Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a national non-profit organization best known for remembering fallen veterans with wreaths placed each December at Arlington National Cemetery. However, the organization and its mission to Remember, Honor, Teach, is much more.
In the beginning, founder, Morrill Worcester, a 12-year-old paper boy in Maine won a trip to Washington D.C., where Arlington National Cemetery became an inspirational location. His pilgrimage served as a consistent reminder, through career and life, that opportunities stemmed from the values and freedom afforded to us by our nation’s veterans.
After years of hard work, Morrill founded Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. In 1992, Worcester Wreath had a surplus. Morrill saw this as his opportunity to honor our veterans with hopes of returning to Arlington. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (ret.), the first 5,000 wreaths were placed that year at Arlington National Cemetery. As plans were underway, other individuals and organizations shared Morrill’s spirit and working together built an annual mission that went unnoticed for many years.
In 2005, a photo surfaced of Arlington covered in snow, adorned with wreaths. This picture became a viral internet sensation! After, thousands of requests poured in, from people wanting to help emulate the Arlington success on the local level, prompting the official formation of Wreaths Across America the national nonprofit in 2007.
The newly formed 501c3 began its national effort by sending seven ceremonial wreaths to every state (one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs). The ceremonies took place in nearly all of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., with a focus on family during the holidays. As the organization grew from volunteer support, a network of local groups and cemetery locations began to emerge.
Presently a small, but dedicated staff and more than 7,000 core volunteers across the country, work tirelessly on year-long programs that help accomplish this ongoing mission to Remember, Honor and Teach. That number grows to more than 2 million, a third of whom are children, who participate in the annual wreath laying events nationwide!
What does it mean to sponsor a wreath? It means you’ll honor an American hero at one of more than 2,500 locations nationwide this year on Wreaths Across America Day… a day that’s been set aside to pay tribute to their sacrifices.
This year, National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.
We can only do this with YOUR support. Your sponsorship will ensure that a wreath is hand- crafted of all-American balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow will be sent to one of our participating locations, where a volunteer will place it on the marker of a fallen hero. That volunteer will then “say their name” to ensure that the legacy of duty, service and sacrifice of that veteran is never forgotten.
Give the gift of remembrance this holiday season and join a grateful nation in saying “thank you” to our veterans. Visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org to sponsor a wreath for a participating location near you!
Marines will soon get the option to swap crunches on their physical fitness test with a plank. Officer candidates reporting to training in January 2020 will be the first to see the change.
The Marine Corps updated its graduation requirements Nov. 8, 2019, for candidates reporting to Officer Candidates School in 2020. Members of Officer Candidate Course No. 233 will be the first to have the option to perform a plank on their PFT.
Candidates will have to hold a plank for at least a minute and three seconds to get the minimum score required on that portion of the PFT to be admitted to and graduate from OCS.
The requirement is the same for men and women, regardless of age. Marine recruits who ship to boot camp after Jan. 1, 2020, will also have the options of doing a plank in place of crunches.
Marine officials announced in June 2019 that a plank would be allowed on the abdominal strength section of the PFT. The exercise must be held for four minutes and 20 seconds to receive the full 100 points.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
In September 2019, the Force Fitness Division and Force Fitness Readiness Center put out a video detailing the proper form. Marines must be in a push-up position with feet hip-width apart, with arms bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow so the forearms rest flat on the ground. The Marine’s hips must be raised off the floor, and hands must touch the ground either lying flat or in fists.
Officer candidates can opt for the plank in place of completing 70 crunches within two minutes.
All candidates need at least a 220 on their PFT to be accepted into OCS and then a 235 or higher to graduate.
The new rules will apply not only to candidates reporting to OCS in January 2020, but all future classes, according to a Marine Corps administrative message announcing the new requirements.
Sailors will replace sit-ups with a plank on the Navy Readiness Test sometime this year. That service is currently gathering data from about 600 sailors before setting new scoring requirements.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
During a meeting Wednesday with a number of defense reporters and experts, outgoing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus defended the Littoral Combat Ship against criticism.
