US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.

Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.


By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.

Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.

Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.

“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.

Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition

(Photo by Sean Worrell)

On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.

Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.

“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.

All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.

Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”

Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:

  • Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
  • Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
  • Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
  • Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
  • Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
  • Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea said to be completely nuclear capable in 6 months

North Korea could launch a full-blown nuclear strike on the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to a prediction from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

A government minister gave the assessment to a parliamentary committee in early 2018 as part of its efforts to assess Kim Jong Un’s ability to precipitate a nuclear war.


Lord Howe, a British defense minister, told parliament’s Defense Committee that the Defense Ministry thought North Korea would be fully nuclear-capable within “six to 18 months.”

The statements, made at a Jan. 23 hearing, were published April 5, 2018, in a committee report on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The earliest possible date for a strike in Howe’s time frame is July 23, 2018; the far estimate is the same date in 2019.

The Defense Ministry on April 5, 2018, told Business Insider it stood by the dates.

“We judge that they are now certainly capable of reaching targets in the short range, by which I mean Japan, South Korea — obviously — and adjoining territories,” Howe told MPs. “Our judgment is that it will probably be six to 18 months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves.”

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
North Korea’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which the country claims can reach the US.
(Photo from KCNA)

North Korea tested multiple nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017. Based on the tests, experts said North Korea could probably get a missile to hit the US mainland — but still lacked the technology to carry a heavy nuclear warhead that far.

The Defense Ministry believes the country is now working on that technology; attaching a nuclear weapon to an ICBM would allow North Korea to carry out a nuclear strike in most of the world.

“A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, work in progress,” Howe said.

The Defense Ministry confirmed Howe’s assessment on April 5, 2018.

“We stand by our defense minister’s comments,” a spokesman told Business Insider.

Though there appears to be a growing rapprochement between North Korea and the US, Pyongyang appears to be preparing a satellite launch that could ruin the coming discussions with US President Donald Trump.

North Korea has scuppered multiple talks about disarmament by launching satellites in the past.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Pararescuemen stay sharp while training off the coast of Italy

Two boats idled together in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Northern Italy, battered mercilessly by the waves as eight pairs of eyes searched the sky. The silence stretched for long moments, a hint of anticipation on the cool sea breeze before a radio crackled to life.

There would be three jumpers in five minutes, transmitted the radio. The information was passed between the occupants of both boats as they caught first sight of the approaching aircraft.

Members of the 57th Rescue Squadron participated in over-water parachute training. July 9, 2019, with a dozen pararescuemen aboard a C-130J Super Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as eight more awaited their descent from below.


First out of the aircraft was a rigged alternate method zodiac, or RAMZ, an inflatable, motorized boat that the jumpers used once they made it to the water. As they worked on setting up their vehicle, the members in the support boats began pulling in the discarded parachutes to be repaired if necessary and reused in the future.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

Pararescueman assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron parachutes into the ocean during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

The 57th RQS participates in jump training at least once a quarter, over both land and sea, to keep their skills and knowledge sharp in case they are ever needed in an emergency. The training not only benefits the pararescuemen, but requires harmonization with the squadron’s support agencies and even other bases – in this case, the C-130 and its crew.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac vessel during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“Just for us to do this training, it requires so much coordination from our support shops,” said Capt. Jordan, a combat rescue officer with the 57th RQS. “Just on the water we have boat drivers, people pulling in chutes and medical personnel. We are super grateful to have an amazing combat mission support section.”

Jumping on land is far different than jumping into the ocean, and carries different challenges – not only for the jumpers themselves but also for the support personnel down below.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“On land, all you really have to worry about is another aircraft coming into your airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jared, a 57th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician and drop zone control officer. “On water, you have to worry about boats, airplanes and that you’re constantly moving. You have to go where the jumpers go, and then reset, come back to your position and get ready for the next jumpers.”

Through successful support and coordination, the 57th RQS was able to carry out the required training needed in order to remain proficient in their job, providing day or night personnel recovery operations in any condition, during peace or war.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of Jan. 19th

What a week — just a little bit of snow hits the ground and suddenly everyone starts eating Tide Pods.


