When you think of men and women in uniform during the holiday season, it’s often a soldier in red from America’s Salvation Army ringing a bell in a call for aid to those in need.
But another service working to bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate has been at it for nearly 70 years, working day and night to solicit and distribute donated toys for young kids who may not have the benefit of a joyful holiday.
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program was established in 1947 by then-California Marine Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and was formally adopted by the Marine Corps a year later.
Officially run by Marine reservists and with help from their Navy brethren, in the years since its founding, Leathernecks have been collecting donations and distributing toys to deserving children throughout the country.
In 2015, Marines distributed 18 million toys to 7 million kids in 782 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And Toys for Tots has become as much a Marine Corps tradition as its legendary warfighting capability.
To get a sense of the importance of the program to the Corps, take a look at the video below.
French historian, Antonin DeHays, who stole almost 300 U.S. dog tags from fallen Airmen and around 134 other items, which included identification cards, a bible, and pieces of downed US aircraft, has been sentenced to 364 days in prison.
Approximately 291 Dog Tags and 134 other items were sneaked out by Antonin DeHays during his visits to the National Archives in College Park in Maryland. All of the dog tags belonged to fallen airmen who fell in Europe in 1944. Those tags bore the cruelties of war and Antonin DeHays made advantage of that when selling these items online.
“Burnt, and show some stains of fuel, blood… very powerful items that witness the violence of the crash,” DeHays told a potential buyer in a text message.
On another dog tag, he texted a potential buyer that the item was “salty” or visibly war-damaged while also marketing the “partially burned” appearance of a Red Cross identification card.
Not only did he sell most of the items, some of the items were used as a trade in return for rare experiences. He gave a brass dog tag to a military aviation museum in exchange for the chance to sit inside a Spitfire airplane, according to the Department of Justice.
On April 9, 2018, a federal judge in Maryland sentenced DeHays to 364 days in prison for the theft of government records, and ordered him to pay more than $43,000 in restitution to the unwitting buyers who purchased the stolen goods.
Veterans of the Persian Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery unless policies are changed — even if they were bestowed the Medal of Honor, a new report says.
There are 21 million living veterans in the U.S., but the cemetery has room for only 73,000 burials.
Currently, any veteran with an honorable discharge and at least one day of active duty is eligible for interment there at Arlington. That’s a lower bar than the cemeteries managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which require two years of active duty service. (RELATED: VA Insists On Paper Records, Slowing Payments To Private Docs But Creating Union Jobs)
Largely thanks to the one-day-minimum policy, the cemetery will be closed even to those killed in action — known as “first interments” — by 2042.
“If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate under current policies, it must be expanded geographically and/or alter the iconic look and feel of the cemetery,” an Army report presented to Congress August 23 said. “If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate without expansion, eligibility must change or it will close for first interments by mid-century.”
That’s only 26 years into the future, meaning veterans of recent wars, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, have little hope of burial there when they die later in life. “With current policies, Veterans of the Gulf War, Somalia, [Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom] era cannot expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, even if awarded the Medal of Honor,” the report says.
Between 1967 and 1980, burial at Arlington was limited to those killed in action (KIA), retired career, and medal of honor recipients. If the policy is changed to limit the cemetery to KIAs only, the cemetery will have enough space for hundreds of years.
But doing so would disenfranchise Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom will be octogenarians around 2040 and many of whom already felt mistreated by their country.
Besides changing policy, the cemetery can consider more compact and above-ground burials, which would risk losing the “serene and ordered look … with its rows of white headstones, trees, and tasteful historical and ceremonial spaces.”
It could also expand, either by acquiring neighboring land — which is hard to come by in Arlington — or at a new site. One such expansion is already taken into account in the projections.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham said Dec.3 that he believes it’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will also urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.
Last week, North Korea shattered 2½ months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country’s ability to strike the U.S. East Coast. It was North Korea’s most powerful weapons test yet.
The launch was a message of defiance to President Donald Trump’s administration, which, a week earlier, had restored North Korea to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also hurt nascent diplomatic efforts and raised fears of a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Threats traded by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have further stoked fears of war.
Graham expressed confidence in the Trump administration’s ability to manage the growing conflict with North Korea.
“He’s got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington,” said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.
The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.
“Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,” Graham told CBS. “I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”
Trump has said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea. China is North Korea’s only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North’s nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China’s northeastern border.
On January 2, 1967, U.S. Air Force F-4C Phantoms lured North Vietnamese MiG-21s into the kind of air-to-air dogfight they usually tried to avoid. The mission, called “Operation Bolo,” was an aerial trap designed by Colonel Robin Olds, a fighter ace and veteran who started his combat flying career during World War II. In spite of the fact that Bolo was flown in the some of the most heavily defended airspace ever attacked by U.S. forces, it wound up being one of the most successful deception operations in American military history.
