Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board. Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.
The idea is at once simple and complex. Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.
“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said. “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”
Mitchell’s process is simple. “I don’t know any of these people,” he said. “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total. They reach out to me online. I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit. And I show up at their house. I don’t usually ask questions.”
The subjects decide on the composition of the essay. “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said. “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.
“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”
The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror. In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.
“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said. “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better. Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.
“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said. “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”
Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.
“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said. “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it. He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want. You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”
And how did the result impact Dowling? “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said. “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”
Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.” “But I’m a student,” he added. “I like to learn.”
After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.
“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said. “Just like any community. The military is no different. That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this. Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community. They’re still people.”
For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.
To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.
Bitcoin, gaming and dating apps are now officially banned from government-issued Marine Corps phones. The ruling came down in mid-August that Marines are now no longer allowed to use gambling and dating apps, along with cryptocurrency applications or anything that attempts to override and bypass tools or download rules.
One of the reasons for the ban is because, like all things tech-related, the possibility of these phones become targets is very real. Smartphones are part of most Marines’ professional life, which means they’re full of compromising information. In turn, that makes them a very real target.
This order extends beyond unit issued phones to include personal cell phones. Marines are cautioned not to use any apps that the government has already deemed a risk, like TikTok and WeChat, which has already been banned by the Pentagon.
TikTok and WeChat
TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to upload short videos. Pentagon officials worry that the app could be used to spread misinformation and propaganda. The moderators of the platform are censoring content to appease the app’s owners in China.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. There are fears that the company might share user data with the Chinese government, either intentionally through data requests or unintentionally through surveillance software.
Like TikTok, WeChat is a Chinese owned company that’s considered a ‘super-app’ because it combines the functions of financial services, travel, food delivery, ride-sharing, social media, messaging, and more. Its popularity is due in part to the fact that the Chinese government shuts out other foreign tech companies and penalizes people who try to override the laws. WeChat is known to censor and surveil their users on behalf of the government and turn over the government’s information when “sensitive information” is discovered.
This concern over American military members using Chinese-owned apps is nothing new. In fact, concerns about these two applications have been brewing for over a year. Both Microsoft and Twitter are currently in talks to acquire TikTok, but a sale could be far off and incredibly messy. Microsoft wants to buy TikTok in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but so far in the history of social media, no company has ever split up a social network along regional lines.
Mobile apps like WeChat, which have so obviously been created to be the third arm of government surveillance, pose immediate risks to military members. OPSEC becomes harder and harder to control and maintain in the digital world, and users can inadvertently give away too much information.
A Lance Corporal Learns the Ultimate Lesson
Last year, during a mock training exercise in California, a Maine lance corporal took a selfie that gave up his location, which resulted in his entire artillery unit being taken out by the mock enemy force. More than ten thousand Marines were at Twentynine Palms for an air-ground combat training mission, which was the biggest training event of its kind in decades. IN addition to Marines being present, sailors and NATO forces participated in the event.
The selfie allowed the mock enemy to geo-locate the lance corporal and his unit, which resulted in his ‘death’ and the ‘death’ of the rest of his unit. While the lance corporal learned this lesson without loss of life, others might not be so fortunate, which is one of the many reasons military leaders consistently stress the need for digital OPSEC.
The Marine Corps won’t issue numbers that show just how many Marines have tried to put dating apps, games and cryptocurrency apps on their government phones. Now, any app that can be classified into these categories is blocked from the Apple Store and Google Play. The only applications Marines can access are those that the Marine Corps has determined necessary to conduct authorized activities.
As with other branches of the military, the Marine Corps has the final say in which apps can be installed on official mobile devices.
The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.
Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.
“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.
Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.
The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.
“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.
Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)
While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.
“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”
The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.
“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”
The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”
Why not contractors?
Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.
Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.
“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.
The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)
The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.
Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.
It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.
Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”
Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.
Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”
Standing on their own
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.
There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.
While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.
Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.
Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.
“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.
The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.
Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.
“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.
“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.
“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A military judge ruled Oct. 24 that the Navy Judge Advocate General illegally intervened in the sexual assault trial of a decorated Navy SEAL.
