A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Don Nicholas joined the military twice. The second time was for a reason soldiers don’t often give. His first enlistment began as a Marine in 1971. He spent the war on an aircraft carrier and didn’t set foot in South Vietnam until the war was over. He re-enlisted to land a spot as an embassy Marine in Saigon in 1974. He was on the second-to-last American helicopter leaving the city as it fell in 1975. He left active duty in 1978.

In 2004, he came back. The Marines thought he was too old at age 52. But for the Army Reserve, he was just what the doctor ordered. Literally.


It’s really not a fascination with war itself,” Sgt. Nicholas, who became a podiatrist in the intervening years, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more trying to keep people from getting killed. I’m taking the spot of some 19-year-old.”
A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

The now-Army NCO Nicholas’ Marine Corps Saigon Embassy ID photo.

(Don Nicholas)

In 2011, he was 59 years old, the oldest of 6,000 troops in the 25th Infantry Division sent to eastern Afghanistan. He tried for years to get back into the military after his service ended. He tried during Desert Storm and again after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t until the height of the Iraq War that the Army was ready to take a man of his skill and advanced age.

Though “advanced” is a term used only because the Army’s average age of enlistees back in 2004 was somewhere between 30 and 35. Nicholas’ wife says his return to service actually replenished his youthful vigor.

He doesn’t want the other 19-year-olds to go,” Mrs. Nicholas said. But “it makes him 19 again. He finds youth in the military.”
A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Don Nicholas in Afghanistan.

(Fox News/Daily Mail UK)

After his initial re-enlistment in 2004, he was sent to Iraq for 11 months. After a brief stay back at home, he redeployed to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, among other places. At age 60, he would be ordered out of the battlefields of Afghanistan due to age restrictions. Instead, he fought to stay in Kunar Province of Afghanistan for another year, pushing back against the military’s attempted mandatory retirement. He has only seen 16 years of active service and wants to complete 20 years.

If I have my chance to stay in and complete my 20 years. I absolutely would,” he told the Daily Mail. “Probably would stay in a few more years after that if I could.” As of 2011, he was hoping his podiatry practice could get him attached to a medical unit.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How problems on Navy’s new supercarrier helped it build the next one

Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.

The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.

“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”


A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.

At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.

That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Kennedy.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.

“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”

Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”

The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.

“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.

In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.

The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.

“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.

On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”

There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”

“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.

(US Navy/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Matt Hildreth)

The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.

About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.

On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.

“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.

“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.

Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.

Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.

Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.

“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.

Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.

In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.

Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.

Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”

“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”

Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.

“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

23 Parenting memes that will make you feel seen

It’s no secret that this year is super strange for parents. Still reeling from months in quarantine, working from home and homeschooling, parents everywhere are now staring down the barrel of summer vacations with far fewer options than they had in previous years. Parents are navigating uncharted territory, and there’s no doubt it’s putting their parenting skills, their patience, their sanity to the test. But here’s the thing, you’re not alone, parents. We’re all in this together. All you can do is take it one day at a time, power through and find a way to cope. Someday this will all be a distant memory. In the meantime, they say laughter is good medicine, so here are a few parenting memes that will make you feel seen and perhaps LOL just a little. Enjoy!


A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Failedgags.com)

Bruh

I think I need to change my name.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Scary Mommy)

What?

But they’ll hear the crackle of a candy wrapper from down the block.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via NoIdeaDaddyBlog)

Worst coworkers ever

Can I speak to your manager?

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via FowlLanguageComics.com)

Fowl language

Well played life, well played.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Imgur.com)

Find your zen

Wait until we get home.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via me.me)

Google

Let’s hope no one checks my search history.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Someecards)

Summer

Giving wine for a teacher appreciation gift doesn’t seem so stupid now, does it?

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(source unknown)

You got this

Shouts from the couch: “Wear your helmet!”

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Alyceoneword)

WATCH THIS!

Maybe 199 is the sweet spot and their trick will actually work?

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via FB.com/JulieBurtonWriter)

#truth

For answers: Divide and conquer.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via BadParentingMoments)

Cleaning

Moving might be easier.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via TheOutnumeredMother)

The days are long, the years are short

Is this thing on?

