- Navy Sailor Pleads Guilty To Making A Series Of Bomb Threats At Virginia Bases
- Pentagon Upholds Marine General’s Contempt Conviction In USS Cole Legal Dispute
- 13 Years Later, A Fallujah Marine Finally Gets The Silver Star He Deserves
- This ‘New’ US Plan In Afghanistan Sure Sounds A Lot Like A Failed Strategy We Tried In Vietnam
- My Next Mission: Navigating The Civilian Landscape For The First Time Outside The Military
- Newly Released Video Shows North Korean Soldier’s Dramatic Escape Across Border
- White House Military Personnel Removed After Having Improper Contact With Foreign Women During Trump’s Asia Trip
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:41 AM PST
Navy investigators were able to identify the sailor behind a series of bomb threats earlier this year to various ships and bases across Hampton Roads with the help of Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, according to court documents.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Allante Martanaze Arrington, 24, of Norfolk, pleaded guilty this morning to one count of maliciously conveying false information. He is set to be sentenced March 1 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Layne declined to comment, as did Arrington’s lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball.
Court documents filed in connection with Arrington’s plea agreement offer the public the first glimpse of how investigators were able to link the boatswain's mate to the bomb threats, which resulted in a series of lockdowns and evacuations that impacted ships and pier operations at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach and Naval Station Norfolk.
According to court documents, Arrington, who was most recently assigned to the Oak Hill Dock landing ship home ported at Little Creek, started making the bomb threats at 6 a.m. Aug. 2 to different buildings and naval assets at Little Creek. Among other things, he claimed there were bombs on the Oak Hill, the Gunston Hall and the Whidbey Island.
The Navy later said none of the bomb threats was credible.
Arrington masked his phone number during each call, court documents said. Caller ID showed them all as marked “private.”
The court documents explain that the Navy uses a central office exchange service to handle Little Creek’s phones, and that the system is managed by Verizon Wireless.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents sent an Emergency Situation Disclosure on Aug. 2 to Verizon Wireless requesting all incoming call information that morning to the numbers that received the bomb threats.
Verizon provided the information Aug. 4, revealing 15 possible phone numbers for the person responsible. All were associated with T-Mobile.
From there, NCIS sent an exigent circumstances request to T-Mobile seeking information about the bomb threat calls in question, court documents said.
T-Mobile responded with all relevant calls, allowing investigators to determine the exact phone responsible for making the bomb threats, documents said. The information also showed the caller was using special code before dialing the numbers in question to mask his identity.
Records maintained by T-Mobile and the Navy later identified Arrington as the cellphone’s owner. And in an interview August 17 with NCIS, Arrington acknowledged ownership of the phone.
Further investigation revealed some of the bomb threats were made from a location near Arrington’s home, documents said. Others were made on Little Creek.
©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post Navy Sailor Pleads Guilty To Making A Series Of Bomb Threats At Virginia Bases appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:29 AM PST
The senior Pentagon official in charge of the war court has upheld a judge's contempt conviction of the Marine general overseeing defense teams, according to a statement issued Tuesday that suggested three civilian defense attorneys are still bound to litigate in the USS Cole case at Guantanamo.
The official, Harvey Rishikof, however, decided that Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker need not serve the remainder of a 21-day sentence of confinement or pay a $1,000 fine. USS Cole case judge Air Force Col. Vance Spath sentenced Baker to both on Nov. 2 for invoking a privilege and refusing to answer the judge's questions at the war court.
Instead, Rishikof, whose title is convening authority of military commissions, will forward the conviction to Baker's chain of command as an administrative and ethics matter.
In the short term that could keep the issue out of federal court. When Baker was confined to his trailer park quarters behind the courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth considered a habeas corpus petition brought by civilian lawyers for Baker, who called the general's detention unlawful. Before Lamberth could rule, Rishikof suspended the general's punishment after about 48 hours.
