A video that reportedly captures the dramatic moment an Iraqi soldier saved his squad by driving his bulldozer into an incoming Islamic State group suicide bomber, has emerged this week.
The footage, which was shot from the dash cam installed inside the driver’s cabin, was taken in West Mosul where IS have been making their last stand against a massive operation to retake the Iraqi city.
It shows the driver deliberately ramming his bulldozer into an incoming IS car bomb in the narrow streets of the extremists’ final Iraqi bastion.
“Sir, I stopped it,” the driver, named in media reports as Mohammed Ali al-Shuwaili, can be heard saying as the smoke from the explosion fills his cabin.
“Thank God you’re alright,” his commander responds.
The New Arab could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.
Baghdad forces first took the eastern side of the city before crossing the Tigris and attacking the more densely packed western section of Mosul.Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul from IS nearly seven months ago, fighting their way into the jihadist-held city.
In the course of the fighting, security forces have faced a seemingly endless waves of IS car bombs, which when detonated erupt into towering fireballs.
Such attacks have featured heavily in the jihadi group’s latest propaganda films.
Iraqi officers said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90 percent of west Mosul from IS, which is on the “brink of total defeat”.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Baghdad that IS now controls just over ten percent of west Mosul.
The drive to retake Mosul has been supported by a campaign of US-led coalition air raids in and around the city.
IS now controls just a handful of neighborhoods around the Old City, one of the country’s heritage jewels.
Half a million people are currently displaced as a result of the Battle for Mosul, and some 250,000 civilians are estimated to still be trapped inside the city’s west.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-22 Raptor performs a heritage flight during the 2017 Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 9, 2017. The program was established in 1997, allowing certified civilian pilots and Air Force pilots to perform flights together.
Army Spc. James Williams, an 801st Engineer Company horizontal engineer, awaits the go-ahead for Humvees to be backed into a C-17 Globemaster III prior to its takeoff from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., during Patriot Wyvern Feb. 11, 2017. Patriot Wyvern is a hands-on, bi-annual event conducted by the 349th Air Mobility Wing designed to hone combat skills and improve organizational interoperability.
U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Babbin, left, and Spc. Michael Richards, right, combat engineers, 572nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Vermont National Guard, place C4 explosives for a live demolition training at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Jericho, Vt., Feb. 11, 2017. The Soldiers learn how to do this safely and correctly by training both in the classroom and field environment.
Soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are currently deployed to Kosovo, providing a secure environment, strengthening relationships with our allies, while simultaneously building combat readiness.
PHILIPPINE SEA (Feb. 11, 2017) Air department Sailors transfer an MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, from the flight deck to the hanger bay of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during flight operations. Bonhomme Richard is conducting unit-level training to ensure warfighting readiness in preparation for a routine patrol in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
GUAM (Feb. 11, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Seaman Stephen Mugo and Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy Boling perform evening colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The ship’s carrier strike group is on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet.
Recruits with 2nd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, spar during Marine Corps Martial Arts training at Leatherneck Square at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program helps to create the warrior ethos by utilizing armed and unarmed techniques from various styles of martial arts.
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force discuss their individual movements during Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calitfornia Feb. 8, 2017. The 15th MEU’s MEU-EX is the first major exercise conducted since the MEU composited earlier this year. The 15th MEU’s MRF bears substantial force and is capable of a high degree of tactical mobility while delivering significant, sustained firepower within an objective area.
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew forward deployed in Cold Bay, Alaska, surveys the area around the fishing vessel Predator prior to hoisting three people off near Akutan Harbor, Alaska, Feb. 13, 2017. The predator ran hard aground, causing it to take on water through an eight inch crack on the hull. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Coast Guard members aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Station Maui conduct a patrol in support of Operation Kohola Guardian offshore Maui, Feb. 14, 2017. Operation Kohola Guardian is a cooperative operation between state and federal partners to protect the humpback whale migration to the Hawaiian Islands.
Each year thousands of men and women enter the military with different expectations. Some end up making their military service a career, while others call it a day after completing their first contract.
