President Donald Trump has announced that the US Navy is conducting a search for the 3 missing sailors after a plane carrying 11 passengers crashed into the sea southeast of Okinawa.
Eight of the passengers have been recovered alive. The plane crashed while it was en route to the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, on Nov. 22.
The accident marks the latest in a string of deadly crashes involving the US Navy’s Pacific or 7th fleet. The other crashes have involved the guided missile destroyers the USS Fitzgerald, USS John McCain, and a non-deadly crash involving the USS Benfold.
In total, 17 have died in crashes in the US Navy’s 7th fleet ships within the last half 2017. Those deaths were ruled preventable by a Navy review.
“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff,” the Navy said in a statement.
The downed aircraft, a C-2 Greyhound logistics plane that moves people, mail, and cargo onto the aircraft carriers, suffered engine troubles, a Japanese defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Sailors lower the national ensign during evening colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), March 10, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Estes)
The Greyhound has served with the navy for more than five decades. It will be phased out in favor of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys in the near future.
Eight of the passengers have been found, but no information in regard to their condition has been given, according to the Navy.
The Navy has withheld the names of those involved in the crash pending next of kin notifications.
The Pentagon’s oft-criticized missile defense program has scored a triumph, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack.
Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.
“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a written statement announcing the test result.
Despite the success, the $244 million test did not confirm that under wartime conditions the U.S. could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead.
Syring’s agency sounded a note of caution.
“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” his statement said.
Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the May 30 outcome was a significant success for a test that was three years in preparation, but he noted that it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.
“In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.
The previous intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.
“This is part of a continuous learning curve,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of the current test. The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor, which has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.
North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are a defense against perceived U.S. military threats. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets. The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and rockets using it have to be fueled in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.
Underscoring its uninterrupted efforts, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 29, 2017 that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.
In the May 30 U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.
According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.
The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.
Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens the defensive tactic to hitting a bullet with a bullet. With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing the number of deployed interceptors, based in California and Alaska, to 44 from the current total of 36 by the end of 2017.
While the May 30 test wasn’t designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.
Laura Grego, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has criticized the missile defense program, called the interceptor an “advanced prototype,” meaning it is not fully matured technologically even if it has been deployed and theoretically available for combat since 2004. A successful test on May 30, she said, could demonstrate the Pentagon is on the right track with its latest technical fixes.
“Overall,” she wrote in an analysis prior to the test, the military “is not even close to demonstrating that the system works in a real-world setting.”
The interceptors are, in essence, the last line of U.S. defense against an attack by an intercontinental-range missile.
The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are designed to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles. These include the Patriot missile, which numerous countries have purchased from the U.S., and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the U.S. deployed this year to South Korea to defend against medium-range missiles from North Korea.
NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.
We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW
Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.
According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”
Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.
Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.
Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”
If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”
Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”
Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.
Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.
“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.
Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.
“After more than a decade combating violent extremists and conducting contingency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, [the Defense Department] has prioritized the rebalancing of its forces in recent budget requests to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevail across a full range of potential contingencies,” the report states.
“However, DoD has acknowledged that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” it adds.
Each of the service branches has had some success in addressing readiness issues, but problems remain in some areas for each.
For the Marine Corps, as of February, about 80% of aviation units didn’t have the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. The Marines also had a significant shortage of aircraft ready for wartime requirements.
A high pace of operations has also hindered the Navy’s maintenance efforts. The service bases its readiness recovery on deployment and maintenance schedules. “However, GAO reported that from 2011 through 2014, only 28 percent of scheduled maintenance was completed on time and just 11 percent for carriers.”
Like the Navy, the Air Force has seen continued operations with a shrinking pool of resources and little time for repair and recovery, citing Air Force reports that less than 50% of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels.
Photo courtesy of USAF
The service branch also says it is short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
Air Force leaders are looking at several options to address these personnel issues, including heftier retention bonuses and stop-loss policies.
While the Army has seen readiness improvements in recent years, as GAO notes, it continues to have important deficiencies that put it at a disadvantage compared to other countries.
“For example, the Army reports that two thirds of its initial critical formations — units needed at the outset of a major conflict — are at acceptable levels of readiness, but it cautions that it risks consuming readiness as fast as the service can build it given current demands,” the report says.
The Army has also gotten withering criticism of its unit readiness from within the service itself.