The LCS has been noted for a series of engineering problems that has laid up a number of the early ships. The problems have called the program into question even though the USS Freedom (LCS 1) had a very successful 2010 deployment to Southern Command’s area of operations, while the USS Coronado (LCS 4) successfully defeated a simulated attack by a swarm of speedboats in a 2015 test of the surface warfare package.
Mabus particularly aimed his ire at the Pentagon’s Office of Test and Evaluation, or DOTE, which has been part of an ongoing verbal fight between Pentagon testers and the Navy.
“My reaction is that I’ve been there almost eight years,” Mabus, who was confirmed in 2009, groused to the gathered reporters. “And I’m pretty sure that [DOTE director] Michael Gilmore has never found a weapon system that’s effective, ever.”
“I know what this ship can do. I know what the fleet thinks of it,” Mabus added, citing how the office was also highly critical of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, claiming it didn’t work or do what the Navy said it would do. The DOTE criticism came even though the plane had already entered the fleet and was drawing rave reviews from operators.
The Littoral Combat Ship covered 20 pages in the DOTE FY2016 Annual Report, which claimed the Navy “has not yet demonstrated effective capability for LCS equipped with the MCM [mine counter-measures], SUW [surface warfare], or ASW [anti-submarine warfare] mission packages.”
The report also cited the 2015 cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System, and even claimed that the USS Coronado had flunked the 2015 test.
“The final thing I’ll say is, it does what we want it to do, not what you think it ought to do which is one of the things [Gilmore] does,” Mabus concluded.
But in doing so he evoked the threats that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 2017.
Asked about comments by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the White House was looking at a “Libya model” for ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, something to which North Korea responded angrily, Trump essentially issued an ultimatum: Denuclearize or die.
The ultimatum was clear, but Trump’s understanding of the history of disarmament in Libya was not.
“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation,” Trump said. “We went in there to beat him.”
The US and other nations agreed with Libya in 2003 to remove the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s nascent nuclear weapons program and his chemical weapons.
Gaddafi gained international acceptance as a result, and he ruled for eight more years until a popular uprising plunged his country into civil war.
The US, along with NATO allies, then backed the uprising against him, and attacked Gaddafi’s forces, but did not kill Gaddafi.
Though the US strikes were effective, they were focused and did not “decimate” the country in the way that, say, US bombers pounded North Korea in the Korean War.
Gaddafi died within six months of the US intervention, but it was his own people who killed him after finding his hideout and dragging him through the streets.
Bolton’s original comments about a Libya model appeared to address the disarmament in 2003, while Trump on May 17, 2018, appeared to address Gaddafi’s death in 2011, something North Korea has picked up on and responded to.
A model involving national devastation for the country “would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely,” Trump said. “But if we make a deal,” he continued, “I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”
Return to fire and fury
On May 14, 2018, the US and North Korea were going into their fourth month of warming relations, preparing for a summit for Trump and Kim to discuss peace and possible denuclearization.
Experts warn that a Trump-Kim summit carries huge risk. If the summit fails to achieve peace and agreement, the highest cards in both countries’ diplomatic decks have been played, and all that remains is confrontation.
So far, 2018 has been almost clear of nuclear brinkmanship between Trump and Kim, but May 17, 2018, should remind us that as long as North Korea has nuclear weapons, the US stands a hair’s breadth from war.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The poet Dylan Thomas once wrote “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight…” To many, that means people who have faced death have seen what’s most important in life, but for myriad reasons too many veteran experiences are left out of the history books, lost in the annals of time.
The Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is an amazing medium for the men and women of days gone by to share what those days were like. Those who survived the world wars have mostly gone on to live long, full lives. Given the proper forum, they enjoy looking back and from their recollections important lessons emerge.
Here are some of the best recollections and advice from the AMA forum. While they share their stories, they also share their advice for not going gentle into that good night.
