Marine Corps News

Marine vet who hit police with hockey stick at Capitol gets 3+ years
1 day, 9 hours ago
Marine vet who hit police with hockey stick at Capitol gets 3+ years

Marine veteran Michael Joseph Foy swung his hockey stick at police officers, hitting them at least 11 times in 16 seconds.

A former military officer who assaulted police officers with a hockey stick and a sharp metal pole while he stormed the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Wednesday to more than three years in prison.

Michael Joseph Foy, 33, threw the pole at police and struck officers with the hockey stick as a mob of rioters fought for control of an entrance to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Then he climbed through a broken window and walked around the building.

Foy, a Marine Corps veteran from Michigan, apologized to the officers whom he assaulted — and “to my country” — before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced him to three years and four months of imprisonment. He also thanked the judge for releasing him from pretrial custody in July 2021, allowing him to find a job and improve his mental health.

“You allowed me to build the life that I so desperately needed after I got out of the Marine Corps,” he told the judge before learning his sentence.

Two active duty Marines plead guilty to Capitol riot charges

Chutkan oversees former President Donald Trump’s election interference case in Washington, D.C. Her handling of the Jan. 6 riot cases is getting added scrutiny as she presides over Trump’s case in the same federal courthouse.

Trump’s trial was originally set to begin in March, but the case has been on hold while Trump appeals his claims of presidential immunity from prosecution. No new trial date has been set.

Chutkan is known for being one of the toughest punishers of Jan. 6 rioters.

In Foy’s case, however, she imposed a punishment that was over four years shorter than the prison sentence that prosecutors recommended. She said she was sentencing Foy “with a heavy heart” because she has been impressed with the progress that he has made since his release from jail.

“I want you to build on that,” she said. “I think you can.”

But the judge said she had to punish Foy for the “horrific” violence that he engaged in during the Capitol attack.

“You took an oath to serve your country, and you knew better,” she said. “What you did there on January 6th was not serving your country.”

Chutkan convicted Foy of two felonies — assaulting a police officer and obstruction of an official proceeding — after a “stipulated bench trial,” which means the judge decided the case without a jury and based on facts that both sides agreed to before trial. Such trials allow defendants to maintain appeal rights that are waived by a guilty plea.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of eight years and one month. Foy’s attorneys asked the judge to spare Foy from serving any more time behind bars beyond the five months that he spent in pretrial custody.

Chutkan described the prosecutors’ recommendation as “unreasonable” and far longer than the sentences handed down to rioters who engaged in similar acts of violence on Jan. 6. The judge said she hasn’t grown numb to the violence that she routinely sees captured on video and shown in her courtroom.

“I’m horrified every single time,” she said.

Foy traveled alone from his home in Wixom, Michigan, to attend Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021. He wore an American flag around his shoulders and carried a “TRUMP 2020″ flag attached to a hockey stick.

Approaching the mouth of a tunnel on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, Foy picked up a sharpened metal pole and hurled it like a spear into the body of a police officer, who fell over.

Foy later swung his hockey stick at police officers, hitting them at least 11 times in 16 seconds. He knocked one of them backward and struck an injured officer who had already fallen down.

“While other rioters engaged in their own violent assaults with (pepper) spray, bare fists, gnarled sticks, stolen batons, and metal crutches, Foy’s violence was amongst the most vicious in the melee,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Beckwith wrote in a court filing.

Foy’s military background “made him more dangerous and effective” as he assaulted police, the prosecutor argued.

“That violence was a betrayal to the country he vowed to protect and it was directed at Americans who had made similar vows to serve their country and protect their nation’s Capital,” Beckwith wrote.

Foy served in the US. Marine Corps from 2015 until June 2020, working as a heavy equipment mechanic and attaining the rank of corporal before he was honorably discharged. He served as a supervisor on a North Carolina base.

More than 1,300 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from a few days to 22 years.

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.

Michael Kunzelman - March 1, 2024, 5:41 pm

Biden approves military airdrops of aid into Gaza
1 day, 10 hours ago
Biden approves military airdrops of aid into Gaza

The White House, State Department and Pentagon had been weighing the merits of U.S. military airdrops of assistance for several months.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will begin airdropping emergency humanitarian assistance into Gaza, President Joe Biden said Friday, a day after more than 100 Palestinians were killed during a chaotic encounter with Israeli troops.

The president announced the move after at least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others were injured, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, on Thursday when witnesses said Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.

Biden said the airdrops would begin soon and that the United States was looking into additional ways to facilitate getting badly needed aid into the war-battered territory to ease the suffering of Palestinians.

“In the coming days we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies” and will “seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor,” Biden said.

Israel-Hamas war reveals challenges to US pullback in Middle East

The president twice referred to airdrops to help Ukraine, but White House officials clarified that he was referring to Gaza.

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops fired at some in the crowd who they believed moved toward them in a threatening way. The Israeli government has said it is investigating the matter.

The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of those wounded said Friday that more than 80% had been struck by gunfire.

Biden made his announcement while hosting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House.

“Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough,” Biden said. “Now, it’s nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”

The White House, State Department and Pentagon had been weighing the merits of U.S. military airdrops of assistance for several months, but had held off due to concerns that the method is inefficient, has no way of ensuring the aid gets to civilians in need and cannot make up for overland aid deliveries.

Administration officials said their preference was to further increase overland aid deliveries through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border points and to try to get Israel to open the Erez Crossing into northern Gaza.

The incident on Thursday appeared to tip the balance and push Biden to approve airdrops. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that airdrops are difficult operations, but the acute need for aid in Gaza informed the president’s decision.

Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Mahmoud Essa/AP)

He stressed that ground routes will continue to be used to get aid into Gaza, and that the airdrops are a supplemental effort.

“It’s not the kind of thing you want to do in a heartbeat. you want to think it through carefully,” Kirby said. He added, “There’s few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance airdrops”

Pressure has been mounting for Biden to move more aggressively to ease Palestinian suffering, including from lawmakers of Biden’s Democratic Party. Even before Thursday’s deaths, Sen. Jack Reed, chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, wrote Biden this week to urge that the administration deploy a military hospital ship and support units to help treat Gaza’s wounded and open a sea route to Gaza for delivery of humanitarian aid.

“Yesterday’s event, I think, underscores the need to find more creative ways of getting assistance in faster and at greater scale,” Kirby said.

Egypt, France, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have already used airdrops to get aid into Gaza since the conflict started in October.

Biden in his visit with Meloni at the White House also sought to assure European leaders that the U.S. remains behind Ukraine even as he’s been unable to win passage of a supplemental foreign aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine in addition to $35 billion for Israel and Taiwan. The legislation has passed the Senate, but Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to put it up for a vote in the House.

Ahead of Meloni’s visit, White House officials said they don’t have good answers for allies about finding an end to the impasse with House Republicans and reopening the American spigot of aid to Kyiv that’s badly needed as Ukraine tries to fend off Russia’s invasion.

Biden, along with top Democrats and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, strongly urged Johnson during a White House meeting this week to take up the foreign aid package, but Johnson responded by saying that Congress “must take care of America’s needs first.”

The leaders also discussed efforts by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar to broker an extended cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Italy’s priorities for a G7 presidency, migrant flows into Italy from North Africa, and their countries’ China policies.

Biden said earlier this week that he was optimistic that a cease-fire deal could be reached by early next week. But he acknowledged that a prospective deal may have been set back after Israeli troops on Thursday fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off the aid convoy.

With Meloni by his side, Biden on Friday expressed cautious optimism that a deal can still be struck.

“We’ve been working and hopefully we’ll know shortly,” Biden said.

Meloni said solving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was Italy’s top priority.

“We need to coordinate our actions to avoid an escalation, and in this regard we fully support the U.S. mediation efforts,” she said.

Zeke Miller, Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee - March 1, 2024, 5:00 pm

Ruling vacates Capitol rioters’ sentences, may impact Jan. 6 cases
1 day, 10 hours ago
Ruling vacates Capitol rioters’ sentences, may impact Jan. 6 cases

If the ruling stands, those defendants who have not already completed their prison terms may push for new sentences.

A federal appeals court in Washington has ordered a new sentence for a retired Air Force officer who stormed the U.S. Capitol dressed in combat gear, in a ruling issued Friday that could impact dozens of other cases stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

While a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld Larry Brock’s conviction, the court said a judge wrongly applied an enhancement that lengthened the recommended prison sentence range under federal guidelines.

The enhancement — on the grounds that Brock’s conduct resulted in “substantial interference with the administration of justice” — has been applied in more than 100 other Jan. 6 defendants’ cases, said Patricia Hartman, a spokesperson for the Washington’s U.S. attorney’s office. If the ruling stands, those defendants who have not already completed their prison terms may push for new sentences.

When asked whether prosecutors will appeal the ruling, Hartman said they are considering their options.

Mattis says vets at Jan. 6 Capitol riot don't define the military

Brock was sentenced last year to two years in prison after being convicted of a felony charge of obstruction of an official proceeding and misdemeanor offenses. He is currently serving his sentence at a federal lockup in Missouri and is expected to be released in December, according to online Bureau of Prisons records.

Brock’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Friday.

The obstruction felony charge is already at the center of another case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on next month that could upended hundreds of Capitol riot cases. The justices agreed to hear the appeal filed by lawyers for another rioter charged with obstruction of an official proceeding — one of the most widely used charges brought in the Jan. 6 attack.

In Brock’s case, the appeals court said the “administration of justice” sentencing enhancement applies to judicial proceedings but does not extend to interfering with the certification of the electoral vote. That’s what Congress was meeting to do on Jan. 6 when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol.

