President Donald Trump’s trip to France for the country’s Bastille Day parade in July left a big impression. So big, in fact, that he wants to replicate the experience back home.
As Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump gushed about seeing France’s military might on display in the streets of Paris during his visit. And he told reporters that he is looking into the possibility of having the parade down the streets of Washington on Independence Day to show the US’s “military strength.”
“I was your guest at Bastille Day, and it was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Macron, who sat next to him. “It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and the spirit of France.”
“To large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July Fourth in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump said.
The comments prompted laughter from Macron and other officials sitting around them. The leaders were meeting in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. But it isn’t the first time that Trump has talked about wanting a military parade in the streets of Washington.
Before the inauguration, Trump officials inquired with the Pentagon about having armored vehicles participate in his inauguration parade, according to documents obtained by the HuffPost. And he told The Washington Post in January that he hoped that during his tenure, the US’s military might would be on display.
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said in the January interview. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.”
“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, DC, for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added.
Though Trump is deeply unpopular in France, he was invited for the 100th Bastille Day ceremony in Paris by Macron in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the two countries and its new leaders. The lengthy parade seemed to thrill the president, who has long held a fascination with military might.
On Sept. 18, seated next to Macron, he boasted about the levels of US military spending in his first term. And he said that his goal would be to “try to top” what France did.
“I think we’re looking forward to doing that,” Trump said. “I’m speaking with General Kelly and with all of the people involved, and we’ll see if we can do it this year,” he added, referring to his Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about plans to hold such a parade.
Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.
Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.
Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.
Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.
To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”
In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.
The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.
“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.
Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.
It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.
The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.
The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.
Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.
The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.
The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.
Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.
In some cases, the personal touch can help.
Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.
“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”
Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.
South Korea’s military is planning to mass produce the Cheongung, a self-developed midrange surface-to-air missile system after a reassessment or reappraisal.
The development of a long-range radar and an aerial infrared countermeasure may also restart after they were suspended, Newsis reported Dec. 26.
Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration made the announcements following the 108th arms acquisition project committee meeting.
Discussions of mass production of the Cheongung, also known as the Cheolmae-2, or KM-SAM, began on Nov. 17, according to the South Korean press report.
The technology is part of the country’s homegrown anti-missile systems, the Korean Air and Missile Defense.
KAMD in turn is part of South Korea’s “three-axis system” that also includes Seoul’s homegrown anti-missile systems and Kill Chain, a pre-emptive strike system.
Defense authorities said programs to develop a fixed long-range radar system to detect North Korea aircraft, and infrared countermeasures, are to be suspended following the discovery of flaws, but to be resumed as “soon as possible,” according to Newsis.
Yonhap reported Dec. 26 LIG Nex1, a local defense contractor, developed the radar that failed in an operational test in 2014.
On Saturday, December 12, the 121st Army-Navy football game will be played. The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in all of our lives and it’s no different for this rivalry. This will be the first time since 1943 that the game is held at West Point. While the football may not be the best, the trash talk of the week is top-notch. Soldiers, sailors and Marines united for their country and divided for one football game. Check out these top Army-Navy game tweets. We don’t know who will win on the field but there appears to be a winner in pregame shenanigans.
1. Duffel Bag Drag
Have to give it to Navy, the uniform is like a duffel bag with a number.
2. Nice Decor
They could pass for either bathroom decor or counter tops.
3. Top Tier?
I believe the Navy folks would say the same thing about Army.
4. You Had One Job
An epic failure that will never be forgotten.
The long-term health effects are real.
6. A Higher Power
I wonder if the church was on a Navy base.
That seems appropriate in 2020 with Navy’s losing record.
Looks like a tough final exam.
I see how it can get mixed up.
10. Power Move
A big time play to get two carriers lined up for this photo.
This must pain them dearly.
12. Big Baby
At least baby elephants are cute.
13. Look Closely
Have to give a round of applause on getting to the Superintendent’s house.
I’m hopeful for a high scoring game with a lot of touchdowns.
15. Tropic Lightning
It’s a taro leaf for the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
16. Top Gun
I heard a rumor that Pete Mitchell will be promoted in the new Top Gun movie.
17. Who Cares?
Something a lot of non-veterans don’t understand.
18. What Game?
Whether you are diehard Go Navy, Beat Army or forever Go Army, Beat Navy, it’s going to be a great weekend.
Hawks and falcons are an essential part of the ecosystem and are one of nature’s instinctive predators. Although these natural aviators are beneficial to the environment, they can pose a threat to the safety of Airmen, aircraft and vulnerable wildlife.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH, program, expanded with the addition of the Predatory Bird Relocation Program.