1. Tom, an 88-year-old World War II veteran who received a Purple Heart and helped liberate Rome:
“War is hell. Bring our boys back from the Middle East.”
“The younger generation [who aren’t veterans] has a hard time appreciating the rigors of war because we have an all-volunteer military.”
“We were a generation strained in a very specific way. The depression had a huge influence on my life and still plays a role in who I am. I think people were more prepared for hardship back then than they are today. That being said, some of the service members today have been at war for over ten years. And they are volunteers. We were not tested like that.”
“Just be a simple soldier. Don’t lazy, sleepy or aggressive. Follow the orders of the day.”
“I never met the guards or saw them again, but I forgive them.”
“The worst thing was the death march itself and then the food in the camp. Just rice and salt. We used to try and get the leaves of edible plants and cook it. Some people were so hungry they would sweep up grasshoppers and eat it.”
“I only know that what I fought for was justified.”
“Have plenty of rest, sleep well, and eat everything that is given to you.”
4. Don McQuinn, an 84-year-old Korea and Vietnam Veteran:
“Somebody asked earlier about what did you take away from the Marine Corps. What I learned is that you can stop me, but you can’t beat me. I’ll be back. And when somebody bets on you like that, all the cards on the table are face up. And I had to succeed. There wasn’t any option. Pretty simple.”
“I appreciate the thanks, it was my privilege to serve.”
“The toughest were the Chinese. The nastiest were the North Koreans. The most dogged were the Vietnamese.”
” Vietnam was the hardest. Going away. No definition of ‘the enemy.’ Incredible misunderstanding by the American public and press.”
5. Michael Mirson, 94-year old Soviet soldier, captured by the Nazis, Escaped to the United States:
“I believe in working hard and honesty.”
“In the Soviet army, they were very poor. Very little food, the boots were poor, and the discipline was not good. We walked in the Caucasus Mountains with blisters on your feet. You could barely walk, and had to go so slow. Officers on horseback would come by with a whip and say “comrade, you’re walking too slow, you must walk fast. You must walk fast for this country and for Stalin.” Once someone fought back against an officer, and was shot. This scared us into keep walking, no matter what.”
“I really learned how to survive. I truly learned how to take care of myself and others. I always tried to help my friends. I learned how to come together to help people, and how other people can help you.”
“It just always seems to be the same story, the fighting story. When people lived in caves, they fought with stones. Now they fight with planes and drones.”
6. Hubert Buchanan, Vietnam POW in Hanoi Hilton who returned to Vietnam meet his captor years later:
“In hindsight it was unwise to get involved in Vietnam, but given that time and history it was understandable that the U.S. got involved. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, I think it was a bad idea to get involved at all.”
“He was just a villager who got the credit for capturing me. It’s illogical to go from the particular to the general. For example, I don’t blame the Vietnamese people. If people were bombing my country I might try to capture the bombers.”
“He was very excited to see me, and it turns out he received a certificate from the government that said something like “village hero” … all in all, it was a “war is war” type of encounter.”
When asked if the Vietnamese were skilled fighter pilots: “I was shot down by a Vietnamese fighter pilot. What does that tell you?”
7. Norm, a 97-year-old ANZAC WWII Veteran, Fought at Papua New Guinea:
“I just want to be able to help people and see the smiles on their faces when the job is finished. Having something to do each day keeps me going.”
“Have respect for your elders, be honest, talk to people who have good manners and treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself.”
“I couldn’t understand the Japanese at the time. I was offered to go to Japan after the war but I said no. I couldn’t understand the things that the Japanese had done in the war.”
“It was a matter of “if you didn’t get them, they’d get you”. So I didn’t really sympathize with them.”
“It’s been hard to let go.”
“I hope that all wars are finished. I hope they realize that no one gains from war.”
8. Dick Cole, 98-year-old WWII Air Corps Vet and James Doolittle’s Co-Pilot during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo:
When asked what he wants for his birthday: “More Time.”
