What's the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be 'spiritually' fit? - We Are The Mighty
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What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

Physically fit? Check. Mentally fit? Check. Spiritually fit? Hmm.


That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Time to get your ‘spirit’ on Marine! (USMC photo)

Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”

“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”

The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.

It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”

In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?

If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.

But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”

The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.

So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?

The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”

“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”

Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”

A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.

Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”

While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.

“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.

In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.

But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.

Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”

Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.

Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”

But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?

It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”

Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.

The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.

MIGHTY CULTURE

For US troops, service-connected hearing loss is a big problem

Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.

One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.


For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.

A study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery in 2012 noted that between 2005 and 2009 — the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — nearly three in four combat wounds were the result of “explosive mechanisms.” This fact was reflected in the Iranian missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq last month, which resulted in 109 troops sustaining varying degrees of head injuries.

Most of these troops have returned to duty, but one of the most common and least seen aspects of these injuries is hearing loss. The auditory sense is highly vulnerable to explosive mechanisms and, unlike most of the human body, many tissues associated with hearing do not regenerate themselves. When they are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, while less serious than absolute hearing loss, is still harmful in the long term and is pervasive among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hearing loss is personal for my family. One of my nieces was born with significant hearing loss, and another is pursuing her doctorate at Gallaudet University, developing better ways to accurately test and address hearing loss. My own hearing has been degraded due to military noise. I can never forget the roar that reverberated through my head the first time I was catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. As a young Marine Corps fighter pilot, the “scramble orders” I and my squadron mates received in response to threats from Cuban MiGs resulted in ear-shattering experiences with every sortie, for months at a time.

Today, more than 1.25 million veterans suffer from hearing loss, with nearly two million suffering from tinnitus. Combined, they represent the top two service-connected disabilities addressed by the VA. To its credit, the VA is doing a good job of addressing the problem with hearing conservation programs and high-tech hearing aids.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

But the Defense Department is playing catch-up on the issue. After having issued faulty hearing protection to active-duty forces over the past decade, leading to countless cases of unnecessary hearing loss, the Pentagon is now testing several different styles of hearing protection for troops in the field, and confidence is high that the next generation of combat hearing protection will represent a substantial improvement.

Once these troops muster out of uniform and transition to veteran status, a large part of the challenge in helping these vets with hearing loss is technological. Low-cost hearing aids that simply amplify sound do little good, often making background noise too loud to provide any meaningful improvement in hearing conversation, music and other audible intelligence.

The private sector is making good progress on developing and improving this technology with Bluetooth capabilities and even fitness trackers, offering hope to veterans with hearing loss as they re-acclimate to civilian life.

The prospects for better hearing protection and improved service to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus is encouraging. But we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure our warfighters get the combat gear they need, and that veterans receive the care they earned through their sacrifice.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

11 legends of the US Marine Corps

Thousands of heroes have emerged since the U.S. Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775. Here are 11 among them who became Leatherneck legends:


1. Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps

Lewis “Chesty” Puller joined the Marines during World War I, but that war ended before he was deployed. He saw combat in Haiti and Nicaragua before the outbreak of World War II.

In the Pacific theater of World War II, Puller led an American advance that succeeded against a huge Japanese force at Guadalcanal. During the Korean War Puller and his Marines conducted a fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir that crippled seven Chinese divisions in the process. He remains one of America’s most decorated warriors with 5 Navy Crosses and numerous other high-level awards.

2. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called “the fightinest Marine I ever knew” by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. He is possibly most famous for leading outnumbered and outgunned Marines in a counterattack at the Battle of Belleau Wood with the rallying cry, “Come on, you sons of b-tches, do you want to live forever?”

He also received two Medals of Honor. The first was for single-handedly holding a wall in China as Chinese snipers and other soldiers tried to pick him off. The second was awarded for his role in resisting an ambush by Caco rebels in Haiti and then leading a dawn counterattack against them.

3. Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps

Like Daly, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler is one of the few people who have received two Medals of Honor. His first was for leading during the assault and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1914. Eighteen months later he led a group of Marines and sailors against Caco rebels holed up in an old French fort. For his bravery during the hand-to-hand combat that followed, he was awarded his second Medal of Honor.

Butler also led troops in combat during the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, Nicaragua, and World War I France.

4. Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

John Basilone first served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines but switched to the Marine Corps in time for World War II. He served with distinction in the Pacific Theater and received a Medal of Honor for his actions at Guadalcanal and a posthumous Navy Cross for actions at Iwo Jima.

At Guadalcanal he emplaced two machine gun teams under fire and then manned a third gun himself, killing 38 enemy soldiers before charging through enemy lines to resupply trapped Marines. He later destroyed a Japanese blockhouse on his own and then guided a tank through a minefield and artillery and mortar barrages at Iwo Jima. While escorting the tank, he was struck by shrapnel and killed.

5. Col. John Glenn

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Col. John Glenn is probably more famous for being the first American to orbit the earth than he is for his Marine Corps career. But he is a decorated Devil Dog with six Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

He flew 122 combat missions in World War II and Korea and had three air-to-air kills to his credit. During a particularly harrowing mission in Korea, Glenn’s wingman experienced engine trouble immediately before 6 enemy MiGs attacked him. Then-Maj. Glenn turned into the enemy jets and drove them off, killing at least one while giving his partner time to return to base.

6. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of America’s greatest snipers. He joined the Marine Corps on his 17th birthday in 1959. He distinguished himself as a marksman in basic training, set a record that was never beaten at the “A” course at USMC Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and defeated 3,000 other shooters to win the coveted Wimbledon Cup for snipers.

He was originally deployed to Vietnam as a military police officer in 1966 but was soon sent on reconnaissance patrols and then employed as a sniper.

In Vietnam he was credited with 93 confirmed kills including that of an NVA general deep in enemy territory, a female interrogator known for brutal torture, and the record-breaking 2,500-yard kill of a guerrilla with an M2 .50-cal. machine gun in single-shot mode.

7. Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond was possibly the world’s saltiest and most gung-ho Marine recruit when he joined at the age of 27 in 1917. He quickly became known for being loud, not caring about rank or uniform regulations, and always being ready to fight.

He was well-known for his skill with mortars and made a name for himself in World War I at battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He fought twice in the Sino-Japanese War and again in World War II. At Guadalcanal, the then 52-year-old mortarman drove off a Japanese cruiser before he was forced to evacuate due to “physical disabilities.”

8. Brig. Gen. Joe Foss

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps

Joe Foss joined the Marine Corps before America joined World War II and earned his aviator wings in March of 1941. After Pearl Harbor, he was deployed to the Pacific Theater and spent three months defending American-occupied Guadalcanal. Foss was shot down while strafing Japanese ships in 1942. He later tied Air Force Legend Eddie Rickenbacker’s record of 26 aerial kills.

Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor for his World War II exploits. After that war, he helped organize the American Football League and the South Dakota Air National Guard. He deployed to Korea with the Air National Guard and rose to the rank of brigadier general before retiring.  He died in 2003.

9. Cpl. Joseph Vittori

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Cpl. Joseph Vittori made his mark on Hill 749 in Korea on Sep. 16, 1951. Vittori and his fellow Marines were securing a hill they had just taken from Chinese forces when a counterattack forced a 100-yard gap that could’ve doomed the U.S. forces. Vittori and others rushed into the opening with automatic rifles and machine guns.

After hours of stubborn resistance, Vittori was shot through the chest but continued fighting. The Marines suffered more casualties and when Vittori was shot for a second time, he told his friend to run back to the ridge behind them. Vittori and his friend stopped one more wave before a shot to the face finally killed the young corporal. Vittori posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

10. Sgt. Charles Mawhinney

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps Pfc. Garrett White

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney may not have the name recognition of Carlos Hathcock, but he has 10 more confirmed kills with 103. Mawhinney’s work in the Vietnam War was almost forgotten until a book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” revealed that he had the most confirmed kills in Marine Corps history.

