Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

Six of the leading veterans organizations are joining forces, forming a coalition to combat COVID-19. Team Rubicon is at the helm.

The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV) includes Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Team Red, White & Blue, The Mission Continues and Wounded Warrior Project. All are united in the commitment to aid local and state officials in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to American citizens across the country.  

Veterans coalition for COVID-19 vaccination ad

Navy veteran and Team Rubicon President and Chief Operating Officer Art delaCruz is deeply familiar with tackling disasters and challenges, something many veterans have experience in. It’s for this reason that delaCruz believes veterans are uniquely positioned to make a tangible difference in fighting the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and winning. 

Team Rubicon has been in the fight against Coronavirus since March 2020 and the VCV is what delaCruz feels is the next vital mission. “In 2019 we ran 119 operations and we ran close to 380 last year,” delaCruz shared. In 2020 TR was on the ground distributing personal protective equipment, administering COVID-19 tests, handing hurricane disaster relief and supporting neighbors in need. “Even with 140,000 volunteers we began to stretch our capacity,” he said.

“We were staring at this national problem where we knew that 350 million or so citizens needed to be vaccinated. We knew that the people who were really on the front-line, the true warriors, these nurses and doctors had been at it for 10 months and we thought ‘how can we help?’” delaCruz explained. 

In November 2020, hope was on the horizon. Vaccines were receiving their emergency approvals after successful trials, and, “This,” delaCruz said, “was the answer.” One of the Special Forces doctors in a TR strategy meeting said, “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations save lives,” delaCruz shared. It was this striking realization that led TR to forming the VCV. 

Veterans coalition for COVID-19 vaccination

With over 18 million veterans throughout the country, TR knew they needed support to activate them all. So, they brought the big guns. “We made a decision to see if we could collect everyone together and get them aligned around this mission. Come late December we started this scaffolding and framework. We had our first meeting on December 17… and we launched,” delaCruz said. 

On December 15, TR was in the Navajo Nation giving their first vaccination. “They were the most devastated community in the country. Their hospitals only staffed at 5% of normal,” delaCruz shared. Soon, they received a call from Chicago’s Emergency Management team, requesting their help. “By December 28, our volunteers were training with the city personnel and they are now at seven distribution points of Chicago… and that’s just the start.”

By providing resources of a million-strong veteran coalition, the VCV will assist in ensuring access to vaccinations. When President Biden announced his COVID-19 national strategy for response, five of his pillars were identical to what VCV had identified for their mission. Addressing trust, opportunity and equity were among the most important, according to delaCruz.

“A man or woman who’s been off to combat or served, they have legitimacy and a voice. Now we are using that voice to build trust. Military veterans also come from every culture and community across the country so it’s probably the most diverse organization in the US, so who better to bring the message that vaccination is something the nation should do to move forward,” delaCruz said. 

It is the hope of TR and the VCV that the country will come together to unite in this fight. DelaCruz explained that it’s not unlike the victory gardens or rationing for the needs of the military during World War II. This is a new, pivotal moment where that same urgency and sacrifice is needed. 

The VCV is not only battling the virus, they are attacking false and misleading information. “It’s combat against misinformation … It’s about demonstrating leadership upfront that we believe in science and vaccinations, which are important to get the nation back on its feet ,” delaCruz stated. 

To help with tackling misinformation, VCV is being supported by the global advertising technology company Amobee and AdTechCares, which has over 50 partners. These organizations are committed to developing ongoing Public Service Announcement campaigns to ensure credible information is distributed about vaccine efficacy. 

“Vaccinations may be an individual act but that individual act has tremendous, tremendous societal value. Just like the collective self-sacrifice in World War II, this act of vaccinations or supporting vaccinations in any way possible, it touches everyone,” delaCruz said. “Americans have traditionally risen to the occasion during the hardest of times … we have an opportunity here to make it happen again.”

Team Rubicon and the VCV is imploring veterans to put on a new uniform and continue to serve this new and vital mission. It may be one of the most important fights to date. 

To learn more about how you can support the efforts against COVID-19 and vaccinations, visit www.TheVeteransCoalition.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s oldest deployable warship takes two days to get to sea

The USS Blue Ridge is the lead ship of her class and the oldest deployable warship in the U.S. Navy.