“[Jimmy] Doolittle was a great, great man and I am honored that I was able to serve under him.”
“One quick story most people don’t know is that he has a hunting cabin we would all go meet at. He always insisted on doing the dishes.”
“The hardest part of the Doolittle Raid was Looking at that black hole when we had to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.”
“Most memorable part was when my parachute opened.”
“Just to live your life to the fullest. Enjoy it!”
“You get so much advice when you have lived as long as I have.”
“I sometimes think that we are the biggest threat to ourselves because of the foolish things we do. There is no ruler anywhere that has any control over good or evil. They all do what they think is best for them in the long run.”
“Always help people, however you can.”
11. Harry Snyder, a WWII Normandy and Battle of the Bulge Veteran:
“The average German soldier was like the average person. If he was captured, I could talk to him. They seemed like ordinary people you could find anywhere. The SS were the bad guys, the real killers. They were responsible for the death camps and the killing of innocent people. You couldn’t interact with them… you treated them like dirt.”
“She’s a great cook. You can’t go wrong for that, marry a great cook.”
“When we are attacked without provocation, either militarily or by terrorists. Then I think then we are justified to go to war.”
“When the war in Europe ended, we were going to be sent to Japan. Not to occupy, but to invade. Then, President Harry S. Truman dropped the bomb. Thank God for the other Harry. He saved a lot of us from going over there. I didn’t feel bad for the Japanese; I feel they got what they deserved. The President saved a lot of us from getting killed.”
Iran’s malignant influence is the most significant threat to Middle East security, according to the top U.S. general in the region.
The Middle East remains a highly unstable region, ripe for continued conflict, Army Gen. Joseph Votel warned the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday. Of the multitude of challenges in the region, Iran is the primary concern in the long term, according to the general.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
He added that Iran’s support of the Assad regime in Syria and exploitation of Shia Muslim population centers are parts of its “malign influence.”
Votel’s assessment comes after a significant increase in Iranian provocation in the Middle East over the last several months. Iranian naval vessels harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf using boat swarm tactics and the regime in Tehran continues its fiery rhetoric against the U.S. and its allies.
Iran has also continued to support various proxy groups across the Middle East, including the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which is actively engaged against the U.S. and Saudi-supported government. The Popular Mobilization Units, a conglomerate of mostly Shia militia units backed by Iran, continue to play a major role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, allowing Iran to continue to entrench itself in the Iraqi government.
“Since Iran cannot strike the U.S. homeland conventionally the way the United States can strike the Iranian homeland with near impunity, Tehran seeks ways to balance the deterrence equation by threatening U.S. interests worldwide through proxy terrorism and asymmetric operations,” said J. Matthew McCinnis, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in Iranian strategy, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December.
McInnis added that Iran will likely continue to use proxy groups as a means of deterrence against the U.S., meaning Votel and the U.S. military will likely continue to face an Iranian threat for some time to come.
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“I’ve had a good life, so I can’t complain at all,” he told KARE 11.
As an only child who never married or had any children, Karlstrand has no heirs to leave his belongings to. Everything in his home has been donated to members of the community, including his $1 million retirement fund to the school he graduated from.
“The school receives many gifts. This one is just deeply touching,” said Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota Nursing School. The donation provided six scholarships this year and more to come.
His home of 38 years will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will find a new owner after he passes. Karlstrand’s only requirement for the charity is that the new owner be a military veteran like himself. “I wanted to give back to the veterans if I could,” Karlstrand said.
One of the most wide-reaching and significant changes to military pay and benefits over the last 70 years goes into effect Jan. 1 with the implementation of the Uniformed Services Blended Retirement System, known as BRS.
All new entrants into the uniformed services on or after Jan. 1 will be enrolled in this new retirement system, Pentagon officials said. The uniformed services are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.
