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#Veterans Military

#Veterans Military

Trump May Not Even Show Up To His Own Military Parade

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 02:36 PM PST

President Donald Trump may not even show up to the big military parade supposedly taking place later this year in Washington, D.C.

Although the president has officially ordered the Pentagon to start planning a parade for Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Trump is expected to be in Paris on that day attending a summit alongside 79 other world leaders, according to CNBC.

As a reminder, the good idea fairy-in-chief came up with the idea of having a “grand military parade” through downtown Washington after seeing one in France. And as is often the case, when the president comes up with some crazy idea, Pentagon officials first privately respond with, “huh, is he serious?” and then carry out the order.

The parade is expected to cost anywhere from $10 million to $30 million, according to Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director. It’s also happening on the Sunday of what is typically a long weekend off for most troops, so thanks for your service and all that — now get in goddamn formation.

While the Pentagon confirmed to CBS News it received a memo from the White House ordering a parade on Nov. 11, a Pentagon spokeswoman denied there was a schedule conflict.

“We are looking towards Nov. 11, around Veterans Day, and also possibly in conjunction with the World War I celebrations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a recent briefing, even though Veterans Day is literally on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The White House and State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

So we’ll just have to wait and see as the plans for the most epic dog-and-pony show take shape. Will President Trump be there? Will this parade have tanks, airplane flyovers, or North Korea-style mobile missile launchers? That’s still unclear.

But what we do know for sure: It’s going to feature at least a few pissed off soldiers and Marines singing the EAS song and wishing slow death on their recruiters as they march through D.C.

code red news

The post Trump May Not Even Show Up To His Own Military Parade appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Watch This Unintentionally Hilarious Clip Of A CNN Reporter Firing An AR-15

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 01:29 PM PST

Hey, did you know the AR-15 is really loud?

That it shoots bullets meant to inflict maximum damage?

Or that it looks a lot like the military’s M-16 rifle?

If you didn’t know all these amazing factoids, then you’re in luck, because CNN has a two-minute video filled with all this and more, including reporter Gary Tuchman shooting the AR-15 in the same way I imagine it would be fired by an underperforming second-grader.

ar15 fireCNN


It’s important to point out that right behind Tuchman is retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who could have helped the reporter a little bit more by telling him to place the weapon in his shoulder, put his cheek on the buttstock, or at a minimum, aim down the goddamn sight.

But of course, that would reduce the hilarity of this clip, so never mind.

It turns out that Hertling can fire the weapon properly, but he makes some questionable statements, like being able to fire the AR-15 on “full semi-automatic” — which is not a thing — and that its bullets are designed to inflict maximum damage, as opposed to every other freaking weapon in the world.

The clip is, of course, all part of an ongoing debate over guns in America in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

While reasonable people may support proposals such as background checks for every gun purchase and perhaps, raising the age requirement for getting an AR-15 from 18 to 21, a CNN report like this seems to only illustrate the news organization is a clown show when it comes to reporting on guns.

CNN isn’t alone here. Back in 2016, New York Daily News reporter Gersh Kuntzman was widely mocked for his first-hand report on what it was like firing an AR-15, which he said felt “like a bazooka, and sounded like a cannon.”

You can watch the full CNN clip below, although I recommend putting on the Benny Hill theme music before pressing play.


code red news

The post Watch This Unintentionally Hilarious Clip Of A CNN Reporter Firing An AR-15 appeared first on Task & Purpose.

How To Eat Everything, According To The Army’s Retro Survival Guide

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 01:08 PM PST

There are few foodstuffs more American than the good old-fashioned MRE, that bland, tasteless swill meticulously engineered by the eggheads at the Natick Soldier Systems Center to keep soldiers fit, fed, and ready to perforate ass downrange. But some 45 years ago, the Army felt a wee bit concerned that combat troops probably didn't have a lot of free space in their brainpans for eating intelligently, after being trained for complicated functions like killing, marching, and standing by.

Luckily, this is the U.S. armed forces, so there's a field guide for everything — including an Army guide to long-term survival rations, which recently surfaced among a cache of documents from the CIA archives going back a half-century and released through the Freedom of Information Act. And as far as bland military jargon goes, BOY what a hoot it is!

Shall we take a gander at the menu?

