Transportation experts deliver mail - and love - to troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.

The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.


In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
In 2016, the USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS Frankfurt detachment transported approximately 45,000 pounds of inbound mail and 30,000 pounds of outbound mail for service members stationed in Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”

The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.

The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.

At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Packages of mail move on a conveyer belt after being offloaded from an aircraft in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron ensures all mail traveling to and from Europe is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”

The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.

Read Now: 9 struggles infantrymen know all too well about mail drops

“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”

The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.

Receiving mail can seem like such a small thing, but it can have a positive effect on Airmen.

“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
U.S. Army trucks wait to be loaded with mail for service members stationed within the European theater in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron works alongside the Army to provide air and ground transportation for mail delivered throughout Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.

“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”

The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.

“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”

Articles

Two U.S. troops killed in 2 days of war operations

Two U.S. troops have been killed in two days of fighting, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, according to press releases from the Department of Defense.


Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(U.S. Army photo by Spc.Christopher Brecht)

The Pentagon has not released the names of the casualties. It is standard policy to not release names until 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.

On Oct. 19, a military service member was killed in Kabul when an attacker fired on an entry control point at Camp Morehead, according to a U.S. Central Command Press release. The incident is currently under investigation.

“Anytime we lose a member of our team, it is deeply painful,” said Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support. “Our sympathies go out to the families, loved ones and the units of those involved in this incident.

Then, on Oct. 20, another U.S. service member died from wounds sustained in Northern Iraq. The Operation Inherent Resolve press office released the following tweet:

Reuters has reported that an anonymous official said that the wounds were sustained near Mosul where the U.S. is supporting a massive offensive by the Iraqis, the Kurds, and other local forces. Most U.S. troops there are staying away from the front lines, but ISIS has attempted to take the fight to Americans in artillery and logistics camps according to notes in the Operation Inherent Resolve strike releases.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These really smart people say bigger is better when it comes to building aircraft carriers

After soaring costs and years of delays with the Navy’s new Ford class of supercarrier, Congress wants the service to pursue lower-cost carrier options for the future fleet.


But a new Rand Corp. report commissioned by the service and published this month concludes the Navy cannot build cheaper, more modest carriers without significantly limiting capability or overhauling its current air acquisition plan.

The study, which was provided to the Navy in a classified version last July and made publicly available Oct. 6, assesses four potential future styles of carrier, taking into account key capability factors such as aircraft sortie generation rates, as well as comparative costs for acquisition and midlife refueling.

The first option, CVN 8X, is by and large similar to the new Ford class of carrier that saw the first of its class, the Gerald R. Ford, commissioned in July.

Like the Ford and the two follow-on carriers in the class, this variant would be 100,000 tons and keep the same dimensions.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
170722-N-WS581-072NORFOLK (July 22, 2017) Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Ford is the lead ship of the Ford-class aircraft carriers, and the first new U.S. aircraft carrier designed in 40 years. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer/Released)

But the CVN 8X, as envisioned by Rand, would incorporate a few improvements that lean heavily on emerging technology, including a 40-year life-of-the-ship nuclear reactor that would eliminate the need for a midlife refueling period, and three catapults in its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) instead of four.

The second option, CVN LX, would be a carrier in the style of the Forrestal-class, built in the 1950s for the Navy as the first class of supercarriers. It would be 70,000 tons and feature an improved flight deck and a hybrid integrated propulsion plant with nuclear power.

The third, CV LX, would be a carrier akin to the new America class of amphibious assault ship.

At 43,000 tons, it would not incorporate the catapult launch system at the center of modern carrier operations, but would support short takeoff and vertical landing, or STOVL aircraft, including the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

Rand envisions the Navy requiring two of these smaller carriers for every legacy carrier it needs to replace.

The final option, CV EX, is a 20,000-ton miniature carrier akin to escort carriers used by some international navies.

This option, which would run on conventional power and could accommodate STOVL fighters, is undoubtedly the cheapest of the bunch. But its capabilities would be so limited, and require such a dramatic departure from current Navy operations, that analysts spend little time considering its merits.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

The Forrestal-style carrier, or CVN LX, has several major advantages, according to the study. Though it would have a more modest footprint, a slightly reduced sortie generation rate would not significantly decrease its ability to meet the Navy’s needs underway, analysts find.

