Marine Corps News

US military funeral traditions honor the fallen on land, air and sea
10 hours, 52 minutes ago
US military funeral traditions honor the fallen on land, air and sea

From missing man formation flyovers to taps, here’s how the services pay respect to America's fallen heroes.

Growing numbers of Vietnam veterans are being laid to rest in recent years, and in many cases their families are attending military funerals. Every eligible veteran can receive military funeral honors.

Among military burial traditions, the 21-gun salute is the oldest. In the 14th century, warships and shore forces fired off their guns to show that their weapons were empty and they were friendly.

Also of artillery origin, dating at least to the 18th century, is the custom of carrying a head of state or high-ranking military official on a two-wheeled horse-drawn caisson.

Taps — referring to a soft triple beat on the drum — was composed by Union Brig. Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield in 1862 as a quieter substitute for gunfire to signal the end of the day’s activities. It was later adopted to a soldier’s final rest.

A 20th century tradition among Air Force personnel is the “Missing Man” formation, in which a “finger four” flight of warplanes approaches the burial site from the south and the second element’s leader breaks formation to climb westward, into the sunset.

The Royal Air Force used a flyover at the funeral of British King George V in 1936, and the U.S. Army Air Corps used a similar flyover at the funeral of Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover in 1938. The flyover became standard after the April 1954 funeral of Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg.

A universal honor in American military funerals is the presentation of the flag that draped the coffin before burial. It is folded 13 times (for the 13 original states in 1776) into a triangular shape and given to the nearest kin.

Jon Guttman - May 27, 2024, 12:00 am

American vets for Ukraine launch group for sustained support
2 days, 17 hours ago
American vets for Ukraine launch group for sustained support

The recently launched group American Veterans for Ukraine wants to drive up public support for Ukraine.

Katherine Semenyuk gave birth to her fifth child in a bomb shelter in Lutsk, Ukraine, the day that Russia began its invasion of her country in February 2022.

“We had six missiles flying approximately at 6 in the morning, flying and landing right like above our heads,” Semenyuk, 39, told Military Times, adding that she went into labor and had her kid just hours later.

“It was very cold … but I’m not whining about anything because my child is alive, but I know that there are many mothers who lost their children having them in a bunker,” said Semenyuk, who works on a tactical medical instructors team that trains soldiers and others in combat zones at least once a month.

As the war between Ukraine and Russia drags on, leaders in the American veterans community are looking to ensure others do not have to endure similar hardships, announcing this week the formation of a new organization focused on supporting Kyiv in its ongoing war to defend itself.

That non-partisan, non-profit group, American Veterans for Ukraine, kickstarted its effort with an event Thursday in Washington, D.C., ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

“We are grounded in the understanding that there are men and women right now fighting and dying for Ukraine, for freedom, for American national security and for the values that we hold dear,” Paul Rieckhoff, an Army veteran who helped found the group, said at the event.

Even with aid arriving, training still needed for Ukraine triumph

Katherine Semenyuk, who works with TAPS International, shared how she previously gave birth to her child in a Ukrainian bomb shelter. Her comments took place at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2024. (Jonathan Lehrfeld/Military Times)

He and other advocates that created the organization are aiming to drive up public support for Kyiv and secure a continued U.S. government investment in Ukraine’s fight.

“Ukraine should not have their hands tied. They shouldn’t have to beg and plead for the weapons to keep their women and children and civilians safe,” said Rieckhoff, who also started the non-profit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Critics of renewing an American financial commitment to Ukraine held up supplemental support to the country for months before it was later signed into law.

The new organization AVU is prioritizing getting more and faster funding to Kyiv from Congress in order to supply the Ukrainians with ammunition to win in battle, Rieckhoff later told Military Times. He added the group plans to make trips to Ukraine to speak with the country’s leaders to then facilitate conversations on that assistance with American lawmakers.

He noted that while various perspectives within the group on where weaponry goes and how it can be used may arise, fundamentally their focus is on the flow of continuing support.

Some Americans have traveled to Ukraine to join the war effort and have lost their lives while volunteering to fight. As of February, nearly 40 of those killed were U.S. veterans, according to a list compiled by Task & Purpose from public sources.

Rieckhoff underscored that he and the other AVU founders, which have worked in the veterans advocacy space for decades, know how to interact within Washington and leverage their relationships and experience to achieve their goals.

Bonnie Carroll, another of AVU’s founders, described how grateful she was to be involved in the organization as an Air Force Reserve veteran. She previously founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, TAPS, a national support network for families of America’s fallen heroes, after her husband died in an Army plane crash.

“We will win this,” Carroll said.

Jonathan Lehrfeld - May 24, 2024, 5:11 pm

World War II ace Richard Bong’s plane found, explorers believe
2 days, 17 hours ago
World War II ace Richard Bong’s plane found, explorers believe

Searchers announced Thursday they’ve discovered what they believe is the wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong’s plane.

Searchers announced Thursday they’ve discovered what they believe is the wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong’s plane in the South Pacific.

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wisconsin, and the nonprofit World War II historical preservation group Pacific Wrecks announced in March they were launching a joint search for Bong’s Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter. Bong nicknamed the plane “Marge” after his girlfriend, Marge Vattendahl.

Another pilot, Thomas Malone, was flying the plane in March 1944 over what is now known as Papua New Guinea when engine failure sent it into a spin. Malone bailed out before the plane crashed in the jungle.

The expedition’s leader, Pacific Wrecks Director Justin Taylan, said that the search team discovered the wreckage in the jungles of Papua New Guinea’s Madang Province on May 15.

He released photos of himself in the jungle with chunks of metal on the ground. In one photo he points to what the caption calls a wing tip from the plane stamped with “993,” the last three numbers of the plane’s serial number. Enlarging the photo shows markings that could be two “9s” but they’re obscured by what might be dirt or rust and difficult to make out. Another photo shows a piece of metal stamped with “Model P-38 JK.”

Taylan said during a video news conference from Papua New Guinea on Thursday afternoon that the serial number and model identification prove the plane is Marge “definitely, beyond a doubt.”

“I think it’s safe to say mission accomplished,” Taylan said. “Marge has been identified. It’s a great day for the center, a great day for Pacific Wrecks, a great day for history.”

Taylan has been researching the location of the crash site for years. He said that historical records suggested it went down on the grounds of a 150-year old plantation. Local residents initially showed the expedition the wreck of a Japanese fighter plane before telling the searchers about wreckage deeper in the jungle.

The explorers hiked through the jungle until they discovered wreckage in a ravine, Taylan said. At the top of the ravine they found two aircraft engines sticking out of the ground, indicating the plane went in nose-first and buried itself in the ground. Taylan said Bong painted the wing tips red and the paint was still on them.

Bong, who grew up in Poplar, Wisconsin, is credited with shooting down 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. He plastered a blow-up of Vattendahl’s portrait on the nose of his plane, according to a Pacific Wrecks summary of the plane’s service.

Bong shot down more planes than any other American pilot. Gen. Douglas MacArthur awarded him the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest decoration, in 1944. Taylan said that Bong shot down three planes while flying Marge.

Bong and Vattendahl eventually married in 1945. Bong was assigned to duty as a test pilot in Burbank, California, after three combat tours in the South Pacific. He was killed on Aug. 6, 1945, when a P-80 jet fighter he was testing crashed. He died on the same day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Vattendahl was 21 at the time of Bong’s death. She went on to become a model and a magazine publisher in Los Angeles. She died in September 2003 in Superior.

A bridge connecting Superior and Duluth, Minnesota, is named for Bong. A state recreation area in southeastern Wisconsin also is named for him.

“The Bong family is very excited about this discovery,” James Bong, Richard Bong’s nephew, said in the news release. “It is amazing and incredible that ‘Marge’ has been found and identified.”

Todd Richmond, Associated Press - May 24, 2024, 5:10 pm

Marines say no more ‘death by PowerPoint’ as Corps overhauls education
2 days, 17 hours ago
Marines say no more ‘death by PowerPoint’ as Corps overhauls education

Less lecture, more projects and problem-solving on the horizon in Marine schools.

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Marines and those who teach them will see more direct, problem-solving approaches to how they learn and far less “death by PowerPoint” as the Corps overhauls its education methods.

Decades of lecturers “foot stomping” material for Marines to learn, recall and regurgitate on a test before forgetting most of what they heard is being replaced by “outcomes-based” learning, a method that’s been in use in other fields but only recently brought into military training.

“Instead of teaching them what to think, we’re teaching them how to think,” said Col. Karl Arbogast, director of the policy and standards division at training and education command.

Here's what's in the Corps' new training and education plan

Arbogast laid out some of the new methods that the command is using at the center for learning and faculty development while speaking at the Modern Day Marine Expo.

“No more death by PowerPoint,” Arbogast said. “No more ‘sage on the stage’ anymore, it’s the ‘guide on the side.’”

To do that, Lt. Col. Chris Devries, director of the learning and faculty center, is a multiyear process in which the Marines have developed two new military occupational specialties, 0951 and 0952.

The exceptional MOS is in addition to their primary MOS but allows the Marines to quickly identify who among their ranks is qualified to teach using the new methods.

Training for those jobs gives instructors, now called facilitators, an entry-level understanding of how to teach in an outcomes-based learning model.

Devries said the long-term goal is to create two more levels of instructor/facilitator that a Marine could return to in their career, a journeyman level and a master level. Those curricula are still under development.

The new method helps facilitators first learn the technology they’ll need to share material with and guide students. It also teaches them more formal assessment tools so they can gauge how well students are performing.

For the students, they can learn at their own pace. If they grasp the material the group is covering, they’re encouraged to advance in their study, rather than wait for the entire group to master the introductory material.

More responsibility is placed on the students. For example, in a land navigation class, a facilitator might share materials for students to review before class on their own and then immediately jump into working with maps, compasses and protractors on land navigation projects in the next class period, said John deForest, learning and development officer at the center.

That creates more time in the field for those Marines to practice the skills in a realistic setting.

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, fire M240-B machine guns at the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay range, Hawaii, March 5. (Lance Cpl. Tania Guerrero/Marine Corps)

For the infantry Marine course, the school split up the large classroom into squad-sized groups led by a sergeant or staff sergeant, allowing for more individual focus and participation among the students, Arbogast said.

“They have to now prepare activities for the learner to be directly involved in their own learning and then they have to steer and guide the learners correct outcome,” said Timothy Heck, director of the center’s West Coast detachment.

The students are creating products and portfolios of activities in their training instead of simply taking a written test, said Justina Kirkland, a facilitator at the West Coast detachment.

Students are also pushed to discuss problems among themselves and troubleshoot scenarios. The role of the facilitator then is to monitor the conversation and ask probing questions to redirect the group if they get off course, Heck said.

That involves more decision games, decision forcing cases and even wargaming, deForest said.