Whatever you decide, here’s a few tips on making those first enlisted years as manageable as possible.
1. Learn To Negotiate
It’s well known that the E-4 and below run the show. Since you probably fall into this demographic, you get told what to do more than you get to tell others.
Find out a few job perks your MOS or rate has that others may value and consider trading goods or services for it.
For instance: There’s a company-wide hike approaching, and you don’t feel like taking part. Get to know the staff at your local medical clinic and strike up a deal to get you out in exchange for something you have or can do for them later.
2. Out Of Sight — Out Of Mind
Staying under the radar can take the time to plan and practice to master. Knowing every nook and cranny in your general area can be useful when the boss enters with a job in mind and you need a place to hide.
3. Request Special Liberty
Here’s a sneaky little strategy that many might overlook.
Service members in good standing can get approved for free days off that won’t count against their accumulated leave days. Commands don’t advertise this option as much to their personnel when they submit single-day leave requests, but you can still ask for one.
The key to getting this option approved is to find a low-Karmic risk reason why you “need” a particular day off.
Note: You don’t want the false reason you use to ever come true. Choose wisely.
4. Volunteer for day time events
Morale, Wellness, and Recreation, or “MWR” is a non-profit organization that sponsors various entertainment events that are intended to boost the morale of all active duty members. The MWR members are primarily made up of volunteers themselves and are constantly looking for help.
The majority of MWR events are held during the afternoon. So you may have to cut out of work early to attend — and who wants to do that, right?
5. Put on a serious face
Most people tend to avoid conversation with another person who appears to be in deep thought or a bad mood. So use this look to your advantage when you just don’t feel like listening to people.
Consider using a prop like a clipboard to strengthen the effect.
6. Have a lookout
Skating isn’t always a solo effort — it can sometimes take a whole team to pull off correctly.
Your seniors were at some point a part of the E-4 Mafia where they learned the art of skating. Depending on your location, you may not have the proper viewing to spot when your first sergeant or chief comes barreling around the corner discovering you and your comrades playing grab ass.
Consider putting a lookout in a designed spot to warn everyone of the inbound coffee mug holding boss breaches the area. Also take turns on the lookout position. No one wants to only hear the fun.
7. Roll Call
Another one that calls for some backup.
The military’s made up of a lot of moving parts. People come and go handling various tasks throughout the day.
As long as you’re accounted for during roll call, you’ve pretty much got the upper hand on skating through whatever job lies ahead.
When a roll call starts, someone holding a clipboard, probably sporting a serious face like we talked about earlier will sound off a list of names from a sheet of paper. Once they hear the word “here!” shouted back to them they assume that’s the person they just called out for even if they haven’t lifted their eyes from the paper.
This works if the person calling out the names can’t put faces to those names or is in on the “skating.”
Have your buddies’ back if they are off skating somewhere, just make sure when you do it, they repay the favor.
8. Get your driver’s license
Driving a military vehicle on base requires the operator to have a special license. Getting the qualification can take some practice and concentration, but once you familiarize yourself with the multi-ton vehicle, you become an asset to the higher ups now that you can drive them around.
The US military announced it is calling off its search for an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific this time last month.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019, the first time this version of the F-35 has crashed. The US sent the destroyer USS Stethem, P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and a U-2 spy plane to assist Japan in its search for the fifth-generation fighter and its pilot. Later, a US Navy salvage team joined the hunt.
The destroyer and maritime patrol aircraft scoured 5,000 square nautical miles of ocean over a period of 182 hours at sea before concluding their search. The Navy salvage team managed to recover the flight recorder and parts of the cockpit canopy.
The US Navy is ending its support in the search for the missing fighter, US 7th Fleet announced May 8, 2019. Japan is, however, planning to continue looking for the aircraft.
F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
“We will continue our search and recovery of the pilot and the aircraft that are still missing, while doing utmost to determine the cause,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced, according to Japanese media. It is unclear if, or at what point, Japan would abandon the search.