According to Capt. Scott Metz, who until recently was a observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”
US troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment call in their location in the back woods of the mock village they are taking over during Saber Junction 17, a field-training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on May 15, 2017, at Hohenfels, Germany. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Frost)
“In fact,” Metz wrote in a paper published this spring, “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are.”
Metz recounted how unit commanders arriving at the JMRC would caution him about their unit’s lack of preparation and the minimal training done at their home stations. In his role as the opposition-force commander during exercises, he could see how this manifested itself in potentially fatal mistakes in the field.
US soldiers prepare to engage a multinational force while during an exercise at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, March 25, 2017. US Army photo by Sgt. William Frye.
The opposition-force commander “knows from past experience that the Americans will probably stay on or near the roads,” Metz writes, adding:
“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”
All units make mistakes during their time at the JMRC, according to Metz.
The shortcomings evident in units that visit the facility come rather from deficiencies in training they do at home.
“The problem is that they are making mistakes because they have not trained as a platoon or company,” Metz states.
A multitude of factors outside the control of commanders limits the time and resources they can devote to small-unit training.
This has resulted in the longstanding problem of a “deluge of requirements,” Metz writes, citing a 2015 report that “makes the case that the Army overtasks subordinates to such a level that it is impossible for Army units and Army leaders to do everything they are tasked to do.”
US Army paratroopers finish boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft loaded with a heavy-drop-rigged Humvee for a night jump onto Malemute Drop Zone, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the US Army.
The problem is a deep-rooted one and will take some time to correct, requiring a cultural change starting at the highest levels of the Army’s leadership, Metz writes.
Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate this month that the Army, like the Air Force, is also suffering from a lack of personnel.
He told the Senate Appropriations’ defense subcommittee that the service’s portion of US defense strategy, the Army needs an active component of 540,000 to 550,000. That active component is now 476,000.
A US soldier, left, and a US Army Interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi army soldier before starting a cordon and search in the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008. US Army/Pfc. Sarah De Boise
Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.
“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this June.
The Defense Department is looking to step up its development of hypersonic weapons — missiles that travel more than five times faster than the speed of sound — DOD leaders said at the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored “Hypersonics Senior Executive Series” here today.”
In 2018, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade,” said Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “We’ve got to fix that.”
Russia also is involved in hypersonics, Griffin said. “Hypersonics is a game changer,” he added.
If Russia were to invade Estonia or China were to attack Taiwan tomorrow, Griffin said, it would be difficult to defend against their strike assets. “It’s not a space we want to stay in,” he told the audience.
DOD is looking at air-breathing boost-glide hypersonics systems, the latter being used by China, Griffin said. The United States has the boost-glide system competency to get these developed today, he noted.
On the flip side, he said, the U.S. needs to develop systems to counter adversary hypersonics. The place to take them out is in their relatively long cruise phase, in which they don’t change course suddenly. It’s not a particularly hard intercept, he said, but it requires knowing they’re coming. Current radars can’t see far enough. “They need to see thousands of kilometers out, not hundreds,” Griffin said.
Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin.
(U.S. Army photo by Bryan Bacon)
The Western Pacific is a particularly difficult area, he noted, because “it’s not littered with a lot of places to park radars, and if you found some, they’d likely become targets.”
Space-based sensors, along with tracking and fire-control solutions, are needed in the effort to counter adversaries’ hypersonics, Griffin said, pointing out that hypersonics targets are 10 to 20 times dimmer than what the U.S. normally tracks by satellites in geostationary orbit. “We can’t separate hypersonics defense from the space layer,” he said.
Getting to production, fielding
Congress has given DOD the funding and authorities to move ahead with hypersonics development, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said, and the department wants competing approaches from industry.
Tough decisions lay ahead, he said in the development and engineering phase, operationalizing the technology and then in acquisition. Those decisions include how much to invest and how many hypersonics to produce. “Should it be tens of thousands or thousands?” he said.
Industry will respond, Shanahan said, but government needs to clear a path and help fuel the investments up front, as with the effort field intercontinental ballistic missiles decades ago.
DOD is not risk-averse, the deputy secretary said. “Break it,” he added. “Learn from the mistake. Move on. Break it again and move on, but don’t make the same mistake.” It’s much more expensive to do the analytics to prevent it from breaking than it is to break it, he said.
