Military vehicles in an underground facility at US Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, September 9, 2015. US Defense Department/Glenn Fawcett
A major Marine Corps force redesign is bringing big changes that could soon filter down to a secretive cave complex in Norway that the Corps has used since the Cold War.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last year that the Corps needed to get rid of “big, heavy things” and build a more mobile force for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas — namely the Asia-Pacific.
The Corps plans to cut its overall force 7% by 2030, shedding infantry battalions, eliminating helicopter squadrons, and getting rid of all of its tanks.
Marines in California have already said goodbye to their tanks, and more could leave soon, including those in a cave complex in Norway’s Trondheim region, where the Corps has stored weapons and other equipment for decades.
Entrances to the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway with equipment outside to be taken to Estonia for a military exercise, June 30, 1997. US Defense Department
The Corps’ Force Design 2030 “is a worldwide program aimed to make our force posture around the globe even more strategic and effective. As such, it calls for a divestment of certain capabilities and increases in others,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps forces in Europe and Africa, said in an email.
The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway “will continue to support US Marine Corps forces for bilateral and multi-lateral exercises” in European and Africa, Rankine-Galloway said.
“We expect that Marine Corps prepositioned equipment will be updated to meet our service’s needs, with excess equipment to be removed and newer equipment to be added to the prepositioned facilities,” Rankine-Galloway added.
Rankine-Galloway didn’t say what equipment that might be, but in the Force Design 2030, Berger said the Corps is “over-invested in” weapons like “heavily armored ground combat systems (tanks) [and] towed cannon artillery” and had “shortfalls” in rocket artillery, air-defense systems, and long-range unmanned aircraft.
Marine Corps leaders say savings from those cuts will pay for high-tech gear needed to counter China, Russia, and others.
M1A1 Abrams tanks and other equipment during a modernization of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, August 13, 2014. US Marine Corps/Master Sgt. Chad McMeen
A changing strategic game
The Marines’ underground storage in Norway’s Trondheim region dates to 1982, when the US and Norway agreed to preposition supplies and equipment in six climate-controlled caves there, allowing the Corps to store equipment closer than the US East Coast and “minimize the time necessary to form for combat.”
Much of the equipment there was withdrawn for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decade later, the Corps expanded its stocks, reportedly allowing tanks and other heavy vehicles to be stored there for the first time.
Changes to what the Marines store in Norway would come as the Corps alters its troop presence in the country.
US Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle stored at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, February 10, 2020. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Atiyeh
Hundreds of Marines have been stationed in Norway on six-month rotations since 2017, but Norway’s military said earlier this month that the US would reduce that force.
Rankine-Galloway told several outlets the Corps wasn’t drawing down but rather adopting shorter, “episodic” deployments aligned with exercises — sometimes bringing more troops to the country than are there now — that allow it to balance Arctic warfare training with larger-scale training “as a naval expeditionary force.”
“We expect US Marine Corps forces deployed to the Nordic region to train and be prepared to fight in accordance with the Commandant’s vision for the force and that this transformation will make both US Marine Corps, allied, and partner forces more lethal and capable together,” Rankine-Galloway told Insider.
The Marines’ year-round presence in Norway angered Russia, whose border with Norway is near sensitive sites on the Kola Peninsula belonging to the powerful Northern Fleet, which oversees Russia’s nuclear ballistic-missile subs.
Russian missiles have changed “the strategic game” in the region, according to Thomas Nilsen, editor of Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer.
“Living on the Norwegian side of the border, we don’t see a scenario of a Russian military invasion trying to capture” northern Norway, Nilsen said at an Atlantic Council event in February.
Weapons like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile could be launched from Russian fighter jets and within minutes strike airbases in those Scandinavian countries, Nilsen said.
Aircraft at those bases, like Norway’s F-35s, are “what Russia is afraid of,” Nilsen added. “Those capabilities on the Scandinavian side that might … disturb their deploying of the ballistic-missile submarines.”
The U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program has three soldier-athletes headed to the Track and Field World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, September 2019.
“It is always amazing and satisfying for coaches and staff to witness soldier-athletes’ hard work and perseverance pay off within the WCAP program,” said Col. Sean Ryan, WCAP track and field coach.
WCAP, part of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation G9 division of U.S. Army Installation Management Command, allows top-ranked soldier-athletes to perform at the international level while also serving their nation in the military.