Air Force Col. Vance H. Spath ruled Oct. 24 that Vice Adm. James Crawford, the Navy’s top lawyer, exerted unlawful command influence in the case of Senior Chief Keith E. Barry in 2015.
The naval officer overseeing Barry’s judge-only court-martial had planned to overturn his 2014 conviction, having decided the SEAL was not guilty of sexual assault against a girlfriend with whom he had an intense sexual relationship.
But the now-retired Rear Adm. Patrick Lorge was persuaded not to act by Adm. Crawford, who was the Navy’s second-ranking lawyer at that time.
“Actual or apparent unlawful command influence tainted the final action in this case,” Col. Spath wrote in his opinion Oct. 24.
The Air Force judge also bemoaned the effect the intervention has brought to the military justice system.
“As the judge who conducted the … hearing, it appears the final action taken in this case is unfortunate as it does not engender confidence in the processing of this case or the military justice system as a whole,” said Col. Spath, the Air Force’s chief trial judge.
Mr. Lorge, who was the convening authority in the Barry case in San Diego, stayed silent for two years. But last summer he swore out an affidavit saying he was riven by guilt and should have stuck by his guns.
The Washington Times first reported on the extraordinary action by Mr. Lorge, a former combat pilot.
David Sheldon, Chief Barry’s civilian defense counsel, said: “This morning a Military Judge made extraordinary findings in a case that will shake the very foundations of the military and the Navy JAG Corps. The court found that the current Judge Advocate General of the Navy committed unlawful command influence when he advised and persuaded a Convening Authority to approve the findings of a court-martial against a US Navy SEAL for political reasons, despite the Convening Authority’s firm belief the SEAL was not guilty of the charge and had not received a fair trial.”
The military justice system has been under intense political pressure from Congress to convict those charged with sexual assault.
The next step is for the case to go back to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which had ordered the inquiry by Col. Spath. The military’s highest court decreed that no Navy or Marine Corps judge be involved.
Col. Spath oversaw a two-day hearing last month at the Washington Navy Yard. His opinion depicts an anguished Adm. Lorge wanting to overturn the conviction but being pushed by his legal adviser to affirm it and being persuaded by Adm. Crawford.
Then-Adm. Lorge reviewed the trial record in April and June 2015.
“RAM Lorge developed significant concerns about the case,” Col. Spath wrote. “His particular concerns were related to his perception the trial judge was not objective, his belief that the appellant may not have committed the crime for which he stood convicted, and his belief that the appellant had not received a fair trial.
During Adm. Lorge’s deliberations, Adm. Crawford had two conversations with him, one by telephone the other in person.
Col. Spath wrote about the first conversation: “RADM Lorge’s ultimate impression was that VADM Crawford believed RADM Lorge should approve the findings and sentence in the case. While VADM Crawford may not have said these actual words, based on the conversations during the meeting, RADM Lorge was clearly left with that belief after the meeting. The meeting confirmed the pressures on the system at a minimum.”
“What seems evident is RADM Lorge believes pressure was brought to bear on him to take particular action in this case,” the colonel wrote.
The Navy Judge Advocate General at that time, Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, also spoke to Adm. Lorge, but well before the Barry court-martial. She talked about the intense pressure the Navy was under from Congress in sexual assault cases.
Col. Spath explained her discussion: “She told RADM Lorge that every three or four months decisions were made regarding sexual assault cases that caused further scrutiny by Congress and other political and military leaders. She also told RADM Lorge that a good deal of her time was being taken up with testimony and visits to both Capitol Hill and the White House.”
President Obama had ordered the Pentagon to launch a comprehensive campaign to wipe out sexual harassment and assault.
“VADM DeRenzi was simply discussing the realities of the current environment in which she and commanders were operating at the time, particularly in relation to sexual assault,” Col. Spath wrote.
“RADM Lorge did not take the action he wanted to take in this case; RADM Lorge was influenced by conversations with senior military leaders; specifically VADM DeRenzi and VADM Crawford when taking action in this case,” the Air Force judge concluded.
Patty Babb, a spokeswoman for Adm. Crawford, issued a statement: “On October 24, 2017, the military judge presiding over the DuBay hearing in US v. Barry issued findings of fact in the case. Those findings will now be considered by the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. As always, the Navy wishes to preserve the integrity of the court’s deliberation, and it will therefore refrain from commenting on matters related to the case at this time.”