It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.
But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.
Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.
But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.
“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.
In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.
If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.
The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.
“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”
To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.
“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”
Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.
As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.
Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.
The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.
First, as is often the case with women, you wouldn’t expect her to be a military veteran (let alone a Marine), but she served as an Ammunition Technician in Iraq. She also holds multiple college degrees (something you wouldn’t expect from a Marine — zing!) and is a mother of an 8-year-old (and her daughter, by the way, knows the lyrics to Drowning Pools’ “Bodies” and headbangs accordingly).
Probably what’s the most refreshing when you meet Mondesir is how fun-loving and energetic she is. If you’re a fan of Season 2 of John Cena’s “American Grit,” then you already know this.
“It’s pretty hot in Iraq so sometimes things get really tough and you need that extra motivation, and music just does it.”
In her Battle Mix video, she even makes the heat of Iraq sound not so bad. She also talks about how she was privy to Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah” before the rest of her buddies at boot camp, and I grin every time I watch it.
Fun fact: she’s the only one of WATM’s Battle Mix veterans we had to censor. Just another great Chloe Mondesir surprise.
On June 21, a former Navy SEAL testified that his military career ended when he was shot in the leg during a hastily planned mission to find Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier left his post in Afghanistan.
Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch told the judge that his team had about 90 minutes to plan their mission and board helicopters after receiving information about Bergdahl’s purported whereabouts shortly after he disappeared in 2009. While pursuing enemy fighters on foot, Hatch was hit by fire from an AK-47. Hatch says he survived because members of his team quickly applied a tourniquet while waiting for a medical helicopter.
“They saved me from bleeding to death for sure,” he testified during the pretrial hearing. Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a service dog and a limp, said he’s had 18 surgeries because of the wound.
Also on June 21, the military judge told defense attorneys they can ask potential military jurors about President Donald Trump on a lengthy written questionnaire. Defense lawyers have argued Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl will prevent him from getting a fair trial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Prosecutors want to use the injuries to Hatch and others as evidence during sentencing if Bergdahl is convicted. The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, already ruled that the injury evidence can’t be used during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial scheduled for October.
A legal scholar not involved in the case, Eric Carpenter, said the decision on the injuries could be pivotal.
“This evidence has already been excluded from the guilt phase of the trial, and if it is excluded during the sentencing phase, the heart of the government’s case will be gone,” said Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. “This might make the government more receptive to a deal.”
Defense attorney Eugene Fidell declined to say after the hearing whether his client is interested in a plea bargain.
The topic also came up during the hearing. Defense attorneys asked the judge to rule that any alleged desertion ended when Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban hours after he left the remote post. They say the determination is needed so they can advise their client on how to plead to the desertion charge.
“We need to know so we can tell Sgt. Bergdahl what the consequences are,” Fidell told the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance.
Nance responded that Bergdahl can choose to plead guilty to the lesser offense of unauthorized absence, or AWOL, but that prosecutors could continue pursuing the more serious desertion charge if they weren’t satisfied. The judge said he would rule later on the defense’s arguments about the duration of Bergdahl’s absence.
The judge also said he would rule later on a motion to dismiss the misbehavior-before-the-enemy charge, which could land Bergdahl in prison for life. Defense attorneys say prosecutors chose the wrong building blocks for the offense because the actions cited in the charge wouldn’t be independently criminal, an argument that prosecutors dispute.
Later in the hearing, Nance said he would allow the defense to probe potential jurors’ feelings about Trump in a questionnaire being sent in the coming weeks. Prosecutors have objected to 17 of the approximately 40 questions, including ones asking how prospective panel members voted in the presidential election.
“I’m going to let you ask pretty much all the questions, but with some changes to address the government’s concerns,” Nance said.
Nance asked for further written arguments before the questionnaire is finalized. The judge previously said he would allow the defense wide leeway to question potential jurors, even though he rejected a motion to dismiss the case over Trump’s comments entirely in a February ruling.
Bergdahl left his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban and its allies for about five years. The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade.
Bergdahl, who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base, has said he walked off his post to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
President-elect Donald Trump may name his nominee for Secretary of Defense before the week is out, and legendary Marine Gen. Jim Mattis seems to be fading among the candidate pool, according to a new report from Colin Clark at Breaking Defense.