“Brock’s interference with one stage of the Electoral College vote-counting process— while no doubt endangering our democratic processes and temporarily derailing Congress’s constitutional work—did not interfere with the ‘administration of justice,’” the three-judge panel wrote.

It’s unclear to what extent Brock’s — or other defendants’ — punishments might be reduced on re-sentencing. With the sentencing enhancement, the range in Brock’s case under federal guidelines was 24 to 30 months. U.S. District Judge John Bates sentenced Brock to the low end of those guidelines, which merely provide direction for judges when they are considering punishments and are not mandatory.

Brock’s attorney has said in court papers that the misapplied enhancement likely increased his client’s sentence by about nine months. Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of five years in prison.

Brock, of Grapevine, Texas, was wearing a helmet and tactical vest when he joined the mob that attacked the Capitol and went onto the Senate floor only minutes after Vice President Mike Pence, senators and their staff evacuated the chamber. Brock picked up a discarded pair of zip-tie handcuffs and was photographed in a widely shared photo holding the cuffs on the Senate floor.

His lawyer said in court papers that Brock did not pick up the cuffs to do any harm.

Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press - March 1, 2024, 4:47 pm

Pentagon to lift Osprey flight ban after fatal Air Force crash
1 day, 10 hours ago
Pentagon to lift Osprey flight ban after fatal Air Force crash

The Osprey has been grounded following a Nov. 29 Air Force Special Operations Command crash in Japan that killed eight service members.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will lift the ban on flights by the grounded V-22 Osprey next week, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Friday, following a high-level meeting where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin endorsed the military services’ plans for a safe and measured return to operations.

The officials said that Naval Air Systems Command, which grounded the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft about three months ago, will lift it and allow the services to begin implementing their plans to get the Osprey back into the air. Austin met with the top service leaders, including for the Navy and Air Force, on Friday morning, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet made public.

Air Force knows what failed in fatal Osprey crash but not why

The Osprey has been grounded for almost three months following a Nov. 29 Air Force Special Operations Command crash in Japan that killed eight service members. The Japan incident and an earlier August Osprey crash in Australia that killed three Marines are both still under investigation. The Air Force has said that it has identified what failed in the Japan crash, even though it does not know yet why it failed.

The decision to end the flight ban is up to Naval Air Systems Command, but Austin had asked for an informational briefing on the matter because of the significant safety concerns and the fact that three of the services and a critical ally are involved in the program. While Austin does not have approval authority in the return to flight process, U.S. officials said his endorsement of the services’ plan was considered a key step.

In the months since, the services have worked on plans to mitigate the known material failure by conducting additional safety checks and establishing a new, more conservative approach to how the Osprey is operated.

Lolita C. Baldor and Tara Copp - March 1, 2024, 4:33 pm

Wearable device helps predict heat illness during intense training
1 day, 13 hours ago
Wearable device helps predict heat illness during intense training

Researchers have measured more than 14,000 soldiers and Marines in recent years.

A wearable device the Army has developed over the past five years and is in use by both Army and Marine Corps training units could help prevent, heat illnesses among troops.

The device is called the Heat Illness Prevention System, or HIPS. Mark Buller, a research physiologist with the Thermal and Mountain Division of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Buller shared recent developments and updates for the device’s use among soldiers and Marines at the Fort Moore, Georgia’s annual HEAT Forum on Wednesday.

The system includes a chest strap sensor, smartphone application and algorithms. Buller and his team began work collecting data and monitoring troop’s heart rate, skin temperature and other measures in 2019, but was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Since then, it has been used to gather data at events such as the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South recruit training, during ruck marches and runs during infantry basic training at Fort Moore and on the 12-mile ruck, runs and land navigation at the 169th Engineers Sapper Leader Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The Army is studying Range hopefuls to learn more about heat stroke

Slightly more than 10,000 of the users were in basic training or infantry units, the other 4,000 were in special operations units.

“We think we’re at an end point where we can provide you a tool to help manage risk of heat illness in an active way,” Buller said.

Such a device will become more necessary if preliminary data from another Army research regarding temperatures and training days proves accurate.

Maj. Erik Patton, who is currently studying warming trends at Army basic training installations through a program at Duke University, shared data at the forum that he’s gathered on potential temperature increases at those locations in the coming decades.

By mid-century half of the training days at those posts will have minimum temperatures above the category I heat threshold of 78 to 82 F.

His data also indicates a 300% increase of days at the red flag warning, or 88 F. That condition, short of the more severe black flag conditions, limits strenuous work for those not acclimated to six hours or less per day, according to Army regulations.

Marine Sgt. Farias uses the Heat Injury Prevention System to closely monitor when a Marine becomes increasingly vulnerable by looking at variables such as heart rate and estimated core temperature. (Maddi Langweil/Army)

Buller’s team has sampled data from 14,000 troops since 2018. The Marine Corps has used the system since 2021 to monitor heat illness symptoms among recruits at Parris Island during the Crucible, a three-day field training event at the end of recruit training.

In 2023, Marine Lt. Gen. Kevin Iiams, requested procuring the HIPS device for use across Marine Corps Training, Buller said.

“Our system has enabled us to alert to a heat illness before it happens and be able to take action before somebody falls over and has a severe heat injury,” Buller said in an Army release.

The smartphone application part of the system allows users to monitor as many as 500 individuals and spot when a user’s vital signs are indicating a potential heat illness coming on, Buller said.

“On the app, we can see the changing heart rates and other variables,” said Emma Atkinson, a USARIEM Biomedical Researcher. “The system is programed to sense when someone is approaching higher than appropriate heat exposure levels. We will see green, yellow and red colors on the screen indicating how our Service Members are doing.”

Through their research, Buller also said that they’ve noticed a correlation in a user’s gait that helps predict the onset of heat illness. When users begin to “wobble,” that’s often a sign that they’re about to have a heat-related incident.

That’s only applicable in events where there is a regular gait to measure, such as ruck marches or runs.

Researchers have been able to identify indicators and predict an approaching heat illness incident between 3.5 to 10 minutes before the incident occurred in some of the studies, Buller said.

Using heart rate and skin temperature, researchers have been able to create algorithms to estimate core temperatures, a key indicator of potential heat illness.

Todd South - March 1, 2024, 1:08 pm

The National Guard’s quiet role in Iraq, Syria and Jordan
1 day, 22 hours ago
The National Guard’s quiet role in Iraq, Syria and Jordan

Guardsmen are facing more hostility downrange than they have in years.

In December, 39 Missouri National Guardsmen received Combat Infantryman Badges, the formal recognition given only to troops who have engaged in “active ground combat,” for actions that took place during their 2023 deployment to Syria.

It was a somewhat uncommon occasion. Taking hostile fire in the Middle East had become more of a rarity for conventional troops in recent years, as the U.S. pared down its missions in Iraq and Syria.

But it’s become more commonplace since October as troops deployed to the Middle East have regularly faced drone, mortar and missile attacks from Iran-backed militias, totaling more than 180 injuries in 170 incidents.

U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military presence in that area of the world, has not responded to repeated requests from Military Times to provide a list of awards for contact with the enemy since October.

Many of those troops in the line of fire have been National Guardsman, as regular rotations in Iraq, Syria and Jordan have largely been carried about by part-time soldiers spending six or more months at a time supporting the mission to defeat ISIS.

Served in Iraq, Syria or Jordan recently? We want to hear from you.

The Missouri soldiers were from 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment, Army Lt. Col. Rutledge McClain, a Missouri Guard spokesman, confirmed to Military Times. The unit deployed in May and returned in December.

McClain did not respond to a request for the award citations accompanying the badges, which could offer details on what troops downrange faced during the recent attacks.

Guardsmen from Massachusetts, Maryland and Michigan were also deployed in 2023, in a support role that has largely been done with little fanfare, a U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told Military Times earlier this month.

The Missouri Guard did not publicize 1-138th’s bravery, but members of the unit shared photos of the ceremony on Facebook,. One of the state’s recruiters then re-shared the photos.

The mission in Iraq, Syria and Jordan is to keep ISIS under control, mostly through special operations forces working with local forces to carry out kill-or-capture operations on known ISIS leadership.

To support that mission, thousands of conventional troops also deploy, taking care of everything from supply to legal services to security and air defense at outposts housing both U.S. and local troops.

The January attack on Tower 22, a small outpost on the Jordan-Syria border, which killed three Army Reserve soldiers and injured dozens of others, raised questions as to how safe these troops are, spending months at remote outposts, with questions being raised after the attack about the level of available air defenses.

Most casualties from recent attacks in Middle East are brain injuries

Guardsmen took most of the many of the casualties in that attack. Approximately 35 troops were from the Arizona National Guard, according to their spokeswoman, Army Capt. Erin Hannigan. Their injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to more serious traumatic brain injuries, including one soldier who returned stateside for treatment, she said.

New rotations of Guard troops headed to the Middle East at the beginning of the year, including the New Jersey National Guard. More than 1,500 members of the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team left in January for the state’s biggest deployment of troops since 2008.

In addition, the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1483rd Transportation Company, which hadn’t deployed in 15 years, and 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment from Massachusetts, also headed downrange.

U.S. troops in the Middle East are not thought to have been targeted by Iran-backed militias since Feb. 4, following multiple attacks on Kataib Hezbollah facilities and leadership in retaliation for the Tower 22 attack.

“We will maintain our focus on the mission that we’re there to do, which is the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said during a briefing Feb. 20. “But again, if our forces are threatened or attacked, we maintain the inherent right of self defense and we’ll take action.”

Meghann Myers - March 1, 2024, 5:00 am

Navy LT attempting world record run from LA to NYC in 40 days
1 day, 22 hours ago
Navy LT attempting world record run from LA to NYC in 40 days

Lt. Paul Johnson starts his cross-country run in Los Angeles on March 1.

