U.S. Army’s Bergdahl spared prison time for deserting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

U.S. Army’s Bergdahl spared prison time for deserting

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U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl walks out of the courthouse after the judge said he would continue deliberating on his sentence during Bergdahl’s court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl walks out of the courthouse after the judge said he would continue deliberating on his sentence during Bergdahl’s court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) – U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl on Friday was spared prison time for endangering fellow troops when he deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009, but a military judge ordered he should be dishonorably discharged from the service.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and spent five years under brutal captivity by the insurgent group. He had faced up to life in prison after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

2 Seal Team 6 Members Murder A Green Beret Soldier In Mali?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The Navy is investigating whether two members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six killed an Army Green Beret in Mali in June, a US official told CNN Sunday.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice confirmed to CNN the NCIS investigation into the death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar.
Melgar was a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant, according to a statement from the US Army Special Command.
Military officials told CNN that a military examiner ruled Melgar’s death while on assignment in the African nation of Mali as a homicide.

Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.

A US official told CNN jurisdiction for the investigation shifted from the Army investigation service to the Navy in September. The official said the transfer of jurisdiction indicates that Navy personnel are subjects of the investigation.
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The New York Times was the first to report that two members of SEAL Team Six were under investigation for Melgar’s death, saying his death was caused by strangulation at a US government compound near the American embassy in Bamako, the capital.
Michelle Melgar, the victim’s wife, has been notified her husband’s manner of death was a homicide, the official said.
She told CNN: “I ask for privacy during this time — I hope that you will allow me to tell my story when I’m ready. I knew him best — he was my best friend. It’s all so new — I’m sorry.”
Melgar, a native of Lubbock, Texas, enlisted in the US Army in 2012 and began Special Forces training in 2013, according to the US Army Special Command statement. He served two deployments to Afghanistan.
The report of the mysterious death and resulting homicide investigation comes as the US undergoes heightened scrutiny about its military role Africa following the death of four US service members in Niger earlier this month.
Melgar was a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group, which is the primary unit responsible for Army special operations in northwest Africa, including Mali and Niger. The four American soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month were part of the same group.
Some Senate leaders expressed surprise about the extent of US military operations, renewing the debate over the authority for the United States’ sprawling war on terror.
Amid growing questions about what went wrong during the deadly mission, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said the US forces are in “about 53 different countries” in Africa.
Like neighboring Niger, Mali has faced significant, deadly extremism. Gunmen attacked a luxury resort in Mali the same month Melgar died, and in August there were two separate attacks on United Nations missions there.

General Kelly Defends A Coward

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

 

The photo of a young Army widow clutching the flag-draped casket of her husband is daunting. Myeshia Johnson’s pain seemed to run so deep that it pierced her soul.

She had been called upon to perform a duty that only the truest of American patriots, our Gold Star families, must do — claim the body of a fallen soldier upon his return home.

On this day, it could not have mattered to the pregnant mother of two small children that Sgt. La David Johnson had joined the Army of his own free will. Perhaps the soldier did realize that there was a chance he could be killed in an ambush while serving in Niger.

This was not the day to remind his wife of that. Yet, it is what Donald Trump did in a phone call to Johnson while she rode in a car to the airport in Miami to retrieve her husband’s remains.

As it turns out, the words were not even his own.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would have us forget about Johnson’s grief and reserve our empathy for Trump.

In a rare appearance before the news media on Thursday, Kelly reminded us that the president is, after all, inexperienced in making condolence calls to Gold Star families.

Kelly implored Americans to understand how difficult it was for someone who has never worn the uniform, who has never been in combat, to make such a call. Some presidents send a letter instead, he said. But Trump chose to call.

Our president is incapable of speaking from the heart, though. So Kelly, a retired four-star general who lost his own son in Afghanistan, stood by the president’s side and fed the words to him.

Perhaps the general found it comforting when his best friend and casualty officer told Kelly that his fallen son was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed and that he knew what he was getting into.

Myeshia Johnson clearly did not feel the same. She is said to have been devastated. In the brief conversation, Trump repeatedly referred to the soldier as “your guy,” a signal to the wife that the president didn’t even know her husband’s name.

A decent and caring person would have readily acknowledged his mistake and offered an apology. But not Trump. He acted like a coward and sent his most fearless attack dog out to deflect the issue.