Well, whatever your reason for not being at work (or if you’re looking at these from the office latrine — we don’t judge), enjoy these fresh memes!

13. We should probably cut the Hawaiian Missile Defense dude a little bit of slack…

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Image via Know Your Meme)

12. They’re on a mission from DoD.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Image via Pop Smoke)

11. …but who will play with all the cool sh*t now?

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

10. I mean, he’s not wrong…

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

9. Still only getting 10% from the VA.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

8. Grunts eat MREs for 12 months and expect an Oscar or something.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Military Memes)

7. Who needs a chaplain when you have an NCO?

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

6. Don’t follow the LT. He can’t show you dah way.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

5. I bet his recruiter also told him he’d travel the world and get f*cked every day. Technically not a lie.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Military Memes)

4. The more the merrier, right?

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Veteran Humor)

3. There’s the “Good Idea Fairy” and then there’s the “Actual Idea Fairy.”

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Salty Soldier)

2. We’re also ready to send them a bunch of Vikings Super Bowl LII Champion shirts as well. (Too soon?)

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via USAWTFM)

1. I guess you could say his enlistment was, Gone with the Wind.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.

Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.

You won’t want to miss their work:


Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3

twitter.com

Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.

Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”

BABGAB It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL

twitter.com

Logan Stark, U.S. Marine Corps

Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.

As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”

Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.

He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”

Articles

B-52s join the fight against ISIS

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
(Photo: DVIDS)


U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, today, in support of theater requirements and Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate Da’esh and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.

“The B-52 will provide the Coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the Coalition team.”

The 19-nation air coalition consists of numerous strike aircraft and the B-52s will bring their unique capability to the fight against Da’esh.

The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.

Crews will be available to carry out missions in both Iraq and Syria as needed to support Air Tasking Order requirements.

“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Da’esh and defend the region in any future contingency,”said Brown.

This deployment is the first basing of the B-52s in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in 26 years. The B-52s were based in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion – a USCENTCOM- led multilateral exercise in Jordan in May 2015.

The coalition conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR. Since the beginning of the operation, the Coalition struck about 459 VBIEDs, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches, and 1,341 staging areas.

(h/t Kevin Baron, DefenseOne.com)

Articles

WWII Museum explores homefront’s ‘Arsenal of Democracy’

Museums, by definition, are repositories of the past.


But the good ones continue to keep things fresh – and not with small changes.

That certainly applies to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which continues to add exhibits and space.

Following the success of its Air Power Expo and the launching of the restored PT 305, the museum’s latest permanent exhibit, “The Arsenal of Democracy,” opens to the public Saturday, the week of the anniversary of D-Day.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The 10,000-square-foot salute to the homefront is funded by the Brown Foundation, of Houston, which is linked to the war by Brown Shipbuilding, a major supplier to the military during WWII.

“Until now, the museum’s main focus has been on the fighting,” said Rob Citino, the museum’s senior historian. “But if you want to tell the story of World War II, you have to give at least equal time to the homefront.”

Indeed. Although 16 million Americans were in uniform during the war, that’s only a little more than 10 percent of the country’s population at the time.

And not all of the young men were away. Of the major combatants, only the U.S. and China had less than half of its men ages 18-35 in the military.

But there were few, if any, American families who weren’t directly affected by the war to some degree, even those without a close relative in the service.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“There are so many stories wrapped up in the big story of World War II,” said Kim Guise, the museum’s assistant director of curatorial services. “We’ve kind of kept the homefront on the back burner until now.

“But now it’s time to bring it forward.”

The exhibit also is a reminder of the origins of the museum – outgoing museum CEO Nick Mueller and museum founder Stephen Ambrose, both then history professors at the University of New Orleans, were intrigued by the contributions of the Higgins boat, manufactured in New Orleans, in helping to win the war. The desire to tell that story resulted in what began as the D-Day Museum, which opened in 2000.