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(via conservativememew.com)

Tarjay

Target: Therapy for moms since 1902.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via @LurkAtHomeMom)

PUT ON YOUR SHOES

Mental note: Just start with Batman.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via boredpanda.com)

Beast mode

There’s bread on the counter and water in the sink. Cheers!

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via @closetoclassy)

E.T. find me a nap

Try as I may.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Myquestionablelife)

All the motivation

Rules? What Rules?

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via @SamPsychMeds)

Socks

This wasn’t on my “summer with the kids” bingo card.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Ramblinmama)

Time flies

And hours go by like minutes while I’m scrolling.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Source Unknown)

So early

Brace yourselves and hydrate!

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Source Unknown)

Empathy is important

Yup, sounds about right.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Via Someecards)

Whose kid is this?

Your circus, your monkeys.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Source Unknown)

Seriously

There’s gotta be a box around here somewhere…


MIGHTY HISTORY

The only time a US blimp was ever lost in World War II combat

Airships like zeppelins and blimps lost their appeal somewhere between World Wars I and II. It might have had something to do with the Hindenburg going down in a massive, fiery wreck in front of the whole world. By the time World War II came about, airships were a thing of the past for every military except the United States, which is a shame because you did not want to f*ck with an airship.


They seem like goofy floating targets just begging to be shot down but getting to them was a lot harder than anyone might think. More than that, they were really effective at locating enemy submarines and then blowing them into oblivion. Of the 89,000 ships protected by airships during WWII, only one was ever lost.

And only one airship was ever lost, and it happened off the coast of Florida in July 1943.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Blimp-Submarine combat seems like it would be adorable.

The missions of blimp crew was an easy one, use the massive range of sight the blimp had over the ocean waters, locate enemy submarines, then call in for fighters and bombers to come finish the subs off. They had some weapons, a few depth charges, and a .50-cal machine gun, but not something to take on a submarine head-to-head. But K-74 did just that.

A 252-foot airship, K-74 was performing its usual mission in the Florida Straits when it spotted German U-boat 134 on radar. The airship came down from the cover of the clouds to find the boat on the surface of the water. Seeing that the U-boat was headed for a merchant convoy, Lt. Nelson Grills decided he couldn’t just wait for backup and had to act fast. As the ship moved to intercept the boat, the sub’s conning tower exploded with 20-mm rounds.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

U-134 under attack from the RAF earlier in 1943. The sub survived the meeting.

K-74 was able to drop two charges on the sub as it flew overhead, but the charges did nothing to silence the 20mm guns. The blimp returned fire, but the submarine had hit one of the airship’s engines, and she was losing altitude fast. Then it caught fire. The next thing he knew, the crew had begun to abandon ship – all because he couldn’t follow protocol. But the ship didn’t explode in a Hindenburg-like burst of flame. It gently fell to the surface of the water, and the crew climbed aboard the deflated ship.

Gills helped his crewmen escape, but as they climbed the balloon part of the ship, Grills got separated when he stayed behind to destroy the ship’s classified documents and top-secret cargo.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

The ship’s commander was found when another K-ship spotted him in the water below just a few hours after his ship went down. His crew was in the water all night and was found by a seaplane the next day. Most of them survived, except for one. The crew was being circled by sharks as planes flew overhead and surface ships moved in for a rescue. The USS Dahlgren had come on scene to pick them up, and even though the Dahlgren’s crew managed to keep some sharks away with small arms, one of the K-74 crewmen was pulled under by a shark and disappeared.

All was not lost, however. K-74 damaged the enemy submarine in the action. The U-boat was forced to limp home heavily damaged. Eventually, it was found at sea by the British Royal Air Force, who swiftly finished it off near the Cies Islands.

MIGHTY FIT

The top 5 military injuries and how to prevent them

One aspect of military life that is so attractive for so many is the intense fitness regime and the opportunity to engage in physical activities that you wouldn’t normally engage in. The downside of that is that military injuries are extremely common. It’s very rare to meet a member of the armed forces who has not sustained an injury of some sort at one time or another.

