The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.
The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.
SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.
SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.
The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.
Check out the video of the training exercise here:
On a cold January day in Virginia, men and women of the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s (DDG 75) engineering department stood at attention both somber and quiet. The bitter cold chills of the wind broke the silence of their awards-at-quarters on the ship’s flight deck. While most service members eagerly await receiving awards, this was certainly not true for Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class John Chavez-Sanchez. This was the day he did not anticipate — being awarded for his bravery and assistance in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 12, 2000.
“You figure my first NAM [Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal] is that one that I am most excited for, but I didn’t smile,” said Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez-Sanchez, from Bay Shore, New York, now assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) engineering department. “Nobody smiled. Nobody clapped. Myself and the crew from the Cook didn’t want any type of praise. We played a key role, but we didn’t want to take any credit.”
On that fateful day, Cole pulled pierside in Aden, Yemen to begin refueling. It was mid-day when two suicide bombers pulled a small boat along Cole’s port side and detonated explosives leaving a 40 foot-by-60 foot hole at the waterline of the ship. Seventeen sailors died and another 39 were injured.
While on its maiden voyage, a mere two nautical miles away, USS Donald Cook got word on the events that had took place.
“We got sent to GQ [general quarters] and no one knew why at first,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I was going through my checklist as the repair locker electrician when the CO [commanding officer] came on the 1MC and announced that the Cole was attacked. He told us, ‘This is what we train for. Get ready for war’.”
Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez sanches and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Bradley Mcbrayer, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), tests the weapons elevator’s diagnostic server during a routine equipment check.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Ruiz)
Chavez-Sanchez said a quick prayer. Shortly after, the CO announced Cook’s air-wing was going to provide air support. A few more hours passed, now he and the engineering department were to muster on that same flight deck in which he was awarded his first NAM.
“We were asked to volunteer to be a part of the first group to help assist with damage control efforts,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “Everyone raised their hand. Everyone wanted to help. It was the single most example of camaraderie I had ever seen.”
Ten hours after the attack Chavez-Sanchez was on the first rigid-hull inflatable boat to be sent to aid the vulnerable Cole.
“The waters were clear; there was no debris,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “You couldn’t tell an attack just happened until we passed right by the hole. I could see clear into the ship. That’s when I smelled it — the rotting, decaying, foul smell of death.”
Aboard Cole, Chavez-Sanchez and his group were asked if they could handle the situation. Again, everyone raised their hands in agreement. Some grabbed a flash light or a radio, but all of them applied a small amount of vapor rub right under their noses to combat the smell.
“We were making our way around to assess what we needed for the damages,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “The only light or ventilation in the ship came through that hole where the blast happened. We knew we were by the galley; it looked like crumpled up aluminum foil. Then I saw bodies, that’s when everything hit me.”
At that sight, the 21-year-old Chavez-Sanchez realized the magnitude of the situation. He responded with a sense of duty by volunteering for anything he could do — fighting fires, dewatering flooded spaces, standing shoring watch, and security watch. However, his primary mission as an electrician’s mate was to bring up the generators and restore power to the ship.
“Throughout the day and night, there was constant flooding,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We were getting woken up to combat the flooding. It was hard to sleep most nights.”
The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole prepares to moor in Faslane, Scotland.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lacordrick Wilson)
Chavez-Sanchez and the many who volunteered from the Cook began a watch rotation of 48-hours on, 48-hours off, serving time and standing watch on both missile-guided destroyers.
A week into his new watch rotation, Chavez-Sanchez and his engineering team restored power and ventilation aboard Cole. Two more weeks passed and Chavez-Sanchez and his Cook team finished their damage control efforts and headed back to the Cook permanently.
The Norwegian semi-submersible dry-dock ship Blue Marlin came to transport the Cole back to the United States after the on-site repairs. Alongside the Blue Marlin, Cook was again tasked to aid the ship — this time escorting Cole back to the U.S.
“The day we heard ‘USS Cole, underway’ was emotional for our crew,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We all celebrated because we knew we did our job for the ship to be ready to make her way back to the states.”
Once the Cole was home she began her intensive repairs and eventually became deployable again.
“After 18 years, I still remember that day, that time period,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I carry that story with me. It became a motivation to stay in the Navy and I continue to train everyone around me. ‘Train how you fight’ became personal to me.”
Within the same year of the 18-year anniversary, Chavez-Sanchez’s story came full circle.
“While in Norfolk, the Cole was moored on the same pier [as the Ford],” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I froze for about two minutes. In that time everything rushed back — the memories, the emotions. I saw it and I prayed. I didn’t want to tell my story because I didn’t want the recognition, so I had to keep moving.”
While Chavez-Sanchez may never forget, he is now ready to share his story so that it may inspire his newest shipmates on the Ford with the camaraderie and brotherhood he formed with his former shipmates in the wake of the Cole tragedy.
Beloved children’s show icon Fred Rogers, who passed away in 2003, has long been the subject of an unusual urban myth – that before his days of red cardigans and puppeteering, he was a decorated battlefield veteran. The fact of the matter is that despite receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush, Rogers never served in the armed forces. How, then, to explain this popular but mystifying narrative?