“Arsenal of Democracy,” which has been two years in development and is on the second floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, spotlights the massive mobilization of American manufacturing, which produced more goods than the Axis combined, tipping the scales in the Allies’ favor.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It’s a tribute to American ingenuity and know-how. Seemingly overnight, factories went from making typewriters to machine guns and from refrigerators to airplane parts, because there was no time to waste.

The exhibit also highlights the domestic side, complete with a “Main Street” showing how shop windows and movie marquees of the time looked, along with a home decorated in the style of the period – right down to a Radio Flyer, the classic little red wagon, sitting on the back porch full of metal collected for a scrap drive.

The living room features a world map, a reminder of a February 1942 fireside chat in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked listeners to follow along as he described the status of the global conflict.

There are poignant reminders of the human cost of war, too, such as letters home from Myron Murphy, a sailor from Vermont who died aboard the battleship Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, along with the gold star flag his mother hung in her window to signal her loss.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Photo from USAF

There’s also the oral history of Lorraine McCaslin, who was alone at home when the word was delivered that her brother had been killed in action.

Noble sacrifice was a hallmark of the times. But there also were discordant voices.

The first gallery – “The Gathering Storm” – addresses the arguments made by isolationists that America should stay out of the war.

After the fall of France in spring 1940, those voices were less prominent, and in December, Roosevelt coined the phrase “arsenal of democracy” in a radio address, announcing manufacturing support for Great Britain.

The war effort demanded that the nation utilize more of its human capital than ever. Women went to work, and new employment opportunities emerged for African-Americans, both in the South and in places such as Ford’s Willow Run assembly line in Michigan.

It’s cliché now to say that the homefront was unified in its fight against the Axis. And it’s not entirely true.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

Thousands of Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during the war. There were riots in Detroit and Los Angeles and continuing discrimination against African-Americans. The military was still segregated.

In fact, the war created tremendous social upheaval from the beginning of civil rights movement to the diaspora of thousands of African-Americans from the South to the Midwest and West Coast. Women’s horizons broadened with the absence of so many men in previously all-male fields.

Those are issues that didn’t get much play when the museum opened in 2000, when the heroism of “The Greatest Generation” was unquestioned.

“History can be messy sometimes,” Citino said. “As heroic as the American war efforts were, then and now this country has work to do to build a just society.”

The war changed American life in other ways, too.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

There were momentous developments in science, technology, food production and medicine, ranging from the creation of the atomic bomb to the invention of MM’s because ordinary chocolate rations for soldiers melted too easily.

The exhibit itself has more interactive features than its predecessors. And, Citino added, the museum isn’t finished. “Liberation” is the next major project, and the postwar world has yet to be addressed.

“With visionary leadership and good fundraising, you can move mountains,” he said. “We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeves.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

A Marine Corps veteran, Ray Guasp is no stranger to serving others. He founded Veterans Response, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization made up of former military personnel and first responders. He is emblematic of the military veteran who continues to serve his country after leaving the service, as highlighted in the #StillServing campaign launched this year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

#StillServing aims to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. In fact, The Corporation for National & Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report shows that veterans volunteer 25 percent more time, are 17 percent more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30 percent more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.


“All those skills I learned in the military transfer right over to disaster response,” Guasp said. “Veterans Response gives me and other veterans and first responders an environment that we are accustomed to — mission-forward, mission-centric, focused and disciplined.”

Ray’s story began at age 18 when he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He took those problem solving and leadership skills and founded Veterans Response, with the mission to deliver timely and appropriate emergency services to disaster-stricken communities. A Veterans Response team deploys into communities suffering catastrophic events helping to meet immediate and longer-term needs, everything from water and temporary shelter to rebuilding homes and communities.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both Category 5 storms that struck within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2017, devastating the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Within a week of forming Veterans Response, the organization raised ,000 and purchased and installed a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. Using any source of freshwater, contaminated or not, the system can produce 250 gallons of clean water per hour. Veterans Response also provided residents with reusable water bottles to use with the system and worked with residents to monitor and maintain the system when the organization’s team is no longer on site.