How to eat cereal

army survival guide food instructionsU.S. Army/Muckrock via FOIA

How to eat meat — and meat spread!

army survival guide food instructionsU.S. Army/Muckrock via FOIA

How to eat… peas?

army survival guide food instructionsU.S. Army/Muckrock via FOIA

No instructions necessary for the “interdental stimulator” (read: Bazooka Joe chewing gum)

army survival guide food instructionsU.S. Army/Muckrock via FOIA

And finally, how to eat candy:

army survival guide food instructionsU.S. Army/Muckrock via FOIA

That last one will sound familiar to POGs.

Read the entire guide here:


The post How To Eat Everything, According To The Army's Retro Survival Guide appeared first on Task & Purpose.

This Marine Says The Corps ‘Kicked’ Him ‘To the Curb.’ Now He’s Fighting Back

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 12:57 PM PST

In 2003, Tyson Manker was a 21-year-old Marine corporal leading an infantry squad during the invasion of Iraq. He saw combat, served under fire, and witnessed the indiscriminate violence of war first-hand.

By the end of that year, he was kicked out of the Corps with an other-than-honorable discharge — one of several punitive separations the military hands down, which preclude veterans from accessing the health, education, and disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Manker's bad paper discharge, as they're often called, stemmed from self-medicating with marijuana to treat the symptoms of his then-undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. This was an injury brought on by being party to the accidental death of civilians during chaotic frontline combat on the streets of Iraq at the height of the invasion, according to a March 2 New York Times profile of the former Marine turned-attorney and veterans advocate.

Today, Manker, joined by the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Navy's discharge review board on the basis that it has a "systemic institutional bias or secret policy that discriminates against applicants who suffer from PTSD."

In 2014, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued new guidelines for upgrading discharges, instructing review boards to give "liberal consideration" to the possibility that post-traumatic stress disorder could have contributed to an other-than-honorable discharge. While the Army and Air Force quickly stepped in line, the Navy review board has hardly budged.

As of 2017, the Army and Air Force discharge review boards granted upgrades to 51% of applicants whose appeals were linked to PTSD, according to a Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic statement. For the Navy review board, which oversees appeals from sailors and Marines —  just 16% of similar applications were approved.

Manker attempted to upgrade his discharge in 2016 and submitted  a 65-page petition to the board — only to receive a denial of just several pages, rife with misspellings, the New York Times notes.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Manker filed the March 2 suit on behalf of himself and other similarly discharged Marines and sailors, and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress is representing its members in the lawsuit against Richard V. Spencer, the secretary of the Navy.

"Fifteen years ago when we came home from Iraq and were treated like the scum of the earth, we never thought this day would come," Manker said during a March 2 press conference in New Haven, Connecticut. "And when I say 'we,' I'm referring to the thousands of Marines and sailors who were kicked to the curb by an ungrateful country and a military that prioritizes mission accomplishment over troop welfare at all costs."

The VA issued a new policy last year permitting veterans with other-than-honorable discharges to receive emergency mental health care. But the vast majority of VA mental health care resources remain out of reach for them.

"Not everyone who serves overseas and is injured comes back missing a limb," Manker said. "That doesn't mean that everyone who comes back is perfectly okay … When soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen go to serve on the front lines in a foreign country, when they're injured, their injuries aren't properly treated."

That, Manker added, "is a national disgrace and we're putting our foot down — no more business as usual."


The post This Marine Says The Corps 'Kicked' Him 'To the Curb.' Now He's Fighting Back appeared first on Task & Purpose.

These New Russian Weapons Deserve Embarrassingly Awful Names

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 10:08 AM PST

Anyone who's ever had an Internet connection knows that a government body asking hordes of anonymous shitposters for help with official designations is a recipe for disaster. Just consider the R.S.S. Boaty McBoatyface, the autonomous underwater vehicle deployed by the British government for scientific research in 2016, or Ferry McFerryface, the Welsh transit ferry named the next year. There is no bigger clusterfuck than Internet democracy, and it's hilarious.  

But if you thought the Russian government, known for its electoral meddling, would immediately see the flaws in asking the Internet to help name a slew of brand-new weapons systems, well, you'd be dead fucking wrong. The Russian Ministry Of Defense is looking for a few good comrades to dream up names for some feisty looking weapons systems.

russian weapons

No, I don't know what those systems are designated, because no, I don't speak or read Cyrillic and I'm way too tired to plus in a translation, or really even tweet this for feedback, because fuck you that's why. But what I do know is this: You're all very funny and I would love to see a missile interceptor system named 'R2-D2ski,' perhaps. 

