North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is not the madman he is often made out to be, a senior CIA official revealed Oct. 4.
Many have speculated that that a crazed Kim Jong Un might just wake up one morning and order a nuclear strike on another country, but experts and officials argue that this is an extremely unlikely situation, as the young dictator, while brutal, is a rational actor.
“Kim Jong Un is a very rational actor,” Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Korea Mission Center Yong Suk Lee explained at a conference at George Washington University.
“The last person who wants conflict on the peninsula is Kim Jong Un,” he argued, asserting that Kim wants what all authoritarian rulers want — “he wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”
“Bluster and rhetoric aside, Kim Jong Un has no interest in going toe-to-toe with combined forces command,” Lee explained. “That’s not conducive to his long-term rule.”
Lee, who has analyzed North Korea for more than two decades, also countered arguments that Kim needs to wage war to satisfy the hawkish demands of the North Korean elites. “Believe me, North Korean elites are not interested in getting their faces on a deck of cards and being chased after by [Joint Special Operations Command],” he said.
“Beyond the bluster, Kim Jong Un is a rational actor,” Lee said.
Assuming that Kim is not crazy, then a random attack on the US or an American ally is not realistic or in the interests of a regime that is focused on maintaining its existence.
“An out-of-the-blue attack is not conducive to his regime interests and his longevity,” Lee explained, adding that nuclear weapons and missiles give the North some strategic maneuverability. The CIA appears to assume that North Korea’s interests are regime survival, deterring US aggression, and gaining acceptance as a nuclear power.
North Korea’s strategic thinking is important to understanding its frequent provocations. “North Korea is clearly testing the tolerance of the United States and the international community to manage its increasingly provocative behavior aimed at establishing itself as a recognized nuclear and missile-armed state. They are raising the threshold for the United States and others to accept or press back against them,” argued Michael Collins, the Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for East Asia Mission Center.
“I expect that this tension will continue,” he said.
Lee actually suggested, as have officials in South Korea and Japan, that North Korea might engage in provocative behavior around Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean communist party. The North has a tendency to mark major events with its own brand of fireworks.
Forget business in the front, party in the rear. Iran is all business. There’s no party around back. At least, not for the most American of all possible hairstyles: the mullet. The mullet is so American, in fact, that it’s banned in Iran for precisely that reason. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said goodbye to the haircut for being “un-Islamic.”
The haircut was on a list of “decadent Western haircuts” that were banned, alongside ponytails, spiked hairstyles, and long hair in general in 2010.
The year was a difficult one for Iran, coming on the heels of the Green Movement, which protested the 2009 Presidential election and pushed for the removal of the Iran’s much-reviled (but reelected anyway) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The countrywide protests were the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw Imperial Iran transformed into the Islamic Republic.
“…from my cold, dead head.”
It’s fun to laugh at the idea of banning an American hairstyle that itself has been the butt of thousands of jokes for decades, but the reality is a little less funny. The hairstyle ban is part of a series of punishments from the anti-Western Cultural Ministry and part of the reprisals against the Iranian people for the Green Movement protests.
Raids, arrests, and human rights violations came immediately after the protests, but bans like the one on un-Islamic hairstyles are the enduring legacy of such knee-jerk reactions. Iranian police would start shutting down barber shops offering such hairstyles and fine the owners.
Causing Achy Breaky Hearts.
It’s a strange notion that the mullet is considered a part of the Western cultural invasion of Iran, considering it’s a hairstyle that may have emerged in the ancient Middle East anyway. At first glance, the look that made Billy Ray Cyrus a cultural icon (for the brief time he was) should seem ridiculous to Iranian Morality policemen, but it’s not the only Western cultural trend to endure in the country.
Iranian men forego beards (even as beards are very much in back in the United States) while embracing neckties and European designer brands. These trends are hard to ignore, but the mullet should hardly seem comparable to the appeal of Prada and Givenchy.
“The proposed styles are inspired by Iranians’ complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law,” said Jaleh Khodayar, who is in charge of the Modesty and Veil Festival. It was there that acceptable hairstyles were revealed. Also out are things like eyebrow plucking for males and excessive hair gel.