At the 2019 Track and Field Outdoor Championships, in Des Moines, Iowa, two soldier-athletes earned their spot for the World Championships. Staff Sgt. Hillary Bor won gold in the men’s 5,000-meter steeplechase, and Sgt. Leonard Korir won the bronze medal in the men’s 10,000-meter.
Staff Sgt. Hillary bor, center, after receiving his gold medal for the men’s 5,000-meter steeplechase at the 2019 Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
“It was a really hard race, to be honest. It was really hot, and I kept telling myself to push it,” said Bor.
The hot race was a small homecoming for Bor who attended college at Iowa State University before joining the Army.
“When you are a crowd favorite coming in, it is a lot of pressure. In my mind I knew the fans wanted me to win, that gives you more adrenaline,” said Bor. “I have run on this track a thousand times so it feels good to win in Des Moines.”
Sgt. Leonard Korir, far right, running during the in the men’s 10,000-meter race at the Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
Bor secured gold after coming in second place the past two years. He attributes the Army for the reason he continues to run.
“To win and represent the U.S. Army is everything to me,” said Bor.”It is an honor to run for the Army.”
Korir, the 2016 Olympian, won third place in a rainy 10,000-meter race.
“The weather conditions during the championships replicated real world conditions our brave soldiers face every day in battle,” said Ryan. “The battle, or race in this case, does not stop due to pouring rain or extreme heat, and both Bor and Korir displayed the same resiliency taught in their military schooling.”
Col. Sean Ryan, World Class Athlete Program Track and Field Coach, with Sgt. Leonard Korir after he won the bronze medal in the men’s 5,000-meter race at the Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
“This is my third time making the World Championships team, and I am so happy for myself,” said Korir. “We are excited and ready to represent the U.S. Army and America.”
Second Lt. Elkanah Kibet is also headed to the World Championships to compete on the marathon team.
“The soldier-athletes have shown their determination and ‘never quit’ attitude during multiple championship races, one of the many reasons they have represented the U.S. national teams and Army internationally,” said Ryan.
The soldier-athletes are now preparing for the World Championships and the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.
On November 30, 2020, the Navy announced the decision to decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). The Wasp-class amphibious ship suffered extensive damage during a fire while in port in July. The decision follows an extensive assessment of the ship after the fire.
As a landing helicopter deck amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard was an integral part of the Navy-Marine Corps team. She was capable of supporting a wide range of aircraft including the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk, UH-1Y Venom, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, AV-8B Harrier, MV-22B Osprey, and the new F-35B Lightning II. Her well deck also allowed her to support landing craft like LCACs, LCUs and LCMs.
The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned on August 15, 1998. From January 24 to July 24, 2000, she made the first WESTPAC deployment of any U.S. Navy vessel in the new millennium. The next year, she began her participation in the War on Terror with a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bonhomme Richard provided critical support to Marine Corps operations. She offloaded Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in Kuwait and went on to launch 547 combat sorties. Marine Attack Squadrons VMA-211 and VMA-311 delivered more than 175,000 pounds of ordnance launching from Bonhomme Richard‘s deck.
Additionally, the ship assisted in humanitarian operations. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Bonhomme Richard was detached from Operation Iraqi Freedom and sailed for Sri Lanka. The ship helped to airlift relief supplies to Sumatra, Indonesia. Following a port visit to Guam, the ship returned to the Indian Ocean. Helicopters from the Bonhomme Richard flew medical supplies and personnel into Indonesia and evacuated the wounded.
Tragically, a fire broke out on board the ship while in her homeport at San Diego during maintenance. At around 8:50 am, an explosion occurred on the ship. “It is a Class Alpha fire,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 commander, “meaning it was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials in a standard fire.” Despite not being accelerated by fuel or munitions, the fire was extensive. Firefighting effort were delayed because fire-suppression systems had been disabled due to the maintenance.
Finally, on July 16, the Navy announced that all fires on board had been extinguished. A total of 40 sailors and 23 civilians received minor injuries as a result of the fire. The fire was a “very, very serious incident,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday. 11 of the 14 decks sustained fire and water damage. Many sections of deck were warped or bulging and the ship’s island had been gutted by the flames. On July 31, nine sailors assigned to the Bonhomme Richard were meritoriously promoted for their actions in fighting the fire.
Although NCIS and the ATF questioned sailors following the fire, no charges were made and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Navy is also conducting investigations into safety standards to prevent future fires.