Born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Fred Rogers was raised by a mother who volunteered at a hospital and a father who presided over the McFeely Brick Company in Latrobe. In his childhood, Rogers was a shy introvert, overweight, and prone to asthma attacks. Luckily, life improved for him in high school. As he told NPR’s Terry Gross, “I made a couple friends who found out that the core of me was okay. And one of them was…the head of the football team.” He went on to serve as student council president and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook, as well as National Honor Society member.
Rogers’ early adulthood was occupied with college at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1962. Rather than becoming a pastor, his mission as an ordained minister would be to minister families through television. As he later told CNN, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.”
After a brief TV stint at NBC in New York City, Rogers returned to Pittsburgh to work at public television station WQED, where he developed the children’s show The Children’s Corner, which was the seed from which Mister Rogers Neighborhood would grow ten years later (airing in 1968), running for nearly 900 episodes.
To better understand why the public would assign such a well-scrubbed paragon of decency as Mr. Rogers with a blood-soaked war record, History.com spoke with Assistant Professor Trevor J. Blank, who teaches communication at SUNY Potsdam. According to Blank, “Urban legends sometimes distort the positive to create a sense of intrigue,” and, ““Mr. Rogers, by all accounts, seems like a very mild-mannered, Puritan-esque character…Him having a very macho back story or being a ruthless killer is kind of titillating; it runs counter to what you’re presented as true in your day-to-day experience.”
One lesser-known chapter in Fred Rogers’ story is his visit to Moscow in 1987 during the height of the Cold War. The goal was to teach Russian children compassion and kindness, but in a broader sense it was an effort to build a bridge between warring nations. An East-West crossover was filmed, with Rogers appearing on Goodnight Kiddies and Russian star Tatyana Vedeneyeva guesting on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Blake Stillwell, a contributor here at We Are the Mighty and Military.com, writes, “Through a translator, Rogers is introduced to the Soviet show’s host, Tatyana Vedeneyeva, as well as her friends Khryusha the piglet and Styopa the rabbit. The exchange is nothing short of heartwarming.”
Fred Rogers’ work in children’s television can be defined as something of a humanitarian effort. Some of these qualities owe to Rogers’ mother Nancy Rogers, who always engaged with him as an adult, never talking down to him. In Maxwell King’s book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, he writes “She loved to talk. And she loved to talk with Fred,” writes King. But “never to Fred; always with Fred.” His religion extended to the programming he diligently crafted for so many years, but he never put too fine a point on it in the episodes. He once said “You don’t need to speak overtly about religion in order to get a message across.”
Navy Times writes: “Rogers attuned children and their developmental journeys to the most significant attributes of what it means to be a human: love, compassion and kindness for others. In many ways, this is also what he meant by being a good neighbor.”
The man and his message are in many ways antithetical to the battlefield experience, making the urban myth of his time as a warrior all the more confounding. But while he was no legend on the battlefield, he was definitely still a hero.
Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.
Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.
“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”
About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.
Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.
Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.
“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”
Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.
Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places
An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.
“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”
“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”
Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.
“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”
Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.
“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”
“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”
Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.
Basic training needed to master balance skills
“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”
The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.
When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.
He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.
“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”
Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.
“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”
“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.
At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.
“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”
After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
Project Blue Book is a mystery series about U.S. Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFOs from the early 1950s to the late 1960s. Dr. Allen Hynek teams up with Captain Michael Quinn to gather evidence to explain a plethora of phenomenons happening across the United States. I had the opportunity to sit down with the Creator of the series, David O’Leary, for an interview.
UFOs have been a lifelong passion for me, to be honest. I grew up in New York City and I remember going to E.C.E.T. as a little kid and leaving Reese’s Pieces on my window sill. When I was nine years old, I dragged my father to see this famous UFO encounter movie called Communion, [which is] a book that they turned into a movie starring Christopher Walken. I dragged my father to this scary, real-life abduction movie when the it came out in 1989.
Given the fact that, in many cases, people are embarrassed or reluctant to talk about [their experiences,] I very quickly came to assess, these are not attention-seekers looking a weird form of fame, but they genuinely encountered something strange and they’re trying to make sense of it.
My focus, initially, was sort of present day, what was happening with UFOs in the 80s and 90s — that’s when I really started to educate myself. America has this sort of strange and mysterious history in regards to this phenomenon. You can’t look at that without looking at the premier official investigation into UFOs, which was of course, Project Blue Book.
It baffled me that, for 17 years, between 1952 and 1969, the U.S. Air Force was officially looking into these matters and going out there and investigating cases. What baffled me even more was the fact that the chief scientific adviser of Project Blue Book, a civilian astrophysicist who is a complete UFO skeptic with a trained eye, tries explain what people are seeing in the sky and emerges on the other side as a believer. Not only in the notion that UFOs represent an intelligence in our skies that we have yet to understand, but also in the fact that Project Blue Book was, in part, a disinformation campaign.
He spent the rest of his life going out there and investigating cases and wrote several books on the subject.
I thought, what if we did a television show rooted in fact, where every week we looked into these different cases that happened and examine them just like Hynek examined them in Project Blue Book?
The cast includes many high-ranking officers who deny Hynek’s findings. How true-to-life are these responses from the military?
Very accurate. One of the people I was able to meet was the last living director of Project Blue Book, his name is Lt. Colonel Robert Frend. He was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II and he’s 98 years old. He worked with Hynek and Project Blue Book. He was instrumental in the information on a day-to-day basis — what did Project Blue Book look like? How did it function? How did they get reports? How did it work when they went to examine cases? How did cases come in?