The report cites two sources involved with the Trump presidential transition team. One source told the site that Trump may release his pick within the next two days, while the other source said that other candidates, such as former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are still very much in the running.
After Trump met with Mattis more than a week ago, most defense watchers believed the retired Marine general was the top pick to lead the Pentagon. The President-elect described Mattis, 66, as “very impressive” and said he was “seriously considering” him for the position.
Trump later had an off-the-record meeting with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,”according to Politico. Other Republicans and many D.C. insiders also offered praise for Mattis, though he would require a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary since he has not been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years.
When reached by Business Insider, Mattis declined to comment.
Though Sen. Talent has been among the candidates floated almost since the beginning, Sen. Kyl is a new name to emerge as a possible pick. Now a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington Burling, Kyl previously served as the second-highest Republican senator when he retired in 2013, after 26 years in Congress.
Kyl was not immediately available for an interview, but soon after the Breaking Defense report was published, he told Politico he was not interested in serving again in government, which “the Trump transition team is well aware of.”
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
“This is it. Number one on my list of worst days at Ranger School,” 1st Lt. Anna Hodge thought as it started to rain again during day eight of Mountain Phase patrols. The blisters on her feet, the chaffing on her legs, and the prickly heat stung with the rain. She stuffed more pieces of MRE gum in her mouth, biting down hard to keep her mind off the pain.
“Your complaint has been duly noted and will be answered within 24 to 48 hours,” she mentally responded to the pain, imitating an answering machine. “Now back to counting steps, 1,344, 1,345…
“Our Mountain Phase experienced record-high rainfall, and I felt bad for my platoon mates who had chafed in some pretty uncomfortable places,” says Hodge. “My legs looked like road rash; the blood and pus was sticking to my uniform. Shivering at night was the norm; yes, it was cold, but even more because of the pain.”
But Hodge had one advantage some of her friends didn’t. She decided to go to Ranger School without feeling pressured; the pain described above was something she had chosen, all simply to become a better intelligence officer.
“I wanted to focus on tactical intelligence,” says Hodge. “It is impossible to know where the enemy will move, nor how to advise the commander if you don’t know Infantry tactics.” Military Intelligence is an Operations Support branch. If soldiers don’t understand what they are supporting, mission success is unlikely.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Infantry, and I learned so much about Infantry tactics at Ranger School,” says Hodge. “After graduating, that respect grew even more.”
Hodge wanted to attend Ranger School dating back to 2010 when she first joined ROTC. “I loved patrolling, working as part of a squad and the challenge of pushing myself to perform on minimal food and sleep. I remember cleaning weapons one day and someone joked that I should shave my head and go to Ranger School. I thought it was funny, and secretly I really wanted to go. But it wasn’t open to females at the time.”
That all changed in 2015 when, for the first time, a female graduated Ranger School.
1st Lt. Anna Hodge proudly displays her Ranger tab on graduation day.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joseph Legros)
The following year Hodge attended the Basic Officer Leadership Course for Military Intelligence. She listened to an instructor who recruited Military Intelligence, or MI, officers for the new 75th Regiment MI Battalion. “The hardest part of Ranger School is deciding to go,” the instructor said.
Hodge remembers thinking, “I’ve always been a religious person and when I heard the instructor, it was like God telling me, ‘you better start preparing because you’re going to go.'”
It wasn’t until she went to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, “The Rock,” part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, that she got her opportunity.
“Slowly I expressed a desire to attend Ranger School and my chain of command believed in me,” explains Hodge. “They encouraged me and other lieutenants to go; they did an excellent job creating a command climate where mistakes and failure are accepted as long as you try. Leaders can have a profound impact on a unit’s culture and I’m so grateful to serve in ‘The Rock.’ The unit is full of great leaders, past and present, serving as examples for the type of leader I strive to be.”
“There are a lot of things that get you through Ranger School, but two of the most important are ‘wanting to attend’ and ‘not quitting,'” says Hodge’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey. “1st Lt. Hodge wanted to go and earned her spot on the order of merit list. Once there, she didn’t quit. Now she is a Ranger qualified ‘Rock’ Paratrooper.”
Hodge trained for Ranger School by herself, facing the difficulty of balancing work and training. Many times she wished she could have trained more, but battalion priorities came first. She was motivated to work out twice a day, doing countless ruck marches. Sometimes she carried a sledge hammer, simulating the weight of machine gun.