The next phase of Guasp’s plan for Puerto Rico is to focus on providing stricken communities with mental health services; services he realizes were needed after his own experiences in Desert Storm.

“Those memories live with you forever,”Guasp said. “Our goal for Puerto Rico is to enable the treatment of some of the pain that its residents have gone through in the last several years.”

Currently, Veterans Response is focusing on a new disaster, one close to home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, the group has been working around the clock shopping for food to donate to food banks, stocking food bank shelves and assembling packages of donated items to distribute to those in need. To date, Veterans Response has provided food banks around Guasp’s hometown in Connecticut with more than 550 pounds of food.

“Normally we respond to disasters but in this case, this is a crisis and we decided to take up arms and be part of the solution,” said Pablo Soto, an Army veteran and member of Veterans Response.

“We’re trying to do our part to try to help at least put food on somebody’s table,” Guasp said. “So they can have some type of normal in their household.”

When not volunteering with Veterans Response, Guasp is a partner and co-founder of a medical device sales company (Attero Surgical), a volunteer fireman and a firearms instructor. Because of his continued service, VFW has chosen Guasp to serve as a spokesperson for its national #StillServing campaign.

The VFW encourages all veterans to share stories on social media using #StillServing to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family or friends are asked to use #StillServing in social media posts to honor a veteran in their lives who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.

“Service creates a balance in our life,” Guasp added. “It allows us to still be a part of that world and the brotherhood that we enjoyed. It is critical for veterans to share this message and show that veterans are not an obscure population. We are making real changes in our communities every day.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US military should focus on the Taliban and not ISIS

A number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan towards the end of January 2018 were claimed by competing terrorist groups ISIS and the Taliban — putting the spotlight back on a country that has been at war for over a decade.


An attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 20 that killed at least 40 people and an ambulance bombing in Kabul on Jan. 27 that killed 103 were claimed by the Taliban.

An attack on Save the Children’s Jalalabad office on Jan. 24 that killed six people and an attack on Kabul’s military academy on Jan. 29 that killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers were claimed by ISIS’ Afghan branch — known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS has pushed to have a bigger presence in Afghanistan. The recent attacks, and the fact that ISIS-K has proven to be stubbornly resilient, have made some in the West more worried about the group.

Seth G. Jones, an expert on Afghanistan and a senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the Taliban and ISIS have been “at each other’s throats” since day one — but there is no question who the more threatening group is.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Michael “Doc” McNeely with the Georgian Liaison Team – a joint Coalition Patrol Team – carries one of the children whose life he helped save after a Taliban suicide bombing attack Nov. 22, 2017.  (DVIDS Image from Master Sgt. Sheryl Lawry)

“The Taliban is a much larger organization, controls roughly 10-12% of the population of Afghanistan, has conducted a lot more attacks, and has some support among Afghanistan’s conservative rural population,” Jones said.

“ISIS-K, on the other hand, is shrinking in size, controls virtually no territory, has conducted far fewer attacks, and has virtually no support among Afghanistan’s population.”

ISIS declares the ‘Khorasan Province’

ISIS first came to South Asia in 2014, using the group’s substantial funds and weak local governments to co-opt high-ranking members of the Pakistani Taliban and disaffected members of the Afghan Taliban.

But almost as soon as it was founded, ISIS-K began suffering losses, as they found themselves fighting the Pakistani and Afghani governments, the NATO Coalition, and the Taliban all at the same time.

Angry that ISIS had taken some of their members in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban hit back and essentially wiped out ISIS-K in Helmand and Farah provinces.

ISIS has also suffered major losses in its fight against the Afghan government in NATO. All three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) have been killed since the group was founded, and, according to Jones, their numbers have almost been halved since their founding.

ISIS-K is now more of a deadly nuisance than a strategic threat to Afghanistan.

“ISIS-K controls virtually nothing other than a small segment of territory. They’re not competing in any meaningful way,” Jones said. “It’s in a bad situation. It has got everybody against it.”

Jones said ISIS-K has been so surprisingly resilient because it mostly operates in parts of Nangarhar Province, particularly the Achin District, where neither the Taliban or the Afghan government have much control. Instead, the region is mostly controlled by local tribes and clans.