Olds took command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in 1966. The unit he took over was short on aggression and initiative. Olds, then 44 years old, brought in another Air Force pioneer, Col. Daniel “Chappie” James, another World War II veteran and one of the Tuskegee Airmen, as his director of operations. The command team, which would come to be known as “Blackman and Robin,” completely changed the culture of the 8th TFW. They were ready to take the war to the Vietnamese.
After taking command of the 8th, Olds lost three F-4C aircraft to intercepting Mig-21s. He was frustrated with target restrictions from Washington and frustrated with the battlespace over North Vietnam. Ground observers and early warning radar provided by the Soviet Union would warn the VPAF what was coming. By the time attacking aircraft crossed the Red River, the MiGs were waiting for them. Olds wanted to use this tactic to his advantage.
MiGs were in the air anytime U.S. aircraft were in the area. Two to four MiGs would remain near the enemy’s base at Phuc Yen, while the rest attacked the bomber force along one intercept point on the southern side of the Red River and the other northeast of Thai Nguyen. The MiGs would attack the F-105 formations all along their route and generally avoid the F-4s.
In response, Olds designed Bolo, the first offensive fighter sweep of the Vietnam War. Convinced of the superiority of U.S. pilots in air-to-air combat, he wanted to trick the North Vietnamese to read flights of F-4Cs as the slower, bulkier F-105s. Once the MiGs were in the air, the F-4s would break formation and attack on their own terms. To fool the radar and ground observers, the F-4s would fly in a 105 formation while using Thud call signs.
The SAM threat was mitigated by new ECM anti-radar pods. The jamming pods reduced the rate of SAM kills on F-105s to near zero, but the F-4s were still vulnerable because the pods didn’t fit on the F-4 bomb racks. Olds’ NCOs in the 8th TFW’s fabrication shop spent 36 hours fashioning makeshift replacement panels before Bolo so the F-4s could carry them. This was the first time F-4s ever carried the countermeasure.
Seven flights of F-4Cs would come in from Ubon in the West while seven more came in from Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam. The Ubon forces, led by Olds, would stay in a Thud formation until the last possible second. The Da Nang fighters covered all available airfields to keep the MiGs from landing (they were no longer be targetable on the ground due to orders from Washington) and keep them from making an escape to China.
Olds’ flight used the sign “Olds.” Chappie used the sign “Ford” because one of the planners thought Fords were “big, black, and fun.” The rest were “Rambler,” “Lincoln,” “Tempest,” “Plymouth,” and “Vespa.” They would arrive in the engagement area four minutes apart.
January 2,1967 was an overcast day. Olds led the first flight into the area. At first there seemed to be no response, which would be devastating. The Americans could only attack MiGs in the air. But Olds didn’t know the cloud cover kept the MiGs on the ground for an extra fifteen minutes. With three minutes until Ford Flight’s arrival, Olds flight made a turn Northwest when MiGs started to come up from the cloud cover.
“Ok, Wolfpack! Go get ’em!” Olds roared.
The MiGs were trying a vise maneuver that blew up in their faces when the U.S. fighters left formation. The Americans took down seven of the sixteen MiG-21s in the VPAF inventory without losing any Phantoms. Bolo was the worst single day for the Vietnam People’s Air Force. The operation’s success led to Seventh Air Force launching a similar operation three days later, mimicking a recon mission. Of the four MiG intercepting that ruse, two were shot down. VPAF fighters were grounded for several months for retraining.
Colonel Olds would score his fourth MiG kill in Vietnam on May 4, 1967, bringing his total to sixteen and making him a triple ace. He flew his last mission in Vietnam on September 23, 1967.
The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.
The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.
The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.
Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.
The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.
The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.
The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.
There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.
Suicide is one of the most challenging societal issues of our time, and sadly, one that affects those who served our Nation at alarming rates. For Veterans, the suicide rate is 1.5 times higher and the female Veteran suicide rate is 2.2 times higher than the general population.
There is good news: suicide is preventable and working together, we can create change and save lives.
On March 5, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13861 establishing a three-year effort known as the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). Under the leadership of The White House and VA, the PREVENTS Office and cabinet-level, interagency task force were created to amplify and accelerate our progress in addressing suicide. The roadmap was released on June 17, 2020.
In July, PREVENTS launched a centerpiece of the initiative: the Nation’s first public health campaign focused on suicide prevention, REACH. This campaign is for and about everyone because we all have risk and protective factors for suicide that we need to recognize and understand. REACH provides the knowledge, tools, and resources that we need to prevent suicide by educating ourselves so that we can REACH when we are in need – so that we can REACH to those who feel hopeless. REACH empowers us to reach beyond what we have done before to change the way we think about, talk about, and address emotional pain and suffering.
As a member of the VA community, you are in a position to REACH out to Veterans who may be at risk during this difficult time. We all need support – sometimes we need more.
