A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.
A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.
“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”
“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.
In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”
The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”
Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.
A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”
It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.
In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”
The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that he will be resigning from his role in February. His letter of resignation was released by the Pentagon just minutes after President Trump said on Twitter that Mattis was retiring.
For the President’s tweet and Secretary Mattis’ full resignation letter, please read below:
(Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the process that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliance and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American woes to prove for the common defense, including proving effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours: It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity, and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my positions. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensure the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732.079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock missions to protect the American people.I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform. Signed, James N. Mattis
Interpreters who have been caught up in the executive order by President Donald Trump suspending immigration from seven countries have picked up some high-powered help from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and some veterans in Congress.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Mattis has begun to compile a list of interpreters and other Iraqis who provided assistance to the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There are a number of people in Iraq who have worked for us in a partnership role,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner. “They are fighting alongside us or working as translators, often doing so at great peril to themselves, and we are ensuring those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us that those names are known.”
The Examiner also reported that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a combat veteran and Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who currently serves in the Air National Guard and who received six Air Medals for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, have written President Trump in support of Mattis’s request for exemptions for the interpreters.
“We are concerned that, with specific application to individuals who worked with the U.S. Government on the ground, certain immigrants deserving prompt consideration are likely to be overlooked,” Hunter said in a statement. “We encourage you to make special consideration in the review process for these individuals, who are certain to face threats to their own lives as part of the broader pause in refugee and immigrant admissions.”
The Examiner noted that the Special Immigrant Visa program for interpreters and others who have aided the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a flood of applications. As many as 12,000 interpreters and family members re seeking entry into the United States from Afghanistan.
A Skyborg conceptual design for a low cost attritable Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. (USAF ILLUSTRATION)
Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft driven by artificial intelligence that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. These unmanned aerial systems are meant to operate alongside manned fighters and will utilize machine learning technology to increase combat capability as they train alongside their piloted partner.
These wingman aircraft could fly ahead of manned planes to extend the pair’s sensor coverage to increase battlespace awareness. They can fire weapons at targets designated by their human wingmen, and a swarm of automated wingmen could protect piloted aircraft by absorbing missile shots from enemy forces.
Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions.
“Ever since “Star Wars” first debuted, this idea of being able to fly with autonomy to support you, and cute little beeps and squeaks right, it has just caught the imagination,” said Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s time to make that real.”
Attendees watch a video about the Skyborg Vanguard Program during the Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 28, 2020. Skyborg is an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. Skyborg will not replace pilots but will provide crucial and prompt data to help the pilot make informed and accurate decisions. (PHOTO // KENNETH MCNULTY)
Roper said he’s excited for the R2-D2 program, a name he uses to refer to Skyborg.
Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in June, Roper divulged that conversations with world-renowned experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that artificial intelligence, in its current form, is fragile.
“It’s (AI) fine when it’s helping you with entertainment related functions. If your app crashes and the AI gives you the wrong choice on what movie or song to play next, well no big deal,” Roper said. “But on the battlefield an adversary will be there trying to thwart and confound that AI and it’s very easy to do.”
Roper added that the Air Force is going to need a new form of AI that is hardened against an adversary, and research is underway. He expressed the need to accelerate and if done skillfully, the Air Force won’t just be accelerating for the Defense Department; this kind of hardened AI is also needed in the commercial sector for delivery drones and improving self-driving cars.
Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses “The Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next Gear” during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. One innovative project the Air Force is employing is Skyborg, an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHAD TRUJILLO)
“The roots of the Air Force are all about breaking boundaries and doing new things and I think we may have forgotten that a little bit,” Roper said. “In the wake of the Soviet Union collapse, we didn’t have that adversary pushing us. We ought to be doing new things all the time and everywhere and AI autopilot, or wingman or R2-D2 is something new. I can’t wait to get it out on the battlefield.”
Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. The Air Force plans to channel more resources into the programs and speed up their development.
The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the new strategy last year. It prioritizes demands on time, space and complexity in future conflicts across all domains. The strategy aligns with the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and lays out a path forward for the Air Force Science and Technology ecosystem to deliver warfighting capabilities at the speed of relevance and necessity.
The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio. (PHOTO // AFRL)
In July, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to 0 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.
“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”
An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen, their autonomous wingmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. (ILLUSTRATION // AFRL)
“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture unmanned aerial systems.”