On November 30, the Navy announced that the Bonhomme Richard would be decommissioned. “We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.” In fact, the assessment concluded that it would cost the Navy over $3 billion and take five to seven years to restore the ship. The Navy also considered repurposing the ship. However, the associated costs were estimated to exceed $1 billion, as much or more than the cost of a new purpose-built ship.
At this time, the timeline for towing and dismantling is still being finalized. “Although it saddens me that it is not cost effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.
More than a year after a mandate for the Pentagon opened previously closed ground combat and special operations jobs to women, officials say the Navy has its first female candidates for its most elite special warfare roles.
Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.
Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.
“That’s a three-week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”
A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed to Military.com this week that a single female enlisted candidate remained in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The accession pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening evaluations and then recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp before Basic Underwater Demolition School training.
Salata also confirmed that a female midshipman is set to train with other future Naval officers in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection, or SOAS, course this summer.
“[SOAS] is part of the accession pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of attendees this summer will be a factor for evaluation at the September SEAL Officer Selection Panel,” he said.
Because of operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy would not identify the candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection pipeline. In special operations, where troops often guard their identities closely to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.
It’s possible, however, that the first female member of these elite communities will come not from the outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer notified their chain-of-command that they identified as being transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.
According to Navy policy guidance released last fall, a sailor must receive a doctor’s diagnosis of medical necessity and command approval to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of different forms, from counseling and hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove they can pass the physical standards and requirements of the gender to which they are transitioning.
These first female candidates represent a major milestone for the Navy, which has previously allowed women into every career field except the SEALs and SWCC community. A successful candidate would also break ground for military special operations.
Army officials said in January that a woman had graduated Ranger school and was on her way to joining the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier has made it through the selection process to any other Army special operations element. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen multiple female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful accession.
The two women now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates in any military training process
Dunbar said the SEALs, which graduate six Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 63 percent. The attrition rate for SEAL officers is significantly lower, though; according to the Navy’s 2015 implementation plan for women in special warfare, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.
But by the time they make it to that final phase of training, candidates have already been weeded down ruthlessly. Navy officials assess prospective special warfare operators and special boat operators, ranking them by their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, special operations resiliency test, and a mental toughness exam. The highest-ranking candidates are then assessed into training, based on how many spots the Navy has available at that point.
“We assess right now that, with the small cohorts of females, we don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as expected attrition,” Dunbar, the Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander, told DACOWITS in June.
Dunbar did say, however, that Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully ready for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they ultimately arrived. A cadre of female staff members was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held all-hands calls to discuss inclusivity and integration.
“All the barriers have been removed,” he said. “Our planning has been completed and is on track.”
Salata said the Navy had also completed a thorough review of its curriculum and policies and had evaluated facilities and support capabilities to determine any changes that might need to be made to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.
Nonetheless, Salata said, “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL officer candidate attends. She is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not the Naval Academy.
Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.
Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.
Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.
Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.
The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.
Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.
I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.
Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.
As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.
Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.
Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.
So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.
We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.
Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.
Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.
All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.
I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.
On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.
We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.
We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.
Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.
One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.
Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.
Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.
Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.
Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.
The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.
I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.
I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.
We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?
There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.
I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.
Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.
We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.
As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.
Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.
When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.
We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.
Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.
Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.
You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.
Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.
I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.
It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.
Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.
That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.
There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.
Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.
If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.
Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.
Marine Corps infantrymen are certified badasses capable of destroying enemy positions and forces with high levels of violence.
But wait, Marines aren’t born out of forges in the ground like Uruk-hai. So how does the Marine Corps take soft, pliable high school graduates barely able to work a condom and turn them into infantrymen capable of thrusting bayonets through enemy fighters like it ain’t no thang?
1. All Marines go through Marine Corps recruit training, starting off at the famous yellow footprints.
2. During recruit training, the recruits learn to accomplish basic military tasks and to cede their personal interests to the needs of the team.
3. The 12 weeks of recruit training are, to say the least, uncomfortable. Lots of time crawling through sand and mud, ruck marching, and building muscle through repetitive stress.
4. But the future infantrymen get their first taste of combat training here, learning to stab with their bayonets and shoot with their rifles.
5. And of course, they get to work with the famously kind drill instructors.
6. At the end of all of this, they earn the right to call themselves Marines and march in the graduation ceremony right before…
7. …they’re sent to the Infantry Training Battalion for 59-days of learning, patrolling, and physical hardship.