He spoke to high-ranking men who could come and go as they please that would take their files, examine their files, and change their files. [On one hand,] there was the public face of Project Blue Book and then there were the generals who controlled Project Blue Book with their own agenda. Our main characters are the men stuck in the middle.
These sightings began at the start of the Cold War. Did our deadlock between the Soviet Union influence the decisions to keep the investigations classified?
Oh yeah, majorly. UFOs, even during World War II — they would call them “foo fighters” then — both sides of the conflict were seeing things in the sky. Each side was convinced that the other side had some sort of technology that would emerge once the war was over. The war ended and nobody claimed responsibility for what they were seeing. Certainly, as we move into the 50s, five or six years after World War II, most historians believe that that’s when the modern UFO era began — Roswell, Kenneth Arnold, “flying saucers” was coined, all that. It became again this notion of: Is what we’re seeing in our sky some sort of weaponry? Aircraft? Intelligence-gathering device that the other side has that we’ve miscategorized?
A lot of sightings would occur over military bases and weapons tests and that was a genuine fear. “Oh my gosh, the Russians have a technology that is surveying our bases!” UFO sightings were also happening in Russia, but they were not as well known. The U.S. Government was the only one that launched an official investigation into these matters, at least at first.
It became this idea that flying saucers might be man-made technology that we couldn’t fathom yet, and that they were built by our enemies. That was just as scary as anything. On the show, we tried to remain true to that aspect of it. Are we dealing with the Russians or not?
US Fighter Jets Encounter Unknown Flying Object [UFO] – With Pilots Audio
I’ve worked for the government before and it is incredibly hard for them to admit to investigations, even if they’re declassified. Were there any barriers in your way when you were gathering research for this project?
Fortunately, through the Freedom of Information Act, the Project Blue Book files are now in the National Archives and are searchable online. Although this was not always the case. It used to be, for many many years, the only way to access these files was to literally go to Washington D.C. and ask for them, one at a time.
Another barrier that I think is sort of interesting is that the official [statement] from our government is Project Blue Book. The official answer today is, “Listen, we’ve looked into this matter for 17 years, from 1952 to 1969, until Project Blue Book was closed after it was deemed that UFOs do not pose a threat to National Security.” The Truth is, that’s not when the government stopped investigating UFOs. The New York Times did this incredible piece on the -million-per-year program where they were researching UFOs. It became clear that the seriousness with which the military takes UFOs has never gone away, it’s just been removed from the public sphere all together.
Now they claim that that program is closed as well, but what can you believe if they said this matter was put to rest in 1969 and then you find out as recently as a couple of years ago, there’s another program looking into the matter, too. They were willing to spend million of taxpayer money researching this — and that’s just what we know about. I’m sure there are many others.
(Wright-Patterson Air Force Base)
There’s a good probability some of our audience may have had grandparents stationed on bases that appear during the show’s timeline. What locations can we expect to see in the arc of the show?
We go to Fargo, North Dakota, to look into a famous case that happened near a military base there. We to go to Texas, West Virginia… I don’t want to give them all away because I want people to be surprised by the cases we examined. Even if we give some of them away in the trailer, we still travel the country. We wanted to showcase the totality of this phenomenon across the country, and we go to Washington D.C. itself at one point.
What I think is nice about each episode is that they end up having a particular flavor to it. If we’re going into the South, you feel it. If we’re in the Pacific North West, you feel it. If we’re in the middle of the country or a big city like D.C., each episode has a different vibe.
Of course, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, plays a huge role [because] that’s where Project Blue Book was based in Dayton, Ohio.
Do you personally believe that we are not alone in the universe?
I do, I 100% believe we are not alone in the universe. I think the fact that we’re one planet, orbiting in one solar system, amongst many solar systems, in one galaxy amongst many galaxies says enough. There is a line on the show that I wrote,
“The probability of us being alone in the universe is zero.”
That is something I certainly believe.
[However,] in regards to what UFO themselves are, I keep an open mind. I’m in the Dr. J. Allen Hynek camp of thought. I really do believe that UFOs are real and that they do represent an intelligence in our skies that we have yet to understand. I’m as open to [the idea] as he was, but he never explicitly said “aliens.”
He expresses an extraterrestrial hypothesis among others, such as inter-dimensional phenomenon, time travel, suggesting that UFOs are a life form that evolved on the planet that we are yet to understand, or extraterrestrial artificial intelligence. He lays out all these different theories.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our service members and veterans?
I’m so happy and feel so fortunate that we can talk to you guys as a military representation in film and media. There’s so much show content written [in that area], and I know our actors did a ton of research, especially Michael Malarkey, who plays the young Air Force Captain. He really wanted to understand what it was like being in the Air Force back then — he actually grew up in Ohio and had a friend stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He asked if he could hop into a plane because he needed to know how it feels to really fly and be one of those guys.
I’ve gotten close with Michael Harney, who plays one of our generals on the show. His character was originally inspired by a few different generals and General Hoyt Vandenberg. He went down the rabbit hole: Who are these men? What is it like to be that high-ranking of an official? What kind of weight of the world do they hold?
To the viewers and the readers of We Are The Mighty, we really do make the effort to get the military aspects of the show correct. I’m sure there’s going to be something we failed at, but we did have military advisers.
