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Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS

President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.


The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.

According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.

That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.

Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Petty Officer 3rd Class Tanner King, a crewmember of Coast Guard Station Boston, is underway aboard a 45-foot response boat during a security escort in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 21, 2016. The station’s crew escorted the Norwegian-flagged LNG tanker BW GDF SUEZ Boston into a terminal in Boston. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”

Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.

Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.

His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”

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5 failed voyages doomed from the start

Who has never been daunted by the idea of packing gear for an extended field op? You have to make a list of everything you will need or you think you will need, you have to make sure that your gear’s weight is what the S-3 says it’s supposed to weigh, everything has to fit. When it’s only for leave, your life doesn’t depend on these preparations. You might get chewed out, but you rarely run the risk to freeze to death or turn to cannibalism.

However, when it comes to exploration, expeditions, adventures and other journeys, preparedness is everything. In the most remote corners of the planet, what you carry is all you have, and every decision can be a matter of life or death. Indiana Jones, with his bullwhip, Fedora hat, and roguish charms, might make exploration look easy, but it takes a lot more than an impish smile and witty replies to survive through those expeditions. It requires planning, knowledge, grit and leadership to be a successful adventurer. Some expeditions made it, leading to great discoveries and the retreat of the world’s frontiers. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, as it is said in the Corps.

Christopher Columbus

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
“What? No… uh… I said NEW India. Yeah, that’s it. What day is it? October 11th? Why don’t you guys take the day off — forever.”(Wikimedia Commons)

It might seem strange to imagine that Christopher Columbus, a man celebrated for opening an entire continent to European exploration, might have led a failed expedition. However, it makes a lot more sense when we know that the proposed aim of the expedition that reached the Americas in 1492 was actually to reach the Indian subcontinent, then known as the East Indies, by sailing westward and circumnavigating the globe. Also, we cannot say that his voyage was a failure, but the lack of knowledge regarding world geography was sure to stand in the way of his first purpose. At first, he was so sure to have reached his destination that he called the natives “Indians.” Although he travelled four times to the Americas, he never reached India.

The Burke and Wills Expedition

What happens when you combine a man with no experience of life in the Australian bush and an exploration commission? An unmitigated disaster. In 1860, the Australian government was offering a reward of 2000 pounds to whoever would cross the continent north to south. The Royal Society of Victoria organized an expedition of 19 men, led by Robert Burke and William Wills. However, the interior of the Australian continent was largely unknown to non-natives. The expedition was ill-prepared for the challenges they would face. Scorching temperatures would reach 122°F in December. Not to mention the severe vitamin B and C deficiency caused by a lack of knowledge on the local flora. Monsoon rains and rough terrain allowed only one man to survive the return trip.

The Darien Scheme

This is a failed venture that almost bankrupted an entire country. In order to compete against England’s trading power at the end of the 17th century, Scotland tried to establish a colony that would serve as a trading post on the Isthmus of Panama. It rested on the Gulf of Darién, a region that is considered one of the deadliest on Earth. Plagued with poor planning and poor leadership, the scheme was set for failure. Due to epidemics, poor provisioning and a lack of demand for goods, the English and the Spanish Empires came together to ensure the doom of the colony. When the few survivors returned to Scotland, they were often shunned by their families, as the failure of the expedition led to the near financial ruin of the entire country.

The Terra Nova Expedition

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Roal Amundsen looks the kind of guy you don’t want to let down (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1910, two rival expeditions were vying to reach the South Pole first. One, led by experienced Norwegian explorer Roal Amundsen, managed to reach its objective on the Dec. 14, 1911. However, in contrast to that team’s relatively smooth trip, the team led by British Captain Robert Falcon Scott went through Hell and never came back from it. The difference came down to planning and preparation.

The British mindset at that time had some very precise, rigid ideas about what was and wasn’t appropriate. Dogs were a no. For Scott, sled dogs were not a grand enough way to travel, unlike horses. Moreover, he didn’t train his men to ski prior to the journey, he took five men when he had packed for four, mishandled the fuel and wrongly marked the return route. The team eventually made it to the South Pole, over a month after Amundsen’s expedition, but none of them survived the return trip.

The Titanic

The Titanic was a tale of hubris. The ship was unsinkable… yet, it sunk on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. At the time, it was the biggest ship afloat, not only in length but also in weight. It was nearly twice as heavy as the second biggest ship. Confident in the size of the ship despite its flawed design, its engineers thought it would be enough to withstand any collision or weather conditions, so they allowed themselves to skimp on safety measures.

In the example made famous by the movie, the Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats, which only allowed room for 1178 passengers. It was more than was legally required, but it was still not enough for the 3327 people it could take on board. As a result, out of the 2224 passengers and crew who were part of its maiden voyage, over 1500 died. To date, it is still the deadliest sinking of a cruise ship in times of peace.