Assigned to the United States Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, the Blue Ridge is one of the U.S. Navy’s two command ships.

When the U.S. Navy’s ships are in port and undergoing maintenance, they are put in dry dock — a narrow basin that a ship can sail into and then have all of the water in it drained. This enables workers to access the ship’s underside, and enable stability during construction and upgrading operations.

Related: The 5 greatest warships of all time

Footage released by the Department of Defense shows that it takes the USS Blue Ridge two days to get out of dry dock.

See the time-lapse video here:

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

The military and veteran community made their voices heard when it was announced in November that the newly established 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade would be wearing olive green berets similar to the rifle green of the Special Forces. To reaffirm what was said when it was proposed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Army Times that it is his responsibility, saying,


If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the 1st SFAB].

While the 1st SFAB and Special Forces’ missions would overlap on tasks like Foreign Internal Defense and Security Force Assistance, changes have been made to the beret, the flash, and the unit insignia. The beret is now a “muddy brown” in reference to the moniker given to leaders who “get their boots muddy” with their troops.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
From one veteran to another, and you’re entitled to your own opinions, but don’t hate the troops that were assigned to the 1st SFAB. Gen. Milley can handle the backlash — the troops were just assigned to the unit. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The flash and unit insignia are in reference to the Military Assistance Command — Vietnam and the Military Assistance Advisory Group, predecessors to the 1st SFAB. One complaint surrounding the brigade’s uniform is the ‘Advisor’ tab. Clarification has been made that it is simply a unit tab and not a skill tab.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
Comparison of the 1st SFAB unit insignia with the MAC-V and MAAG-V.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the 1st SFAB held it’s activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum and the heraldry has been made official. The SFAB’s mission is to stand ready to deploy in support of national security objective and to train, assist, advise, and accompany our allies. Their first deployment is already set for the coming spring to advise Afghan National Security Forces and the unique uniforms are meant to easily distinguish them from other American troops in the eyes of foreign troops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what would happen if China attacked the US

Experts at the cutting edge of simulated warfare have spoken: China would handily defeat the US military in the Pacific with quick bursts of missile fired at air bases.

The exact phrasing was that the US was getting “its ass handed to it” in those simulations, Breaking Defense reported the RAND analyst David Ochmanek as saying earlier in March 2019.

“In every case I know of,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”


Against China, which has emerged as the US’s most formidable rival, this problem becomes more acute. China’s vast, mountainous territory gives it millions of square miles in which to hide its extensive fleet of mobile long-, medium-, and short-range missiles.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

An F-35 is much more capable than the jet shown on the left, but on a runway, the F-35 is just a more expensive target.

(US Navy)

In the opening minutes of a battle against the US, Beijing could unleash a barrage of missiles that would nail US forces in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and possibly Australia. With China’s growing anti-ship capability, even US aircraft carriers in the region would likely come under intense fire.

For the US, this would be the feared attack in which F-35s and F-22s, fifth-generation aircraft and envy of the world, are blown apart in their hangars, runways are cratered, and ships are sunk in ports.

The remaining US forces in this case would be insufficient to back down China’s air and sea forces, which could then easily scoop up a prize such as Taiwan.

Additionally, the US can’t counter many of China’s most relevant missile systems because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it signed with Russia, which prohibits missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,400 miles — the type it would need to hold Chinese targets at equal risk. (The US is withdrawing from that treaty.)

So given China’s clear advantage in missile forces and the great incentive to knock out the best military with a sucker punch, why doesn’t it try?

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Politics

China could light up much of the Pacific with a blistering salvo of missiles and do great harm to US ships and planes, but they likely won’t because it would start World War III.

China wouldn’t just be attacking the US. It would be attacking Japan and South Korea at a minimum. Whatever advantage China gained by kicking off a fight this way would have to balance against a combined response from the US and its allies.

The US is aware of the sucker-punch problem. In the event that tensions rise enough that a strike is likely, the US would simply spread its forces out among its bases and harden important structures, such as hangars, so they could absorb more punishment from missiles.