After seeing the risks predatory birds, or raptors, have when they live near or on airfields, Adam Kohler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services wildlife biologist at Altus Air Force Base, created the Predatory Bird Relocation Program, which safely removes birds that have the potential to injure themselves or aircrew.
“I work for the USDA Wildlife Services which acts kind of like the government’s wildlife damage management program,” Kohler said. “One of the big areas we work in are airfields. We use the BASH program to help keep the public and aircraft safe from accidents that may happen with wildlife.”
The Predatory Bird Relocation Program is an important aspect in forwarding the mission of the 97th AMW. Each year, the Air Force spends approximately 0 million repairing damage to aircraft from birds and other wildlife. Since Kohler founded the program in the fall of 2018, more than 20 raptors have been safely captured and relocated away from the airfield saving Altus AFB time, lives and money.
“While hawks and falcons are less abundant than other birds found in this area, they are one of the species with the highest risk of getting hit,” Kohler said. “Although there is less of them out there, they get struck by aircraft more often, and because of their size they inflict more damage when they are hit. That is why we created the program specific to relocate the raptors.”
When a raptor is within a close enough range of the airfield to become a hazard, Kohler sets out harmless, simple traps to capture the bird. Once the raptor is caught, Kohler places a tracking band on its foot and relocates it to a safer environment.
“By us going out there and banding the raptors, it helps out U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and any agencies that are studying wildlife,” Kohler said. “It’s a great cooperative effort between us and every other wildlife research agency towards gaining knowledge from and understanding different species.”
Each tracking band has a specific number on it to help identify the bird in the future. This is a very important part of the relocation process because it can help identify which birds return to the airfield once they have been relocated. If a banded bird does return, it is relocated to a different environment, hopefully to keep the raptor satisfied at its new location.
“Banding the birds is an essential part, nationwide, to the agencies research of the effectiveness in relocating raptors,” Kohler said. “Throughout our research we have found that more than 90 percent of the relocated birds have stayed in their new location, away from the airfield. It’s good because this data helps us show that catching and relocating these birds actually keeps them away and safe, and not returning.”
Although predatory birds are necessary in local environments, flying too close to an airfield is a threat to the raptors’ own lives and the safety of Airmen. By relocating these raptors to a safer location, Kohler and the USDA Wildlife Services team help keep the 97th AMW safe and mission ready.
When Leif Babin was training to become a US Navy SEAL officer, he didn’t expect to spend so much time working out combat mission briefs in Powerpoint presentations, he explains in his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win.”
It was a common feeling, and the reason why in training sessions, he and other officers-in-training had a tendency to create briefs with the intention of impressing their instructors, as opposed to crafting plans that would actually be valuable to an entire team.
When Babin joined Task Unit Bruiser in 2006 as the officer in charge of Charlie Platoon, his commander and future co-author Jocko Willink told him to forget about Powerpoint. As part of a final exercise that would determine if they would be sent to fight in an incredibly dangerous part of Iraq (a desirable scenario for them), Babin and another platoon commander needed to create a mission brief that was more impressive than two other task units.
“The true test for a good brief is not whether the senior officers are impressed,” Willink told them. “It’s whether or not the troops that are going to execute the operation actually understand it. Everything else is bull—.”
Babin and his fellow platoon leader stopped worrying about being impressive and focused on how to make their mission brief as clean and easy to follow as possible. They worked with their subordinates to ensure that if they had to put the brief into action, every member of the team would clearly understand the mission required of him.
The commanding officer in charge of judging the briefs determined Task Unit Bruiser had the most understandable and thus the best of the three, even if the others had more impressive-looking PowerPoint slides. It placed an emphasis on what Willink calls “Commander’s Intent,” which is when the team understands its commander’s purpose and the mission’s endstate so thoroughly that they can act without further guidance.
Task Unit Bruiser was sent to Ramadi, where it became the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War.
It was a valuable teaching experience for Babin. In “Extreme Ownership” he outlines the planning checklist that he used as platoon commander:
Analyze the mission. Understand higher headquarters’ mission, Commander’s Intent, and endstate (the goal). Identify and state your own Commander’s Intent and endstate for the specific mission.
Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available.
Decentralize the planning process.Empower key leaders within the team to analyze possible courses of action.
Determine a specific course of action.Lean toward selecting the simplest course of action.
Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action.
Plan for likely contingencies through each phase of the operation.
