Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.


The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.

These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.

Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.

Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.

Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”

Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.

Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.

Also Read: Watch Stephen Colbert’s Hilarious Stint In Army Basic Training

Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.

Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.

Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.

Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.

However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.

After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.

Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
New U.S. Army soldiers in basic combat training wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts January 16, 2008, at Fort Jackson, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.

The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.

Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.

Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.

Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.

Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.

It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.

When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza)

Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.

Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.

Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.

Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.

However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Chinese military rips scenes from ‘Transformers’ and other Hollywood blockbusters for this propaganda video touting its bombers

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force posted a new video to an official social media page over the weekend touting its bomber force. The propaganda video includes several scenes from big Hollywood films.

The short video — “God of War H-6K, attack!,” a reference to its H-6 bomber — is set to dramatic music and shows an attack on an airbase.


Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Screenshot of the PLAAF Weibo post. (Weibo)

The scenes of Chinese bomber aircraft in flight appear to be real PLAAF footage, but the combat scenes look like they were taken from the films “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “The Rock.” (The links go to the relevant scenes from the movies)

Here’s the “attack” footage from the new PLAAF video showing scenes from the three movies.

A source close to the Chinese military told the South China Morning Post that it is not uncommon for the Chinese military to “borrow” scenes from Hollywood films.

“Almost all of the officers in the department grew up watching Hollywood movies, so in their minds, American war films have the coolest images,” SCMP’s source said.

SCMP reported that back in 2011, Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV presented footage of a training exercise that included scenes from “Top Gun.”

The scenes from Hollywood films are not the only notable inclusions in the PLAAF video though.

Included in the airbase attack scene is satellite footage of an airfield that Reuters reports “looks exactly like the layout of” the US military’s Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, an important strategic location for US operations in the Pacific and a likely target in a US-China conflict.

The Chinese PLAAF bomber force currently consists of variations of the H-6 bomber, a Chinese version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, though newer aircraft are being developed.

“In recent years, China has fielded greater numbers of the H-6K, a modernized H-6 variant that integrates standoff weapons and features more-efficient turbofan engines for extended-range,” the Department of Defense wrote in its latest China Military Power report.

“The H-6K,” the report further explained, “can carry six [Land Attack Cruise Missiles], giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam from home airfields in mainland China.”

Among the Chinese military assets available for strikes on Guam are also DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

Lately, China’s air force has been focused on Taiwan.

In just two days last week, the Chinese military conducted 37 sorties involving fighter jets, bombers, and other aircraft that saw planes crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait and crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a press briefing last Friday that the exercises were “legitimate and necessary action taken to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the current situation in the Taiwan Strait.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

There’s a new Ebola outbreak in Congo and no one knows what to do

An Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sickened 32 people, including three health workers, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO declared a new Ebola outbreak on May 8, 2018. That same day, the White House’s senior director for global health security, Timothy Ziemer, stepped down from his position. Rear Adm. Ziemer was the official in charge of leading the response to global pandemic disease, but nobody is taking over his role.


According to a report in the Washington Post, the global health security team was disbanded under new national security advisor John Bolton. The reorganization comes as the White House is also planning to cut funding allocated to preventing global pandemics.

Ziemer is considered by some to be one of the most effective public health officials the US has had, but the Post reported he was “basically pushed out.”

Fighting an outbreak before it gets worse

The reported cases of Ebola so far are in a town called Bikoro in the Equateur province of the DRC. Of the cases, two have been confirmed, 18 are probable, and 12 are suspected. There have been 18 deaths.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from an infected cell.

But the outbreak may be worse than it seems, a WHO official told Stat, since it may have started earlier and spread further than has been reported. The cases so far have been on a lake port, which means it’s possible an infected person could have traveled to a larger city. The infected healthcare workers could have spread the disease as well.

A team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is helping coordinate responses on the ground in the DRC, according to a statement from the organization.

“MSF has worked alongside the Congolese authorities in the past to care for patients suffering from Ebola and bring outbreaks under control. At the moment, there is an experienced MSF team in Bikoro, made up of medics, water and sanitation experts, health promoters, logisticians, and an epidemiologist,” Julien Raickman, MSF head of the mission in the DRC, said in the statement.

A dangerous virus with pandemic potential

Ebola’s potential to spread rapidly is the reason it’s essential to have dedicated officials coordinating a response to an outbreak — before it turns into a deadly epidemic or pandemic.