Nothing matters and we're all going to die so be a pal and let's maybe mess around with this poll a bit, hmm? You will be rewarded mightily by our press.

The post These New Russian Weapons Deserve Embarrassingly Awful Names appeared first on Task & Purpose.

A Medal of Honor Recipient Is Speaking Out About Veterans Being ‘Over-Prescribed’

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 10:07 AM PST

There’s a serious crisis in America when it comes to opioids. Millions of Americans are addicted to prescription pain relievers, and tens of thousands die from overdoses each year.

But the veteran community leads the way with a sobering statistic: They are two times more likely to overdose than non-veterans.

And beyond the overdose risk, opioids also offer challenges for mental health treatment since, according to VA data, more than 63 percent of veterans receiving prescription medication for chronic pain also have a mental health diagnosis.

That’s why Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha is lobbying Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to look at other options besides the “quick fix” of giving prescriptions to veterans in pain.

“There are so many different options other than just ‘fill that prescription,'” Romesha said Thursday in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Many injuries affect the muscles, according to Romesha, which may be better suited to chiropractic care instead of a magic pill. He specifically mentioned the Patriot Project in Canton, Ohio, which has a goal of offering free chiropractic care to wounded veterans, military members and their families, and Gold Star dependents.

The organization boasts eight Medal of Honor recipients as board members or spokesmen, along with other prominent retired military leaders.

“The culture we had when I was in was, ‘Here’s pills, get back to work,'” Romesha said, noting that there are other options that should be explored such as chiropractic care or acupuncture. “It’s been world changing.”

There is one option Romesha didn’t mention that’s been embraced by some veterans: medical marijuana. The VA issued guidance late last year on its medical marijuana policy, which allowed doctors to discuss (but not prescribe) marijuana with veterans, although the agency still refuses to study its efficacy.

You can watch Romesha’s full segment with Tapper at CNN.

code red news

The post A Medal of Honor Recipient Is Speaking Out About Veterans Being ‘Over-Prescribed’ appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Air Force Academy Faces More Scrutiny After Failing To Care For Sex Assault Victims

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 08:25 AM PST

The Pentagon’s Inspector General announced Wednesday that it will investigate the troubled Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Air Force Academy.

It’s the third probe into issues with the office, whose leaders, the Air Force found last year, failed to care for victims and were called “derelict” by investigators.

The new investigation will examine whether the office can “respond to, support, and provide victim care to cadet victims of sexual assault,” the Pentagon said.

The latest investigation comes after congressional scrutiny hit the school following revelations about the sexual assault office first reported in The Gazette last fall. The issues with the office were detailed in a 560-page report released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said the school thinks the new probe will help it improve how it deals with sexual assault.

“We look forward to working with and learning from the DoD IG in their evaluation of all aspects of the United States Air Force Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program,” Herritage wrote in an email. “The findings of this will be an opportunity to assess our ability to prevent this crime and deliver the vital care for victims and we welcome that.”

Related: The Military Has Been Fighting Sexual Assault In Its Ranks For Decades, But Women Say It's Still Happening »

The report called for the firing of the office’s former boss, Teresa Beasley, and revealed an office atmosphere that witnesses compared to a toxic high school. The report said victims were ignored as employees of the office filed claims and counterclaims against each other.

The academy has since rebuilt the office with new employees. But that didn’t slow down lawmakers who want answers.

“In response to inquiries from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, dated December 13, 2017, and Senators Mazie Hirono and Tom Udall, dated January 3, 2018, the DoD Office of Inspector General will evaluate aspects of the United States Air Force Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program,” the agency said.

The inspector general’s probe will likely take six months or more as investigators quiz witnesses and rifle through piles of paperwork.

Related: What Happened After I Spoke Out Against Sexual Harassment In The Marines »

The investigation also is expected to be wider than earlier looks at the sexual assault office. It will incorporate an examination of the Office of Special Investigations at the academy to determine if it properly investigates assaults and also examine the school’s mental health care system.

Investigators will also examine whether some sexual assault victims were unfairly discharged from the school.

Herritage said the school has made big strides in addressing sexual assault.