China has carried out a military exercise in which “incoming missiles” were shot down over the Bohai Bay. The test came two days after Kim Jong Un’s regime carried out that country’s sixth nuclear test.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the “incoming missiles” were described as “low-flying,” and were shot down by a land-based unit of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. While the test came shortly after a North Korean test, Kim’s regime was not the only government China was sending a message to.
The South China Morning Post noted that Li Jie, a naval analyst in Beijing, explained that while China was condemning the North Korean actions, it was also sending a warning to the United States. President Donald Trump has tweeted threats of action in the event of a North Korean attack.
“At the moment, the US is showing some restraint, but Trump is not a predictable president, and he could make a surprise move,” Li explained.
The paper noted that the Bohai Bay is a prime location for the Chinese to test new naval vessels, due to its proximity to Beijing. The body of water, part of the Yellow Sea to the east of the Korean Peninsula, is one that China is warning America to keep out of.
“This drill, which came soon after the military parade [at a training base in Inner Mongolia], shows that Chinese weapons are ready for use in war,” Zhou Chenming of the Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies said, adding that China would likely launch more drills as tensions increased between North Korean missile and nuclear tests on the one hand and joint South Korean/American exercises on the other.
One of the oldest axioms in writing is to “write what you know.” Ernest Hemingway knew adventure, war, travel, and love (even if that love was temporary). When reading a work by Hemingway one might think of how incredible his characters must have felt fighting fascists in Spain, fighting a shark with a harpoon, or saving lives in WWI Italy, only to realize all these people are real, and they’re one person: Ernest Hemingway.
In the entire history of wordsmithy, no one ever reached the level of real-world adventurer quite like Ernest Hemingway. Here are ten ways he was the quintessential American warrior poet, punctuated by his own life lessons.
1. “Never sit at a table when you can stand at a bar.”
Hemingway ignored his father’s wishes and enlisted in the Army during World War I but did not pass the Army’s initial physical examination due to poor eyesight. Instead, Hemingway drove ambulances for the Red Cross.
In the course of his duties, he was hit by fragments from an Austrian mortar. He never stopped working to move wounded soldiers to safety, earning the Italian Medal of Military Valor.
2. “Develop a built-in bullsh-t detector”
After high school, Hemingway moved to Kansas City where he became a reporter, covering a local beat which included fires, work strikes, and crime. Here he formed his distinct prose of “short declarative sentences.” After WWI, he continued working in journalism in Toronto and Chicago, covering unrest in Europe’s Interwar years. He interviewed Benito Mussolini during this time, describing him as “the biggest bluff in Europe.”
3. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
Hemingway stayed in Europe for the Spanish Civil War, even teaming up with famed war photographer Robert Capa. He was in Madrid writing his only play, the Fifth Column, as it was being bombed by Fascist forces. He was at Ebro when the Republican army made its last stand.
4. “When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.”
When World War II broke out, Hemingway was living in Cuba. In his free time he ran his own intelligence network to spy on Nazi sympathizers there. The ring had 26 informants, six working full-time and 20 of them as undercover men, all recruited by Hemingway.
He also equipped his fishing boat with direction-finding equipment, a machine gun and grenades to hunt for Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic, reporting his sightings to Navy officials.
5. “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
By 1944, Hemingway was back in Europe covering WWII. He was onboard a landing craft on D-Day, within sight of Omaha Beach, but was not allowed to go ashore. He attached himself to the 22nd Infantry on its way to Paris but was brought up on charges because he became the leader of a French Resistance militia in Rambouillet, aiding in the Liberation of Paris (forbidden for a combat correspondent under the Geneva Convention). He beat the rap.
According to World War II historian Paul Fussell, “Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well.”
6. “To hell with them. Nothing hurts if you don’t let it.”
He came down with pneumonia, but covered the Battle of the Bulge while still sick. In France, Hemingway encountered a basement full of S.S. troops, whom he told to “share these among yourselves” before throwing grenades inside.
He also covered the Battle of Hürtgenwald Forest as U.S. troops broke the Siegfried Line. He returned to Cuba after the war, where he received the Bronze Star for his work in Europe.