The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting edge technology and transition it directly into the hands of the warfighter.
“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.
Just as the last generation of pilots had the instincts for stealth, Roper believes, the next generation will have the instincts for this, previously nonexistent, type of algorithmic warfare on future battlefields.
“This next generation of pilot is not going to be ready to hand the reins over to R2-D2, but neither will they be willing to go into combat without R2-D2, if R2-D2 is available,” Roper said. “Our pilots are the best and they will continue to be the best if we give this technology, it will take their game into a completely different dimension.”
It’s not every day one of Europe’s largest economies votes to pull itself out of the European Union, the British prime minister announces his resignation and serious questions erupt regarding the future of the Western political order.
But fortunately for NATO and the British military, it’s not time to panic … yet. The military implications of Brexit will not set in overnight, and Britain has a backup plan.
However, there could be profound consequences for the alliance and the British military over the long term — some of them negative.
For one, NATO is responsible for Europe’s collective defense, not the European Union. The United Kingdom will remain one of Europe’s largest economies and will continue to wield outsized global influence due to its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Nor does leaving preclude Britain from participating in the E.U.’s military missions, such as chasing pirates off the Horn of Africa.
The British economy has tanked, but Britain will survive. The actual process of withdrawing from the European Union is also exacerbated by the entangling of European and British case law, which will take years to sort out.
Parliament must ratify the referendum for it go into force — and what remains of the British-European relationship years from now is a mystery. But there’s no doubt that Brexit (if it happens) could have major consequences for British foreign and military policy.
A June briefing paper from the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security research organization, described a a possible withdrawal from the European Union as “significant a shift in national strategy as the country’s decision in the late 1960s to withdraw from bases East of Suez.”
That’s a big, sweeping and once-in-a-generation shift.
It was evident at the time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom withdrew its military from East Asia and the Middle East to focus on countering the Soviet army in Europe. This period coincided with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where British Army troops deployed beginning in 1969.
Britain joined the European Union’s predecessor organization in 1973. In short, Britain’s growing military ties with Europe were inexorably bound with growing economic and political ties.
Those ties shaped the British military.
The Royal Air Force scrapped its long-range Avro Vulcan strike bomber, which wasn’t needed to defend the homeland from a Soviet invasion. Britain put off building new aircraft carriers, but developed Trafalgar-class attack submarines to hunt Russian subs in the North Atlantic.
Britain’s Tornado fighter jets are also a product of the 1970s, built by a German-Italian-British consortium and designed specifically to fight Soviet forces in Europe.
The Falklands War served as a brief interlude in 1982. But beginning in the 1990s, Britain would shift to a more internationalist posture, fighting wars in Iraq and later Afghanistan, where Britain still keeps 450 troops in an advisory role.
Today, British warplanes and advisers are involved in the war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.K. military is increasingly involved in Africa.
In short, the British military is less focused on Europe, and is more globalist, than it was during the Cold War.
So in an irony for Brexit’s most isolationist supporters, one possibility is that a post-E.U. Britain might increase its role in NATO to make up for its declining influence in European capitals. Especially now that European governments worry about Russia’s military build-up.
“The U.K. might find that the extent of its commitment to European defense would be one of its few bargaining chips as it entered a period of tough negotiations on the terms of its future economic engagement with its E.U. neighbors,” Malcom Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute wrote.
The outcomes of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw in July are likely to further constrain the U.K.’s room for maneuver, committing the U.K. to invest in deployments and capabilities whose main role will be to contribute to deterrence of Russia. New crises in Europe and its neighborhood (for example in the Balkans or Africa) could also increase immediate demands on U.K. capabilities, especially in cases where the U.S. makes it clear that it expects Europe to take the lead.
In these circumstances, as Europe’s most capable military power, the U.K. could not easily stand aside from the European consensus without significant risk to its reputation as a reliable NATO partner.
Nor can a resurgence of security concerns closer to home be ruled out.
Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn’t get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.
The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten “missions” in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea’s worked pretty well over the years.
Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.
According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.
France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.
It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we’re going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.
The Coast Guard has been on patrol since 1790, and it has often had to do a lot with very little in the way of assets. Now, some of the assets it does have may be relatively useless.