Failure to comply with the new hair regulations for men would result in a forced, bad haircut, courtesy of Iran’s Morality Police. The clerics who run Iranian society believe the looks will ultimate cause their way of life to disappear. But they also believe that sexy, revealing clothing causes earthquakes.
Earthquakes are definitely because of Niloofar Behboudi and Shabnam Molav and not the 1,500-km long fault line running through Iran.
Korean War veteran Ed Portka, 90, was honored along with his stepson as the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals on national television.
Former Maj. David Reeser, who commanded an Army diving company in Europe 28 years ago, accompanied his stepfather, a former first lieutenant, onto the field for the Steelers’ “Salute Our Heroes” recognition during a short break following the third quarter of the game.
“I’m excited about it,” Portka said about his upcoming recognition, just before the game, offering that he was “looking forward to it,” but a little hesitant.
Portka served as a platoon leader in an engineer unit under the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. He was responsible for breaching minefields and other obstacles during offensive operations and installing minefields to protect U.S. defensive positions.
“We did a lot of dirty work,” Portka said. “It was specialized work.”
He said every chance they got, they detonated mines by firing their M-1 rifles at them rather than risking lives.
Second Lt. Ed Portka, prior to deploying to Korea with an engineering unit under the 1st Cavalry Division, where he was responsible for breaching minefields.
(U.S. Army photo)
Portka served in Korea from 1952-53. One of his memories was of meeting Gen. Matthew Ridgway, 8th Army commander, during a battlefield circulation, just after Portka’s platoon finished clearing a minefield near Pusan, Korea.
“He was down-to-earth,” Portka said of Ridgway.
The Korean War armistice agreement was signed on Portka’s 24th birthday, July 27, 1953, just before he redeployed home. He said it was quite a birthday present.
After the war, Portka was an architectural draftsman with George M. Ewing Company in Washington, D.C. He later managed the firm’s Philadelphia office and was the project manager for the design of Veterans Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reeser was stationed in Europe in the early 1990s, where he served as a platoon Leader and then as commander of a diving detachment. After leaving the military, he founded an engineering firm, Infrastructure Engineers, that performs underwater bridge inspections.
Reeser now lives in Florida and his stepfather in Atlanta, but said he returns to Pittsburgh every chance he gets to take his stepfather to Steeler games.
At the end of their recognition on the field, both veterans aggressively waved Pittsburgh Steeler “terrible towels.” The Steelers beat the Bengals 27-3.
Russia is disturbing the peace, and NATO countries must combat its hybrid strategy, the alliance’s supreme allied commander for Europe said on Sept. 29, 2018.
Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also commands U.S. European Command, spoke to reporters covering the NATO Military Committee meeting, alongside Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Scaparrotti said Russia already is a competitor that operates in domains “particularly below the level of war,” the general said, but in an aggressive way, noting that the Russians use cyber activity, social media, disinformation campaigns, and troop exercises to threaten and bully other countries. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its actions Eastern Ukraine show their determination to continue to intimidate neighboring countries.
Undermining Western values, governments
“[They are] operating in many countries of Europe in that way, with basically the common theme of undermining Western values and the credibility of Western governments, in my view,” Scaparrotti said.
Short of conflict, Russia sends money to organizations in Europe at both ends of the ideological spectrum, the general said. “Really, their view is — I call it a destabilization campaign. That’s their strategy,” he added. “If they can destabilize these governments, if they can create enough questions, then that is to their benefit.”
The Russians’ doctrine looks to achieve their ends without conflict, Scaparrotti said. “They have the idea that ‘I don’t have to put a soldier there or fire a shot, but if I can undermine the government, then I’ve achieved my ends,'” he explained. “That is particularly true of the countries that are in the Eastern part of the alliance that are on their border.”
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.
The Soviet Union subjugated those countries after World War II, and Russia sees those countries as areas where it should still have privileged influence, he said. “They want to keep those governments in the position that they could influence them, and this is a tactic for doing that.”
The environment surrounding it has changed, he noted. “They were ahead of us in terms of changing their posture with respect to NATO,” he said, and the Russians have maintained a purposeful military modernization program that they have maintained even as their economy strains.