7. “I drink to make people more interesting.”
While sightseeing in Africa, he and his wife survived a plane crash after hitting some power lines, causing severe head injuries. The next day, he boarded another plane which exploded during take-off, giving him another concussion. He walked to the hospital and did not die, even though his obituary had already been published.
8. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
When author Max Eastman published a review of one of Hemingway’s essays which questioned his masculinity, Hemingway hit Eastman in the face with his own book, then called him out in The New York Times, challenging him to a fight. Eastman declined.
Hemingway’s favorite drinking buddy was James Joyce, not known for his strength or stature. Whenever Joyce was about to get into a barfight, he’d yell “Deal with him, Hemingway!”
9. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.”
Hemingway used to write standing up. Even though Hemingway’s fondness for drinking is well documented, he never drank while he wrote.
“Jesus Christ,” Hemingway once said. “Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”
10. “Death is like an old whore in a bar. I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.”
Hemingway struggled with bipolar disorder all his life. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota gave him electroshock therapy, but it didn’t help and Hemingway blamed it for his memory loss. After surviving gunshot wounds to practically every part of his body, an Austrian mortar wound, countless concussions, three car crashes, two plane crashes, two fires, and an anthrax infection, Hemingway eventually took his own life, deciding to do so with a shotgun.
During his funeral, an altar boy fainted at the head of the casket, knocking over a large cross of flowers, to which his brother Leicester said, “It seemed to me Ernest would have approved of it all.”
In 2014, the former Governator participated in an Omaze campaign to raise money for Afternoon All-Stars, a nonprofit organization which provides comprehensive after-school programs to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life.
Schwarzenegger’s campaign ended in 2014, but his promo video lives on and it is epic. For only $20, anyone had the chance to be flown to Los Angeles and drive over stuff with Arnold in his personal tank.
Omaze is a type of crowdfunding-online auction hybrid for raising money for good causes. For a set donation, anyone has the chance to spend time living an “experience” with a celebrity who teamed with a nonprofit to keep them in the black.
On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway began when a Japanese fleet of almost 100 ships, led by the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, attempted an even more overwhelming attack that would have kicked the U.S. out of the Central Pacific and allowed the empire to threaten Washington and California. Instead, that fleet stumbled into one of the most unlikely ambushes and naval upsets in the history of warfare.
Thanks to quick and decisive action by key sailors in the fleet, the U.S. ripped victory from the jaws of almost-certain defeat.
The Kido Butai, which was the largest fleet in the world at the time, had successfully fended off a variety of land-based attacks from American carriers. Just as they were about to mount a counter-attack three of the fleet’s carriers – the Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu – were hit by dive bombers from the USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown.
The fourth carrier, the Hiryu, would carry out two strikes that would leave the Yorktown crippled.
Japan’s carrier air arm would never fully recover from the events of June 4, 1942. The Battle of Midway was truly the turning point of the Pacific Theater.
Featured Image: Devastators of VT-6 aboard USS Enterprise being prepared for takeoff during the Battle of Midway.
Two American soldiers have been killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, the US military said, adding that the deaths were “not due to enemy contact” but instead were the result of an artillery “mishap.”
Five other soldiers were wounded, the DoD said.
The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as 22-year-old Sgt. Allen L. Stigler Jr. of Arlington, Texas, and 30-year-old Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks of Brooklyn, New York.
Both were artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The 2nd BCT is based at Camp Swift, Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces battling the Islamic State group in Iraq, said the coalition “sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates.”
More than 5,000 US troops are taking part in the war against IS in Iraq, according the Pentagon. The vast majority operate within heavily guarded bases, collecting and sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces and providing logistical support.
But as the fight has evolved over the past three years, more and more US troops are operating close to the front lines. In addition to the two troops killed August 13, five other US troops have been killed in Iraq in the fight against IS, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.
More than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 wounded, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month.
Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against IS in Mosul in July, and Iraqi forces are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tel Afar, to the west.
The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.
According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.
Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”
Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.
All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.
The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.
Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.
The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.
For example, not every option has to do with use of force. In some cases, the US may just continue business as usual. In other cases, the military may withdraw completely from South Korea.