One of the scout sniper’s greatest engagements came when an enemy platoon was attempting to cross a river at night on Valentine’s Day to attack an American base. Mawhinney was on his own with an M-14 and a starlight scope. He waited until the platoon was in the middle of crossing the river, then dropped 16 NVA soldiers with 16 head shots.

11. Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Photo: US Marine Corps

Gilbert Johnson served in both the Army and Navy for a total of 15 years before joining the Corps. When he began Marine Corps basic training, he was nicknamed “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than many of his instructors.

He was one of the first African-Americans to join the Corps, to serve as a drill instructor, and to be promoted to sergeant major. During World War II he requested permission to conduct combat patrols and later led 25 of them in Guam.

(h/t to the U.S. Marine Corps for their 2013 “Ultimate Marine’s Marine” competition. Their bracket fueled the rankings for this article, and the cover image of this post is from their blog.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 66 religious symbols the VA will put on tombstones

The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 67 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.


Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) was one of two selected in 2013. The other was an icon of a sandhill crane for a same-sex spouse of a departed veteran.

Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:

Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Articles

This was the youngest soldier wounded in the Civil War

Underage soldiers were often allowed to enlist during the Civil War — especially if they chose a non-combat position such as bugler or drummer boy. This led to boys barely in their teens suffering wounds alongside the grown men.


In one case, a 12-year-old boy nearly lost his left hand and arm when it was shattered by an artillery shell.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Drummer boy William Black was wounded by a Confederate shell in battle at the age of 12 making him the youngest service member wounded in the Civil War. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

William Black originally enlisted at the age of 9 in an Indiana Regiment as a drummer in 1861 and served at the Battle of Baton Rouge with his father.

Sometime in 1864, he was serving in battle when an artillery shell burst nearby. The shrapnel ripped through his left hand and arm. He is widely regarded as having been the youngest Civil War casualty.

But he was far from the only young boy to earn notoriety in the Civil War. The Army’s youngest noncommissioned officer was John Clem. Clem joined the Army at 11 as a drummer boy but was gifted a cut-down musket by his unit. He allegedly shot a Confederate officer demanding his surrender at Chickamauga and was promoted to sergeant at the age of 12.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
John Lincoln Clem as a young drummer boy. (Photo: Library of Congress)

At least two young boys earned Medals of Honor in the war. Orion P. Howe was a 14-year-old drummer boy in 1863 when he delivered ammo under fire at the battle of Vicksburg. He was wounded during his attempt but pressed on, completing his mission.

Bugle player John Cook dropped his instrument and joined a cannon crew under fire at Antietam, helping the Union hold the line against Confederate forces attempting to invade North.

And Black wasn’t the worst wounded of young boys, just the youngest. John Mather Sloan lost a leg in the war while he was only 13 years old.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bombers are not on alert, but they’re ready any way

The Air Force is upgrading facilities at bases that house nuclear bombers.


But the Air Force and Strategic Command both say there are no plans to put those bombers on 24-hour alert.

Officials from the US Air Force and US Strategic Command have said there are no immediate plans to put nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert.

Questions about plans for US bombers came after a Defense One report that facility upgrades at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana were part of an effort to prepare for an order to go to 24-hour ready alert with US nuclear bombers.

“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense One, though he and other officials stressed that no such order had been given.

Among the upgrades planned at Barksdale are the renovation of quarters for crews who could man bombers stationed there and the construction of storage facilities for a nuclear cruise missile that is being developed. The B-52 and the B-2 are the only Air Force bombers capable of carrying out a nuclear attack.

While Goldfein is responsible for the Air Force and making sure its forces — including bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles — are trained and equipped for any scenario, Strategic Command makes operational decisions about US nuclear-weapons systems.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
A B-52H Stratofortress is parked on the flightline at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 31, 2017. The B-52 has an unrefueled combat range in-excess of 8,000 miles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong)

US Strategic Command chief Air Force Gen. John Hyten said through a spokesman that he was not currently considering putting bombers on alert.

