenry.
Wherever Mosby’s Rangers were captured by Union forces, they were summarily executed. Mosby responded by executing some of his Union prisoners. This went on until Mosby wrote a personal letter to Gen. Philip Sheridan, requesting that they go back to treating prisoners humanely.
When the war ended, the Union announced that marauding bands would be treated as criminals and executed. Mosby didn’t know if the general parole for Confederate soldiers applied to him or if he was considered an outlaw marauder. He soon learned there was substantial bounty on his head.
After some negotiations, his men were also granted parole. The unit disbanded and many of them went home. Despite being wounded three times during the war, Mosby was ready to fight on if any Confederate forces were still resisting. None were found and Mosby finally surrendered. He was one of the last Confederate officers to do so.