There are plenty of skeptics, believers, and people in between. The show walks that fine line. Even if people say we went deep into X-Files territory or something like that from the trailer, they will be pleasantly surprised to see not everything is as it seems. There are always two answers to every story because the truth is, simply, we don’t know. The show tries to keep an open mind while rooted in real-life findings.
The third episode of the hit series, Project Blue Book, premieres on HISTORY on January 22 at 10PM PST, 9 central. Be sure to catch new episodes each week as they’re released!
Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.
(U.S. Army Military History Institute)
World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.
“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.
(United States Army Air Forces)
The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.
(U.K. National Archives)
This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:
We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.
(U.K. National Archives)
England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.
It also said fire engines and trucks had arrived to fight a fire in one of the site’s buildings.
Two employees ran out of a building on the site screaming and on fire, with one of them showing chemical burns, the ABC 27 news channel reported, citing employees on the scene.
The explosion poses no threat to the public, the Franklin County Office of Emergency Management told Fox News.
(U.S. Army photo)
A Facebook page for the depot also confirmed that an explosion had taken place and that there “were injuries,” though not how many. It added that the incident had been “contained.”
The posts about the explosion were later deleted.
The source of the explosion remains unknown. Employees are not being allowed back into into the depot for fear of more blasts to come, ABC27 said.
According to the depot’s Facebook page, the army depot helps “deliver superior maintenance, manufacturing, logistics, life cycle support and service worldwide to the Joint Warfighter and our International partners.”
Featured image: A satellite view of Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania. The depot is the large, brown building in the center of the image.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After months of fighting, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have conquered Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate and its last major stronghold in the Middle East.
But the victory by no means indicates that ISIS is defeated, and enormous ethnic challenges still lie ahead for the embattled country.
Here’s how the Raqqa campaign was won, and what lies on the horizon for Syria:
The campaign to retake Raqqa from ISIS (which seized the ancient Syrian city in early 2014) officially began in November 2016, several weeks after the campaign to retake Mosul, the group’s stronghold in Iraq, was announced.
As per Sello’s description, the SDF advanced south from their territory in northern Syria, capturing ISIS-held villages east and west of Raqqa all while buoyed by American airstrikes. In addition, a key target was the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, which the SDF also seized in May.
Although the Syrian Democratic Front is dominated by Syrian Kurds, the units deployed to fight in the Raqqa campaign were 70% Arab, according to the SDF. This was done to foster ethnic solidarity between soldiers and the majority-Arab city and environs of Raqqa.
The Syrian Democratic Forces that led the Raqqa campaign is a coalition of various militias, however it has always been led by the Kurds.
The undisputed leaders of the SDF are the Popular Defense Units, or the YPG, a Kurdish militia with ties to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey, along with their all-female companion force, the YPJ. The YPG first gained US support during the Battle of Kobane in 2014, when the group handed ISIS its first battlefield defeat while defending the Kurdish town on the border between Syria and Turkey.
The SDF was created in order to bring non-Kurdish groups that live in northern Syria, including Assyrian Christians and especially Sunni Arabs, into cooperation with the Kurds to create a single, moderate coalition to defeat ISIS. Yet inter-ethnic problems remain.
Despite SDF’s secular, democratic nature and US backing, the group has been accused of war crimes. Although the YPG has denied such allegations, The Nation has reported that the group has expelled Arabs from conquered villages at gunpoint. The United Nations also disputes these claims, saying that these expulsions were for civilians’ safety and did not constitute ethnic cleansing.
In July, the SDF began the most arduous part of the Raqqa campaign — conquering the city itself. A combined ground and air assault began on Raqqa, and with it came vicious urban warfare and hundreds of civilian casualties.
Because Raqqa is an ancient city, fighting ISIS amidst its small, winding streets proved difficult for both the SDF and their American air support. ISIS used urban guerilla tactics as it had in other places like Mosul, Iraq, making the SDF’s campaign to clear the city from fighters a long, frustrating task.
The presence of civilians made airstrikes and troop movements even more difficult — despite precautions, Amnesty International has reported that “hundreds” of civilians had been killed by US airstrikes in Raqqa, which had begun before SDF ground troops were able to move in. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 789 people have been killed by US bombardment in Raqqa between June and August alone. Two hundred of them were children.
Worst of all, however, not only was ISIS using civilians as human shields and moving through underground tunnels, but they also murdered anyone in the city trying to escape through sniper fire and mortar bombardments.
After months of brutal urban warfare and heavy resistance from ISIS fighters, the SDF declared victory in Raqqa on October 17 after seizing the national hospital and the city stadium, where the last ISIS fighters were stationed.
Amid the celebrations, though, the SDF is still in the process of clearing landmines and other explosives from the area, and although it warns that there may still be 100 ISIS militants hiding amid the city’s rubble, nearly 6,000 fighters surrendered as the group’s resistance was in its final hours.
Nevertheless, Arabs in Raqqa were the main celebrants after ISIS’s defeat.
The SDF’s victory in Raqqa diminishes ISIS’s presence in Iraq and Syria to only a few border territories in the desert. The Islamist group no longer has access to the large cities they conquered when they rose to international prominence in 2014.
However, there remains much work to be done in Raqqa. With a large displaced population and reconstruction costs mounting, the SDF is now faced with the task of dealing with the Raqqa campaign’s fallout.
From the prelude to the battle of Raqqa in June to its conclusion this week, a group of Syrian activist journalists known as Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes, 1,873 civilian deaths, and 450,000 displaced people in the city.