Some of the most common military training injuries include knee injuries and musculoskeletal issues that result from heavy impacts and the weights the armed forces are required to carry. But there are also other common military injuries that you might not necessarily expect.

In this guide, we’ll introduce some of the most common military injuries and what you can do to prevent them. We will also look at the experiences of those who are overcoming them, as first told in this To Better Days pain story.


A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

1) Patellar Tendon Injury

The patellar works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend the knee when running, jumping, and kicking. A patellar tendon injury is caused when the tendon connecting your kneecap to your shinbone is damaged or torn. This type of injury is common in sports that involve frequent jumping, such as volleyball and basketball, but it’s also very common in the military.

How to prevent it:

  • Avoid jumping and landing on hard surfaces such as concrete
  • Do exercises to strengthen the leg muscles that support the knees
  • Warm-up and stretch the knee before exercise
  • Warm down and stretch the knee after exercise
  • Wear knee support when doing fitness tests or playing sport

If you do suffer a patellar tendon injury, there are some natural sources of tendonitis pain relief you may want to try. Andrew, who serves in the British Army, uses To Better Days Active Patches to relieve his pain. He had the following to say:

“In my job, we have access to physio and rehabilitation. On top of that, I had shockwave therapy to recharge and rest the tendon, but when I started using To Better Days patches there was an improvement overnight. I can’t describe it any better.”

2) Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains are the most common type of musculoskeletal injury in the lower limbs and also one of the most common military injuries in active-duty soldiers. Although an ankle sprain might be the least of your worries during Hell Week or some other form of rigorous army training, sprained ankles are extremely debilitating and take time to heal. Often, military personnel do not give ankle sprains the time the ligaments need to heal properly. This increases the likelihood of future and subsequent ankle sprains.

How to prevent it:

  • Always wear boots that provide proper arch support
  • Stand on one leg while performing light upper body exercises to improve your balance and increase the strength of the muscles surrounding the ankle
  • Be mindful when exercising and running on uneven surfaces
  • Use an ankle brace or tape to provide additional support during exercise

3) Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disorder rather than an injury, but it’s important that we include it in our list due to its prevalence in the armed forces. One in four veterans suffers from arthritis. It’s one of the main causes of medical discharge from the army. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions your bones wears away. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it’s most common in the knees, hands, hips, and spine.

How to prevent it:

  • Reduce the risk of joint injuries by warming up and warming down before and after every exercise session
  • Listen to the pain — if you have joint pain that lasts one to two hours or more after exercise then you have done too much
  • Get an assessment by a physical therapist to learn the best exercises you can do to protect your joints
  • Maintain a healthy diet and control your weight and blood sugar levels

4) Shin Splints

Shin splints is an injury that often results from running with improper form or ill-fitting shoes. High mileage running is unavoidable in the military, which makes shin splints a common condition. Although shin splints can be very painful, it’s not usually serious and there are a number of things you can do to treat it.

How to prevent it:

  • Exercise on softer surfaces whenever possible
  • Stretch your calves and hamstrings before and after you exercise
  • Strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot, e.g. use your toes to pull a towel closer to your feet while you’re sitting down
  • Buy shoes that have the proper support and features for your running style

5) Tinnitus

This condition has nothing at all to do with physical training but it is one of the most common military injuries. Tinnitus is a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears. It is usually caused by prolonged exposure to the loud noises present in training and combat. Tinnitus can be extremely debilitating for serving soldiers and veterans, so you should take every possible step to prevent it.

How to prevent it:

  • Use ear protection in situations of prolonged exposure to loud noises
  • Stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue can all contribute to tinnitus, so get plenty of sleep and take steps to treat emotional distress
  • Get regular checkups from your doctor and tell them if you are concerned about hearing loss or tinnitus so they pay special attention to your ears
  • Take supplements such as N-Acetyl-Cysteine and magnesium, which may help to prevent tinnitus.

Be Aware of the Risks

Unfortunately, even during peacetime, soldiers are at a higher risk of injuries due to the physical nature of their jobs. However, whether it’s short-term injuries or persistent, chronic injuries, prevention is always better than a cure. Being aware of the early signs of a problem and taking the necessary steps to reduce the risks are the best ways to stay injury-free.