8. The Marines learn a large number of new basic infantry skills and a few advanced infantry skills.
9. Some of the most important skills are the less flashy ones, like land navigation …
10. …and long hikes.
11. But of course, there are plenty of awesome trips to the range.
12. Marines learn to fire everything from machine guns and rifles to grenades and rockets.
13. Even those big, beautiful mortars will make an appearance.
14. But the mother of all machine guns is probably the most beloved weapon in the arsenal: the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.
15. Besides navigation and weapons skills, the Marines have to learn skills like how to administer first aid in combat.
16. But the crux of a Marine infantryman’s job is combat as a member of a rifle team.
17. The culmination of all this training is the 24-hour Basic Skills Readiness Exercise where they’re assessed on everything they learned in training, ensuring that they are ready to perform as expeditionary warfighters around the world.
Mary A. asks: How did someone get the job of an executioner in medieval times?
Few occupations from history are as maligned as that of Medieval-era executioner. Popularly painted as gleeful dispensers of death and torture, the truth seems to be that many executioners throughout this period usually treated the occupation with a certain reverence and exhibited an extreme dedication to duty. Beyond trying to minimize the suffering of those slated to be executed, this was, among other reasons we’ll get into, because it would often mean the life of the executioner if they ever botched an execution or otherwise weren’t extremely professional in carrying out their job.
So, moving beyond any Hollywood depictions, what was it actually like to be an executioner in the ballpark of Medieval times and how did someone get the job in the first place?
A thing to note before we continue is that the duties expected of and performed by executioners, as well as what life was like for specific executioners, has varied wildly across time and regions. For example, as we’ve talked before, those condemned to death in the Ottoman empire during the 18th century could potentially get off scot-free by challenging the executioner to a footrace. In this case, in addition to doling out lethal justice with their bare hands, executioners also worked as both bodyguards and gardeners.
That caveat out of the way, how did one become an executioner in the first place? It turns out that many European Medieval executioners were former criminals themselves. You see, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, the role of executioner was so unpopular that finding someone to do the job often required either forcing someone into the profession or offering the gig to someone who was slated to be executed themselves.
Scandinavian countries were known to make extensive use of this novel hiring practice, with a little twist thrown in- they’d maim executioners by cutting off one or both of their ears so that they could be easily identified by the public. It also wasn’t uncommon for people made executioners in this way to be branded somewhere on their head, once again for the purpose of their new profession being, in this case literally, written all over their face. For example, as noted in Hugo Mathiessen’s Boddel og Galgefugl,
“In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.”
This all brings us around to why so many avoided the profession like the plague. To begin with, the general consensus among most was that in taking such a job, one was then sure to be damned in the afterlife. This was despite the fact that in some regions, such as France, executioners were by official church decree absolved of the sins committed while performing their duties.
This still didn’t stop the general public from considering executioners unclean, leading to the more practical problem with the job- nearly being completely ostracized from society. Coming back to those condemned to die instead becoming an executioner, people seem to have been perfectly fine with this as the criminal’s life would still be forfeit, just in a more metaphorical sense.
For example, throughout Medieval Europe executioners were often forced to live in houses outside of the city or town they plied their trade in. In cases where this wasn’t possible, they tended to live near things like public latrines, lepertoriums, or brothels. Executioners were similarly often denied citizenship to the towns and cities they served (and thus had few rights in the town) and were largely barred from holding office or even entering churches, pubs, bathhouses, etc- basically most public establishments were off limits to the executioner.
Thus, despite executioners being deemed critical for a society to remain civilised, they were paradoxically generally forced to live apart from that civilised society.
In fact, some places across Europe went as far to institute laws specifically targeting executioners and what they could and could not do in their day to day lives. For example, the Bavarian town of Memmingen enacted an ordinance in 1528 that forbade members of the general public dining with an executioner.
Such laws and just general attitudes effectively limited the people an executioner could interact with in their day to day lives to their own family and those from the criminal underworld who simply didn’t care that the executioner was unclean. On top of this, an executioner’s children and spouse were likewise similarly shunned by anyone but the underbelly of society.
This, combined with the fact that the children of executioners could usually only find mates with children of other executioners, understandably led to the role of executioner becoming a macabre family trade that resulted in executioner dynasties that spanned centuries.
