Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory - We Are The Mighty
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Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Last week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of a small island in the South China Sea claimed by Communist China. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Other ships, like the Hopper’s sister ship, USS John S. McCain, have made similar runs.


So, you might ask yourself, “why continue running these kinds of routes when they piss off China?” After all, the Hopper was warned off by a Chinese Communist missile frigate and Scarborough Shoal, the island in question, isn’t even inhabited — what’s the point?

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)

Well, part of the reason is to contest China’s claim over pretty much all of the South China Sea. This is a claim that was rejected by an international tribunal in the summer of 2016, although China pulled a Lannister-esque gambit and boycotted the proceedings. China has since built some island bases in the disputed region and uses them to not only support aircraft operations but also houses surface-to-air missiles as well.

So, in addition to disputing the claims of the Chinese in the South China Sea, these near-passes provide an opportunity to get a good look at the electronic emissions and other military capabilities on island bases.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

The United States Navy calls these close passes “freedom of navigation” exercises. The term sounds innocent enough, but similar exercises resulted in brief battles with Libya in 1981, 1986, and 1989, which included the sinking of two Libyan naval vessels and the downing of Su-22 “Fitter” and MiG-23 “Flogger” combat jets by F-14 Tomcats. In one instance in the 1980s, a pair of Soviet frigates bumped the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
The Soviet Krivak I class guided missile frigate BEZZAVETNY (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS YORKTOWN (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Currently, the freedom of navigation exercises have not drawn hostile fire from Chinese Communist forces. However, it has not been unusual for American planes to be buzzed by ChiCom jets, as happened on multiple occasions in 2017, one of which mirrored a secne in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. In 2001, a ChiCom J-8 “Finback” collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance aircraft, which, as a result, had to make an emergency landing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marine Corps’ new sniper rifle is now fully operational

Recon Marines and scout snipers now have a new weapon in their arsenal.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Long Range Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action, precision-firing rifle that offers more accuracy and range than similar weapons of yesteryear. The system partially replaces the M40A6 — the legacy system — and gives Marines increased lethality.

In the second quarter of fiscal year 2019, the Mk13 reached full operational capability.

“This weapon better prepares us to take the fight to any adversary in any clime and place.”

The Mk13 delivers a larger bullet at greater distances than the legacy sniper rifle. The additional velocity offered by the Mk13 will be advantageous on the battlefield, said Berger.


“When shooting the Mk13, the bullet remains stable for much longer,” said Maj. Mike Brisker, MCSC’s weapons team lead for Infantry Weapons. “The weapon gives you enough extra initial velocity that it stays supersonic for a much longer distance than the M40A6.”

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, fire the MK13 Sniper Rifle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Sechser)

Additionally, the rifle includes the M571, an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle. The new optic enables Marines to positively identify enemies at greater distances and creates a larger buffer between the warfighter and adversaries.

Mk13 a ‘positive step forward’

The M40A6 has served the warfighter well for many years. However, the Corps searched for ways to enhance their sniper capability after identifying a materiel capability gap in its sniper rifles, said Brisker. He said Marines will primarily use the Mk13 during deployments, while the M40A6 will serve as a training rifle for snipers.

“We are looking to conserve the barrel life of the Mk13 Mod 7 and facilitate training aboard all installations,” said Berger.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and Marine Corps Systems Command liaison, demonstrates the Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle during training aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Murphy)

Since its initial fielding to I Marine Expeditionary Force in 2018, the Mk13 has been popular among Marines. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper platoon used the weapon for more than a year in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Many users emphasize how the weapon significantly improves their precision firing capability, said Berger.

“At our new equipment trainings, the resounding feedback from the scout snipers was that this rifle is a positive step forward in the realm of precision-fire weapons,” said Berger. “Overall, there has been positive feedback from the fleet.”

Both Berger and Brisker expressed encouragement for the Mk13 after the weapon reached FOC. They believe the rifle will give the warfighter an additional option, increase lethality and enhance the ability to execute missions on the battlefield.

“The fact that we managed to get a gun of this capability out to our sniper teams is really positive,” said Brisker. “We’re looking forward to doing even more in the future.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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Why Iran is ‘playing with fire’ in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

For the fifth time in about a month Iranian fast-attack craft have harassed US Navy ships with “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers at sea in the gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran.