This article was written by Jacques Deux, a writer with over 10 years of writing experience. He specializes in content about the military, physical fitness, health, and natural ways to relieve pain. In his spare time, he enjoys working out, spending time with his dog, and keeping up with the latest military news.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


Articles

How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX is launching satellites that will hunt down smugglers and pirates

SpaceX hopes to fire off its next Falcon 9 rocket mission on Nov. 19, 2018. If the launch goes well, Elon Musk’s aerospace company may not only break spaceflight records, but also help fight nefarious behavior on the open ocean.

The goal of SpaceX’s upcoming mission, called SSO-A, is to put 71 satellites into orbit all at once. A company called Spaceflight Industries organized the mission, and it claims this is the largest-ever rideshare mission in US history, as spacecraft from 35 different companies and organizations will fly aboard the rocket.


However, three microwave-oven-sized spacecraft on the mission — a cluster called Pathfinder — are particularly worth noting.

The trio of spacecraft belong to a startup called HawkEye 360, and they’re designed to “see” radio signals from space. The company’s software will take unique radio signals coming from ships to “fingerprint” vessels, track them over time, and even forecast future movements.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

An illustration of the SSO-A payload deploying CubeSats and microsatellites.

(Spaceflight Industries)

If Pathfinder works, authorities around the world could gain a major leg up in hunting “dark ships”: vessels that turn off GPS location transponders, often to hide their whereabouts and engage in illicit activity.

Such activity includes illegal fishing, smuggling, drug trafficking, and piracy, and it amounts to roughly trillion each year, says John Serafini, the CEO of HawkEye 360.

“We care about the folks that are not doing the right thing. We care about the vessels that don’t want to be found,” Serafini told Business Insider. “We’re focused on detecting those and stopping them.”

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

A HawkEye 360 data visualization that shows every instance over a month in which a boat turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) for more than 8 hours.

(HawkEye 360)

Hunting ‘dark ships’ with radio waves

HawkEye 360 claims it’s unique not only for its radio-signal-detecting technology, but also artificial-intelligence-powered software the startup has developed to process data.

“You couldn’t have started this company 10 years ago,” Serafini said. “The costs were too high, and the technology wasn’t there.”

He added that HawkEye 360 exists today because of the increasing miniaturization of electronics, SpaceX’s lower-cost rocket launches, and advancements in machine learning.

Pathfinder, like the other satellites SpaceX is launching, will sweep around Earth from pole-to-pole in what’s called a sun-synchronous orbit — hence the “SSO” in the mission’s name. (The “A” signifies that it’s the first of multiple rideshare missions.) This orbit keeps sunlight drenching a spacecraft’s solar panels while allowing it to fly over every square inch of the planet.

The antennas of Pathfinder can detect a wide range of radio signals above about 1 watt in power. (“Cell phones are well below a watt in power,” Serafini said. “We don’t have the ability or the focus to do that.”)

This means the cluster can triangulate normally hard-to-pinpoint signals from satellite phones, push-to-talk radios, and marine radar. Ships need these and other radio-emitting tools to navigate the seas, the thinking goes.

This is especially true for “dark ships,” since those vessels turn off a mandatory device called an automatic identification system, or AIS. The AIS broadcasts a ship’s GPS location to avoid collisions, but turning it off is a common trick vessels use if they’re slipping into unapproved fishing zones or trafficking illegal drugs, wares, or people.

Serafini said that may soon cease to be an effective way to avoid getting noticed.

“If you’re turning on and off the AIS, we’re going to track your other emitters. If you try to turn them all off, you’re effectively negating your operation. You need to use them to navigate and communicate,” Serafini said. “If you do that, we’ve won. You can’t be effective.”

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HawkEye 360’s three microsatellites that will form its Pathfinder constellation.

(HawkEye 360)

How Pathfinder works

The Pathfinder system relies on the fact that every radio transponder on Earth is built differently, even if it’s made by the same person in the same factory. Minor variations in parts and assembly lead to subtle differences in radio emissions that HawkEye 360 says it can detect and exploit.

