CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Republican delegates and party officials wrangle through their strategy to capture the White House inside the Quicken Loans arena here, protesters outside the party’s national convention have plenty to say about presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Among them is a group of military veterans who call themselves “Vets Versus Hate.”
“Vets Versus Hate is a national, non-partisan, grassroots movement of veterans standing up against the rhetoric of bigotry and division that has started to really come to the fore during this election season,” Marine Corps vet Alexander McCoy explained. “We’re not here to oppose any political party; we’re here to say that the kind of language Donald Trump is using is absolutely inconsistent with our values that we swore to uphold when we joined the military.”
McCoy, who served as a guard at the American embassies in Saudi Arabia, Honduras and Germany among other duty stations while in the Marine Corps between 2008 and 2013, explained that the group came to Cleveland to show solidarity “with everyone who lives in America . . . calling upon members of [Trump’s] party that have engaged in similar rhetoric to stop this politics of division.”
But in the same breath McCoy conceded that “they don’t seem to be listening, but we’re going to continue to make our voices heard.”
While McCoy is certainly not the only vet protesting what he sees as the Trump campaign’s divisive style, Republicans here have plenty of support from veterans groups and high-profile former military members who took the stage on the convention’s opening day to underscore the real estate mogul’s support for the military.
“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” said former military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”
But on the streets among the protesters it’s a different story.
Army vet Chris Abshire, an Ohio native who deployed to Afghanistan during his 4 years as a soldier, joined Vets Versus Hate to make the public aware that other people are affected by war, not just soldiers.
“The Afghan people that I interacted with on a daily basis are forgotten about, and politicians who spew hatred toward them and say, ‘We’re going to bomb ISIS back into the Stone Age and steal their oil’ forget that that’s not even their oil,” Abshire said just before joining a circle of protesters forming a human wall in the center of Public Square here, several blocks away from Quicken Loans Arena where the RNC is being held. “That belongs to the Iraqi people, who have been victimized for years now. And I want to stand up against that.”
“Ultimately what we need to make clear to American voters is that [veterans] will not allow themselves to be used . . . as political props,” McCoy said.
Earlier Trump advisor on veteran’s issues New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro reportedly told a radio host he thought Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
“There’s no place in politics for talk about putting your opponents in front of a firing squad,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, an organization dedicated to veteran civic empowerment. “It goes against the ethos of every person who raised their right hand and swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. We’re calling on the campaign to condemn it immediately.”
Some analysts have said the Trump campaign’s tone during the primary season combined with the national mood in the wake of terror attacks across the globe, as well as the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community here at home, have prompted concerns from RNC officials and Cleveland’s leaders that there might be significant unrest during the 4-day convention.
But nearly three-quarters of the way through the event, there have been no major incidents. Protests have been mostly confined to Public Square, and the potential for them to spread beyond that is severely limited by the force protection measures the city put in place ahead of the event — including a temporary perimeter fence erected around the Quicken Loans complex that now separates the zone from the rest of the city — and a massive influx of law enforcement from other states, including police and state troopers from as far away as Florida and California.
KYIV, Ukraine — China sent fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace on Monday morning amid the first visit by a senior US official to Taiwan in decades, underscoring a steady deterioration in Sino-American relations that is increasingly edging the two countries closer to a military clash, some experts warn.
“The risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait is rising,” Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Coffee or Die. “At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that Taipei, Washington, and Beijing each continue to have a strong incentive to manage competition without resorting to force, given the risks of rapid escalation and the catastrophic consequences that any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would create for all parties.”
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon, marking the most significant official US visit to the island country in more than four decades. Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow body of water dividing mainland China from Taiwan — and briefly entered Taiwanese airspace.
A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, visits with members of the Chinese Air Force at Anshan Airfield, China Mar. 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, released.
After the Chinese warplanes ignored Taiwanese warnings, Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighters to intercept the Chinese jets, Taiwanese military officials reported on Monday. Taiwanese missiles were also tracking the Chinese jets, Taiwanese defense officials said.
“Beijing is using its military to demonstrate its capabilities to audiences that are likely watching,” Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told Coffee or Die.
“This is part of the Chinese approach to compellence — which is translated often as deterrence,” Cheng said.
In a release, Taiwan’s air force stated that the Chinese aerial maneuver was a “deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait” and that it “seriously undermined regional security and stability.”