MIGHTY TRENDING

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.

ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.


The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.

“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS

A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.

(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)

Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.

Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.

Unique camouflage requirements

“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.

The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.

“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”

ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.

“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”

With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.

“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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This team of 5 vet entrepreneurs wants to make your next hotel stay safer

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS


Two years ago, Air Force veteran Derek Blumke wound up staying in a sketchy neighborhood in Houston while on the road working for his first tech startup that had little money to spend on accommodations. After finding the external side door to his hotel ajar, he got to his room and saw — from the shoddy repairs to the hinges and the door frame — that the door had previously been kicked in “breach-style,” as he put it.

“I was texting my brother letting him know where I was in case he didn’t hear from me the next day,” Blumke said. At the same time, he quickly searched his phone for security apps and found none that fit what he needed. And so TripSafe was born.

“If you have a security system at home, why wouldn’t you have a smaller system that protects you when you’re away from your familiar surroundings?” Blumke asked.

With home security system functionality in mind, he set out to design something that was much more than what he called a “panic button app” on a phone. He wanted something that would cover all the undesirable contingencies surrounding a hotel stay — intrusion, theft, fire, whatever.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
TripSafe CEO and Air Force vet Derek Blumke (right) with co-founder and technology advisor, Marine Corps vet Brian Alden. (Photo: Derek Blumke)

So he formed a team to make the product, drawing on the network of veterans he’d acquired while working in the entrepreneurial space.  Joining him were former U.S. Army infantryman James McGuirk (Chief Hardware Officer and Co-Founder), former U.S. Navy diver and bomb technician Kathy Borkoski (Chief Operating Officer), and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Brian Alden (Technology Advisor and Co-Founder) and Adam Healy (Chief Technology Officer).

The TripSafe is basically two electronic door-stoppers magnetically attached to a base unit that has a video monitor, motion and sound sensors, and smoke and gas detectors. The user can tailor Smartphone alerts and a 24/7 emergency response. The system easily fits into a computer bag or purse.

“We can’t trust that everything will be fine everywhere we travel,” Blumke said. “And if I have these concerns as a 6-foot-tall former military guy, what does my girlfriend have in those sort of situations?”

 

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNTLCZ6XoV4
To learn more about TripSafe, please visit www.tripsafesecure.com.

And go here to contribute to TripSafe’s Indiegogo page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat between Turkey and US-backed militias is getting ugly

The fight between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.


Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated U.S.-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.

Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, code-named “Olive Branch,” against the U.S.-backed SDF forces in Afrin on Jan. 20 2018 in response to the U.S.’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
TFSA fighters on the top of Barsaya mountain, hoisting the Turkish and Syrian independence flag. (FSA)

Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.

Also Read: Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armored vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Map of the Turkish operation against Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.

On Feb. 03 2018, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.

SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. One of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.

Related: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.

A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.

On Feb. 01 2018, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Barin Kobani. (YPG)

A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani and three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”

“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral, AFP reported.

Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.

These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Feb. 03 2018 saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.

More: Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between Dec. 15 2017 and Jan. 22 2018, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.

On Feb. 04 2018, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently traveling to the city of Afrin in support.

Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.

Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticizing the invasion, according to Reuters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want man-portable kamikaze drones

As the Marine Corps continues its quest to get more capability from long-range precision fires, it’s asking industry for proposals on a portable system that can fire high-tech attack and reconnaissance drones on the go.

The service released a request for proposals April 23, 2018, describing a futuristic system unlike any of its existing precision-fires programs.


The theoretical weapons system, which the Corps is simply calling Organic Precision Fire, needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles, according to the RFP document.

This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Soldiers load an M777u00a0155mm howitzer
(Photo by Gertrud Zach)

The system, which ideally would be light enough for just one Marine to carry, would launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube no larger than 10 inches across and eight feet long. The projectile would be able to loiter for up to two hours, according to the solicitation, while gathering data and acquiring a target

Loitering munitions, known informally as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. They’re becoming increasingly common on the battlefield.

The California-based company AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition is now in use by the Marine Corps and Army. It is described as small enough to fit inside a Marine’s ALICE pack. The Blackwing UAV, also made by AeroVironment, is tube-launched, but designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than to attack.

The Marines want whoever can make the system they seek to give it the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should also be advanced enough to perform positive identification on a target, and engage and attack a range of targets including personnel, vehicles and facilities.

Companies have until May 18, 2018, to submit proposals to the Marine Corps on such a system.

The ambitious RFP comes shortly after the Corps issued a request for proposals on the manufacture of the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar, or ACERM, a round that will almost quadruple the range of the current M252 81mm mortar system.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, is briefed on the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortaru00a0during an Office of Naval Researchu00a0awareness day.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Service leaders have publicly said they’re planning to make big investments in the field of long-range precision fires as they prepare for future conflicts.