More importantly, by tracking a mix of radio emissions on a ship and pairing those with AIS signals (when the devices are turned on), the company can “fingerprint” every ocean vessel on Earth. That way, even if a ship is “spoofing” its AIS data, the company says it will know; AIS data will report one location, but the vessel’s radio fingerprint will reveal its true location.

HawkEye 360 says it has already proved that its system works by equipping three Cessna jet airplanes with Pathfinder technology, flying them over the Chesapeake Bay, and detecting ships that were spoofing their AIS data.

“We were able to not only detect the AIS spoofing but also geolocate the ships using their other radio signals,” Chris DeMay, the founder and CTO of HawkEye 360, told Business Insider. “We were able to map where the ship actually was and compare that to where the ship said it was.”

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Data from HawkEye 360’s airplane-based test of its core technology. Blue dots show reported locations, based on automatic identification system (AIS) data, while orange dots show radio-frequency-based locations. Red circles indicate a zone of 95% certainty.

(HawkEye 360/ESRI)

In addition to fingerprinting such vessels, HawkEye 360’s machine-learning algorithms will also be able to determine typical activity patterns for a ship and flag any unusual deviation.

Over time, the company says, it could even forecast the future locations of individual vessels based on their past behavior.

“Because we’ll be the first ones to do this, we’ll be the first ones to bring it to the commercial market,” Serafini said.

The future of tracking radio signals from above

The Pathfinder satellite cluster will give HawkEye 360 a global view of certain radio transmissions on Earth once every four to six hours. But DeMay and Serafini say that’s just the beginning.

According to them, HawkEye 360 is backed by about million in funding (enough to operate for 18 months), has 31 employees, and has secured 0 million in contracts. In the future, they aim to launch six more three-satellite clusters, which will create a constellation that can map Earth’s radio signals once every 30 to 40 minutes.

Launching larger and more capable satellites will also improve the company’s ability to detect weaker signals.

“Trucks use radio emitters that we could detect and track,” Serafini said. “If a truck is known to have a history of illegal border crossing, we might want to track that particular object.”

The company expects the US military to be increasingly interested in the technology, especially considering that HawkEye 360 can deploy its sensors on airplanes and high-altitude balloons (in addition to satellites). That feature could allow for real-time tracking of drones and weak signals on a battlefield.

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An illustration of a cell tower transmitting data.

(HawkEye 360)

Another planned use of Pathfinder is more down-to-earth: The technology could detect improper use of the radio-frequency spectrum, including interference between cell-phone towers. Such interference can cause data loss between mobile devices and towers, leading to slow and unreliable internet, among other problems.

Ground crews with trucks typically drive around towers to search for and identify such problems, but such teams and equipment can expensive to deploy, especially on a nationwide scale.

“It’s like that Verizon ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy, but in space,” DeMay said — and possibly a lot cheaper and more effective.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Deep in the swamp – or what feels like the swamp at least –  lies a training ground whose memories haunt your dreams forever. What pops up when your headlamp goes off? Why does the ground look like it’s moving? It’s all in here… it’s all Fort Polk. 

The itsy-bitsy swarm of spiders 

It’s night and you are patrolling through the Vietnam-like jungles of Fort Polk in search of the elusive “G Man.” The humidity is so thick you could cut it with a knife and as you scan the ground with your headlamp, tiny flashes of light shimmer back at you from the grass, bushes, and trees that surround you. No those aren’t water droplets and you didn’t suddenly walk into a diamond mine. 

They are spider eyes and there are hundreds of them across every inch of ground within “The Box.” In Louisiana, there exist such species of spiders, like the massive Banana Spider who live to haunt you forever. According to local wildlife guides, they’re likely hiding or in webs between trees which wouldn’t affect you unless you’re doing such things like digging foxholes, fighting positions, or traipsing through the wilderness in the dark. All things which in fact, you will be doing in the box while training there. Good thing you packed a flame thrower just for this instance.

It’s raining it’s pouring it’s always *bleeping* raining 

The first few days after arriving at Fort Polk for training usually involve unpacking Conexes, unloading vehicles at the rail yard and attending training classes. The weather during this period is likely sunny and warm, giving a false sense of hope that perhaps it’s not so bad here after all. Then at the precise moment, your unit enters the box, the monsoon hits. 