Beyond being ostrosised and damning your progeny to a similar life, as well as an afterlife full of hellfire, while there were potentially ways for an executioner to make a killing within the profession, it turns out for most there simply weren’t enough executions themselves to make ends meet. Alternate work was limited to jobs nobody else wanted. This included all manner of things, from disposal of corpses (animal and human), emptying cesspools, collecting taxes from the diseased and prostitutes, etc.
Oddly, at least from a modern perspective, another common profession for a well trained executioner was that of a doctor and surgeon. You see, beyond executing people, another thing executioners were often called to do was torture people for various reasons. These two things, combined with the close-knit community of executioners sharing their knowledge amongst themselves, resulted in lifelong executioners generally having exceptional knowledge of human anatomy, and thus they were commonly called on to treat various medical maladies.
In fact, one rather famous 17th century German executioner, Frantz Schmidt, noted in his journal that over the course of his near five decade career he had over 15,000 people he treated as a doctor, while executing only 394 and disfiguring or otherwise torturing or flogging roughly the same number- meaning most of the time he functioned as a doctor, despite society at the time considering him an executioner.
Schmidt was one of those thrust into the profession as his father was strong-armed into becoming an executioner, condemning Schmidt to the same life once he came of age, though Schmidt’s story has something of a happy ending.
Like many executioners, Schmidt was given a wide berth by the public in his day-to-day life, but the incredible professionalism with which he conducted his grisly duties earned him the begrudging respect of both the general public and those in power. In his later years, Schmidt was able to parlay this into a meeting with Nuremberg authorities and then was able to appeal to Emperor Ferdinand II himself, with the goal of restoring his family honor.
Swayed by not just Schmidt’s words, but also letters from city council members and other notable people extolling Schmidt’s character and dedication to his duty, the then 70 year old executioner was granted both Nuremberg citizenship and had his family name cleared, allowing his progeny to escape the bloody spectre of his work.
Of course, being ultra-professional with the profession was something of a necessity for Schmidt as, at the time in Germany, there was a law stipulating that any executioner tasked with doling out death by the sword (a form of execution largely reserved for especially important individuals) who took more than three swings to behead a victim would be condemned to die themselves.
Even where such laws didn’t exist, the job of an executioner was extremely dangerous as executioners were also at risk of being killed either by vengeful relatives or the crowd witnessing an execution. In regards to the latter, if an executioner was especially cruel in their meting out of punishment, simply incompetent to the point that they caused undue suffering, or just otherwise acted in an unprofessional manner in performing their duties, it wasn’t unheard of for a crowd to retaliate by killing the executioner on the spot, generally with no consequence to anyone in the mob.
This constant danger of the job was something Schmidt himself talked about several times in his journal, though he only notes one instance where the crowd turned into a mob. This occurred during a flogging he was performing, with the person being beaten ultimately stoned to death by the crowd.
As you might imagine from this, in cases like Schmidt who was trained from childhood to take over the job from his father, a rather lengthy apprenticeship was called for, including a robust education from one’s parent, followed by assisting in executions and torture from a young age. Schmidt also notes that he practiced executions extensively on various animals before being allowed to actually execute a human himself. The end goal of all of this was to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, as raucous mobs didn’t really care if it was someone’s first day on the job or not.
Now, although being an executioner came with some massive downsides, it wasn’t all bad. Enterprising executioners could actually earn a fairly decent living doling out torture and capital punishment on command if they were smart about it. For example, especially skilled executioners who didn’t mind traveling could take advantage of the scarcity of people willing to do their job by plying their trade across whichever country they happened to live in, rather than just staying local.
Executioners also frequently earned extra money in the form of bribes from the condemned or their families, invariably given in the hopes that the executioner would ensure death was as swift and painless as possible, or otherwise allow the condemned extra comforts leading up to the execution. This might include, for example, slipping them extra alcohol or the like to make the execution a little easier to handle.
On top of this, throughout much of Medieval Europe a perk of being an executioner is that it was customary for whatever property was worn at the time of death to be granted to the executioner.
Additionally, executioners in Germany were frequently tasked with things like arbitrating disputes between prostitutes and driving lepers out of town, among other such jobs, all of which they could charge a premium for because nobody else was willing to do the job.
Executioners were also sometimes not just given the job of disposing of animal carcasses, but also in some regions the explicit right to all stray animal carcasses found in a town. Depending on the animal, this could mean the rights to valuable hides, teeth, etc.