However, the requirements of redesigning an older style of ship to meet contemporary needs, they found, would result in a still-expensive ship: $9.4 billion to build, compared with the Ford’s $12.9 billion.

“The CVN LX [Forrestal carrier] concept would allow considerable savings across the ship’s service life and appears to be a viable alternative to consider for current concept exploration,” study authors Bradley Martin and Michael E. McMahon write. ” … However, CVN LX would be a new design that would require a significant investment in non-recurring engineering in the near-term to allow timely delivery in the 2030s.”

There are other downsides that might give the Navy pause, including reduced survivability compared with today’s supercarriers.

With the CV LX [USS America-style carrier], essentially a helicopter carrier that can accommodate the Marine Corps version of the new Joint Strike Fighter, analysts envision the Navy needing 22 ships in lieu of today’s 11 carriers.

Even at a two-to-one replacement rate, the Navy would realize significant savings, spending an estimated $4.2 billion on each ship.

However, the fact that this carrier could not accommodate the Navy’s brand-new F-35C aircraft, which are designed for catapult launch and tailhook recovery, means this option is at best an incomplete solution, and would require either a complete reimagining of future Navy aviation, or significant investment in other, complementary platforms.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
f35An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. | Lockheed Martin

“The concept variant CV LX [America carrier] … might be a low-risk, alternative pathway for the Navy to reduce carrier costs if such a variant were procured in greater numbers than the current carrier shipbuilding plan,” the analysts write.

“Over the long term, however, as the current carrier force is retired, the CV LX would not be a viable option for the eventual carrier force unless displaced capabilities were reassigned to new aircraft or platforms in the joint force, which would be costly,” they add.

A practical option, the study suggests, might be investing in future carriers like the Ford, but slightly cheaper to produce.

By equipping a future carrier with a 40-year life-of-the-ship reactor (a technology, the study notes, which does not yet exist) and cutting back from four EMALS catapults to three, which assumes the emerging technology will be proven reliable, analysts estimate the Navy could shave off $920 million in recurring ship costs.

However, the study concludes that evolving operational needs and acquisition decisions could easily alter the calculus.

“It is worth noting that the timeline for these arriving in service is still decades away, and it is very likely that threats and capabilities will evolve during that time,” the analysts write. “Any of these paths could be feasible assuming changes in air wing or escort mix.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., allies warn Syria against chemical attack in new offensive

The United States, France, and Britain are warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons as he launches a campaign to retake the last remaining rebel-held province in Syria.

In a joint statement issued late on Aug. 21, 2018, the three Western powers said “we remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again” as it embarks on a military offensive in Idlib Province after reasserting control over most other rebel-held areas of the country since 2017.


Assad’s forces have started heavily bombing and shelling Idlib, which lies next to the border with Turkey and where holdout rebels from all over the country were transported in recent months under Russian-brokered deals offering them safe passage to Idlib if they surrendered territory they once held around Damascus and other areas.

Assad’s assaults against major rebel strongholds in the country’s seven-year civil war have followed a pattern, with initial heavy bombing and artillery attacks followed by the alleged use of chemical weapons in an apparent attempt to intimidate rebels and force civilians to flee the area under siege.

In light of this pattern, the three Western powers stressed their “concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.”

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

The ruins of the 2018 American-led bombing of Damascus and Homs.

Britain, France, and the United States said that “our position on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is unchanged” since the three powers staged air raids in April 2018 to eliminate sites where chemical weapons allegedly were made, in response to an alleged chemical attack that occurred in Douma weeks earlier.

“As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population,” the three powers said.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, and efforts by Western powers at the UN to rebuke Syria over alleged chemical attacks have been batted down by Syria’s biggest ally, Russia, in recent years.

The impasse at the United Nations is what led the United States, Britain, and France to act on their own in early 2018

The three allies released their warning to Syria on the anniversary of what they called a “horrific” sarin-gas attack in Ghouta outside Damascus that killed more than 300 people five years ago.