The disease is a viral hemmorhagic fever that was first discovered in 1976 in Yambuku, Zaire, now the DRC. Fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, with an average fatality rate around 50%.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
This is the team that first went looking for the source of the Ebola virus in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
(CDC / Dr. Lyle Conrad)

Generally, Ebola outbreaks begin when humans encounter an infected animal. The disease spreads between humans through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Symptoms usually begin with fever, weakness, soreness, and headache. These are often followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, organ failure, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak infected more than 28,600 and killed more than 11,300. In its wake, there has been significant research conducted on a potential Ebola vaccine. The WHO is planning to approve deployment of that experimental vaccine soon, but it’s not yet clear how effective it will be.

The current risk of Ebola spreading to nearby countries is moderate, based on the WHO’s assessment.

The WHO’s deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, Peter Salama, said the organization is preparing for the worst, including the possibility that the disease could spread to major town or city.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US submarine maintains ‘readiness and lethality’ after time in ‘limbo’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019, praising the crew for maintaining “readiness and lethality,” even though the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine completed its most recent deployment in 2015.

The Boise has been in limbo, awaiting repairs amid a Navy-wide backlog that has sent subs, including the Boise, to private docks for repair, driving up costs.

The Boise is currently at Naval Station Norfolk, according to the Daily Press, and awaiting repair at Newport News Shipbuilders.

Read on to learn more about Esper’s visit to the Boise.


Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the USS Boise.

(Department of Defense)

Esper came to Virginia to discuss the problem of Navy suicides.

Esper visited the Boise during a trip to Norfolk, where three Navy sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have died by suicide in the past two weeks.

“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent future further suicides in the armed services,” Esper told sailors. “We don’t.”

This year, suicides in the armed services have garnered significant attention, with the Air Force calling a one-day operational stand-down in August 2019 to address the number of suicides in its ranks.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Defense Secretary Mark Esper tours the USS Boise, Sept. 25, 2019.

(Department of Defense)

While at Norfolk, Esper took a tour of the USS Boise.

The submarine Esper praised for its readiness has been out of action for four years and lost its certification to perform unrestricted operations in June 2016 as it awaited repairs, according to Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jodie Cornell.

“The Boise has been waiting for repairs since its last deployment ended in 2015, and become the poster child for problems w/ Navy maintenance,” journalist Paul McLeary tweeted Sept. 25, 2019.

The Boise and two other Los Angeles-class submarines have long awaited repairs that the Navy doesn’t have the capacity to perform, so the service has contracted the labor to private shipyards.

Cornell told Insider that the Boise could go into repairs in spring 2020, but the contract for the private shipbuilder to perform the repair was still in negotiations.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Esper aboard the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019.

(US Department of Defense)

The Boise maintains a full crew, despite being stuck at Naval Base Norfolk.

Cornell told Insider that while there is indeed a full crew aboard the Boise, “the command has been executing an aggressive plan to send crew members to other submarines to both support the other ships, including deployments, and to gain Boise crewmembers valuable operational experience.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2018 that attack submarines have spent 10,363 days in “idle time” — when they can’t operate and are unable to get repairs — since 2008.

During that time, the Navy also spent an estimated id=”listicle-2640620235″.5 billion to maintain attack subs that weren’t operational.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military sites in Europe rely on Russia for energy

As the Nord Stream II pipeline is beginning construction in the Baltic Sea, President Donald Trump warned that Germany has become “captive to Russia.” Representatives in Congress are also worried about European dependence on Russian energy. To ensure stable operation of critical sites, especially military assets abroad, backup power solutions should be an imperative.

In the first quarter of 2018, Russian pipelines supplied 41% of Europe’s gas. Russian natural gas is cheaper for much of Europe because it does not need to undergo the liquification process. Countries that ship gas long distances have to transform it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) by cooling it to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. This shrinks the gas’ volume, making it easier to store and ship. When LNG reaches its destination, it is changed back to a gas and piped to homes and businesses to generate electricity.


Many policymakers find European dependence on Russian gas concerning. In fact, a letter was recently sent to Secretary of Defense James Mattis from Senator Pat Toomey and other representatives highlighting the importance of lessening the dependence on Russian energy for the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe. Some consider American LNG to be more reliable and promote U.S. energy exports as a replacement for Nord Stream 2.

Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany is a large and strategic American defense transport facility with 56,000 American troops. The base serves as headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Air Command. According to the Defense Logistics Agency, nearly 40% of oil used at military sites in Germany is from Russia.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by TSGT David D. Underwood, Jr.)

Thus, American defense installations in Europe are dependent on Russian energy to operate. If Russia were to hold its energy supply hostage, as it already has done to Ukraine in 2006 and 2008, not only would Germany’s power grid struggle to provide electricity to its citizens, but American installations and operations would also be compromised.

The Nord Stream II pipeline, in essence, boosts Moscow’s geopolitical strength and doubles the European Union’s reliance on Russian energy. Funds from selling gas also provide Russia with more resources to accomplish hostile goals, such as the recent annexation of Crimea and the cyber campaign on the U.S. electric grid. Increased energy dependence on Russia could also be used as leverage to extort the European Union and drive a wedge between NATO allies.

U.S. lawmakers in particular worry that Europe’s reliance on Russian energy could give Moscow more leverage. Congress attempted to pursue a safer energy supply in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law directed the secretary of defense to provide measures for modern energy acquisition policy for overseas installations, reduce the military’s dependence on Russian energy and ensure the ability to sustain operations in the event of a supply disruption.

In the recent Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA passed in the House, Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska advanced a bipartisan amendment to direct an energy security policy for a new id=”listicle-2591231597″ billion Army medical complex and significantly reduce the need for natural gas.

To reduces reliance on Russian energy, microgrids could be deployed at American military assets. Microgrids are capable of operating on or off the main grid and ensure electricity is available to locations if an outage occurs. These power systems would serve as a great backup to avoid an external country from controlling the energy supply to military sites.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska.

Some American utilities have built microgrids to ensure electricity is available to critical locations, such as power generating stations and airports. For instance, the SPIDERS Phase III microgrid project is deployed at Camp H.M. Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps installation in Hawaii, and includes battery storage, demand response, renewables and diesel generation.

Nuclear power can also be used to fuel microgrids with onsite fuel for long periods of time. Companies such as BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) have the unique capability to support the design, testing and manufacturing of Gen IV advanced reactors that can be used for this purpose.

In addition, reliable bulk energy storage could provide backup power in the event the energy supply is compromised. Batteries in electric vehicles on military bases could also be used to supply power during an outage, especially considering these cars are popular in Europe. For instance, Nissan unveiled a system that allows the Leaf electric car to connect with a home and provide electricity for about two days.

As Russia provides more gas to Europe with the development of the new pipeline, it is critical for backup power to be available at American military sites abroad. Congress should consider equipping military sites with microgrids, storage, and even electric vehicles to ensure power is available in the event the energy supply is ever compromised.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico’s new security law could turn the country into a war zone

Mexican senators on Dec. 13 approved an Internal Security Law, which would formalize the military’s role in the country’s domestic security.


Their votes came despite protests from their Senate counterparts, international organizations, and Mexican citizens. The bill faces further discussion but could get final approval by Dec. 15. It was first approved by Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, during a contentious session on Nov. 30, and throughout deliberations, opponents inside and outside congress have railed against it.

Mexico’s constitution limits the military’s domestic actions during peacetime, but the armed forces have been deployed to combat drug trafficking and organized crime since the first days of 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent troops into his home state of Michoacan just a few weeks after taking office.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
President George W. Bush exchanges handshakes with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, as they met for a bilateral discussion during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Montebello, Canada. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

The bill — proposed by members of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — would create a legal framework for the public-security functions the military has been carrying out on an ad hoc basis for more than a decade, like manning highway checkpoints and pursuing and arresting suspects.

Supporters say it would address legal issues around those deployments. The bill would set guidelines for the president’s ability to authorize military action, but critics have said it makes it too easy to send the armed forces into the streets and opens the possibility they could be used against protests. They’ve also said the bill could allow deployments to be extended indefinitely.

A new initiative proposed by the bill would have the military provide intelligence to the government and its security agencies. The measure would also establish a group of government officials who would make decisions about the implementation of new measures the president could then, if needed, invoke to restore “internal order.”

Also Read: These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

“The thing that I hear from a lot of people is, ‘Yeah, but aren’t they already doing it? And isn’t this just sort of bringing that under code of law?’ And that’s a reasonable point,” Everard Meade, the director of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider.