We “put the student in an active learning experience where they have to grapple with uncertainty, where they have to grapple with the technical skills and the knowledge they need,” deForest said.

That makes the learning more about application than recall, he said.

Todd South - May 24, 2024, 4:54 pm

Judge says Marine vet who allegedly trained Chinese pilots can be extradited
2 days, 18 hours ago
Judge says Marine vet who allegedly trained Chinese pilots can be extradited

Daniel Duggan served in the Marine Corps for 12 years before immigrating to Australia in 2002.

A Sydney judge on Friday ruled that former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Daniel Duggan can be extradited to the United States on allegations that he illegally trained Chinese aviators, leaving the attorney-general as Duggan’s last hope of remaining in Australia.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss ordered the Boston-born 55-year-old to remain in custody awaiting extradition.

While his lawyers said they had no legal grounds to challenge the magistrate’s ruling that Duggan was eligible for extradition, they will make submissions to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on why the pilot should not be surrendered.

“The attorney will give us sufficient time, I’m quite sure, to ventilate all of the issues that under the Extradition Act are not capable of being run in an Australian court,” Duggan’s lawyer, Bernard Collaery, told reporters outside court.

Australia to extradite Marine vet who allegedly trained Chinese pilots

Dreyfus’ office said in a statement the government does not comment on extradition matters.

Duggan’s wife and mother of his six children, Saffrine Duggan, said the extradition court hearing was “simply about ticking boxes.”

“Now, we respectfully ask the attorney-general to take another look at this case and to bring my husband home,” she told a gathering of reporters and supporters outside court.

The pilot has spent 19 months in maximum-security prison since he was arrested in 2022 at his family home in the state of New South Wales.

In a 2016 indictment from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., unsealed late 2022, prosecutors say Duggan conspired with others to provide training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, and possibly at other times, without applying for an appropriate license.

Prosecutors say Duggan received about nine payments totaling around 88,000 Australian dollars ($61,000) and international travel from another conspirator for what was sometimes described as “personal development training.”

Duggan served in the Marine Corps for 12 years before immigrating to Australia in 2002. In January 2012, he gained Australian citizenship, choosing to give up his U.S. citizenship in the process.

The indictment says Duggan traveled to the United States, China and South Africa, and provided training to Chinese pilots in South Africa.

Duggan has denied the allegations, saying they were political posturing by the U.S., which unfairly singled him out.

The Associated Press - May 24, 2024, 4:46 pm

Younger troops get more vasectomies after Dobbs decision, study finds
2 days, 19 hours ago
Younger troops get more vasectomies after Dobbs decision, study finds

The vasectomy study looked at male active-duty, retired and dependents in the military health system.

Younger, unmarried troops were more likely to get vasectomies following the 2022 Supreme Court decision that struck down nationwide abortion rights, according to a new study in the International Journal of Impotence Research published on May 18 .

Researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences looked at vasectomies of male active-duty, retirees and dependents across all military branches within the military’s health system. Service members aged 18 to 64 had 96,617 vasectomies covered by the system from 2018 to 2022, including a large increase in the months following to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which put reproductive healthcare laws in the hands of state lawmakers.

The average number of vasectomies in the months after the Dobbs decision increased 22.1% compared to the averages of the months pre-Dobbs from 2018 to 2021.

“We assess that the reversal of Roe v. Wade was a significant driver of a sizable increase in vasectomy incidence within the [military health system], specifically amongst younger and unmarried men,” according to the study. “State level restrictions on abortion access may have mediated this effect; with more stringent restrictions resulting in higher rates of vasectomy utilization.”

The number of vasectomies before the Dobbs decision remained relatively consistent, minus the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic when the number of vasectomies decreased, according to researchers. In the months following the Dobbs decision beginning in June 2022, though, men receiving vasectomies trended younger, unmarried and of a more junior rank than before the Dobbs decision.

Republicans back abortion ban in $360B VA budget draft for next year

Men under the age of 30, who weren’t married, were more likely post-Dobbs to have a vasectomy, going against trends before the Supreme Court case, which saw older men at the age of “family completion” having the procedure, researchers wrote.

However, the jump in the procedure’s usage also depended on individual state’s positions on reproductive rights, researchers found.

Researchers compared the increases in two specific states: Texas and Virginia. The states represented a good comparison, researchers said, given their large active-duty service member populations and differences in laws regarding reproductive rights. Texas, which enacted a nearly complete abortion ban after the Dobb’s decision, saw a 29.3% increase in vasectomies among active-duty troops. Virginia, with no similar law, saw a smaller increase in the procedure’s use of 10.6%.

The study pointed to the findings as a sign of a changing reproductive healthcare landscape for service members, given federal law does not allow government dollars to be spent on abortion services, researchers noted.

“These findings demonstrate the robustness of changes in the landscape of vasectomy utilization in a universally insured, geographically representative population,” researchers wrote. “The [military health system] must be cognizant of the profound effect that the Dobbs decision has had on the state of reproductive health care access in America.”

“It must be agile in appropriately allocating reproductive care assets and resources to those areas greatest effected by the reversal of Roe v. Wade to best support the needs of service members and their families,” they added.

Zamone Perez - May 24, 2024, 2:53 pm

VA wants vets to submit benefits claims before looming summer deadline
2 days, 20 hours ago
VA wants vets to submit benefits claims before looming summer deadline

The VA wants vets who submitted an 'intent to file' to finish submitting their benefits claims before many hit a summer deadline.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said this week it’s reaching out to veterans and their survivors to encourage them to complete the submission of benefits claims before a deadline elapses this summer that would cause them to lose out on compensation.

An estimated 300,000 active, yet to be filed claims remain open from last summer following a push for veterans exposed to toxic substances to file for disability payouts, VA Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs told reporters on a press call Wednesday.

Veterans or their survivors may submit an “intent to file” if not yet ready to submit an official benefits claim, essentially using a placeholder to ensure their eligibility to receive back pay to the earliest effective date for that claim. They are then given one year to file the actual claim, Jacobs said.

While the outreach campaign is targeted at those with incomplete claim submissions, many veterans specifically took advantage of that option in the wake of a major expansion to VA health care benefits for those exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. In fact, more than 1 million disability benefits claims have been approved thanks to that law, officials confirmed this week.

In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, into law. Veterans and their families were then given until August 2023 to submit their claim — or an intent to file — to have their payouts backdated a year to when the bill was signed.

After a big push from the department last summer to file a PACT Act-related claim before that eligibility for retrospective benefits expired, the department received almost 840,000 intents to file between June 1 and August 14, 2023. Of those, more than 450,000 claims were later received, Jacobs said.

“We are proactively reaching out by email, text and phone calls to all of those who submitted an [intent to file] between June and August of last year,” Jacobs said, noting the department will be encouraging those who did not yet finalize their formal claim to do so before the one year window from when they submitted an intent to file is closed.

Filing a claim can be done online, at a local VA regional office, by mail, by fax or through an accredited representative, Jacobs said.

“As we’re doing this outreach, we’re not only going to work to connect with these 300,000 veterans, but we’re going to learn from this process so that as we move forward and continue to proactively engage veterans who’ve submitted an intent to file we can do so with a better understanding of what’s getting in their way so we can overcome it,” Jacobs said.

Jonathan Lehrfeld - May 24, 2024, 2:07 pm

Families of Marines killed in 2022 Osprey crash sue manufacturers
3 days, 15 hours ago
Families of Marines killed in 2022 Osprey crash sue manufacturers

Families of four of the five Marines killed when their Osprey crashed in California allege the manufacturers failed to address known mechanical failures.

Families of four of the five Marines killed when their Osprey crashed in California in June of 2022 filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging that the aircraft’s manufacturers failed to address known mechanical failures that led to the deaths.

The Marines were killed when their MV-22 Osprey experienced a catastrophic mechanical failure known as hard-clutch engagement, a known problem with the tilt-rotor aircraft that has happened more than a dozen times since 2010.

Clutch problem in Osprey led to death of 5 Marines in 2022, Corps says

The families named Bell Textron, The Boeing Co. and Rolls Royce in their lawsuit. Bell assembles the Osprey in a partnership with Boeing in its facilities in Amarillo, Texas; Rolls Royce produces the Osprey’s engines.

The Osprey can take off or land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane. The military services have called it a game-changer in that it allows them to travel long distances quickly and land on a target, but it has not been without significant cost: More than 50 service members have been killed in accidents since 2000 in the aircraft.

The lawsuit alleges that the Osprey’s design was flawed and did not meet U.S. safety standards.

The Osprey’s two engines are linked by an interconnected drive shaft that runs inside the length of the wings. On each tip, by the engines, a component called a sprag clutch transfers torque, or power, from one proprotor to the other to make sure both rotors are spinning at the same speed. That keeps the Osprey’s flight in balance. If one of the two engines fails, the sprag clutch is also a safety feature: It will transfer power from the working side to the failing engine’s side to keep both rotors going.

When a worn clutch slips, a hard-clutch engagement can occur as the system rapidly re-engages. This creates a power spike that surges power to the other engine and can throw the Osprey into an uncontrolled roll or slide, which can cause catastrophic loss of control, leaving pilots only seconds to save their aircraft or crew.

The investigation into the 2022 crash concluded that the Marines were doing routine flight operations when they experienced a dual hard-clutch engagement, leading to a “catastrophic, unpreventable and unanticipated mechanical failure.”

There were no steps the pilots could have taken to prevent it and “no means of recovery once the compound emergency commenced,” the Marines’ 400-page report said.

5 Marines dead in Southern California Osprey crash

The Osprey crashed in a remote area near Glamis, about 115 miles east of San Diego.

Five Marines died in the crash: two pilots, Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, of Rockingham, New Hampshire, and Capt. John J. Sax, 33, of Placer, California; and three crew chiefs, Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, of Winnebago, Illinois, Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, of Johnson, Wyoming, and Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland, 19, of Valencia, New Mexico.

As the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps had begun looking at the problem following multiple incidents in 2022, including the fatal crash, they determined that the clutches may be wearing out faster than anticipated. The Osprey program is working on a redesign for a component that mitigates clutch slippage.

In its 2022 report, the Marine Corps warned that more accidents were possible because neither the military nor the manufacturers have been able to isolate a root cause. It said future incidents were “impossible to prevent without improvements to flight control system software, drivetrain component material strength, and robust inspection requirements.”

The lawsuit comes as families await results from investigations into two deadly Osprey crashes last year. In August of 2023, three Marines were killed in an Osprey crash off of Australia, and eight U.S. Air Force Special Operations service members were killed in November 2023 when their Osprey crashed off the coast of Japan. The Air Force took the unusual step of quickly identifying a materiel failure as a potential cause of that crash, and a week after the crash all of the services had grounded the Osprey fleet. The ban on flights was lifted three months later.