That attack, which the West blamed on Assad’s forces, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile and its means to produce the deadly chemicals.

But despite the agreement, numerous chemical attacks have occurred since then, with most of them documented by the global chemical weapons watchdog and blamed on the Syrian government.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the situation in Syria in August 2018.

Featured image: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

FEMA says counties near military bases eligible for disaster assistance

Widespread devastation from Hurricane Matthew has prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate residents from a total of 55 counties as eligible for individual disaster assistance. States like Florida; South Carolina; Georgia; and North Carolina were hit hard by the storm — both in coastal communities and further inland past Fort Bragg.


Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Specialist Jerimyha Pectol, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, stages humanitarian aid intended for victims of Hurricane Matthew at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, October 17th.

As the damage is assessed, FEMA has added counties from all four states where individual residents may apply for disaster relief funding.

Hurricane Matthew made its first landfall by slamming into Haiti on Oct. 4, resulting in over 800 casualties in that island nation. Matthew tore over Cuba and the Bahamas, before impacting the southern Atlantic states. By the time Matthew made its way back out to sea, the death toll had reached nearly 1,400.

The United States Southern Command released a statement Oct. 18 that the command had deployed more than 2,000 personnel and 11 helicopters aboard the USS Iwo Jima to deliver over 223 metric tons of aid and supplies to Haiti. SOUTHCOM expects that the military involvement will recede once “more experienced experts arrive” on the ground in Haiti.

President Obama declared a state of emergency in the four states Oct. 7, opening up federal financial aid. Each of the states’ governors declared states of emergency, and the National Guard was activated to several locations.

According to Newsy, Moody’s Analytics reported that the financial damage from Hurricane Matthew could surpass the $70 billion price tag of Superstorm Sandy.

As a direct result of the damage and the expected cost, FEMA has been quick to update its systems to open up aid to individuals in the stricken areas. There are several ways to request disaster relief funding. Individuals may visit the FEMA website, or call FEMA directly at 800-621-3362.

FEMA also recommends that those affected by the storm call their insurance company to make claims, document the damage with photographs, and complete a proof of loss. Insurance companies can help individuals with this process.

Currently, the list of counties that FEMA has approved for individual disaster relief includes:

  • Flagler County, Putnam County, St. Johns County, and Volusia County in Florida
  • Bryan County; Bulloch County; Chatham County; Effingham County; Glynn County; McIntosh County; and Wayne County in Georgia
  • Beaufort County; Bertie County; Bladen County; Columbus County; Craven County; Cumberland County; Dare County; Duplin County; Edgecombe County; Gates County; Greene County; Harnett County, Hoke County; Hyde County; Johnston County; Jones County; Lenoir County; Martin County; Nash County; Pender County; Pitt County; Robeson County; Sampson County; Tyrrell County; Washington County; Wayne County and Wilson County in North Carolina
  • Allendale County; Bamberg County; Barnwell County; Beaufort County; Colleton County; Darlington County; Dillon County; Dorchester County; Florence County; Georgetown County; Hampton County; Jasper County; Lee County; Marion County; Orangeburg County; Sumter County and Williamsburg County in South Carolina
MIGHTY TRENDING

This was the first pilot to launch off a Navy warship

On Nov. 14, 1910, the U.S. military took its first step toward linking flight and naval operations when Eugene Ely made the first carrier takeoff, guiding a Pusher biplane off the deck of the light cruiser USS Birmingham in the waters of Norfolk, Virginia.


The Navy tapped Capt. Washington Irving Chambers — who has been called “the father of naval aviation” — earlier that year “to observe everything that will be of use in the study of aviation and its influence upon the problems of naval warfare,” according to the Smithsonian.

 

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
On board USS Roe (Destroyer # 24) on Nov. 14, 1910, shortly after his flight off the deck of USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2). This was the first airplane takeoff from a warship. (Image US Naval Historical Center)

Chambers recognized the utility of shipborne landings and takeoffs. At a flying event in Belmont Park, New York, in October 1914, Chambers asked planemaker Glenn Curtiss and Ely if they would attempt to land on a ship if he supplied one. (Another account has Curtiss and Ely making the offer, and Chambers saying he had no money to finance the experiment but would provide a ship.)