In addition, RBSS estimates that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting.
Reuters reports that the SDF has set up the Raqqa Civil Council in order to oversee security and reconstruction efforts in the city, however funding from the US and other sources has so far been insufficient.
“We gave our city as a sacrifice for the sake of defeating terrorism,” Ibrahim Hassan, who heads reconstruction for the RCC, told Reuters. “It’s the world’s duty to help us.”
In addition to logistical concerns about the future of Raqqa, socio-political ones remain as well.
It is unclear how the Syrian government, which is also conducting campaigns against ISIS in northeastern Syria, will react to the SDF’s vast zone of control. The group, along with the Kurdish-dominated Federation of Northern Syria, hopes to establish its own country in the area, a move that would surely be met with hostility from Damascus.
Kurdish moves toward independence in neighboring Iraq after the fall of ISIS there were met with exactly this kind of aggressive resistance from the government in Baghdad.
Now that ISIS’s territorial control has been shattered, Syrians in Raqqa say it is critical that the resumption of basic services, reconstruction, and social integration are pursued quickly so as to prevent a local insurgency from taking shape as it did in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion.
As the dust settles in the battle against ISIS in Syria, the next phase of the conflict will undoubtedly be about who will control what as zones of power begin to be established for a post-war Syria.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.
The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.
The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.
A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)
“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”
“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”
So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.
“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”
If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen news regarding the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It started out mostly as a joke – if you couldn’t tell by the name of the group that’s hosting it being called “Sh*tposting cause im in shambles” and the only actual plan set forward is to “Naruto run faster than their bullets.” Even the date of September 20th is a reference to the anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins storming Upper Blackrock Spire by himself in World of Warcraft.
That was until, at the time of writing this article, 1.6 million people clicked “Going,” another 1.2 million are “Interested,” and a four-star general at the Pentagon had to be debriefed by some poor lower-enlisted soldier about the intricacies of a 1997 Japanese manga series about a teenage ninja with a fox demon inside him.
Which begs the question: “But what if it wasn’t a joke?” Well. It’s really circumstantial.
Something tells me that this place will probably undo most of the plans to storm Area 51.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Absolutely nothing happens
Anyone who’s ever thrown a party using Facebook’s Event page can tell you that not all people are going to show up. Of the supposedly millions that said they’d be willing to attend, I can safely say that it will be nowhere near that number in reality.
In case there are those people that ordered a plane ticket to Nevada and are too stubborn to cancel, it doesn’t look likely either. It’s still going to be a logistical nightmare. The meet-up location at the Area 51 Tourist Attraction is still 72.4 miles from the actual “Area 51.” Unless you drove there or are renting a car, there’s no way in hell anyone is willing to walk that distance in the Nevada desert for a joke.
Everyone gets there, makes a few videos for YouTube, and goes their merry way and this all becomes a funny joke that we reference every now and then. For reference on where this meet up is supposed to happen, the video below is where “millions” of people are supposedly going to congregate. Good luck with that.
Imagine wanting to raid Area 51 to see all the futuristic alien tech just to come face-to-face with a row of these…
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Lauren Main)
They can, in fact, stop all of them
This possibility is also semi-broken down into ways that it would end in complete failure. The only difference is where the raid is stopped.
My personal guess for most likely scenario on this list is that local law enforcement would probably break up the unlawful gathering outside of a middle-of-nowhere gift shop/brothel long before anyone made a move to storm the actual installation. Given the potential crowd gathering with the sole intent on committing a federal crime, the police will probably be on scene with riot gear ready.
If, by some stretch of the imagination, the raid manages to not get stopped somewhere in the desert or single road onto the installation, they’ll be greeted by armed guards along the way. The defense contractors currently guarding the site would probably have their numbers bolstered from troops at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, and more.
The same rules of engagement that govern military operations would still likely apply. Violently engaging with a crowd of American citizens would be the absolute final resort if this line in the sand had to be reached. The “cammo dudes” today normally shoo away would-be onlookers without the use of deadly force. Anyone who’s made it this far would more than likely be detained without trouble.
But, you know, the use of deadly force IS authorized for just such an occasion…
Face it. The Fermi Paradox is real. If intergalactic aliens exist out there, they wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about stopping by Earth. Would you care about stopping by an anthill lifetimes out of your way?
(Image Credit: NASA)
Full and official disclosure (of how boring Groom Lake actually is)
Okay. Let’s finally get this out of the way because the mystery surrounding Area 51 is so enticing that it’s spawned countless conspiracy theories about what actually happens over there. Here goes…
There’s no way in hell that this could work as advertised. No amount of Kyles to punch the drywall out of the fence or Karens to speak to the managers will get you a Banshee from the Halo series. And I hate to break it to the other anime fans out there, but even by the show’s standards, if they’re still are able to casually have a conversation with each other while running at top speeds – they haven’t broken the sound barrier (at 1,125 ft/s.) Most calibers of ammunition probably used by any guard are still much faster.
That doesn’t mean this could all be a waste. Even by some strange miracle they actually do manage not to get turned into paste on first sight, they’d probably be in the exact same boat as if one of the many Freedom of Information Act requests got approved. They’d learn that it’s not that interesting.