“I really thought I would struggle with the physical aspect, so I trained hard prior to school,” Hodge explains. “But instead, it was the Infantry stuff that was difficult for me. Coming from a Military Intelligence background, I didn’t know the tactics very well, nor how the instructors wanted me to conduct patrols.”
At Ranger School, a student can repeat a phase for patrols, peer ratings or an observation report; this is referred to as “recycling.” If a candidate fails the same thing again, they will be dropped from the course. Her first time through, Hodge was dropped during patrols.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know why I worked so hard only to fail,” shares Hodge. “But ironically, I’m really glad I failed Ranger School my first time. Dealing with failure is one of the most important lessons you can learn.”
Being recycled is not uncommon. According to Ft. Benning, 61.2 percent of graduating Rangers were recycled at least once in 2017. This means less than 39 percent made it through without having to start any of the phases over again. No surprise here: Ranger School is tough.
“I definitely thought about heading home after I failed,” says Hodge. “To start again, it would have been colder, and mentally I was spent.” Despite those thoughts, she stayed.
“I wasn’t ready to give up just yet,” says Hodge.
1st Lt. Anna Hodge.
(Photo By Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)
“I was able to sign up for a Master Resiliency Trainer course in between Ranger classes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thank goodness for resiliency because my second Ranger Assessment Phase week was one of the hardest of my life. It was so cold and miserable that I wanted to quit every day, but I told myself to just quit tomorrow. Before long I made it through the week.”
“The same work ethic and ‘never quit’ attitude that got her through Ranger School is what makes 1st Lt. Hodge an asset to the unit,” adds Keirsey.
In Hodge’s case, it was also helpful to have other female Ranger graduates to follow. She became the fifteenth female throughout the Armed Services to graduate Ranger School and the first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier. However, this also proved to be challenging.
“I never wanted to be the first female graduate,” says Hodge. “I knew those who went first would deal with criticism and scrutiny. I am very grateful for the 71 females who attended Ranger School before me, the pioneers who overcame prejudice as they pursued their goals. They helped positively change opinions about female Rangers.”
Hodge shares, “I remember reading negative comments about other female graduates, wondering if I would be judged, too. Would they question whether I truly earned my Ranger tab?”
But the length of ruck marches has not changed, nor does the rain fall only on male candidates. Everyone carries their own weight.
“At Ranger School, everyone is held to the same standard,” asserts Hodge.
During one of the phases, she was assigned to carry the machine gun or the radio, the two heaviest items, on a regular basis. The frequent assignments to carry heavy equipment ultimately made her grateful.
“It showed me and others that I could carry the heaviest items and keep up,” says Hodge.
“I was an equal member of the squad, working together with my classmates to accomplish the mission. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I am especially grateful to the friends I made in my platoons, my unit and from Ranger Battalion. They taught me so much about the Army and the Infantry.”
“My husband was also very supportive the whole time. He even helped shave my hair and showed me how to do it myself,” shares Hodge.
When asked if she has any doubts of the results, Hodge responds, “After persevering through school, I know, without a doubt, I earned my Ranger tab. It took patience and determination. I put in the effort. I met the standards.”
She also offers the following advice to anyone thinking of attending Ranger School: “Appreciate the little things. You better learn to love patrols. Volunteer for the small, simple tasks that no one wants to do and make them your hobby, like emplacing claymores and camouflaging them. I loved that.”
She adds, “Don’t let little things get to you. Try to see the good. Yes, there were annoying bugs like mosquitos and spiders, but there were also fireflies which were super cool. Yes, it rained, and everyone’s skin was chafed. But the rain also cooled us down.”
The first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier concludes, “Whatever your goal, take it one step at a time and continue in patience.”
When military members and their families begin contemplating retirement locations after active service, LA doesn’t typically come up as a possibility. But the veteran led leadership of the city is aiming to change that.
Retired Navy Captain Larry Vasquez was originally from New York before becoming a pilot for the Navy. After spending half of his 30 years in service stationed in California, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
Inspired by the movie Top Gun, Vasquez knew he wanted to be a pilot in the Navy from an early age. He received his commission in 1988 and retired in 2018. “I was the first in my family to graduate from college and next thing you know, I am in Navy flight school. It was hard and a tough couple of years but I was able to qualify to be helicopter pilot,” Vasquez said. He also shared his vivid memories of responding after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 and the impact it had on his life and service going forward.