The problem wasn’t what Trump said to the grieving widow, Kelly intimated. It was the fact that a Florida congresswoman, an “empty barrel” as he referred to her, spoke out about it.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson had been in the car with Johnson that day when the call came. She heard every word and was appalled that a president would speak to a grieving widow in that manner. She found it offensive and disrespectful, and she said so publicly.

Kelly was so anxious to discredit her that he mischaracterized what Wilson said in 2015 at a dedication of a new FBI field office in Miami.

Kelly made false claim about Rep. Wilson speech in dispute over Trump call »

In Kelly’s view, it is Wilson — the messenger — that Americans should take aim at. She had overheard Trump’s conversation with Myeshia Johnson and had the gall to say what she thought about it.

In response to the uproar, Trump tweeted, “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

Kelly revealed during the news conference, albeit unintentionally, that Trump had lied. What Wilson said was true. Trump had repeated in the telephone call exactly what Kelly had told him to say.

The fact that he works for a man who is both a coward and a liar is not what concerns Kelly, though. He is most troubled that details of the telephone conversation got out.

Kelly said he is stunned that the things that were sacred in our country when he was growing up are no longer sacred. Most Americans are stunned, too.

“Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor,” Kelly said. “But that’s obviously not the case anymore.”

He could have added that his boss, the president of the United States, has contributed immensely to the growing irreverence for women.

Religion seems to be gone as well, Kelly said. He should have pointed out that no president ever has been so determined to undermine religious freedom in America as Trump.

As for the sanctity of Gold Star families, “that left in the convention over the summer,” Kelly said.

Analysis: Kelly might not be like Trump, but he seems like many Trump voters »

Kelly did not mention Trump’s brutal verbal attack on the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan after they appeared at the Democratic National Convention. But we remember Trump’s attack on the Muslim-American family well. His vile, disrespectful verbiage directed at the Khans was an affront to every military family that has lost a loved one.

This time, he once again showed a troubling lack of understanding regarding the sacrifices Gold Star families make for their country.

Trump disrespected the memory of Sgt. La David Johnson by telling his wife that the soldier knew what he was getting into when he joined the Army.

Kelly drove the knife deeper when he said the soldier was exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with, when his life was taken. If the general isn’t careful, Trump will carry him into the gutter, just has he has everyone else who tries to defend him.

Kelly knows better than anyone that there are many reasons our brave men and women enlist in the military. Wanting to die on field in a foreign land far away from home never has been one of them.

If Sgt. Johnson had a choice in his final moments of life, he undoubtedly would have chosen to be at home in Miami, surrounded by the people he loved most — his wife, his two young children and the baby he will never know.

[email protected]

Twitter @dahleeng

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

U.S. Army Tests THAAD Missile Defense System That China And Russia Complain About

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) 

The US Defense Department Missile Defense Agency plans to conduct a long-planned flight test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system within the next few days, according to a DOD official.

The exact date of the planned test is not being disclosed until it has taken place. The THAAD is based at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska.
According to the official, the test is not related to North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
THAAD is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles with shorter ranges than the ICBM that North Korea launched Tuesday.
The test will involve the THAAD seeking to detect, track and engage a target with an interceptor missile.
Each THAAD system is comprised of five major components: interceptors, launchers, a radar, a fire control unit and support equipment, according to Lockheed Martin, the security and aerospace company that serves as the prime contractor for the equipment.
The radar first detects an incoming missile, those manning the system identify the threat then a launcher mounted to a truck fires a projectile, which Lockheed Martin calls an “interceptor,” at the ballistic missile in the hopes of destroying it using kinetic energy — basically just its sheer speed.
While military officials claim the impending test is not related to the recent successful launch of a North Korean ICBM, the escalation of Pyongyang’s nuclear program has prompted a closer look at the effectiveness of missile defense systems maintained by the US and its allies.
Last month, a US and Japanese missile test conducted in Hawaii missed its target, but both militaries stopped short of calling it a failure.
The firing involved a SM-3 Block IIA missile that’s built for the Aegis Missile Defense system, which is used to shoot down medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles from ships at sea.
In May, the Pentagon successfully shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile.
That test involved firing a new version of the military’s single long-range ground-based interceptor missile, which is currently based in Alaska and California. That program has been in existence for more than a decade but only about half of the tests have been successful, according to the Defense Department. US officials often call it a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet.
While the Pentagon called the test a success, some experts cautioned that the $40 billion missile defense system still has a long way to go before it can be considered fully developed.

