US warships ignore China, sail through Taiwan Strait - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US warships ignore China, sail through Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 25, 2019, sending a message to Beijing, which has warned the US to “tread lightly” in the closely watched waterway.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and the supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez navigated a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 25, 2019, the US Pacific Fleet told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the Pacific Fleet said.


The two US Navy vessels that passed through the Taiwan Strait were apparently shadowed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships.

The passage is the fourth since October 2018 and the fifth since the US Navy restarted the practice of sending surface combatants through the strait July 2018.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince)

The Taiwan Strait is a roughly 80-mile international waterway that separates the democratic island from the communist mainland, and China regularly bristles when US Navy vessels sail through. When a US destroyer and a fleet oiler transited the strait in January 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage “provocative behavior,” accusing the US of “threatening the safety” of those nearby.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled territory, to be a renegade province, and it firmly opposes US military support for the island, be that arms sales, protection assurances, or even just the US military operating in the area. China fears that US actions will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan that want to declare it a sovereign state separate from China.

China has repeatedly urged the US to keep its distance from Taiwan, but the US Navy has continued its “routine” trips through the strait. “We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in January 2019.

The rhetoric used by the Navy to characterize the Taiwan Strait transits is almost identical to that used to describe US freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.

The Navy has already conducted two FONOPs this year, angering Beijing both times.

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

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This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

The KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the oldest aircraft still flying in the US Air Force today, will likely get a life extension thanks to budget and replacement issues according to Gen. Carlton Everhart of Air Mobility Command, adding over 40 more years to its service record which began in the mid-1950s.


By the time this legendary aerial refueler enters retirement and is phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history.  Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the Air Force.

The KC-135 was, at first, supposed to be replaced entirely by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. But thanks to budget cuts and slashes to the projected buy for the KC-46, the Air Force will be left with a shortage of tankers to carry out aerial refueling operations both at home and overseas, severely impacting the service’s ability to extend the range of the vast majority of its aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will be looking to upgrade its KC-135s into a “Super Stratotanker” of sorts, keeping it flying for 40 more years until the branch initiates the KC-Z replacement program to supersede the Stratotanker for good.

Crew members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years — and could be on the flightline for another 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

The KC-46, the result of the controversial KC-X program, was destined to be a larger longer-range follow-on to the KC-135, featuring two engines instead of four, and greater fuel carriage capacity, allowing for more aircraft to be refueling during a typical mission than what the Stratotanker could handle. However, the program has been constantly plagued with a variety of issues including cost overruns and delays, which ultimately led to the Air Force scaling down the number of Pegasus tankers it originally planned on buying to just 179.

This pushes retiring the KC-135 out of the question, as the Air Force (and Air National Guard) require a greater number of tankers to continue carrying out their mission at home and around the world.

While the USAF will continue with its plans to field the Pegasus, the Stratotanker fleet’s life-extension seems inevitable. At the moment, the Air Force has already begun the $910 million Block 45 extension program, which seeks to keep these 60-year-old aircraft relevant and able to meet the needs of the modern Air Force. As part of the Block 45 updates, all American KC-135s will receive a new glass cockpit, replacing the older analog/gauge cockpits still in use, new avionics and an upgraded autopilot system, an enhanced navigation suite, and much more.

A KC-135 Stratotanker taxis down the flightline during an exercise March 2, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The KC-135 enhances the Air Force’s capability to accomplish its primary mission of global reach. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

To keep the KC-135 flying for 40 more years, an advanced networking and electronic countermeasures suite would likely be the next upgrade the Air Force will pursue with the aircraft, during or after the completion of Block 45, which will end in 2028. Currently, the USAF estimates that their KC-135s have only used up around 35 percent of their lifetime flying hours, meaning that the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying on until 2040 with regular maintenance and scheduled overhauls.

As of 2014, there are 414 KC-135s in service with the US military — 167 assigned to the active duty Air Force, 180 to the Air National Guard, and 67 in the Air Force Reserve. Once the Air Force finishes procuring its 179 KC-46s, the number of Stratotankers in service will likely drop by 100 airframes, which will be retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona.