With an average yearly rainfall around 60 inches, it’s nearly double the national average. Your hooch is in mortal danger of becoming swept away (with your body in it) when the puddle quickly becomes a raging river. 

Beware of the “swamp ass” 

You wake up- you’re sweating. You go to sleep-sweating. You stand still and you’re sweating. Not only is it embarrassing, but it’s stinky. This particular form of “booty-dew” is nearly impossible to solve since it’s likely you only rucked in with a few extra shirts or socks, which are likely still wet from last night’s flash flood that swept through the camp. 

Gators, mosquitos, and horses- oh my! 

Fort Polk is home to a host of species we’re all terrified of. Ever parachuted into a cloud of fog to see nothing, but hear the pounding of hooves coming straight for you? Welcome to Fort Polk. Wondering what that fast-moving cloud is that covered the sliver of sunshine? It’s mosquitos. They’re so bad down here that slapping yourself in the face is not only “normal” but it’s a tactical strategy. You’re not crazy, they are. Another fun fact about this paradise you ask? Louisiana has one of the highest populations of alligators in the U.S. 

So when that nearby flood pond looks like the salvation from “swamp ass” you’ve been looking for, think again. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the real-life jaws of death, perhaps you should check your ankles after the LT’s suggestion to save time. Leeches are just another of God’s greatest creations awaiting your arrival to Fort Polk. 

Finally, the Conex is packed, the vehicles loaded and you’re on the march out. You’ve survived. There’s something special waiting for you…next year’s rotation back to this paradise. 

Articles

The BRRRRRT goes on . . .

The Air Force spent a lot of time trying to mothball the A-10 Thunderbolt II over the past few years. After realizing there is no reliable close-air support (CAS) alternative to the airframe, however, Congress fought the Air Force at nearly every turn.


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Capt. Richard Olson gets off an A-10 Warthog at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, (U.S. Air Force photo)

The plane, dubbed the Warthog for its snoutlike nose and the distinctive sound of the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon around which the aircraft is built, is slower than other tactical jet aircraft. Its max speed is 439 mph, while the F-16 tops out at 1,350 mph. What the Warthog lacks in speed, it makes up for in durability, featuring 1,200 pounds of titanium armor plating around the cockpit and its necessary systems. The A-10’s ability to take a beating from ground fire while providing such close support makes it the perfect CAS aircraft.

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Armored vehicle post-A-10 Close Air Support (U.S. Air Force photo)

See Also: The A-10 “sparks panic” in ISIS fighters

The move to retire the A-10 came while American forces were pulling out of Afghanistan and were already out of Iraq. Under budgetary pressure, the Air Force wanted to replace the A-10 mission with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose abilities were designed for the entire battlespace. The rise of ISIS and new combat roles for ground forces in the region saved the Warthog from the boneyard. The A-10 was designed to work in tandem with ground forces and theater commanders are seeing more and more demand for the unique support the bird provides.

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(DoD Video Still)

“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan
U.S. Air Force Combat Control JTACs from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron call for close air support from a A-10 Thunderbolt II while attending the Air Force’s JTAC Advanced Instructor Course (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

The Pentagon is due to submit its 2017 budget proposal to Congress next week and officials tell Defense One the life of the plane will be extended because of that demand. Congress criticized the Air Force for attempting to retire the A-10 without a replacement plan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L_TjXXx7eQ

As part of the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress mandated the Air Force couldn’t retire the plane without an independent study to find a replacement with the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units …  the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”

 

 

Articles

The US is sending some BRRRRRT! to Putin’s backyard

US European Command announced August 4 that 10 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, an MC-130J Commando II, and approximately 270 Air Force personnel will deploy to Estonia to train with allied air forces.


“We are strong members of the NATO Alliance and remain prepared with credible force to assure, deter, and defend our Allies,” Maj. Gen. Jon K. Kelk, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, US Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, said in an August 4 EUCOM press release. “When we have the opportunity to train with coalition air forces, everyone benefits.”

The airmen and aircraft will deploy from bases in the US and Europe to Amari Air Base from August 4 to 20 to participate in the Forward Training Deployment, or FTD.