Rishikof, whose title is the Convening Authority for Military Commissions, appears to recognize an ongoing, clandestine crisis in confidence in the ability of defense attorneys to hold confidential conversations with accused terrorists at the prison complex — the reason why USS Cole criminal defense attorney Rick Kammen, an experienced death penalty lawyer, and colleagues Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears asked Baker to permit them to resign in the first place. All three were paid by the Pentagon.
The statement issued by the Pentagon on Tuesday said Rishikof "will also recommend to the Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo Bay that a 'clean' facility be designated or constructed which would provide continued assurances and confidence that attorney-client meeting spaces are not subject to monitoring, as the commission proceeds."
In the past, lawyers have discovered listening devices in meeting rooms disguised as smoke detectors; a prosecutor said soldiers mistakenly overheard legal meetings, and then something classified happened over the summer to cause Baker to caution defense teams that no meeting site at the base guarantees fundamental attorney-client confidentiality.
The statement said Rishikof would be asking the commander of the guard force at Guantanamo's prison of 41 captives to create a space for attorney-client meetings. In specifically seeking that be done by the Joint Detention Group commander, Army Col. Steve Gabavics, the Pentagon statement signaled that Rishikof was bypassing the senior commander of the prison, Rear Adm. Edward Cashman.
Gabavics answers directly to the prison commander, independent of the prison's intelligence, legal and combat camera units, which answer to Cashman via a chief of staff of equal rank to Gabavics.
Four entities get to decide Baker's fate, according to the statement: The top-ranking lawyer in the Marine Corps, a two-star general who serves as the staff attorney to the Commandant of the Marine Corps; someone at the Pentagon's General Counsel office; the Department of Defense's "Standards of Conduct Office," and someone in the Department of the Navy.
According to the Pentagon statement, Rishikof said that Spath did have the authority to overrule Baker's release of the attorneys, and referred to their "attempted resignation," suggesting that as far as the top Pentagon official is concerned, Kammen, Eliades and Spears are still attorneys of record on the case.
Kammen said by email Wednesday morning that "our position is that General Baker excused us. So our resignations were approved by the only official with a vote. The convening authority has no legitimate role in this decision."
He added that, under the rules for the war court, the role of the convening authority is not that of "a super judge until there is a conviction. He does not have a legitimate role in the conflict between Colonel Spath and General Baker over excusal authority. Indeed his attempt to insert himself into it may be unlawful influence."
©2017 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post Pentagon Upholds Marine General's Contempt Conviction In USS Cole Legal Dispute appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 09:59 AM PST
From day one, the November 2004 offensive to clear Fallujah, Iraq, of enemy fighters was a grueling block-by-block fight. Deadly ambushes, booby-trapped houses, and an entrenched and well-prepared force of insurgent fighters harried the Marines every step of the way forward during the Second Battle of Fallujah. Eight days into the fight, it was just as unforgiving.
On Nov. 15, then-Cpl. Eubaldo Lovato, a squad leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and his Marines had successfully cleared their sector of the city when they got word that another Marine, Lance Cpl. Travis Desiato, had been shot and killed and his body taken by enemy fighters.
Lovato, along with other NCOs from the unit, grouped up with Desiato's squad leader and made their way to the house, where at least five enemy fighters were holed up in one of the rooms, fortified by sandbags, and armed with AKs. But Desiato's body was still in there, and the Marines knew they had to get him back.
Desiato, who was newly married, "had a death note for his wife and I knew I needed to get that and his wedding ring," Lovato told KJCT, a Montrose, Colorado-based ABC news affiliate.
However, the Marines couldn't do it alone, so Lovato set out to get additional grenades and called for armored support. While running down an alley to regroup with other infantrymen and get resupplied, enemy marksmen spotted him and took fire.
“There was a roadway and alley so while I was running a bullet went thru my pocket and my sling,” Lovato told KJCT. “Missed my leg by inches and right here hit my sling. It’s crazy you can feel the concussion of the bullet go right past your body.”