An even greater benefit for certain executioners, this time in France, was the idea of droit de havage. In a nutshell, because executioners were so ostracized and couldn’t in some regions, for example, just go down to the market and shop freely, under droit de havage, executioners were more or less allowed to tax those who sold various food and drink items. This came in the form of being able to demand goods for free.
Finally, there’s the money an executioner would be paid for performing an execution, flogging, or the like. Although it’s hard to say exactly how much an executioner could earn per hanging or beheading in today’s currency due to the inherent difficulty of gauging the value of historic currencies, it’s evident that it was a good amount, at least relative to the generally low social standing of executioners.
For example, according to information gleaned from an old statute dated to a small German town in 1276 an executioner could earn the equivalent of 5 shillings per execution. This is an amount roughly equal to the amount of money a skilled tradesmen could earn in about 25 days at the time. Likewise, an executioner operating in England some two centuries later in the 1400s could reportedly earn a fee of 10 shillings per execution, or roughly 16 times the amount a skilled tradesmen could earn in a single day.
Granted, as you might have deduced from the aforementioned case of Frantz Schmidt only executing about 400 people and flogging a similar number in his near five decades on the job, nobody was getting rich doing this by itself, it at least wasn’t bad pay per hour of work.
Finally, we’d be remiss in any discussion of Medieval executioners to not point out that the idea of executioners wearing masks to hide who they were does not appear to have actually been much of a thing. Beyond, as mentioned, in many regions being literally branded as executioners, even large cities for much of history weren’t actually that large; so people knew who the executioner in a given region was, if not directly, by being marked such. Thus, wearing a mask would have been pointless.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, unveiled a plan to combat post-traumatic stress in the military and revealed he sought mental health services following his deployments to Iraq.
Moulton, a retired US Marine Corps infantry officer, deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He fought in two majorbattles in the Iraq War and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal with accompanying “V” devices for valor.
“When I came back from Iraq I sought help for managing post-traumatic stress. I’m glad I did,” Moulton said in a tweet on May 28, 2019. “Today, I’m sharing my experience because I want people to know they’re not alone and they should feel empowered to get the treatment they need.”
His experience overseas led him to seek counseling at least once a week, Moulton said to POLITICO.
“I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told the publication. “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating — I didn’t feel suicidal or completely withdrawn — it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”
Congressman Seth Moulton speaking with JROTC students.
He continues to sees a counselor once a month for a routine check-up, and he said “there will always be regrets that I have.”
“But I got to a point where I could deal with them and manage them,” he continued in his interview with POLITICO. “It’s been a few years now since I’ve woken up in a cold sweat in bed from a bad dream or felt so withdrawn from my friends or whatever that I would just go home and go to bed because I miss being overseas with the Marines.”
Moulton’s proposal calls for a wide range of changes to diagnosing and treating service members’ mental health — including annual mental health check-ups for service members and veterans, “mandatory counseling” within the first two weeks of service members returning from combat, a program for families of veterans to recognizes symptoms, an exploration of alternative medicines like marijuana at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and the creation of a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.
Rep. Seth Moulton Makes His Case for the White House
The plan comes amid record-high suicide rates amongst active-duty service members — over 320 service members died by suicide in 2018, according to Military.com. On average, 20 veterans and service members kill themselves each day, according to the latest data from the VA.
His plan also tackles mental health awareness for the general population, and would institute health screenings for high schoolers and education on healthy mental health habits.
“We’re aiming this week to highlight the effects of PTS in the lives of many veterans, including in [Rep. Moulton’s] own experience, and rolling out a plan to address PTS both for veterans and non-veterans alike,” a campaign spokesperson told INSIDER.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea on July 6, 2018, his third trip to the region, as part of an effort to solidify agreements on denuclearization.
Pompeo’s trip comes less than a month after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participated in a joint summit in Singapore.
But the US’s top diplomat also planned to give Kim a gift: an Elton John CD featuring the song “Rocket Man.” Trump’s inspiration for the gift reportedly stemmed from a conversation he had with Kim during the summit, sources told the conservative South Korean news outlet, Chosun Ilbo.
“Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no,” one diplomatic source reportedly said. Trump was said to have written a message on the CD and signed it, according to Chosun Ilbo.
At one of the lowest points in US-North Korean relations since Trump took office, the US president frequently called Kim “little rocket man” in Trump’s speeches and tweets in 2017.