“It took us some time in NATO to recognize that [Russia] is not our friend, not our partner right now, and we have to pay attention to what’s happening in our environment and how they are acting,” he said. “Of course 2014 was a real wake-up. Russia violated international law and norms, which I will tell you they continue to do in other ways.”
Scaparrotti said he has no doubt that Russia would repeat its actions in Crimea and Ukraine “if they saw the opportunity and they thought the benefits exceeded the costs.”
This strategy is called a hybrid war, he said, and NATO is coming to grips with the concept. “One of the things about hybrid war is defining it. What is it?” he added. “It’s a lot of things, and most of it is not in the military realm.”
Planners need to determine what the military can do as part of a counter-strategy and what other agencies, branches efforts can contribute, he said. “And then [you must decide] how should you work with them, because we can’t just work on this on our own,” he said. “This really does talk about the whole-of-government approach and bringing others into it and deciding what needs to be done.”
In each NATO nation that approach has got to be different, Scaparrotti said, because the nations themselves have different strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. They also must factor in what Russia’s interest or activity is.
“We are working in this realm with military capacity as well,” the general said. “We have special operations forces, and this is their business. They understand it. To the extent that they can identify hybrid activity, they can help our nations build their ability to identify and counter it.”
A Meeting of the NATO Foreign Minsiters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, 2018.
NATO can, for example, reinforce each nation’s capacity for understanding disinformation and how to counter it, he said, noting that these issues are among the Military Committee meeting’s topics..
The bottom line is that Russian leaders need to understand that a conflict with NATO is not what they want, Scaparrotti said. “We are 29 nations. We’re strong. I am confident of our ability to secure the sovereignty of our nations in NATO,” he said.
Readiness critical to deterrence
NATO readiness is crucial to the deterrent success of the alliance, and Scaparrotti now has the tools to work on this aspect. Readiness in NATO means the commander gets a specific capability, and that capability is available on a timeline that’s useful given the environment, he explained.
“Then, of course, [readiness] is a mindset, which is perhaps the most important thing that has changed,” he said. “It is changing now.”
The NATO summit held in Brussels in July 2018 gave Scaparrotti the authority and directive to deal with alliance readiness.
“We are back to establishing force where I, as the commander, now have the authority to require readiness of units on a specific timeline and the ability to check them to ensure they can actually do it,” he said. “This all comes together with our ability to move at speed to meet the environment to do what we need to do.”
On June 29, 2019, Luis Alvarez, retired NYPD detective and proud military veteran, passed away from advanced-stage colorectal cancer as a result of his work at Ground Zero in New York following the 9/11 attacks. Just days before, he had testified in Congress alongside Daily Show host Jon Stewart in support of reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He was 53 years old.
His speech in Congress came after sixty-eight rounds of chemotherapy — and just before he was about to begin his sixty-ninth.
“I have been to many places in this world and done many things, but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there. We were part of showing the world that we would never back down from terrorism and that we would all work together. No races, no colors, no politics,” he said.
9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez gives emotional testimony
His family shared an official statement on his passing: “It is with peace and comfort, that the Alvarez family announce that Luis (Lou) Alvarez, our warrior, has gone home to our Good Lord in heaven today. Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ We told him at the end that he had won this battle by the many lives he had touched by sharing his three year battle. He was at peace with that, surrounded by family. Thank you for giving us this time we have had with him, it was a blessing!”
Thousands of 9/11 first responders were exposed to dangerous carcinogens in the dust and gases at Ground Zero, putting them at risk of multiple myeloma and other cancers. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created to “provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.
The original VCF operated from 2001-2004, then was extended in 2010 and again in 2015, allowing individuals to submit their claims until Dec. 18, 2020. On Feb. 15, 2019, it was determined that the funding would be insufficient to pay all the pending and projected claims, which is what brought Alvarez before Congress.
According to NBC New York, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a Senate vote on a bill that would ensure the VCF never runs out of money.
A Ukranian website posted several screenshots from Russian job listing websites offering high-paid but vague jobs for those willing to work on “security” projects abroad, and reported that such listings have spiked sharply in February 2018, when the battle took place.
The ads seek recruits with good physical fitness who can go on “business trips” to Ukraine or Syria for about three months. Russia stands accused of sending “little green men” or military contractors without proper Russian military uniforms or affiliation, to wage war in those two countries.