According to a veteran Coast Guard officer who published his concerns in Proceedings magazine, a number of the major cutters (those over 210 feet in length) are “ill-equipped—and often ill-suited—to handle the challenges and dangers in their areas of operation.” Furthermore, one 210-foot cutter was in dry dock for six months, with two more months at the pier when it should have deployed, due to “unplanned maintenance.”
Drills for the crew are focused more on damage control than maritime law enforcement.
“By continuing its over reliance on the cutter—specifically, large cutters measuring 210 feet and longer—the Coast Guard has fallen behind and become a stagnant force in the maritime domain,” write Lt. David Allan Adams, Jr. “This is, of course, not because of a lack of effort by the hardworking Coasties stationed on cutters, but rather because the white hull fleet is well over 50 years old and ill-equipped—and often ill-suited—to handle the challenges and dangers in their areas of operation.”
Even the newest Coast Guard cutters, the Legend-class National Security Cutters that are replacing the Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters, have had issues, with a 2016 report from McClatchy news service noting that the new ships suffered four cracked cylinder heads a year.
“Junior officers stationed on cutters can testify to the poor material condition of the cutters and the disillusionment cutter life can instill,” Adams wrote. “The life of a JO is not about conducting law enforcement or conning the cutter — as promised at recruitment — but more about routing and correcting memorandums, being held accountable should an inspection go poorly, and striving to perform in the arena in which the JOs’ future is truly held: the underway wardroom.”
The problem has been widespread. A 2014 NJ.com report noted that 34 cutters and 37 patrol boats were unable to deploy for a combined total of 1,654 days. The Coast Guard has also been very short on icebreakers, with one of its most capable vessels in that mission stuck at the pier.
The Coast Guard, of course, has a substantial job, with a mission to secure America’s maritime borders, which run six times the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, and it does so with two-thirds of the personnel of United States Customs and Border Protection.
The Coast Guard is planning to build 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters to replace the aging medium endurance cutters, a deal expected to cost $10.5 billion, roughly $420 million per vessel. By comparison, a Freedom-class littoral combat ship sets taxpayers back $362 million.
The US Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to develop refueling drones in what the service’s top officer called a “historic” step toward making the fleet’s carriers more effective and more deadly.
The contract provides for the design, development, testing, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned aerial refueling vehicles. It includes integration into the carrier air wing with initial operational capability by 2024.
It is a fixed-price contract, meaning the Navy is not on the hook for costs beyond the 5.3 million award. Boeing will reportedly get million of the total award to start.
The Navy expects the program to yield 72 aircraft with a total cost of about billion, James Geurts, the service’s assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told Defense News.
Geurts also called the MQ-25A “a hallmark acquisition program.”
“This is an historic day,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a release.
Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, January 29, 2018.
(US Navy / Boeing)
The Navy has been working on a drone that can operate on carriers for some time. The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program was scrapped in 2016 and reoriented toward developing an unmanned tanker.
According to the Navy, the MQ-25A will bolster the carrier air wing’s performance and efficiency while extending their operating range and tanking capability.
Richardson told Defense News that the new drone will free up the Super Hornet aircraft currently dedicated to providing tanker support to other aircraft.
“We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed,” Richardson said in the release. “But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)
Boeing has a long history of involvement in naval aviation, including manufacture of the Hornet and Super Hornet carrier aircraft, and in tanker operations.
This award is seen as a much-needed victory, however, as the company has been on the outside looking in for major aviation programs in recent years, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Boeing was involved in the UCLASS program, and the design it offered for the refueling drone was influenced by that previous project. The company has already built a prototype of the MQ-25A and has said a first flight may take place not long after the contract was awarded.
“The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world,” Leanne Caret, head of Boeing’s defense, space and security division, said in a company release.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan R. McDonald)
Boeing said the Navy believes the MQ-25A will extend the range of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler, both of which are Boeing aircraft, as well as the F-35C, which is the Navy’s variant of the Lockheed Martin-made joint strike fighter.
The crews of the Navy’s Super Hornets are currently tasked with both refueling and fighter operations, rising concerns about wear and tear and stoking interest in unmanned replacements.
The Super Hornets and the F-35Cs that make up carrier air wings also have shorter ranges than the aircraft they replaced — a particular hindrance in light of the “carrier-killer” missiles that both Russia and China have developed.