“There are no discussions or plans for US Strategic Command to place bombers on alert. Any decisions related to the posture of nuclear forces would come from, or through, US Strategic Command,” the spokesman told Breaking Defense. “We constantly train, prepare and equip our personnel to ensure we have a combat-ready force that underwrites strategic deterrence in the 21st century.”

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek acknowledged that base-infrastructure upgrades, exercises, and equipment modernization were all happening but said they were needed to “maintain a baseline level of readiness.”

“We do this routinely as part of our organize, train and equip mission so our forces are ready to respond when called upon,” she told Defense News, noting that a return to alert status was not imminent.

Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas also told reporters on Monday that that he had spoken with Strategic Command and Air Force Global Strike Command, which are both responsible for nuclear-bomber missions, and said a 24-hour ready alert was not being considered.

“There’s not any discussions or plans to bring bombers on a 24-hour nuclear alert right now,” Thomas said, according to Military.com.

But, when asked if the facilities being upgraded could support a 24-hour ready alert in the future, Thomas said, “Absolutely they could be,” because they are built for nuclear command, control, and communications crews. (Air Force Global Strike Command set up a new entity at Barksdale to oversee Air Force NC3 operations in April.)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
A close up on the B-2 Spirit.

Thomas added that the Air Force routinely upgraded its facilities but didn’t say if similar renovations were taking place at other facilities where nuclear bombers are stationed. He added that the Air Force would be ready to discuss going to ready-alert status, though he stressed that Strategic Command would be responsible for such a decision.

“Right now those discussions are not happening. Could they or would we be ready for them? Absolutely,” Thomas said. “Could we be doing the mission? We could stand that up very quickly. I just don’t want to overplay something.”

The alert facility at Barksdale has been undergoing work since August 2016, and Strategic Command provided some money for the renovations. While the facility could house nuclear-bomber crews, it is more likely to house crews manning the E4-B National Airborne Operations Center planes that are used by the defense secretary and other senior officials during times of emergency.

US has not had its nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert since 1991, and the 2010 New Start Treaty signed by the US and Russia prohibited putting heavy bombers on alert during peacetime.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why everyone is worried Russia will cut undersea internet cables

This map shows how the huge, complicated network of undersea cables which keep the internet running is spread around the world.


The map, by telecom analytics company Telegeography, uses colored lines to show how there are many hundreds of fiber optic cables running under the world’s oceans.

It shows the sheer scale of the infrastructure which keeps the internet running. It’s built up over decades, mainly as a result of private enterprise rather than coordinated state infrastructure projects, like road or water networks.

Lines shown on the map above are not exactly geographically correct, but they show the broad path of the cables and which territories they connect.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
Europe’s network of submerged cables in detail. (Image Telegeography)

According to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, 97% of all intercontinental data is carried via such cables.

Although they are of obvious strategic importance to the countries involved, relatively little is done to guard them. In recent months, defense authorities have started to warn that state aggressors — Russia in particular — could cut them.

A U.S. admiral, one of Britain’s most senior military commanders, the former head of GCHQ, and a London-based think-tank all made similar warnings in a matter of days late last year.

Rishi Sunak, a Conservative MP, produced a report for the Policy Exchange think-tank in which he warned that Russia is “aggressively operating” in the Atlantic, where cables link Europe and the U.S.

Also Read: The Army’s new sensors can track small arms fire to its source

In the foreword to the report, retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis claimed: “Russian submarine forces have undertaken detailed monitoring and targeting activities in the vicinity of North Atlantic deep-sea cable infrastructure.”

He said they have the capacity to make a concentrated hit, causing “potentially catastrophic” damage.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the UK’s most senior military officer, gave a speech in December in which he said: “There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds.

“Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted, which would immediately and potentially catastrophically affect both our economy and other ways of living.”

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
The network of cables around North America. (Image Telegeography)

At the start of December, former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan told The Times newspaper: “In hybrid warfare, you could tweak the UK economy, even without bringing it to its knees, by just cutting a few [fiber-optic cables].”