Multiple reports state that Russia’s reason for using military contractors in Syria, where it is fighting against insurgents who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, is to conceal the true cost of the war to Russian servicemen.
But the conditions for the contractors are reportedly bleak. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries were reportedly routed in a battle with US airpower, against which they were defenseless. Alleged leaked audio from Russian paramilitary commanders captures them lamenting the unwise battle, and expressing humiliation at their sound defeat.
Russian officials admit to only a few Russian nationals dying in battles, and several dozen wounded, but all other reporting of the battle portrays severe losses for the pro-government side, which many say was mostly Russian.
A Russian paramilitary official recently told France24 that he had 150 men in freezers in Syria as “minced meat,” and that their mortal remains won’t even be returned to their family until after Russia’s presidential election in March 2018. The official, however, said that now Russian men were volunteering not for money, but for revenge.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet is having a really tough year. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Navy is the full throes of the “Fat Leonard” scandal. The fallout began in November after 28 people were charged with crimes by the Justice Department.
The scheme is detailed in full by the Washington Post, but the gist of it is that the government believes those involved helped the Singapore-based firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its head, “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, milk the Navy out of some $35 million by overcharging for resupply – often by passing along classified information to GDMA.
All of this happened between 2006 and 2013. The conspirators weren’t dumb enough to use their Navy email accounts (one of them was dumb enough to transmit classified data via Facebook). Instead, they took out accounts on a consumer site. The indictment says Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch wrote to his conspirators,
“Just got turned on to this third-party email website that the military folks can’t block or track.”
Okay, so maybe in the annals of worldwide naval history, hookers aren’t that ridiculous. But Rear Admiral (that was his real rank, stop laughing) Robert J. Gilbeau once took in two at a time, paid for by Leonard. Leonard also used to hook Gilbeau up with a particularly famous one, known only as “The Handball Player.”
Commander Donald Hornbeck (aka “Bubbles” – not a joke) was taken with a lady he called his “new Mongolian friend.” Leonard even sent Cmdr. Stephen Shedd a catalog from VIP Tokyo Escorts, a high-end call girl service. Other brilliant call girl aliases include “BT” and “The Indonesian Detachment.”
Eventually, the indictment just gives up and refers to “other prostitutes.”
Francis allegedly also took Navy officers out to nightclubs accompanied by prostitutes and purchased dates for an unknown number of them, not just the core group of defendants – who called themselves “The Brotherhood,” “The Wolfpack,” and “The Cool Kids.”
4. Ca$h. Lots of it.
The former Rear Admiral “Tsunami Bob” Gilbeau (that was his nickname for himself) netted a cool $40,000 in cash for his part in the conspiracy. He pled guilty for lying to investigators, but was never charged with bribery or destroying evidence.
Other, non-cash windfalls for the officers included $37,000 hotel stays in the Philippines, $10,000 in Sydney, untold amounts for the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo.
3. Sex acts with Gen. MacArthur’s corncob pipe
Navy investigators allege that one Lt. Cmdr. spent multiple days at the Manila Hotel, where Fat Leonard paid for the $3,300/night MacArthur Suite for a…
…raging, multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available.
That’s a quote from the actual indictment.
The 78-page indictment also says that, during this stay, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sex acts.” Looking at what’s available in the MacArthur Suite, it looks like the only usable “memorabilia” is the General’s iconic pipe.
In a thank-you email to Leonard, Shedd wrote that “it’s been a while since I’ve done 36 hours of straight drinking.” He had been emailing Leonard classified movement schedules for many Navy ships for months leading up to the weekend.
2. Food and booze
Early on in the conspiracy, three of the Navy officers charged allegedly ate at the Petrus Restaurant in Hong Kong. The bill was $20,435 — of course, Fat Leonard picked up the tab.
Those same three drank cocktails on a helipad in Singapore the very next month at the Jaan Restaurant, where they ate a lavish meal, topped off with Hennessy Private Reserve ($600 a bottle) and Paradis Extra champagne ($2,000 a bottle).
Other dinners were similarly expensive: $30,000 in Tokyo, $11,000 in Sydney, $18,000 in Hong Kong, $8,000 in Thailand, and $55,000 in Manila.