When America’s big business lends its support to the men and women in uniform, it’s usually about giving a good, old-fashioned military discount. While military members and veterans alike love and appreciate getting a deal as a nod to their service, it’s always a surprise when someone goes the extra mile. Be it someone on the staff, a kind business owner, or a company policy, the appreciation given to service members and their families is always appreciated in return.
But what Super 8 by Wyndham does for military members and their families is more. Yes, right now, they’re offering a twenty-percent military discount and 500 Wyndham Rewards bonus points through December 10th to military members and their families, but they always go the extra mile for service members who are miles away from their homes.
This is one of those ideas that undoubtedly sprang from a big-hearted employee. The Super 8 in Adrian, Mich. had an employee by the name of Juice Majewski — a veteran. Majewski was the chain’s maintenance manager and his boss, Jennifer Six, came from a family of military veterans. Six honored his service by creating a veterans-only spot in the Adrian Super 8’s parking lot. When corporate leaders saw the initiative, they decided to take the idea nationally. Now, every Super 8 in North America features preferred parking for vets.
The Human Hug Project
Super 8 is a proud partner of the Human Hug Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of raising awareness for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Members of the Human Hug Project visit VA facilities across the nation in order to spread love and awareness for veterans and their families.
Founder Ian Michael is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gino Greganti is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Erin Greganti is a Marine Corps wife who knows exactly what service members’ families go through when a loved one returns home from war. Super 8 helps the HHP by providing places to stay as they make their way across the U.S. to visit all of the VA’s healthcare facilities.
Recently, Super 8 by Wyndham designed a one-of-a-kind Jeep to showcase the latest and greatest amenities found in their newly revamped guest rooms. From the built-in coffee maker to the upholstery that looks like one of the comfortable beds you’d find in a Super 8, this monster of a vehicle is a hotel room in a car.
Super 8’s parent company, Wyndham Hotels Resorts, supports those who are working hard to make a living by using veteran-owned supplier companies.
From maintenance companies to security services to bedding manufacturers, it takes a full complement of amenities and facilities to make guests comfortable — Wyndham knows that by working with veteran-owned businesses, they’ll constantly achieve their mission of giving you a fantastic place to rest.
So next time you hit the road, whether it’s to visit an on-base family member or a spontaneous road trip, know that Super 8 is there to support you all the way.
Here’s a short list of items on Roland Emmerich’s bookshelf: a bronze Chewbacca bust; props from Godzilla and Stargate; and copies of Frank Hebert’s Dune, Lewis Alsamari’s Out of Iraq, and Seth Grahame-Smith’s The Big Book of Porn.
I was invited to his sophisticated (and exceptionally nerdy) office space to talk about the director’s latest film, Midway, which chronicles the Pacific Theater during World War II beginning with the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway — the pivotal turning point for Allied forces.
What followed was a conversation with a man who knows more about WW2 naval and aerial warfare than most and used his passion to create a film that honors the heroes in the Pacific.
Midway begins with the Japanese attacks against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, continues to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese mainland in April 1942, the Battle of Coral Sea the next month, and finally the decisive Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.
Emmerich became fascinated with the (insane) dive bombing tactics conducted by Allied pilots in the Pacific Theater and knew how important it was to convey the challenges the pilots faced. After studying WW2 footage, he knew he had to get those attacks right on film.
“It could not look like visual effects. That was the biggest challenge — but of course it couldn’t be practical,” Emmerich shared, the implication obvious: it isn’t exactly easy to blow up a bunch of WW2 battleships or aircraft carriers. His standards were high: any shots that didn’t work for him were cut.
A group photo of the American dive bomber pilots of VB-6 from Enterprise, three of whom fatally damaged Akagi. Best is sitting in the center of the front row. The other two who attacked Akagi with Best were Edwin J. Kroeger (standing, eighth from the left) and Frederick T. Weber (standing, sixth from the right).
In his Director’s Commentary, Emmerich points out moments where he had to walk the fine line between accuracy and entertainment. Richard “Dick” Best was the dive bomber pilot who was able to sink the Akagi aircraft carrier against terrible odds and at great danger to himself.
“We had problems depicting the dive bombing. We tried to shoot it practically but we struggled because the pilot wasn’t diving steep enough. I asked if he could go steeper and he said if he dove any steeper then he could die,” which Emmerich acknowledged was a fair point. “And then you realize…oh my god, these [World War II pilots] were daredevils! Nobody flies like those guys anymore.”