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A-10C Thunderbolt II with the 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard conduct close-air support training Nov. 21, 2013, near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Haseltine)

The A-10s are from the 175th Wing, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Maryland. The MC-130J is from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.

While deployed, the A-10s are scheduled to train with Finnish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Finland, Spanish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Estonia, and multinational joint terminal air controllers in Latvia, according the release.

Known officially as the Thunderbolt II and more commonly as the Warthog, the A-10 entered military service in the late 1970s and has flown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The twin-engine aircraft is designed to decimate tanks, vehicles, and other ground targets with its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm seven-barrel gatling gun, and up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including Mk-82 and Mk-84 bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and laser-guided munitions.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan
US Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs. USAF photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier.

The Air Force has made several attempts to retire the decades-old aircraft beginning in fiscal 2015 in an effort to save money, but congressional opposition has forced the service to reset the date for the earliest possible retirement of the A-10 to 2021.

The MC-130J Commando II is designed to fly clandestine, or low visibility, single, or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft.

It can perform infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces in hostile territories.

Articles

Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

On Aug. 11, Russia named its new stealth fighter the Su-57, but despite having a name, a finalized design, and a tentative date for its delivery, it already looks like a huge disappointment.


Russia first flew the Su-57 in 2010, demonstrating that it would enter the race towards fifth-generation aircraft after the US revolutionized aerial combat with the F-22, and later the F-35.

But in the years since, the Su-57 has failed to present a seriously viable future for Russian military aviation. Russia already fields some of the most maneuverable planes on earth. It has serious firepower in terms of missiles and bombs, and long-distance bombers and fighters. But what Russia doesn’t have is a stealth jet of any kind.

While Russian media calls the Su-57 an “aerial ghost,” a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft for the US called it a “dirty aircraft,” with many glaring flaws that would light up radars scanning for the plane.

Additionally, two of the plane’s most fearsome weapons, the Kh-35UEm a subsonic, anti-ship cruise missile, and the nuclear-capable BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile, can’t fit in the internal weapons bay and must hang from the wings, as the Diplomat’s Franz-Stefan Gady reports.

Since a stealth plane needs every single angle of the jet to perfectly contour to baffle radars, hanging weapons off the wings absolutely kills stealth.

But stealth is just one of the Su-57s problems. The other is the engine. Unlike US stealth jets that have new engines, the Su-57 currently flies with the same engine that powers Russia’s last generation of fighters.

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Russia has lots of experience building capable jets and missiles, but no experience building a fifth-gen fighter. Infographic from Anton Egorov of Infographicposter.com.

Russia plans to get new engines in the Su-57 by the end of 2017 for testing, but it likely won’t be ready for use by 2025, The National Interest’s Dave Majumdar reports.

Additionally, Majumdar reports that Moscow will only buy 12 of the planes by 2019 and perhaps never more than 60 in total.

Though Russian media boasts the Su-57 can be piloted remotely and handle extreme G forces, the combination of a lack of stealth and a lack of truly modern propulsion has caused critics to say the plane is fifth-generation “in name only.”

Whatever the plane’s performance is, the low buy numbers out of Moscow indicate that the budding Su-57 is already a flop.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2020 class of Dole Caregiver Fellows named

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation named its newest class of fellows who will represent caregivers at a time plagued by the coronavirus.

Thirty military and veteran caregivers representing 23 states join 225 past and present Dole Caregiver Fellows in bringing attention to the plight of 5.5 million “hidden heroes” that provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans every year, according to a foundation press release.


“Our eighth class of Dole Caregiver Fellows is bringing a new set of unique voices to our mission, but all share similar stories of strength, resilience, and hope in caring for their wounded warriors,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “As they care for their veterans, we are grateful for their passion, wisdom, and willingness to come together and advocate for their fellow hidden heroes. They are the heart and soul of our work.”

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Steve Scwab speaks at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s “Hidden Heroes Among Us” event in 2019. (Military Families)

Through the program, caregivers receive support, training and a platform to address the most pressing issues facing the community. They also share their stories directly with national leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and other government agencies, as well as decision makers in the business, entertainment, faith, and nonprofit sectors.