After making it past the enemy's shooters, Lovato got the munitions the Marines needed, and returned to the house with a tank in tow. They lobbed cannon and rocket fire through the window to dislodge the fighters, but even that wasn't enough. They had to go back in. With grenades in hand, and Lovato in the lead, the Marines mounted not one, but three assaults on the room. On the last attempt, the Marines successfully cleared out the enemy fighters and recovered Desiato's body.
In 2006, Lovato was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his bravery that day, but after 11 years, the Department of Defense upgraded his commendation. At a Nov. 18 award ceremony in Montrose, Colorado, where Lovato now lives after leaving the Marines as a sergeant nearly 14 years ago, he received the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest decoration for bravery.
"Come hell or high water, they were going to get Desiato out of the house or they were going to die trying," Brig. Gen. Michael Martin, the deputy commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Command, said at the ceremony, according to a press release.
Lovato's Silver Star upgrade was a result of the Department of Defense Valor Award Review Board, established in January 2016 to look over hundreds of valor awards given since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The post-9/11 military’s award process has long been criticized, especially with regard to the nation’s highest awards for valor, according to Military Times, which reported in January that of the 1,300 awards for valor reviewed, fewer than 100 will receive upgrades.
As for Lovato, there is one Marine in particular whose sacrifice he wants to see remembered.
"To be completely honest, I don't deserve this," Lovato said."I didn't do anything different than what I was trained to do. But I appreciate it and I am going to wear it proudly because the person who does deserve this wasn't able to make it home. He was a 19-year-old kid from Massachusetts who had just gotten married. I am going to wear this Silver Star for him. He is the one that made the ultimate sacrifice."
The post 13 Years Later, A Fallujah Marine Finally Gets The Silver Star He Deserves appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 08:52 AM PST
For months now, U.S. leadership has been working with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to stand up a new "territorial force" to fend off Taliban elements on the local level. The new security force would consist of "self-defence units of locally recruited men serving in their own villages… to stabilise areas cleared by regular security forces and establish law and order," as The Guardian puts it.
It's easy to see why the United States would want to start from scratch on provincial security in Afghanistan, seeing as the Kabul government actually controls 15% less territory now than two years ago, according to the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. And it's intuitive to want to put local tribes in control of their own security — less work for Americans, and less fertile territory for the bad guys. In theory.
The trouble with intuitive ideas is they've probably been tried before, to poor effect. In this case, the "Afghanistan Territorial Forces" model sure sounds a lot like a gambit we tried in Vietnam: the Regional Forces and Popular Forces, or "Ruff Puffs," as the friendly media described them during the war.
The idea was this: Stand up villagers to defend their villages from infiltration by the Viet Cong. Nearly half a million villagers were enlisted in thousands of companies for the effort, which was as big as the rest of the South Vietnamese army at the time. The Ruff Puffs were extolled by U.S. public affairs officers as heroes. One U.S. major in 1970 extolled them as "gutsy little fellows," according to the New York Times, before he added that "acts of terrorism by the Vietcong are 'a primary indicator that the enemy is weak because if the enemy was strong enough it wouldn’t be necessary.'" (Sound familiar, Iraq/Afghan vets?)
Anyway, you can figure out how that plan went in Vietnam. Plenty of U.S. advisors warned early on that the Ruff Puffs' power to prevent communist infiltration of the villages was a fiction. "Their time and effort is largely spent in making sure the province chief, usually [a Vietnamese] lieutenant colonel, is kept safely out of harm's way," Marine counterinsurgency expert Lt. Col. William Corson wrote in The Betrayal, his stinging 1968 critique of the U.S. strategy in Vietnam. "The result of the failure of the RF to carry their share of the load is not only increased American casualties but also the unnecessary added expense to the American taxpayer who must underwrite their performance."
That sounds uncannily like criticism we've heard about Afghanistan. So it's probably worth noting that once the United States fully withdrew from Saigon and the North Vietnamese Army advanced in 1975, the half-million Ruff Puffs pretty much crumbled immediately.