It’s also probable that the KC-135’s current [younger] sister tanker, the three-engined KC-10 Extender, will receive a similar upgrade to keep its smaller fleet flying longer. Eventually, both of these aircraft will see their flying days come to an end with the initiation of the KC-Y and KC-Z next generation tanker programs, still decades away from coming to fruition.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

American troops tried out this DroneKiller rifle in the field

As the fight continues with radical Islamic terrorist groups, like ISIS, enemies have begun to use drones against the coalition. These drones aren’t like the MQ-1 Predator (now retired) or the MQ-9 Reaper as used by the U.S. military. Instead, they’re commercially available quadcopter drones, like the ones you’d find on Amazon.


The IXI DroneKiller comes in at seven and a half pounds and blocks five frequency bands.

(IXI Tech photo)

In the hands of the enemy, these small consumer-market devices are proving lethal, either directly or indirectly. So, coalition forces want to shoot them down. Unfortunately, there’s a problem — even a basic quadcopter drone can fly reasonably high (high enough to collide with aircraft). Plus, these things are small — which makes them both elusive and cheap.

So, to shoot them down, you’d be dispensing a lot of ammo for very little in terms of results. Plus, pumping bullets into the air quickly reminds us of the old saying, “what goes up must come down.” In fact, civilian casualties from anti-aircraft fire are not uncommon. A number of the civilian casualties during Pearl Harbor came from American anti-aircraft fire.

A next-generation version of the DroneKiller, shown here at SeaAirSpace 2018, can fit under a M4 carbine.

(Harold Hutchison)

So, instead of shooting at a blip in the sky, the armed forces have made a push for a way to take out the ISIS drones without putting civilians at risk. One company, IXI Tech, came up with something they call, aptly, the DroneKiller. This system looks a lot like a Star Wars Stormtrooper’s blaster, but in a more tactically appropriate color. This system can block five frequency bands and disable a hostile drone (sending it crashing to the earth). The system was tested last month at ANTX 2018.


The DroneKiller weighs about seven and a half pounds, a little less than a SKS rifle. It has an effective range of 800 meters (roughly a half-mile) and can operate for four hours in active mode. It can be easily updated thanks to a USB port.

But what’s really interesting is a version of the DroneKiller that can be mounted on a M16 rifle, just like the M203 and M320 grenade launchers. Soon, every fire team could have a drone killer to go with a grenadier and SAW gunner!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopter is bigger and badder than ever

The U.S. Marine Corps air and ground attack operations will be fortified by a new high-tech, heavy-lift helicopter designed to triple the payload of previous models, maneuver faster and perform a wider range of missions by the early 2020s, a Pentagon announcement said.


The Navy and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky will now build the first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopters as part of a new $300 million Low-Rate-Initial-Production deal.

CH-53 helicopters, currently operating from Navy amphibious assault ships, are central to maritime and land assault, re-supply, cargo and other kinds of heavy-lift missions.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy

The new “K” model CH-53 helicopter is engineered to lift 27,000 pounds, travel 110 nautical miles, before staying 30 minutes on station and then be able to return under high hot conditions. The existing “E” model CH-53 can only carry 9,000 pounds.

“This contract will benefit our Marine Corps’ ‘heavy lifters’ for decades to come. Future Marines, not even born yet, will be flying this helicopter well into the future,” U.S. Marine Corps. Col. Hank Vanderborght, Naval Air Systems Command program manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters program said in service statement.

The idea with the helicopter is to engineer a new aircraft with much greater performance compared to the existing CH-53 E or “Echo” model aircraft designed in the 80s.

Higher temperatures and higher altitudes create a circumstance wherein the decreased air-pressure makes it more difficult for helicopters to fly and carry payloads. “High-Hot” conditions are described as being able to operate at more than 6,000 ft at temperatures greater than 90-degrees Fahrenheit.

An on-board refueling system is engineered into the helicopter to extend mission range in high-risk areas too dangerous for a C-130 to operate, developers said.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Martinez, left, a corpsman, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Quintanilla, a platoon sergeant, both with 3rd Marine Regiment, brace as a CH-53E Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 takes off after inserting the company into a landing zone aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt.Owen Kimbrel

The requirement for the “K” model CH-53 emerged out of a Marine Corps study which looked at the combat aviation elements of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, or MAGTF.