Beijing has not yet commented on the incident, which marked the third time since 2016 that Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace.
“Chinese fighters crossed the [Taiwan Strait] mid-line in 2019 and have done so several times this year,” Cheng told Coffee or Die.
“So, on the one hand, this is part of the new normal, put in place since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016,” Cheng said, adding that the Taiwanese president is “committed to Taiwan independence, so as you can imagine, she — and her party and government — are not seen as friendly to Beijing.”
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, flies in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson.
Azar’s visit was meant to signal US recognition of Taiwan’s role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, amid mounting tensions with Beijing, Washington has made it a priority to tighten its ties with Taiwan, including increased arms sales to the island nation.
“We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world,” Azar said at a meeting with the Taiwanese president Monday.
Rather than a significant, escalatory move by China, some experts say Monday’s aerial incident is further evidence of a new era of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing — an era, experts add, that is fraught with danger due to the risk of an accidental conflict arising from an unintended, escalatory domino chain set in motion either by accident or an ill-conceived military maneuver.
“The risk of a clash is trending upward,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “In the run up to the US presidential election, I do not expect Beijing to want to create an incident involving Chinese and US military forces. […] But the risk of an unintended incident is trending higher.”
According to the Defense Department’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately […] global preeminence in the long-term.”
Ens. David Falloure, from Houston, uses a rangefinder to determine the ship’s distance to the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from the port bridge wing aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) during a trilateral photo exercise, July, 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Hong.
Greater sway over the Pacific region would expand China’s regional economic and military influence — it would also help China undercut Taiwan’s network of regional allies, experts say. Thus, in the minds of America’s military leadership, the larger contest between the US and China for global dominance is currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region.
Highlighting the region’s newfound importance to the US, the White House National Security Council recently created the new position of director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific Security. And, looking forward, the Pentagon is set to beef up the US military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, taking advantage of existing partnerships and developing new ones to pre-position US forces and equipment.
Across the entire Indo-Pacific region, both China and the US are jostling for influence over island nations for the sake gaining strategic military advantage over the other.
Establishing a far-reaching footprint across the region will allow US military forces to forward deploy military forces — including long-range, precision strike weapons — which are meant to deter China from aggressive power grabs that threaten the status quo balance of power.
Some warn, however, that tensions between China and the US are edging away from innocuous diplomatic sparring and increasingly toward military competition. Thus, as the China and the US continue their tit-for-tat military maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region, the danger of a military clash is trending upward.
“Sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace should always been considered significant but given the context of Secretary Azar’s visit, it symbolizes something else,” said SOAS University of London’s Tsang.
“The impotence of the Chinese state in its response to something that it would have seen as unacceptable,” Tsang told Coffee or Die. “Sending the jets is clearly meant to show how tough Beijing is, but Beijing knows perfectly well that it will have no effect on the USA or Taiwan, so it remains essentially a gesture.”
An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the Golden Eagles of Helicoper Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, approaches the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a trilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, July 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, opposed Azar’s visit, calling it an escalatory move. Ahead of Azar’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Washington to cut off all official contact with Taipei to “avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“Foreign Minister Wang’s statement last week confirms my assessment that Beijing would prefer to lower the temperature at the moment,” Tsang said. “Hence, the gesture in the response to Secretary Azar’s visit to Taipei. Beijing cannot afford not to respond in a way that can be presented as robust.”
Also on Monday, China announced it had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile US senators and officials in response to American criticisms of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June 2019 over a new bill allowing the extradition of the special autonomous-city’s citizens to mainland China. In November, Washington passed a new law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — that supports the Hong Hong protesters and the city’s democratic autonomy from the rest of China.
After months of protests, Beijing announced in May that it would tighten its grip on Hong Kong under a new “national security” law.
On Friday, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as law enforcement personnel. Then on Monday Chinese authorities arrested Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai, who has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protest movement.
“In response to those wrong US behaviours, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reportedly said, according to multiple news outlets.
F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt.
At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Chinese national forces under the command of Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese mainland and established an autonomous government on Taiwan called the Republic of China. Communist China has continued to claim Taiwan as its sovereign territory.
In 1971, Taiwan was booted from the United Nations and many countries have refused to officially recognize the autonomous island nation for fear of sparking reprisal from Beijing. The US does not recognize Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. And even though Washington officially ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US has sold military hardware to Taipei — including missiles, missile defense systems, and F-16 fighters.