On November 14 — a Monday soiled by fog and intermittent rain — a Curtiss Pusher biplane with floats mounted under the wings was loaded aboard the Birmingham. The US Naval Institute identifies the aircraft as a Hudson Fulton Flyer.

The cruiser was equipped with an 83-foot runway on its deck, but that length meant Ely only had 57 feet to take off.

Also in History: The first aerial refueling was straight-up nuts

Though the original plan was to steam into the Chesapeake Bay and launch the plane while underway, which would provide extra lift, it was foiled by the weather. That afternoon, Ely launched his biplane from Birmingham’s deck while the ship was as anchor.

After his wheels left the deck, Ely guided the plane toward the water to build up speed. But he miscalculated, and witnesses watched as the plane smacked into the water and bounced back into the air. The collision damaged the propeller and sprayed Ely’s goggles with saltwater.

After less than five minutes in the air, Ely set the plane down on a nearby beach. He had flown less than 3 miles.

‘The most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark’

A reporter for the Indianapolis Star noted afterward that, “Aerial navigation proved today that it is a factor which must be dealt with in the naval tactics of the world’s future.”

Ely and the Curtiss team had plans to fly on the West Coast in January 1911, and Chambers made arrangements to follow up their feat in Norfolk by landing on a ship.

The armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, anchored in San Francisco Bay, was outfitted with a 120-foot platform. Ely, wearing a padded football helmet and bicycle inner tubes around his body for protection, took off from a nearby race track on the morning of January 18, 1911, flying a Curtiss Pusher with hooks on the landing gear.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Eugene B. Ely lands his Curtiss pusher biplane on USS Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4), anchored in San Francisco Bay, California, 18 January 1911. (Image US Navy)

Thousands of spectators watched as Ely made a safe landing on the Pennsylvania, with the plane’s hooks catching ropes stretched across the ship’s deck. After lunch with the captain, Ely took off from the Pennsylvania, landing safely at the race track.

Capt. C. F. Pond, commander of the Pennsylvania, called Ely’s feat “the most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark.”

Ely continued flying at sites around the country, earning acclaim. But his life was cut short by a crash at the Georgia State Fair on October 19, 1911. Though he was a civilian flier, Ely was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Navy in 1933.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China is weaponizing capital all over the world

China’s move to boost defense spending has sparked dismay among US officials in recent days, but it is Beijing’s efforts to gain influence that are more worrisome, the secretary of the US Navy said on March 7, 2018.


China’s finance ministry said this weekend that the country’s defense budget will rise 6% to 1.1 trillion yuan or $173 billion. It is the biggest increase in three years and makes China’s defense budget the world’s second-largest — behind only the US.

Chinese state media defended the new budget as proportionate and low. “If calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries,” official English-language newspaper China Daily said.

More: China increases military spending by $175 billion

On March 6, 2018, US Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the head of US Pacific Fleet, said the military budget lacked transparency and that China’s “intent is not clearly understood.”

On March 7, 2018, US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — asked about Russian and Chinese activity in relation to the newest US National Security Strategy— echoed those concerns but pointed to a different kind of spending.

“When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook, to be very frank with you,” Spencer told members of the House Appropriations Committee. “Not only in the dollar and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological [research and development] work, but what they’re doing around the globe that I know you all are aware of, which is weaponizing capital, to be very frank with you.”

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Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.)

Spencer pointed to a summer 2017 deal China signed with Sri Lanka, the island nation just south of India, where Beijing agreed to a 99-year lease to operate the strategically located deep-water port of Hambantota, which is located near important shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.

“Going into Sri Lanka, redoing the port, putting an interest rate — not as aid, but as a total secured loan with a pretty hefty coupon — [the] debtor fails on that, and the asset owner comes and reclaims it and says, ‘These are now ours,'” Spencer told the committee of the deal. “They’re doing that around the globe. So their open checkbook keeps me up at night.”

Also read: China is sick of people stealing its supercomputer technology

Many Sri Lankans were themselves dismayed with the agreement, taking to the streets to protest what they saw as growing Chinese influence in their country. India, which has eyed Chinese infrastructure deals and military activity in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region warily, also objected.