Engineers with the “K” program are using a handful of new technologies to achieve greater lift, speed and performance with the helicopter, including the integration of a new, more powerful GE 38 turboshaft engine for the aircraft.

“Fuel consumption of the engine is 25-percent improved. On a pure technology level it is about a 25-percent improvement in fuel efficiency,” Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky’s CH-53K program vice president, told Scout Warrior in a previous interview.

The helicopter is also being built with lighter-weight composite materials for the airframe and the rotorblades, materials able to equal or exceed the performance of traditional metals at a much lighter weight, said Torok.

“Technology allowed us to design a largely all-composite skinned airframe. There are some primary frames titanium and aluminum. Beam structure and all the skins are all composite. Fourth generation rotorblades are a combination of new airfoils, taper and a modification of the tip deflection of the blade. It is an integrated cuff and the tip geometries are modified to get additional performance,” Torok added.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary M. Ford

The helicopter will also be configured with Directional Infrared Countermeasures, or DIRCM, a high-tech laser-jammer designed to throw incoming missiles off course. DIRCM uses sensor technology to identify and thwart fast-approaching enemy fire such as shoulder-fired weapons.

The CH-53 K uses a split-torque transmission design that transfers high-power, high-speed engine output to lower-speed, high-torque rotor drive in a weight efficient manner.

“With the split torque you take the high-speed inputs from the engine and you divide it up into multiple pieces with multiple gear sets that run in parallel,” Torok said.

The K model will be a “fly by wire” capable helicopter and also use the latest in what’s called conditioned-based maintenance, a method wherein diagnostic sensors are put in place to monitor systems on the aircraft in order to better predict and avert points of mechanical failure.

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This Japanese pilot led the attack on Pearl Harbor then moved to the US

Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.


Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.

It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.

He later wrote:

“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”

See Also: The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.

He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.

When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.

A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer  a few years later.

He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.

Mitsuo Fuchita with Jacob DeShazer and family after WWII ended.

After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.

Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the challenges of being a military family

November is Military Family Appreciation Month.  Of course, our nation owes military families a debt of gratitude: Their sacrifices and stressors should not go unnoticed. We do try to honor them, with thanks and praise, but during this month set aside to appreciate military families, we should consider practical ways we can do more to address the challenges they face. Fortunately, such efforts are underway.


In August, the White House hosted a listening session of military spouses, and the common themes were disruptions in career development and employment.

Ninety-two percent of military spouses are female, but the unemployment rate for military spouses (16 percent) is four times higher than the rate for all adult women in the U.S. (4 percent). About half of military spouses who are now working part-time report that they are underemployed; they would prefer full-time work.

Also Read: 10 career fields for military spouses that aren’t direct sales

Both the private sector and the public sector are making efforts to address the needs of military families.

Welcoming her hero home. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Stephen Stewart/USMC)

First, because military life often requires moving from state to state, varying occupational licensing and a continuing education programs can keep military spouses from working, or slow them down and impose additional costs after a move. Unbelievably, today in the U.S., nearly one in three workers need a license to work. Scaling back these requirements, or offering state-to-state reciprocity, is one way governments can help.  A trio of bills (the Restoring Board Immunity Act, the New HOPE Act, and the ALLOW Act) are currently under Congressional consideration. Each would encourage states to dial back oppressive licensing laws.

Second, private companies can work to foster more workplace flexibility. In industries where this is possible, employers should allow flexible hours, telecommuting and work-from-home options. These flexible workplace practices are helpful to any spouse (or single parent) who has to juggle the lion’s share of childcare duties. This particularly applies to military spouses.

The government can help to foster more workplace flexibility as well, simply by staying out of employment contracts and reducing regulations promulgated under the Fair Labor Standards Act that actually restrict employer’s ability to offer flexible arrangements. In May, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow workers to elect to take comp time instead of overtime pay. This would be one good step toward greater flexibility. The bill is now with the Senate.

Spouse career fair.