President Trump Needs To Stop Treating The ‘Purple Heart’ Like A Game Show Prize

Trump Needs To Stop Treating The Purple Heart Like A Game Show Prize

on April 23, 2017

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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK @ PURPOSE’ WEBSITE)

On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to let the country know how excited he was to be heading to Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with wounded warriors.

Getting ready to visit Walter Reed Medical Center with Melania. Looking forward to seeing our bravest and greatest Americans!

When he arrived, Trump held a brief ceremony to award a Purple Heart medal to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in Afghanistan on March 17.

“When I heard about this … I wanted to do it myself,” Trump said during the ceremony. “Congratulations on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous.”

😑 😑 😑

Shakin’ my damn head.

There’s nothing congratulatory about receiving a Purple Heart. No service member signs up for the military hoping to get a leg blown off, or a bullet lodged inside them. No service member is banking on ending up paralyzed for the rest of their life, or left with chronic pain that they have to cope with on a daily basis.

Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos doesn’t think he’s won something. But, when he signed up for the Army, he knew it was a possibility that he could be injured, or even killed, and he did it anyway. Every service member knows the risk and they choose to put themselves in harm’s way regardless.

Trump still doesn’t seem to get that.

This isn’t the first time he has treated the Purple Heart like some kind of prize you get at the bottom of a cereal box. In August 2016, after retired Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman handed him his own Purple Heart, Trump said, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”

Trump doesn’t seem to understand that no one wants a Purple Heart, because you don’t earn it without giving something up in return. As Elana Duffy wrote last year, “I didn’t want the award because I knew it meant at least a piece of me would be left behind. We didn’t get the award; we each traded something for it. We traded our brains, our limbs, and many times our lives for that piece of metal.”

Until Trump acquires some awareness of what military service actually entails, he should just smile and nod and stick to these five words, “Thank you for your service.” Once he masters those, then he can move onto more complex phrases like, “You have inspired the future generation with your courage and sacrifice.”

But, for now, he needs to keep it simple before he ends up chest-bumping a combat veteran for “winning” the Medal of Honor.

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Lauren Katzenberg is the cofounder and managing editor of Task & Purpose. Follow Lauren Katzenberg on Twitter @Lkatzenberg
[email protected]

The Army’s New Glasses Can Switch From Light To Dark Tint In Under A Second

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE’S WEBSITE)

The Army’s New Glasses Can Switch From Light To Dark Tint In Under A Second

on April 17, 2017

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The Army is pulling out all the stops in its race to make soldiers look as futuristic as possible — and be as safe as possible. Part of the Soldier Protection System, there’s new armor in the works, as well as a new helmet, which looks it was pulled from science fiction, or Airsoft. But the service isn’t forgetting the little things, like the importance of seeing what you’re shooting at, which is why it’s creating new glasses and goggles.

Because the new helmet’s visor isn’t tinted, the new eyewear, officially called Transition Combat Eye Protection, automatically switches from a clear setting to a dark tint, and then back again, depending on the amount of light, according to PEO Soldier.

 

In less than a second, soldiers operating in sunny arid environments will be able to adjust quickly and easily, without carrying around multiple expensive glasses that are just going to get lost.

RELATED: THE ARMY JUST STARTED PRODUCING ITS BRAND NEW BALLISTICS HELMET_ »

At $200 a piece, soldiers will have just one expensive piece of gear to lose. What could go wrong? The eyewear won’t be on the list of items soldiers are required to carry, according to Army Times, but they’re authorized to use and commanders can purchase them for their troops if they want to, because that’s sure to happen.

Full body armor Soldier Protection System poster

Looking at the glasses and goggles, then back to the helmet, it does make you wonder: If the idea is to help soldiers operate more easily in varying light conditions, it would be a bit of a pain to get to the button on the eyewear to turn it on, especially while wearing a helmet which encases your head. Fortunately, once the glasses or goggles are on, the transition is automatic. Just don’t forget to activate them before heading out.

The article has been updated to clarify that the TCEP system transitions from light to dark automatically once turned on, according to a statement received from PEO Soldier after publication.  (Updated 4/17/17, 3:18 pm EST).