“We can’t have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place,” Trump said at the rally in Huntsville, Alabama. “This shouldn’t be handled now, but I’m gonna handle it because we have to handle it. ‘Little Rocket Man.'”
Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit.
But while it appeared Trump was mocking Kim at the time, he reportedly told people at a Republican fundraiser in September 2017 that his nickname for Kim was intended to be a compliment.
On July 5, 2018, Trump also mentioned Elton John during a campaign rally for Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale in Montana. Trump referenced the size of the crowds at his rallies and said he had “broken more Elton John records.”
Pompeo’s trip comes amid reports that various facilities at a North Korean nuclear complex are operating as usual, and a scathing US intelligence assessment that found the regime intended to “deceive” the US.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites. The officials said they believe Kim may be trying to conceal the secret facilities.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.
But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.
The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.
According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”
“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.
So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?
“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”
Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.
At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.
If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.
Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.
Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.
Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.
Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.
This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.
And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”
In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.
China may be looking to cozy up to its Middle East ally, Pakistan, now that the U.S. has vowed to cut security aid and other assistance to the country.
Historically, China and Pakistan have maintained close ties. Pakistan first recognized the People’s Republic of China fewer than two years after it was established. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has hailed China as his country’s “best and most trusted friend,” and the two nations remain close strategic trade partners.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman was quick to defend Pakistan on January 2, just hours after Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, first announced it would continue to hold back $255 million in aid to the country. “Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifice for the fight against terrorism and has made very outstanding contributions to the global cause of counter-terrorism.”
“China and Pakistan are all-weather partners. We stand ready to promote and deepen our all-round cooperation so as to bring benefits to the two sides,” the spokesman added.
On Wednesday, the central bank of Pakistan announced it would begin using Chinese yuan (CNY) for bilateral trade and investment activities, saying that it “foresees that CNY denominated trade with China will increase significantly going forward; and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.”
McCarthy explained that Pakistan is strategic to China expanding its own power, and serves as a crucial entry-point for the southern end of China’s One Belt One Road development initiative, which cuts through Pakistan. Moreover, Chinese developments continue the flow of Chinese labor and supply into Pakistan, which provides China with an economic boost.
Pakistan also plans to reap the benefits from closer ties to China.
McCarthy said Pakistan uses its alliance with China as a “counterbalance” to the U.S. and its main foe, India. And while China doesn’t provide huge amounts of aid to Pakistan, it does provide “solid economic assistance” in the form of projects and infrastructure.
More importantly, China has Pakistan’s back, according to McCarthy: “Unlike the U.S., China doesn’t comment on human rights, and has no particular stance on Pakistan’s human rights issues.”
The U.S. has strongly condemned Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani militants, who are aligned with the Afghan Taliban.
Still, McCarthy believes that while Pakistan and China’s relationship will grow stronger as a byproduct of cuts in U.S. aid, the U.S. still plays an important role to Pakistan, despite major strains.
“There’s no doubt that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not that healthy at the moment. At the end of the day, Pakistan still needs some relationship with the U.S. because they’re not going to get everything they need from China.”
Country music star and Army veteran Craig Morgan is releasing his newest album — God, Family, Country on May 22. “God, Family, Country” pays tribute to his past and his future both in the music industry and in his amazing life story.
He will also be part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Memorial Day Special. The venerable show that made country music famous will salute the United States Military with its annual Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance on Saturday, May 23.
Joining Craig are Steven Curtis Chapman and Kellie Pickler. This year, the Opry will also honor essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. You can watch it live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates in addition to live streams on Circle All Access Facebook and YouTube channels.
We Are The Mighty talked to Craig about his album and what influenced some of the songs on it. Craig talked to us about his faith, family and love of our country. His faith is a big part of his life and Craig shared how it carried him through personal tragedy. That was the cornerstone of this album and Morgan does what a lot of great musical artists do. He takes his life and puts them into words that everyone else can relate to.
Before his long career in country music, Craig served in the United States Army. He took part in Operation Just Cause, during which the United States removed General Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. He later deployed with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After service on both active duty and the reserves, Craig left the military in 2004.
He then began a career as a chart-topping country music singer, songwriter and live performer. Craig returns now with his first new music in nearly four years.
“God, Family, Country”, however, is a little different. It combines five new songs with some of the most powerful tracks he recorded previously in his career including, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “God, Family, Country”.
Craig came onto the country-radio scene with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and “Little Bit of Life.” These songs showed off his unquenchable spirit and joy for life and resonated with fans of all walks of life.