“Creating some more law and clarifying the legal framework is not a terrible idea, even if you think, as I do … that it’s not a good idea,” Meade said. “The broader point is they’re already doing it, and they’re often doing it under really shady jurisdiction.”

‘Mexico without war!’

Criticism has come from all sides. Opposition legislators have called for calm, detailed discussion about the bill, rather than the previous fast push through the Chamber of Deputies that apparently left no time to read or debate it.

Lawmakers and civil-society groups inside and outside of Mexico have also charged the bill gives the military too much leeway in its domestic actions. Legislators have also criticized measures within the bill regarding the use of force as “cosmetic” and said that changes made by Senate committees are “insufficient” or “superficial.”

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has said the law is vague and doesn’t include objective definitions of “internal security” and opens the possibility for it to be applied in “any” situation.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the premise of the law, saying it provides no exit strategy for the military and is “ill-conceived.”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
The Allée des Nations in front of the Palace of Nations (United Nations Office at Geneva). (Photo by MadGeographer)

The UN’s high commissioner for human rights said formalizing the military’s role in domestic security was “not the answer” and that doing so reduces incentives for civilian authorities to act in their traditional roles.

The Washington Office on Latin America — which noted that the military was still operating in 23 of Mexico’s 32 states a decade after its first “temporary” deployment — has cautioned that the measure as is would likely lead to more abuses and hinder transparency.

Mexican protesters took to the streets of Mexico City during the Senate’s deliberations on Dec. 13, chanting “Mexico without war!” and calling for the law to be rejected.

‘We still need the army in the streets’

The PRI and parties allied with it have touted the necessity of the bill, dismissing international criticism and stressing the importance of a legal framework for the military’s domestic operations.

“The issue of human rights is covered, and covered well” in the law, PRI congressman Cesar Dominguez said at the end of November. “But we cannot guarantee liberties and the full exercise of rights if there isn’t a climate of public safety and peace.”

“Blah, blah, blah. The truth is you always vote against everything,” said Arturo Alvarez, a congressman from the Green Party, a PRI ally. “The fact is we still need the army in the streets.”

The military’s activities “have been limited by the lack of a normative framework that regulates actions they can perform during times of peace,” Cristina Diaz, a PRI senator who heads the Senate’s governance commission, said Dec. 13.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
Mexican army soldier at the Independence Day Parade, September 16, 2013 in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com)

The continuing threat posed by powerful criminal organizations and their often more violent offspring undergirds many arguments in favor of the bill. But most admit the military’s training is incompatible with policing.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, called the measure a “double-edge sword,” because while the military had the capability to confront heavily armed criminal groups, it is not trained or equipped to carry out law-enforcement jobs, like gathering evidence or interrogating suspects.

“If you use the military, the allegations and the issues of human-rights violations are probably going to continue,” Vigil told Business Insider. “But at the same time, if you don’t use them, then Mexico is really sticking its neck out in terms of being able to provide nationwide security against these complex drug-trafficking consortiums.”

David Shirk, the director of the Justice in Mexico program at the University of San Diego, differed, saying that lack of investigative capacity was disqualifying.

The military “can’t identify, track, and … they don’t have the necessary intelligence and, importantly, the evidentiary basis on which to bring people to justice that a part of a vast criminal conspiracy,” Shirk told Business Insider. “The problem is neither does the Mexican police force.”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
A soldier carries out surveillance in the municipality of San Fernando in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. (EFE photo by Miguel Sierra)

Shirk noted that the Mexican military has been involved in domestic operations for decades, with some arguing its role extends back the middle of the 20th century. By 1995, he said, there were calls to include the armed forces on the national public safety council.

But the expanded deployment in 2007 — rising from 20,000 to 50,000 soldiers — was intended as a short-term solution until criminal groups could be suppressed and police forces could be better trained.

Those troops are still in the streets. In places like Guerrero, riven by drug-related violence, they remain deployed to augment or replace local police. Tamaulipas, the northeast Mexican state that is the home turf of the Gulf and Zetas cartels, depends entirely on the military for order, after all the state’s city and town police forces were dissolved because officers were linked to cartels fighting in the state.

Mexico’s military remains one of the country’s most trusted institutions, and the army is its most trusted security branch. But many see these prolonged deployments as directly responsible for more human-rights abuses and for increased violence throughout Mexico.