Recent Developments Surrounding The South China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

BANGKOK — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest key developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

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PHILIPPINES DOESN’T WANT TO BE USED FOR U.S. FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION MISSIONS

The Philippines has again thumbed its nose at the U.S., its longtime defense ally, saying it won’t be used as a springboard for U.S. ships and planes conducting operations that challenge China in the South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippines will not allow its territory to be used as a staging ground for U.S. patrols — a possible departure from the current policy that allows U.S. aircraft, ships and submarines access to designated Philippine military bases under a 2014 defense agreement.

Lorenzana said U.S. ships and planes can use Guam or Okinawa in Japan for South China Sea missions. But he said they can still refuel and resupply in the Philippines after conducting such maneuvers, not before.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said she could not comment on Lorenzana’s remarks as she hadn’t seen them, but added: “Our adherence to freedom of navigation is well known. You know, we will fly, we will sail anywhere within international waters and we will continue that.”

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the commander of the U.S. Army’s I Corps who leads international military exercises in the Pacific, said that the U.S. military was prepared to change next year’s joint exercises with the Philippines to humanitarian and disaster relief training.

“If we change the training, we would probably look at putting a different force and a different capability in the Philippines versus the initial one that had been planned to go there,” he told Voice of America, referring to the initial focus on the Philippines’ territorial defense.

President Rodrigo Duterte has reached out to China to try to smooth over the territorial disputes. He also said he wants to scale back the Philippines’ military engagements with the U.S., including scuttling a plan to carry out joint patrols with the U.S. Navy in the disputed waters, which he said China opposes.

But Manila still continues to rely on Washington. On Friday, the Philippine navy took delivery of a third frigate decommissioned from the U.S. Coast Guard.

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US, CHINA REACT TO VIETNAM’S REPORTED ISLAND DREDGING

The United States has called on Vietnam and other claimants to refrain from reclamation and militarization activities in contested South China Sea waters following reports that Hanoi has carried out dredging on one of the features it occupies in the Spratlys.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that the U.S. is aware of the reports.

“We have consistently warned that reclamation and militarization in contested areas of the South China Sea will risk driving a destabilizing and escalatory trend. We encourage all claimants to take steps to lower tensions and peacefully resolve differences,” she said.

Vietnam’s government has not commented on satellite imagery purportedly showing dredging activities inside a channel on Ladd Reef, about 15 nautical miles (28 kilometers) west of Spratly Island where Hanoi recently began extending a runway and building hangers. It wasn’t clear if the latest activity was meant as repair or construction work.

Ladd Reef, which is submerged at high tide, has a lighthouse, which also serves as quarters for Vietnamese troops.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang urged Vietnam to “respect China’s sovereignty and rights, stop illegal invasion and construction activities, and not to take actions that could complicate the situation.”

He repeated Friday that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

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CHINA WARNS BRITAIN AGAINST SOUTH CHINA SEA PATROLS

China has reacted angrily to Britain’s announcement that its four Typhoon fighter jets on a training visit to Japan will patrol the skies over the East and South China sea, where Beijing is embroiled in territorial disputes with neighbors.

The British ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, also said last week that his government plans to conduct freedom of navigation operations involving its newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, when it becomes operational in 2020. He said that Britain “absolutely shares” the U.S. objective to protect freedom of navigation in what it considers international waters despite China’s claiming virtually the entire South China Sea as its territory.

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, in an opinion piece, said Darroch was perhaps trying to impress his Japanese colleague and that his remarks create the impression that London may soon deviate from “a largely aloof attitude” toward the South China Sea issue and start to meddle like the U.S. and Japan.

“Should a British warplane embark on a so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ mission in the South China Sea, it would only serve to further complicate the issue and weigh on thriving China-Britain ties,” Xinhua said.

It says China has never denied any legitimate passage of ships or planes in the area.

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CHINA ADDS SECOND CRUISE IN THE PARACELS

China is adding a second cruise ship to the Paracel Islands, a tropical paradise of pristine beaches and little else.

The new cruise ship called Nanhai Zhi Meng will start its maiden four-day voyage in late December from Sanya, a port on southern Hainan Island, to Yinyu, Quanfu and Yagong islands in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The first cruise was launched in April 2013 and so far has attracted 23,000 Chinese tourists.

The tours only serve islands with no military installations and are only open to Chinese nationals. Unlike the largest island in the Paracels, Woody Island, which is also an administrative center founded in 2012, the coral reefs on the cruise tour have no accommodation or any significant infrastructure.

Prices range from $580 to $1,450 per person.

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

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