Below, you can see the same information that Congress has on the US’s military options in North Korea.
7. Maintain the status quo
Simply put, the US military could just continue regular activities and military drills while the State Department works on sanctions and diplomatic solutions to the problem.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because former President Barack Obama spent eight years doing it to limited effect.
On the plus side, this course of action presents a lower risk of elevating the tense situation into a full-blown crisis or warfare. Those against this policy of “strategic patience,” as the Obama administration dubbed it, point out that it has failed for years to stop North Korea from gaining a nuclear weapon or creating long-range missiles.
So far, Trump has stuck to the basic principals of strategic patience but supplemented it with more deployments of aircraft carriers and sometimes frightening threats to “totally destroy” the country with “fire and fury.”
6. Arm the region to the teeth and watch North Korea like a hawk
This option takes the status quo and jacks it up with the US’s scariest, most capable platforms coming to the region and closely monitoring North Korea to make it feel its nuclear program is unwise.
US stealth jets and bombers, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, guided-missile destroyers, and even tactical nuclear weapons could deploy to South Korea and Japan on a more permanent basis to step up the US presence in the area.
Meanwhile, an increased cyber and naval presence would seek to interdict any shipments to North Korea that could further Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Skeptics of this approach point out that North Korea hates US military deployments to the peninsula and could easily see such a move as further justification to continue its weapons program at any cost.
Furthermore, the US can’t simply place these assets in the region — it needs to credibly threaten using them. What happens if a North Korean ship opens fire on US Navy sailors trying to board and inspect its cargo?
5. Shoot down every medium- to long-range missile North Korea fires to restrict its testing
This approach disregards the long-stated US goal of denuclearizing North Korea and goes straight for a more realistic goal of freezing its nuclear-missile program.
Basically, North Korea has to keep testing its missiles to achieve a credible nuclear threat to the US, but to do so it has to test missiles that fly beyond its borders.
If the US and allies shot down North Korea’s test fires, it would deny Pyongyang the testing data it needs to have confidence in its fleet.
But this would require US ballistic-missile-defense assets, like its Navy destroyers, to constantly commit to the region, limiting resources available elsewhere.
Additionally, North Korea could still test shorter-range missiles that put US forces in the region at risk, and it’s unknown how Pyongyang would respond to having its missiles shot down.
This represents the first massively kinetic military response to North Korea.
With limited airstrikes and likely some Tomahawk missile launches from the US Navy, the US military would look to destroy in one quick pass every single known missile launchpad and ICBM manufacturing site.
But the US doesn’t know the full extent of North Korea’s missile-producing infrastructure, and could easily leave behind some secret or underground sites. And while most North Korean missiles are fired from fixed sites, North Korea has developed solid-fueled missiles that can launch from anywhere at virtually any time.
While this strike could conceivably remove the threat to the US from North Korean ICBMs, Pyongyang may very well see the attack as a larger-scale decapitation attack against the Kim regime.
Therefore, North Korea may unleash its full, massive artillery force against South Korea and the US forces there. It may fire nuclear missiles at Japan and South Korea. Experts assess that an all out war could cost 30,000 to 300,000 lives a day, with many of those coming from the civilian populations of the US’s allies in Asia.
3. Complete denuclearization by force
This option stages an even bigger military campaign targeting every known nuclear and missile site across North Korea. Instead of just airstrikes and cruise-missile launches, this type of attack may necessitate US Special Forces pouring over the border to neutralize key North Korean sites.
Because the US does not know the location of every North Korean nuclear and missile site, intense surveillance and guess-and-check work would follow the initial salvo.
This option only increases the already dire risk to the US’s allies.
Although the US military, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis all say unequivocally that the US does not want or train for regime-change missions in North Korea, the president and the military have to do what’s best for the country at any cost.
If the US assesses that the Kim regime has bad intentions for the people of the US, regime change by military force could come into play.
But the US couldn’t simply kill Kim Jong Un and have the other 25 million North Koreans surrender. North Korea still technically exists under the “forever leader” of Kim Il Sung, who has been dead for decades. Rank-and-file North Koreans inculcated with propaganda would fight on, perhaps even more savagely, after Kim died.