“We have taken numerous steps to address the issues that we identified in the SAPR office and to increase our overall ability to respond, support, and provide victim care at the academy,” he wrote. “We continue to transparently scrutinize our efforts as we strive to develop a culture of dignity and respect at the academy.”

©2018 The Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The post Air Force Academy Faces More Scrutiny After Failing To Care For Sex Assault Victims appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Former West Point Cadet Turns Up In Chicago ER After Getting Shot Fighting ISIS In Syria

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 08:00 AM PST

The emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital was packed with flu patients when Caleb Stevens hobbled through the doors on crutches one evening in January, his leg pulsing with pain from a week-old gunshot wound.

The clerk at the intake desk was unfazed when Stevens said he had been wounded in Syria. She took his passport and told him to join the rest of the people in the waiting room.

So he sat with his mom for 20 minutes, his right leg wrapped in a cast, a splint, and bloody bandages. He was still wearing a red-and-white Christmas sock someone pulled over his foot when he was rushed to a Baghdad hospital for surgery.

As he looked around the ER, Stevens, 23, said he thought some of the other patients "seemed more at risk than I was."

A week before and 6,200 miles away, Stevens was on the roof of a house in the small town of Abu Hamam near the Euphrates River, he said, battling Islamic State as a volunteer fighter with a Kurdish militia group. The Tribune confirmed much of Stevens' unusual account through travel documents, medical records, emails, and interviews with others who said they fought with him. The militia did not respond to inquiries.

On the day he was shot, Stevens was running to retrieve a rifle, he said. A sniper's bullet tore into his calf. "There was blood spurting out. I definitely knew I had been shot but a part of me refused to believe that."

He underwent several surgeries at military hospitals in Syria and Iraq before arriving at O'Hare International Airport, records show. As doctors at Northwestern examined the jagged wound, word made its way to Chicago police that Stevens was somehow connected to Islamic State. The next morning, three officers walked into his room, he recalled. Four more waited in the hall.

"They kind of barged in the hospital room," Stevens said during a recent interview with his mother in their Michigan home. "One of them began aggressively and suspiciously asking questions. They asked me the same questions over and over and over.

"That was kind of my welcome back to the U.S.," he said. "'We think you're a terrorist.' I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, no. I was fighting the terrorists.'''

According to a Chicago police report, Stevens told the officers he was shot "in an exchange of gunfire with unknown offenders" while conducting a "military-style offensive with YPG militia." The report says the FBI was notified, but the federal agency did not respond to Tribune inquiries about the incident.

A handful of Americans have joined People's Protection Units, also known as YPG, and other Syrian militia groups allied with the United States in recent years, according to experts and the federal government. Most of those who sign up are young adults, idealists and those with a military background who sympathize, and perhaps romanticize, the groups' stated fight against Islamic State and oppression in Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

Stevens had spent two years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when he started getting restless to join the conflict. "I didn't want to do two more years of college and job hunting to do something to improve the world," he said. "This felt like something intense and meaningful and something I could jump right into."

caleb stevens isis syriaCaleb Stevens

Caleb Stevens holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in a photo he says was taken at a front-line position in Raqqa, Syria.

A seed is planted

When Stevens was in grade school, a guest speaker for a group called World Vision spoke to the students about philanthropy and helping needy children overseas. That night, Stevens said, he couldn't sleep and decided to use his allowance to support Renaldo, a little boy in Mexico.

His passion for "the cause of justice" grew as he got older, Stevens said.

Stevens was a top scholar and athlete at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., and graduated in June 2012. He dreamed of becoming a soldier. He was interested in what was going on in the Middle East and was looking for more from his college experience than frat parties and dorm life.

Stevens considered joining the U.S. Army, but the war in Afghanistan seemed to be winding down and he had misgivings about how meaningful the Army would be for him. He applied to West Point and headed to New York in 2012.

By that time, Syria was in the midst of civil war. In the United States, the conflict was seen as a battle between the pro-government forces of President Bashar Assad and resistance rebels. But Syria had become many battlefronts involving an array of militias with different objectives. The YPG, a Kurdish militia, was dedicated to protecting Rojava in northern Syria, which is near the Iraq and Turkish borders and has become a home region for Kurds.

Stevens became aware of the YPG in 2014 from news reports of a mass killing in the region. He left West Point that August, according to the academy.