Vasquez currently serves as the Director of Military and Veteran Affairs within the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. What sets this office apart is that Mayor Eric Garcetti was an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. His deputy Mayor is still serving in the Navy Reserves. “This opportunity presented itself but I don’t know if I would be here if my mayor was not a veteran,” Vasquez explained. He was brought onto the team in 2018. “It demonstrates to me that he is committed to veterans…for me this is really about understanding the veteran space and I didn’t know before I got here that we have the largest concentration of veterans in the country.”
In 2013 the mayor created the Office of Veteran Affairs, the first for the city since World War II. The goal of the office is to work collaboratively with other government agencies and organizations in order to strongly advocate for veterans and their needs. “I don’t think I have it all right and I don’t think anyone ever will,” Vasquez shared. But with leadership commitment and an established council of military veterans advising the mayor and his administration, they are on their way to bridging the divide and creating meaningful solutions for veteran related issues.
Since the Mayor has taken office, his administration has been able to house 11,000 homeless veterans. This is done through a range of partnerships and programs aimed to support the veterans in wrap-around care they desperately need for success. By working directly with the VA they were able to coordinate a 14,000 bed housing facility for veterans.
The city and its administration is also committed to tackling issues like employment, where they are working with the Call of Duty Foundation to build on the mayor’s promise to connect 10,000 veterans with employment. They met that goal in 2017 and will aim for 22,000 by the end of the mayor’s term in 2022. With the Super Bowl and Olympics coming to LA, the administration is admanent that veterans benefit from it. “We want to make sure that veterans have a voice, especially veteran-owned small businesses,” Vasquez explained.
For those who are skeptical about California having high ratings from being veteran friendly, they’d be surprised. Irvine was number two in WalletHub’s list of big cities, which is a neighboring city to Los Angeles. High ratings in health care, employment and quality of life were among the reasons for the rating.
When asked what the biggest lesson learned from the military was, Vasquez was quick to answer. “Never quit,” he stated. “One thing the military taught me and the mindset to have is that it is a can’t fail mission…You have to be able to pivot, flex and go to other options.” He went on to explain that a misconception of veterans is that they are rigid, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Vasquez highlighted the fact that veterans are lifelong learners and will always give you 100 percent, all they need is to be valued and have a shared mission.
For veterans looking to settle down and transition out of military service, Los Angeles wants you. The mayor and his administration want your talent, values and commitment to excellence as a citizen and resident of their city. In return, Vasquez and the others on the team remain dedicated to ensuring that the heroes that are ready to come home, have everything they need to do it well.
Tension and confusion gripped a train platform in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok on April 23, 2019, when North Korean Kim Jong Un’s bullet-proof armored train pulled in for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Both Putin and Kim are known for making grand entrances and power moves like showing up late to meetings with world leaders. But Kim on April 23, 2019, appeared delayed due to a gaffe.
Kim arrived via train, as is his family’s custom and perhaps a clever way to avoid admitting his country has few working aircraft — but something was amiss.
When Kim’s train pulled into the station, it slightly overshot a red carpet laid out in advance for his big stepping-out moment.
While Kim maintains a horrific human rights record at home, he has been increasingly courted by world leaders looking to curb his country’s growing nuclear capabilities.
Apparently, Kim’s security detail found it unacceptable that he should walk on anything besides the red carpet, and had to stand there awkwardly holding a ramp while the train repositioned.
The meeting between Putin and Kim represents just the fourth official summit with a world leader for Kim. Putin, however, has met with most national leaders across Asia.
Russia and North Korea have historical ties of friendship, though the relations became strained during North Korea’s long nuclear breakout.
Upon arrival, Kim appeared to shake off any embarrassment from the train gaffe and quickly spoke to Russian media, a rare step from a leader who previously only spoke through North Korean state outlets.
Kim’s visit to Russia comes at a time when US-North Korean talks have stalled over a basic misunderstanding over the pacing of denuclearization steps and sanctions easing.
North Korea recently publicized the testing of a “tactical” weapon, potentially as a warning to the US that if talks collapse, missile launches and “fire and fury” could again become the norm.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.
According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.
The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.
The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.
Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.
The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.