Finally, thirdly, many military spouses have found that the best way to become and stay employed is simply to work for oneself. Many run Etsy shops or otherwise operate their own small businesses. Pursuing a pro-growth economic policy, including tax reforms that make it easier to comply with the tax code and reducing the tax burden that small businesses face, would greatly help these military families. Congress is hard at work trying to pass such tax reforms now.

To their credit, there are already many entities – both public and private – who are working hard to provide opportunities for military spouses. The Small Business Administration has partnered with the Department of Defense to focus on economic opportunity for military spouses. The National Military Family Association and Military Spouse Employment Partnership also work toward this end, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce heads a project called Hiring Our Heroes, which is dedicated not just to helping veterans, but also military spouses, find jobs.

Also Read: Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of

More good news: New technologies—and the growth of tech-related industries—are making more flexible, work-from-home positions available, and some companies, like Amazonare committed to hiring military spouses in these jobs. These efforts are welcome and help combat the bias that some other employers may exhibit toward military spouses, whom they may see as a “flight risk” due to the frequent moving associated with military life.

Our economy is changing rapidly. Thanks to cultural and technological changes, the workplace can be more flexible than ever. By reducing barriers like occupational licenses and outdated labor and tax laws, we can do more to provide better economic opportunities for military families. Our debt to them can never be repaid – but fostering better employment options would be a good start.

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A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft see first action in Afghanistan

An A-29 Super Tucano taxis across the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan. The light air-support aircraft will be added to the Afghan air force in the spring of 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Nathan Lipscomb


A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft manned by Afghan pilots trained in the U.S. have conducted the first close air support missions by fixed-wing aircraft ever flown for the fledgling Afghan Air Force, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said Thursday.

“They are beginning to take their first strikes,” guided to targets by Afghan forward air controllers on the ground, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said in a video briefing from Kabul to the Pentagon.

Cleveland did not say where or when the first A-29 strikes took place or describe the effectiveness of the missions, but U.S. and Afghan officials previously had said that combat missions by the turboprop aircraft were expected to begin in April.

Four of the A-29s arrived in Afghanistan in January and another four have since flown in to a military airfield near Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul, according to Cleveland, the new deputy chief of staff for communications for the U.S. and NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

A U.S.-funded $427 million contract calls for a total of 20 A-29s to be delivered to Afghanistan by 2018.

Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed training late last year on the A-29s with U.S. pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The A-29s, which were designed for close air support, carry a 20mm cannon below the fuselage, one 12.7mm machine gun under each wing and can also fire 70mm rockets and launch precision-guided bombs.

The A-29s began arriving in Afghanistan nearly five years after the Brazilian firm Embraer, and its U.S. partner Sierra Nevada Corp., won a Light Air Support competition with the A-29 against the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II, leading to contract disputes and delays in the program.

Last month, the A-29s working with Afghan tactical air controllers conducted live-fire training exercises outside Kabul. At a following ceremony called the “Rebirth of the Afghan Air Force,” Maj. Gen. Wahab Wardak, commander of the Afghan Air Force, said he expected the A-29s to begin conducting airstrikes in April.

Although Cleveland did not say where the first A-29 strikes were carried out, Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai said last month that the aircraft would likely be used first in southwestern Helmand province, where the Afghan National Security Forces have been struggling to contain the Taliban in the region that is the center of Afghanistan’s opium trade.

“Helmand is not a rosy picture now,” said Cleveland.

Even so, he contradicted news reports that the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, former headquarters of British forces in the region, was about to fall. In February, 500 troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division were sent to Helmand as force protection for U.S. Special Operations troops advising and assisting the Afghans.

Cleveland said that the Afghan forces, backed by nearly daily U.S. airstrikes, were making progress against newly-emergent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, allied Afghan insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province.

“We do think that they are being contained more than they probably were last fall,” he said, but “we do think that they still pose a real threat. And based on their past performance, they’ve got the ability to catch fire very quickly. So we do want to continue to have constant pressure on them.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Soviet Union also made an airborne armored personnel carrier

The Russian BMD series of airborne infantry fighting vehicles are really quite impressive. Both the BMD-1 and BMD-2 provided Soviet airborne troops with some serious firepower — more than enough to make life miserable for opposing forces in the rear areas that airborne troops can reach. But the Soviets developed another armored vehicle to fight alongside the BMD series — one that complements the BMD’s lethality with payload.