Boeing and Bell said they were unable to comment on litigation. Rolls Royce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tara Copp - May 23, 2024, 7:09 pm

Three US troops on Gaza pier mission sustain non-combat injuries
3 days, 17 hours ago
Three US troops on Gaza pier mission sustain non-combat injuries

U.S Central Command leaders said two of the injuries were minor, while a third required evacuation to an Israeli hospital.

Three U.S. service members have suffered non-combat related injuries in the U.S. pier mission off the coast of the Gaza Strip, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command said Thursday.

The troops were injured at sea, Vice Adm. Bradley Cooper said. One service member rolled their ankle, while another sustained a back injury, he said. A third service member was injured enough to require medical evacuation to an Israeli hospital, but Cooper declined to elaborate on the nature of that injury.

“From a privacy perspective, I would just leave it at we had two minor injuries and one, as I mentioned, was medivac,” Cooper told reporters.

Cooper said two of the injuries were “minor” and “routine,” and that those service members are back to work on the mission.

Military’s novel floating pier arrives in Gaza amid security concerns

The Pentagon did not immediately confirm when the injuries took place.

He also said there have been no attacks on the pier mission, but that U.S. forces remain “clear-eyed” about threats to service member safety.

Cooper also declined to say which service branch the three injured troops came from.

The Gaza pier mission uses an obscure military capability called Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, that generally involves sailors and soldiers.

The plan, announced by President Biden in his State of the Union address, has been touted as another way to get food to Gazans caught between the Israeli military and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

It involves no U.S. troops on the ground in Gaza, according to the Pentagon.

JLOTS involves building a sprawling staging area in the middle of the sea, and then constructing a floating pier that can be stabbed into a beach, allowing trucks or tanks to roll off after ships bring them from the staging area to the pier.

In the Gaza mission, troops stabbed the pier into the beach late last week, but the flow of aid was interrupted over the weekend after aid trucks that had left the beach were overran, resulting in the death of at least one individual, The Associated Press reported.

Gaza aid pier mission involving US troops is off to a chaotic start

More than 1.1 million people are at risk of experiencing “catastrophic food insecurity,” according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

Since the pier has been stabbed into the beach, 1.2 million pounds of aid has been sent into Gaza, Daniel Dieckhaus, director for USAID’s aid response in Gaza, said.

Zamone Perez - May 23, 2024, 5:30 pm

New rocket rounds give Marines ways to stay hidden while firing
3 days, 23 hours ago
New rocket rounds give Marines ways to stay hidden while firing

The current version of the launcher creates a bright flash and large smoke cloud when fired, potentially giving away the position of Marines.

Marines will soon carry an upgraded shoulder-fired rocket that they can launch from inside buildings or bunkers, giving them more options for devastating firepower.

Marine Corps Systems Command announced in May the acquisition of the M72 light assault weapon fire from Enclosure Munition.

The new munitions are the M72A8 anti-armor and M72A10 multipurpose, anti-structure munition.

The anti-armor option has a high-explosive charge warhead that improves armor penetration and the multipurpose round packs more punch to take out enemy structures.

The two rounds will replace the existing M72A7 light assault weapon anti-armor round. The five-year contract award amount has a ceiling of $498 million.

'Lethal, dependable, flexible': Vietnam-era rocket launcher upgrades expected

The light assault weapon, a 66 mm single-shot, unguided, disposable rocket launcher, will see its own upgrades. Those include an enhanced in-line trigger mechanism and improved sling design, according to the command’s release.

The new trigger allows users to “exert trigger pressure in the same direction as the round is fired,” Systems Command Media Chief Morgan Blackstock told Marine Corps Times.

“The operator no longer has to aim straight while pushing down, causing a ‘jerk’ or overcorrection of aim,” she wrote in an email response.

The key difference between the new and legacy systems is the ability to fire the weapon from an enclosure.

The current version of the launcher creates a bright flash and large smoke cloud when fired, potentially giving away the position of Marines.

Assaultmen with 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, fire light assault weapons during a live fire range. (Cpl. John M. McCall/Marine Corps)

Due to severe backblast and other safety concerns, Marines had to have an exposed area to fire the light assault weapon in the past.

The light assault weapon, also called the light anti-armor or anti-tank weapon, first was fielded in 1963 and has seen service in all major U.S. conflicts since, including the Vietnam War, Gulf War and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is widely used by numerous nations and has seen active use in the recent Yemeni Civil War, Israel-Hamas War and Russian-Ukrainian War.

But the new rounds allow shooters to fire multiple shots daily from inside a room. That allows users to remain concealed while firing.

The system has less flash and less backblast than the M9 pistol, according to the release.

“This new capability removes the Marine from exposure to enemy engagement by introducing the [Fire From Enclosure] capability,” said Scott Adams, product manager, Ammo. “The FFE and the reduced thermal signature provides the Marine with an added layer of protection.”

There are more than 18,000 light assault weapon systems currently in the Marine Corps inventory. The new system and rounds will begin fielding in 2024 and is expected to be fully fielded by 2027.

The Marines are still determining how many light assault weapon systems to issue at various unit levels, Blackstock said.

Todd South - May 23, 2024, 11:46 am

Veteran suicide prevention algorithm favors men, investigation finds
4 days, 2 hours ago
Veteran suicide prevention algorithm favors men, investigation finds

An AI program designed to prevent suicide among U.S. veterans prioritizes white men and ignores survivors of sexual violence, an investigation found.

An artificial intelligence program designed to prevent suicide among U.S. military veterans prioritizes white men and ignores survivors of sexual violence, which affects a far greater percentage of women, an investigation by The Fuller Project has found.

The algorithm, which the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to target assistance to patients “with the highest statistical risk for suicide,” considers 61 variables, documents show, and gives preference to veterans who are “divorced and male” and “widowed and male,” but not to any group of female veterans.

Military sexual trauma and intimate partner violence — both linked to elevated suicide risk among female veterans — are not taken into account.

Recently released government data show a 24% rise in the suicide rate among female veterans between 2020 and 2021, four times the increase among male veterans during that one-year period. It was also 10 times greater than the 2.6% increase among women who never served in the military.

“It was difficult enough to be a woman in the military. We get harassed; we get bullied,” said Paulette Yazzie, a 45-year-old Air Force veteran from the Navajo Nation. She served 13 years in the military, including a tour in Iraq.

“Now we’re being pushed to the back — again,” she said.

Yazzie, a former staff sergeant, teared up when informed that the VA’s suicide prevention algorithm prioritized men. She said she faced constant sexual harassment and unwanted advances in Iraq and slept with the light on, the door locked, and a chair propped against it for extra protection during her deployment.

“They always think about us second,” she said. “This is going to cost people’s lives.”

Former Air Force Staff Sergeant Paulette Yazzie poses for a selfie during a 2012 deployment to Iraq. (Courtesy Paulette Yazzie)

The VA touts its machine learning model, REACH VET, “as the nation’s first clinical use of a validated algorithm to help identify suicide risk.”

Launched in 2017, the system flags 6,700 veterans a month for extra help. VA officials say it produces a significant reduction in suicide attempts by those veterans over the following six months.

On May 13, the agency’s undersecretary for health, Carolyn Clancy, called the system a “game changer” during a congressional hearing.

In an interview, Matthew Miller, the VA’s executive director for suicide prevention, said the agency considered military sexual trauma, along with hundreds of other variables, as it crafted its algorithm. But officials decided to exclude a history of rape or assault from the model because it was not among “the most powerful for us to be able to predict suicide risk,” he said.

The algorithm identified being a man, especially a white man, as more predictive of suicide than clinical factors known to impact women, he said. Divorce and death of a spouse were predictive of suicide risk when the patient was male, Miller added, but not when she was female.

“It’s offensive that VA could rationalize overlooking women veterans at risk of suicide,” Allison Jaslow, chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said of the algorithm. “This is a very serious issue.”

Though female veterans are the VA’s fastest-growing population, Jaslow said women are habitually ignored. She cited as an example the long, and ultimately successful, fight to get the VA to design prosthetics that fit women.

Meredith Broussard, research director for New York University’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, said she doubted the agency’s AI system reached accurate conclusions.

“Whenever you have an algorithm that seems to favor the majority group — for example white men — and someone says, ‘It’s just math,’ it’s most likely the case where systemic bias is manifesting itself in the math,” Broussard said.

Though the suicide rate among male veterans remains higher than that for their female counterparts, the rate among female veterans is rising faster.

Joy Ilem, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, told The Fuller Project she was “puzzled” by the VA’s decision to exclude a long list of factors known to increase suicide risk among female veterans — including military sexual trauma, intimate partner violence, pregnancy, menopause, and firearm ownership.

Ilem noted that the VA’s own researchers have found that risk factors for suicide are different for female and male veterans. Given the rising suicide rate among women, it makes sense to conclude that “something would be included that’s more tailored,” she said.

The issue of algorithmic bias has gained traction in recent years. Both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden issued executive orders to promote transparency and accountability for AI products. The VA has identified more than 100 programs covered by those presidential decrees.

Last year, Biden issued two orders that require federal agencies to ensure AI models do not perpetuate discrimination.

“My administration cannot — and will not — tolerate the use of AI to disadvantage those who are already too often denied equal opportunity and justice,” he said.

Miller, the VA’s suicide prevention director, said he wasn’t sure what the agency was doing to comply with the orders. A follow-up inquiry to the VA press office did not produce specifics.

“The Office of Suicide Prevention is working with the VA AI lead and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) on the development of compliance reviews and monitors,” the agency said in a written statement.

The VA declined to provide data on veterans flagged by the REACH VET algorithm. The agency keeps a monthly dashboard tracking patients and outcomes, but an agency spokesperson said the VA would only share that information if it received a Freedom of Information Act request.

The VA is the nation’s largest integrated health care system, serving 9 million people across 172 hospitals and more than 1,000 clinics. It operates in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C.

The number of women using VA services has quintupled since 2001, growing from 159,810 then to over 800,000 today. Women make up 30% of new VA patients, according to the agency.

Aaron Glantz is California Bureau Chief and a senior editor at The Fuller Project, the global newsroom focused on women. Reach him at [email protected].

The Fuller Project is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to the coverage of women’s issues around the world. Sign up for the Fuller Project’s newsletter, and follow on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, or those who know a veteran in crisis, should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential crisis support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text message to 838255.

Aaron Glantz - May 23, 2024, 8:00 am

House advances $884 billion defense bill with enlisted troop pay raise
4 days, 7 hours ago
House advances $884 billion defense bill with enlisted troop pay raise

In addition to the enlisted pay raise, the bill pushes back against F-35 procurement as lawmakers bash Lockheed Martin over the troubled program.

The House on Wednesday night advanced an $883.7 billion defense policy bill for fiscal 2025. It provides a 20% pay boost to junior enlisted troops while pushing back against the Defense Department’s shipbuilding and Air Force procurement plans.