"YPG was the only military force that went into Mount Sinjar and fought off Islamic State. That really got me thinking. Maybe this is something that I could do,'' Stevens said. "I wish more people would put more on the line for the cause of human dignity … Not just having something to live for but having something you're willing to die for."

He was eager to do something, but it would be three years before he set foot in Syria.

Related: Dozens Of American Civilians Are In Syria Fighting Alongside Local Forces Against ISIS »

After leaving West Point, Stevens worked at a horse ranch in Indiana, a ranch in Australia and taught English and computer science in Mali in Africa, he said. Then he enrolled in Deep Springs College, a tiny school on the California-Nevada border that focuses on service and working the land. It was there he studied agricultural policy and infectious diseases. He also learned Kurdish.

Meanwhile, Syria sunk deeper into war. Russia threw its support to the forces of the Assad regime, while the United States backed rebel groups. Elements from each side clashed with Islamic State in the east. Militias battled for territory. Millions fled the country seeking refuge.

It wasn't until February 2017 that Stevens learned through a Rolling Stone article about YPG accepting foreign volunteers. "I started thinking about it and talking about it with people. Running it by my friends and mentors and my mom," he said. "And enough people were saying, 'Yeah, this makes sense for you. I could see you doing this,' that I thought, OK, I'm not crazy. This is something I could actually do.''

But Stevens' mother had reservations.

"We discussed it, kind of, in theory,'' Deborah Stevens said recently as she sat near her son, his wounded leg propped up. "I expressed my concerns. But as it became clear that this was your aspiration, I got on board with it.''

caleb stevens isis syriaJared Keller

Deborah Stevens sits with her son Caleb, who was injured while fighting Islamic State in Syria, on Tuesday Jan. 30, 2018 at home in Michigan. Stevens, 23, was shot in the leg while fighting in Syria. Stevens was operated on recently at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill.

His mother began learning about the warring factions in Syria and the ideals of the Kurdish cause. Over time, she offered her support.

"Caleb has a really big heart and I could see this as a way for him to utilize that aspect of his character together with his skills and really make a difference in the world,'' she said.

Finding out how to join the YPG in its fight in Rojava was surprisingly easy, Stevens said.

The Kurdish fighting forces in Syria have a robust online presence and use Facebook and social media threads to recruit foreigners, including Americans, through provocative postings and photos detailing their efforts. On the Lions of Rojava page on Facebook, several Americans have posted inquiries and expressed interest in joining the cause.

Stevens did a quick Google search and sent a Facebook message to the group, then followed up with an email. In early April 2017, he sent a message that began, "Hello, I'm a leftist from the United States interested in fighting for the cause in Rojava.''

The group sent him a lengthy application, including an exhaustive personality questionnaire, an essay portion and general information about volunteering. The Tribune reviewed the email exchanges between Stevens and the YPG. Messages left with the YPG via email and social media were not returned.

"Rojava is not a place for exotic holiday trips or for adventures," the application read. "Supporting the YPG is not a game and no fun activity for bored people. … You are not going to join a football club or get a new job in a company: you are going to take part in a revolution."

A questionnaire began with basic inquiries about education and family and ended with 70 very specific yes-or-no psychological questions. "Do you have difficulty trusting people? Do you tend to avoid social relationships? Do you believe you have special extrasensory abilities (ability to "sense" a person's presence)? Do you occasionally or often dress or act provocatively to gain attention?"

Stevens filled out the application, clicked send and waited.

He received a short, curt reply: "We have received your ticket and your photo. Please email us again 3 days before your arrival. You will then be given final instructions and a contact number," according to YPG emails reviewed by the Tribune.

Stevens bought a one-way ticket and in July 2017 boarded a plane to fight with rebel forces.

The draw of a foreign war

YPG is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been fighting Islamic State in the east of Syria and, more recently, Turkish forces in the north.

Rojava is viewed as an oasis for certain groups of people in the region fleeing persecution, according to Melinda McClimans, assistant director of the Middle East Studies Center at Ohio State University.

Many of the militia's soldiers are women, she said. Some of them have fled Islamic State and taken up arms against it.

"I think part of the reason why Americans might be attracted to it is that idealistic concept of people being free," McClimans said. "There's definitely romanticism around it."

Because YPG is aligned with U.S.-backed forces trying to defeat Islamic State, there do not appear to be legal ramifications for Stevens and others upon returning from overseas. No charges have been filed against Stevens.