They say you can’t run from your problems, but for ultramarathoner and Navy Lt. Paul Johnson, running is the perfect escape.

“Running gives me a chance to turn off my brain and not think about a lot of the things that are bothering me day to day,” Johnson told Military Times. “It’s almost like a meditation to me, a chance to relax and reflect.”

And over the next 40 days, the 28-year-old surface warfare officer will have plenty of time to do just that as he attempts a mad dash from Los Angeles to New York City to break the world record for cross-country running. He begins on March 1.

But Johnson is not just racing for to win the world record title. He’s also aiming to bring awareness to military mental health issues and fundraise $1 million for the veteran service organization Team Red, White and Blue.

To complete the challenge, Johnson will need to do roughly 75 miles each day. And although he has his apprehensions, he’s also looking forward to the challenge.

“We’re always afraid to jump into the unknown without knowing how things will go,” he said. “This challenge is the epitome of knowing that failure is almost guaranteed, but here we are still attempting it because we are going to work through all of the challenges thrown our way and just maybe, we come out on the other side better for it.”

Johnson was inspired by current record holder Pete Kostelnick, who did 72 miles a day in 2016. While Johnson was attending Penn State, Kostelnick passed through the campus on his route. Johnson began training for the so-called “transcon” when he began a shore tour in January 2023.

“As I got back into running for the Marine Corps Marathon, the thought of the transcon run came back, but I just didn’t have time to do something like that on sea duty,” he said.

He’s done four official races, and his training consisted of 40-mile runs on the weekends.

“One of the toughest things about what we do in the military is losing the tight knit connections and communities that are formed by service,” he said. “Even still active duty, I struggle with those feelings of isolation at times with a different duty station or the way I am experiencing some issues with my anxiety and depression.”

Sarah Sicard - March 1, 2024, 5:00 am

Continuing resolution could degrade training for future fights
2 days, 10 hours ago
Continuing resolution could degrade training for future fights

The U.S. military would have to make sacrifices to exercises around the globe if Congress fails to pass an FY24 budget, officials warn.

The U.S. military plans to preserve force readiness as a top priority, even if Congress fails to pass a defense spending bill next week. But service leaders fear cuts and cancellations would have to be made to training considered vital to preparing for joint and allied high-end operations against adversaries.

A full-year continuing resolution that would keep fiscal 2023 spending levels through the rest of 2024 means the U.S. Army, for instance, would run out of operations and maintenance funding in the European theater as it trains Ukrainian soldiers to defend against Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country, which has entered its third year.

The financial strain is compounded by the lack of certainty over whether Congress will pass a supplemental funding package that would reimburse the Army for expenses incurred so far in bankrolling support to Ukraine.

The Army already spent $500 million in the European theater in operations and maintenance, and “we were counting on a supplemental to be able to sort of replenish us for that,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at a Feb. 27 Defense Writers Group event. “What that means is probably by late spring, summer, we would have to make some difficult choices about other [NATO] exercises, for example, that our forces participate in.”

Additionally, the Army has been funding support to Israel to include deployments of units to the Middle East in the event they are needed, she added.

Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo told reporters Feb. 28 at the Pentagon that the service spent $100 million in U.S. Central Command’s area of operations as well as another $500 million to support the U.S. Southwest border security mission.

“I do worry. Our budget has been flat for the last couple years. We don’t have a lot of cash under the sofa cushions, and if we don’t get a budget and we don’t get a supplemental, we’re going to probably have to cancel some things,” Wormuth said.

The Army is prioritizing current operations, Camarillo said, which means it is “going to have to look to other areas of O&M spending where they “can potentially take some risk,” including “exercises and the degree to which we participate in some around the globe. We might have to scale some of that back in the absence of an appropriation this year.”

For the Air Force, Kristyn Jones, who is performing the duties of the service’s undersecretary, told reporters alongside Camarillo that in order to pay its personnel, training exercises would take the hit.

“Anything that’s already on a [Foreign Military Sales] case won’t have a dramatic impact, but all of the replenishment that we’re expecting in the supplemental is currently impacted. And even things like F-35 [fighter jet] training that we’re planning … with our allies and partners, that’s impacted by not having this appropriation as well.”

The Air Force is focused on trying to ensure flight hours are maintained, but it’s also important, Jones noted, that pilots receive training.

Despite the military’s experience in warfare, “we’re in a different strategic environment and we need to do the exercises, often joint and allied, to prepare for that environment. And the lack of our ability to do that doesn’t allow us to, again, to test the new techniques, the new military tactics that we’d like to have primarily for an Indo-Pacific fight,” Jones said. “That’s really where we need to stretch our muscles a little bit more.”

Learning from sequestration

With a possible extended or full-year continuing resolution, the service undersecretaries said the last time the military felt such a painful budget crunch was during the 2013 sequestration, where the services were required by law to make percentage cuts evenly across spending lines.

One of the fallouts of the 2013 sequestration was a rise in aviation mishaps because vital training flight hours were cut. Military Times and Defense News took a deep dive into aviation mishaps from FY11 through FY18 and uncovered the trend.

“Safety is always going to come first,” said Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven, “but we did look at the lessons of 2013 and sequestration, where we spread risk around the enterprise, and I think the concerns about maintaining ready and trained forces are part of the lessons that we’re using to inform if we get into this worst-case scenario where we don’t have our ’24 budget enacted and we are under a CR.”

“We’re not going to repeat that same peanut butter spread,” he added.

But trade-offs will be inevitable, he acknowledged, and “we’ll have to look across the board to see how to maintain the focus on current operations.”

Jen Judson - February 29, 2024, 4:42 pm

Austin says he expected his staff would notify of hospitalization
2 days, 14 hours ago
Austin says he expected his staff would notify of hospitalization

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin blamed his staff for the lack of communication following his hospitalization last month.

During the two weeks that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spent in the hospital early this year, officials have emphasized that there was never a gap in the chain of command.

But when Austin went to Capitol Hill on Thursday to answer for his lack of transparency with his staff or the president, an open question remained regarding how neither the secretary nor anyone on his staff thought it was imperative to notify the White House that the defense secretary was in the hospital until three days in.

Twice during two hours of testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Austin expressed accountability for the lack of notification, but added that he expected his staff would have taken care of it for him, as he didn’t have a phone from the time he got into an ambulance the night of Jan. 1.

“In terms of the hospitalization ... I was the patient,” Austin told Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich. “And so my expectation is that the organization informed the right agencies, and so on.”

Earlier, Austin told Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., that, “in my case, I know I would expect that my organization would do the right things to notify senior leaders, if I am the patient in the hospital.”

It was the first time Austin laid any blame for the events, other than previously admitting that he “didn’t get this right.”

Austin has said he never told anyone not to inform the chain of command, amid questions that he was attempting to keep his hospitalization a secret.

Austin has admitted that he chose not to inform anyone of his initial prostate cancer diagnosis or the Dec. 22 procedure to treat it, complications which landed him in the hospital on Jan. 1.

Previously, the Pentagon’s timeline has noted that Austin’s security team informed a military aide, who informed his chief of staff that he had gone to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and that ― while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon’s press secretary and others were informed on Jan. 2 ― the chief of staff waited until Jan. 4 to inform the president and Congress.

The reason provided by the Pentagon for this lag was that Kelly Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, was out with the flu on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, and waited to notify until she was back at work.

Confusion, lack of policy led to Austin’s hospitalization secret

A review released Monday included more details, though it did not mention Magsumen specifically, instead stating that multiple members of Austin’s staff hesitated to make any notifications because they were concerned about “medical privacy laws” and a lack of written guidance for how to handle this specific situation.

The review’s recommendations do include more written guidelines, but there is also a requirement to explain to staff what is expected of them in these situations and what the privacy considerations actually are.

Lawmakers were incensed that neither Austin nor his staff notified the president or Congress in a timely manner, regardless of whether there was a written instruction somewhere that compelled them to do it.

“I do however think it was an extreme lack of leadership at some level, and I hope we identify that and there are consequences,” Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., told Austin.

Multiple Republican lawmakers called for “consequences,” though those are unlikely to come. As a presidential appointee, Austin can only be fired by President Joe Biden, who has previously said he accepts Austin’s explanation and is not considering his removal.

Meghann Myers - February 29, 2024, 12:43 pm

Marine corporal gets medal for saving drowning teen while on leave
2 days, 20 hours ago
Marine corporal gets medal for saving drowning teen while on leave

After jumping into the river in his T-shirt and shorts, Cpl. Jacob Cogswell battled a strong current to bring the teenager to safety.

A Marine corporal was surprised with a medal in January for having jumped into a river months earlier to save a teenager’s life.

Cpl. Jacob Cogswell, 23, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal during a battalion formation in Okinawa, Japan, on Jan. 12 for his “heroic actions,” according to a Marine Corps news release.

A machine gunner from New York state, Cogswell was on leave in July 2023 ahead of his unit’s deployment to Japan.

One day during this time off, he was out in a boat on New York’s Oneida River with his girlfriend and his parents when he passed under an old train bridge where groups of teens often are jumping from, he said in a Feb. 13 interview with Marine Corps Times.

Marine saves fellow Devil Dog from drowning during Okinawa snorkeling trip

A few teens were swimming in the water near the bridge. One of them appeared to be struggling.

The father of Cogswell’s girlfriend drove the boat close to the teen. The group aboard asked the teen if he was OK, but he didn’t respond — he just bobbed up and down, clearly panicking.

Cogswell jumped into the water in his T-shirt and shorts, taking decisive action he attributed in part to his training as a Marine.

“You don’t think about what could possibly happen to you,” Cogswell said. “You’re more concerned about the wellbeing of others.”