Therefore the military would have to target “not only nuclear infrastructure but command and control facilities, key leaders, artillery and missile units, chemical and biological weapons facilities, airfields, ports, and other targets deemed critical to regime survival,” according to the report for Congress.
“This operation would be tantamount to pursuing full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, and risk conflict elsewhere in the region,” the report concludes.
The conflict would have every opportunity to be drawn out and grow every bit as bloody as the Vietnam War or the first Korean conflict, and for that reason it remains unlikely.
1. Just walk away
This option represents the polar opposite of all other military possibilities by fundamentally reordering the US’s considerations on North Korea.
Essentially, some believe North Korea pursues nuclear weapons because the US has troops in South Korea and Japan. If the US withdrew those troops, Kim Jong Un wouldn’t feel as pressured and China or the international community could more easily sway him to denuclearize.
But this idea speculates heavily on Kim’s response to a weakened South Korea. Nothing guarantees that Kim would negotiate after gaining the upper hand on South Korea. Additionally, it argues that the US should end its legal troop deployments to Japan and South Korea in hopes that North Korea would end its illegal development of nuclear weapons, which sounds a lot like blackmail.
Additionally, North Korea has long stated one of its goals as reuniting the Korean Peninsula under the Kim dynasty, and if the US ceded to Pyongyang, it just may feel emboldened to do so.
None of the military options provided to Congress offers a perfect solution, and many offer catastrophic solutions.
In the end, North Korea’s rogue leadership and nuclear pursuits exist as political, not solely military options.
In that respect, while the US and allied militaries could certainly defeat North Korea and crush its nuclear program, it would cost potentially hundreds of thousands of lives and open the world to the possibility of nuclear warfare in the 21st century.
Simply put, military solutions don’t solve political problems, but in case of disaster, the US always has options ready.
A Navy chaplain who comforted sailors whose ship was torpedoed in 1945, leaving them stranded in shark-infested waters, has been posthumously awarded his service’s second-highest award for heroism.
Lt. Thomas M. Conway, a Catholic priest who died on Aug. 2, 1945, three days after a Japanese sub took out the heavy-cruiser Indianapolis, was recognized for his bravery during a Navy Cross ceremony Jan. 8 in his Connecticut hometown. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite apologized that it took more than 75 years since World War II ended to honor the fallen chaplain.
“My mother taught me that it’s never too late to say you’re sorry,” Braithwaite said. “Today, the Navy is sorry for not recognizing Chaplain Conway’s heroism, dedication and courage sooner.”
The Indianapolis was heading to the Philippine island of Leyte from Guam when it sank in the early hours of July 30, 1945. More than 800 crew members were forced into the ocean, some of whom were badly injured.Advertisement
They were left in the water for three days, where they faced dehydration and shark attacks. They were spotted by a Navy aircraft on Aug. 2. Only 316 survived.
Conway is credited with repeatedly swimming through the shark-infested waters to console clusters of sailors, according to the Navy. He encouraged them, prayed for them, and administered sacraments.
“After three days of tireless exertion to aid his shipmates, Conway finally succumbed to exhaustion and died,” a Navy news release about his posthumous award states. “His efforts were credited as a major reason 67 of his shipmates in his group were ultimately rescued.”
The chaplain stood by his men when they needed spiritual guidance most, Braithwaite said, as he presented the award to retired Navy Capt. John Bevins, a former pastor, during the private ceremony.
Conway, who grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, before attending Niagara University in New York, joined the Navy in September 1942. He served at several East Coast naval stations before transferring to the Pacific Fleet, where he was assigned to the repair ship Medusa before joining the Indianapolis in 1944.
Braithwaite called Conway a beacon of putting service above self for all serving in the Navy and Marine Corps.
“His actions will inspire others who at dark and challenging moments in their lives must follow their heart to do their duty. For me personally, this has never been more relevant than during the very events of this week,” Braithwaite said last week, referencing the violent Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.
“When you are entrusted to serve the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps, you must always choose as Father Conway did, to do what you must do — your duty — rather than what you could do for yourself.”
Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury. This WATM exclusive — a must-watch for DWTS fans — brings out a side of Galloway that only a fellow vet like Martinez can.