It is highly unusual for a country to continue the search for a missing military pilot longer than a week, with near certainty they are dead and that the ships and planes have more pressing missions than finding a body in thousands of miles of ocean. But this is the first time an F-35 stealth fighter has gone missing and some observers have said the missing plane would be an intelligence windfall to rivals like China.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the most expensive weapon in the world today. It’s secrets are well protected, but currently, one of these fighters is in pieces on the ocean floor. Amid speculation that it might be vulnerable, both US and Japanese defense officials dismissed the possibility of another country, such as Russia or China getting its hands on the crashed fighter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran’s parliament has voted to slash four zeros from the national currency, the rial, to fight hyperinflation caused by crippling U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers also decided on May 4 that the rial, which has been Iran’s national currency since 1925, wiil be replaced by the toman, which will be equal to 10,000 rials, according to the IRNA and ISNA news agencies.
President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington then reimposed most sanctions on Iran, dealing a hard blow to the Islamic republic’s economy.
In recent months, the rial has shed more than 60 percent of its value, with hyperinflation also accelerated by the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.
The law must be ratified by the Guardians Council, a powerful hard-line constitutional watchdog.
State television said Iran’s Central Bank will have two years to “pave the ground to change the currency to the toman.”
The Iranian currency was trading at about 156,000 rials per dollar on the unofficial market on May 4, according to foreign-exchange websites.
One thing that has happened a number of times this year are close encounters. Or, to put it bluntly, times where the U.S. military got buzzed. Three countries were major offenders: Russia, China, and Iran. Here’s a breakdown of the incidents by country.
There were at least four major incidents where Russia buzzed American forces. On Feb. 10, an Ilyushin Il-38 “May” maritime patrol aircraft and three Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers carried out multiple passes on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). In May, a Su-27 Flanker came within 20 feet of a P-8 Poseidon. The following month, an Air Force RC-135 was buzzed by another Flanker. In November, another P-8 Poseidon had a Russian fighter come within 50 feet.
The Chinese have been major offenders in unsafe encounters. In 2001, one of their fighter pilots collided with a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. The crew of the EP-3E made it, but the Chinese pilot was killed. In May, there were two incidents, starting with a Su-30 doing a Top Gun stunt. About a week after that, two Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters buzzed a P-3. In July, there was a near-collision between a J-10 and an EP-3E.
The Iranians have had their history of unsafe interactions and picking fights. These are not just limited to aerial incidents, either. In January and April, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) was harassed by Iranian “fast attack craft” in the Straits of Hormuz. A third incident involving the Mahan took place in May.
In June, an Iranian vessel aimed a laser at a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. July saw the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats. August saw two incidents where Iranian drones buzzed a carrier. The first incident, on August 8, nearly caused a mid-air collision with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. An Aug. 15 incident saw a close pass on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Hopefully, 2018 will not see more of these passes, but these three countries do seem to make it a habit.
The KGB—or Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti— was the Soviet Union’s main security agency from 1954 until its break up in 1991.
Conventional media and entertainment paint the organization as the Soviet version of America’s CIA. However, a more realistic description of the KGB includes the roles of the NSA, FBI, and state media along with the CIA. Its responsibilities included intelligence gathering, border security, and propaganda enforcement. Additionally, the KGB served as the state’s secret police and was a military service governed by military laws and regulations; the CIA, on the other hand, is a civilian foreign intelligence service.
A 1983 Timearticle called “The KGB: Eyes of the Kremlin,” reported that it was the world’s most effective information-gathering organization at its peak. The USSR liked to keep things simple; information flowed freely throughout the agency, which avoided any hiccups that may occur between multi-agency cooperation.
After the Soviet collapse, the KGB was succeeded by the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) of Russia, which was in turn succeeded by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB). Although the KGB doesn’t officially exist, many argue that its mode of operation lives on under former KGB agent and current Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Case in point is the mysterious poisoning of former KGB and FSB agent Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko by radioactive polonium-210 that resulted in his death. Litvinenko and other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. After being arrested and acquitted, he defected to the United Kingdom in 2000 until his suspected murder in 2006.