Cogswell told the teen to put both arms around his neck so the Marine could swim him toward the boat. For about five minutes, Cogswell pushed against a strong current to get the teen to safety.

Once Cogswell and the teen were in the boat, he and his girlfriend’s family made sure the teen wasn’t hurt. It took a few minutes for the teen to be calm enough to speak, Cogswell said.

When they got the teen back to shore and dropped him off with his friends, Cogswell had some advice for the group of youths: Quit jumping off that bridge.

“We told them that hopefully from this they will learn and pass it on to people, the dangers of it, and spread the word so nobody does that,” Cogswell said.

Unbeknownst to Cogswell, his girlfriend’s father told the leaders of his unit, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, what had happened.

The award came as a surprise to Cogswell, who was honored in January along with another Marine from the unit, Sgt. Aidan Blansfield — who, coincidentally, also had saved someone who was struggling in water during his predeployment leave.

For Cogswell, receiving the medal from his command felt good. But what felt better, he said, was the hope that people who heard his story might be inspired to take action, should they find themselves in similar situations.

“I didn’t do it for publicity or acknowledgment,” Cogswell said. “I did it in the betterment of that young teen’s life.”

Cogswell added, “Hopefully, from that, people feel more confident in being able to take that step and possibly saving somebody’s life, rather than taking a second guess at it.”

Irene Loewenson - February 29, 2024, 6:59 am

Military prepares to brief a plan to get its V-22 Ospreys flying again
3 days, 16 hours ago
Military prepares to brief a plan to get its V-22 Ospreys flying again

The military services on Friday will lay out plans to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for addressing safety concerns stemming from a fatal 2023 crash.

The military services will take a key step toward getting the V-22 Osprey fleet back in the air as they lay out their plans Friday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for addressing safety concerns stemming from a fatal crash in Japan, three defense officials said.

The U.S. fleet of about 400 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has been grounded for 83 days following the crash of a U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22B on Nov. 29, 2023, in Japan that killed eight service members. It’s unclear how quickly Austin would make any decision on the matter.

The Air Force has said it knows what failed in the Osprey but still does not know why it failed. In the months since, the services have worked on a plan to mitigate the known material failure through additional safety checks and also by establishing a new, more conservative approach to how the Osprey is operated to safely work around the known issue, a fourth official, a senior defense official familiar with the V-22 program, said.

Japan is the only international partner in the Osprey program and also grounded its fleet of 14 V-22s after the November 2023 crash.

Air Force knows what failed in fatal Osprey crash — but not why

A return to flight is a sensitive topic in the country, where public opinion on the Osprey is mixed. One of the defense officials said none of the U.S. Ospreys would return to flight until Japan has had an opportunity to weigh in on the military’s plan.

After that, each service would decide on its own return to flight. Not all services would need to put their Ospreys back into operation simultaneously.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the Osprey decision process.

The V-22 Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter, but then tilt its engines and rotor blades to fly like an airplane. The combination has enabled the services to travel vast distances faster during military operations and land in locations that are more difficult for normal aircraft.

The militarywide grounding has left the deepest impact on the Marine Corps, which relies on more than 300 MV-22 Ospreys to conduct a major part of its aviation mission.

Air Force Special Operations Command has about 50 CV-22B Ospreys. The Navy is planning on replacing its C-2 Greyhounds, which transport passengers to aircraft carriers, with more than two dozen CMV-22 Ospreys.

The presidential fleet also uses a limited number of Ospreys to ferry White House staff, security personnel and reporters. Those have also been grounded since Dec. 6, 2023.

A small number of Marine Corps MV-22s in Djibouti have had an exemption to the grounding since Jan. 17 due to mission needs and have flown since then without incident.

The extraordinary decision in December 2023 to ground the aircraft militarywide reflected questions about the safety of the platform. Just before the November 2023 incident in Japan, an Osprey crash in August killed three Marines.

The first Ospreys only became operational in 2007 after decades of testing. But more than 50 troops have died either flight testing them or conducting training flights over the program’s lifespan.

The loss of the Osprey has had an operational impact, but a return to flight won’t be immediate and will still be higher risk due to the amount of time those crews have not been flying.

Flight safety is dependent on pilots maintaining currency on an aircraft — meaning that they are flying regularly enough to be proficient in all types of flying, such as night missions, close formation flying and refueling. The senior defense official said it will take at least 30 days to get crews flying once the grounding is lifted.

The services have also had to ensure the aircraft are ready.

Both the Air Force and Marine Corps have been running the Osprey’s engines; the Marines have been conducting ground movements to keep the aircraft working.

Tara Copp and Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press - February 28, 2024, 10:47 am

Marine F-35C used for Top Gun training takes a nosedive while parked
4 days, 9 hours ago
Marine F-35C used for Top Gun training takes a nosedive while parked

The jet “experienced an incident involving collapse of the nose landing gear” on Jan. 26, a Marine spokeswoman said.

A Marine fighter jet that was being used for Top Gun training took a nosedive in January while parked at a Nevada Navy installation.

An F-35C Lighting II assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311 “experienced an incident involving collapse of the nose landing gear” on Jan. 26 at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, Marine spokesman Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon said via email to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday.

No injuries were reported. The jet will return to service once it is repaired, Leguizamon said.

Often referred to as Top Gun, the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School teaches advanced air combat maneuvering tactics and techniques, according to the Navy.

The F-35C had been parked and shut down “following a routine training mission in support of the U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program,” Leguizamon said.

F-35B nose touches ground as plane is being towed in Japan

The military is investigating the incident, according to the spokeswoman, who added that the investigation will assess the cost of the damage.

An image of the jet with its nose on the ground were posted to social media earlier in February. The Aviationist first reported the incident.

The F-35C is meant to be flown from aircraft carriers or land bases and has a longer range than the more nimble “B” variant, which is more prevalent in the Marine Corps.

A similar face-plant incident occurred in 2022 with a Marine Corps F-35B, which went nose-down on a runway in Japan after it landed because of a suspected electrical issue.

In 2018, the nose landing gear of an Air Force F-35A collapsed on the ground following a landing for a midair emergency.

Irene Loewenson - February 27, 2024, 5:31 pm

Confusion, lack of policy led to Austin’s hospitalization secret
5 days, 10 hours ago
Confusion, lack of policy led to Austin’s hospitalization secret

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's secret hospitalization last month is prompting the Pentagon to create new policies for leadership absences.

The Defense Department found no wrongdoing in the events that led to the secrecy surrounding Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization last month, according to details of a review ordered by his chief of staff into how days passed without the president or Congress being notified that the Pentagon boss was incapacitated.

A mixture of concerns about protecting Austin’s privacy — and a lack of written policy for emergency hospitalizations — caused staff to balk when it came to informing the White House or Congress of the secretary’s absence, while at the same time not informing the deputy defense secretary of why she was taking over authorities, according to an executive summary of the largely classified review released Monday.

“As this unclassified summary highlights, the secretary’s team was faced with an unprecedented situation and so they executed a transfer of authority in the same way that they had previously done,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, told reporters during a briefing.

Austin’s emergency hospitalization for a urinary tract infection that developed following a late December procedure to treat his prostate cancer wasn’t unprecedented, however.

Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates was rushed to the hospital in 2008 when he broke his shoulder slipping on his icy front steps. The Pentagon confirmed the following day that he’d had an accident.

What was unprecedented was that following Austin’s ambulance ride on Jan. 1, it took his staff until Jan. 4 to notify the White House and Congress of his absence, and until the following day to put out a public statement.

Austin has taken the blame for the situation overall, saying that he did not want to “burden” the president with his early December cancer diagnosis, he told reporters during a Feb. 13 briefing.

“What I’ve learned from this experience, taking this kind of job means losing some of the privacy that most of us expect,” he said. “The American people have a right to know when their leaders are facing health challenges that might affect their ability to perform their duties, even temporarily.”

Austin admits he wanted to keep his cancer diagnosis secret

Austin said at the time that he did not direct his staff to withhold any information from the chain of command, adding that he doesn’t believe that he has created a culture of secrecy that would have conditioned his staff to hide information on his behalf.

The review found that concerns over “medical privacy laws” precluded staff from sharing what they knew or asking for more information.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is the main law governing health information in the U.S., but it only dictates that health care workers and health insurance administrators, for example, not share patient medical records with unauthorized people.

Ryder acknowledged that there may have been some confusion about privacy laws. Austin’s chief of staff, on the other hand, learned of his hospitalization from a military aide, which was not a violation of any privacy laws.

Ryder did not answer a question from Military Times as to what changed between Jan. 2, when members of Austin’s staff were informed of his hospitalization and concerned about his privacy, and Jan. 4, when notifications began.

In his Feb. 13 briefing, Austin did not address why he didn’t request that a member of his staff notify the president that he wouldn’t be going into work on Jan. 2.

The review released Monday adds that it was not Austin’s decision to transfer authority to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Jan. 2, but that members of his staff made the call when he was moved into the intensive care unit and would not have access to secured communications to carry out his job.

“Look, I’m not gonna speak for why any individuals did or did not take certain specific actions. I think we can all agree, you know, it is not uncommon for a natural human response when it comes to things like things like medical care, to default to a privacy setting,” Ryder said. “But the secretary also made clear in that press briefing that he acknowledges we can do better, that we will do better.”

In that spirit, when Austin returned to Walter Reed on Feb. 11 to address a bladder issue stemming from his initial UTI, the Pentagon immediately notified the relevant authorities and made a public statement, keeping information flowing about the secretary’s condition and plans to return to work.