While experts acknowledge that Iran is “playing with fire” against the best navy in the world, don’t expect these incidents to stop any time soon.

“The number of unsafe, unprofessional interactions for first half of the year is nearly twice as much as same period in 2015, trend has continued. There’s already more in 2016 than all of 2015,” Commander Bill Urban of the Navy’s 5th fleet told Business Insider in a phone interview.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Urban stressed that despite the Iranian navy fast-attack craft being several orders of magnitude less potent than US Navy ships, the threat they pose in the gulf is very real.

“Any time another vessel is charging in on one of your ships and they’re not talking on the radio … you don’t know what their intentions are,” said Urban.

Urban confirmed that Iran sends small, fast attack ships to “swarm” and “harass” larger US Naval vessels that could quite easily put them at the bottom of the ocean, but the ships pose a threat beyond firepower.

According to Urban, these ships are “certainly armed vessels with crew-manned weapons, not unarmed ships. I wouldn’t discount the ability to be a danger. A collision at sea even with a much larger ship is always something that could cause damage to a ship or injure personnel.”

In the most recent episode at sea, Urban said that an Iranian craft swerved in front of the USS Firebolt, a US Coastal Patrol craft, and stopped dead in its path, causing the Firebolt to have to adjust course or risk collision.

“This kind of provocative, harassing technique risks escalation and miscalculation.”

The messages Iran wants to send

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Picture of US Sailors captured by Iranian fast-attack craft in the Gulf. | Released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

“In my view, Khamenei (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic) decided it’s time to send a message — I’m here and I’m unhappy,” Cliff Kupchan, Chairman of Eurasia Group and expert on Iran, told Business Insider in a phone interview.

According to Kupchan, the Iranian navy carries out these stunts under directions straight from the top because of frustrations with the Iran nuclear deal. Despite billions of dollars in sanction relief flowing into Iran following the deal, Kupchan says Iran sees the US as “preventing European and Asian banks from moving into Iran and financing Iranian businesses,” and therefore not holding up their end of the Iran nuclear deal.

But despite their perception that the US has under delivered on the promises of the Iran nuclear deal, Kupchan says Iran will absolutely not walk away from the deal, which has greatly improved their international standing and financial prospects.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran’s oil has resulted in “billions in additional revenue … They’re not gonna walk away from that.”

So Iran seems to be simply spinning their wheels to score political points with hardliners, but what if the worst happens and there is a miscalculation in a conflict between Iranian and US naval vessels resulting in the loss of life?

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
The coastal patrol ship USS Squall, one of the ships harassed by the Iranians. | US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Michelle Turner

“The concern is miscalculation,” said Kupchan. “Some guy misjudges the speed of his boat, people could die. There is a lot on the line.”

According to Kupchan, as well as other experts on the subject, Iran’s navy doesn’t stand a serious chance against modern US Navy ships.

“Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps boats and the Iranian Navy are not very capable or modern,” said Kupchan. The fast-attack craft we’ve seen challenge US Navy boats have simply been older speed boats, some Russian-made, outfitted with guns.

The Iranian craft can certainly bother US Navy ships by risking collisions and functioning as “heavily armed gnats, or mosquitoes” that swarm US ships, but a recent test carried out by the Navy confirms that the gunships wouldn’t have much trouble knocking them out of the water. The ensuing international incident, however, would dominate headlines for weeks.

“The wood is dry in US and Iranian relations,” said Kupchan, suggesting that a small miscalculation could spark a major fire, and that harassing these ships is “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam.”

“Hardliners on both sides would go nuts,” said Kupchan, referencing both the conservative Islamist Iranians and the conservative US hawks who would not pass up any opportunity to impinge Obama over his perceived weakness against the Iranians.

Yet Kupchan contends that even a lethal incident would not end the deal. Both sides simply have too much riding on the deal’s success: Obama with his foreign policy legacy, and Iran with their financial redemption and status in the region as the main adversary to Western powers.

However Iran’s Khamenei may be sending a second message to incoming US leadership, specifically Hillary Clinton, who seems likely to be the next commander in chief. “They know Clinton is tough,” said Kupchan, and Khamenei may be addressing Clinton with a second message, saying “Madame Secretary, I’m still here, I know you’re tough, but I’m ready.”