It’s officially known as Groom Lake, and it’s just a testing ground far enough away from any civilian interference for top-secret aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Logically speaking, the timelines match up with “suspected” UFO sightings. Through the use of Google Satellite, you can also see countless craters in the ground still leftover from missile testing. The only reason they’re out there is because it’s one of the most remote locations in the continental U.S.The U.S. military is still developing new top-secret aircraft and missiles, and the area is still marked off for that reason. CIA documents released in 2013 showed this.
However, the large crowd outside their gates (or the possibility of a large crowd) could be enough for the government to go on record to say that there’s nothing extraterrestrial going on.
As the United States continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government has passed legislation that will send stimulus checks to most tax paying Americans, including military families.
These stimulus checks are a part of a massive $2 trillion effort to not only assist Americans who are financially struggling amidst this time of layoffs, furloughs, and social isolation, but also to inject funding directly into businesses around America that are continuing to employ people throughout this chaotic time.
The payments heading directly to American families in the coming weeks are projected to reach nine out of 10 households in the country, which means military families can count on receiving these payments despite the military itself not suffering the same sorts of layoffs and reduced employment found elsewhere in the nation. This money can be used to help offset lost spouse income, the cost of buying essential cleaning materials, and the cost of being stuck in your homes on base or elsewhere.
Service members that are suffering financial hardship as a result of being caught between duty stations while executing orders at the time of the Pentagon’s stop-movement order are eligible for other financial assistance provided through the Defense Department. Those payment have nothing to do with the coronavirus stimulus checks the Treasury Department will soon be sending.
So who, exactly, is eligible for a stimulus payment and how much can they expect to receive? We break it all down below.
How much will I receive in my coronavirus stimulus check?
Stimulus payments are based on the recipient’s adjusted gross income, so the Treasury Department can prioritize payments to Americans that are most in need. It’s important to note that basic entitlements like BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) are not included in your family’s adjusted gross income. Only taxable income (basic pay) is taken into account for tax purposes.
You can find up to date info on the IRS webpage here.
Coronavirus stimulus payments include:
A maximum id=”listicle-2645620124″,200 per adult
Up to ,400 for couples who make up to ,000
An additional 0 per each child that is 16 or younger
However, at a certain income level, the payments begin to reduce until a certain point, in which they stop completely.
Those who make over ,000 per year individually will see payments reduced by for each 0 in their Adjusted Gross Income over the ,000 cap.
Individuals who make over ,000 per year will not receive a payment
Couples filing jointly who make more than 8,00 per year will not receive a payment
Those who file as “head of household” will not receive a payment if their income is about 2,500 per year
Dependent adults are not eligible for a payment, including college aged children and adults with disabilities
How does the government know how much money I make or how many kids I have?
The Treasury Department will be using 2018 tax returns to assess income level and dependents, as well as the direct deposit information for those who have it in order to deposit the stimulus checks.
What if my income was above ,000 in 2018, but has since dropped?
These payments are really just an advanced tax credit, so even if you don’t receive a payment because your 2018 taxes showed you as ineligible, you can still receive it as part of your tax return when you file your 2020 taxes.
Do I have to sign up or fill out forms to receive my stimulus payment?
As long as the IRS already has your bank account information from your 2019 or 2018 tax returns, all you have to do is sit and wait for the check to hit your account. However, if you have not yet filed your 2018 taxes, the IRS encourages you to do so as soon as you can, otherwise your payment may be delayed.
The IRS said that they will be building a portal to change direct deposit information in the coming weeks.
As long as you meet the income requirements and have a social security number, you will still receive the payment regardless of where you are stationed.
Will I have to pay taxes on the stimulus payment?
No, these payments are technically considered a tax credit.
What if I don’t have direct deposit established for my taxes?
Your payment will come to you the same way a tax refund would, so if you don’t have a direct deposit account established with the IRS, the check will be mailed to you at the address listed on your tax return.
There’s skydiving, and then there’s Army skydiving.
Their origins began in the Cold War when the Soviet Union was dominating the emerging skydiving sport. In 1959, 19 Airborne soldiers began competing at the international level, and by 1961 they were known as the Golden Knights.
Since then, the Knights have conducted more than 16,000 shows around the world, and team members have broken 348 world records.
And sometimes if you’re very lucky, you can strap one on like a backpack and jump out of a plane with him.
Watch what it’s like to jump with the Golden Knights
The Golden Knights are comprised of a few different teams: the demonstration teams perform at over 100 events per year (and if you haven’t seen them in action, run don’t walk — they’re remarkable) while the tandem team jumps with fellow soldiers, heads of state, celebrities, people of influence, members of the military community, and, well, military pin-ups as it turns out.
The Knights reached out to Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets, and while she declined (for now, Gina — but I am determined to get you up in the air!!), she did ask if she could send some of her more daring ambassadors. If you’re not familiar with Pin-Ups for Vets, it’s a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and military families.
Erikka Davis (U.S. Army), Megan Martine (U.S. Marine Corps), Shannon Corbeil (U.S. Air Force)
After a fun meet-and-greet with our fellow guests, who included people like an A.P. Bio Teacher, a Vice Principal, a firefighter, some Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and a stand-up comic, we set our alarms for an early wake-up and set out for our adventure. This is where I got to meet Sgt. 1st Class Chris “Ace” Acevedo, who would be my jump instructor.
And who apparently is also a legend.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B20UzKiA7_b/ expand=1]Shannon Corbeil on Instagram: “Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?) I might be a little biased but he’s my favorite jump instructor! ?…”
Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?)