In January 2016, the BBC reported that Putin ‘probably’ approved Litvinenko’s murder after years of personal antagonism. This TestTube News video explains the KGB’s evolution and why it was so feared.
Is North Korea’s air force selling canned soup and taxi rides to upgrade its runways and airstrips?
Amid the toughest sanctions ever against the North and its nuclear weapons program, there are some compelling reasons to believe the answer may well be yes. The story of how — and why — offers some insight into how North Korea’s economy functions under Kim Jong Un.
There’s a fine line between North Korea’s military and its private sector. To augment the already huge share of the country’s limited national resources earmarked for defense, North Korean military units control everything from restaurants to farms to the flagship airline.
Over the past several years, it has also become one of the country’s most recognizable consumer brands.
With only a dozen or so active-use aircraft operating on limited routes to China and the Russian Far East, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever been much of a money-maker for Pyongyang in the conventional, ticket-sales sort of way. But it is a symbol of national prestige and serves as a key lifeline to the outside world, transporting people and loads and loads of precious — and often not-very-closely-scrutinized — cargo.
Air Koryo runs at least one gas station and car wash in Pyongyang, has its own fleet of taxis, and operates several retail shops, including a boutique at the airport. At the relatively upscale Potonggang Department Store in central Pyongyang, whole aisles are devoted to Air Koryo brand products, from crates of liquor to row after row of Coke-like sodas and a half dozen varieties of canned goods, including pheasant soup and peaches.
The airline’s moves mirror broader shifts in the North Korean economy, which is still socialist and technically centrally controlled, but under Kim has shifted rapidly toward capitalist-style entrepreneurialism.
At the grassroots level, street vendors and small, bazaar-style markets are common. Higher up, state-run enterprises are adapting to become more productive and profitable — quite possibly because the regime, pinched by sanctions and shrinking trade possibilities, can’t afford to prop them up anymore.
It’s not just Air Koryo: Naegohyang, a major producer of cigarettes including the luxury “7.27” brand reportedly favored by Kim himself, has begun pushing its own line of sporting goods. They’re sold alongside Nike, Adidas, and other pricey imports at its flagship stores near Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter and in the exclusive Scientists’ Street district, a neighborhood built to reward the country’s scientists and technicians.
Air Koryo got a big boost with Kim’s decision to completely overhaul the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, which opened a shiny new terminal in 2015. The next year, Air Koryo started its taxi service. The Air Koryo soft drink line was launched in 2016. A gas station and car wash followed in 2017.
It’s impossible to say how profitable those initiatives have been. But the swelling variety of the goods and their ready availability in the capital and elsewhere is undeniable.
The appearance of a subsidiary company, Korea Hanggong Trading, at recent trade fairs suggests Air Koryo may be considering an export business, something of a stretch in the current political climate and sanctions aimed at cutting off the North’s ability to fund its nuclear program.
Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the North Korean Economy Watch blog, describes the airline as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the air force, which is using its consumer goods business to help finance reconstruction of its own infrastructure, including runway renovations and new revetments at remote highway airfields.
Selling Air Koryo-labelled products made by military factories can help the air force boost revenues outside of its official budget allocations, Melvin said.
A new headquarters for Air Koryo has been built near the international airport, he noted.
“For many years, North Korea has tried to turn its subsidy-dependent, state-owned enterprises into profitable operations that pay ‘taxes,'” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “Maybe Air Koryo’s time has simply come.”
Air Koryo’s connection to the military is not immediately obvious and is often overlooked.
But according to a 2014 United Nations Panel of Experts’ report, the airline, all airports, and airfields in North Korea are controlled by the Korean People’s Air Force through its Civil Aviation Bureau. The report added that the airline’s personnel are believed to be members of the air force and “all in-country maintenance is conducted by air force engineering staff.”
That makes it a natural target for sanctions, another incentive for diversification.