Jones believes, however, that ISIS-K will eventually become a transnational movement — forced to move into Pakistan or Bangladesh as operations against them continue.

Also Read: ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

“They’re down in numbers, it looks like they are down in recruitment, they’ve stuck around but it looks like under most accounts they are probably weakening,” he said.

Taliban remains the dominant jihadist force

All of this is in stark contrast to the Taliban,  where “there is absolutely no comparison,” according to Jones.

Recent reports suggest that the Taliban has tripled in size since 2014 to up to 60,000. This is compared to ISIS-K’s 1,000-2,000.

The Taliban have complete control of some areas in Afghanistan’s countryside, have their own court systems and governmental structures in place, a military structure based in Pakistan, and, according to a recent BBC report, threaten 70% of the country.

They also, as Jones points out, have support from state actors; most notably Pakistan and possibly even Russia.

ISIS-K and the Taliban are likely to continue attacks like the ones that plagued Afghanistan in January 2018. Those high-profile attacks are important because even though neither ISIS or the Taliban control any urban territory, they gain international media attention and put them in the spotlight.

Jones said the attacks “may give an impression that groups like the Taliban are omnipresent,” even though they are not. “That’s really a psychological impact.”

FNA

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

This post was sponsored by FN.

When your slogan is “World’s most battle-proven firearms,” you had better be able to back it up, right? While introducing the question of what company actually has that to a random set of gun guys might yield a lot of answers, most of them would be wrong. Like cars and shoes, people tend to be brand loyal with their firearms without actually crunching the data. But the data in this case leaves only one answer: FN.


FN Herstal, and its subsidiary FN America, have made the weapons that were carried across the beaches of Normandy all the way to the mountains of Afghanistan. While we could have chosen from many arms best suited to back up FN’s claim, these top 6 are absolutely stunning in depth. Any one of them could be number one, so consider these in no particular order. A great amount of FN’s contributions to this list come from the brilliant mind of John Moses Browning. Later in his life, Fabrique Nationale, now known simply as FN, became the go-to for Browning and is also the owner of his namesake company, Browning.

So here we go, in an order that no one could call descending, 6 guns that are battle-proven and stunning:

Browning High Power

The very first iteration of this pistol was called the GP 35 or Grand Puissance and was completed by Dieudonne Saive, a protege of John M. Browning, who took over the design when JMB died at their factory in 1926.

Saive is also the engineer that developed the modern double-stacked magazine, first introduced on the FN High Power.

Known as the High Power (and, later, the “Hi Power”) because when it was created it carried 13 rounds of 9mm, when most handguns carried 7, the High Power was ahead of its time. It has been used in conflicts from 1935 to the present, from WW2 to the Falklands to Syria. It was the classic favorite of not only the SAS but many Commando Units from across the world. These guns are still highly prized.

Canadian military still uses the High Power. They have an interesting connection to the design after the plans were secreted out of Belgium before the German occupation of FN’s factory. The Canadians, under the Inglis brand, produced their own.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

A version of the FN FAL used by West German soldiers in 1960.

FN FAL, aka “ The Right Arm of the Free World”

Right Arm of the Free World is not an easy nickname to get, but it is well earned with the FN FAL. FAL stands for Fusil Automatique Leger, which is French for “Light Automatic Rifle.” Prototyped in 7.92x33mm Kurz and again in 280 British, most examples historically are 308 (7.62x51mm). At a time the world was recovering from WW2, and in desperate need of a new rifle, the FAL entered service in an eventual 90 nations as their service rifle.

The British called it the L1A1, and it stood across the Cold War from the AK-47. So many FAL’s were produced that on occasion, opposing armies have both been carrying them. It was a favorite worldwide and is still in use today. I had a captured Paratrooper model in Iraq that I was absolutely in love with, and sadly had to leave behind due to its auto switch.