Mitigate risks that can be controlled as much as possible.
Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders. Stand back and be the tactical genius.
Continually check and question the plan against emerging information to ensure it still fits the situation.
Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets. Emphasize Commander’s Intent. Ask questions and engage in discussion and interaction with the team to ensure they understand.
Conduct post-operational debrief after execution. Analyze lessons learned and implement them in future planning.
Babin writes that this checklist can be easily adapted to the business world, and it’s what he and Willink have taught executives they’ve worked with through their leadership consulting firmEchelon Front since 2011.
“Implementing such a planning process will ensure the highest level of performance and give the team the greatest chance to accomplish the mission and win,” Babin writes.
Media outlets visit one of the many impact sites created by the recent missile attacks at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Jan. 13, 2020.
An unspecified number of the more than 100 troops who were treated for traumatic brain injuries suffered in a January missile attack on Al Asad air base in Iraq have been recommended for Purple Hearts, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.
Officials have previously stated that Purple Heart recommendations have come from unit commanders and the individual military branches for those injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian missile strikes on the air base.
“The Purple Heart submissions remain under review and are being processed in accordance with Defense Department and military service regulations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement Wednesday. “Upon completion, service members entitled to receive the Purple Heart will be notified by their leadership.”
She gave no timeline for the process, but CNN, citing three defense officials, reported that “final decisions” on awarding possibly dozens of Purple Hearts could be coming soon from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and the Defense Department.
At a Feb. 3 news briefing, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman cited general standards for awarding the Purple Heart — standards that appeared to qualify most of the troops who were treated for TBI after the Iranian missile strikes.
He said Purple Heart eligibility for TBI required a doctor’s diagnosis and confirmation that the injury forced the service member to miss at least two days of duty for treatment.
Some of those injured in the Al Asad attack were evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and to the states for treatment and would appear to qualify for Purple Hearts.
Hoffman said recommendations for Purple Hearts were mainly “a question for the services” with final approval coming from the Defense Department.
“The process is going to play out,” he said. “Fortunately, all the cases to date have been characterized as mild TBI, which is the equivalent of concussions.”
In the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military appeared reluctant to award Purple Hearts for TBI, but awards have been made more regularly as TBI from improvised explosive devices and other blasts became known as the “signature” combat injury of the wars.
In 2011, DoD updated the criteria for awarding the Purple Heart in cases of TBI, stating that the injury had to be caused by enemy action or suffered in action against an enemy, and had to require treatment by a medical officer or certification that it would have required treatment if available.
President Donald Trump and Pentagon officials initially said there were no U.S. casualties from the missile strikes on Al Asad, but symptoms of TBI can often take days to appear.
On Jan. 16, U.S. Central Command stated that several of the troops at Al Asad “were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”
When asked about the growing number of concussions, Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22 that, “I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report that it’s not very serious. I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”
The Pentagon has since said that at least 109 troops at Al Asad on the night of the attacks suffered mild TBI.
In the early morning hours immediately after the missile attacks, and after briefing Trump at the White House, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said off-camera at the Pentagon that the launches “were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment, and to kill personnel. That’s my own personnel assessment.”
His initial judgment was that the missiles carried 1,000-2,000 pound warheads.
On April 7, Air Forces Central Command published accounts from more than 20 Airmen at Al Asad testifying to the ferocity of the attacks that lasted an estimated 90 minutes.
Capt. Nate Brown recalled taking cover with others in a bunker.
Then, “the next wave hits. Then the next, and the next. I have no idea if anyone is alive outside this bunker.”
Pvt. Will Reas of the 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion checks voters into a polling place May 12, 2020, in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Approximately 160 Wisconsin National Guard members mobilized to state active duty as poll workers supporting the 7th Congressional District special election in northern Wisconsin. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin National Guard).
From New Jersey to Washington state, National Guard members across the country are gearing up for election-related missions — ranging from cybersecurity support to responding to civil unrest — in an already record-breaking year for state activations.
Governors have continued to activate National Guard troops in the final days leading up to the presidential election, which has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Soldiers and airmen are supporting polling stations, leading cybersecurity missions, and even preparing for civil disturbances in the wake of what could prove to be a contentious election in which results might not be known for weeks.
As of Friday, 10 states were actively planning for Guard members to handle election-related missions and 15 were indicating they plan to do so. Those missions include working polling stations and cybersecurity missions.
No Uniforms, No Weapons
Armed troops won’t be guarding polling places on Tuesday.