The BTR-D is an airborne armored personnel carrier. It has a crew of three and is capable of holding up to ten troops. But it isn’t just a troop transport, the BTR-D also packs some heat in terms of armament. Its heaviest main weapon option is a 30mm automatic grenade launcher, better known as the AGS-17.


So, seeing as the Soviets had already developed the impressive BMD series, why would they need an armored personnel carrier as well? The answer is volume. The BMD-1 is only capable of carrying five troops and, according to some sources, the BMD-2 only hauls four. The 10-troop capacity of the BTR-D is a huge benefit. In rear areas with few opposing tanks or infantry fighting vehicles, ten paratroopers backed by an armored vehicle with a 30mm automatic grenade launcher and two bow-mounted 7.62x54mm PKM machine guns can bring some serious hurt to a support unit.

The BTR-D had an anti-aircraft variant that packed a ZU-23 twin-barrel 23mm anti-aircraft gun.

(Photo by Serge Serebro, Vitebsk Popular News)

By now, if you’re familiar with the impressive firepower of the BMD-2, you might be asking yourself, “why not just carve out some space for carrying more troops?” The simple truth is that nothing’s free. If you want to maintain airborne capabilities, you need to consider a vehicle’s weight and size (planes, even a C-5 Galaxy, have only so much volume). The design of the BTR-D prioritized troop capacity over armament, meaning there simply wasn’t room for the type of firepower found on the BMD series.

The BTR-D was the basis for the 2S9 self-propelled mortar.

(DOD)

There were several variants of the BTR-D created to meet the needs of a variety of missions. One of those variants is equipped with anti-aircraft guns — a nasty surprise for pilots over what they thought was friendly territory.

Learn more about this Soviet airborne APC in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBtXkzsADFM

www.youtube.com

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ICE detained this Afghan man who helped the US military

Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.


Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status. 

“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him. 

Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.

Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.

Customs at Ramstein Air Base. (Photo: Jeremy Bender/ Business Insider)

“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.

Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies. 

The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.

Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case. 

Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.

Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.

In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1. 

“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”

Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles. 

Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.

In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.


According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.

In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.

In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.

The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.

In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.

Wilmot had been injured during a 2009 deployment to Mosul, Iraq, when the Humvee he was riding in came under small-arms fire and crashed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured portions of his back and pelvis and nearly lost his left arm. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss.

The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.

Then came the dismissal.

“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.

The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”

Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”

According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.

They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.

The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.

The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

10 greatest Army-Navy spirit videos

Every year, Army cadets and Navy midshipmen spend hours or weeks making spirit videos to taunt the opponent during the week before the annual Army-Navy game.

Once the game is over, most of us never think about them again. This year, we decided to go back and resurface some of the finest spirit videos from the last decade. No matter which side you’re on, these videos feature some sick burns.


Lead From The Front: An Army/Navy Short Film 2017 [4K]

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1. Army: Lead From the Front (2017)

This is more like a short film than a spirit video. It’s a heist movie with Bill the Goat substituted for a vault full of money.

STAR WARS at Navy

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2. Navy: Star Wars (2015)

Rescue fantasies seem to be a recurring theme in Navy videos. This time, midshipmen are sent on a mission to rescue Princess Leia from the West Point Death Star.

Alexis: Army Navy Spirit Video 2018

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3. Army: Alexis (2018)

How do you get a squid to run? Computer hacking seems to be the key.

Mission Bond (Army-Navy Spirit Spot 2017)

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4. Navy: Mission Bond (2017)

Who knew there was a Midshipman James Bond? Bond rescues Navy Pride with the aid of the USNA Parachute Team.

Army Navy 2017 Spirit Video: Sing Second

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5. Army: Sing Second (2017)

Who says a spirit video has to be funny? West Point cadets show their spirit with an inspiring musical performance.

We Give a Ship

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6. Navy: We Give a Ship (2014)

Stuck for an idea? You can always fall back on your favorite joke from second grade: Ship sounds like another word that’ll get you sent to the principal, so use it freely!