For now, Kupchan expects these incidents at sea to carry on as Iran vents about their larger frustrations, and that a violent exchange would “not be the end of the deal,” or the start of a larger war, “but a serious international incident.”

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Navy destroyer fires missiles in self-defense

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason steams through the Atlantic Ocean. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker


A Navy ship that came under fire from two missiles launched from rebel-held land in Yemen while it transited through international waters Sunday responded in self-defense with three missiles, a Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com.

USNI news first reported that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason launched a RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and two Standard Missile-2s from the waters of the Red Sea, north of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb where it was operating when it came under attack.

Also read: Here are 5 times US Navy ships returned to the fleet after severe damage

A defense official confirmed that the missiles had been launched and also confirmed the outlet’s report that the ship had used a Nulka missile decoy, designed to be launched to lure enemy missiles away from their targets.

The Raytheon-made SeaSparrow is designed to intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, while the SM-2, also made by Raytheon, is the Navy’s primary surface-to-air weapon and a key element of shipboard defense for destroyers.

The Mason was responding to two ballistic missiles that originated around 7 p.m. Sunday from Yemeni territory held by Shiite Houthi rebels. The Mason was not hit by the missiles, and an official from U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said Monday it remained unclear if the ship had been specifically targeted.

Previously, a defense official told the Associated Press that the Mason had used onboard defensive measures to protect itself after the first of the two missiles was fired, but until now no one had publicly confirmed that the ship did indeed fire back.

This exchange comes only a week after the high-speed logistics vessel Swift, a United Arab Emirates-leased ship formerly in service for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, was badly damaged by a missile while operating near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on Oct. 1. The Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes on the rebels in Yemen said the Swift had been attacked by the Houthis.

UAE officials said the ship was transporting humanitarian aid when it was hit.

Today, the Mason remains in the general area that the exchange took place and is continuing a routine patrol, a defense official told Military.com.

“The U.S. is trying to look at what kind of a response would be appropriate in this situation,” the official said. “There’s no sort of a timeline for when a response will come.”

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Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.


Sounds bad, right?

Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.

The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.

That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.

A 1992 crash near Quantico Marine Corps Base took the lives of several personnel, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”

The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.

Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.

Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.

Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.

The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.

Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.

None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.

The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.

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This is how the Marine Corps plans to turn the MV-22 Osprey into a gunship

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, has been exploring the use of forward-firing rockets, missiles, fixed guns, a chin-mounted gun, and also looked at the use of a 30MM gun along with gravity drop rockets and guided bombs deployed from the back of the V-22.


In recent years, the Corps has been working on a study to help define the requirements and ultimately inform a Marine Corps decision with regards to armament of the MV-22B Osprey.

Adding weapons to the Opsrey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons, such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies, and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions, including surprise attacks.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jesse Marquez Magallanes

The initial steps in the process of arming the V-22 includes selecting a Targeting-FLIR, improving digital interoperability, and designating Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment solutions. Integration of new weapons could begin as early as 2019 if the initiatives stay on track and are funded, Corps officials said.

Developers added that “assault support” will remain as the primary mission of the MV-22 Osprey, regardless of the weapons solution selected.

So far, Osprey maker Bell-Boeing has delivered at least 290 MV-22s out of a planned 360 program of record.

Laser-guided Hydra 2.75-inch folding fin rockets, such as those currently being fired from Apache attack helicopters, could give the Osprey greater precision-attack capabilities. One such program firing 2.75in rockets with laser guidance is called Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System.

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps has been analyzing potential requirements for weapons on the Osprey, considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Sgt. Austin J. Otto, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363, participates in an MV-22 Osprey tail gun shoot during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun.

New Osprey Variant in 2030

The Marine Corps is in the early stages of planning to build a new, high-tech MV-22C variant Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to enter service by the mid-2030s, service officials said.

While many of the details of the new aircraft are not yet available, Corps officials told Scout Warrior that the MV-22C will take advantage of emerging and next-generation aviation technologies.

The Marine Corps now operates more than 250 MV-22 Ospreys around the globe and the tiltrotor aircraft are increasingly in demand, Corps officials said.

The Osprey is, among other things, known for its ability to reach speeds of 280 knots and achieve a much greater combat radius than conventional rotorcraft.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Flight deck personnel conduct night operations with MV-22 Osprey aircraft aboard the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Oscar Espinoza.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment, and supplies – all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said.