Though Washington-backed efforts to blacklist the airline entirely have failed, the U.S. Treasury Department in 2016 slapped sanctions on Air Koryo for doing a flyover during a 2013 military parade and for transporting spare parts used in Scud-B missile systems, among other things.
The listing does not ban Americans from flying on Air Koryo but restricts them from doing other kinds of business with it.
The U.N., meanwhile, has warned that “considering the control over and use by the air force of Air Koryo’s aircraft,” member states could be in violation of its arms embargo on the North should they engage with the airline in anything from financial transactions to technical training.
China has kicked off large-scale military drills in waters near Taiwan just days after warning in a new defense report that it remains ready and willing to use force to achieve reunification.
Drills are being held at both ends of the Taiwan Strait, according to two local maritime safety administration notices marking off the exercise areas.
An area off the coast of Guangdong and Fujian provinces was blocked off from Monday to Friday for military activities in the South China Sea while an area off the coast of Zhejiang province was marked off for military exercises in the East China Sea from Saturday to Thursday, Reuters reported.
Breaking News: China simultaneously conducts major military exercises targeting Taiwan in the East and South China Sea from July 28 to August 02.pic.twitter.com/UABJv9GiIk
The South China Morning Post reports that these exercises may be “routine” drills the Chinese defense ministry recently announced but adds that these appear to be the first simultaneous exercises in the area since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Business Insider was unable to independently confirm this point.
“The main goal of the drills is to practise how to effectively maintain control of the sea and the air amid growing foreign interference in Taiwan affairs,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military analyst, told the Post, explaining that the exercises “serve as a warning to foreign forces that the [People’s Liberation Army] has the resolve to [achieve reunification] with Taiwan.”
A Taiwan-based naval affairs expert said that the PLA was responding to US arms sales to Taiwan and the increasingly routine transits by US Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, a sensitive international waterway.
Earlier this month, the US has also approved a .2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, one that will see the delivery of tanks and surface-to-air missiles able to help Taiwan “maintain a credible defensive capability.”
Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do
Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do
And last week, the US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The move came just one day after the release of a new Chinese defense white paper warning that the Chinese government will not renounce the use of force to achieve reunification with Taiwan.
“We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” the report read. “This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”
“The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs,” the sharply worded warning said.
Commenting specifically on the recent Taiwan Strait transit, the state-run China Daily accused Washington of “raising a finger to what the white paper said about China’s determination to defend its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that if the US “thinks that Beijing will not deliver on this commitment, it is in for a rude awakening.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Monday that it is monitoring Chinese military activities, adding that it remains confident in its ability to defend the homeland and safeguard Taiwan’s freedom, democracy and sovereignty, according to local media.
“The national army continues to reinforce its key defense capacity and is definitely confident and capable of defending the nation’s security,” the ministry said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.
Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerousnewsreports.
Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.
US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.
Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC
Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.
Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.
Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation
In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.
Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.
The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.
Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”
“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”
The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.
It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”
In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?
If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.
Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.
But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”
The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.
So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?
The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”
“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”
Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”
A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.
Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”
“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”
While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.
“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.
In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.
But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.
Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”
Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.
Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”
But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?
It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”
Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.
The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.
The idea of limiting warfare and its effects on soldiers and civilians have roots that can be traced back to the American Civil War. Shortly before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Lieber Code. Named for a Prussian professor from South Carolina, Lieber was a former Prussian soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, wounded at the Battle of Waterloo. He aimed to convince the Union to adjust its battlefield conduct to bring a sharper end to the war, and thus, slavery.
On April 24, 1863, President Lincoln issued the finished code as Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, General Order No. 100. The code featured 157 articles in 10 sections and covered everything from martial law to the treatment of deserters, women, prisoners of war, partisans, scouts, spies and captured messengers.
Prisoner exchanges, flags of truce, battlefield looting, and assassinations were also covered. Most importantly, the code governed the treatment of POWs, treatment of rebels, and the respect for human life (especially those of slaves and former slaves fighting for the Union).
The Lieber Code was the foundation text for the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Although many of the provisions of the Hague Conventions were subsequently violated during World War I, the conventions still stand as the standard for modern day arms limitation and battlefield conduct agreements.