On at least one occasion, Fat Leonard’s champagne bill for Dom Perignon at the Shangri-La in Manila totaled more than $50,000. The officers accompanied the champagne with $2000 Cohiba cigars.
1. Personal favors.
Leonard arranged for one of Cmdr. Hornbeck’s relatives to receive an internship at the Chalet Suisse Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and then paid for his living expenses – a total cost of $13,000.
Other favors include VIP services for an officer’s wife’s trip to Thailand, including a tour and shopping spree in Bangkok, a family vacation for the Shedds in Singapore and Malaysia totaling $30,000, gifts of iPads and Versace purses for officers’ wives, boxes of beef (I don’t want to know the details), and three hours of lap dances in Tokyo.
In January 2018, on the side of U.S. 287, Maj. Justin Warner placed his well-being on the line to save two strangers whose vehicle had just flipped and caught on fire.
Warner was heading toward Dallas when he witnessed an SUV go off the road and flip, coming to a stop on its side.
“I was the first one to see it,” Warner said. “I stopped and started running toward their car, calling 911 as I made my way to them, but then the vehicle’s engine bay caught on fire so my mindset shifted.”
Forgetting about the emergency call and his own safety, Warner immediately took action.
“I saw that there were two people in the vehicle that would need some help getting out since the car was on its side,” he said. “I climbed up on top of the vehicle and basically pulled them through the driver’s side window.”
Warner mentioned that he was worried the fire would spread and cause the vehicle to explode.
“I had the same mindset from the second I saw the fire,” he said. “I knew I had to get them away from the fire.”
Warner carried the driver’s daughter, who had sustained an ankle injury during the crash, while the father was able to walk to safety. Soon after, the vehicle exploded in flames.
Maj. Justin Warner, 97th Flying Training Squadron IFF instructor, stands next to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe and his daughter after being awarded the Airman’s Medal Nov. 27, 2018, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
By this point, other motorists had stopped and called emergency services.
“When the emergency vehicles got there, they pretty much took them away quickly and I didn’t get to talk to them afterward,” Warner said. “All I knew was their first names and I tried looking them up later on to see if they were ok, but I couldn’t find them.”
What Warner didn’t know was that the driver of the vehicle was retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe.
Wolfe reached out to Sheppard Air Force Base to let them know of Warner’s heroic actions.
Warner was awarded the Air Force’s highest noncombat award, the Airman’s Medal Nov. 27, 2018, in front of his family, friends and coworkers.
Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave, 22nd Air Force commander, presented the medal to Warner. He spoke about Warner’s many achievements.
“He is a distinguished graduate from several programs, so it wasn’t really a surprise in my mind when I saw it was him who saved those lives,” La Fave said. “He didn’t see it happen and say, ‘Hey, there is an Airman’s Medal in it for me if I do this.’ He did it because that’s the type of person he is.”
Warner is a 97th Flying Training Squadron introduction to fighter fundamentals instructor and has more than 400 combat flying hours in the F-15 Eagle.
Wolfe and his family were also in attendance for the medal presentation.
“God put him in place on that particular day,” Wolfe said. “He saved my life and my daughter’s life.”
The Airman’s Medal was established on July 6, 1960, and is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of their life but not involving combat.
In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.
Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.
The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.
The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”
Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.
The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.
A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.
There’s an old saying: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This perfectly sums up the role of the U.S. Army Pathfinders — that is, until Big Army cut sling load on them.
As of Feb. 24, 2017, the last Pathfinder company in the active duty United States Army, F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, cased their colors, putting an end to decades of highly trained soldiers quickly inserting themselves into hostile territory to secure sites for air support. Before that, the provisional pathfinder companies across the Army quietly cased their colors as well.
The decision to slowly phase out the Pathfinders was a difficult one. Today, the responsibility resides with all troops as the need for establishing new zones in the longest modern war in American history became less of a priority. Yet that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a need for their return at any given moment.
The Pathfinder schools are still at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell today, but they’re largely just seen as the “go-to” schools for overzealous officers trying to stack up their badges. Still, the training received there gives graduates many essential skills needed to complete Pathfinder operations.