The review released Monday includes eight recommendations to improve the notification process when a defense secretary is incapacitated, including articulating to staff the expectations for information-sharing and writing down guidelines for how to handle such events. There will also be new protocols for determining when authorities should be transferred to a deputy defense secretary and how to notify authorities about it.

All recommendations have 90 days to be implemented, Austin wrote a memo signed Monday,

Meghann Myers - February 26, 2024, 4:17 pm

Airman dies after self-immolating outside Israeli embassy in DC
5 days, 17 hours ago
Airman dies after self-immolating outside Israeli embassy in DC

Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, worked as a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron in San Antonio, Texas.

This story was updated Feb. 26 at 8:22 p.m. to include new information from the Air Force.

An active duty member of the U.S. Air Force died Sunday after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., while declaring that he “will no longer be complicit in genocide.”

Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, of Whitman, Massachusetts, died from his injuries, the Air Force confirmed Monday evening.

Bushnell had walked up to the embassy shortly before 1 p.m. on Sunday and began livestreaming on the video streaming platform Twitch, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Law enforcement officials believe the man started a livestream, set his phone down and then doused himself in accelerant and ignited the flames.

At one point, he said he “will no longer be complicit in genocide,” the person said. The video was later removed from the platform, but law enforcement officials have obtained and reviewed a copy.

The person was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Bushnell worked as a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, the Air Force said in a release Monday. He had served on active duty since May 2020.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the Air Force feels it,” said Col. Celina Noyes, commander of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing at Fort Meade, Maryland, which oversees Bushnell’s squadron. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Airman Bushnell. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we ask that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

The incident happened as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the cabinet approval for a military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah while a temporary cease-fire deal is being negotiated.

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, however, has drawn criticisms, including genocide claims against the Palestinians.

Israel has adamantly denied the genocide allegations and says it is carrying out operations in accordance with international law in the Israel-Hamas war.

In December, a person self-immolated outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta and used gasoline as an accelerant, according to Atlanta’s fire authorities. A Palestinian flag was found at the scene, and the act was believed to be one of “extreme political protest.”

Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press, Rachel Cohen - February 26, 2024, 9:08 am

Served in Iraq, Syria or Jordan recently? We want to hear from you.
5 days, 22 hours ago
Served in Iraq, Syria or Jordan recently? We want to hear from you.

We want to hear from troops who have served in Iraq, Syria or Jordan in recent years.

Thousands of U.S. troops have deployed to Iraq, Syria and Jordan in recent years.

But the stories of the service members serving there have largely gone untold, and we need your help in telling them.

If you have served in any of those countries in recent years as part of an active duty or National Guard unit, email us at [email protected] to share your take on things.

Anonymity can be granted upon request if we use any of your insights in our future reports.

Thanks for your help, and for your service.

Geoff Ziezulewicz - February 26, 2024, 5:00 am

US, UK strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen answer Red Sea attacks
1 week ago
US, UK strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen answer Red Sea attacks

American and British fighter jets hit sites in eight locations, targeting missiles, launchers, rockets, drones and air defense systems.

The U.S. and Britain struck 18 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, answering a recent surge in attacks by the Iran-backed militia group on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, including a missile strike this past week that set fire to a cargo vessel.

According to U.S. officials, American and British fighter jets hit sites in eight locations, targeting missiles, launchers, rockets, drones and air defense systems. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to provide early details of an ongoing military operation.

All the Houthi-US Navy incidents in the Middle East (that we know of)

This is the fourth time that the U.S. and British militaries have conducted a combined operation against the Houthis since Jan. 12. But the U.S. has also been carrying out almost daily strikes to take out Houthi targets, including incoming missiles and drones aimed at ships, as well as weapons that were prepared to launch.

The U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets launched from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, which is currently in the Red Sea, officials said.

“The United States will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks.”

The Houthis denounced the “US-British aggression” and vowed to keep up its military operation in response. “The Yemeni Armed Forces affirm that they will confront the US-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arabian Seas in defense of our country, our people and our nation,” it said in a statement.

The U.S., U.K., and other allies said in a statement the “necessary and proportionate strikes specifically targeted 18 Houthi targets across 8 locations in Yemen” that also included underground storage facilities, radar and a helicopter.

U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said RAF Typhoon jets engaged in “precision strikes” aimed at degrading Houthi drones and launchers. Shapps said it came after “severe Houthi attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, including against the British-owned MV Islander and the MV Rubymar, which forced the crew to abandon ship.” It’s the fourth time Britain has joined in the U.S.-led strikes.

The strikes have support from the wider coalition, which includes Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

President Joe Biden and other senior leaders have repeatedly warned that the U.S. won’t tolerate the Houthi attacks against commercial shipping. But the counterattacks haven’t appeared to diminish the Houthis’ campaign against shipping in the region, which the militants say is over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but we will once again reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to continue to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in the face of continued threats,” said the Saturday statement.

The Houthis have launched at least 57 attacks on commercial and military ships in the the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since Nov. 19, and the pace has picked up in recent days.

“We’ve certainly seen in the past 48, 72 hours an increase in attacks from the Houthis,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in a briefing Thursday. And she acknowledged that the Houthis have not been deterred.

“We never said we’ve wiped off the map all of their capabilities,” she told reporters. “We know that the Houthis maintain a large arsenal. They are very capable. They have sophisticated weapons, and that’s because they continue to get them from Iran.”

There have been at least 32 U.S. strikes in Yemen over the past month and a half; a few were conducted with allied involvement. In addition, U.S. warships have taken out dozens of incoming missiles, rockets and drones targeting commercial and other Navy vessels.

Earlier Saturday, the destroyer USS Mason downed an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Houthi-held areas in Yemen toward the Gulf of Aden, U.S. Central Command said, adding that the missile was likely targeting MV Torm Thor, a U.S.-flagged, owned, and operated chemical and oil tanker.

The U.S. attacks on the Houthis have targeted more than 120 launchers, more than 10 surface-to-air-missiles, 40 storage and support building, 15 drone storage building, more than 20 unmanned air, surface and underwater vehicles, several underground storage areas and a few other facilities.

The rebels’ supreme leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, announced this past week an “escalation in sea operations” conducted by his forces as part of what they describe as a pressure campaign to end Israel’s war on Hamas.

But while the group says the attacks are aimed at stopping that war, the Houthis’ targets have grown more random, endangering a vital waterway for cargo and energy shipments traveling from Asia and the Middle East onward to Europe.

During normal operations, about 400 commercial vessels transit the southern Red Sea at any given time. While the Houthi attacks have only actually struck a small number of vessels, the persistent targeting and near misses that have been shot down by the U.S. and allies have prompted shipping companies to reroute their vessels from the Red Sea.

Instead, they have sent them around Africa through the Cape of Good Hope — a much longer, costlier and less efficient passage. The threats also have led the U.S. and its allies to set up a joint mission where warships from participating nations provide a protective umbrella of air defense for ships as they travel between the Suez Canal and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

In Thursday’s attack in the Gulf of Aden, the Houthis fired two missiles at a Palau-flagged cargo ship named Islander, according to Central Command said. A European naval force in the region said the attack sparked a fire and wounded a sailor on board the vessel, though the ship continued on its way.

Central Command launched attacks on Houthi-held areas in Yemen on Friday, destroying seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that the military said were prepared to launch toward the Red Sea.

Central Command also said Saturday that a Houthi attack on a Belize-flagged ship on Feb. 18 caused an 18-mile (29-kilometer) oil slick and the. military warned of the danger of a spill from the vessel’s cargo of fertilizer. The Rubymar, a British-registered, Lebanese-operated cargo vessel, was attacked while sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The missile attack forced the crew to abandon the vessel, which had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates. It was transporting more than 41,000 tons of fertilizer, according to a Central Command statement.

The Associated Press, relying on satellite images from Planet Labs PBC of the stricken vessel, reported Tuesday that the vessel was leaking oil in the Red Sea.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government on Saturday called for other countries and maritime-protection organizations to quickly address the oil slick and avert “a significant environmental disaster.

Lolita Baldor, Tara Copp - February 24, 2024, 6:41 pm

Marines pass full financial audit, a first for any US military branch
1 week, 1 day ago
Marines pass full financial audit, a first for any US military branch

The Marine Corps was deemed by a third-party auditor to have a full accounting of all its assets and financial values.

The U.S. Marine Corps passed a full financial audit for the first time, with the service announcing Friday its fiscal 2023 financial audit received an “unmodified audit opinion” after a rigorous two-year review.

The milestone — something the Defense Department and the other armed services still have not achieved — comes after almost two decades of trying to prepare the Corps’ records and several failed audits along the way.

During this two-year audit, the Marine Corps had independent third-party auditors from Ernst and Young vet the value of all its assets listed on financial statements. The Corps also had to prove that every single item existed and was where the service said it was.

Gregory Koval, the assistant deputy commandant for resources, told reporters the audit team made more than 70 site visits in the U.S. and around the world. In these visits, they checked more than 7,800 real property assets such as land and buildings; 5,900 pieces of military equipment; 1.9 million pieces of non-ammunition supplies, such as spare parts; and 24 million items of ammunition, some of which are stored at Army and Navy facilities.

If a vehicle wasn’t where it was listed as being because it was out conducting operations, or a piece of ammunition wasn’t there because it had already been shot in a recent exercise, the Corps had to show documentation or photos of that, too, in order to explain discrepancies.

Koval said the final financial report states the Marine Corps passed its audit but still has some areas where it can improve.

Lt. Gen. James Adams, the deputy commandant for programs and resources, said one area of focus is automating processes. Today, there are disparate systems where data must be manually moved from one system to another, introducing the opportunity for error. The service is moving toward integrated, automated systems that would avoid human error in sharing information between human resources and financial data systems, for example.