Operation Calamari – Army Navy Spirit Video 2017 | ThomasVlogs

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7. Army: Operation Calamari (2017)

West Point cadets break in at Annapolis and then demonstrate how easy it can be to pass as a sailor.

Army Navy Spirit Spot 2012 – Game for the Real Players

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8. Navy: Game for the Real Players (2012)

Back when Navy was overwhelming Army every year, rapper Baasik’s spirit video taunted cadets over their losing streak.

Child’s Play – Army/Navy Spirit Video 2016

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9. Army: Child’s Play (2016)

Kids play soldier, not sailors. It’s that simple.

USNA Look At Me Now Army Navy Spirit Video

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10. Navy: Look at Me Now (2013)

The rhymes are savage. Does the fact that this middie needs closed captioning detract from his game?

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

Articles

5 meaningful ways to thank veterans (and their families) on Veteran’s Day

As the wife of an active-duty Navy pilot preparing for his third combat deployment, I have heard my husband thanked for his service many times, but at this point in the nation’s history that expression of gratitude has been overused. These days automatically telling a veteran “thank you for your service” can come off as obligatory, or worse, insincere. (Think “have a nice day.”)


Here are five more meaningful ways to thank those who have served the nation this Veterans Day:

1. HONOR THE FALLEN BY HELPING THOSE LEFT BEHIND

(DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp)

Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. Memorial Day, celebrated in May, honors those who have died serving their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans—living or dead—but is generally intended to honor living Americans who have served in the military. However, one of the best ways to thank a living veteran is to do something for the friends he or she has lost. The Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors is instrumental in providing aid and support to families in the aftermath of a military member’s death. They connect families with grief counselors, financial resources, seminars and retreats, peer mentors, and a community of other survivors. Nicole Van Dorn, whose husband J. Wesley Van Dorn died after a Navy helicopter crash last year, says the program was invaluable in helping her and her two young boys through a horrific time. “One woman called me twice a week just to let me know she was thinking about me. The fact that she continued to reach out even when I didn’t respond made me feel a little less alone.” TAPS paid for her oldest son to attend a camp where he could meet other children who had lost parents. “Sometimes people don’t know what to do,” she says. “But one way to help is to go through organizations like this one.”

2. HELP A VETERAN MAKE A SMOOTH TRANSITION

(Photo: TheMissionContinues.org)

When soldiers are injured or disabled in service, they are thrust out of the lives they have known in an instant; most cannot return to the units they left behind. Sometimes the psychological consequences are harder to deal with than the physical ones. The Mission Continues, founded by former Navy Seal Eric Greitens, helps all veterans—not just the wounded—adjust to life at home by finding new missions of service. The organization harnesses veterans’ skills to connect them with volunteer opportunities in their communities.

3. DO SOMETHING FOR MILITARY FAMILIES IN YOUR COMMUNITY

When a soldier is deployed, sometimes for up to a year, daily life for spouses can be challenging. If you know the spouse of a veteran, through your community, church or social group, don’t ask how you can help. Instead, be proactive. When my husband was deployed, a neighbor took my garbage can to the street every week before I had the chance to do it. Offer to come by once a month to mow the lawn or fix what’s broken. Offer babysitting so a mother can run errands or go to a movie. Perform a random act of kindness, however small, for military families. “A woman used to send cards to my house that said, ‘I’m thinking of you,’ or ‘I’m proud of you,’ says Van Dorn of the months after her husband’s death. “She signed them ‘Secret Sister’ so I didn’t have to worry about thanking her.”

4. DONATE YOUR TIME, TALENT OR TREASURE

(Photo: DogsOnDeployment.org)

If you don’t know anyone in the military personally, there are still ways you can help. Send a book to a deployed soldier through Operation Paperback. Make a quilt for a wounded servicemember through Quilts of Valor. Take photographs of a soldier’s homecoming through Operation: Love Reunited. If you are a counselor, donate your services through Give an Hour. Bring snacks to your local airport’s USO. Take in a servicemember’s pet while he is deployed through Dogs on Deployment. Donate your frequent flier miles to soldiers on emergency leave through Fisher House’s Hero Miles program. Or knit a baby blanket for new military mothers through the Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society.