I am so honored to share with you all that Midway is now on Digital. Be sure to grab yourself a copy today!pic.twitter.com/ysCvON4ZEK
“We didn’t want to just show the Japanese as the bad guys. The men fighting the war weren’t responsible for the decision to start the war,” Emmerich said. His uncle was a German pilot in the European Theater, so he knows all too well the wounds carried over on both sides of World War II. It was important that he depict the humanity and honor of the men who lost their lives in the conflict.
I couldn’t tear myself away from his audio commentary that comes with the Blu-Ray package: his World War II knowledge, his artistic choices, and his respect for the military community were so clear.
Though known for his doomsday themes (think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and even Independence Day), Emmerich considers himself an optimist. His films, though huge in scope and destruction, concentrate on people — the heroes who endure, the lone voices that cry out against ignorance, the people who fight to protect each other.
4K UHD / BLU-RAY/ DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
“Getting It Right: The Making ofMidway” Featurette
“The Men of Midway” Featurette
“Roland Emmerich: Manon a Mission” Featurette
“Turning Point: The Legacy ofMidway” Featurette
“Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
“We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
Midway is available now on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD , Blu-ray, and DVD from Lionsgate.
Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.
She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.
Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.
By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.
With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.
Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.
Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.
After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.
Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen.
Through partnering with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism – World War II tankers. Their stories are powerful, harrowing and heartbreaking. In his first interview with Walter Stitt, Austin learned about the importance of foxholes. In his second interview with Clarence Smoyer, you could tell Austin was truly humbled hearing about Smoyer’s loss of a close friend.
The third veteran interviewed is tanker Joe Caserta.
When asked about joining the Army, Caserta said almost every male his age wanted to do their part. They felt betrayed by the Japanese and wanted to sign up. Caserta talked about being in the lead tank during the push into Europe. “The captain would assign somebody to be in the lead tank. ‘Okay Caserta, you’re gonna lead off the day.’ I went from the hedgerows all the way to France, Belgium and Germany.”
Caserta lived in his tank for weeks at a time. His unit was close because of this and they depended on each other. When Austin asked if the tank made them feel safe, Caserta told him that it did from small arms, but when it came to the 88 or the Panzerfaust (German version of the bazooka), “We didn’t stand a chance.”
Caserta told a great story that everyone who has ever been deployed can relate to. He talked about being sent a package which contained an Italian bread. His mother hollowed out the bread and hid a nice bottle of booze in it for him. (Talk about mom of the year!)
(Photo Courtesy of Joe Caserta)
Austin asked Caserta about how he received his Purple Heart and we heard another harrowing story.
Caserta was driving his tank and couldn’t see much and ran into a bomb crater. The tank was teetering. (When the tank is stopped in combat, you get the hell out.) Caserta bailed out and headed toward the rear in the midst of artillery and small arms fire. An artillery shell came in behind him and knocked him out. He had a concussion, a hole in his helmet and a shoulder injury.
“When I came to, my buddy was up on top of me and I shook him. His head was blown off. He was my tank commander. They peeled off my clothes, treated my wounds, pulled out the shrapnel and sent me back to my outfit. They made me a tank commander.”
Being in a tank was a scary time. Caserta recalled, “The worst was knowing that if you got hit, if anything, it’s gonna go right through the tank and it’s gonna burn up and catch fire. My greatest fear was burning up in the tank, which a lot of guys did, but it didn’t happened to me.”
Castera is proud he served his country and survived. “Not much more I can say about that.”
Caserta was reunited with Clarence Smoyer who Austin also interviewed. Caserta talked about how it was good for him to see Smoyer as he was dealing with depression as he got older.
“It was wonderful to see him again, because I’m starting to get a little depressed and feel that I don’t have too much time left.”
To continue the tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
When most of Afghanistan was under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, the fundamentalist regime drafted a new constitution.
The document was never officially ratified, and it was unclear how much of it was ever implemented before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist Islamic group from power.
But the constitution offers a glimpse into what kind of government the militant organization envisages as it prepares to negotiate a future power-sharing arrangement with the current Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
A political settlement made by the disparate Afghan sides is a key component of the peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 that is aimed at ending the 18-year war.
Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has agreed to launch direct negotiations with Afghan officials for a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula to rule the country.