Despite the escalating tensions, The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng remained skeptical about the possibility of an imminent armed clash between US and Chinese forces.
“I don’t think this signals that there is a greater likelihood of military conflict,” Cheng said of China’s warplane incursion into Taiwanese airspace on Monday. “It does reflect China’s greater willingness to employ the military to signal others, a natural outcome as China’s military becomes mores sophisticated and more capable.”
Cheng added: “Beijing seems to have a far different view of crisis stability compared with Western nations. It seems to think that it has the ability to unilaterally escalate and deescalate crises. It is this attitude, if it were transferred to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, or the East China Sea, that might precipitate a military confrontation.”
The “boat people,” as they came to be known, are an oft-forgotten footnote at the end of the Vietnam War. In the years following the U.S. withdrawal and the subsequent fall of South Vietnam to the Communist north, refugees packed ships leaving the southern half, bound for anywhere but there.
Between 1975 and 1995 some 800,000 people faced pirates, traffickers, and storms to escape the grip of Communism and make it to a new life in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, or elsewhere. Images of boat people adrift on any kind of ship routinely made the nightly news. Rescued refugees would be resettled anywhere they would be accepted, many of them ending up in the Western United States. One of those people was Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Asan Bui.
Vietnamese “Boat People” being rescued while adrift at sea.
Asan Bui was born on one of those vessels, adrift in the ocean, bound for nowhere, some 44 years ago. He was a citizen of no country. His father took his then-pregnant mother out of Vietnam because he had served in South Vietnam’s army as an artilleryman. Against all odds, he, his wife, and five children all escaped the iron curtain as it came crashing down.
Bui, like many who fought for anti-Communist South Vietnam, faced persecution and execution at the hands of the oncoming Communists in 1975. The fall of the southern capital at Saigon was imminent, and many were looking for a way to flee. Asan Bui’s father took his family by boat.
Air Force Reserve, Lt. Col. Asan Bui was born at sea 44 years ago while adrift in the ocean aboard a wooden boat.
(U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)
Bui’s family was just the tip of the iceberg. The fall of Saigon caused 1.6 million Vietnamese people to flee South Vietnam. The elder Bui was not happy to leave and wanted to fight the Communists every inch of the way. His sense soon got the better of him, though. If he were captured, he would likely have been tortured and killed.
“Anyone that fought alongside the United States would be killed or imprisoned in re-education camps,” Bui told the Air Force Reserve. “I have personally spoken with individuals that have gone through this brutal ordeal and survived. Some were not released for over a decade and still carry the traumatic scars.”
Lt. Col. Bui’s father, Chien Van Bui, calls in artillery fire during the Vietnam War.
(Photo provided by Lt. Col. Asan Bui)
If they did survive the capture and torture, Southern fighters could look forward to hard time in Communist labor camps, re-education centers, or worse. Instead of all that, Chien Van Bui fled with his family. When the family was rescued, they were taken to Camp Asan in Guam, naming their newborn child after the camp they called home.
Asan Bui joined the United States Air Force in his mid-twenties, now serving his 19th year for the country that took him in and allowed him to start a family of his own. Lt. Col. Asan Bui is the commander of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla. He is dedicated to continued service.
“I want to honor those (military and sponsors) that have sacrificed so much for my family and the Vietnamese refugees,” said Bui. “Especially the Vietnam veterans.”
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets
In late 1944, German Pvt. Paul-Alfred Stoob was one of the many German troops quickly retreating from Allied forces. During his withdrawal, he was hit with fire from a Sherman tank and wounded in his head and leg. When he finally made it home to Germany, he learned that his father was also wounded in his head and leg in the exact same town in World War I.
Stoob was a Panther tank driver taking part in the general German withdrawal in 1944 before the Battle of the Bulge temporarily halted Germany’s loss in territory. After the Panther was destroyed by Allied fire, Stoob and the rest of his crew stole a truck and headed east towards Belgium.
They managed to scrape together bread and some eggs before lucking out and discovering a stash of delicacies abandoned by a German headquarters unit. Only a short time after they filled their truck with the fresh food, an American Sherman crew spotted them and opened fire. Stoob was hit in the head and leg, but still tried to escape.
He made for a nearby cemetery and attempted to use the gravestones as cover for his escape. Before he could get away, a French priest begged for him to stop and then went and got an American medic to tend to his wounds.