“It could slow things down and with automated trading, you could make life pretty difficult if you wanted to without going for full conflict.”

Russia has responded to the threat by suggesting it is not serious. Its embassy in London ran a Twitter poll in response to the Times interview, where most respondents seemed not to take the prospect seriously.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

After bragging to taxi driver, French shooter identified

UPDATE: BBC news has confirmed that the suspected shooter was shot dead by French police in the Neudorf area of Strasbourg at 21:00 local time (20:00 GMT).

The suspected gunman who shot dead two people, injured more than a dozen others, and launched a nationwide manhunt in Strasbourg, France, on Dec. 11, 2018, fled the scene in a taxi — then bragged about the massacre to the driver.

Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz told media that 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, a Strasbourg native, has been identified as the suspect in the shooting, which is being investigated as an act of terror.


Police said Chekatt was armed with a handgun and a knife when he opened fire on a Christmas market in Strasbourg. He allegedly yelled “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — and exchanged gunfire with security forces.

Chekatt then took an injury to the arm and jumped in a taxi for a 10-minute ride to the Neudorf district, Heitz said.

When the taxi driver noticed Chekatt’s injury and the handgun he was carrying, Chekatt confessed to the attack and tried to justify it, Heitz added.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKaJR3PWIpQ
Gunman on the run after deadly shooting at Strasbourg’s Christmas market

www.youtube.com

“To explain his injuries, the individual told of what he had done in the center of Strasbourg by saying he had shot at soldiers and killed 10 people,” Heitz said, according to The Guardian. “The taxi driver said the individual made statements justifying what he claimed he had done.”

The information from the taxi driver helped police identify Chekatt, Heitz added.

‘Radicalization and his proselytizing attitude’

Heitz said Chekatt was well-known to authorities before Dec. 11, 2018’s attack, and had racked up 27 convictions across France, Germany, and Switzerland for violent crimes and thefts.

“He had been incarcerated multiple times and was known to the prison administration for his radicalization and his proselytizing attitude,” Heitz said, according to The New York Times.

French security services had also flagged Chekatt on the country’s “Fiche S” or “S File” database, which lists some 20,000 people suspected of radicalization or posing a national-security risk.

Earlier on Dec. 11, 2018, police had attempted to arrest Chekatt as part of an unrelated murder investigation, according to Laurent Nuñez, the secretary of state for France’s interior ministry. Police even searched Chekatt’s apartment and found a defensive grenade, a rifle, ammunition, and knives.

But Nuñez said Chekatt evaded arrest that morning, and went on to allegedly attack the Christmas market. Authorities have arrested four people associated with Chekatt.

The manhunt for Chekatt continued into Dec. 13, 2018, and Nuñez told media that authorities cannot rule out the possibility that Chekatt may have escaped the country.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A Chinese destroyer fired a weapons-grade laser at a US surveillance aircraft, US Navy says

A Chinese destroyer used a weapons-grade laser to target a US Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft flying above the Pacific last week, US Pacific Fleet said Thursday.

In a statement, the US accused the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions over the incident, said to have occurred about 380 miles from Guam, where the US has a significant military presence.


The laser appeared to be part of the destroyer’s close-in weapon system, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman told Insider.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A,” Pacific Fleet said. “Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”

The Chinese destroyer, hull No. 161, appears to have been the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Hohot.

US Pacific Fleet accused the Chinese warship of violating international rules and regulations, including agreements on conduct at sea, by targeting the aircraft, which was operating in airspace above international waters, with a laser.

The latest incident is not the first time the US military has accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US assets and personnel.