Potential targets China needed to strike would multiply, and the deployment of electronic and physical decoys would further complicate things for Beijing. For US ships at sea, the use of electronic decoys and onboard missile defenses would demand China throw tremendous numbers of missiles at the platforms, increasing the cost of such a strike.

Key US military bases will also have ballistic-missile defenses, which could blunt the attack somewhat.

The US also monitors the skies for ballistic missiles, which would give it some warning time. Alert units could scramble their aircraft and be bearing down on China’s airspace just after the first missiles hit.

Justin Bronk, a military-aviation expert at the Royal United Service Institute, pointed out at the institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference that when the US hit Syria’s Al Shayrat air base with 58 cruise missiles, planes were taking off from the base again within 24 hours.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Payback is a … consideration

Missiles brigades that just fired and revealed their positions would be sitting ducks for retaliation by the US or its allies.

Japan, which will soon have 100 F-35s, some of which will be tied into US Navy targeting networks, would jump into the fight swiftly.

China would have to mobilize a tremendous number of aircraft and naval assets to address that retaliatory strike. That mobilization, in addition to the preparations for the initial strike, may tip Beijing’s hand, telegraphing the sucker punch and blunting its damage on US forces.

While China’s missile forces pose a huge threat to the US, one punch isn’t enough to knock out the world’s best military, but it is enough to wake it up.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 7th

There’s just something about the non-payday weekend after that sweet holiday break. Last weekend, everyone had some grandiose plans about getting out of town or spending three full days in a drunken haze. This weekend is different.

Sure, it’s another two days of having little expected of you — with the exception of what your first sergeant tells you at the obligatory safety brief. But it doesn’t feel like you’re getting some awesome time off compared to last week. So, I guess it’s time to actually do all that stuff you told yourself you’d do with your extra free time last weekend…

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Take a break from your chores or those SSD classes you keep telling your supervisor you’ll eventually do and enjoy some memes.


Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via The Lonely Operator)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Shammers United)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(N. Robertson)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Space Force Actual)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Military World)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme by Ranger Up)

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

In 2017, two vets went into an active war zone to document testimonies from survivors of the Yazidi genocide begun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in August 2014.


They were lucky to get out alive.

According to the United Nations, “ISIL committed the crime of genocide by seeking to destroy the Yazidis through killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, forcible displacement, the transfer of children, and measures intended to prohibit the birth of Yazidi children.”

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
Director Andrew Kabbe in the white cowboy hat center. Two American actors sitting on the rock: J. Teddy Garces (left) and Josh Drennen (right)

Navy diver Andrew Kabbe and Air Force pararescueman David Shumock were in the Kurdish region of Iraq working in refugee camps when they were approached by a Yazidi tribal council.

The Yazidi people were desperate to tell their story and they were funding a feature film that depicted the early events of the genocide.

They needed help.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
A testament to the tension in the area, the crew carried food and weapons at all times. (Photo by: J Teddy Garces)

After careful deliberation — and a few false starts — Kabbe and Shumock committed to the project.

Kabbe decided to write and direct the film, while security fell unto Shumock, who had been in the region during the events of 2014 and not only had experience fighting ISIL, but had strong Peshmerga connections that would allow the crew to shoot in what was functionally a red zone.

“Without him we would have been lost,” Kabbe told We Are The Mighty.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
David Shumock keeps a watchful eye on set. (Photo by J. Teddy Garces)

Much of the crew consisted of Yazidi volunteers who had been forced to live in refugee camps, as well as Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Muslims. They came from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the US, England and even Poland. There were three main languages on the set: Kurdish, Farsi and English. Arabic was spoken as well. Two translators were required to communicate to the entire crew.

But the growing need to tell the story of what the Yazidi people continue to endure took over.

And now the film is near completion, but the crew needs help to complete it. Check out their page to learn more about the project and how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to their efforts.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 received three upgraded AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 19, 2017.


The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the squadron’s arsenal.

“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Marine Corps Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
An AH-1Z Cobra helicopter assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (HX) 21, based in Patuxent River, Md., Approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). This upgraded version of the Cobra is not yet available to the fleet. The helicopter features a larger engine and has two more blades than the Cobra’s original two, giving it more power and maneuverability. Wasp is conducting test flight operations and was chosen as the platform to evaluate the Limits and capabilities of newer models of Aircraft. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

More Firepower

The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 Hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors are another important aspect of the upgrade. The upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.