The Armed Services Committee voted 57-1 to advance the Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act to the House floor after considering more than 700 amendments during a roughly 12-hour markup. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., cast the single vote against the legislation.

The bill adheres to the spending caps from last year’s debt ceiling deal, allowing a 1% increase over the $874.2 billion FY24 defense policy bill.

“This bill is also the product of hundreds of hours of oversight done by all members and staff over the past few months,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said ahead of the committee vote. “It is a good bill that will help revitalize the defense industrial base and build the ready, capable, and lethal fighting force we need to deter China and our other adversaries.”

The legislation would incrementally fund a second attack submarine for FY25 against the Pentagon’s wishes, block certain aircraft retirements and maintain restrictions on downsizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The Navy, citing industrial base delays, only asked for one Virginia-class submarine for FY25 in a break from the two-per-year cadence. But the defense bill provides $1 billion toward funding for the second submarine and intends to provide additional funds for the vessel in future fiscal years.

Meanwhile, the bill would procure 58 F-35 fighter jets for FY25, 10 less than the Pentagon requested amid growing congressional frustration with manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Ma., floated – then withdrew – an amendment that would have authorized the defense secretary to seize intellectual property from Lockheed Martin and open it up to competition, taking aim at the F-35′s software problems.

Moulton was not able to hold a vote on the amendment after a Congressional Budget Office cost determination but that didn’t stop lawmakers from excoriating Lockheed Martin.

“We all know that the F-35 program is behind schedule,” said Moulton. “It’s way over budget grossly and it’s not delivering the programs ready to fight that we need.”

Several Republicans, including Reps. Morgan Lutrell of Texas as well as Carlos Gimenez and Cory Mills of Florida, also said they may support Moulton’s efforts in the years ahead.

But Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, cautioned that “it’s no small thing for the government to confiscate intellectual property.”

“In law, we would possibly have to compensate them for that, which would be really, really, really expensive,” said Smith.

Additionally, the bill would block the Air Force’s effort to retire 32 Block 20 F-22 Raptors, also made by Lockheed Martin, through FY27. It would also pause the Air Force’s plans to retire 26 F-15E Strike Eagles, made by Boeing.

The bill also prevents efforts to retire the B83 nuclear gravity bomb, which is at least 80 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and requires the military to deploy at least 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

It also establishes a chief talent management officer at the Pentagon to improve recruitment, retention and workforce development for military personnel and civilian employees alike.

The committee also adopted an amendment that would automatically register all male U.S. residents ages 18 to 26 into the Selective Service amid a drop in mandatory registrations from eligible individuals in recent years. The committee adopted the amendment from Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., by voice vote.

The committee also voted down multiple amendments. For instance, it overwhelmingly voted 46-11 against an amendment from Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., that would have abolished the requirement for military services and combatant commands to submit annual unfunded priorities lists to Congress.

They also struck down 48-10 an amendment from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that would have banned the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Quality of life

This year’s committee draft of the authorization bill had a specific focus on military quality of life issues, after panel lawmakers spent the last 15 months reviewing ways to address frequent complaints among troops and family members.

“No service member should have to live in squalid conditions. No military family should have to rely on food stamps to feed their children,” said Rogers. “And no one serving this country should have to wait weeks to see a doctor or a mental health specialist.

“This bill will go a long way toward fixing that.”

The measure contains a dramatic overhaul of the military’s pay tables, giving a pay bump of nearly 20% to junior enlisted troops next year. The move would bring almost every service member’s base pay to more than $30,000 a year, a move lawmakers hope will limit the financial strain on younger military families.

The authorization bill also includes increases to troops’ housing allowances (bringing them up to 100% of regional housing costs) and expands eligibility for the military’s Basic Allowance for Subsistence stipend.

And lawmakers also inserted language in the defense bill improving pay and benefits for Defense Department child care workers, to help with recruiting and retention of those posts.

Those reforms are included alongside a 4.5% pay raise for all troops next year, which would be the third consecutive year of increases of more than 4% for the military.

Not including that salary hike, the cost of the quality of life reforms total about $4.2 billion, a significant section of the constrained authorization bill total. But supporters said the moves are needed now to ensure that the services can keep pace on recruiting and retention issues.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to take up its version of the legislation in June.

Bryant Harris, Leo Shane III - May 23, 2024, 3:48 am

WWII Marine veteran, 98, receives diploma 2 days before his death
4 days, 13 hours ago
WWII Marine veteran, 98, receives diploma 2 days before his death

Marine veterans and a school superintendent raced to get Richard Remp, who joined the Marine Corps at 17 to serve in World War II, his high school diploma.

A 98-year-old Marine veteran who enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17 during World War II was awarded a high school diploma two days before his death.

Richard Remp, who was receiving hospice care in Maryland, received his diploma Friday thanks to a whirlwind effort that involved one school superintendent driving 4.5 hours to reach him in time. He died Sunday, said James Cappuccilli, second vice commander of American Legion Post 247 in Poolesville, Maryland.

“All the dominoes lined up,” said Cappuccilli, a Marine veteran. “And if one little piece was not in place, none of this would have occurred.”

Wisconsin WWII veteran, 90, receives high school diploma

During World War II, a 17-year-old Remp joined the Marine Corps, and he would go on to serve for more than 20 years, DC News Now reported in 2021.

As a gunnery sergeant, Remp served as a door gunner in the Vietnam War, according to Cappuccilli, who pointed out that he could have avoided that dangerous work but chose it anyway.

While on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam in December 1966, Remp helped extract nine Marines who were surrounded by Viet Cong forces, DC News Now reported. With his helicopter hovering over the pickup area for more than an hour under fire, Remp fired more than 1,000 rounds at enemy forces, enabling the Marines to be saved, according to the outlet.

Despite a lifetime of proven toughness, Remp was a gentle man, “a peach,” Cappuccilli said.

“You would have never known he was a Marine, other than we talked a lot of Marine stuff,” he said.

And Remp had a mischievous sense of humor, said Cappuccilli, who said the nonagenarian was “funny, funny, funny.”

In February, Cappuccilli, a former high school guidance counselor, had the idea of honoring Remp by securing him a high school diploma. Initially believing Remp was a graduate of Sharon High School in Sharon, Pennsylvania, Cappuccilli got in touch with school officials there, he said.

Justi Glaros, superintendent of the Sharon City School District, quickly agreed to speak with with her school board and see what she could do.

Glaros learned that Pennsylvania allowed the awarding of high school diplomas to veterans who didn’t graduate from high school because they had served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War. Remp had served in all three.

“From our board, it was no question, 100%, we would like to give Mr. Remp an honorary diploma,” Glaros said.

But as she dug through yearbooks, she discovered there had been a mixup: Remp actually had attended a different high school nearby. That school board got to work on securing a diploma.

On May 14, Cappuccilli learned Remp had been diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer and was in hospice care. He called Glaros to tell her Remp was very ill and to thank her for her efforts, he said.

Glaros wasn’t giving up. She reached out to the nearby school to see if it could get the diploma to Remp in the next few days, but school officials told her they couldn’t speed up the process.

So Glaros talked to her own school board president and, on Friday morning, got Remp’s diploma printed. Fearing it wouldn’t reach Remp in time if she mailed it, she decided to make the 4.5-hour drive to Maryland herself, she said.

As Glaros stepped foot out of her car, Cappuccilli recounted, he told her, “You’re going to heaven, because this act puts you there.”

For Glaros, meeting the World War II veteran was like meeting a rockstar, she said. At first, it made her nervous.

“It was just an incredible honor to be able to give that to him,” she said. “When I was speaking with him, it was like we had been best friends forever.”

Remp told the crowd of family and friends by his bed that he was “really happy,” ABC 7 reported.

“You people just don’t know what it means to me,” Remp said, according to the outlet. “I’ll cherish this for the rest of my life.”

The next day, Saturday, Remp was speaking with pride about that diploma even as he began to fade, according to Marine veteran Julien Singh, commander of American Legion Post 247.

Glaros said she was glad she had the opportunity to give back to Remp. She said she tries to instill in her students the importance of being good to others.

“For me, it was a no-brainer,” she said. “It was just an act of kindness.”

Irene Loewenson - May 22, 2024, 9:15 pm

Even with aid arriving, training still needed for Ukraine triumph
4 days, 21 hours ago
Even with aid arriving, training still needed for Ukraine triumph

'In six days, we covered all the theories that NATO artillerymen go through in half a year.'

VELYKA NOVOSILKA, UKRAINE — Relief for Ukraine’s exhausted and outgunned fighters is now arriving after Congress passed a foreign aid package that included $61 billion to support Ukraine’s war effort — and it is having immediate effects in repelling Russian advances.

Russia has made slow and steady gains after a failed Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer. Another front was recently opened by Russian troops in the Kharkiv region, where pressure is mounting on already overextended Ukrainian brigades.

With the aid, 155mm artillery ammunition is heading straight to the front, where Ukraine’s guns — also buffered by a Czech initiative to purchase artillery shells — continue to fire in the face of a Russian offensive. Also included in the aid are HIMARs munitions and long-awaited ATACMS missiles to improve Ukraine’s long-range strikes, which have proven capable of hitting Russian logistics and troop concentrations deep within occupied territories.

Finally, fresh stocks of air defense munitions — notably, interceptors for Ukraine’s Patriot systems — will help stifle Russian missiles launched into Ukraine’s cities and civilian infrastructure.

“Give us the shells, and we can finish the jobs ourselves” is a refrain heard throughout the frontlines, where Ukrainian soldiers I met recently discussed the need for aid and its impact on morale.

At a dugout a few kilometers away from Russian positions, we watched as a Ukrainian artillery brigade repelled an assault on their trenches after being issued an influx of shells.

Still, most analysts agree the most recent aid package will simply buy Ukraine time, perhaps a year, to fix fundamental weaknesses.

Beyond weapons, Ukraine needs a long-term strategy to address a serious manpower deficit against the Kremlin’s seemingly endless supply of troops. And if it ever wants to attempt another offensive, a training overhaul will be a crucial component.

Ukrainian troops play with Stary, the unit's adopted cat. (Tom Mutch)

Those needs remain prominently on display near the town of Velyka Novosilka, where hardened, weary soldiers paused from the frontlines and discussions of war to play with “Stary,” a blue-eyed gray kitten the brigade rescued during operations in the nearby town Staromaiorske.

‘No idea what we are facing here’

Just months earlier, these same soldiers had fought like hell to pry the town, located in the Donetsk region, from Russian control. It’s now almost jarring to see them — muscular, bearded and battle-scarred — reduced to coos and smiles while watching Stary catch mice.

“Some in the West have no idea what we are facing here,” said Alexander, an officer with Ukraine’s 121st Territorial Brigade. “Comrades of ours were at NATO training in Germany, being taught how to operate tanks ahead of the counteroffensive. One soldier asked the instructor what to do if you encountered a minefield. ‘Oh, you just drive around it.’”