“This is going to be a standing example for the other countries to watch, because China is not Father Christmas, handing out dollar bills. They want return on the money, and they want the money to come within a certain, certified period,” K.C. Singh, former secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said in July 2017.

“Is it a model then for future extension of the Chinese strategic footprint?” Singh added. “When … countries can’t return the money, then you grab territory?”

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China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. China in Red, the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in orange, and the 6 proposed corridors in black. (Map by Lommes)

The port deal was a part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a project to link scores of countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe through Chinese-backed railways, shipping routes, and infrastructure projects.

As a part of that effort, China has funded development projects in poorer countries, which it leverages for more advantageous relations or for regional access. The trend has also been called “debt-trap diplomacy.”

Related: Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Hambantota is not the only port deal secured by the Chinese government or a Chinese state-owned company in recent years. Beijing has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win over locals and develop a deep-water port in Gwadar, on Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast.

The moves are a departure from China’s usual approach to such foreign projects, but the focus has concerned India and the US, which see Beijing’s investment in Gwadar as part of efforts to expand Chinese naval influence.

 

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Gwadar port of Pakistan. (Photo by Umargondal)

 

Chinese state firms are also growing their presence in Europe, buying up ports and cargo terminals on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts — including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Belgium.

Chinese state-owned enterprises now control about one-tenth of all European port capacity.

European leaders have become concerned Beijing plans to leverage its financial interests into political clout. Greece, where Chinese influence has grown in recent years, has blocked recent EU efforts to condemn China over its human-rights record and other policies.

US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, speaking alongside Spencer, voiced similar concerns about China.

“The Chinese are playing the long game. They are, as the secretary said, everywhere I go, they’re there,” Neller said. “They’re going and they’re buying airfields and ports to extend their reach … they want to win without fighting.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Proposal over Amazon facial recognition software fails to pass

Two proposals concerning Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software failed to pass at the company’s shareholders meeting on May 22, 2019, according to reports from CNET and TechCrunch.

The first proposal would have prevented the Seattle tech giant from selling the software — called Rekognition — to the government, while the other would have required an independent human rights group to study the technology.

The decision marks a contentious turning point in a saga that put Amazon at odds with activist shareholders and civil rights groups, which have vocally opposed government use of facial recognition due to privacy concerns.


But with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos controlling a significant, though not a majority, stake in the company he founded and many large institutional shareholders holding similar voting rights as Bezos, it was a long shot that the proposals would pass.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Rekognition, which Amazon launched in 2016, can identify people and objects in both videos and photos and has been used by government groups as well as media organizations. Amazon said the software has been used to rescue victims of human trafficking, for example, and Sky News used it to identify celebrities attending the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.

But the technology has been heavily criticized by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has raised concerns over Rekognition’s accuracy and its potential to be used for surveillance. Last July, the organization found that the facial recognition software incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress with images of people who had been arrested. Prior to May 22, 2019’s meeting, the ACLU published an open letter urging shareholders to back both proposals.

Amazon has said in a previous statement to Business Insider that it has been working with working with academics, researchers, customers, and lawmakers to balance the “benefits of facial recognition technology with the potential risks.”

The decision comes after Amazon unsuccessfully requested that the SEC block the proposals in January. The company is expected to share a filing with the final vote tally later this week.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Baby’s got a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

The first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) fielded in the Army began arriving on Fort Stewart in January 2019 and the first six trucks were delivered to their respective battalions Jan. 28, 2019.

“This program has been working towards fielding trucks to soldiers for ten years,” said Col. Shane Fullmer, Project Manager for the Joint Program Office, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. “The entire program office has been focused on getting soldiers improved tactical mobility, with better off road, better cross country, higher reliability, more comfort inside the vehicle, and significantly higher protection.”


Before the first of the brigade’s trucks arrived, Raider soldiers were already learning how to take care of and drive the Army’s newest vehicle during Field Level Maintenance and Operator New Equipment Training.

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Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and the team from Oshkosh Defense pose in front of the first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) that were delivered to the battalions, Jan. 28, 2019.