Stoob spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in the U.S. and didn’t make it home until 1947. That was when he learned that his father, a veteran of World War I, had been wounded in the same unnamed village in 1914, exactly 30 years before his son.
Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.
When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.
Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.
Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.
Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.
3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)
Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.
Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.
4. Beef jerky
High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.
5. “Surplus” gear
Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.
The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.
6. Hard drives (the contents)
Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.
7. Electrical outlets
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks
These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.
8. Lighters and matches
Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.
9. Girl Scout cookies
Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.
The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.
The crew of a U.S. Navy helicopter reported that the crew of an Iranian vessel pointed a machine gun at them earlier this week.
The incident is the latest in a series of threatening actions by the theocratic regime.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter was vectored in on the small boats after they were attempting to shadow the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). While the helicopter was near the boats, crew members pointed an unidentified machine gun at the helo.
Iran has routinely threatened American ships and aircraft this year. In one incident, the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammer-type small boats.
American and Iranian forces have clashed before, most notably during Operation Praying Mantis in April, 1988. This past January, Iran seized 10 sailors after an engine failure occurred on a riverine boat. A female sailor was recognized for her courageous actions during the incident, which included the detention of the Navy personnel for roughly 15 hours.
The MH-60R is a multi-mission helicopter that operates off surface combatants and carriers. It has a top speed of 180 nautical miles per hour, a crew of three, and can carry Mk 46, Mk 50 or Mk 54 anti-submarine torpedoes or AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. The helicopter can remain aloft for three hours.
Iran has a large force of around 180 small patrol boats. Often armed with heavy machine guns and small arms, these vessels were used during the Iran-Iraq War to attack supertankers. The most notorious of these patrol boats was the Boghammer, a Swedish design that can carry .50-caliber machine guns, a ZU-23 twin 23mm AA gun, or a 12-round rocket launcher.
The head of the National Guard said Oct. 26 that the Pentagon will continue to investigate re-enlistment bonuses paid to thousands of California National Guard soldiers a decade ago and will force those who wrongfully accepted them to pay the money back.
Chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said his office is looking into more than 13,600 cases that could be fraudulent, but he admitted investigators have to prove that the soldier knew they were accepting upwards of $15,000 they didn’t qualify for.
“The tie goes to the soldier,” Lengyel said at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington. “If their hands are clean where this soldier is doing their duty and doing their job, it is not our intent to try to enforce this hardship on them 10 years later.”
A nationwide furor erupted after a Los Angeles Times story revealed the California National Guard was demanding repayment with interest for some bonuses it doled out to its Guard troops as an incentive to re-enlist during the height of the Iraq war. The former head of the state’s Guard incentive program was later convicted of filing over $15 million in false claims and the bureau began looking into the scope of the problem in 2012.
Some soldiers, the Times story alleges, have been forced to pay pack tens of thousands of dollars to the government after nearly a decade — some who sustained severe injuries during their subsequent deployments and have been financially ruined by the errors.
President Obama weighed in on the scandal Oct. 25 and reportedly ordered the Pentagon to speed up the audits, but he stopped short of asking for a blanket amnesty, the Times said.
Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement the next day that he’s ordered a suspension of the paybacks and has asked his office to establish a more streamlined process to investigate fraud claims and allow Guard soldiers a speedier appeal.
“This process has dragged on too long, for too many service members,” Carter said. “Too many cases have languished without action. That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers.”
Guard officials claim over 13,600 questionable bonuses were paid out to California soldiers in the mid-2000s — some for re-enlistment incentives, others for education reimbursement. About 1,100 bonuses were given to soldiers who officials allege were not entitled to them, about 4,000 were error free and about 5,300 had paperwork errors. There are still about 3,200 that Guard officials are still trying to track down.
So far about 2,000 soldiers have been asked to pay back all or part of their bonus cash, Guard officials say.
Lengyel explained some of the more egregious cases included officers who took the cash to re-up when the money was intended to help fill the enlisted ranks, some who took bonuses to stay in certain jobs even though they were already in the process of changing their roles in the Army Guard and others who took re-enlisted bonuses despite being on track to take a slot at officer candidate’s school.
“Was there an intent to trick the system, to take advantage of the fact that apparently there’s some new sheriff in town who’s handing out bonuses?” Lengyel wondered. “Unfortunately with all of this was mixed in some proven intent to defraud the government, in some cases. There was some intent to take money knowingly that you weren’t entitled to by some people.”