A Corps spokesman told Scout Warrior that, since 2007, the MV-22 has continuously deployed in a wide range of extreme conditions, from the deserts of Iraq and Libya to the mountains of Afghanistan and Nepal, as well as aboard amphibious ships.

Between January 2007 and August 2015, Marine Corps MV-22s flew more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations, Corps officials said.

Corps officials said the idea with the new Osprey variant is to build upon the lift, speed, and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. While few specifics were yet available, this will likely include improved sensors, mapping, and digital connectivity, even greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics, and new survivability systems, such as defenses against incoming missiles and small-arms fire.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
An MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (Reinforced) takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

Greenberg also added that the MV-22C variant aircraft will draw from technologies now being developed for the Army-led Future Vertical Lift program involved in engineering a new fleet of more capable, high-tech aircraft for the mid-2030s

The US Army is currently immersed in testing with two industry teams contracted to develop and build a fuel-efficient, high-speed, high-tech, next-generation, medium-lift helicopter to enter service by 2030.

The effort is aimed at leveraging the best in helicopter and aircraft technology in order to engineer a platform that can both reach the high-speeds of an airplane while retaining an ability to hover like a traditional helicopter, developers have said.

The initiative is looking at developing a wide range of technologies, including lighter-weight airframes to reduce drag, different configurations and propulsion mechanisms, more fuel-efficient engines, the potential use of composite materials, and a whole range of new sensor technologies to improve navigation, targeting, and digital displays for pilots.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
An MV-22 Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 lands at Camp Wilson during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun.

Requirements include an ability to operate in what is called “high-hot” conditions, meaning 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet where helicopters typically have difficulty operating.  In high-hot conditions, thinner air and lower air-pressure make helicopter maneuverability and operations more challenging.

The Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program has awarded development deals to Bell Helicopter-Textron and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to build “demonstrator” aircraft by 2017 to help inform the development of a new medium-class helicopter.

The Textron-Bell Helicopter team is building a tilt-rotor aircraft called the Bell V-280 Valor and the Sikorsky-Boeing team is working on early testing of its SB-1 Defiant coaxial rotor-blade design. A coaxial rotor-blade configuration uses counter-rotating blades with a thrusting technology at the back of the aircraft to both remain steady and maximize speed, hover capacity, and maneuverability.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Bell V-280 Valor. Image from Bell Helicopter.

Planned missions for the new Future Vertical Lift aircraft include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, land/sea search and rescue, special warfare support, and airborne mine countermeasures, Army officials have said.

Other emerging technology areas being explored for this effort include next-generation sensors and navigation technologies, autonomous flight, and efforts to see through clouds, dust, and debris described as being able to fly in a “degraded visual environment.”

While Corps officials say they plan to embrace technologies from this Army-led program for the new Osprey variant, they also emphasize that the Corps is continuing to make progress with technological improvements to the MV-22.

These include a technology called V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, to be ready by 2018, Corps developers explained.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
USAF photo

The Marine Corps Osprey with VARS will be able to refuel the F-35B Lightning II with about 4,000 pounds of fuel at VARS’ initial operating capability and the MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019, Corps officials told Scout Warrior last year.

The development is designed to enhance the F-35B’s range, as well as the aircraft’s ability to remain on target for a longer period.

The aerial refueling technology on the Osprey will refuel helicopters at 110 knots and fixed-wing aircraft at 220 knots, Corps developers explained.

The VARS technology will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, F-18, AV-8B Harrier jet, and other V-22s.

The Corps has also been developing technology to better network Osprey aircraft through an effort called “Digital Interoperability.” This networks Osprey crews so that Marines riding in the back can have access to relevant tactical and strategic information while in route to a destination.

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Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also read: National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.

“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.

Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.

Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.

“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Soldiers of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. | Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.

“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.

Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”

As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.

Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:

— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.

— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.

— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.

“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.

“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”

Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.

“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”

Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”

“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.

“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.

The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.

In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.

In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”

Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.

“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Dozens of US Army tankers have been playing tank warfare video games online to train for combat during the pandemic, the Army said this week.

Tankers with D Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division are using the online game “War Thunder” to train, according to an Army news story first reported on by Task & Purpose.