“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”

Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Also Read: This is why the H-1 Huey has a special place in US military history

“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”

The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.

“The new Zulus incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/USMC

Marines like Ortega are essential to keep the squadron at the peak of readiness during the transition, Myette said.

“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”

Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded helicopters.

“Times are changing and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed. And, the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”

Articles

Russia condemns the US strike against Syrian airfield

Syria’s military on April 7 said U.S. missile strikes on the al-Shayrat airfield killed at least six people and made the United States a “partner” of terror organizations the likes of the Islamic State and al-Qaida.


U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.

Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
Putin. (Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr)

Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.

“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”

Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”

The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.

Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
Shayrat Airfield in Syria (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.

Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.

Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.

Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.

Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.

Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.

“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”

Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon following a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.


“We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” Trump said at a Jan. 29 luncheon with representatives of the UN Security Council. “There may be a time, but it’s going to be a long time.”

Kabul, in recent weeks, has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on Jan. 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
U.S. Army Capt. DeShane Greaser stands in a crater caused by a bomb dropped during an air strike conducting a Battle Damage Assessment outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

At least 235 other people were wounded in the attack, including more than 30 police officers.

Following that attack, Trump called for “decisive action” by all countries against the Taliban, saying in a statement that the “murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners.”

Speaking at the White House on Jan. 29, Trump said: “We’re going to finish what we have to finish” in Afghanistan.

He added that “innocent people are being killed left and right,” including children, and that “there’s no talking to the Taliban.”

Several Americans were killed and injured earlier this month in the 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel claimed by the Taliban.

Afghan officials, along with the Trump administration, have accused neighboring Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

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

Early this month, Washington announced it was suspending security assistance to the Pakistani military until it took “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that are operating in Afghanistan. U.S. officials said the freeze could affect $2 billion worth of assistance.

Captain Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said on Jan. 29 that Washington is “very confident the Taliban Haqqani network” was behind the deadly suicide bombing in Kabul over the weekend.

The United States has long said the Haqqani network has found safe haven in Pakistan.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on Jan. 29 that Islamabad “is extending whatever help and assistance is required” to combat terrorism.

“Our desire and support is for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and the early resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan,” Faisal said.

He added that Pakistan has “very limited influence” on the Taliban, “if any.”

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
A Marine fire team return to base after a routine patrol in Afghanistan.  (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups — including Islamic State extremists — since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.

Articles

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Since February, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has scanned nearly 131,000 images across 168 social media sites and has reviewed information related to 89 persons of interest as a result of incidents related to the nonconsensual sharing of explicit photos and other online misconduct.


Among all persons of interest, 22 are civilians, and 67 are active-duty or reserve Marines. Five of these cases remain with NCIS as they investigate, while 62 have been passed to appropriate Marine commands for disposition.

To date, command dispositions have resulted in one summary court-martial, two administrative separations, seven non-judicial punishments, and 22 adverse administrative actions. These cases span beyond the Marines United Facebook page and include a spectrum of behavior.

While many cases involve photos, clothed or explicit, some involve verbal remarks without images.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
USMC photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E

On June 29, a Marine plead guilty at a summary-court martial related to the non-consensual sharing of explicit photos on the Marines United Facebook group. The Marine was sentenced to 10 days confinement, reduction of rank by three grades, and a forfeiture of two-thirds of one month’s pay. Additionally, the process to administratively separate the Marine is underway.

According to Gen. Glenn Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of the Marine Corps Task Force that is addressing cultural issues with the Corps, the scope and apparent tolerance by some Marines for online misconduct has resulted in updates to Marine Corps training, policies and orders to ensure that Marines understand the expectations of what is and is not appropriate on social media.

“While those changes address the immediate behavioral issue, we also remain committed to addressing and evolving our culture by changing the way we educate, train, and lead our Marines – we will not tolerate a lack of respect for any member of our team,” said Walters.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19
USMC photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas

To help guide commanders and to ensure they have the appropriate information available to discuss and train Marines on online misconduct, the Marine Corps created a Leader’s Handbook in April 2017. According to Task Force personnel, the handbook provides leaders guidance on how to report and review each case. It also provides a range of potential accountability mechanisms available to commanders.