Leaders in several states said the hundreds of Guard members activated by their governors will be wearing civilian clothes and won’t be carrying weapons. That’s true in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Nebraska, officials from those states say.
“Our service members are placed on state active duty, and they show up in civilian clothes to the polling stations, so any member of the community that is coming into a polling station isn’t going to be able to recognize that they are in the Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “They are going to look like anyone else from the community.”
Several hundred Guard members assisted at polling places during the primaries, Military.com reported this summer. They were under strict orders to stay out of the actual voting process, filling gaps created during the pandemic since older people who tend to volunteer at polls were staying home to prevent contracting COVID-19.
In New Jersey, one of the states where Guard members assisted during the primaries, troops are helping process mail-in ballots. The country has seen a huge uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic. About 240 New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen are already supporting 18 counties’ board of elections, Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a Guard spokeswoman there, said.
“This support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” she said. “The [New Jersey National Guard] is fully capable and prepared for this mission.”
Guard members in other states, such as Washington and Delaware, are taking on cybersecurity missions. U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and were already attempting to interfere in the election.
The National Guard has 59 cyber support units, Wayne Hall, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, said.
“Each state is different and has the advantage of tailoring its National Guard forces to their specific requirements to support elections, especially the states with cyber units,” he said. “We consider this flexibility one of the National Guard’s primary strengths.”
The National Guard for Washington State has been working with state officials since the 2018 midterm elections, performing vulnerability assessments on firewalls and ensuring that software is up to date, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general for the Washington Guard, said this week.
“One of the unique things about the Guard is we dip into the talent that we’ve got in the civilian areas so having companies like Microsoft and Amazon … allows us to draw those folks into the Guard that have got cutting edge experience working in a tech company is able to pair that with the military training they have,” Welsh said. “And then when we have issues like we are having with our election system, we’ve got some really, really talented and qualified folks to do that work.”
Bracing for Conflict
Guard members say they’re not anticipating trouble at the polls, but if a problem breaks out, they say troops working on election day would respond the same way a civilian would.
“In that case it’s a 911 event to call in local law enforcement to handle any violence or any threats of violence,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, said.
If violent protests erupt after the election, Guard officials said it will be up to state leaders to coordinate with law enforcement units for potential National Guard response.
“I think the chief executives of each state are already thinking about these kinds of issues and they would be the focal point for any use of the National Guard for any civil unrest or disturbance following the election,” Bohac said.
After a long and often contentious campaign though, some National Guard members have for months been preparing to respond. In Tennessee, the Guard has a contingency plan to support the state highway patrol, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general, said.
“That has been a pretty established drill we have been executing since May and we do have a number of contingency plans,” he said. “We do talk with them more frequently; we have had a number of planning meetings just so we have a multitude of options that might be available.”
Guard personnel would primarily be tasked with providing protection for state and local facilities to free up the highway patrol to conduct law enforcement activities, Holmes added.
“We know our mission,” he said. “We have had to deploy for civil unrest, so we have a very good working relationship with them.”
In New Jersey, the Guard has a reaction force to assist the state for contingency responses when requested by proper authorities, Brown said.
“Our 8,500-member force remains committed to responding to our state and its citizens during times of need,” she said. “We live, work and raise families in these communities and will stay during this critical time for as long as we are needed.”
For now, though, leaders say they’re focused on ensuring troops aren’t burned out after a busy year for the National Guard.
“Our state leadership worries about our Guardsmen being overworked during our state call ups, but they work with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they are getting the rest they need and they are rotated out so they can take leave,” Joseph Siemandel, director of public affairs for the Washington National Guard, said.
The state activations follow National Guard missions for the pandemic, wildfires, border missions and protests across the country. Missions inside the U.S. peaked for the Guard in June, when more than 86,000 of its soldiers were engaged in domestic missions.
The National Guard provided 8.4 million days of support for domestic operations in fiscal 2020, which ended on Sept. 30.
“Due to all the peaks we’ve had, there’s no way that we would have been close to that in any previous year,” Hall said.
The missions haven’t come without controversy though, particularly after tens of thousands of Guard members were called on to support law enforcement personnel in responding to protests in dozens of states following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.
As Americans brace for the possibility of more unrest, National Guard leaders say they’ve reinforced law enforcement earlier this year and are prepared to do so again.
Osama bin Laden’s undated letter to the American people is one of 113 documents declassified by the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday.
The letter, seized in the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout, begins: “To the American people, peace be upon those who follow the righteous track.”
The document is part of a second batch translated and released by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The first set of papers was declassified in May 2015.