How can you get involved?
Take the PREVENTS Pledge to REACH: Make a commitment to increase awareness of mental health challenges as we work to prevent suicide for all Americans. Visit wearewithinreach.net to sign the pledge and challenge your friends and colleagues to do the same. PREVENTS is planning a month-long pledge drive during September, Suicide Prevention Month. Please join us!
Veterans can also help lead the way as we work to change the way we think about, talk about and address mental health and suicide. Veterans can give us their perspective and provide guidance as we reach out to those in need. To that end, the PREVENTS Office is launching a first-of-its kind, national survey on Sept. 2, 2020, that will give us invaluable feedback from Veterans and other stakeholders, including Veterans Service Organizations, Veterans’ families and community organizations. The survey will help us learn what are our Veterans’ most pressing needs. In addition, the answers we receive will help us understand how Veterans want to receive important information on mental health services and suicide prevention.
Please help us by taking the survey at PREVENTS Survey and encourage everyone you know to take it. Filling out the survey takes less than 5 minutes! The PREVENTS survey will be available from Sept. 2-30.
On Nov. 22, the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and the United States Marine Corps dedicated new engravings on the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial to include the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns.
The names and dates of principal U.S. Marine Corps campaigns and battles are engraved at the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial as well as the Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful” in Latin. The memorial also features the phrase, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” a quote from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in honor of the Marines’ action on Iwo Jima. While the statue depicts a famous photograph of a flag-raising on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.
“As the Deputy Commander of Special Forces in Iraq and retired Navy SEAL, I saw the commitment, patriotism, and fortitude that American servicemembers and their families display while serving our country. It’s a great honor to be a part of memorializing the Marines of the Global War on Terror,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Our warriors who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan see more frequent deployments as our nation has been at sustained combat for longer than in any previous point in our nation’s history. The Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are warriors in the field and leaders in the community, I salute them and am grateful for their service.”
President Trump has proclaimed November National Veterans and Military Family month. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service recognize veterans and their families by caring for the battlefields, monuments, and memorials like the U.S.Marine Corps War Memorial that honors those who have served and who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
“These engravings represent the 1,481 Marines to date who gave all, as well as their surviving families and a Corps who will never forget them. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is a living tribute to warriors. It is a sacred place that symbolizes our commitment to our nation and to each other,” Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller said.
Made possible by a $5.37 million donation by businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the rehabilitation project also included cleaning and waxing the memorial, brazing bronze seams, and re-gilding letters and inscriptions on the sculpture base. Over the past four months, every inch of the 32-foot-tall statues of Marines raising the flag was examined. Holes, cracks, and seams on the bronze sculpture were brazed to prevent water damage.
“Today we’re simply adding two words to the Marine Corps memorial – Afghanistan and Iraq – but what they stand for is historic and should make every American pause and give thanks for the sacrifices of life and limb that our armed forces have made to protect our freedoms. It is the greatest of privileges to be able to honor our troops and military by helping to restore this iconic memorial,” David M. Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein’s donation, announced in April 2015, was a leadership gift to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.
“Mr. Rubenstein’s commitment to America’s national parks is as inspiring as it is generous,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “We are extraordinarily grateful for his transformative gift to honor the bravery and sacrifice of U.S. Marines represented by this iconic memorial, an image imprinted in the collective memory of our nation.”
The next phase of the project will replace lighting, landscaping, and specially designed educational displays about the significance and importance of the memorial. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2018.
In 2019, the Army approved a new rifle qualification and individual weapons training strategy. The old qualification, the automated record fire, was developed back in 1956. Since then, the Army’s battles and the way it fights them have changed. The new qualification, the rifle and carbine qualification, was developed with the same principle as the Army Combat Fitness Test. It more holistically assesses a soldier’s ability to employ situational awareness, safe weapon handling, and core marksmanship competencies.
Due to COVID-19 considerations, full integration of the new rifle qualification in 2020 was slowed. However, more and more units in both Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command are starting to test their soldiers on the new standards.
Training and evaluation for the rifle and carbine qualification is broken down into six tables: preliminary marksmanship instruction and evaluation, pre-live fire simulation training, magazine and shooting position drills, grouping and zeroing, practice qualification, and qualification. “Soldiers start by receiving a series of classes on how to properly zero the rifle, whether it’s a bare rifle or with optics,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “Soldiers received classes on laser bore sight, Minute of Angle (MOA), zeroing process, windage, ballistics, and also received EST training and practiced position changes before going to a live range.”