Some Can Choose Between Systems
Nearly 1.6 million current service members will have the option to remain in the current legacy “high-3” retirement system or to choose the BRS when the opt-in period for eligible service members opens Jan. 1. Opt-in eligible service members from all seven of the uniformed services will have an entire year to make their retirement system election. The open period for the majority of service members is from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018.
U.S. Public Health Service personnel should contact the USPHS Compensation Branch.
Service members who believe they are eligible to opt in, but do not see the opt-in option available online should contact their local personnel/human resources office to verify eligibility, officials said.
The decision to opt in is irrevocable, officials emphasized, even if a service member changes his or her mind before the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline. Eligible service members who take no action will remain in the legacy retirement system, they added.
Prior to opting in, officials recommend that service members take advantage of all available resources to assist in making an informed decision on the financial implications specific to their retirement situation. The Defense Department endorses several training and informational tools to support a service member’s decision, including the BRS Opt-In Course, the BRS Comparison Calculator, and numerous online BRS resource materials. Service members can receive no-cost, personal support from an accredited personal financial manager or counselor available at their installation’s military and family support center or by calling Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647.
Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.
And he did so on more than one occasion.
After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.
Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.
Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.
This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.
Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.
Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.
There’s only one person aside from the Secret Service who brings guns to the White House every day. That would be Chef Andre Rush, who can be found in the gym when he’s not cooking up a storm for the leader of the free world. As you can imagine, his fitness routine is heavy on arm work and (of course) his diet.
Rush not only tends to his biceps with what some might consider an excessive amount of curls, he also pumps up with the 22 Pushup Challenge every weekday, his part in raising awareness of the estimated 22 military veterans who die from suicide every day. Only, Andre Rush doesn’t just do 22. He does 2,222 pushups on top of his 72-hour rotating isolation schedule. Chef Rush is himself a military veteran who served in the Army before he ended up in the White House kitchen. He has served supper to Presidents Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, and now Trump – and their families, of course.
Food is still, thankfully, bipartisan.
Rush joined the Army as a cook in 1994. His military career took him through culinary training before he started serving the goods at the Pentagon, and eventually, the White House. He retired only 18 months ago. He still works as a consultant for the White House.
“The camaraderie among the chefs reminded me of hanging out with my friends back in Mississippi, and I got tired of being serious and being out in the field 24/7,” he told Men’s Health Magazine. “Plus, I just love to eat!”
A diet for this force of a man consists of 12-24 hard-boiled eggs, only two of which are whole eggs. For the rest, he eats only the whites. He also downs his own peanut butter protein shake with blended quinoa and nonfat milk. For the rest of his training meals, he eats greek yogurt, oatmeal, and lean turkey – at the gym. He snacks on the turkey in the gym. For his afternoon meals, he consumes four roasted chickens.
Marines are known for their versatility in combat — we even flex that fact in our hymn, boasting that “we’ve fought in every clime and place.” One thing’s for sure, no matter where the enemy is, Marines will find a way there to punch ’em in the face — even if that place is a rainy, hot, unforgiving jungle.
But, like a professional sports team, we need a home field in which we can practice. To get our devil dogs ready to fight in the thick of the jungle, we’ve got a few sites where they can get the reps they need. These are the best of ’em:
It also looks like a post-apocalyptic suburb, which is a plus.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nichelle Griffiths)
Andersen South AFB — Guam
Once used by the Air Force, Andersen South is an abandoned housing base that the Marines now train in. Not only is the area filled with an extensive amount of jungle, there’re also plenty of buildings. This means you can combine jungle warfare with urban training in the same location. It’s the best place for force-on-force training, hands down.
The jungle here isn’t that bad, though.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)
Bellows Air Force Station — Oahu, Hawai’i
Another space acquired from the Air Force, the base is mostly used for recreation. The Marines stationed at nearby Marine Corps Base Hawai’i, however, use it as a training site for jungle patrols and land navigation.