(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)

Sgt. Brian Wise, from B Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, was one of the first soldiers in the brigade to go through the operator training and said he enjoys the new features and capabilities of the JLTV and is looking forward to training the rest of his company.

“It will be different for soldiers, it’s something new and unique,” said Wise. “I see us getting stuck in the mud way less than we usually do.”

The JLTV program is a U.S. Army-led, joint modernization program to replace many existing HMMWVs. The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to provide a leap ahead in protection, payload, and performance to meet the warfighters needs.

Sgt. 1st Class Randall Archie, the JLTV fielding lead for the 10th Engineer Battalion, said he especially likes being able to adjust the vehicle ride height on the move to adapt to different terrain. Archie was also impressed by the numerous comfort features that make it easier for operators to focus on doing their job.

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The first of six Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) to be delivered to Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, departs for the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment motorpool.

(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)

“There is a ton of leg room and head room and it’s easier to get in and out of the vehicle,” said Archie. “You also don’t have to lean forward in the seat when you wear a CamelBak since the seat is designed with a spot cut out for it.”

A team from Oshkosh Defense has been working with Raider Brigade soldiers harvesting communication equipment from turn-in vehicles and installing them into the JLTVs. The first six to complete the process were signed over to battalion representatives after the final inventories and paperwork were completed.

While the fielding will continue through spring, Fullmer said that seeing the first JLTV in the unit’s hand was a significant moment that his team has been working towards for quite a while.

“We’re just so glad we’re finally going to have these in the hands of soldiers so we can improve some of their ability to do their job.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

US releases photos of ‘unsafe’ Russian jet intercept

The  European Command has released dramatic photos of a Ran jet coming within a few feet of a  reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in a maneuver that has been criticized as fe.


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A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

The photographs released Friday show the Ran SU-27 coming so close to the wing of the  RC-135U that the Ran pilot can be seen in the cockpit in some images.

Intercepts are common and are usually considered routine, but EUCOM said in this case on June 19 “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be fe.”

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(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Two days laterSweden summoned Ra’s ambassador after another SU-27 jet flew close to a Swedish Gulfstream reconnaissance plane over the Baltic.

Additional photos from the intercept are below:

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(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside the Taliban’s 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel

Survivors of the Taliban attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel gave harrowing accounts on Jan. 22 of the 13-hour weekend standoff that claimed 18 lives, including 14 foreigners.


The siege ended on Jan. 21 with Afghan Security Forces saying they had killed the last of six Taliban militants who stormed the hotel in suicide vests late the previous night, looking for foreigners and Afghan officials to kill.

More than 150 people were rescued or managed to escape, including 41 foreigners. Eleven of the 14 foreigners killed were pilots and employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline. A statement by KamAir later said some of its flights were disrupted because of the attack.

Six Ukrainians, two Venezuelan pilots for KamAir, and a citizen of Kazakhstan were among those killed in the attack. German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr confirmed that a German was among those killed, without providing further details.

Mohammad Humayun Shams, the telecommunications director of eastern Laghman province, who was visiting Kabul and staying at the hotel, said he was able to escape by jumping into a tree from a hotel window as the attackers roamed the hallways, killing people.

“It was the worst night of my life,” Shams said, adding that as he ran, he couldn’t tell the attackers apart from the police because they were all wearing the same uniforms.

Two Greek pilots who were in Afghanistan to train local airline pilots said they survived the attack by hiding in their rooms — one inside a hollow he had cut in his mattress and the other in his bathtub.

Vassilis Vassiliou and Michalis Poulikakos were in the hotel restaurant when gunmen burst in through a kitchen service door. They dashed up to their rooms and hid, following emergency instructions they had been given.

“We overturned the mattresses and messed up the rooms, then opened the balcony doors to make it look as if we had escaped that way,” Poulikakos told Greece’s private Skai TV on Jan. 21.

Also Read: US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

“I hid in the bathtub. Nobody entered my room, I was very lucky and it all ended after nine hours,” he said. “I was on the fourth floor. Vassilis was on the fifth and he was the only survivor on that floor, there were many more survivors on my floor.”

Vassiliou said he spent 13 hours hidden under — and inside — his mattress, and managed to stay undiscovered even as gunmen used his balcony as a firing position.