Ace’s Army career included service as a Cavalry Scout and an Air Defensive Artilleryman in countries like Iraq and South Korea before he joined the Golden Knights. Over the past eleven years, he has served on both the Black and Gold demonstration teams, competition teams, and now the tandem team. He will also be representing the Army on the 2020 U.S. Parachute Team in the 2020 World Championships. I asked him what he had to do to make the team:
“Freefall at 300 mph.”
Oh. Is that all?
For comparison, during our freefall, we’d be descending at about 120 mph. So, yeah, the guy is fast.
He’s also got about 6000 jumps under his belt, which gave me a lot of comfort when confronted with this view:
Just imagine kneeling here and then…tumbling out. Because it was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
It’s nice to know that if I somehow fell out of the plane without a parachute, my instructor could just…come catch me.
Because as you can see in the video above, when the students load up in the plane, we don’t have chutes. We strap in mid-flight, get a refresher from the morning’s instruction (hold chest straps, keep your eyes on your videographer, arch arch arch, two taps on the shoulder means you can release your hands, two taps on your hips means arch more, etc.), then shuffle to the door.
From there, it became a practice in trust. Walking to the edge of an open plane door without using my hands went against every instinct in my body — but I knew that Ace literally had my back.
Can you find the C-17?
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
In 2003, I completed five unassisted jumps with the U.S. Air Force Freefall program, which meant I was responsible for pulling my own chute after a 10-second freefall. But with the Golden Knights, my job just was to “relax, arch, and have fun.”
Right before we took off, my videographer Sgt. 1st Class Rich Sloan told me that safety was the priority, but if we were stable then he’d reach his hand out to me, and we’d spin SO I WAS DETERMINED TO BE THE MOST STABLE POSSIBLE IN THE UNIVERSE.
“And we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…”
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
In the video above, you can see what that spin looked like. You can also see from my reaction that it was thrilling.
During our descent, Ace pointed out a C-17 flying beneath us, maintained his checklist, and kept us alive – all of which I’m extremely thankful for. Then after what felt like 10 seconds but was actually a good 45 seconds, with a sharp salute he pulled our chute.
It went by so fast it surprised me, so I made a giphy of the moment BECAUSE MY LEGS KICK OUT AND IT’S HILARIOUS.
We had a good chute and did some spins under the canopy while Ace endured what I can only describe as me doing a breathless double rainbow guy impression (“Oh my godddddd! Oh my god this is amaaaaaazing!”) before he steered us to the landing zone and brought us gently and lovingly to the earth from whence we came.
For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For Ace, it could have just been another one of 300 tandem jumps — but that’s not how he sees it. He still remembers his first jumps and the thrill of that experience, so he likes to share that feeling with others.
Talking with him after, I asked what some of his favorite parts of the job are. “Gold Star Families are pretty special. It helps them with their healing process, so that’s a big deal to me. I just want to help them through the day — for many of them, it helps them feel close to the person they lost.”
Feather-soft landing, I’m not even kidding.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
All I can say about the program is that if you get the invitation to jump with the Golden Knights, take it. They are so professional, so precise, and so skilled at what they do. I had no problem trusting this team with my life. I’m still incredulous that they even provide this kind of experience to people.
I asked Ace why they do it, and he said it’s so our country can get to know her soldiers.
“This is us. This is what an American soldier looks like. This is my Army story.”
A host of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice became effective Jan. 1, modernizing definitions for many offenses, adjusting maximum penalties, standardizing court-martial panels, creating new computer-crime laws, and much more.
The changes strike a balance between protecting the rights of the accused and empowering commanders to effect good order and discipline, said Col. Sara Root, chief of the Army’s Military Justice Legislation Training Team.
“We’re pretty excited,” Root said. “It’s a healthy growth of our military justice system.”
Root and three members of her team spent the last year traveling to 48 installations to train 6,000 legal personnel and law-enforcement agents about the changes. Her two-day classes included everyone from judges to law clerks, and privates to generals, she said, and even 600 from other military services.
Many of the changes came about after a review by the Military Justice Review Group, consisting of military and criminal justice experts whose report made recommendations to Congress.
“We’ve had a lot of changes to our system [over the years], but piecemeal.” Root said. She explained that the Review Group convened to take a thorough and holistic look at the system to standardize military law and update the Manual for Courts Martial.
Many of the MJRG’s changes were incorporated into the Military Justice Act of 2016, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and then Executive Order 13825 signed by the president March 8. Additionally, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper signed a directive Dec. 20 that clarifies definitions for dozens of offenses taking effect this week.
“We’ve really needed that much time,” Root said, from 2017 to now, in order to train all members of the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Those attending her classes then needed time to train commanders and others on the installations, she added.
One of the changes replaces the offense of adultery with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The new offense broadens the definition of sexual intercourse, which now includes same-sex affairs. The amendments also now provide legal separation as a defense.
In the past, service members could be charged with adultery even if they had been legally separated for years but were not divorced. Now legal separation from a court of competent jurisdiction can be used as an affirmative defense, Root said.
Also in the past, prosecutors had to prove traditional intercourse to obtain a conviction for adultery, Root said. Now oral sex and other types of sexual intercourse are included.
Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, prepare and practice for their initial drill evaluation on Peatross Parade Deck Sept. 14, 2018 on Parris Island, S.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
Protecting Junior Soldiers
UCMJ Article 93a provides stiffer penalties for recruiters, drill sergeants and others in “positions of special trust” convicted of abusing their authority over recruits or trainees.
The maximum sentence was increased from two years to five years of confinement for those in authority engaging in prohibited sexual activities with junior Soldiers. And it doesn’t matter if the sex is consensual or not, Root said, it’s still a crime.
Article 132 also protects victims and those reporting crimes from retaliation. An adverse personnel action — such as a bad NCO Evaluation Report, if determined to be solely for reprisal — can get the person in authority up to three years confinement without pay and a dishonorable discharge.
Article 123 provides stiff penalties for Soldiers who wrongfully access unauthorized information on government computers. Distributing classified information can earn a maximum sentence of 10 years confinement, but even wrongfully accessing it can get up to five years in jail. Unauthorized access of personally identifiable information, or PII, is also a crime. Intentionally damaging government computers or installing a virus can also bring five years in the clinker.
Article 121a updates offenses involving the fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards or other access devices to acquire anything of value. The penalty for such crimes has been increased to a max of 15 years confinement if the theft is over id=”listicle-2632036233″,000.
If the theft is under id=”listicle-2632036233″,000 the maximum penalty was increased from five to 10 years confinement, and this crime also includes exceeding one’s authorization to use the access device, for example, misusing a Government Travel Card.
Cyberstalking is also now included as a stalking offense under Article 130 of the UCMJ.
Support for military sexual assault victims and the number of reported offenses have increased in recent years, resulting in more investigations and courts-martial involving sexual assault charges.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)
A “bench trial” by a judge alone can now determine guilt or innocence for many offenses. Almost any charge can be referred to such a forum, except for rape and sexual assault, which requires referral to a general court-martial. However, if the offense has a sentence of more than two years, the accused has a right to object to such charges being referred to a bench trial and could request a special or general court-martial.
If found guilty at a bench trial, Root said a Soldier cannot be given a punitive discharge and the max sentence would be limited to no more than six months forfeiture of pay and no more than six months confinement. The judge can still adjudge a reduction in rank.
“It’s a great tool that we’re really excited to see how commanders use it out in the formations,” Root said.
More than half of the cases in the Army actually are settled by plea agreements in lieu of a contested trial, Root said. Commanders have always had the authority to limit the max sentence with a plea agreement, but she said now they can agree to a minimum sentence as well. This might result in a range for the judge to sentence within, for example, no less than one year confinement, but no more than five years confinement.
If a case goes to a non-capital general court-martial, the panel has now been standardized to eight members. In the past the size of the panel could vary from five to an unlimited number, but often around 10-12 members. Now each general court-martial must begin with eight panel members, she said, but could continue if one panel member must leave due to an emergency during trial.
Special courts-martial will now be set at four panel members. A court-martial convening authority can also authorize alternate members to be on a special or a general court-martial, she said.
Capital offenses such as murder require a 12-member panel.
For a non-capital court-martial, three-fourths of the panel members must agree with the prosecution to convict the accused, she said. For instance, if only five members of an eight-member panel vote guilty, then the accused is acquitted. A conviction for a capital offense still requires a unanimous verdict.
Congress expanded judges’ authorities to issue investigative subpoenas earlier in the process, for example, to obtain a surveillance video from a store. One of the most significant changes is that now military judges can issue warrants and orders to service providers to obtain electronic communications such as email correspondence.
In the past, trial counsel had to wait until preferring charges to issue investigative subpoenas. Now, with the approval of the general court-martial convening authority, trial counsel can issue subpoenas earlier to help determine whether charges are necessary. For electronic communications, the government previously had to rely on federal counterparts to assist with obtaining electronic communications.
“Being able to have these tools available earlier in the process is going to be helpful for overall justice,” Root said.
The changes also call for more robust Article 32 hearings to help the commander determine if an accused should go to trial, she said. For instance, a preliminary hearing officer must now issue a more detailed report immediately after an Article 32 hearing’s conclusion. In addition, both the accused and the victim now have the right to submit anything they deem relevant to the preliminary hearing officer within 24 hours after the hearing specifically for the court-martial convening authority to consider.
Aimed at speeding up the post-trial process, immediately following a court-martial, audio can now be provided to the accused, the victim, and the convening authority in lieu of a verbatim transcript which will be typed and provided later, but prior to appeal.
A number of other procedural changes are aimed at making the military justice system even more efficient, Root said.
More changes to punitive offenses also take effect this week. For instance, the definition of burglary has changed to include breaking and entering any building or structure of another, anytime, with the intent to commit any offense under the UCMJ. In the past, burglary was limited to breaking and entering the dwelling house of another in the nighttime.
The penalty for wearing unauthorized medals of valor has increased from 6 months to a max of one-year confinement along with forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge. This includes wearing an unauthorized Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, or valor device. The maximum penalty for wearing any other unauthorized medal is still only six months.
Regarding misconduct that occurred prior to Jan. 1, the changes to the punitive articles are not retroactive, Root said. However, some of the procedural changes will apply to cases that were not referred to trial before Jan. 1.
All members of the JAG Corps are trained in the changes and ready to go, Root said.
“We’re pretty proud that our commanders are really at the center of this,” she said, “and it just gives them some more tools for good order and discipline.”