Shirk, citing a 2012 Justice in Mexico report, noted that allegations of rights abuses by the military increased as their deployments increased in 2007 and 2008. There continue to be over 1,000 complaints annually.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
(Image from the University of San Diego)

The Washington Office on Latin America found that, between 2012 and 2016, there have been 505 criminal investigations by the Mexican attorney general into crimes and abuses by soldiers but just 16 convictions.

Researchers have found that between 2007 and 2010, there was “a causal effect between the deployment of joint military operations and the rise in the murder rate” in states where those joint operations took place, with data indicating there could have been nearly 7,000 fewer homicides in 2008 and 2009 had the military not been deployed.

The military has been implicated in abuses in recent years, like the killing of 22 suspects in central Mexico in 2014 and the disappearance of 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, also in 2014. Between 2015 and September 2017, the Mexican government reportedly paid out more than $6 million in compensation for human-rights violations by federal authorities, including defense forces.

“So to me, it’s absolutely clear that if we see this government or another government that comes next turn to even more military involvement or start deploying the military more, we’re going to see more people get hurt,” Shirk told Business Insider.

‘A very long-term project’

The Mexican military currently operates domestically under a vague clause allowing it to “aid” civilian law enforcement when asked to do so.

Military leaders have expressed “unease” about domestic operations, and the Mexican government has taken steps to hold military personnel accountable for abuses committed while acting in a public-security capacity.

Under a law approved in 2014, soldiers accused of violating civilians’ rights are tried in civilian courts.

Also Read: The 50 most violent cities in the world

“That’s a big deal” and an important part of making sure abuses are dealt with transparently, Shirk said, though he doubted there had been enough time to assess whether that policy was being used well and had been effective in protecting against violations. (The Washington Office on Latin America has said that reform has not been fully implemented.)

Mexico has made little progress in reforming and reconstituting local and state police forces, which were often ineffective or infiltrated by criminal elements, and has shown little interest in doing so. Critics of the bill have charged that it removes incentives to carry out those reforms, but even a sincere effort to effect them would “be a very long-term project,” Vigil said.

“It’s going to take decades before they’re up to speed,” he told Business Insider, “and in the meantime they’re going to have to use … the military to conduct a lot of those [law-enforcement] operations.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Everything is on the table but Crimea’ at the Trump-Putin summit

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to searching for compromises with his U.S. counterpart on “all” issues except the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which Moscow claims is part of Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments on July 2, 2018, ahead of a planned summit between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Peskov said on a conference call with reporters that Putin “stated multiple times and explained to his interlocutors that such an item as Crimea can never appear on the agenda, considering that Crimea is an integral part of Russia.”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
President Donald Trump

“All the rest are matters [subject to] consensus, discussion, and a search for possible points of contact,” he added.

Trump, asked on June 29, 2018, whether reports about him dropping Washington’s opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea were true, said, “We’re going to have to see.”

White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, later ruled out the possibility of abandoning Washington’s opposition to the takeover.

“That’s not the position of the United States,” he told CBS on July 1, 2018.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against Russia over actions including its seizure of Crimea and its role in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military arrives to help US citizens hit by super typhoon

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are in the lead for Task Group Tinian, consisting of several hundred service members belonging to each branch of the U.S. military. The joint force, led by U.S. Marine Col. Robert “Bams” Brodie, is executing crisis-response in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts to assist the U.S. citizens of Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, recover from Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 3, 2018.


Military members from across the Indo-Pacific region, spearheaded by the 31st MEU and Combat Logistics Battalion 31, began arriving here en masse on Oct. 29, 2018, four days after the historic storm swept directly across the isolated island, to enable the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission here. Led by FEMA officials and partnering with local government leaders and local law enforcement, the 31st MEU began categorizing urgent needs and establishing a base of support for partner and military units, including the U.S. Navy’s Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Civil Engineer Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

The dock landing ship USS Ashland sits idle off the coast during the U.S. Defense Support of Civil Authorities relief effort in response to Super Typhoon Yutu, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“We have effectively opened the door and laid the groundwork for long term forces of military members and federal aid workers to continue helping the Americans here on Tinian,” said Brodie, commander of the 31st MEU. “I am incredibly proud of the work these Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers have done in such a short time — it is incredible seeing the progress in only four days.”