“They broke down my door and burst in. I had managed to slip under the bed. There were three of them in the room, one went onto the balcony, the other shot at the other bed and lifted it up,” he said.

When the gunmen had used up their ammunition, they set fire to the fifth floor and disappeared for about an hour and a half. Vassiliou went out to the balcony and realized that there was no escape there — he even came under fire from forces besieging the hotel.

“So I went back into the room and used a small pair of scissors to cut an opening for myself inside the mattress and remained there,” he said. That protected him from the heat and the smoke from the fire burning outside his room.

“I don’t know why but I was very calm. It was as if something told me that I would live,” Vassiliou said.

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He said he had shut down both his mobile phones to avoid being betrayed by their ringing, which led authorities to believe he had been killed. He remained in the room from about 9 p.m. to noon the next day, when the gunmen finally ran out of ammunition and left.

“I heard English being spoken and came out of my mattress,” he said.

Vassiliou added that security forces took an inexplicably long time to reach his floor.

“Between 6 and 9 (a.m.), on the fifth floor, these four or five people were having fun, joking around,” he said, referring to the attackers. “They would open every door, I heard voices, a couple of shots, and then laughter. They were undisturbed, nobody tried to stop them, and I think that was a big mistake.”

On Jan. 21, Afghan Security Forces remained positioned on all the roads leading to the hotel, barring everyone from the area.

Among Afghans killed in the attack was a telecommunications official from western Farah province, Afghanistan’s newly appointed consul general to the Pakistani city of Karachi and an employee of the High Peace Council, a commission created to facilitate peace talks.

Related: This is how much of Afghanistan the Taliban reportedly control

Friedhelm Kraemer, the head of the Marianne and Emil Lux Foundation, a German charitable group, confirmed in an email that the woman killed was the head of an aid project. German regional newspaper Boeblinger Bote named her as 65-year-old Brigitte Weiler.

In an email to AP, Kraemer said she was a former German navy officer and nurse who would travel to Kabul at her own expense to deliver medicine, food and clothes to families in remote mountain villages in northern Afghanistan.

“Her tragic death tears a hole in the humanitarian aid work for people whom nobody else is helping,” said Kraemer, whose organization supported the project.

Along with Shams, five other hotel guests, including a foreigner, managed to jump into the tree. From there, they climbed down to the ground and Shams called the police with his mobile.

They were told to stay put until the police came to take them away, hours later.

“I am still in shock … in fact can’t believe I am alive” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How quickly a wing of nuclear bombers scramble for Doomsday

You might call it the Doomsday scramble, but it’s not exactly that. It’s when an Air Force bomber wing sends up its planes as quickly as they possibly can – before an inter-continental ballistic missile can hit its target.


Given that it takes an ICBM about 30 minutes, to arrive to its target – that is not a lot of time. In fact, it will get there faster than a pizza you ordered. So, it looks like a base would be doomed before it could get all of its bombers up. Well, you’d be wrong. During the Cold War, Strategic Air Command came up with what they called the “Minimum Interval Take-Off” – or MITO.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong

In essence, the MITO is a well-rehearsed mad dash to get the planes up. They take off at the rate of four a minute – one every fifteen seconds. This is done by a dance called the “elephant walk” – a specialized form of taxiing to the runway to get bombers (or transports or fighters) ready for a mad scramble.

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Three U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 2nd Bombardement Wing take off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (USA). Three cells of six B-52s and KC-10 Extender aircraft took off seconds apart under combat conditions during a minimum interval takeoff exercise in 1986. (USAF photo)

This video below is from Global Thunder 17, an exercise that took place this past October. It starts with a lot of SUVs and pickups driving like crazy – that’s how the Air Force gets the crews to the planes – which are dispersed to make it harder for one nuke to kill the entire wing. Then the BUFFs taxi to the runway.

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Two B-52Gs take off during a 1986 exercise. (USAF photo)

Then, one by one, the B-52H Stratofortress bombers take off. The goal is to have an incoming ICBM hit an empty base. So far, this has only been done in drills, but if that Doomsday moment ever comes, it looks as if the Air Force will be ready for it.

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