In addition to the updates to policies and orders, the Marine Corps has adjusted how it handles reports of online misconduct. Any allegation is now reported to NCIS for review and investigated if criminal in nature. If not criminal in nature, the cases are passed to the appropriate command for disposition. Additionally, commanders are now required to report allegations of online misconduct to Headquarters Marines Corps.

“I think it’s important to recognize that our understanding of the issue has evolved over time,” said Walters. “How we handle cases today is much different and more effective as a result of what occurred with Marines United. Moving forward, we are planning to establish a permanent structure that can address all of the factors that contribute to the negative subculture that has allowed this behavior to exist.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Upgraded naval warfare plan allows Marines to take South China Sea Islands

The US Marine Corps is developing a new concept of naval warfare to allow Marines to take South China Sea islands from Beijing in the context of a massive missile fight in the Pacific.

Marine Corps leaders at the Surface Navy Association’s annual national symposium told USNI News that today’s naval protocol wasn’t what the force was looking for to take on China’s Pacific fortress.


China has spent years dredging up the sea floor to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, an international waterway.

Despite promising never to militarize the islands and losing an international arbitration case concluding they did not own the islands, China has enforced de facto control over the vital shipping lane that sees trillions in annual trade.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25). Somerset is participating in Exercise Dawn Blitz 2015 (DB-15).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos)

The US regularly contests China’s claims to these waters by sailing US Navy destroyers through the area, but China has increasingly responded with militaristic rhetoric and one Chinese admiral even calling for the sinking of US aircraft carriers.

But the US remains committed to checking China’s land grab in the Pacific, and accordingly, it’s crafting war plans to stand up to Beijing’s growing military and rocket forces.

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

(CSIS/Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative)

Taking Beijing’s islands is central to those plans, US Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Coffman said, according to USNI News.

Coffman said “integrated naval operations could be needed to take an island somewhere — natural or manmade,” in a likely reference to Beijing’s man-made South China Sea outposts.

“It certainly will be required when a great power competition pits a whale against an elephant, or maybe two elephants — a global maritime power, that’s us, against a regional land power hegemon with home-field advantage,” he continued, again referencing China as an “elephant,” or a land power that the US, a “whale” or maritime power would have to overcome.

“In that long war, maritime superiority is necessary but not sufficient for the whale to beat the elephant,” he said.

In other words, the US Navy and Marines can’t just win the fight with better sea power, they will also need to make landings.

But those landings will have to be made under a massive missile attack.

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The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts flight operations near the island of Hawaii, July 30, 2016.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Can the carriers survive?

China recently deployed DF-26 “carrier killer” missiles to its northwest where they could sink US ships from outside the range of the longest-legged Navy platform.

The South China Sea now hosts a vast network of radars that experts say could be used to track and kill US naval aviation, even the stealth kind.

Additionally, a recent study that looked at carrier survivability at the Heritage Foundation revealed that China could likely muster up 600 anti-ship missiles and that a carrier strike group could likely only down 450 of those fires.

As a result, Coffman said the normal three-ship Amphibious Ready Group and the accompanying a Marine Expeditionary Unit on small deck carriers would no longer cut it.

Up gunning the fleet

The solution? Up-gunning the small carriers and including destroyers and cruisers in the battle formation.

“Every ship has to be a warship that can defend itself, have an offensive striking capability and be able to deal with the threats that are coming in, be it a cyber threat – so it needs a good network – or whether it’s a kinetic threat in the form of a missile that’s coming at it,” Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault said, according to USNI.

Beaudreault suggested putting vertical lauch cells on new US Marine Corps helicopter and F-35B carriers to handle incoming threats, essentially turning these amphibious flattops into aircraft-carrying destroyers in their own right.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

On Nov. 17, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Defense Ministry said.


At dawn, military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting, they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the ministry’s spokesman.

Related: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated his forces on retaking Rawah. In a statement released on the afternoon of Nov. 17, Al-Abadi said Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and were continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

Rawah, 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from IS earlier this month.