The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com in December 2017, that the service was making decisions to divest of certain less successful weapons systems in order to shift more resources to developing these capabilities. The service had already done so, he said, with its 120mm towed mortar system, the Expeditionary Fire Support System.

“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh told Military.com. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that as part of his Afghanistan strategy, warfighters would see restrictions lifted and authorities expanded. Now, there is a sense of just what he meant in his Aug. 21 speech.


According to multiple reports, Taliban forces no longer have to be engaged with American units or with Afghan units being advised by Americans to be hit with air strikes.

Looser rules of engagement have long been advocated by a number of officials.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
A member of an Afghan and coalition security force patrols during an operation in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2013. The security force detained a Taliban leader who had command and control of a cell of Afghan enemy fighters active in Khugyani district. He and his fighters illegally procured various types of weapons and used them in multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also seized one AK-47 and a pistol as a result of the operation. (U.S Army photo by Pfc. Elliott N. Banks)

“You see some of the results of releasing our military from, for example, a proximity requirement — how close was the enemy to the Afghan or the U.S.-advised special forces,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Prior to the change, Taliban forces in training camps and assembly areas were not targeted, in essence creating safe havens. Now, Taliban bases are being hit. In April, prior to Trump’s speech, the United States used the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb to hit a Taliban tunnel complex.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
The GBU-43 moments before detonation in a March 11, 2003 test. (USAF photo)

Furthermore, American advisors will now be pushed to battalion and brigade headquarters to get them closer to Afghan units engaged in combat. American aircraft can often only provide close-air support when the units have American advisors.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
photo Pvt. Zakery Jenkins, front, with Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides security in Mush Kahel village, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, July 23, 2012. (Photo by Spc. Andrew Baker)

“Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”

The Secretary of Defense also noted that the tendency that the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan have shown to hide among civilian populations means that American forces will still need to ensure that they do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

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Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may stop launching missiles for the winter

North Korea hasn’t fired a missile for 60 days, but that may have more to do with its own winter training cycle than with Pyongyang easing off on provocations.


Since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011, only five of the isolated nation’s 85 rocket launches have taken place in the October-December quarter, according to The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ North Korea Missile Test Database.

The Korean People’s Army regularly enters its training cycle every winter “and getting ready for it involves a calm before the storm,” said Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

“Fall is the harvest season, and a lot of military labor is dedicated to agricultural output when not in war mode; inefficient, but it’s the nature of the North Korean system,” said Jackson, a former U.S. Department of Defense adviser. “It’s a routine, recurring pattern, which means we should expect a surge in provocations in the early months next year.”

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

North Korea’s last launch was on Sept. 15, when the isolated state fired its second missile over Japan in as many months. That missile flew far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam in range.

Joseph Yun, the United States’ top North Korean official, was reported by The Washington Post as saying on Oct. 30 that if the regime halted nuclear and missile testing for about 60 days, it would be the signal Washington needs to resume direct dialogue with Pyongyang. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Nov. 10 denied the U.S. had any such window.

Related: South Korean troops on DMZ are ready for anything

Yun arrived in South Korea on Nov. 14, a visit that comes as hopes rise for an easing of tensions on the peninsula in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit and a lull in missile testing.

Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, will meet with South Korean and international officials, according to the U.S. State Department, although there is no indication his visit will include talks with the North.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Yun is scheduled for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, on Nov. 17 on the sidelines of an international conference on disarmament, jointly hosted by the ministry and the United Nations on the resort island of Jeju.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Jeju Island. (NASA photo by Robert Simmon.)

South Korea-born Yun has been at the heart of reported direct diplomacy in recent months with the Kim regime.

Using the so-called New York channel, he has been in contact with diplomats at Pyongyang’s United Nations mission, a senior State Department official said earlier this month.

Even as Trump called talks a waste of time, Yun has quietly tried to lower the temperature in a dangerous nuclear standoff in which each side shows little interest in compromise.

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Photo from White House Flickr.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Oct. 30, Yun reportedly said that if the North halts nuclear and missile tests for about 60 days, it would be a sign that Washington needs to seek a restart of dialogue with Pyongyang.

Some analysts say it is too early to read much into the break in testing, which is the longest lull so far this year.

And there is no sign that the behind-the-scenes communications have improved a relationship vexed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests as well as Trump’s heated statements.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
South Korea’s Gen. Sun Jin Lee, Republic of Korea Army chairman and joint chiefs of staff visits Guam’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site Nov. 1, 2016, along with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the combined US forces in South Korea. (USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.)

During his visit to Seoul last week, Trump warned North Korea he was prepared to use the full range of U.S. military power to stop any attack, but in a more conciliatory appeal than ever before he urged Pyongyang to “make a deal” to end the nuclear standoff.