U.S. Marine ammunition technicians and officers with Marine Corps Base  Quantico Ammunition Supply Point receive ammunition disposal training on base in 2020. (Sgt. Ann Correa/U.S. Marine Corps)

Adams said that passing the audit now will make all future ones more manageable. This last audit asked a third party to validate the existence and the value of every single thing the Marines own, which required significant historical research, he explained.

Subsequent audits, on the other hand, will be able to assume the past information is correct and therefore only cover “from this point forward,” instead asking Marines to prove information related to that fiscal year’s financial transactions.

Adams said the Corps got close to completing past audits in a single fiscal year, but because of the immense historical research, they couldn’t get the audit completed and over the finish line in a single year. For the fiscal year 2023 audit, the service requested an extension, which could prove to be a model for the other services.

“It was a goal of the commandant of the Marine Corps to pass the audit because he wants to show the credibility of the Marine Corps back to the Congress and the taxpayer,” Ed Gardiner, the assistant deputy commandant for programs and resources, told reporters.

In addition to having more time, this audit also used the military’s new general ledger software, Defense Agencies Initiative, in which auditors had confidence, according to Gardiner.

Gardiner explained the services were, by law, supposed to start financial audits in the 1990s, but the Marine Corps didn’t begin producing statements in preparation for an audit until 2006. The first audit in 2010 showed plenty of room for improvement, he said. In late 2013, the Marines announced they had passed a limited-scope audit for fiscal year 2012 — but in March 2015, a number of financial and oversight leaders reported the results were unreliable and the clean pass would be rescinded.

In 2017, the Marine Corps began conducting full financial statement audits.

The 2023 full financial statement audit was conducted to the highest standards, Gardiner said, with the Ernst and Young team not only being audited themselves by a peer-review team but also by the Pentagon’s inspector general team.

“We’ve been all the way to the end of the process, and we have lessons learned that we can share with the rest of the department,” he said, adding the Marine Corps hopes these lessons “can be an accelerant for the rest of the department.”

Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord made similar remarks in November 2023, when the Pentagon failed its sixth audit since 2018.

Noting the Marines’ extension, McCord said that “we are very focused on it as a test case for the department and the larger services.”

“Whatever results of that may be when we get the auditor’s final opinion, I want to commend the USMC and, in particular, (Marine Corps Commandant Gen.) Eric Smith for their leadership and effort,” McCord added.

Megan Eckstein - February 23, 2024, 5:53 pm

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

Albert Bryant Sr., 97, and John Henry Chaney, 104, were drafted into the Marine Corps in 1943.

Two of the first Black men to serve in the Marine Corps, including one who later became a brigadier general in the Army, were laid to rest in early February.

Albert Bryant Sr., 97, died June 25, 2023, and was buried Feb. 5 at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a Marine Corps news release.

John Henry Chaney, 104, died Jan. 22 and was buried Feb. 8 next to his wife at John Wesley United Methodist Church Cemetery in Clarksburg, Maryland, according to the release.

Both men were drafted into the Marine Corps in 1943 and trained at Montford Point, North Carolina — the segregated post where Black recruits received training while enduring harsh conditions.

Between 1942 and 1949, following orders from President Franklin Roosevelt to open all the military branches to all men regardless of race, approximately 20,000 Black men trained at that post.

“It was rough in those days,” Chaney told The Washington Post in 2012 of his training. “But we seen it through.”

Almost 13,000 Montford Point Marines served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, according to the news release. Both Bryant and Chaney fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima and saw the iconic raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

Bryant became a pharmacist after the war and served in the Army Reserve, eventually becoming a brigadier general, the highest rank attained by a Montford Point Marine, according to the release. He later became the chief of drugs and pharmaceuticals for the Veterans Administration, The Washington Post reported in a 2020 profile of the veteran.

Albert Bryant Sr. as a young man with his wife, Mable. (Lori Bryant Woolridge/courtesy)

Marine Brig. Gen. Melvin Carter, the deputy chief of computer network operations at the National Security Agency, said Montford Point Marines’ service made his own service possible, according to the Marine news release.

“Without [Bryant’s] service, I could never have become a General,” said Carter, who attended Bryant’s funeral.

After the war, Chaney became a bricklayer and then worked at Maryland’s State Highway Administration while running a business, Chaney and Sons Refuse Trash Company.

In June 2012, Bryant, Chaney and more than 300 other Montford Point Marines received bronze replica Congressional Gold Medals for their service.

Bryant is survived by his wife of 75 years, five children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, according to the news release. Chaney is survived by his sister, 12 children, 35 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

“He was so proud of his service,” said Mary Chaney, John Henry Chaney’s daughter, according to the Marine news release. “He was so glad to have been in that situation because it helped him grow, and it helped him learn how to treat people despite how he was treated.”

Irene Loewenson - February 23, 2024, 4:14 pm

Woman files $5M claim against Corps for sex abuse by Marine recruiter
1 week, 1 day ago
Woman files $5M claim against Corps for sex abuse by Marine recruiter

A now-18-year-old woman argued the Marine Corps was negligent in letting Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Champagne interact with teenage recruits.

A woman who says a Marine Corps recruiter sexually abused her when she was a 17-year-old Marine hopeful has brought a legal claim against the military for failing to prevent the alleged abuse.

The now-18-year-old woman, identified only by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleged in a complaint filed Feb. 15 against the military that Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Champagne coerced her into a sexual relationship while she was preparing to go to boot camp.

Champagne later wrote a self-published memoir about having had a sexual relationship with a prospective recruit, known as a poolee in Marine Corps parlance, Military.com reported. The book is listed on Amazon as being out of print.

Doe alleged the Marine Corps knew Champagne’s ex-wife had filed complaints against him for abuse and sexual assault and yet allowed the gunnery sergeant to be in a position of power over young applicants at a Texas recruiting station. Her legal claim is against the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy and the Defense Department.

Doe is seeking $5 million from the military. Her complaint doesn’t constitute legal action against Champagne, but Dunn said her client is “leaving all avenues open.”

“She was sexually abused and stalked and frightened, and the individual who did it is at fault here, but also the Marines are at fault here for allowing this person to be in a position to harm her,” Christine Dunn, an attorney at Sanford Heisler Sharp who is representing Doe, told Marine Corps Times on Feb. 15.

Champagne maintained Doe’s claims about him were false.

He wrote in a text message to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday that Doe’s dishonesty was “well documented.”

“Professionals are doing a thorough investigation to discover facts and the truth regarding these retaliatory false allegations will be revealed,” he wrote.

Negligence allegations

The complaint said the Marine Corps knew Champagne’s ex-wife had made complaints of sexual assault and abuse against him, and nevertheless let him be a recruiter.

Kristi Champagne, Christopher Champagne’s ex-wife, told Marine Corps Times on Feb. 24 that she had made complaints with both the Marine Corps and civilian authorities in 2021.

“I tried to make everyone aware of how he was with me,” said Kristi Champagne, who said she is a Marine veteran herself. “All of this could have been prevented for another person, for the poolee.”

Doe, then 17, met Christopher Champagne after her family moved to Texas at the end of summer 2022, according to the complaint. At the first workout for poolees that Doe attended at his recruiting station, Doe alleged, Champagne pulled her into his office alone and shut the door — a violation of Defense Department policy that other recruiters “should have seen.”

Over the ensuing months, Champagne subjected her to sexual comments and ultimately coerced her into a sexual relationship, Doe alleged. The recruiter sexually assaulted her in May 2023, she said in the complaint.

The age of consent in Texas is 17, but military rules ban recruiters from having sexual contact with poolees. Champagne was 36 in November 2023, according to media reports.

Marine recruiter accused of sexually assaulting prospective recruit

“Because the Marines had knowledge that Mr. Champagne had a history of sexual abuse and was violating the rules meant to avoid inappropriate relationships with recruits, they knew or should have known that his presence at the recruiting facility posed an unreasonable risk to me,” Doe wrote in the complaint.

After Doe ended their relationship in June 2023, Champagne harassed and stalked her, the former poolee alleged. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service had issued a protection order that barred Champagne from contacting Doe, but it failed to enforce that order, she alleged.

Meanwhile, Champagne wrote and published a tell-all book about his relationship with a poolee, which he billed as a true story with names and other details changed, according to Military.com.

The gunnery sergeant pushed back in general terms on the allegations in the complaint.

He told Marine Corps Times on Tuesday, “The evidence and facts will speak for themselves when it is deemed appropriate to release that information.”

He said he was “the third person [Doe] has accused across two states.”

Dunn, Doe’s attorney, said in a statement to Marine Corps Times later on Tuesday, “We are aware of these prior instances that occurred when she was very young, but they have no bearing on the allegations in this case.”

“The facts here are very strong and will establish that Gunnery Sgt. Champagne engaged in sexually abusive conduct of a minor and that the Marine Corps was negligent in allowing him to serve as a recruiter,” Dunn added.

Doe’s complaint was filed under the Federal Torts Claims Act, which allows people to bring claims against federal agencies for wrongful acts allegedly committed by their employees.

The Marine Corps has six months to investigate the claim, according to a news release Feb. 15 from Sanford Heisler Sharp.

The Marine Corps could then reach a settlement with Doe, or it could deny her claim, at which point Doe would be allowed to file a lawsuit against the service in federal court, Dunn said.

“She was looking forward to a career in the Marines and serving her county,” Dunn said of her client. “This has really derailed her, what this man did to her and the Marines’ negligence in allowing this to happen.”

The Marine Corps on Feb. 16 declined to comment on the complaint or provide information about Champagne’s current role, citing an ongoing investigation, and referred Marine Corps Times to NCIS.

Nikki Fleming, a spokeswoman for NCIS, said in a statement Feb. 15, “NCIS takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously and is conducting a thorough investigation.

“Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS will not comment further while the investigation remains ongoing.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated Feb. 25 with comment from Kristi Champagne.

Irene Loewenson - February 23, 2024, 12:45 pm

Chinese Jody hit with jail time after stealing military spouse
1 week, 2 days ago
Chinese Jody hit with jail time after stealing military spouse

A Chinese man was sentenced to 10 months in prison for ruining the marriage of a People’s Liberation Army soldier.

All’s not fair in love and war. Sometimes, there is he who lies in wait, plotting to steal significant others when service members are off fighting. His name, of course, is Jody, and he exists everywhere.

In China, there are, in fact, consequences for such inhumanities. One Chinese man was recently sentenced to 10 months in prison for ruining the marriage of a People’s Liberation Army soldier after he dated — and moved in with — the soldier’s wife.

“China’s Criminal Law stipulates that anyone cohabiting or marrying another person knowing that he or she is the spouse of a PLA soldier will face imprisonment of up to three years,” according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

The man, identified as “Ma,” reportedly began an affair with a former coworker, named Yuan, who was also, unbeknownst to him, an Army wife. When Yuan told Ma of her marital status and the punishment associated with an extramarital affair, he broke it off.

But Ma just couldn’t stay away, and he and Yuan moved in together a month later. Yuan then filed for divorce from her husband, who was away serving with the PLA.

Yuan’s husband, however, became aware of the affair through home security footage and subsequently turned the pair in to the authorities.

While destroying a military marriage could have resulted in a three-year sentence, Ma was reportedly given a shorter stint in jail because he was honest in court about his situation.

“The punishment is so harsh because the state is obliged not only to give special protection to the marriage of a soldier but also to respect and protect the honour of serving members of the military,” the Post added.

Sarah Sicard - February 22, 2024, 6:21 pm

Sea bag tanker jacket, boat cloak for women proposed for Marine uniforms
1 week, 2 days ago
Sea bag tanker jacket, boat cloak for women proposed for Marine uniforms

The commandant made one recommendation before voting got underway: to eliminate the requirement for women to wear pantyhose with dress uniform skirts.

For the first time in five years, Marines are being given the chance to provide feedback on a slate of uniform change proposals that will soon be taken up by the service’s uniform board.

A survey that’s now live asks jarheads to weigh in on prospective changes that would make ribbon racks easier to build and read; replace the all-weather coat with the tanker jacket in the enlisted sea bag; and authorize women to wear the iconic knee-length boat cloak.

Marine Corps Times got an exclusive early look at the eight-question survey, which was published live on Thursday.

The first Marine Corps-wide uniform survey since 2019, and the first to be conducted under the Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, it’s composed almost entirely of issues raised by Marines in the fleet, said Mary Boyt, program manager for the Marine Corps Uniform Board.

Marine camouflage uniform shortage won’t be fixed until summer 2024

“If you go to the uniform board website, it explains the uniform board process and it tells you to contact the uniform board if you’ve got a good idea,” Boyt said. “So, individual Marines submitted most of (the proposals).”

Smith, who as commandant ultimately determines the issues that will be put to a survey ― which will be set before the board directly and that will be changed under his authority ― made one recommendation before voting got underway: to eliminate the requirement for women to wear pantyhose with dress uniform skirts.

Now awaiting finalization by Marine Corps Training and Education Command, that change will make hosiery optional for Marines with all skirts. That recommendation began with a request from a female Marine, Boyt said.

Within the official survey, which is limited to active-duty and Reserve Marines, the first question has to do with positioning of devices on ribbon racks and how to signify receipt of multiple awards.

The current system is so complicated, Boyt said, Marines often will pay to have professional vendors arrange their awards correctly, or ask senior Marines. The current regulations require Marines to put their most senior, or prestigious, award device in the center of their rack, with the next most senior to the right and left.

“When you have, like, four awards, it gets a little confusing as to where the middle is,” Boyt said.

The proposal on the survey aims to simplify that by placing the most senior device to the wearer’s right with all the other devices placed to the left in order of precedence, except for air medals, which have special placement in both systems. This change, Boyt said, should empower more Marines to arrange their own ribbon racks with confidence.

“You no longer have to go back and forth,” she said.

There’s one other piece of the proposal: In cases where a Marine has more than five devices on the same award (five of the same award, for example, with a “V” device on one), multiple awards would be represented by an Arabic numeral, like “5.”

The current system, which represents each subsequent award of the same medal with a star, is imperfect as Marines often run out of room for all the stars they’ve earned, Boyt said.

“Everybody handles it a little bit differently, but I think Marines most likely are just leaving off devices that don’t fit,” she said.

Two of the questions on the survey have to do with the Marines’ versatile pewter polyester/wool blend tanker jacket.

One proposal would add the tanker jacket to the sea bag of uniform items new enlisted Marines receive after boot camp, and to the Marines’ minimum requirement list, or MRL, a rundown of gear troops are required to pay to maintain in working condition through a special clothing replacement allowance.

This proposal would elevate the jacket from its current status as an optional item. A companion proposal, with a separate vote, would remove the knee-length, double-breasted all-weather coat from the minimum requirement list. Under that change, Marines would continue to get the all-weather coast at boot camp, but no longer have to pay to maintain it.

“The [all-weather coat] is the least-worn item on the MRL once a Marine leaves boot camp,” the survey states. “However, it is also the most versatile uniform item on the list. It is the one item that can be worn with all uniforms.”

Another tanker jacket proposal would provide a $100 cash allowance for Marine recruiters to purchase a tanker jacket, recognizing that recruiters wear the blue dress Charlie/Delta uniforms ― uniforms that don’t have another authorized outer garment ― as daily work wear.

All these changes acknowledge Marines uniform wear preferences and offer a little extra flexibility to troops who have different requirements based on their job and location, Boyt said.

“A lot of recruiters, just like Marines out in the fleet, are buying [the tanker jacket] at their own expense,” she said. “So this is just catching them up.”

Several changes, all proposed by female Marines, would modernize or refine women’s uniform requirements.

One would authorize women to wear the optional and rarely seen boat cloak, an $850 mess dress item with a striking scarlet lining that’s now authorized for male officers and staff noncommissioned officers.

As the survey explains, this change would happen as the shorter female dress uniform cape reaches obsolescence due to incompatibility with the new Mandarin-collar female dress blue uniform.

“If the boatcloak is authorized for female Marines, it will remain an optional, special-order item, and the cape will become obsolete, but Marines who own it will be allowed to continue to wear it until it is no longer serviceable,” the survey states.

“Very few people actually buy the boat cloak, because it’s very expensive,” Boyt said, but added that the item enjoys a “niche popularity,” particularly in the Washington, D.C., region. “So this would just be giving the female Marines the opportunity to wear the same cloak that the males are wearing with their standing collar.”

Another proposal would allow female Marines to wear black leather pumps with the evening dress uniform in addition to the currently required black suede and fabric pumps. This proposal, the survey states, is tied to the demise of the budget shoe retailer Payless.

“Payless was where you went when you wanted fabric-dyed pumps,” Boyt said.

With remaining options more expensive and harder to find, she said, it made sense to allow the black leather pumps Marines already owned to pair with more uniforms.

“In the evening dress uniform with the long skirt, the shoe is rarely visible,” the survey said. “So there is no reason why the standard black pump … could not be worn.”

A final proposal specific to female Marines asks for a vote on changing the color of the female necktab, to standardize a single color for all uniforms.

Currently, women wear a black necktab with the blue dress Charlie uniform and an olive drab one with the Alpha/Bravo uniforms. Marines can vote to have the service develop a khaki necktab to be worn with all uniforms, thus making the current tabs obsolete; or to standardize the black necktab for all service and dress uniforms.

Boyt said proposals about a standard necktab came from multiple Marines, including a female field grade officer. Ultimately, a uniform board working group, she said, opted to give surveyed Marines multiple options to choose from.

The survey will be live for 30 days to collect Marines’ responses, Boyt said. After that, the uniform board will convene sometime in the second quarter of 2024 to deliberate over proposals and the collected feedback before turning in recommendations to the commandant for his final decision.

For Marines in the fleet with their own ideas about how to improve uniform policy, Boyt said, the board is always open to feedback, which can be sent to [email protected].

“I can’t be everywhere, and I can’t see everything,” Boyt said. “So having Marines give me good recommendations is really what makes the uniform and the grooming standards better.”

Hope Hodge Seck - February 22, 2024, 3:34 pm

5 bases to test new privately run system for household goods shipments
1 week, 3 days ago
5 bases to test new privately run system for household goods shipments

The new system is designed to improve troops’ ability to communicate with their moving company and add transparency to the process.

A limited number of troops and their families are about to see the fruits of U.S. Transportation Command’s efforts to improve how household goods are shipped during military moves.

Within a few weeks, officials will announce five locations where they will begin assigning some troops’ household goods shipments to HomeSafe Alliance, the new contractor that will manage the flow of belongings around the world.

The new system is designed to improve troops’ ability to communicate with their moving company, provide information about the location of their belongings throughout the transit, and improve the claims process. And the Defense Department promises more accountability if things go wrong during a move, like broken or lost items or missed pickup and delivery dates.

“Every single move is important to us. Every service member and family deserve a good quality move, a professional experience, and one that’s free of stress,” Andy Dawson, director of the of the Defense Personal Property Management Office at TRANSCOM, said during a call with reporters Tuesday. “We couldn’t be more excited to move into the next phase and start executing shipments.”

Last year, TRANSCOM officials delayed plans to phase in shipments under the new contract while the Defense Department ensured its software works with the system used by HomeSafe.