Several different games were considered, but “War Thunder,” a free cross-platform online game that simulates combat, won out.

The 3rd ABCT, which recently returned from South Korea, does not actually have any tanks to train in right now because they are waiting to get upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, but even if they had them, the coronavirus would likely keep the four-man crews from piling into them.

3rd ABCT spokesman Capt. Scott Kuhn, who wrote the Army news story, told Insider that the tank crews have training simulators like the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and Advanced Gunnery Training Systems (AGTS), but, like a real tank, these simulators require soldiers to be in close proximity to one another.

Social distancing demands in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus required leaders to take a look at alternative training options.

Seeing that all their soldiers had a PlayStation, an Xbox, or a PC that “War Thunder” could be downloaded on, troop leaders decided that was the best option in these unusual times.

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An online video game that 1st Cavalry Division soldiers are using to help maintain readiness while protecting the force from the coronavirus.

US Army/Capt. Scott Kuhn

“We are able use the game as a teaching tool for each crew member,” Staff Sgt. Tommy Huynh, a 3rd platoon section leader, explained in the Army release.

“For example, drivers can train on maneuver formations and change formation drills. Of course online games have their limitations, but for young soldiers it helps them to just understand the basics of their job,” he said.

One of the big limitations is that “War Thunder” only allows players to virtually operate tanks and other weapon systems from World War II and the Cold War, meaning that the game is not a perfect training platform for modern tanks.

While there are certain limitations, there are also some advantages, the main one being a new perspective.

“Being exposed to other viewpoints through the game is extremely helpful,” Sgt. David Ose, a 1st Platoon section leader, said in the Army news story.

“If you are a driver and you’re inside a tank for real, you don’t get to see what it looks like from above. You don’t always understand that bigger picture because you’re just focused on the role of driving the tank,” Kuhn told Insider.

“This kind of broadens that. It provides a training opportunity to teach younger soldiers how what they do impacts the bigger picture for the platoon or the company,” he explained.

The training, while somewhat unconventional, remains structured. Sessions tend to include a briefing from the section or platoon leader. There are also required training manual readings.

Game play is treated like the real thing, as leaders issue commands and soldiers use proper call-for-fire procedures. And after the soldiers complete an online training session, there is an after action review to talk about how the soldiers can do better in the next exercise.

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

Articles

Sailor killed in Mosul was attached to SEAL team

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan. | U.S. Navy photo


An explosive ordnance disposal technician killed by an ISIS bomb in Iraq on Oct. 20 had been working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul at the time of his death, Military.com has learned.

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. “JJ” Finan, 34, had been attached to a Coronado, California-based SEAL team at the time of his death, according to a source with close knowledge of the events. Military.com is not releasing the name of the team to avoid compromising operational security.

Finan was killed when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device as it was exiting a minefield, the source said. No other teammates were injured.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes in Irbil, Iraq, this weekend, the commander of the coalition fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, provided more context, saying Finan had spotted one IED and was directing teammates and civilians to safety when his vehicle struck another roadside bomb.

A Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com that Finan, as a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a special operations task force serving in Iraq.

SEAL teams frequently have outside augments serving in specialized capacities, such as explosive ordnance disposal.

In a pair of emails to unit family members, the commander of the SEAL team paid tribute to Finan and the sacrifice he made for his brothers-in-arms.

“JJ was the definition of a professional and a loyal teammate and he will be deeply missed,” the commanding officer wrote. “He answered the nation’s call and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and for it we will be forever grateful.”

The officer said the team planned to honor Finan formally and informally in coming weeks in a variety of ways.

“Meanwhile, we will remain resolute,” he said. “Our SEALs and sailors currently deployed will continue to do our nation’s work with the utmost dedication and professionalism … this country is blessed to have such patriots as JJ.”

Finan is the first U.S. service member to be killed supporting the Iraqi Security Forces’ assault on Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq.

A 13-year sailor, Finan was a master explosive ordnance disposal technician who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had also served aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan early in his career.

He had twice been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and had a number of awards honoring exemplary service, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Valor Device.

In just one day, a GoFundMe page created to support Finan’s family has raised more than $21,000.

Articles

Are the US and China coming closer to blows in South China Sea?

The South China Sea has been a maritime flashpoint for years, becoming the subject of the Dale Brown novel “Sky Masters” and Tom Clancy’s SSN video game and tie-in book.


Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

It’s a seven-way Mexican standoff between the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Vietnam.

And you thought Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” had it bad in that final standoff in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

But the United States Navy has been willing to challenge the PRC’s claims in the region. A recent U.S. Navy release discussed how the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the South China Sea. That region has recently become hotter with the ruling by an arbitration panel in favor of the Philippines, who were objecting to China’s claims.

Also read: How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

The problem, of course, is that the ChiComs took a page from everyone’s favorite sociopath from “Game of Thrones” — one Cersei Lannister. They didn’t bother to show up for the arbitration proces, even though they had to have known the consequences. And they probably didn’t care.

In essence, what the McCain did was a freedom of navigation exercise. This sounds innocuous, but in reality it is only slightly less touchy than an invite from a samurai to take part in a “comparison of techniques.”

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) fires its MK-45 5-inch/54-caliber lightweight gun. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alonzo M. Archer/Released)

You see, a “freedom of navigation” exercise usually involves the American vessel operating in international waters that a certain country may not recognize as international waters. In essence, the United States is asserting: “No, these are international waters.”

It can get rough. In 1988, a freedom of navigation exercise off the coast of the Soviet Union in the Black Sea lead to a collision between USS Yorktown (CG 48) and a Krivak-class frigate.

What happened to the USS Yorktown was mild, though. Let’s go back more than 30 years to see how rough those exercises can really get.

In March of 1986, the Navy was sent to carry out some “freedom of navigation” exercises to push back against Moammar Qaddafi. In 1981, similar exercises had resulted in the downing of two Libyan Su-22 “Fitter” attack planes that took some ill-advised shots at Navy F-14s.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), the Republic of Korea navy destroyer ROKS Eulji Mundeok (DDH 972), and the Ulsan-class frigate ROKS Jeju (FF 958) participate in a joint exercise during Foal Eagle 2015. (Photo from U.S. Navy)

That was why three carriers, the USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66) were involved in the 1986 round of “Freedom of Navigation” exercises.

On 23 March, the exercises began. The next day, the shooting started.

The Libyans started by firing SA-2 and SA-5 missiles at Navy F-14s. Shortly afterwards, MiG-23 “Floggers” tried to engage some Tomcats, but broke off after an intense dogfight.

By the end of the day, Libya had lost a new Nanuchka II-class corvette, a Combattante II-class missile boat, saw a Nanuchka and a Combattante II disabled, while several surface-to-air missile sites ended up being live-fire tests for the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Free to enter. 5 will win. Ends November 30, 2016

Fast forward to January 1989.

American forces were operating near the Gulf of Sidra when two MiG-23s came looking for a fight, and got shot down by a pair of F-14s. Once again, the “freedom of navigation” exercises had lead to shots being fired.

Something to keep in mind the next time you hear of such exercises. When sailors are sent there, they could find themselves in a fight.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This powerful vodka will bring genuine clarity to your veteran spirit

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear of Messed-Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For your Secret Santa 007:

~ a bottle of premium, military-grade vodka ~

Would it be a gross generalization to say that military… uhhhh…”spiritual” preferences tend to run toward the darker-colored varieties–the bourbons? The scotches? The whiskeys? And, failing whiskey, beer? Without question, most of the veteran entrepreneurs we’ve met who operate in the alcoholic beverage sector are almost single-mindedly focused on bringing either whiskey or beer to market.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
USMC Veteran Travis McVey, founder of Heroes Vodka, in 2009. This photo might be blurry, but their mission is clear. (Photo from Heidelberg Distributing YouTube)

Marine Corps veteran and former Presidential Honor Guard Travis McVey is happy to be the exception to that rule. After the combat fatality of a close friend in Afghanistan, McVey opted for clarity over darkness and murk. He started a vodka company.

“Vodka, you make today and sell tomorrow. You don’t have to age it. It’s gender neutral. It’s seasonless. And it outsells all the other spirits combined.”

If that sounds unsentimentally strategic as a description of one’s central product, McVey would counter by pointing to his label and to the millions of servicemembers’ stories that anchor it. Heroes Vodka is all about sentiment where it counts. The brand is dedicated to the brave men and women who protect the country, at home and abroad.