But, he and his family have also known great loss: particularly the death of their son Jerry in 2016. Needless to say, the tragic death of Jerry had a great impact on Craig. Being the artist he is, he took that emotion and that unimaginable tragedy led to him writing his most stunning song to date, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The achingly personal ballad is an emotional journey for the listener and is the centerpiece of both God, Family, Country and of Craig’s story itself.
“We’ve never had a song like this. If you put ‘Almost Home,’ ‘What I Love About Sunday’ and ‘Tough’ all together, they didn’t have the emotional impact that this song is having,” Craig says. “It’s a very tough song to sing, and sometimes I can’t even look at people when I perform it, but it’s amazing to know what God has done, and how He has used something so traumatic in my life for good.”
When asked about the song and the process he went through to write it, Craig said, “Overall, it took four hours to write. But it was a painful four hours. Writing the song didn’t take away the pain of losing my son. But it’s going to help others.” And it has. Since the song’s release, people from all walks of life have reached out with messages telling him how it really helped them emotionally. “It’s given people hope. We all have a cross we have to bear, but if my pain brings comfort then that’s what I am supposed to do.”
The story of other songs on the album is absolutely epic. For “Sippin’ on the Simple Life,” he teamed with a pair of active duty Army Airborne Rangers who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for an impromptu writing session. Craig was speaking at a USO event when two soldiers came up to him.
“These two guys came up to me after a show in Washington, D.C., and said, ‘We want to write a song with you tonight.’ I joked with them and told them it doesn’t work that way!” Craig recalls.
But after realizing they weren’t kidding, he sat down with the servicemen, ordered drinks and started putting pen to paper. just before they deployed to Afghanistan. “I thought, ‘This is a tailgate drinking song,’ and I fell in love with it. I called them and told them I’m putting it on the record. They lost their minds.”
Morgan also features a cover of the Gavin DeGraw song, “Soldier.” “I loved the lyrics but the melody is what got me,” Craig said, “As a dude, we almost always listen to the melody first and that’s what caught me.” Listening to the song, it really resonates with anyone who served. Morgan said, “It truly exemplifies the personality and the character of a soldier and I just had to record it.”
“Whiskey” is another great track on the album. A song that talks about the pain people go through and how they try to find ways to ease that pain was something that really resonated with Morgan. After the death of his son, he was tempted to find outlets to mask the pain, but his faith was able to carry him through. However, many others don’t and turn to vices like drugs or alcohol and Morgan said the emotion of the song led him to record it.
“God, Family, Country” is an incredible album that features Craig taking us on an emotional journey that most veterans (and Americans for that matter) can relate to. We have dealt with loss, pain, challenges, uncertainty, and despair. But we have also relied on things important to us, like faith, family, and our patriotism to guide us through dark times.
The album comes out on May 22 on Broken Bow Records.
The United States isn’t out of the game yet when it comes to space, but if it wants to remain on top, it will need to do more and do it faster, a senior Defense Department official said Jan. 8, 2019.
“China is integrating certain new technologies and fielding those capabilities faster than the U.S.,” said Chris Shank, director of DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office. “That means we have to be more responsive.”
Shank spoke during a presentation in San Diego hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he pointed out some statistics regarding space launches in 2018.
“China had 39 launches, the U.S. had 31, Russia had 20, [and] Europe had eight,” Shank said. “And [China] landed a robotic mission on the dark side of the moon — a first.”
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., April 14, 2018. The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter Augmented Geosynchronous Laboratory Experiments system was onboard and is one of the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron’s primary missions.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)
Shank said that while he doesn’t think the U.S. has lost leadership in space, it is losing ground. After all, he noted, the United States isn’t without its own recent achievements in space.
Space Development Agency
“In the same week that they land on the moon, we are at the furthest reaches of the solar system at Ultima Thule,” he said. NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by and observed the trans-Neptunian object about 4 billion miles from the sun in January 2019. It’s the farthest object ever explored in space.
Shank said to stay relevant in space, the United States will need to speed up its development cycle for space-based technologies significantly.
“The DOD is committed to creating a Space Development Agency,” Shank said. “That would be a joint organization… to rapidly develop and field the next generation of space capabilities. I think that a Space Development Agency will represent a real investment in experimenting and prototyping of the rapid field of capabilities. … So buckle up — 2019 is going to be busy.”