M2 50 Caliber BMG, aka The Ma Deuce

This is a weird one, because it isn’t an FN exclusive design, nor does FN currently hold the contract for the M2. Due to World War requirements, dozens of companies made M2 machine guns, much the same way Singer sewing machines made 1911’s. But, FN has been producing M2’s since the 1930s, and you may have actually used one in the service. Arguably the longest serving weapon in U.S. history, the M2 needs no introduction. From an anti-aircraft role in WW2, to Kandahar last week, the M2 has served on every battlefield imaginable.

FN currently produces the M2 in a Quick Change Barrel or QCB model for vehicle or boat pintle mounts. They also produce the FN M3M designated as the GAU-21 which is in service with the U.S. Navy.

M-16/M-4/M16A4

I am counting this as one weapon, though it is a family of weapons. Something that may surprise you: If you were in the military after 1988, odds are pretty good that your service rifle was an FN. FN first won the contract, beating out Colt, for M-16 production in 1988. They created the M16A4 for the USMC in the Global War on Terror out of whole cloth, and again beat Colt for the M-4 contract in 2013. In addition to serving the U.S. military, FN has armed what can only be called a metric grundle of other nations with M-16/4 weapons over the decades. FN’s production tops one million units of M16/M4 carbines for DoD.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

FN America on Facebook

M240/M249

Again this could count as multiple weapons, but I’m considering it one since the M249 is basically a scaled down M240. It might surprise you to learn it has been in service (240 version) since 1958. It is issued in 80 militaries, and has been made under license by FN in Canada, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. It has many names, such as the GPMG for you Brits, and sets the standard across the globe as the medium machine gun of choice. While the M240 (7.62x51mm) is older, the smaller M249 (5.56x45mm) has actually been around for some time as well. It was designed in 1976, and entered US service in 1984.

It is well known enough to also have many names, such as “Minimi” to our cousins across the pond. It has been used in every U.S. conflict since the invasion of Panama in 1989, and was a personal favorite of mine in the GWOT. I think a great many of us GWOT veterans, including myself, can say this. I came home on my feet instead of in a body bag more than once because I was carrying an FNH machine gun.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

U.S. Navy SEAL with a SCAR.

SCAR- aka “ Special (operations forces) Combat Assault Rifle”

This one hasn’t seen quite as many conflicts, having been only produced in 2004. But it does represent the future for FN. Available in either 5.56 (Light Variant) or 7.62×51 (Heavy Variant), and as of January 2020, 6.5 Creedmoor, the SCAR has been a rising star. It won the SOCOM service trials for the U.S., and entered service in 2009. The Heavy version became very popular among troops headed to Afghanistan, and has entered the service of 20 nations. Rapidly user configurable for various mission roles, the SCAR continues to evolve. Considering FN’s previous reputation, I think we can expect this one to be around for a good long time.

Living up to a slogan that proclaims the world’s most anything might be tough to do, until you’ve held an FN product.

This post was sponsored by FN.

Articles

This Soviet pilot stole the plane of a Nazi pilot who landed to try and kill him

In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.


A profile publication written by Witold Liss of the Il-2’s combat record describes what happened next.

One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Soviet Il-2 over Berlin in 1945. Earlier models were single-seat aircraft.

As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.

Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.

He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year
Ilyushin Il-2 fighters at the Battle of Kursk.

When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”

It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What will happen to the foreign ISIS fighters in Syria?

October 2019, US President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to pull the remaining US troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.

The move sent the fragmented country into a spiral, disrupting one of its few areas of stability. By withdrawing support from Kurdish forces in the area — which had helped the US combat ISIS — Trump opened them up to an oncoming offensive by Turkey.

Justifying the decision. Trump argued that US forces in the region had already “defeated” ISIS, and that therefore there was no need for them to stay in Syria.

This was, at best, only partly true.


While US-allied forces this year deprived ISIS of the territory it once controlled, the group still has as many as 18,000 fighters quietly stationed across Iraq and Syria, according to The New York Times.

Additionally, Kurdish-led fighters, known as The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had maintained control of tens of thousands of former ISIS members and their families, including about 70,000 women and children in a compound in the Syrian city of al-Hol, according to the Atlantic. Of those detainees, 11,000 of them are foreign nationals, according to the BBC.