But he added that likely the vast majority of soldiers who took the bonuses didn’t have any intent to illegally work the system.
“We think there are a lot of people out there who were 22-year-old soldiers who were given information that they thought by all means they were entitled to the money,” Lengyel said. “They were told they could take this money, they were told that they were entitled to this money, they took the money, the re-enlisted and they went about whatever they were doing and they were given bad data.”
Guard officials say there are more cases of alleged fraud in the re-enlistment bonuses for National Guard troops in other states, but that they pale in comparison to the California errors. Lengyel said in all about $50 million in questionable bonuses were paid out in California during the period, and the Guard is investigating each one individually.
The National Guard is granting exceptions, he added, particularly for those who were paid bonuses without submitting records that they were actually eligible. Lengyel said, for example, a bonus paid out to a soldier that didn’t forward a copy of a high school diploma will likely be given a pass since he couldn’t have joined the Guard without it in the first place.
“That’s a technicality by which this member shouldn’t be levied a fine,” Lengyel said. “The blanket rule is to do the right thing.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been outraged by the story, with some already calling for an investigation into the issue and forwarding language to an upcoming defense bill that would give some bonus recipients amnesty. National Guard officials say they did notify Congress of the potential for bonus fraud but nothing was done.
Vet groups have been quick to side with California guardsmen, arguing it’s unfair to put so many soldiers in financial peril due to a former military official’s malfeasance.
“If any of these people were misled about their own eligibility for the bonus with the intent to keep them on, they shouldn’t be held responsible for that,” said John Hoellwarth, National Communications Director for AMVETS. “We think the benefit of the doubt has to be with the soldiers,”
Lengyel said his office is sending investigators to California to help speed up the process of determining whether a bonus or incentive was paid in error in hopes of helping affected soldiers get on with their lives.
“We’re focused on helping those service members who were doing the right thing and served their country and thought they were entitled to a bonus to get this out of their past and out of their way,” Lengyel said. “And we want to help California do that, and help the service members do that as quickly as we possibly can.”
Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.
War is hell.
Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.
So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.
During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.
After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.
So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.
One goal of textile research and development effort is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made solely from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.
“We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant; no topical treatments are added to provide FR,” Winterhalter said. “We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system. We don’t have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material.”
Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype, wool-blend uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the field assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.
“We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise,” Riedener said. “The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material.”
FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The RD team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.
Each soldier received three wool-blend uniform prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was “garment treated” with permethrin, an insecticide, and another “fabric treated” with permethrin. The third was untreated.
Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.
Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.
Initial results suggest the majority of the soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.
Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.
“Wool is 100 percent biodegradable. It’s easy to dye and absorbs moisture,” said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government’s chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool, Winterhalter said.
“When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed,” Winterhalter said. “The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country.”
The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.
NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this RD effort, Winterhalter said.
Few things have the power to transport people like the cinema.
Who can forget Robert Williams’ “Good morning, Vietnam” or Marine Corps DI Hartman’s memorable quotes?
The following list is of our favorite military movies to watch over Fourth of July weekend.
“The Longest Day” (1962)
“The Longest Day”tells the story of heroism and loss that marked the Allies’ successful completion of the Normandy Landings on D-Day during World War II.
The film stands out due to its attention to detail, as it employed many Axis and Allied D-Day participants as advisers for how to depict the D-Day landings in the movie.
“Lawrence Of Arabia” (1962)
Based on the exploits of British Army Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence during World War I, “Lawrence of Arabia” tells the story of Lawrence’s incredible activities in the Middle East.
The film captures Lawrence’s daring, his struggles with the horrific violence of World War I, and the incredible British role in the foundation of the modern Middle East and Saudi Arabia.
“The Great Escape” (1963)
“The Great Escape” is based on a novel of the same name, which was a nonfiction account of a mass escape from a German prison camp in Poland during World War II. The film follows several British German prisoners of war as they try to escape from the Nazis and make their way back to Allied-controlled territory.
“The Dirty Dozen” (1967)
Extremely loosely inspired by true acts during World War II, “The Dirty Dozen” tells the story of 12 Army convicts trained for a nearly impossible mission deep in Nazi-occupied France before D-Day, and the film follows their exploits in training and beyond.