Since 2001, the Taliban insurgency has vowed to drive out foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul. But even as it seemingly pursues peace, it been vague about what kind of postwar government it envisions in Afghanistan.
Radical Islamic Seminaries
The Taliban emerged in 1994 following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first surfaced in ultraconservative Islamic seminaries in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees.
The seminaries radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought against the occupying Soviet forces.
The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul alone.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country.
After three days of deliberations, the scholars drafted a 14-page document — the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance.
‘Intensely Religious Roots’
In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. This was Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader and founder.
The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim.
An Islamic council, handpicked by the supreme leader, would serve as the legislature and implement laws and policy. The government, headed by the head of the council of ministers — a quasi-prime ministerial position — would report to the Islamic council.
Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though some 15 percent of the population are Shi’ite Muslims.
The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Shari’a law.
The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right of a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law.
It is unclear how the document shaped the Taliban’s draconian laws and brutal policies during its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
The Taliban banned TV and music, forced men to pray and grow beards, forced women to cover themselves from head to toe, and prevented women and girls from working or going to school. The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engaged in adultery. Executions were common.
Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, said the draft constitution reflects the “Taliban’s intensely religious roots” and reveals the importance placed on a “centralized authority” for a group that was “founded on a mission of restoring order to the country.”
The document was littered with contradictions and was never ratified. It was republished in 2005, a year after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution. But the document has disappeared from Taliban discourse in recent years.
“That may have been due to internal debate over certain articles, or just reflective of the group’s inclination to remain flexible in its policies, in part perhaps to prevent internal divisions over policy differences,” said Watkins.
‘Monopoly On Power’
As an insurgent group, the Taliban has preserved some of its key principles since it was overthrown in 2001.
Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control. And it still regards Shari’a as the supreme law.
But analysts say the past two decades have changed how the Taliban views power.
The Taliban overcame a succession crisis after the death of Mullah Omar, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite its 18-year war against foreign and Afghan government forces.
“The group now operates in a strange combination of increasingly centralizing its control over its own membership, while also allowing it to decentralize in other ways,” said Watkins.
The Taliban has claimed recently that it is not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.
In a public statement, the Taliban said it does not want to reestablish its Islamic Emirate and has attempted to project a more reconciliatory image.
But the Taliban’s ambiguity on women’s rights, free speech, and elections — key democratic tenets introduced in Afghanistan since 2001 — has raised fears among many Afghans that the extremist group will attempt to restore its severe regime.
The Taliban said in February 2019 that it is committed to granting women their rights and allowing them to work and go to school, but only as long as they do not violate Islam or Afghan values.
But in the same statement, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women, prompting a wave of concern from rights campaigners.
Analysts said the Taliban’s great ambiguity on key issues reflects the divisions within the group.
The Taliban’s political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to an accommodation in assuming power under a peace deal.
Meanwhile, hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan are reluctant to budge on their demands for a full restoration of the Islamic Emirate.
“There is a cocktail of views among the Taliban on power and governance,” said Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“More than anything, Taliban leaders need an intra-Taliban dialogue to settle their conflicting views about a future Afghan state,” Ahmad added.
There are also intense differences among the Afghan political elite.
Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, generally support a centralized state that guarantees their control of the government. But non-Pashtuns, which constitute a majority of the population, believe too much power of the state is left in the hands of one individual, and support decentralization because it would enshrine a more inclusive and equitable distribution of power.
Direct talks between the Taliban and an Afghan negotiation team over a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement were expected to start on March 10.
But the launch of the negotiations has been delayed due to disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners and the formation of Kabul’s negotiating team.
Even when intra-Afghan negotiations begin, many expect them to be complex and protracted, possibly taking years, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and distributing power.
“It will be incredibly difficult to get the two parties to come up with compromises on every issue of governance,” Ahmad said, although he added that there were also reasons for hope.
Both the Taliban’s political vision and the Afghan political system are modeled on the centralization of power and the supreme role of Islam.
Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution prescribes that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Power is in the hands of a heavily centralized government. The president has the right to appoint and fire governors, mayors, police chiefs, district governors, and senators and has a tight grip on the country’s finances and how funds are spent and distributed.
“There is much more common ground in the legal and governance systems of these two than many of their supporters, on either side, care to admit,” said Watkins.