To be a Pathfinder, you need to satisfy several prerequisites. Since their primary focus is on establishing a landing site for airborne and air assault troops, you must first be a graduate from either or both schools. The training leans heavily on knowledge learned from both schools, such as sling-load operations, while also teaching the fundamentals of air traffic control.
All of this comes in handy because Pathfinders in the field need to know, down to the foot, exactly what kind of area makes for a suitable, impromptu paratrooper drop zone or helicopter landing zone. These tasks are delicate, and human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars are often on the line. That’s why Pathfinders need to know specifics, like how far apart glow sticks must be placed, to get the job done. Details are crucial.
These are skills that simply cannot be picked up on the fly. A typical Joe may be able to cover the physical security element of the task, but establishing a landing zone requires some complex math and carefully honed assessments. Creating drop zones for paratroopers is less mission-critical, as the paratroopers themselves are also less mission essential.
Still, the job of establishing landing zones is now put in the hands of less-qualified troops. Pilots can typically wing it, yes, but the job is best left to those who’ve been specifically trained for the specialized task.
Hat tip to our viewer Tim Moriarty for the inspiration.
China’s recent military parade included several new weapons systems and a flyover by the J-20, a stealth jet that many think incorporates stealth technology stolen from the US into a design built to destroy weak links in the US Air Force.
But the US has decades of experience in making and fielding stealth jets, creating a gap that no amount of Russian or Chinese hacking could bridge.
“As we see Russia bring on stealth fighters and we see China bring on stealth fighters, we have 40 years of learning how to do this,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett told Defense News’ Valerie Insinna at a Mitchell Institute event on August 2.
While China’s J-20 seeks to intercept unarmed US Air Force refueling planes with very-long-range missiles, and Russia’s T-50 looks like a stealthy reboot of its current fleet of fighters, a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft for a US defense contractor told Business Insider that other countries still lagged the US in making planes that could hide from radars.
The scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of their work, told Business Insider the J-20 and T-50 were “dirty” fighters, since the countries lack the precision tools necessary to painstakingly shape every millimeter of the planes’ surfaces.
Barrett said of China’s and Russia’s stealth attempts, “There are a lot of stuff hanging outside of these airplanes,” according to Defense News, adding that “all the airplane pictures I’ve seen still have stuff hanging from the wings, and that just kills your stealth.”
Additionally, the US has stealth-fighter tactics down, while China and Russia would take years to develop a similar playbook.
Meanwhile, the US has overcome the issue of external munitions blowing up a plane’s radar signature by having internal weapons bays and networking with fleets of fourth-generation aircraft.
Because the F-35 and F-22 can communicate with older, non-stealth planes, they can fly cleanly, without weapons hanging off the wings, while tanked-up F/A-18s, F-15s, or F-16s laden with fuel, bombs, and air-to-air missiles follow along.
The F-35s and F-22s can ensure the coast is clear and dominate battles without firing a shot as older planes fire off missiles guided by the fifth-gen fighters.
Just months after the Marine Corps announced the creation of a new cyberwarfare family of military occupational specialties, the service is once again giving another highly specialized community its own MOS.
Officials here at the Marine Corps Information Operations Center told Military.com they planned to announce the creation of a new primary MOS, 0521, for Military Information Support Operations. With a new career field that will allow MISO Marines to continue through the rank of E-9, officials said they also plan to grow the ranks of the community to more than 200 Marines in the near future.
MISO, known in the Army as psychological operations, or PsyOps, focuses on influencing the mindset and decision-making of a target audience that may consist of enemy militants or a local civilian population.
It’s a skill set the Marine Corps is leaning into in future planning and strategy documents. The Marine Corps Force 2025 strategy includes plans to grow MISO to 211 Marines by 2024, said Col. William McClane, the commanding officer at MCIOC.
“[Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller] speaks a lot about adversary … perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and how that’s important,” McClane said. “The understanding of the cognitive dimension, how to affect and change behaviors and adversary target audience decision-making where you may not even have to fire a shot — you may be able to influence your adversary and reach that end state without doing that.”
While MISO or PsyOps capabilities are not new to the battlefield, McClane acknowledged that reviews of recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan may have caused military brass to realize more effective use of the skill set could have yielded different outcomes.