In 2018, the Department of Defense accused the Chinese military, specifically personnel stationed at the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, of using lasers to target US aircraft operating nearby, CNN reported at the time.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FImg%2F21263%2FHiRes%2Fcombined-joint-task-force-horn-of-africa-image&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.hoa.africom.mil&s=588&h=97ca3b850a7a73fa97e0cc9aeb9715e98d6219054317a4d865d431cd27e0303b&size=980x&c=978100650 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FImg%252F21263%252FHiRes%252Fcombined-joint-task-force-horn-of-africa-image%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.hoa.africom.mil%26s%3D588%26h%3D97ca3b850a7a73fa97e0cc9aeb9715e98d6219054317a4d865d431cd27e0303b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D978100650%22%7D” expand=1]

www.hoa.africom.mil

A notice to airmen issued at the time urged pilots “to exercise caution when flying in certain areas in Djibouti,” saying the call for caution was “due to lasers being directed at US aircraft.”

“During one incident, there were two minor eye injuries of aircrew flying in a C-130 that resulted from exposure to military-grade laser beams, which were reported to have originated from the nearby Chinese base,” the notice said.

The Pentagon said the activity posed “a true threat to our airmen.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

American pilots are being targeted by lasers in the Pacific

Pilots of US military aircraft operating in the Pacific Ocean have reportedly been targeted by lasers more than 20 times in recent months, US officials told The Wall Street Journal.

All of the incidents occurred near the East China Sea, the officials said, where Chinese military and civilians often operate in part to buttress their nation’s extensive claims.

This report comes not long after the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US pilots in Djibouti. The pilots suffered minor eye injuries as a result, but China denied any involvement.


It’s unclear who is behind these activities in the Pacific and the officials said the lasers used were commercial-grade, such as laser pointers often used for briefings and even playing with cats, as opposed to the military-grade lasers used against the US pilots in East Africa.

The lasers were reportedly pointed at the US aircraft from fishing boats, some of which were Chinese-flagged vessels.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, practice air-to-sea maneuvers over the Pacific Ocean Jan. 25, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards)

The US officials said they do not currently believe the Chinese military is behind these incidents, but also couldn’t totally rule it out given the recent issues in Djibouti.

They added it’s possible Chinese fisherman or people from “other countries in the region” could simply be doing this to harass American pilots.

It’s also not clear what type of aircraft were targeted.

After the incidents in Djibouti, the Pentagon in May 2018 issued a formal complaint to China and called on its government to investigate.

In response, China’s Defense Ministry said, “We have already refuted the untrue criticisms via official channels. The Chinese side consistently strictly abides by international law and laws of the local country, and is committed to protecting regional security and stability.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added that the government had performed “serious checks,” adding: “You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commandant says he won’t force out Marines as the service shrinks

Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.

Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.


What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”

“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”

The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.

“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”

The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.

Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.

Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.

“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.

The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.

The Marine Corps carried out a series of war games that showed areas where it can cut some existing capabilities, a 15-page memo on the force design states.

When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.

“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 31st

Former Secretary of Defense, retired general, and Patron Saint of Chaos James Mattis has announced that he will be publishing an autobiography called Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It’s said to cover him coming to terms with leadership learned throughout his military career starting from his days as a young Marine lieutenant to four-star general in charge of CENTCOM.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m freaking pumped. Yes, I’d love to know the nitty-gritty of commanding a quarter million troops, but I want to know about his lesser-known butter bar years leading a weapons platoon. Because let’s be honest, that’s where the seeds of his leadership style really grew.

He probably made mistakes and got chewed out for it. He slipped up and got mocked by the lower enlisted. He would have had to ask for advice and eventually grow into one of the smartest minds Uncle Sam has seen in a long time. Even the Warrior Monk himself may have been that nosy LT who needed to be whipped into shape by the platoon sergeant, and that’s kind of motivating in its own way. Yeah, you may f*ck up once in a while, but not even Chaos Actual was a born leader. He had to learn it.

Just think. There’s an old salty devil dog out there somewhere who’s responsible for knife-handing the boot-tenant out of Mattis. And he’s the real hero of this story.


While we wait for the one book that will actually get Jarheads to read for fun on June 16th, here’s some memes.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Not CID)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

Fun fact: The Department of Energy renamed natural gas “freedom gas” in a memo. You know what that means, boys… 

And no. That’s an actual thing and not from The Onion.

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)