This anecdote quickly became a running joke among soldiers on the frontline, where, just weeks later, Ukrainians on what would be a failed offensive encountered minefields hundreds of kilometers wide, with as many as five devices per square meter.

Now, with the influx of U.S. aid, Ukrainian and Western planners are looking to training methods that will avoid the mistakes of 2023.

One key concern raised by Ukrainians and their partners has been that Western troops cut their teeth in environments, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, where they had a significant technological advantage and total air superiority.

Ukrainian soldiers near from the Velika Novosilka frontline. (Tom Mutch)

When visiting a training base in southern England in 2022, one trainer, a New Zealand army officer, warned me that the training might not be adequate to meet Ukraine’s needs.

“Quite frankly, we’ve never fought this kind of war before,” he said, adding that their team’s experience had come almost entirely in Afghanistan.

Still, trainers did their best to simulate the environment in Ukraine’s bloodier trenches.

“We try and give them something close to live fire,” the officer said. “They are practicing artillery on the light fire range … and we do fire maneuver ranges as well as battle simulation. We’ll have loud bangs that simulate artillery, we have exercises where we bring in amputees and dress them to make it look like that amputation was caused by artillery, and make the recruits responsible for treating that individual.”

This training, however, left out significant components of the fights Ukrainians routinely encounter. Several soldiers specifically raised concerns over the lack of drones during training — now ubiquitous on the battlefield — both for reconnaissance and assault purposes.

Others, like Yuriy, an officer with Ukraine’s 80th Air Assault Brigade, which has fought around the city of Bakhmut, praised the trainers while acknowledging a serious lack of time — compared to any Western military — afforded to master what was being taught.

Ukrainian troops train in the U.K. (Tom Mutch)

“[Training in Germany] was … a change of environment, and all the instructors were very polite,” he said. “In all six days, we didn’t hear a raised voice. If something wasn’t understood, no one would shout. They would explain 20 times if needed. Our methodology in Ukraine is slightly different.

“The training was very intense. Since we arrived late, they gave us an extra hour of sleep, and the training started in the morning. [But] in six days, we covered all the theories that NATO artillerymen go through in half a year.”

Nazar, a driver with the 80th Air Assault Brigade, noted the importance of soldiers, regardless of their specific job, being trained to handle all situations that may arise in battle.

“Driving is my [specialty], but I learned this [gun]. … We have managed the system in a way where everyone could be replaced if needed. So, as a driver, I can direct the gun, clean it and shoot. … Training that would be needed [is in] tactical medicine, new ways of mining and how to work with drones. But [mainly] … electronic signals intelligence and camouflage.”

Mobilization

Ukrainian training suggestions come amid a major debate within the country about the necessity of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of extra troops to create new brigades. Doing so could also mean rotating out exhausted soldiers who have spent years on the front with little rest.

Jack Watling, a land warfare fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, pointed out that it is not just specific tactics training soldiers need, but training to learn a whole new paradigm of battle.

“You could double the size of the Ukrainian armed forces [and] conscript twice as many people into it and it wouldn’t actually make any difference,” he told the Financial Times.

“And if you scale a military from 150,000 ground forces to 700,000 ground forces, then the number of people who’ve been through staff training and who are practiced in the organization and synchronization of that military activity is going to be too few.

“We need to now shift … to a more deliberate training process to make sure that troops are properly prepared for attack. … If I can only move 120 people at you at a time, because that’s how many people I can conduct the command and control for, that is a much smaller problem that you’re presenting to me than if you can move a whole brigade of 3,000 people at me across multiple directions. But that requires a lot of synchronization and planning and therefore trained officers.”

Other experts think the bulk of Western training should be more specialized, focusing instead on preparing officers to direct troops in combat.

A large part of Ukraine’s failure on the battlefield last year was due to an inability to coordinate among brigades, as well as between artillery support, air power and mechanized units that were assaulting prepared Russian positions.

Michael Kofman, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, told Military Times part of Ukraine’s struggles with these “combined arms maneuvers” has been the result of a bandwidth issue.

“To train and equip the force you need the capacity,” he said. “Hence, mobilization is likely to be constrained by the system’s potential to absorb new recruits. One solution is to expand training in Ukraine with Western support including financing, simulators and advisers where necessary. Western training should focus on helping Ukraine scale its ability to employ and coordinate forces above company level.”

As deliberations continue regarding best training practices, Ukraine’s troops on the ground continue to hold the line against Russian assaults.

And despite steep odds, they remain confident of victory.

“We know we will win,” one soldier on the frontline told me. “It is up to our Western allies at what cost, and how long it will take.”

Olena Skachko contributed to this report from Ukraine.

Tom Mutch - May 22, 2024, 1:48 pm

Paying for two homes while away at school? The military wants to help
4 days, 22 hours ago
Paying for two homes while away at school? The military wants to help

Troops can collect a daily stipend, based on their monthly housing allowance rate without dependents, while at professional military schooling or training.

Airmen and guardians who move away from their families to attend a professional military education program or other training can now earn extra pay to cover the cost of living at both homes.

Under the new policy, a person can collect a daily stipend based on their monthly housing allowance rate without dependents, the Department of the Air Force said May 15. For instance, a major who lives near Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, while attending Air Command and Staff College can earn about $1,600 a month.

The new allowance is paid on top of the housing stipend an airman or guardian already receives at their primary residence.

Troops qualify for the pay bump if they are stationed at the training location for less than a year, have orders to return to their previous base, and do not live in free government housing like dormitories.

The change offers more flexibility for troops whose permanent changes of station can financially crunch families who stay behind while a service member is away at school. Those monthslong relocations are critical steps on an airman or guardian’s effort to climb the career ladder, but can squeeze a family’s budget when trying to pay for two homes at once.

“We understand that these short moves, while necessary, can be disruptive to the lives and finances of airmen and guardians with families — particularly in situations where they are slated to return to their original duty station,” Alex Wagner, the service’s civilian personnel boss, said in a release. “This new allowance gives our service members and their families additional resources to weather these times away without the added stress of financial uncertainties.”

Congress directed the military to adopt the new policy as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December 2022. Pay is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2022.

The Pentagon added the rule to its Joint Travel Regulation last fall. The Air Force and Space Force’s rule took effect May 7; the Navy and Marine Corps enacted their own versions in March. The Army has not yet issued a parallel update.

“The November 2023 Joint Travel Regulation update entitled eligible Army service members to these allowances even without Army policy implementation,” Army spokesperson Heather Hagan said Wednesday. “We are in the process of updating our policies.”

Rachel Cohen - May 22, 2024, 12:48 pm

Military supplement users: Beware of tigers masquerading as dogs
5 days, 15 hours ago
Military supplement users: Beware of tigers masquerading as dogs

With high rates of supplement use among troops, the authors of this op-ed present measures to ensure service members know what ingredients are safe.

You can put a leash on a tiger and call it a dog, but that doesn’t make it a dog. The same is true with labeling in the world of dietary supplements. So, how is a consumer to know what products are both safe and legal — and which ones aren’t?

In addition to many safe, beneficial dietary supplements on store shelves, innocent purchasers can end up with some products that contain illegal substances, some of which may be identified right on the label and some that are fraudulently marketed as “dietary supplements.”

Illegal ingredients have no place in health and wellness regimens, and we are united in our goal to clean up the market.

In a 2019 survey among military service members, 74% reported using at least one dietary supplement per week. Among those, multivitamins/multiminerals were the most commonly used (45%), followed by combination products (44%). It is likely the use of dietary supplements by service members and civilians is even greater today.

Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, dietary supplements are recognized as a class of goods intended to supplement the diet; they cannot be represented as conventional food or the sole item of a diet or meal; and they can come in a variety of forms, such as pills, powders, capsules, softgels, gummies or liquids.

Conscientious manufacturers rigorously follow the law. However, there’s a “dark side” to the ever-growing industry, with some companies wanting to pass off illegal products as “dietary supplements.”

These include anabolic steroids targeting bodybuilders; analogues of prescription drugs, like Viagra, that are sold as “all natural” sexual enhancements; and substances that have never been approved for any medicinal use in the U.S., such as those bearing names like andarine (and other Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, or SARMs), galantamine, tianeptine and DMAA (1,3 dimethylamylamine).

Tianeptine, which even goes by the nickname “gas station heroin,” can lead to serious side effects, including death. Yet it has been found on dietary supplement labels.

Military personnel and athletes can be misled by claims that these products, some of which are even marketed specifically to troops, are supplements. Meanwhile, these demographics may discover firsthand why these ingredients are considered unsafe.

To safeguard against nefarious practices, here are some steps to identify and avoid illegal products:

  • The FDA publishes an online directory of ingredients against which the agency has already taken action. Be sure to read why an ingredient is listed there. If it’s subject to a warning letter for safety reasons, or it has been determined not to be a legal ingredient, it’s best to avoid any products that contain it.
  • For the military community, Operation Supplement Safety is an evidence-based program available to educate troops on this topic. There is also Department of Defense Instruction 6130.06: Use of Dietary Supplements in the DOD. These tools can help service members identify and avoid suspect ingredients.
  • Look for supplements that have been certified by well-established third-party programs and carry approval seals by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), Informed Choice/Sport, Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) or the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
  • Other useful ingredient information can be found via Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets published by The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). This resource will help determine, when purchasing a dietary supplement, what the intended effects are and whether there are any side effects.
  • Talk to a trusted healthcare practitioner about products. A doctor, dietitian or pharmacist can help identify dietary supplements to meet specific health goals. That person from the gym touting a “magic pill” without any medical or nutrition credentials is probably not keeping your health in mind.

The best advice, meanwhile, is to buy supplements only from reputable vendors — whether actual stores or online websites. Would you buy a watch from a guy in an alley or a designer purse from a sidewalk display? Would you have dental surgery or a broken bone reset by someone operating out of a garage?

We can’t stress this enough. Stop buying health products at gas stations, truck stops and “head shops.” If you wouldn’t buy other health care products from that vendor, why would you trust them with your dietary supplements?

Purchasing from stores or websites advertising products as “barely legal,” “not available anywhere else,” “better than prescription drugs” or “research chemicals” is playing with fire.

Remember, you are responsible for what you put in your body. And if the animal at the end of the leash has stripes and growls like a tiger, it’s probably not a dog.

Andrea T. Lindsey is the director of Operation Supplement Safety and a senior nutrition scientist with the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University; and contractor at Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.

Steve Mister is the president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the leading trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers.

Disclaimer: Opinions and assertions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University or DOD. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or policies of the HJF. The authors have no relevant financial interests, activities, relationships, and/or affiliations to disclose. Mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply DOD or government endorsement.