The State Department referred questions about whether Americans are legally allowed to fight for YPG to the Department of Justice, which did not respond to inquiries.

Americans who join or support groups and forces designated as terror groups by the U.S. government, on the other hand, chance arrest on federal charges. Officials estimate there may be a few dozen Americans who have joined Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

McClimans said there hasn't been much academic research on the various fighting forces because the area is difficult to access.

But one thing is clear: The fighting has torn the region apart. More than 400,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict since 2011, according to the World Bank, with 5 million seeking refuge abroad and more than 6 million displaced internally, according to U.N. agencies.

caleb stevens isis syriaWikimedia Commons

The breakdown of Syrian territory as of March 2, 2018. Red denotes territory controlled by the Syrian Arab Republic (SAA), yellow by Syrian Democratic Forces, and black by ISIS

The State Department said it strongly warns against traveling to Syria to join the conflict. The State Department has no consular presence in Syria, and a department official said its ability to provide consular assistance to individuals who are injured or kidnapped, or to the families of people killed in the conflict, is extremely limited. "A small number" of Americans have died after traveling to Syria to take part in the fighting, according to the State Department.

"U.S. citizens who undertake such activity face extreme personal risks, including kidnapping, injury, or death," the State Department said. "The U.S. government does not support this activity."

Taking up arms

With minimal military experience and few instructions, Stevens arrived in Iraq alone and unsure of what was ahead of him, he said.

"They leave you in the dark. I put together a bag of stuff I thought would be useful. A bunch of socks and underwear. A bunch of semi-military equipment, mostly outdoor stuff.''

A copy of his airline ticket shows he set down at Sulaimaniyah International Airport in Iraq on July 23. He was told someone would pick him up, but the man never showed up and Stevens said his luggage was lost somewhere between Jordan and Iraq. He finally made contact after finding a hotel with an Internet connection and checking in.

"My first day was kind of stressful,'' he said.

Stevens was soon joined by a classmate from Deep Springs College, Grayson Scott. "It was a pretty wild experience,'' said Scott, who left the YPG months before Stevens was wounded.

"Caleb is an incredible person," he said in a phone interview. "There isn't anybody I'd rather fight fascism with."

Scott and Stevens trained on old Soviet weapons: AK-47s, a PK machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a Dragunov sniper rifle.

It was about 90 degrees during the day but cooler at night. Stevens said he was paid a small monthly stipend. They lived on the rooftops of abandoned buildings. They drank a hot sugary tea constantly, even on the front lines.

Women and men had separate living quarters but fought together. Their operations took place mostly in the countryside, helping take villages and buildings where Islamic State may have been camped out.

One of Stevens' closest friends during this time was a French recruit in his 30s who said he has been with the YPG for more than two years. Reached by phone in Syria, he said he wanted to be identified only by his Kurdish name, Hogir.

"We have a similar way of thinking,'' Hogir said. "Many of the people who come to fight with the YPG do not adapt well to the environment. Maybe they complain many times for small things. (Stevens) was very disciplined. He was very eager to fight. He knew why he was here and, since he was one of the commanders of the unit, we had to meet every day to discuss a lot of the organization of the unit."

Related: The Trump Administration Is Ready To Keep US Troops In Syria For A Long Time »

It was five months, Stevens said, before his unit saw serious fighting. In early December, the unit moved to the city of Abu Hamam. News reports describe fighting in the area around that time.

"It was surprisingly Western," Stevens said of the town. "Rich and well-developed. It was kind of a weird mix of really nice, tall homes, almost mansions, and then farmland and smaller houses."

Stevens said he began to engage in serious battles. The YPG changed its operations from nighttime assaults to "sniper work'' during the day, covering for other groups that were pushing at the front line.

"There were times when I was afraid for my life and there were times when it felt like it was just a matter of time before I died or got wounded," Stevens said. "But I think being with people that you care about and having a mission that you care about, that does a lot to make you feel like even if you're afraid, you have a reason to get over it."

For eight days, Stevens' unit moved from building to building, close to the front line, as other units moved forward and took new positions. He said he was on sniper duty on a roof Jan. 6 when his unit came under fire.