Relatedly, the United Nations has already expressed concerns that a new U.S.-led territorial militia in Afghanistan will empower some of the most corrupt, anti-Kabul chieftains and local big-swingers. And other critics charge that the whole plan sounds like a reboot of the Afghan Local Police force, which was a hotbed of corruption, insurgent sympathy, and do-nothingism. "Since the Afghan Army suffers from leadership problems at the unit level," one Brookings Institution expert told the Times in September, "there is no guarantee that army will be significantly more capable of controlling the new militias than the previous police leadership managed with the A.L.P."
Everything old is new again!
But then again maybe I'm being cynical and reductive in this extended parallel between Afghanistan and Vietnam. Any thoughts on the contrasts between America's two great Asian land wars? Tell me in the comments or email me. I'll share the best critiques and comments.
The post This ‘New’ US Plan In Afghanistan Sure Sounds A Lot Like A Failed Strategy We Tried In Vietnam appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 07:16 AM PST
Editor's Note: This article was written by Charlie Bailey, Army veteran and Senior Director, Site Development & Operations, USO Pathfinder Program.
Following the unforeseen development of medical issues associated with injuries sustained in Mosul, Iraq, I quickly found myself being medically retired during the summer of 2016. It was not part of the plan. With 16 years in the Army leading specialized and multi-functional teams in the infantry and military intelligence branches, combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and multiple graduate-level degrees, I assumed that my family's transition from military to civilian life would come naturally. I was wrong. Despite everything we had been through during my time in uniform, this was undoubtedly one of the most emotionally challenging and turbulent things that we had ever been through. For the first time in 16 years, we were alone. Furthermore, we had no idea how to navigate the civilian landscape in search of the opportunities and resources that would be necessary to ensure we landed softly on the outside.
First, I was very fortunate to have a personal network of former friends and colleagues that I had remained connected to, and that network was my lifeline. I reached out to multiple organizations hoping that they would provide a very personalized level of support that would be tailored to my situation and skillset. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that most of those organizations had neither the ability nor the bandwidth to deliver what they initially offered. What I needed was a personal connection to people who were genuinely interested in ensuring my family transitioned successfully.
Second, I was on a ticking timeline. While I realized that I needed to take advantage of everything the government was offering while I was still on active duty, my access to that support and those services would end the day that I took off my uniform. As is typically the case, there were resources available on the installation to help us find our way in the local community. Unfortunately, I was not aware of any organization that was willing to work with me and my spouse or had the ability to help us identify opportunities and resources regardless of our destination. Although the government programs and resources I had access to were valuable, they did not have the capacity to work with my wife and I on a personal level or to connect us to opportunities and resources that would support us in all aspects of our transition.
Furthermore, it was not just about me and a new job. Transitioning out of the military involves significantly more than that and it's a family ordeal. Consider the fact that many (if not most) people transitioning out of the military are not actually landing in the local community; they are landing in some other part of the continental United States. I understand this aspect of the challenge very well: We were living in Hawaii when I transitioned; with a large family and the high cost of living, I knew that remaining on Oahu was not an option. As a result, we were forced to identify where we would land and what opportunities and resources were present in that community.
Additionally, my wife and children would be permanently departing from the ultimate gated community where everyone lived separate but similar lives and spoke the same language. They would need to make their way in the civilian world, living outside of an installation and next door to people who had no concept of or connection to the life they had lived previously. The challenge of transition was much larger than simply finding employment; we all needed support.
My wife had mastered life in the military environment and her closest friends were also military spouses. While we had transitioned from one installation to another throughout my career, she had developed an innate ability to identify where everything was located at each new assignment and how to quickly develop a new social support system for both herself and our children. She had never done this in the civilian world and had no idea where to begin. My children were forced move from one school to another at the mid-year point, leaving the friends they had bonded with behind and forced to find new social circles. Regardless of age, this is no easy task, and I can only credit the resilience they had all developed throughout our time in the military for helping them confront the challenge directly.