Andrea T. Lindsey, Steve Mister - May 21, 2024, 7:44 pm

Felony convictions of 5 retired officers dismissed in Fat Leonard case
5 days, 16 hours ago
Felony convictions of 5 retired officers dismissed in Fat Leonard case

A federal judge dismissed the felony convictions of five retired officers who'd admitted accepting bribes in one of the Navy’s biggest corruption cases.

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the felony convictions of five retired military officers who had admitted to accepting bribes from a Malaysian contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” in one of the Navy’s biggest corruption cases.

The dismissals came at the request of the government — not the defense — citing prosecutorial errors.

Retired U.S. Navy officers Donald Hornbeck, Robert Gorsuch and Jose Luis Sanchez, and U.S. Marine Corps Col. Enrico DeGuzman had all admitted to accepting bribes from defense contractor Leonard Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard.”

The enigmatic figure — who was six feet, 3 inches tall and weighed 350 pounds at one time — is at the center of the Navy’s most extensive corruption cases in recent history.

The three pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disclosing information on Tuesday. The judge also dismissed the entire case against U.S. Navy officer Stephen Shedd. Their defense lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.

It marked the latest setback to the government’s yearslong efforts in going after dozens of military officials tied to Francis, who pleaded guilty to offering more than $500,000 in cash bribes, along with other gifts and wild sex parties in Southeast Asia, to Navy officials, defense contractors and others. The scheme allowed him to bilk the maritime service out of at least $35 million by getting commanders to redirect ships to ports he controlled and overcharging for services, according to the prosecution.

Francis owned and operated Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., which supplied food, water and fuel to U.S. Navy vessels. He was arrested in 2013 in a sting operation in San Diego.

Prosecutors said in legal filings outlining their request for Tuesday’s dismissals that the action does not mean the defendants did not commit the charged crimes but because information was withheld from the defense and other mistakes were made, they wanted to ensure justice was served fairly.

In 2022, Judge Janis Sammartino had ruled the former lead federal prosecutor committed “flagrant misconduct” by withholding information from defense lawyers. In September, the felony convictions of four former Navy officers were also vacated. The four men pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to pay a $100 fine each.

The dismissals come weeks before Francis is due back in court to set a date for his sentencing.

Francis returned to the U.S. late last year after a daring escape from his house arrest in San Diego in 2022. He fled to South America weeks before he was scheduled to be sentenced last year, and was later captured in Venezuela, which extradited him to the U.S. as part of a prisoner exchange.

The escape was also seen by some as a misstep by the prosecution for allowing him to not be held behind bars.

The Associated Press - May 21, 2024, 6:37 pm

Military doctors treat patients who outrank them better, study says
5 days, 18 hours ago
Military doctors treat patients who outrank them better, study says

A Defense Health Agency spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the content of the study.

Service members who outrank their physicians are more likely to receive better quality care at military hospitals than lower-ranking troops, a new study found.

The researchers, who published the findings in the journal Science on May 16, studied power dynamics in the physician-patient relationship. Specifically, those researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania used data from military hospital emergency departments where some patients outrank their physicians and vice versa — and how that impacts the quality of patient care.

“We provide careful, rigorous evidence of the ‘long shadow’ of power: the idea that power in one domain of life can spill over to unrelated domains (here, from the military to the clinical), causing distortions in behavior and resource allocation in both,” researchers noted. “We show that the powerful may unwittingly ‘steal’ resources from less-powerful individuals, in line with other research showing negative spillovers from dominant to marginalized groups in shared spaces.”

Researchers used active-duty service members from the ages of 18 to 64, and they monitored physician effort and resource use. The study considered physician effort as a “measure of total resources or effort expended by a physician when treating a patient.” Resource use pertained to seven “tangible measures” used on patients during appointments with their physician: any opioid prescription, intensity of evaluation/management code used, number of diagnosis codes, number of treatment codes, any test ordered, any imaging order and any procedure performed.”

The study, using data from 1.5 million emergency department assignments, compared service member patients of the same rank with physicians whose rank was either higher or lower than them, otherwise considered “higher-power” or “lower-power” patients. Patients who outrank their physicians received 3.6% more effort by their physician and more resources expended, researchers found.

“It’s good that it’s not huge,“ Stephen Schwab, a University of Texas at Austin Professor and retired Army veteran, told Military Times. “Most physicians are trying to do everything they can for their patients within the bounds of the resources they have, the time they have those patients. We think that this was really an implicit bias rather than an explicit, although there’s no way of testing that.”

Schwab said a chief of an emergency department told him it was a matter of human nature kicking into drive, where “you’re just a little bit more careful when the stakes are higher.”

How does that 3.6% difference materialize? In a “little bit more time and effort,” Schwab said. Physicians could spend more time talking about the problem that brought a service member into the emergency department in the first place, take more time to write up a more thorough family history or order one additional test.

Those same patients who outranked their physicians also had better medical outcomes than their lower-ranked peers. Those patients were 15% less likely to be readmitted to the emergency department 30 days after their initial treatment.

Findings when those high-power and low-power patients were simultaneously treated by a physician also showed negative correlations for patients whose physicians outrank them. Physicians exerted 1.9% less effort on patients they outranked than on patients who outranked them, and outranked patients had a 3.4% greater likelihood of visiting the emergency department within 30 days or being admitted to the hospital, researchers found.

Researchers also looked into how race and gender determine physician effort among different ranks. Physician effort was greater for all higher-ranked service members than their outranked peers, regardless of race, according to the study. The study found Black physicians provide “off the charts” effort to Black service members that outrank them, and white physicians exerted less effort on Black patients.

Schwab did note that the study wasn’t indicative of whether civilian or military hospitals are necessarily better, rather it looked at the power that can be at play regardless.

“We’re not comparing the military to civilian health care, because all of our, sort of, anecdotal evidence is that the military is probably more fair than the civilian sector,” he said. “What we’re showing is that even in this situation, there’s still an issue and we can learn something about human behavior from this study.”

Schwab added that “these sort of power differences play out in many ways throughout society, and sometimes people don’t even realize the power that they’re wielding.”

Defense Health Agency spokesperson Peter Graves said the agency is reviewing the content of the study.

“The Defense Health Agency remains committed to delivering the highest quality of care to all of our patients, regardless of rank, race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, age or any other demographic,” Grave told Military Times in an email. “We always expect the same high standards to be applied to every patient in an exceptional way, anytime, anywhere, always.”

Researchers suggested a number of ways physicians could close disparities in treatment between high and low-power patients. Solutions include “task shifting, algorithmic support, increasing diversity in the provider workforce, bias training and patient advocacy, in minimizing these disparities and ensuring a health system that provides equitable care to all,” researchers wrote.

Zamone Perez - May 21, 2024, 4:04 pm

Houthi rebels claim shooting down second US drone in past week
5 days, 20 hours ago
Houthi rebels claim shooting down second US drone in past week

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed on Tuesday that they shot down an American drone over the country on the Arabian Peninsula.

CAIRO — The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed on Tuesday that they shot down an American drone over the country on the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. military acknowledged reports about the downing but didn’t comment.

If confirmed, it would be the second MQ-9 Reaper drone downed by the Houthis over the past week as they press their campaign over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Houthi rebels claim shooting down another US MQ-9 Reaper drone

Last Friday, the Houthis claimed downing an American drone over the province of Marib, hours after footage circulated online of what appeared to be the wreckage of an MQ-9 Reaper.

In a statement, Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said the latest drone was shot down with a locally made surface-to-air missile. He alleged the drone “was carrying out hostile missions” over Yemen’s southern province of Bayda. Footage released by the Houthis purportedly showing the attack indicated that the downing took place Sunday.

Responding to an Associated Press inquiry, the U.S. military’s Central Command acknowledged reports about the downing but declined to comment.

Since Yemen’s civil war started in 2014, when the Houthis seized most of the country’s north and its capital of Sanaa, the U.S. military has lost at least five drones to the rebels.

Reapers cost around $30 million apiece. They can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and have an endurance of up to 24 hours before needing to land.

The Houthis in recent months have stepped up attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, demanding that Israel ends the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat.

The rebels claimed last week that they fired a missile towards a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea. However, the U.S. military said the warship intercepted the anti-ship ballistic missile.

Samy Magdy, The Associated Press - May 21, 2024, 1:59 pm

Nonprofit born from post-9/11 wars still helping vets after 20 years
5 days, 23 hours ago
Nonprofit born from post-9/11 wars still helping vets after 20 years

After being injured in Fallujah, Iraq, recon Marine Eddie Wright was able to return to service and finish his enlistment because of the fund.

Recon Marine Eddie Wright was on his second deployment to Iraq in April 2004 when he was caught in the kill zone of an insurgent ambush in Fallujah, Iraq.

Later estimates put the attacker numbers at between 40 and 60. Enemy fire engulfed Wright and his fellow Marines. A rocket-propelled grenade struck him, taking both his hands and fracturing his femur.

Soon after he spent three weeks in the intensive care unit in Maryland at Bethesda Naval Medical Center before being transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for long-term recovery.

His mother flew to the United States from Ireland where she lived to help him. One day as he walked with her back from a physical therapy appointment, a worker with the nonprofit Semper Fi & America’s Fund came to find them because they were giving grants to families supporting their wounded loved ones.

“Because a lot of families had to stop working and were paying out of pocket for food and other things as they tried to stay around their wounded veteran,” Wright said.

Semper Fi Fund director made honorary Marine

He said the military medical system simply wasn’t prepared for the large influx of wounded in the early years of the post-9/11 wars.

The nonprofit provides direct assistance to injured, wounded and ill service members, veterans and their families. Initially founded to assist Marines and sailors, the organization expanded from its original name of the Semper Fi Fund to become the Semper Fi & America’s Fund in 2012 to meet the needs of troops from all military branches.

Wright, 48, was one of its early beneficiaries. As the organization hits its 20th year in operation in May, it boasts of having distributed $330 million in assistance to more than 32,000 service members and their families.

Wright was able to return to service and finish his enlistment, working as a martial arts instructor at The Basic School, which trains newly commissioned Marine officers.

“It was a great way to spend my last year in the Marine Corps, and kind of a way to go out on retirement on my own terms, go out with my boots on,” Wright said.

Marine Eddie Wright during his 2004 deployment to Fallujah with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. (Eddie Wright)

Christy Stover, who now oversees all the fund’s case managers on the West Coast, joined the fund in 2007 and became Wright’s case manager.

“We were so busy, but in the best way possible,” Stover told Marine Corps Times. “In the early days, there were so many people who were in the hospital and there were catastrophically wounded service members like Eddie.”

From the outset, Stover said, the organization sought to fill gaps that others didn’t. She remembers providing funding for a special water filtration system at the home of a veteran who’d been severely burned.

The fund also began a bed grant program to provide specialized beds for veterans with injuries to the spine, neck, lower body or even migraines.

Over time as various health and other problems among veterans became more prevalent, the fund adapted.

The fund paid his airfare a few years ago when he had to travel on short notice to Ireland when his mother had her own health problems, he said.