“We weren’t ready, so the best course of action was to do as we’ve done until we were ready to go,” Dawson said. Technology tests in January showed the team has successfully addressed “the majority of challenges” and is ready to move forward with a “deliberate, conditions-based phase-in” of the program, Dawson said.

The first phase will be limited to local moves in those five areas, within a radius of about 50 miles. Examples of troops who can participate include those moving from off-base housing to on-base housing, or those who are moving off of a base as they retire.

The moves will likely represent less than 1% of the overall DOD move volume this year, Dawson said, as officials don’t want to roll out a major change during peak moving season, which typically runs from May to September. Dawson declined to specify the numbers of moves HomeSafe will handle. Most shipments will be moved under the current system this year.

TRANSCOM plans to phase in more moves — focused on domestic shipping first — between September 2024 and peak moving season in 2025. Troops and their families shouldn’t expect to see their belongings shipped internationally with HomeSafe until September 2025 at the earliest, Dawson said.

“The goal is to responsibly roll out the system as quickly as possible,” Dawson said.

Mold, broken furniture just a start to this family's PCS nightmare

Number of household goods shipments declining

The shift to a central shipping contractor comes as the volume of military household goods shipments continues to fall in 2024.

The number of shipments logged in the first seven weeks of 2024 was 13% lower than the same period in 2023, Dawson said. TRANSCOM did not provide the total number of shipments handled so far this year by press time. Annually, the volume was 6% lower in 2023 than in 2022, Dawson said.

Why?

“I don’t have specifics, but I’d say it’s a combination of factors,” Dawson said, citing recruiting challenges, a shrinking military workforce and operational needs overseas. Those issues, combined with service policies that can affect the number of moves in a year, are reducing the flow of household goods, he said.

The military logged nearly 303,000 shipments of household goods in 2022. However, shipments don’t equal the number of moves because some service members send off multiple shipments over the course of a single permanent change of station.

Fewer orders can alleviate some of the pressure on the shipping industry to keep up, particularly during the busy summer moving season.

For years, shortages of truck drivers and the workers who pack, load and unload people’s personal belongings, as well as other supply chain issues, have further complicated military moves. In 2018, after a particularly brutal moving season for troops and their families, U.S. Transportation Command launched an effort to fix many of the long-standing problems that plague service members when their household goods are moved, from delays in pickups and deliveries, to lost and broken belongings, difficulties with filing claims and more.

That effort led TRANSCOM to award HomeSafe Alliance, a joint venture of KBR Services and Tier One Relocation, a three-year, $6.2 billion contract to manage hundreds of companies that ferry household goods around the globe. The contract’s value could grow to about $18 billion over a decade.

TRANSCOM began the shift away from its longtime piecemeal approach in January 2023, after protests of HomeSafe’s win had subsided. That transition will run through Feb. 11, 2025, with an extra $60 million tacked onto the contract.

Here's how the selection of a single contractor to arrange PCS moves might help

TRANSCOM officials argue the new system will bring more accountability to companies involved in PCS moves. The contract essentially outsources the management of the household goods shipping process, which provides door-to-door transportation and warehouse services for people’s belongings as they transition to jobs at new bases.

HomeSafe has been compiling a network of companies to provide those services, which includes many of the 800-plus companies that currently handle shipping under the DOD-run program. TRANSCOM will continue to oversee the enterprise.

Dawson expects service members will encounter a more user-friendly process, starting with their request to ship goods in the MilMove system. That request will go to the local military shipping office for review and approval, before being passed to the HomeSafe Connect system.

HomeSafe will be the single point of contact, addressing communications problems troops have with the current system and letting troops know the location of their shipment throughout the process, Dawson said.

Service members can choose whether to have their household goods surveyed virtually or in person ahead of their departure; their inventory will be fully automated. Their belongings will be assigned bar codes that help facilitate claims in case of any loss or damage.

That electronic inventory will replace the pages-long paper inventories that chronicle each PCS, as well as stickers that military families currently collect on their household goods across many moves.

Karen Jowers - February 21, 2024, 5:31 pm

Body of New Hampshire Marine killed in helicopter crash comes home
1 week, 3 days ago
Body of New Hampshire Marine killed in helicopter crash comes home

The obituary of Capt. Jack Casey hinted at a jokester who was never too busy to help.

The body of one of five Marines killed when their helicopter went down in the mountains outside San Diego during a storm was brought back to his home state of New Hampshire on Tuesday and a procession was held in his honor.

Jack Casey, 26, of Dover, New Hampshire, was a pilot aboard the CH-53E helicopter that went down during a training exercise on Feb. 7.

He and the other four were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and were based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

The military is investigating the crash.

5 Marines killed in CH-53E helicopter crash mourned as ‘the very best’

In New Hampshire, Casey attended St. Mary Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas High School. He played football and lacrosse and was a member of the robotics team, and also a lifeguard at Hampton Beach.

Casey attended college at the Virginia Military Institute. He graduated from officer candidates school in 2018, earning a pilot’s commission in the U.S. Marine Corps. He earned his wings and got married to his wife, Emma, in 2022.

His obituary hinted at a jokester who was never too busy to help.

People gather outside Wiggin-Purdy-McCooey-Dion Funeral Home in Dover, New Hampshire as the body of Marine Capt. Jack Casey, arrives on Feb. 20. (Deb Cram/Foster's Daily Democrat via AP)

“He could eat Cheetos before Marine Corp fitness tests, running a sub 18 min 3 mile,” it said. “In the Rumpass Bumpass Triathlon, most people were in racing bibs. Jack wore his beloved Red Sox cut off. Flannel shirts and Birkenstocks were his trademark.”

A Mass was scheduled for Saturday at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Rye, New Hampshire.

The Associated Press - February 21, 2024, 11:11 am

US drone goes down off Yemen; underwater Houthi drone taken out
1 week, 3 days ago
US drone goes down off Yemen; underwater Houthi drone taken out

The Pentagon acknowledged an American MQ-9 Reaper drone went down recently in the Red Sea amid an ongoing battle with Houthi militants in the region.

U.S. forces recently struck an unmanned underwater drone amid a busy few days in the Middle East, marking the first observed employment of an underwater drone by the Houthi militants since they began their attacks in October, according to U.S. Central Command.

The Department of Defense also acknowledged that an American MQ-9 Reaper drone went down on Monday in the Red Sea off the coast of Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

“Initial indications are that it was shot down by a Houthi surface-to-air missile,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Tuesday during a press briefing, adding that at that time it had not been recovered.

The Navy and coalition partners remain engaged with Houthi militants as the group continues to launch attacks against military and commercial vessels in the region.

The Houthis shot down another MQ-9 in November, according to The Associated Press.

Over the last few days, U.S. forces struck a number of anti-ship cruise missiles, mobile unmanned surface vessels and one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles launched by the militant group from Yemen, as well as the unmanned underwater vessel, which CENTCOM said was taken out on February 17.

Early Tuesday morning, the Navy destroyer Laboon identified an anti-ship cruise missile headed in its direction, which it subsequently shot down. That marks at least nine confirmed incidents the Laboon has participated in.

Some of the recent attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis have involved U.S.-owned commercial ships, which experienced minor damages. CENTCOM admonished the Houthis for such attacks, noting that they have exacerbated already high levels of humanitarian need in Yemen.

Earlier this month, a Defense Intelligence Agency report confirmed that Houthi forces have employed various missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran in their regional attacks.

Please review this tracker report for up-to-date information regarding the ongoing series of engagements between the U.S. Navy and the Houthis.

Military Times’ Pentagon bureau chief Meghann Myers contributed to this story.

Jonathan Lehrfeld - February 21, 2024, 10:20 am

ChatGPT-val: Sailor claims AI helped write annual performance eval
1 week, 4 days ago
ChatGPT-val: Sailor claims AI helped write annual performance eval

A Reddit user claiming to be a sailor said ChatGPT helped to complete the dreaded annual performance evaluation.

Amidst all the concerns surrounding machine learning and how artificial intelligence may impact society, one sailor appears to have found a real-world use for harnessing the polarizing tech.

Posting on Navy Reddit last month, one user — known simply as Senor_Rico — claiming to be a sailor reported that he had tamed the wild and unruly AI beast by using ChatGPT to generate his annual performance evaluation.

Completing such documents, also known as an enlisted evaluation report or “brag sheet,” can consume a sailor’s precious time while a swarm of daily tasks continue to mount.

But Senor_Rico claims the ChatGPT application will allow sailors to “feed it a brag sheet” and watch a fresh, automated eval roll off the cyber line, sparkling and ready to submit.

It took two weeks to train ChatGPT to write a brag sheet, Senior_Rico wrote, adding that the AI was first fed older evaluations in order to learn.

Once up to speed, the program, according to the purported sailor, “will turn your brag sheet into a full eval write-up.”

“This is great,” one Reddit user wrote in response. “I’ll be referring my homies to this.”

ChatGPT was developed by homies at the company OpenAI, an organization later acquired by homies at Microsoft.

The software allows users to feed questions or information to a chat bot and receive a polished report in return.

By February 2023, ChatGPT set the record for having the fastest growing user base, according to a study by UBS, a financial services group.

Some Navy Reddit commenters, meanwhile, expressed concern that using such a tool could threaten other sailors’ security clearances.

“Would not recommend for those that hold clearances or do cleared work,” thinklikeacriminal wrote. “You are gonna f--- up and out the wrong s--- in there.”

“Well yeah, don’t feed it a classified brag sheet,” Senor_Rico replied.

Another Redditor aired beef not with AI, but with evals altogether.

“Writing evals is stupid since it’s a popularity contest anyway,” Leading-Show8764 said.

Zamone Perez - February 20, 2024, 4:27 pm