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The city of Rawah, Iraq. (Photo from Flickr user Jayel Aheram)

U.S.-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, airstrikes, and advisers, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said.

IS blitzed across Iraq’s north and west in the summer of 2014, capturing Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year, the United States began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.

Also Read: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

All that now remains of IS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country’s vast western desert along the border with Syria.

IS has steadily been losing ground across the border in Syria as well where its so-called “caliphate” has basically crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the former Islamic State group’s capital, which fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.

Both the U.S. and Russia have embedded special forces with their respective partners and are supporting their advances with airstrikes. Russia backs Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

The last urban areas controlled by the militants in Syria are parts of the border town of Boukamal and a patch of territory near the capital, Damascus, and in central Hama province.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian troops and Iranian-backed militias, originally pushed IS out of Boukamal earlier this month, but the militants retook a large part of the town, mostly its northern neighborhoods days later. Since then, IS has repelled government forces trying to push back into the town.

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also approaching Boukamal from the eastern side of the Euphrates.

Despite IS’ significant territorial losses, the group’s media arm remains intact, allowing it to still recruit supporters and inspire new attacks. Iraqi and American officials say IS militants are expected to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Vowing to have “very hard conversations,” Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy met with soldiers this week at Fort Hood, where at least eight service members have been found dead since March.

Most questions directed at McCarthy during a 24-minute news conference Thursday regarded Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were identified in early July. Guillen had been missing since late April.


Her family, who met with President Trump last week, has alleged Guillen was sexually harassed at Fort Hood. The case has drawn international media attention and inspired other women to recount their experiences with sexual harassment on social media.

“We must honor her memory by creating enduring change,” McCarthy said.

An independent command climate review will begin at Fort Hood at the end of August, McCarthy said. He also touted Project Inclusion, a recently announced initiative addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault, a lack of diversity, discrimination and suicide in the Army.

Depending on investigators’ findings, McCarthy said changes in leadership at Fort Hood could occur.

“If the conclusions are such that point to leaders or individuals in particular, of course, we would take the appropriate accountability,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he held nine sessions with soldiers of various ranks during his two-day visit to Fort Hood. His arrival came less than a week after Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas’ body was recovered Sunday.

Besides Guillen, other Fort Hood soldiers who have died in the past several months include Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Morales, Pvt. Mejhor Morta, Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans, Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr., Spc. Christopher Sawyer and Spc. Shelby Jones.

Spc. Aaron Robinson served in the same regiment as Guillen, 20, and killed her, investigators said. Robinson killed himself as law enforcement officials closed in on him. Cecily Aguilar, who allegedly helped Robinson dispose of Guillen’s body, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of tampering with evidence. Aguilar is being held without bond.

“These are very difficult things,” McCarthy said. “We’re the Army. We’re a reflection of the country, and at times, some people infiltrate our ranks. We’ve got to find them. We’ve got to root them out.”

Although McCarthy conceded sexual harassment is an issue, investigators have found no evidence so far that Guillen faced such abuse. While admitting that Fort Hood has the most cases of murder and sexual assault of any Army base, he said closing it is not under consideration.

“The anger and frustration in a case like Vanessa is necessary,” McCarthy said. “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. We’re heartbroken, but there’s still amazing contributions from men and women at this installation.”

McCarthy’s comments came on the same day that Mayra Guillen posted on Twitter that she received her sister’s belongings. “I don’t even want to open them … find things or clothes that we shared,” she tweeted.

Supporters came together Wednesday in Houston, Guillen’s hometown, to urge Congress to pass the #IamVanessaGuillen bill, which would make it easier for military members to report sexual harassment and assault.

Guillen’s family reportedly intends to be at Fort Hood on Friday afternoon. McCarthy planned to return to the Pentagon on Thursday night but said he would see whether he could adjust his schedule to meet the family. He said he has expressed his condolences in public and shared those thoughts in a letter to the family, but he has yet to meet Guillen’s relatives in person.

McCarthy referred to Guillen’s case as a “tipping point.”

“We are incredibly disappointed that we let Vanessa down and we let their family down,” McCarthy said. “We vow for the rest of our time in service in our life to prevent these types of acts.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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