Subsequent arms agreements include the Geneva Conventions of 1925 and 1949, The 1979 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, to name a few.
After more than 150 years of arms control treaties, countries have invented, used, and then banned weapons designed to choke, maim, and otherwise kill warfighters in an inhumane fashion (as ironic as that sounds).
1. Poisonous Gases
There are five types of chemical agent banned for use in warfare. Blood agents are toxic and fast acting. They’re absorbed into the blood (hence the name) and cause a long, violent death, usually from respiratory failure. Phosegene Gas and Hydrogen Cyanide are two kinds of blood agent. Next are blister agents that cause severe chemical burns on the skin and eyes. Blister agents like Mustard Gas can be fatal if ingested or inhaled.
Nerve agents like VX and Sarin gases break down the neurotransmitters that make organs function. They can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Victims slowly lose control of their bodily functions, their limbs start jerking involuntarily, and death comes from respiratory failure. A choking agent impedes the victim’s ability to breathe, causing a buildup of fluid in the lungs, and eventually death by drowning. Phosgene gas can also be considered a choking agent. A final type in nettle agents. Nettle agents irritate the skin, but do not cause blisters.
2. Non-Detectable Fragments
The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons bans the use of non-metallic fragment in war because they can’t be found by using X-rays. The fragments are said to cause unnecessary suffering. Surgeons have to go through the body by hand looking for these fragments
While plastic itself isn’t prohibited in weapons production, using plastic as the primary effect is.
3. Land Mines
The failure of a total ban of anti-personnel mines in the 1979 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons led to the Ottawa Treaty, which did. This treaty doesn’t cover anti-tank mines, booby traps, and remote mines.
Say goodbye to everyone’s Goldeneye N64 fun.
Previous treaties have demanded the anti-personnel mines be able to be remotely deactivated, to shut down after a certain time period, or to be removed by the implementing party once the conflict ends.
4. Incendiary Weapons
The use of weapons designed just to burn or set fire to large areas which may be full of civilians are also prohibited. The ban covers actual flame, heat or chemical reactions, so this limits the use of flamethrowers, napalm, and white phosphorus. You can still use a flamethrower, you just can’t use it near civilians, which, on today’s battlefield, might be a tall order.
Napalm is that the substance itself isn’t banned as a weapon, but using it on anything other than a concentrated area where the enemy is using foliage as concealment is banned.
5. Blinding Laser Weapons
This covers any laser designed to cause permanent blindness, but it does say that if the laser in question just happens to cause blindness, you can’t be held responsible for that.
6. “Expanding” Ordnance
Technically, this covers “bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body,” which were developed by the British in India at the time of the Hague Convention in 1899. The delegates to the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 wanted to limit warfare to only the combatants. They reasoned that if weapons were deadlier, there would be less suffering. Since exploding bullets under 400 grams would only kill one man and that ordinary bullets would do, why create exploding ones?
Today, this prohibition covers hollow-point bullets, which are designed to remain in the body and limit collateral damage.
7. Poisoned Bullets
In the earliest known arms agreement, the Holy Roman Empire and France agreed not to use poisoned bullets on each other. At the time, troops stored bullets in unclean planes, like corpses. It would be another 100+ years before the idea of germs spreading disease caught on in the medical world, so the infections caused by these bullets were a serious hazard to injured troops.
8. Cluster Bombs
A cluster bomb releases a number of projectiles on impact to injure or damage personnel and vehicles. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions banned these for two reasons. First, they have wide area effects and are unable to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Second, cluster munitions leave behind large numbers of dangerous unexploded ordnance.
9. Biological Weapons
The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention was the first treaty to completely ban a whole class of weapons. It prohibits the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons, though has no governing body to enforce compliance.
Biological weapons are some of the oldest weapons of mass destruction known to have been used by man. The Mongols tossed rotting bodies over the city walls at the 1343 Siege of Caffa, spreading disease and infection throughout the city.