“I think that’s a good assumption, absolutely,” he said.
As the Marine Corps looks to the future, troops may also find themselves fighting in increasingly complex battlespaces and in a broad range of environments.
“It all depends on the target audience, how they receive communication,” McClane said of the methods that might be employed to influence mindsets and decision-making. “It might be different in parts of Africa versus eastern Europe.”
A new career path
For Marines, MISO is currently a free, or additional, MOS, meaning troops come from other specialties to spend time in the community. Typically, a Marine deployed with a MISO element and then returned to his or her original unit, with no option to continue in the field, McClane said.
“There was no real return on investment,” he said.
What’s worse, McClane said, officials noticed that a number of MISO Marines would opt to leave the service soon after their tour, preferring to practice their MISO skills in the civilian sector rather than returning to their original military job.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred)
For the Marine Corps, this meant not only that MISO Marines couldn’t develop further in their skill sets, but also that the time and money invested in these troops — reportedly more than $600,000 per Marine including clearances and a specialized training course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — would not yield long-term gains.
Under the new plan, a company-sized MISO element will be set up under each of the three recently established Marine Information Groups on the East Coast and West Coast in the Pacific. A separate element will remain at MCIOC, focusing primarily on supporting special operations.
While the first additional MISO Marines will start arriving this summer, the plan is to have the elements established at each MIG by 2022, McClane said.
The roughly 60 Marines who already have MISO as a free MOS have the first opportunity to join the new full-time career field, officials said. And they estimate some 35 will make that decision.
Cpl. Anjelica Parra, 21, a Motor Transportation Marine who has the free MOS, said she knew right away she wanted to make the move once it became an option.
“I wasn’t really relied on heavily [in Motor T] as I am now coming to this MOS,” she told Military.com. “It’s a different playing field, because as a corporal I’m looked upon and relied on to act as a lot higher than what my rank is. I have to hold myself to a higher standard.”
Parra said she had to develop her communication skills in order to brief more senior Marines on the capabilities of MISO and enjoyed the other challenges that came with the job. She looks forward to deploying as part of a MISO element with a Marine expeditionary unit in the near future.
For those not in the community, a Marine administrative message will come out soon with details on how to apply, said Maj. Jonathan Weeks, commander of the MISO Company at MCIOC.
“Those that are successful in this type of a job are going to be your self-starters, the people who are able to think and act independently and have the ability to think outside the box and create solutions,” he said. “Those who have a sense of the Marine Corps planning process and how stuff works.”
Enlisted Marines in the rank of corporal and above are eligible to apply, officials said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Following construction and acceptance trials earlier this year at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Giffords sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she was commissioned June 10.
“Our Sailors are honored to represent the ship namesake, its homeport in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Keith Woodley, Giffords’ commanding officer. “Every Sailor will continue, through USS Gabrielle Gifford’s service to her nation, to fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘I Am Ready.'”
During her sail around transit from Mobile, Giffords Sailors conducted Combat Ship Systems Qualification Trials events, various crew certification training events, and regularly scheduled equipment and systems checks and transited through the Panama Canal.
Giffords is the ninth littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the fifth Independence-variant LCS. She joins other LCS, including USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), and USS Montgomery (LCS 8), who are also homeported in San Diego.
Giffords Sailors are excited for the future of their ship but also for their own return to San Diego.
“We have put in a lot of hard work over the past nine months,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lee Tran. “It is going to be nice to have a little down time with friends and family before continuing to work the ship toward its next milestone.”
Family and friends were similarly eager for some quality time with their returning Sailors. Many said they were also grateful for the support and friendships they forged with other families while their Sailors were away.
“Knowing I was not in this alone and that there were more families out there going through it too made me at peace knowing our Sailors had each other,” said Morgan Witherspoon, friend of a Giffords Sailor.
LCS 10 is named after former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus selected the LCS 10 namesake and said it is appropriate that the ship is named for Giffords, whose name is “synonymous with courage when she inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”
LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. Paired with advanced sonar and mine hunting capabilities, LCS provides a major contribution, as well as a more diverse set of options to commanders, across the spectrum of operations.