Those in the Advanced Infantryman Course go here to enjoy the wrath of their instructors.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew Morris)
Kahuku Training Area — Oahu, Hawai’i
Kahuku Training Area features one of the best examples of jungle environments. This training area is home to a road referred to as “The Devil’s Backbone” because of the rolling hills over which it spans. The jungle here is incredibly thick and it always rains. No, really. This isn’t some “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin'” sort of thing — it just always rains.
In addition to a lush jungle environment, Kahuku also includes some urban environments.
This place also has some gnarly hills.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei)
Camp Schwab — Okinawa, Japan
Even though it doesn’t seem very large and the Okinawan people protesting outside the front gate can make you feel a little unwelcome, Camp Schwab has some great training sites. Whether you want to sharpen your offensive tactics in the jungle or just do some good ol’ fashioned land nav, this base has plenty of space for both.
You might even get to go and raid one of their tiny jungle villages.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. Jessica Etheridge)
Camp Gonsalves — Okinawa, Japan
Anything you can’t do at any of the other bases, you can definitely do here. This is home of the Jungle Warfare Training Center, so it’s not hard to figure out why Camp Gonsalves tops the list. Here, in addition to the jungle survival training, you can practice rappelling down a cliffside and learn what it really means to fight in a jungle.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also take part in mock raids on small, nearby villages, which is a fun, immersive experience. Also, because this place is used primarily for training purposes, it’s guaranteed to rain throughout your visit.
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.
According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.
The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.
The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”
In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”
Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.
“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know. Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”
Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”
Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.
Massive explosions at an in central have prompted the evacuation of more than 30,000 people and the closure of airspace over the region, the country’s emergency response agency has said.
The blasts late on Sept. 26 sparked a blaze at the depot near Kalynivka in the Vinnytsya region, some 270 kilometers west of Kyiv, the September 27 statement said.
military prosecutor’s office said investigators were treating the explosions and fire as an act of sabotage, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska said on September 27.
National Police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a statement on September 27 that hundreds of police officers from the Vinnytsya, Zhytomyr, Khmelnitskiy, Kyiv, and Chernivtsi regions were providing security and safe evacuation of people at the site.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who arrived in Vinnytsya hours after the blast, said that “external factors” were behind the incident.
Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the head of the Interior Ministry, said on Facebook that he was “convinced that this is a hostile Russian sabotage,” and said it was the seventh fire at military warehouses in Kalynivka.
He said a state commission of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the explosions.
Some 600 National Guard troops were deployed to the area to assist with the evacuation of the residents and to ensure the protection of their property from looters, the National Guard said in a statement. Some 1,200 Ukrainian firefighters were working to contain the blaze, UNIAN reported.
Witnesses said that after an initial loud explosion, bright flashes were visible in the night sky. Some residents said they feared the smoke and fire from the explosion might produce toxic gases.
Local media reported that the explosive wave knocked out the windows in the Kalynivka district state administration, where an emergency headquarters for teams seeking to put out the explosions and fire was later gathered.
Witnesses said the sound of explosions could be heard as far away as Kyiv. Local media said that in Kalynivka, officials turned off the lights and disconnected gas and electricity supplies.
Shortly after the explosions, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of , General Viktor Muzhenko, arrived in Vinnytsya, authorities said.
A volunteer of the Avtoevrozile organization of Vinnytsya, Ihor Rumyantsev, told RFE/RL that he saw about 10 buses arrive to evacuate people. He said he was helping to evacuate residents, giving priority to women and children.
Early on September 27, Rumyantsev said the explosions started to increase, doubling in size, prompting people to hide in their cellars.
Rumyantsev said the railway connection in the area had completely stopped. Ukrzaliznytsya reported a change in railroad routes due to the explosions.
An employee of the Vinnytsya Oblast Council, Iryna Yaroshynska, confirmed the rerouting of trains going through Kalynivka.
Ukraerocenter closed the airspace within a radius of 50 kilometers from the zone of explosions in the military warehouses, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yuriy Lavrenyuk said on Facebook.
Residents posted video online showing what appeared to be a fire burning, lights flashing, and smoke billowing into the night sky.