Trump also urged North Korea to “do the right thing” and added that: “I do see some movement,” though he declined to elaborate.

While his comments seemed to reassure many in South Korea, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called Trump a “destroyer of the world peace and stability,” and said his “reckless remarks” only made the regime more committed to building up its nuclear force.

Trump muddied the water later on his Asia visit by Tweeting that North Korean leader Kim had insulted him by calling him “old” and said he would never call Kim “short and fat.”

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea, November 7, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

He also said “it would be very, very nice” if he and Kim became friends.

“It is indeed noteworthy that the president, at several junctures, seemed to open the door to negotiations with North Korea,” said David Pressman, a partner at the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner who helped lead North Korea sanctions negotiations as ambassador to the United Nations under former President Barack Obama.

“However, it is entirely unclear if the president’s suggestions are reflective of a strategic shift or merely reflective of what the last person he happened to speak with about North Korea said before the president made those comments.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the newest American aircraft carrier under construction

The USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, reached 70% completion in late February 2018, according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.


Like the first-in-class Gerald R. Ford, the Kennedy’s construction is being done with a modular technique, in which smaller parts of the ship are welded together to form larger chunks, called superlifts, that are then hoisted together.

Also read: This is why bigger is better when it comes to aircraft carriers

The latest construction milestone came when crews at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding dropped an 888-ton superlift — a 171-foot long, 92-foot wide section composed of berthing areas, electrical-equipment rooms, and workshops — into place between the carrier’s bow and midship.

Below, you can see footage of the superlift being moved into place by the company’s 1,157-ton gantry crane at Dry Dock 12.

(marinelogcom | YouTube)

 

The latest superlift took 18 months to construct and it “represents one of the key build-strategy changes for Kennedy: building superlifts that are larger and more complete before they are erected on the ship,” Mike Butler, the program director for the Kennedy, said in a Huntington Ingalls press release.

Construction on the Kennedy started in February 2011, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony at Newport News. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and it hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017, when crews moved the 1,027-ton lower-stern section — containing rudders, tanks, steering-gear rooms, and electrical-power-distribution rooms — into place.

Related: Navy’s new USS Ford carrier likely to deploy to Middle East or Pacific in 2020s

“We are pleased with how construction on the Kennedy is progressing, and we look forward to additional milestones as we inch closer to christening of the ship,” Butler said in the February 2018 release. The Kennedy is set to launch in 2020.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
USS Gerald R. Ford. (U.S. Navy photo)

Like the Ford, the Kennedy contains an array of advanced features, including the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and landing aircraft. (The Ford lacked one notable feature: urinals.)

The Ford, however, was delivered to the Navy two years later than planned and cost about $12.9 billion — 23% more than originally estimated.

The Government Accountability Office warned in summer 2017 that the $11.4 billion budget set for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t address lessons learned during the building of the Ford. The Pentagon partially agreed with those conclusions.

In August 2017, Huntington Ingalls completed the first-cut-of-steel ceremony for the third Ford-class carrier, the USS Enterprise.

Articles

Phil Klay Is The First Ever Iraq War Veteran To Win The National Book Award For Fiction

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
Author Phil Klay became the first Iraq war veteran to win the prestigious National Book Award for fiction Wednesday with his book “Redeployment.”


Klay produced a gripping collection of short stories on a wide range of topics, from modern combat, the boredom of deployment, to the homecoming and stressful transition to civilian life. For its part, “Redeployment” was previously described by The New Yorker as “the best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars.”

Starting with the very first page, the reader quickly learns that “Redeployment” is not a typical war memoir.

“The first sentence I wrote was ‘we shot dogs,'” Klay told Business Insider in August. “I knew a Marine who had talked about the experience of shooting dogs. I’m a dog lover myself, so it seemed like something that crystallized the weirdness of some of the things people experience and try to make sense of, and that difference between the things that you do overseas and what constitutes normal life for everybody back home.”

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Klay served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from Jan. 2007 to Feb. 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps. When he left the service, he went to Hunter College and received a Masters in Fine Arts.

The New York Times has more:

In an emotional acceptance speech, Mr. Klay described returning from the war and being treated as if he were unstable, and being asked by children if he had killed anyone.

“I came back not knowing what to think,” he said. “What do you do when you’re trying to explain in words, to the father of a fallen Marine, exactly what that Marine meant to you?”

His book is very much worth reading. You can check out a longer review of it at Business Insider, or pick it up at Amazon.

Articles

US general suspects Russia is supplying the Taliban

VOA News


Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.

“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.

His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.

“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.

Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .

VOA Afghan contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.

Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.

President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.


The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.

“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”

Feeding horses and shoveling manure

Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., June 28, 2007,
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.

Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.

The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.

Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.

Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.

The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.

Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.

The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.

Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.

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

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