“MASH” is a black comedy set on the frontlines of the Korean War. The story follows a group of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital officers as they carry out their mission against the bleak backdrop of the seemingly ceaseless conflict miles from their position.
A movie documenting the life and exploits of General George S. Patton.
A wartime hero of World War II, the film covers Patton’s exploits, accomplishments, and ultimate discharge.
“The Deer Hunter” (1978)
“The Deer Hunter” follows the story of a trio of Russian-American steelworkers both in Pennsylvania before their service and during the Vietnam War.
The film, which stars Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for best picture, best director, and best supporting actor for Walken.
“Apocalypse Now” (1979)
Featuring an all-star cast (Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper) and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, “Apocalypse Now” is a modern adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness.”
Set in Vietnam in 1970, the film shows to what depths men will sink during wartime.
“Das Boot” (1981)
“Das Boot” is a German film depicting the service of German sailors aboard fictional submarine U-96. The story has been lauded for personalizing the characters during World War II by showing both the tension of hunting ships, as well as the tedium of serving aboard submarines.
“Top Gun” (1986)
Starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, “Top Gun” follows Cruise as he attends the Top Gun aviation school. An aggressive but extremely competent pilot, Cruise competes throughout his training to become the best pilot in training. The film was selected in 2015 by the Library of Congress for preservation due to its cultural significance.
“Platoon,” featuring Charlie Sheen, depicts the horrors and difficulties of the Vietnam War. The movie both shows the difficulty in locating potential insurgents in a civilian population, as well as the strains and struggles war can place on brothers-in-arms.
“Good Morning Vietnam” (1987)
Loosely based on a true story, “Good Morning Vietnam” is a comedy-drama starring Robin Williams as a radio DJ in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
Williams earned an Academy Award for best actor.
“Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket” follows two new recruits as they enter bootcamp during the Vietnam War. From depicting the struggles of training to the savagery of war, “Full Metal Jacket” remains a timeless classic.
Featuring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman, “Glory” follows the US’s first all African American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
Denzel Washington won an Academy Award for his performance.
“The Hunt For Red October” (1990)
Based on Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel, “The Hunt For Red October” is set during the last stages of the Cold War.
The film stars Sean Connery as a rogue Soviet naval captain who is attempting to defect to the US with the Soviet Union’s most advanced nuclear missile submarine.
“Schindler’s List” (1993)
Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson, “Schindler’s List” tells the true story of how businessman Oskar Schindler evolves from seeing Jews as nothing but human chattel to doing his best to save as many Jews from Nazi death camps as possible during the Holocaust. The film, based on a true story and painfully told, won the Academy Award for best picture.
“Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
Directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Tom Hanks, “Saving Private Ryan” showcases both the brutality of World War II while also paying tribute to the amazing courage and honor that each person can rise to. The movie won Spielberg an Academy Award in 1999 for best director.
“Three Kings” (1999)
Featuring Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and George Clooney, “Three Kings” shows a stark depiction of life on the ground in Kuwait and Southern Iraq following the end of the Gulf War.
The movie depicts the brutality that Iraqis faced from the regime of Saddam Hussein after trying to rise up against the government at the end of the war.
“Black Hawk Down” (2001)
Directed by Ridley Scott, “Black Hawk Down” follows the tragic exploits of US special forces that were sent into Somalia on a peacekeeping mission in 1993. The movie won the Academy Award for best film editing in 2002.
“Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, depicts a realistic look at the mix of drudgery and tension that exists for soldiers in a war zone.
The movie spans from the late 1980s through the US involvement in the Gulf War.
“Downfall” depicts the end of the European stage of World War II from inside Adolf Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. The movie depicts Hitler’s final days as he, and his fellow high-ranking Nazis, realize the futility of their position in the war and the end of the Third Reich.
“Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” (2005)
“Tae Guk Gi” follows the tale of two South Korean brothers during the start of the Korean War. Drafted into combat, the older brother continuously volunteers for the most dangerous missions in exchange for his little brother’s safety. But, as the movie depicts, such constant violence takes the toll of all involved.
“Letters From Iwo Jima” (2006)
Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Letters From Iwo Jima” tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. The film is a companion to Clint Eastwood’s film “Flags Of Our Fathers,” which also tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima but from the American perspective.
“Beasts Of No Nation” (2015)
Released on Netflix, “Beasts of No Nation” is based on a book of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. Set in an unnamed West African country, the film depicts the horror of civil war and the use of child soldiers.