Mari Linfoot, a 2020 Dole Caregiver Fellow, is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Gary, who was paralyzed during a mechanical helicopter failure in 2008. She says there’s a whole phase of just trying to figure out how to be a caregiver.

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Mari Linfoot and her husband Gary. (Military Families)

“It takes a long time. I kind of wish someone would have sat me down and said, ‘Don’t be hard on yourself because for the next year-to-three-years you’re going to be trying to figure life out, and that’s OK,'” she said. “You just want to fix everything and you just can’t fix some things.”

At the time of the accident, Mari had a successful real estate company. Due the demands for Gary’s care, she has now taken on a round-the-clock role as his caregiver.

“Gary went through a really dark emotional time. He was so good about putting a happy face on and he didn’t complain, but inside he was just dying. He started engaging in speaking at schools and businesses and it helped bring him out of it,” she said.

The pair travels for Gary’s speaking engagements where they discuss patriotism and technology that helps him get around, including an IBOT wheelchair that raises him to eye level and climbs stairs, and an exoskeleton that he used to walk their daughter down the aisle.

Regular travel challenges include rental cars or hotel rooms that are not accessible for Gary, despite multiple confirmations.

“Life is good. I can’t say life isn’t good. It’s just a lot. Everything is so much more detailed. It requires much more work and thought,” she said. “You have to count on other people doing what they’re supposed to do. You have less chance to take things into your own hands.”

In addition to speaking engagements, the couple founded the American Mobility Project to provide equipment and adaptive products after seeing a need within the civilian population. They also help connect veterans and military members with resources.

Anne Way, an Army Reserve spouse, was named to the Dole Fellowship community for her endurance and involvement.

In 2002, her husband, Pete, took shrapnel to the knee. Through multiple episodes of sepsis and flesh-eating bacteria, his knee was found to contain Middle Eastern strains causing infections. After years of complications and dozens of surgeries, Pete, a nurse practitioner, decided to amputate his leg.

“I trusted his opinion. We felt almost a relief. I was worried I was going to lose him multiple times, so I thought if we can just get rid of the leg, we can keep this from happening again,” Anne said.

In years since, he underwent innovative surgery to help his prosthetic, for which he’s still receiving treatment.

“It wasn’t the instant fix we were hoping for, but we’re working on it.”

Anne, who lives in Georgia, retired from her teaching career and now works as a full-time caregiver.

“I’m probably not as nurturing as some wives,” she laughed. “I encourage him to get up and go.”

“The biggest thing is being that support to him and understanding his physical needs.”

To promote healthy movement, even through amputation, the Ways have started a nonprofit biking community. Vets Fight On works with the VA and Forces United to provide hand and recumbent bikes. She said not only is the exercise aspect helpful, but it allows military members to connect socially.

“I’m looking forward to bringing support and awareness to others. I didn’t look for it and that would have been extremely rewarding to have that encouragement,” she said. “Let’s focus on the positive going forward and unite.”

Visit http://hiddenheroes.org for more information on Dole Foundation programs for caregivers.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns of ‘new path’ if US insists on sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that his country could seek a “new path” in relations with the United States “if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world…and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic.”

In a New Year’s statement broadcast on Jan. 1, 2019, Kim praised his June 2018 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where the leaders had “fruitful talks” and “exchanged constructive ideas.”


He also said he was ready to meet again with Trump “at any time in the future.” Kim also called on the United States to extend its halt on military exercises with South Korea.

He added that the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushing ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

At the June 2018 summit, Kim and Trump agreed to a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but little progress has been made on the issue in recent months.

Kim Jong Un warns U.S. in New Year’s speech

www.youtube.com

A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials was canceled in November 2018 and has yet to be rescheduled.

On Dec. 31, 2018, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim had sent Trump a “letter-like” message that was “conciliatory” in tone.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said Kim had sent a message to Seoul expressing a desire to hold additional Korean summits in 2019 with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.

In 2018, Kim used his New Year’s address to open up a new diplomatic initiative with Washington and Seoul that led to three summits with Moon and the historic Singapore summit with Trump.

Kim also met three times in 2018 with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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