In the four-page letter, bin Laden writes:
The way for change and freeing yourselves from the pressure of lobbyists is not through the Republican or the Democratic parties, but through undertaking a great revolution for freedom … It does not only include improvement of your economic situation and ensure your security, but more importantly, helps him in making a rational decision to save humanity from the harmful [greenhouse] gases that threaten its destiny.
NATO troops and partner forces converged in Norway in October 2018 for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War, taking place in and over the Nordic countries and on the Baltic and Norwegian seas.
Trident Juncture is a regularly scheduled exercise, and 2018’s version was meant to test the alliance’s ability to respond collectively to a threat — in this case an attack on Norway — and the logistical muscles needed to move some 50,000 troops, thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft on short notice.
Trident Juncture also saw the first time a US aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, sailed above the Arctic Circle since the early 1990s. The Truman strike group was joined by the USS Iwo Jima expeditionary strike group.
German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey at Vaernes Air Base in Norway during Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
Working in the harsh conditions found in the northern latitudes in autumn was also part of the plan, said US Navy Adm. James Foggo, who commands US naval forces in Europe and Africa and was in charge of Trident Juncture.
“One of the things that we took advantage of was the opportunity to do this in October and November,” Foggo said on the most recent episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“When I was in the States [prior to the exercise], people asked me, ‘Hey, why’d you do this in October and November? It’s pretty nasty and cold in the high north at that time of year,'” Foggo said. “That’s exactly why. We wanted to stress the force, and we truly did get some lessons learned out of this.”
After nearly two decades operating in the Middle East, focusing on smaller-scale operations like counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, the US military has started to shift its focus back toward operating against sophisticated, heavily armed opponents and in harsh conditions.
US Marines fire an M240B machine gun during a live-fire range as part of exercise Arctic Edge in Alaska, March 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
US Marines have been in Norway conducting such training since early 2017. During exercise Arctic Edge in February and March 2018, more than 1,500 US soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines gathered in Alaska “to train … to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command said at the time.
What these troops are learning isn’t necessarily new, but it is needed, according to Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who took command of the US Navy’s 2nd Fleet in August 2018.
“I think most of what we are gathering from lessons in [Trident Juncture], I think we kind of knew, because we’re getting back into a geographic space in a time of year, and we haven’t been operating that way for a long, long time,” Lewis said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.
“We’ve been operating in the Persian Gulf, where it’s like a lake, and it’s really hot, whereas now we’re operating up off the coast of Norway, where it’s blowing a gale, the decks are moving around, the ships are getting beat up, and the people are getting beat up,” Lewis added.
“We’re not used to being out on the flight deck for long periods of time where it’s really cold,” said Lewis, a career pilot.
An aviation ordnanceman moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
Second Fleet was reactivated in May 2018, seven years after being shut down as part of a cost-saving and restructuring effort. Now back in action, the fleet will oversee ships and aircraft in the western and northern Atlantic Ocean.
Soviet and NATO forces were active in those areas during the Cold War, especially the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap, which was a chokepoint for ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic.
As Lewis noted, returning to the high north didn’t go off without a hitch. Even before the live portion of the exercise began, four US soldiers were injured when their vehicles collided and one slid off a road in Norway.
Sailors and Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall observe an underway replenishment with the fleet-replenishment oiler USNS John Lethall, Oct. 6, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)
The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, both of which were taking US Marines to the exercise, also had to return to Iceland days before the official start because of rough seas, which damaged the Gunston Hall and injured some of its sailors.
Gunston Hall underwent repairs in Iceland and departed on Nov. 5, 2018.
Discussing the effects of rough weather on the exercise, Foggo said NATO forces would “look for operational risk management first,” and a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group told Business Insider that the group took steps to prepare for “colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas.”
US personnel will need more preparation in order to operate effectively in that part of the world, Lewis said.
“Our kids, they adapt really quickly, but not without repeat efforts,” he said. “I think most of it’s been … those kind of lessons, and I think overall we did pretty well, but we can do better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.
1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.
Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.
2. Someone to actually answer your call.
The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.
3. One call does it all.
Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”
4. Total online resource.
Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback. All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!
5. Now you can actually find your service center.
Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.
Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.
Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.
6. There’s an app for that.
Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.
7. No more waiting.
When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.
8. Claims are processed faster.
In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.
9. Taking out the middleman.
Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.
These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.
Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.
While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.
China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.
The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.
Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.
The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.
These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.
Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.
The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.
Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.
The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.
China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.
While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.
The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.
Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.