The film is told from the point of view of the child soldier Agu, played by Abraham Attah, as he attempts to survive and is forced to fight in the war.
In this age of smartphones and social media, we often get unprecedented access to events that we normally would have just read about in a paper long ago. Many of us have seen videos of combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and countless other places. We see the perspective of our enemies as they strap on Go-Pros and launch attacks. We see camera footage of Special Forces carrying out operations. We see airstrikes from drones and watch enemy bodies get turned to hamburger meat by attack helicopters.
For older conflicts, however, we usually see sanitized footage released by the government or newsreels that were edited with sound effects added. But have you ever wondered what it sounded like to storm the beaches of Iwo Jima?
Well, now you can hear it for yourself. Audio from the actual Iwo Jima landings can be heard here.
In it, we hear two Marine Corps Correspondents give a ‘play by play’ as the Marines head toward the beach. The first person identified as one Sgt. Mawson of the 4th Marine Division goes first.
As gunfire sounds around him, Mawson is on board a landing craft en route to the beach. He sees Marines being tossed into the air from mortar and artillery fire and states the beach ‘seems to be aflame.’ As the landing craft clears the warships, he heads straight to the beach. As he gets closer, he can see a tank already aflame. When they are only a couple of hundred yards out, he can see Marines moving up and down the beach through wrecked vehicles. He makes reference to the abandoned Japanese navy ships that were left to corrode on the beach, a sign of the decimation the Japanese Imperial Navy experienced in early battles like Midway.
The second Marine is not known by name. However, his words are even more grave than the first correspondent as his audio conveys his arrival on the black sands of Iwo Jima.
He starts at the line of departure and about 2000 yards from shore. He states that the beach ‘looks to be practically on fire.’ In the fog of war, he reports that casualties in the first wave are light. We know now that the Japanese allowed the Marines on the island and opened up once most of the first waves were settled on the beach. It seems like this correspondent can see the Japanese attack, but the severity is not known to him yet. He tells us he sees dive bombers strafing enemy positions.
Then, upon fully seeing the absolute carnage on the beach, he has a very human moment. He talks about his wife and daughter back home. He wonders aloud if they are alright and then wishes that he would be able to go back home to them.
Many of us who have been overseas have had this moment when you have a firm vision of your own mortality and immediately think of your loved ones back home. Through his professional demeanor, it’s a human and heartbreaking moment.
As the craft gets closer, he observed machine gun fire coming down from Mt. Suribachi aimed at his craft, although for the moment, they are out of range.
The landing craft grounds on the beach, and the ramp goes down, and a machine gun goes off. You hear in the background, ‘what the hell was that?’ and wonder if some poor soul had a negligent discharge (although I am sure a few minutes later, no one cared).
As he wades ashore, he mentions that the water is so high that his pistol gets wet as he trudges ashore. He starts giving a matter of fact description of the beach and its make-up before coming back to what he is doing. The gunfire gets louder.
He yells ‘spread out!’ as he and his stick get closer to the beach. You can hear incoming fire around him as he very calmly explains his situation. He states so far that no one around him has been hit, and you can hear a dive bomber flying overhead.
But unfortunately, as we know now, Iwo was not to be an easy operation.
He sees his first casualty, a Marine who is being evacuated. He then sees other Marines being hit by enemy fire, and his voice starts to dampen from the gravity of the situation. About 100 feet from the beach, we hear him as he sees more casualties. He sees a Marine lying on his back with ‘his blood pouring into the water.’ He is very calm as there are fire and death all around him.
Upon coming ashore, he is surprised to see that the Marines are still on the beach. He sees that the first waves are bogged down from the fire and sand. This was exactly the plan of the Japanese commander, and from the sound of the recording, it was initially very successful at bogging down the Marines and inflicting heavy losses.
The next thing he says tells of a courage that all Marines know of and admire. He talks of corpsman walking up and down the beach, seemingly unaffected by the incoming fire, checking up and down to make sure everyone who needs it, is being treated. Gotta love those Docs!
The recording ends with the correspondent headed toward the first wave as more Marines come in the waves behind him.
As we know now, what was supposed to be an easy landing and week-long battle turned into one of the bloodiest battles in World War II. Over 6,000 Marines died bravely to take Iwo Jima.
If anything, these recordings document a small part of their heroic journeys and horrible ordeals.