It continues to offer a service member and family support program and has added a transition program for veterans leaving the service and an integrative wellness program to provide long-term health tools and therapies for veterans.

In fiscal year 2023 the fund provided $29.5 million in assistance, adding 2,100 first-time recipients, according to fund data.

The family service and support fund issued $21 million to 10,900 recipients during that period. Another $3.2 million was used for transition support to 1,800 individuals.

Support extends beyond the initial contact, Stover said. Case managers check in with veterans for years beyond their first assistance.

“Some people here a long time have got several hundred cases they’re working on,” Stover said.

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, mix concrete mixture and water, during a volunteer project supported by the Semper Fi Fund to help a Marine veteran at his home, Oct. 25, 2012. (Lance Cpl. Austin Long/Marine Corps)

Wright has used a neurological fitness program through the fund that helps participants mitigate and ameliorate stress through breathing and other techniques.

“It helps you to heal the brain, rewire and produce new mechanisms of coping,” Wright said.

The fund operates through donations, it does not receive government financing, Stover said. Donations range from one-time or recurring monthly donations to more than $100 million in support throughout 12 years from the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, whose namesake Bob Parsons is a Marine veteran.

Though the number of wounded returning home has decreased as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, many of those who served still need help.

Wright often recommends the fund to friends and veterans he meets.

“They’ve got 20 years’ experience of caring about us, relationships that are long lasting,” Wright said. “They’ve had the experience, they’ve seen it all, whatever you’re going through.”

Stover said that referrals such as Wright’s help the fund continue to assist those in need.

“I think people forget with some of the individual invisible wounds that our service members endured, that it doesn’t stop just because the war is over,” Stover said. “The need is still there.”

That commitment gives veterans such as Wright a measure of reassurance.

“It’s relief,” Wright said. “If something happens, no matter what you’re going to receive the care you need. You’re not going to be left behind.”

Todd South - May 21, 2024, 11:29 am

Houthi rebels claim shooting down another US MQ-9 Reaper drone
1 week ago
Houthi rebels claim shooting down another US MQ-9 Reaper drone

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed that rebels shot down an MQ-9 Reaper drone on May 16 with a surface-to-air missile.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthi rebels on May 17 claimed to have shot down an American drone, hours after footage circulated online of what appeared to be the wreckage of an MQ-9 Reaper drone. A vessel also came under attack in the Red Sea early the next day.

The two incidents likely represent just the latest attacks by the Houthis as they press their campaign over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed that rebels shot down the Reaper on May 16 with a surface-to-air missile. He described the drone as “carrying out hostile actions” in Yemen’s Marib province, which remains held by allies of Yemen’s exiled, internationally recognized government.

The Houthis later released footage they claimed showed the surface-to-air-missile being launched at night, along with night-vision footage of the missile hitting the drone. A man, whose voice had been digitally altered to apparently prevent identification, chanted the Houthi slogan: “God is the greatest; death to America; death to Israel; curse the Jews; victory to Islam.”

Online video showed wreckage resembling the pieces of the Reaper on the ground, as well as footage of that wreckage on fire.

The U.S. military did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press over the Houthi claim. While the rebels have made claims about attacks that turned out later not to be true, they have a history of shooting down U.S. drones and have been armed by their main benefactor, Iran, with weapons capable of high-altitude attack.

Since the Houthis seized the country’s north and its capital, Sanaa, in 2014, the U.S. military has previously lost at least five drones to the rebels.

Reapers, which cost around $30 million apiece, can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and have an endurance of up to 24 hours before needing to land.

The drone shootdown comes as the Houthis launch attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, demanding Israel ends the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 others hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Early May 18, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said a ship came under attack off the coast of Yemen’s port city of Hodeida.

The captain “has confirmed sustaining slight damage after being struck by an unknown object on his port quarter,” the UKMTO said. “The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call.”

The private security firm Ambrey said it believed the vessel struck was a Panama-flagged crude oil tanker.

Radio traffic suggested the ship was “hit by a missile and that there was a fire in the steering gear flat,” Ambrey said.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the attack, though it typically takes them hours to issue a claim.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the rebels have been targeted by a U.S.-led airstrike campaign in Yemen. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden still remains low because of the threat, however.

Jon Gambrell - May 20, 2024, 10:29 am

Pair who tried breaching Virginia Marine base are Jordanian nationals
1 week, 2 days ago
Pair who tried breaching Virginia Marine base are Jordanian nationals

They drove up to a base gate in a truck and claimed to be Amazon subcontractors making a delivery, a Marine spokesman said.

The two people whom the Marine Corps prevented from breaking onto an installation in Virginia on May 3 were Jordanian nationals, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Criminal Investigations Division of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, arrested the pair for trespassing and notified ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, or ERO, office in Washington, office spokesperson James Covington told Marine Corps Times in a statement Thursday.

Deportation officers arrested the two people, whom Covington described as “Jordanian noncitizens.”

“Both individuals will remain in ERO custody pending removal proceedings,” Covington said.

The pair had driven up to a gate of the base in a box truck and, when questioned by military sentries, claimed to be Amazon subcontractors making a delivery to the town of Quantico, Virginia, which is accessed through the base, Marine spokesman Capt. Michael Curtis told Marine Corps Times on Tuesday.

When military police directed the two to go to a holding area to undergo standard vetting procedures, the driver instead went past that area and attempted to drive onto the base, Curtis said. The base’s law enforcement put up the vehicle denial barriers, blocking the truck from getting farther onto the base, and detained the pair.

Chinese national detained after breaking onto Marine base in California

Potomac Local News first reported the attempted breach.

The Virginia base is home to Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which is dedicated to modernizing the force, along with some of the service’s training schools and other elements. Other Defense Department components and federal law enforcement agencies also have a presence on the base.

Irene Loewenson - May 17, 2024, 5:21 pm

Marine corporal earns prestigious medal for saving military $140M
1 week, 3 days ago
Marine corporal earns prestigious medal for saving military $140M

Cpl. Gage Barbieri received a Meritorious Service Medal in part for fixing a costly issue with a tactical vehicle’s manual while a teenage lance corporal.

A Marine truck mechanic received a medal typically awarded to more senior service members for saving the Defense Department more than $140 million through work he began as a teenage lance corporal.

Cpl. Gage Barbieri, now 21, received the Meritorious Service Medal on Friday from Col. Damon Burrows, commanding officer of 2nd Marine Division’s Headquarters Battalion. Barbieri is only the second Marine corporal to receive the Meritorious Service Medal since at least 2008, Burrows wrote on LinkedIn.

While serving as the Marine Corps’ representative to Oshkosh Defense as it revised its technical manuals for the joint light tactical vehicle, Barbieri pointed out flaws in the manuals, including one issue that could lead to rollovers.

Barbieri’s engineering acumen would save more than 900,000 hours of maintenance production time and more than $140 million throughout the entire life cycle of the platform, the Corps calculated.

A corporal gave a speech in front of the top Marine — and got promoted

“This was one hell of a catch by this young Marine,” said Jason Wolfe, Marine Corps production support manager to the vehicle’s program executive officer at Oshkosh, in a Marine Corps news release. “His work on this work package could possibly prevent loss of life.”

Barbieri, a native of Loxahatchee, Florida, always has been interested in the way things worked, he recounted Thursday in an interview with Marine Corps Times.

As a little kid, he would take apart his toys. Then, remembering where each screw had been, he would reassemble them, or try to build something that looked a little different.

Even then, he found it easy to retain information, Barbieri said.

“Once I’ve done it once, it’ll feel like I’ve done it a hundred times, and I can find the easiest way to do it,” he said.

At 14, he started drag racing through the International Hot Rod Association. He learned how to check over his car before getting onto the track.

But most of his background in mechanical engineering was theoretical knowledge — about aspects of systems like wiring and resistance — he gleaned from reading technical manuals, he said.

Having skipped fourth grade, Barbieri graduated from high school in 2019 at only 16. He spent two semesters studying mechanical engineering, first at Palm Beach State College in Florida and second at the University of California at Berkeley, but he didn’t love it.

Then a Marine recruiter approached him at a career fair.

“I’d tried everything else out, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with joining the Marine Corps,” Barbieri said.

He arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, in June 2020. After his initial training, he attended the Automotive Maintenance Technician Basic Course, where he was an honor graduate, according to the news release.

Barbieri checked into Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in April 2021. When he arrived, the joint light tactical vehicles also were new to the unit.

“As they started breaking, there was more and more different aspects we had to fix and not a lot of people with the experience that had already worked on them,” Barbieri said.

When Barbieri was about six months into working at the unit, he faced a problem that didn’t have an easy solution: how to replace hoses that ran from the vehicles’ engine bay to the back end.

It took him two weeks, but he figured it out, he said.

After that, his leaders tasked him with repairing more and more vehicles with thorny problems. Barbieri repaired more than 75 trucks, keeping the battalions’ readiness above 90%, according to the news release.

His leaders took notice.

“He could diagnose issues that most Marines couldn’t find and was able to make the repairs that civilian engineers from external organizations couldn’t,” said Master Sgt. Kenneth Byxbee Jr., Barbieri’s former motor transport maintenance chief, in the news release.

Later in 2021, while Barbieri was still a 19-year-old lance corporal, his command selected him to spend months working with Oshkosh’s tech writing team in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on the technical manuals for the joint light tactical vehicle.

“Anytime I would find something that felt like it was out of order or would mess with the flow of things, we’d write that down,” Barbieri said.

Based on those issues, Barbieri and the rest of the team would pile into a conference room and suggest changes to the technical manuals.

One day, Barbieri noticed a problem with a manual’s instructions for replacing the steering column. Installing the replacement part that way would have stopped the steering wheel from moving, he said.

“If that happened while you were in a turn or on a highway, that could cause a rollover,” he said.

Oshkosh was receptive to what he had to say and worked with him to change the instructions, Barbieri said.

That wasn’t the only change Barbieri suggested.

Barbieri “stunned their engineers with his brilliance and change proposals for both fabrication of new vehicle components and for updating the electronic maintenance manuals that are now published and being fielded by the program office across all military branches of service,” Burrows wrote on LinkedIn.

On Friday, Barbieri received the Meritorious Service Medal, which is awarded to service members who distinguish themselves through “outstanding meritorious achievement or service.”

Barbieri celebrated later that day by ordering himself a buffalo-chicken pizza, he said.

He is set to leave the Marine Corps in June. The next step is college at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where he plans to study mechanical engineering. He hopes of becoming a tech writer, who writes manuals himself, he said.

For now, though, he is an instructor at the course that teaches lance corporals leadership skills as they prepare for the promotion to corporal.

Barbieri said he loves the job.

“I just like getting in front of Marines and talking to them, making sure they know more than I did,” he said.