Finally, I needed to find employment in the continental United States and had no idea where to turn. I was fortunate to have developed a network of friends, colleagues and mentors throughout my time in the military that I had managed to maintain contact with. After countless hours searching and applying for jobs in industries I was not entirely sure I wanted to be a part of, that network became my lifeline. I found the USO through a connection on social media and the rest is history. My first day of terminal leave was my first day with the USO and I have been there ever since. In fact, my first day on the job was the day the USO's PathfinderSM Program began. Unfortunately, the network that I had access to is not something readily available to most service or family members that separate from the military. As a result, the sense of isolation that many of them experience during the transition lifecycle can be overwhelming.
Although I was not able to personally benefit from it, the USO's PathfinderSM Program helps service and family members develop action plans for their transition that considers everything outlined above, and I consider myself blessed to be a part of it. In fact, the timing of my transition could not have been better as I now serve as the program's senior director of site development and operations. In that role, I have an opportunity to help shape the only program out there that has both the willingness and ability to holistically support military service members and their families throughout the transition life cycle. While the USO has historically played a very different role in its support to the military, I am thankful that it has responded to such a critical need as it is uniquely positioned to ensure that every family separating from service has the support needed to ensure a successful transition.
The post My Next Mission: Navigating The Civilian Landscape For The First Time Outside The Military appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 05:01 AM PST
North Korean troops violated the 1953 armistice as they shot over the border and in one case crossed it themselves while chasing a fellow soldier who was making a dash to the South, the United Nations Command said Wednesday.
The allegation came as the UNC released video showing the dramatic defection by the North Korean soldier, who drove a military jeep to the line that divides the peninsula, then ran across it under a barrage of gunfire.
The footage, which was captured by closed-circuit television cameras at the truce village of Panmunjom, shows a vehicle racing on a road until it gets stuck. The defector then jumps out and runs south across a leaf-covered field.
Other North Korean soldiers are seen running from a guard post and the steps of their main reception building in the Joint Security Area, the only point in the Demilitarized Zone where the two sides face each other.
Army Col. Chad Carroll, spokesman for the UNC, said the North Korean army fired across the Military Demarcation Line. He also pointed to a clip he said shows one of the North Koreans briefly crossing the MDL before returning to his side.
"The [North Korean army] violated the armistice," he said during a press conference at South Korea's defense ministry, referring to the 1953 truce that ended three years of fighting but left the two Koreas technically in a state of war.
The soldier, who was hit at least five times, was severely wounded by the gunfire during his Nov. 13 defection.
He remains hospitalized but has regained consciousness after a series of operations, a government official was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.
He asked to watch television, and medical staff reportedly hung a South Korean flag in his room at the Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul.
“For the soldier’s psychological comfort, we’ve shown the patient South Korean movies and he has recovered enough to watch television," the official said.
South Korean military officials have not yet visited or identified the soldier, Yonhap said.
The UNC had planned to release the video last week but announced Friday it would wait until the investigation was complete.
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post Newly Released Video Shows North Korean Soldier’s Dramatic Escape Across Border appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 22 Nov 2017 04:32 AM PST
Three U.S. military service members have been removed from their White House duties after allegedly having improper contact with foreign women during President Donald Trump's Asia tour.
The men, who worked for the White House Communication Agency, allegedly violated their curfews during the president's trip to Vietnam earlier this month, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The agency provides secure communications to the president, vice president and other officials. Vietnam was one of Trump's stops during his 12-day tour of Asia. Service members are supposed to report their contacts for security reasons.
A Defense Department spokesman confirmed to the Post that the Pentagon is investigating the members' behavior abroad.
"We are aware of the incident, and it is currently under investigation," the spokesman said.
The soldiers could lose their security clearances or face court-martials if found guilty, the newspaper reported.
In August, soldiers tasked with protecting Vice President Mike Pence's communications team were reassigned after bringing back women to their hotel while in Panama City, Panama, ABC News reported.
Pence was visiting Panama, Colombia, Argentina and Chile as part of his trips to Central and South America.
©2017 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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