The rifle qualification consists of four firing phases for which soldiers will employ four magazines with 10 rounds each. 40 targets will pop up on their own or in groups for varying lengths of time depending on their distance. Soldiers will fire from the standing unsupported, prone unsupported, prone supported, kneeling supported, and standing supported positions. A barricade is used to simulate cover and provide a more stable shooting position for supported fire. Transitioning between positions and changing magazines are integrated organically into the course of fire in order to more closely simulate real-world combat situations. “The old rifle qualification did not help in combat situations, so they incorporated magazine exchanges and position changes by yourself to represent combat,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “No matter the military occupational specialty (MOS), any MOS can teach a Soldier how to do this new weapons qualification.”
Whereas commanders could previously dictate whether or not their soldiers could shoot “slick” without their body armor and helmet, the new rifle qualification requires soldiers to wear them. Magazines are retained on the soldier’s gear rather than laying ready on the ground or on a sandbag in order to more closely simulate a combat situation. The first shot of the qualification will be on a close-range target from the standing unsupported firing position. From there, soldiers will transition into the prone unsupported firing position and engage the next nine targets through a port in the bottom of the barricade. The last 30 targets will appear in three waves of 10 with soldiers conducting magazine and firing position changes on their own in between.
The new qualification also includes guidance for night and CBRNE shooting. Soldiers will be expected to utilize night-vision goggles, IR lasers, and gas masks to engage targets under adverse conditions. The inclusion of these variables reflects the Army’s return to training for a near-peer fight against conventional armies. Additionally, soldiers will no longer be given alibis. Previously, if a soldier experienced a weapon malfunction during their course of fire, they could be given the opportunity to re-shoot. Now, soldiers will be expected to assess and clear the malfunction during the course of fire and continue to engage targets. Any missed targets during this time will count against them. While this can make the qualification more difficult, it encourages soldiers to build the muscle memory necessary to address such variables under stress.
Some aspects of the old rifle qualification have carried over though. Soldiers are still required to hit 23 of the 40 targets in order to qualify. 23-29 hits earns a Marksman qualification, 30-35 hits earns a Sharpshooter qualification, and 36-40 hits earns an Expert qualification. “This new weapons qualification is more combat oriented with changing positions, changing magazines and engaging the targets,” said Sgt. Octavius Moon assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “This will help Soldiers shoot better as well as make ranges faster and have more Soldiers qualified. It helps Soldiers become more knowledgeable about their weapon as well.”
China’s newest maritime patrol aircraft has made a debut by deploying to Hainan Island, a sign that Beijing wants to improve its anti-submarine warfare capabilities in the disputed South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.
According to a report by DefenseNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force has deployed a new version of the Y-8 maritime patrol plane. This version, the Y-8Q, appears to have a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) on the tail, giving it a profile similar to the P-3 Orion. Both planes are four-engine turbo-prop aircraft.
The aircraft was seen by commercial satellites at Lingshui, a base the Chinese have on Hainan Island. Scramble.nl notes that the 9th Air Division is deployed at Lingshui, and also has the KJ-500H, an airborne early warning variant. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the baseline Y-8 is a version of the Antonov An-12 transport.
China has been strongly asserting claims to the South China Sea. In 2001, a PLANAF J-8B Finback based out of Hainan Island collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft. The Chinese pilot, Lieutenant Wang Wei, was killed, while the American EP-3E landed at Hainan Island and the crew was held for almost two weeks.
“Recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago,” the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE), Dr. Michael Gilmore, noted in an August 3 memo. In other words, $700 million down the drain, and there’s no way to prove it’s any less likely to break than it was a decade ago.
The system has come under harsh criticism from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The senators slammed the RMMW as unreliable and pressed the Navy to consider alternatives, which they outlined in a letter obtained by Breaking Defense.
It looks like the Navy is taking that advice. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the service is chartering an independent review of the RMS, which will report back within 60 days.
The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.
Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)
Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.
The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.
After blowing a UK-imposed deadline to answer for the attack, which UK experts assess used a Russian-made chemical weapon, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman warned the UK not to threaten nuclear powers.
The UK also possesses nuclear weapons, but Russia has more firepower and newer nuclear systems than any other nation and has frequently taken to threatening its neighbors and bragging about its capability to end life on Earth.
Additionally, Russian state TV broadcaster Kirill Kleimenov went on Russia’s popular Channel One to make veiled threats and insinuations that politically motivated murders in Britain would continue.
“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said. “It’s very rare that those who had chosen it have lived in peace until a ripe old age.”
Outside of military threats, Russia has said it would respond in kind if the UK moves to expel Russian diplomats or scraps the media license for RT, a Russian-funded media organization.
“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response. International news outlets in Russia already operate under heavy scrutiny and cannot spread their news freely to the Russian people.
If Britain chooses to acknowledge the attack as having been carried out by Russia on its own soil, it can invoke Article 5 within NATO and trigger a response, possibly war, from the 29-member alliance.
But Russia stands accused of killing 15 former spies on UK soil, and experts tell Business Insider it’s unlikely the UK will go to war over the nerve agent attack.