5. REMEMBER ALL VETERANS…

(Photo: Honor Flight Network)

… Not just the newest ones. Andrew Lumish, a carpet cleaner from Florida, made the news recently when it was reported that he spends every Sunday cleaning veterans’ gravestones. This Veterans Day, bring flowers to a cemetery. Help a senior veteran visit his memorial in Washington DC by donating to the Honor Flight Network. Or volunteer at a shelter that helps homeless veterans, nearly half of whom served during Vietnam.

Victoria Kelly’s poetry collection, “When the Men Go Off to War,” was published this September by the Naval Institute Press, their first publication of original poetry. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Trinity College Dublin, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel, “Mrs. Houdini,” will be published in March by Simon Schuster/Atria Books. She is the spouse of a Navy fighter pilot and the mother of two young daughters.

See more about Victoria Kelly here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump hints at breaking with generals on Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump appears increasingly willing to defy some of his top generals, as his administration grapples with how best to deal with Iran.


Trump is facing a May 2018 deadline to recertify the Iran nuclear deal and signaled again March 20, 2018, that he is not afraid to pull the U.S. out of the agreement unless other signatories are willing to make major changes.

“A lot of bad things are happening in Iran,” the president said during a visit to the White House by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Also read: How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

“The deal is coming up in one month, and you will see what happens,” he added.

Trump has long been critical of the 2015 Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which aimed to contain Tehran’s nuclear program and block the country’s pathway to building nuclear warheads.

In January 2018, Trump said he was waiving nuclear sanctions against Iran for the “last time,” demanding U.S. lawmakers and Washington’s European allies “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws.”

President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

But since then, top U.S. military officials have pushed back, repeatedly describing the deal as mostly beneficial, even as they continue to voice deep concerns about Tehran’s aggressive behavior across the Middle East.

“As I sit here today, Iran is in compliance with JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action],” the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General John Hyten, told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 20, 2018.

“From a command that’s about nuclear [threats], that’s an important piece to me,” he said. “It allows me to understand the nuclear environment better.”

Related: Why Russia, Syria, and Iran are no match for just 2,000 US troops

Hyten’s comments follow those made to the Senate Armed Services Committee by the commander of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. operations in the Middle East.

“The JCPOA addresses one of the principal threats that we deal with from Iran so, if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said CENTCOM’s General Joseph Votel.

“Right now, I think it is in our interest,” Votel added. “There would be some concern [in the region], I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA.”

General Joseph Votel.

Both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, have argued that staying in the deal is in the best interest of the U.S.

But despite having expressed confidence in his military advisers and officials early in his presidency, Trump has slowly been pushing aside those who have argued in favor of keeping the deal, most recently firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thinks it was OK,” Trump told reporters after announcing Tillerson’s removal. “I wanted to break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently.”

‘Destabilizing influence’

The man tapped to replace Tillerson, current U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, has gained a reputation for favoring a much tougher approach to Iran.

“The deal put us in a marginally better place, with respect to inspection, but the Iranians have on multiple occasions been capable of presenting a continued threat,” Pompeo said during an appearance in Washington in October 2017.

Mike Pompeo (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“The notion that the entry into the JCPOA would curtail Iranian adventurism or their terror threat or their malignant behavior has now, what, two years on, proven to be fundamentally false,” he added.

Those concerns, both from the U.S. intelligence community and from defense officials, have only grown.

Top defense officials have criticized Iran for what they described as malign and destabilizing activities in places such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and even Afghanistan.

More: That time the US and Iran teamed up to fight the Taliban

“They [Iran] are not changing their behavior,” Mattis warned during a visit to the region. “They’re continuing to be a destabilizing influence.”

Other defense officials said such concerns cannot be discounted when contemplating U.S. policy toward Iran.

“We are taking a comprehensive look,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told reporters March 15, 2018.

“We remain in the agreement, but we want our partners to understand that Iran is the source of chaos and confusion in the region,” she said. “Everywhere you look, Iran is there.”