The SDF has said it is holding more than 12,000 men suspected of being ISIS fighters across seven prisons it operates, estimating that more than 4,000 of those prisoners are foreign nationals, the BBC said.

The fate of those prisoners remains uncertain, particularly in the wake of the US pullout.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

ISIS

Turkey has taken over parts of Syria, and with it, ISIS prisoners

On Oct. 22, 2019, Russia and Turkey took advantage of the power vacuum that had been created and signed an agreement to expand their control in Syria and minimize Kurdish territory.

As part of the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards entered the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, pushing Kurdish forces back to 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border.

Turkey says it will use the reclaimed area to create a “buffer zone” along its border and will use the land to resettle more than 1 million Syrian refugees displaced by the war.

But as Turkey gains land in Syria, it has also taken on the task of figuring out what to do with former Islamic State detainees, many of whom are now under its control. Turkey has faced criticism in the past for its porous border, which allowed foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the Islamic State to begin with.

But Turkey doesn’t want to deal with them, and neither does the rest of the world 

According to a 2016 report by the World Bank, foreign ISIS fighters have been recruited from “all continents across the globe,” though it named Russia, France, and Germany as the top Western suppliers of ISIS’ foreign workforce.

Data from the Institute for the Study of War also indicated that significant portions of foreign fighters also came from European countries like the UK, Belgium, and France between December 2015 and March 2016.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

(ISW)

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, and warned that Turkey would not become “a hotel” for militants.

On Nov. 11, 2019, Turkey began deporting foreign nationals said to be linked to ISIS back to their home countries.

One of those foreign nationals was from the US, a spokesperson for Turkey’s interior minister said, though according to the BBC the man remained stranded at the Greek border after choosing not to return to the US. On Thursday morning, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said that the man would be brought to the US.

Turkey’s interior minister added the country was planning to deport “several more terrorists back to Germany” this week, and that legal proceedings against two Irish nationals and 11 French citizens captured in Syria were underway. A spokesperson for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that three men, five women and two children were being returned to Germany this week.

But many of those countries have not put a concrete policy in place for what to do with ISIS foreign fighters or their families that remain in displacement camps in Syria, or have refused to allow them to return.

Trump said in his statement in October 2019 that he discussed the issue of repatriating foreign fighters with France, Germany, and other European nations but they “did not want them and refused.”

Foreign nationals abroad are traditionally entitled to consular services abroad, though many European nations have been cautious about offering help to citizens who joined ISIS on national security grounds. Under international law, it is illegal to strip people of their citizenship if it will leave them stateless.

In April 2019, Germany approved a bill stripping dual nationals of their citizenship if they traveled overseas to fight in a foreign terror group, though the law does not apply to women and children. In June 2019, France passed legislation stating that it would repatriate French jihadists on a case-by-case basis.

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

There are concerns that ISIS may take advantage of the uncertainty to regroup

But the UN has stood firm on pushing countries to take responsibility for their citizens.

“It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes — whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime — should face investigation and prosecution, with due process guarantees,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in June 2019.

“Foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards,” she added.

The UK is currently debating what to do about those who left the country to join ISIS. In February 2019, it stripped British-born Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria to become an ISIS bride at the age of 15, of her citizenship, citing national security risks. Begum has appealed the decision, and the UK government is said to be considering options for repatriating British members of ISIS held in prison camps in Syria.

As the West works through the complicated process of absorbing foreign fighters, Islamic State militants in Syria appear to be taking advantage of the chaos.

Last month, the SDF said ISIS fighters committed three suicide bombings on its positions in Raqqa as Kurdish fighters moved from their posts to respond to Turkish assault. And SDF General Mazloum Kobani has warned on Nov. 13, 2019 that the West should “expect” major attacks from Islamic State fighters who may be looking to capitalize on the chaos in order to regroup.

“The danger of the resurgence of ISIS is very big. And it’s a serious danger,” he told Sky News.

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