Marines with the 31st MEU, U.S. Navy Seabees with NMCB-1 and 36th CES completed several imperative projects beginning Oct. 29, 2018, including purifying and distributing over 20,000 gallons of water; clearing two public schools, government buildings and the municipal power facility of downed trees and debris; and restoring emergency services’ capacity to respond to medical emergencies. All efforts lay the groundwork for the arrival of the dock landing ship USS Ashland, which arrived today with a well-equipped force of Marines belonging to CLB-31 and additional Seabees to augment existing capabilities already at work here.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 walk along a cleared road during the U.S. Defense Support of Civil Authorities relief effort in response to Super Typhoon Yutu, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“With the arrival of the Ashland and all its embarked Marines, sailors, heavy equipment and supplies, we can continue building our support capacity for both FEMA and local leaders’ priorities, not the least of which is helping establish temporary shelters for displaced families who lost everything to Yutu,” said Brodie. “This storm is historic — it had devastating effects on this island — but the people of Tinian are resilient and we’re glad to lend a hand to help them get back on their feet.”

During DSCA operations, the U.S. military provides essential, lifesaving and preserving support to American citizens affected by declared natural disasters. Led by FEMA, the U.S. Government’s domestic emergency response agency, the 31st MEU continues to partner with both local agencies and FEMA to address critical shortfalls of material and supplies to support the people of Tinian. The next steps include re-establishing semi-normalcy on Tinian, including set-up of temporary FEMA shelters for families with homes destroyed by Yutu.

“We are working with the Tinian Mayor’s office and FEMA to prioritize which families will receive temporary shelters because their homes were destroyed just more than a week ago,” said Brodie. “The 31st MEU’s Marines and Navy Seabees of NMCB-1 are the muscle for this important work, and we’re honored to work hand and hand with the resilient and courageous Americans on Tinian.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did the Pentagon just drone the top ISIS drone makers?

The US military says it has killed three men who played key roles in developing, building, and modifying Islamic State drones.


Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon Sept. 28 that the three were killed in a series of US airstrikes in Syria in mid-September.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
Wikipedia

Dillon says two of the men were responsible for manufacturing and modifying commercially produced drones. The other man was described as a drone developer, who was killed when his research workshop near Mayadin, Syria, was hit by two airstrikes.

The Islamic State group has used drones for surveillance and to fire small weapons, in both Syria and Iraq.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Satellite photos: North Korea is rebuilding nuclear launch facility

Satellite images taken just after the collapse of February 2019’s summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un show North Korea rebuilding a long-range-missile test site it pledged to dismantle, experts say.

The photographs are from March 2, 2019, two days after Trump’s meeting with Kim ended without agreement on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

They show North Korea rebuilding its long-range-rocket site at Sohae, according to analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Previously, the Tongchang-ri facility had been used for satellite launches using missile technology North Korea is banned from using by the UN, the analysts said.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)

A South Korean lawmaker who was present at a closed-door briefing by South Korean intelligence March 5, 2019, told the Associated Press that the structures being restored at the site included roofs and building doors.

The lawmaker said the National Intelligence Service director, Suh Hoon, told them that North Korea could be preparing to restart tests of long-range missiles if talks with Washington conclusively collapsed.

He suggested that another possibility was that the site could be dramatically blown up in a display of commitment to denuclearization if talks with the US resulted in a deal.

North Korea had begun to dismantle the facility following an agreement reached at June 2018’s Singapore summit between Trump and Kim, and it had been dormant since August 2018, experts say.

According to the monitoring website 38 North, efforts to rebuild structures at the site began between Feb. 16 and March 2, 2019. Trump’s summit with Kim began Feb. 27, 2019.

Its experts say the images show the rail-mounted processing building, where launch vehicles are worked on before being moved to the launch pad, are being rebuilt.

They also identified support cranes, new roofs, and an engine support structure being developed at the test stand.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Researchers of Beyond Parallel, a CSIS project, describe this image of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch pad as showing the partially rebuilt rail-mounted rocket transfer structure in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri, North Korea.

(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)

In a Fox News interview March 5, 2019, the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, warned that new sanctions could be imposed on North Korea if the country did not further commit to denuclearization.

“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear,” he said.

“They’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them, and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.”

Sanctions on North Korea are already restrictive, but experts at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation believe there is room for tougher measures to be imposed on Chinese financial entities accused of aiding North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The Council on Foreign Relations has argued that the existing sanctions regime requires better enforcement if it is to be effective.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honor Guard makes paratrooper’s final request come true

A former Army paratrooper’s final request to be buried with military honors alongside other veterans was carried out by a New York Army National Guard honor guard on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Calverton National Cemetery.