 

A portion of every sale goes directly to AMVETS, Operation Stand Down, and other organizations in support of community assistance programs for American veterans, active duty military, and their families. To date, McVey has donated more than $60,000, but most important is the message the brand projects.  Etched into the company’s DNA and broadcast to the world with every nightly news profile, tasting award, and Instagram post, a single message is clear:

 

We Are The Mighty couldn’t say it better or agree more.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new hypersonic missiles already leaked to spies

Russia’s Federal Security Service reportedly suspects that plans for two of Russia’s new, game-changing hypersonic missiles have been leaked to Western spies.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on July 19, 2018, released new footage of two of its most revolutionary weapons systems: a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile and the Avangard, a maneuverable ballistic missile reentry vehicle specifically made to outfox the US missile defenses arrayed around Europe.

Related video:

The Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, now suspects these systems, each of which cope with the challenges of flight at about 10 times the speed of sound, have been leaked to the West.

“It was established that the leak came from TsNIIMash employees,” a source close to the FSB investigation told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, as the BBC noted. TsNIIMash is a Russian state-owned defense and space company.

“A lot of heads will roll, and for sure this case won’t end just with a few dismissals,” the source said.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

A Boeing X-51 hypersonic cruise missile at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The hypersonic arms race

The US, China, and Russia are all locked in a heated arms race to create weapons that can travel many times the speed of sound, defeating today’s missile-defense systems.

China and Russia frequently test their weapons and have even fielded a few systems ahead of the US, but their focus is nuclear, while the US seeks a more technically difficult goal.

With nuclear weapons, like the kind Russia and China want on their hypersonics, accuracy doesn’t matter. But the US wants hypersonics for precision-strike missiles, meaning it has the added challenge of trying to train a missile raging at mach 10 to hit within a few feet of a target.

Given that nuclear weapons represent the highest level of conflict imaginable, believed in most cases to be a world-ending scenario, the US’s vision for precision-guided hypersonic conventional weapons that no missile defenses can block would seem to have more applications. The US’s proposed hypersonics could target specific people and buildings, making them useful for strikes like the recent ones in Syria.

But if Russia’s hypersonic know-how has somehow slipped into Western hands, as the FSB has reportedly indicated, then its comparative advantage could be even weaker.

Featured image: A MiG-31 firing a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile.

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about Larry Nassar’s veteran judge

Veterans are a very outspoken group. When there is an injustice in the world, it’s beautiful to see a veteran take the reins to mend the situation. That is exactly what happened when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina presided over the sentencing of a man who officials have called, “the most prolific child molester in history.”


Aquilina served twenty years in the Michigan Army National Guard, eventually retiring at the rank of Major. She became the first female officer in the state’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) and earned the nickname, “Barracuda Aquilina.” Her hardcore reputation persisted after she put away her combat boots for the last time and has served her well throughout her legal career. She said in a 2014 Legal News article,

I don’t take no for an answer. I don’t let anyone create a mold for me. I’m going to make my own mold. I stand up for people and say, ‘we’re going to do what’s right.’

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Very much the veteran mentality after leaving the service. (Image via Lansing State Journal)

She is no stranger to high-profile or controversial cases. In 2006, she presided over the case of Ricky Holland, which involved the murder of a 7-year old child with a hammer. In 2013, she ruled that the Detroit bankruptcy violated the Michigan Constitution and state law, and sent an advisory memorandum to President Obama. She made national headlines recently because of her “Barracuda” attitude while presiding over the Larry Nassar case.

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory
Judge Aquilina’s face speaks for all of us when he tried to get out of hearing victim testimony. (Screengrab via YouTube)

During the case, she allowed every single one of the over 150 young women and girls to address the court and Nassar. He wrote a six-page letter to the judge stating that it was hard for him to listen to his accusers in court. Judge Aquilina simply shook her head and said, “you may find it harsh that you are here listening, but nothing is as harsh as what your victims endured for thousands of hours at your hands.” He defended his behavior and claimed he was manipulated into a guilty plea in November.

For much of the sentencing, she remained calm and collective, listening intently to each and every accuser that stepped forward. After much back and forth between her and Nassar, with Judge Aquilina’s wit being much sharper, she sentenced him to 175 years in prison that will follow his 60 years for pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

After announcing the prison terms, she famously said,

I just signed your death warrant. As much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.
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