Irene Loewenson - May 16, 2024, 4:38 pm

One of 1st Black Marines to serve in combat honored for 100th birthday
1 week, 3 days ago
One of 1st Black Marines to serve in combat honored for 100th birthday

Former Cpl. Lawrence “Larry” Diggs, a Montford Point Marine and World War II vet, received early 100th birthday wishes from top military officials.

A World War II veteran who was part of the first cohort of Black Marines received letters of appreciation from top military and government officials in honor of his 100th birthday.

Former Cpl. Lawrence “Larry” Diggs received early birthday wishes on May 4 from President Joe Biden, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, Marine Commandant Gen. Eric Smith and Commander of Africa Command Gen. Michael Langley — the Corps’ first Black four-star general.

“All Marines — myself included — are better for having such fine examples of selflessness to learn from and emulate,” Langley wrote in his letter. “We are a better Corps for everything you’ve done.”

Diggs was one of the more than 19,000 Black Marines who trained at Montford Point, North Carolina, between 1942 and 1949. Although the Montford Point Marines in recent years have received recognition from Congress and the Marine Corps for their trailblazing service, it was a different story during their time in the then-segregated Marine Corps.

2 Montford Point Marines, among 1st Black men in Corps, laid to rest

For example: Although Diggs served honorably with 1st Marine Division during World War II and participated in the Battle of Peleliu, he left the Marine Corps in 1946 without any awards on his record, according to his friend, Marine veteran Keith Widaman.

After his service in the Corps, Larry Diggs worked for the United States Steel Corporation and then for the U.S. Post Office, according to Widaman.

His son David Diggs, 54, knew since childhood that his father had been in the Marines in World War II. But Larry Diggs didn’t provide many details about his service.

He would share occasional anecdotes about encountering wildlife like crabs or spiders in his foxholes on Pacific Islands, and having to remain quiet as they crawled around, but not about the fighting itself, David Diggs said.

Larry Diggs always was the peacemaker of the household, his son said. He taught David Diggs discipline, such as the importance of wiping the sink after you brush your teeth so you leave it clean for others. He expounded a philosophy of enjoying life’s journeys rather than getting wrapped up in the destination.

But there is one destination Larry Diggs has been excited about for a long time.

“My dad has been talking about looking forward to turning 100 since he turned 80,” David Diggs said.

Widaman, 40, got to know Diggs while a member of the Mizzou Student Veterans Association at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Diggs, who lived nearby, was a fixture at local veterans’ events, Widaman said, and student veterans would help him with his lawn and shrubs.

The first time Widaman, who left the Marine Corps in 2009, came to Diggs’ house, the older veteran looked out at the sky nervously, Widaman recalled. When it began to rain, Diggs excused himself and went outside to take the American flag down from his flagpole.

“You just don’t see that sort of respect for the flag and that level of patriotism anymore,” Widaman said.

In 2019, Widaman reached out to Marine Corps officials to get Diggs, then 95, invited to the commandant’s Marine Corps birthday ball in Washington, D.C.

Widaman said he raised approximately $9,000 online for plane tickets, a hotel, dress blues (Diggs’ own pair was stolen in the 1940s), a noncommissioned officer sword and a tuxedo. The next step was figuring out which medals Diggs had received as a Marine, so the older veteran could wear them to the birthday event, where he was honored as the oldest Marine in attendance.

But the only award Diggs had was the Congressional Gold Medal replica he and other Montford Point Marines had received in 2012.

Widaman told Marine Corps Times he worked with the Marine Corps to secure the awards Diggs’ service merited: the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 bronze star, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon. None of these were listed on his service record.

Widaman presented the medals to Diggs at the African American History and Culture Museum in Washington, D.C., before the Marine Corps birthday festivities.

Larry Diggs at the commandant's Marine Corps birthday ball in Washington, D.C., in 2019. (Keith Widaman)

“How many men of Montford Point have lived their whole lives and passed away and they never knew that they earned medals from their actions or service in World War II, and their families still don’t know?” Widaman said.

In 2022, when Larry Diggs and his wife, Margie, were staying with David Diggs in Tacoma, Washington, the family read an article about Gen. Michael Langley becoming the first Black four-star general in the Marine Corps.

Margie Diggs suggested to David Diggs, “Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to get a letter from Gen. Langley to recognize your father at his 100th birthday?”

David Diggs decided he would try, but wasn’t sure how, he said. Then he had the idea of getting Widaman involved.

Widaman — a Defense Department civilian who emphasized he acted entirely in a personal capacity — reached out on LinkedIn to retired Gen. Gary Thomas, the former assistant Marine commandant, who pointed him in the right direction. One of Widaman’s friends, who worked in the Pentagon, helped too.

Other people chipped in. Marines from the recruiting station in Chicago volunteered to present the letters from Smith and Langley. The Bolingbrook Golf Club, in the Chicago suburb where Larry and Margie Diggs are living, agreed to host the Diggs family in its event space for free, Widaman said.

In addition to the official letter from Langley was a photo of the general with handwritten birthday wishes.

“You and the rest of the Montford Point Marines plowed the way,” Langley wrote. “Thank you for your service to God, Corps, and Country.”

The letters came as a surprise to Larry Diggs, David Diggs said.

“The combination of hearing it and then being presented with the letter and being able to actually see it and see who it was from was really quite a moment for him,” David Diggs said. “I think he was like, ‘Wow, I never thought or dreamed or even considered that I would be recognized for my 100th birthday by these people.’”

Since the May 4 event, Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has sent a letter of his own to honor the Marine veteran’s milestone birthday, which is on Saturday.

Handwritten at the bottom of Brown’s typed letter are five words: “Thanks for paving a way.”

Irene Loewenson - May 16, 2024, 1:56 pm

Meet the namesake of the Navy’s newest ship, the USS Robert E. Simanek
1 week, 4 days ago
Meet the namesake of the Navy’s newest ship, the USS Robert E. Simanek

This Marine threw himself onto a grenade to save his entrenched comrades in Korea. He absorbed the full blast — yet survived.

A new expeditionary sea base officially joined the ranks of Military Sealift Command on May 4, when the USS Robert E. Simanek was christened in San Diego, California.

The vessel bears the name of a U.S. Marine, who, during the Korean War, threw himself onto a grenade to save his entrenched comrades. Simanek absorbed the full blast — yet miraculously survived.

Robert Ernest Simanek was born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 26, 1930. After stints working for the Ford Motor Company and General Motors, Simanek enlisted in the Marine Corps on Aug. 13, 1951.

He shipped out to Korea with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, arriving at an embattled strip of contested territory north of Seoul that the Marines called Bunker Hill.

On Aug. 9, 1952, elements of the 63rd and 65th armies of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army launched the first of numerous attempts to seize Bunker Hill, outpost by outpost.

Chinese forces had already taken outposts Elmer, Hilda and Irene, when, on August 17, Pfc. Simanek was among the Marines tasked to reclaim Outpost Irene.

Simanek had been assigned a Browning automatic rifle he considered “too heavy to wield around in night fighting.” His complaints resulted in his getting a radio and a .45-caliber pistol, “which was heavier,” Simanek told the Veterans History Project.

The Holocaust survivor who became a Medal of Honor recipient

Despite being on patrol the night before and running on zero sleep, Simanek had few concerns when the order to came to patrol around Outpost Irene.

“I had been to the outpost before and thought of it as a somewhat vacation because no action had ever been there all the time I’d been on that particular part of the line,” Simanek recalled. “So, I took an old Readers’ Digest and a can of precious beer in my big back pocket and thought I was really going to have a relaxing situation. It didn’t turn out that way.”

While trudging uphill towards the outpost, mortar rounds and gunfire erupted around the Marines who were walking single file along the path. The machine gunner directly behind Simanek was immediately shot and killed, causing the Marine and five others to retreat back to the base of the hill for cover, according to a Department of Defense release. Another Marine was shot through the chest yet remained alive.

A Chinese patrol in the area had set up an ambush, but when Simanek and his squad made first contact he noted that “we almost walked in behind them.”

The surprise, then, was mutual. Soon both sides were trading shots and taking casualties. During the firefight Simanek came upon Chinese combatants and shot both. He continued maneuvering, using any cover he could find while “hoping my .45 could outgun a burp gun or two.”

The diversion worked briefly before two grenades found their mark.

“They threw in two at the same time. I kicked one away, but I didn’t think I had time to get rid of the other one,” Simanek recalled in a DOD interview.

Instead, he smothered it with his body.

“It was training, it wasn’t any mental decision on my part at all. It was an automatic thing pushed by somebody,” he added.

What followed was described in his citation:

“Determined to save his comrades, when a hostile grenade was thrown in their midst, he unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile absorbing the shattering violence of the exploding charge and shielding his fellow Marines from serious injury or death.”

Fortunately for Simanek, Chinese grenades were of notoriously inconsistent manufacture. The one he encountered failed to kill him — though it did pack enough punch to inflict serious wounds to both legs.

“Somehow I managed to use the right part of my body that didn’t hurt me that much,” he later recalled of the wounds he sustained to his right hip and lower leg.

Despite his injuries, Simanek continued to fight — radioing in for a nearby tank to take out a bunker of Chinese soldiers slightly below who were pinning down the Marines with lethal fire.

As the Marines were driven back, two tried to evacuate Simanek, but were themselves so badly wounded that he told them to leave him. As Chinese fighters approached, a passing American tank fired in their direction, killing or wounding all — but also wounding Simanek in the right eye and shoulder.

Crawling along on hands and knees, Simanek got clear of the battle zone and was put aboard a helicopter. From there he was evacuated to the hospital ship Haven, then to Japan and on to Mare Island, California, before eventually arriving at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, in September.

While undergoing this painful odyssey the struggle for Bunker Hill continued until September 30, when both sides, exhausted as much by rain and mud as by mutual combat attrition, stood down.

By then the Marines had retaken Outpost Irene and Bunker Hill itself, at a total cost of 96 dead. United Nations forces estimated PVA losses at about 400 killed and 3,900 wounded.

On Oct. 27, 1953, Pfc. Simanek joined six other Korea veterans in receiving the Medal of Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was one of numerous personnel honored for sacrificing life or limb to protect his comrades from enemy grenades. Simanek, however, was among the few to jump on a grenade who did not earn his medal posthumously.

For Simanek, like many others, the war never truly left him.

“One of the hardest things about the medal is that you’re really not allowed to forget about it,” he said. “People will, in a good meaningful way of trying to compliment you, bring about some memories that maybe you’d like to get rid of.”

After his discharge, the Detroit native earned a degree in business management at Wayne State University. In 1956 he married Nancy Middleton, with whom he had a daughter. Simanek would go on to work in positions in the automobile industry and in the Small Business Administration before retiring in 1992.

Robert Simanek died in Novi, Michigan, on Aug. 1, 2022 at the age of 92, and is buried at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.

Jon Guttman - May 16, 2024, 5:00 am