Needham Mayes, the New York City resident who was buried, was one of the first African-American soldiers to join the 82nd Airborne Division in 1953. But he left the Army with a dishonorable discharge in 1956 after a fight in a Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

In 2016 — after a lifetime of accomplishment and community service — he began the process of having that dishonorable discharge changed. His lawyers argued that in a Southern Army post, just a few years after the Army had integrated, black soldiers were often treated unfairly.


With an assist from New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Mayes appeal came through in September 2019. When he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, he was finally a veteran and eligible to be buried with other soldiers.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Sgt. Kemval Samll, and other members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard stand at attention during the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

That duty fell to the Long Island team of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. The Army National Guard soldiers provide funeral services for around 2,400 New York City and Long Island veterans annually at the Calverton National Cemetery.

Any soldier who served honorably is entitled to basic military funeral services at their death. Statewide, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conduct an average of 9,000 services.

On Dec. 2, the Long Island National Guard soldiers dispatched 11 members to honor Mayes’s last request.

The Honor Guard members treat every military funeral as a significant event, because that service is important to that family, said 1st. Lt. Lasheri Mayes, the Officer in Charge of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

But the story of Mr. Mayes “was unique,” and because his family had fought hard to get him the honors he deserved that made the ceremony particularly important, Lt. Mayes said.

Mayes’s funeral was held as a storm moved into the northeast, and while there was no snow on Long Island, the weather was cold and windy.

The Honor Guard soldiers conducted a picture-perfect ceremony despite the bad weather, Lt. Mayes said.

Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, assembled a great team, she added.

It was “a tremendous honor” for his soldiers to conduct the mission for the Mayes family, Blount said.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a New York Military Forces Honor Guard team, salutes while overseeing military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

“I was proud to see the team that I put together all join in celebrating his life, and being a member of this memorable event for the family,” he said.

According to the New York Times, Mayes Army career went awry in 1955 when he was invited to a meal at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

Pvt. 1st Class Mayes got in a scuffle at the Non-Commissioned Officers Club at Fort Bragg. At some point, a gun — carried by another soldier according to a story in the New York Times — fell on the floor, went off, and a man was shot.

Mayes reportedly confessed to grabbing for the gun. He was sentenced to a year at hard labor and received a dishonorable discharge.

After leaving the Army, Mayes moved to New York City and became an exemplary citizen.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and became a social worker and a therapist. He raised three daughters and worked for groups fighting drug abuse and promoting mental health awareness and advocated for young black men.

But for Mayes, his dishonorable discharge always bothered him; his family members told the New York Times.

In 2016, as his health started to decline, according to the New York Times, he hired a lawyer to get his discharge upgraded so he could be buried as a veteran.

Initially, the request was denied, but this year New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand began advocating for Mayes.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

New York Army National Guard 1st LT Mayes, Lasheri Mayes, Honor Guard officer in charge, presents the colors from the casket of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes to Maye’s grandson Earl Chadwick Jr at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

Also, another former soldier who was involved in the fight for so many years urged that Mayes’s dishonorable discharge be changed.

“Being a person of color, I could never imagine what my predecessors went through, “Blount said. “What happened to Mr. Mayes was not right.”

“But it made me that much more proud of the accomplishments and the goals the military has made to move more in a positive direction — a place where we can be unified on all fronts,” Blount added.

“I am thankful every day for those that paved the way for myself and others to be the best soldiers and leaders that we can be,” he said.

Articles

10 leadership lessons to live by, straight from the Army’s top enlisted leader

Prior Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey offered some powerful guidance for the “backbone of the Army,” the non-commissioned officers’ corps. In case you missed it the first time we posted it, here it is:


No. 1. Yelling doesn’t make you skinny. PT does.

If you’re not out there saluting the flag every morning at 6:30, you can automatically assume your soldiers are not. Soldiers don’t care if you’re in first place. They just want to see you out there. This is a team sport. PT might not be the most important thing you do that day, but it is the most important thing you do every day in the United States Army. The bottom line is, wars are won between 6:30 and 9.

No. 2. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

I’ve never regretted taking the distinct opportunity to keep my mouth shut. You’re the sergeant major. People are going to listen to you. By all means, if you have something important or something informative to add to the discussion, then say it. But don’t just talk so people can hear you. For goodness sake, you’re embarrassing the rest of us. Sit down and listen. Sometimes you might just learn something.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
DoD Photo by Cpl. Christopher Mendoza

No. 3. If you find yourself having to remind everyone all of the time that you’re the sergeant major and you’re in charge, you’re probably not.

That one’s pretty self-explanatory.

No. 4. You have to work very hard at being more informed and less emotional.

Sergeants major, I’ll put it in simple terms: Nobody likes a dumb loudmouth. They don’t. Take the time to do the research. Learn how to be brief. Listen to people, and give everyone the time of day. Everyone makes mistakes, even sergeants major, and you will make less of them if you have time to be more informed.

No. 5. If you can’t have fun every day, then you need to go home.

You are the morale officer. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you do have to be positive all the time. The sergeant major is the one everyone looks to when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when it’s raining, or things are just going south. Your job is to keep the unit together. That’s why you’re there. The first place they will look when things go bad is you, and they will watch your reaction.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego

No. 6. Don’t be the feared leader. It doesn’t work.

If soldiers run the other way when you show up, that’s absolutely not cool. Most leaders who yell all the time, they’re in fact hiding behind their inability to effectively lead. Soldiers and leaders should be seeking you, looking for your guidance, asking you to be their mentors on their Army career track, not posting jokes about you on the ‘Dufflebag blog’. That’s not cool. Funny, but it’s not cool.

No. 7. Don’t do anything — and I mean anything — negative over email.

You have to call them. Go see them in person. Email’s just a tool. It’s not a substitute for leadership. It’s also permanent. You’ve all heard it. Once you hit ‘send,’ it’s official, and you can never bring it back. Automatically assume that whatever you write on email will be on the cover of the Army Times and all over Facebook by the end of the week. Trust me, I know this personally.

No. 8. It’s OK to be nervous. All of us are.

This happens to be my favorite. It came from my mother. My mom always used to tell me that if you’re not nervous on the first day of school, then you’re either not telling the truth, you either don’t care, or you’re just plain stupid. [Being nervous] makes you try harder. That’s what makes you care more.  Once that feeling is gone, once you feel like you have everything figured out, it’s time to go home, because the care stops.  Don’t do this alone. You need a battle buddy. You need someone you can call, a mentor you can confide in. Don’t make the same mistakes someone else has made. Those are the dumb mistakes. Don’t do this alone.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
Sergeant Major Dailey. DoD Photo by Timothy Hale

No. 9. If your own justification for being an expert in everything you do is your 28 years of military experience, then it’s time to fill out your 4187 [form requesting personnel action] and end your military experience.

Not everything gets better with age, sergeants major. You have to work at it every day. Remember, you are the walking textbook. You are the information portal. Take the time to keep yourself relevant.

No. 10. Never forget that you’re just a soldier.

That’s all you are. No better than any other, but just one of them. You may get paid a little more, but when the time comes, your job is to treat them all fair, take care of them as if they were your own children, and expect no more from them of that of which you expect from yourself.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps denies using Bumble to recruit for the Corps

The US Marine Corps is denying it uses dating apps to recruit after a screenshot of an apparent Bumble conversation depicting such efforts turned up on Reddit.

The screenshot shows a message that says, “Hey! My name is Kaitlin Robertson and I am with the Marine Corps. I would love to have one of my recruiters sit down and talk with you about your options within the Marine Corps including education, financial stability, hundreds of job opportunities, and free health/dental insurance, just to name a few. I would love to make you part of our Marine Corps family!!”


An quick-witted, unnamed young man responded, “You’re not even going to bribe me with crayons?”

But Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg told Stars and Stripes the Marine Corps is not employing popular dating apps to draw in young, able-bodied recruits. He also claimed the Bumble message was not written by a recruiter.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Recruits from Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

“We don’t condone use of dating apps for business purposes and no, that Bumble post was not written by a recruiter,” Kronenberg said.

The US military has struggled to recruit in recent years, and all of the branches have sought to find innovative ways to bolster their ranks. The US Army, for example, is on the hunt for a new slogan and is scrapping “Army Strong” in an apparent effort to increase its appeal to young folks.

But it seems that dating apps, however effective they might be, are not going to be included in the military’s recruitment efforts anytime in the near future.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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