"We heard something," Hogir said. "You don't hear the shots, you hear like something breaking. Then you see there's a hole in the wall and they are shooting at you. You hear the bullets going through the wall. You hear the wall breaking and the pieces of stone going to the floor. You don't hear the shots."

Everyone ran to a small shelter, but Stevens said he went back for his rifle and was shot. "I fell and I was on my back, so I scooted or crab-walked back into the shelter about 15 or 20 meters away. I was in instant survival mode. There was muscle hanging out and a lot of blood spurting out.”

After a tourniquet and bandages were applied, Stevens said he leaned on Hogir and other soldiers as he hopped down a flight of stairs and was laid on a stretcher. "My friends grunted and sweated for a kilometer until I could get to safety."

Hogir said he and three others carrying the stretcher faced sniper fire on their way to an armed vehicle. The last time he saw Stevens was near a Syrian field hospital.

"He was lying in an armed vehicle with Americans around him,'' Hogir said. "I just said OK, keep in touch, we will see each other very soon.''

Stevens then began a medical journey that he said included stops at hospitals in Syria and Baghdad, treatment by U.S. doctors and five surgeries, four of them in eight days.

Medical records provided by Stevens show he was admitted to the 47th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad on Jan. 7 for a gunshot wound to his lower right leg that fractured a bone, damaged nerves and tore his Achilles tendon.

He was initially admitted under the name "Marauder" until officials could confirm his identity, according to the records. Stevens' name, Social Security number and date of birth were later added.

Stevens underwent surgeries that he was told saved his leg. "The DOD (Department of Defense) and the U.S. Army started taking care of me. It was nice of them.''

Neither the Army nor federal officials would respond to questions about Stevens' whereabouts, care or treatment or the involvement of American troops, doctors or equipment.

The return home

After Stevens was discharged from the combat hospital, he was flown to Amman, Jordan, where he was scheduled for a flight to O'Hare. He said he lost his passport after being shot and was given a provisional one that was issued for just one year, according to a copy he provided.

At the airport in Amman, security officers searched his backpack and found the bullet that doctors had pulled from his leg, Stevens said. They thought this "very suspicious'' and Stevens said he had to check the backpack with his pain medication inside. That meant a 14-hour flight to Chicago with no relief from the pain.

At O'Hare, "a bunch of Border Patrol police took one look at me and my passport and said, 'You're going to have to come with us,'" Stevens said. After two hours, they let him grab the bag so he could take something for the pain, he said. Then they let him go.

Sitting in a wheelchair, reunited with his mom, Stevens said the return to a big American city was jarring. Everything looked "lit up and expensive."

"I felt totally out of place," he said. "Not just with the people but with the environment — how everybody's lives seemed disconnected from what is going on in Syria. It was jarring, kind of. A feeling of not exactly belonging."

After his stay at Northwestern, Stevens said he has been at a hospital closer to his home for continued treatment for his leg. "I can put weight on it now. Even though the fibula is broken, I've started my first baby steps on the road to recovery. But it's kind of a wait-and-see kind of thing.''

In the month since Stevens came home, alliances in Syria continue to shift. Incursions by Turkey could force the YPG to unite with Syrian government forces to fight a common enemy.

Last weekend, Stevens posted on his Facebook page a picture of a former comrade who he said was recently killed while fighting the Turkish army in Syria.

"There were times when I couldn't stand him, and times when I couldn't stand to see anyone but him," Stevens posted. "And one unexpected homecoming when he made me feel as much at home as I've ever felt. And his death mixes all those together into a tangle that won't come undone … Martyrs never die. We remember them when we remember the ideals they died for."

As his leg heals, Stevens considers finishing college, maybe at the University of Michigan or Yale. Once he can walk again, he plans to travel with his mom. They want to go to Scandinavia.

He might even go back to Syria.


©2018 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The Army’s ‘Military Review’ Just Declared The US Was Defeated In Syria

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 07:30 AM PST

I was interested to see in an article in the new issue of "Military Review," a publication of the U.S. Army, conclude that, "Russia appears to have won at least a partial victory in Syria, and done so with impressive efficiency, flexibility, and coordination between military and political action." 

Looking at Putin, the article states that "the Russian campaign might be judged a qualified success from the standpoint of the Kremlin's own objective."

As for the United States, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the authors (who are not Army employees—one is at the Center for Naval Analyses, and the other is at the Kennan Institute) conclude "it is certainly a defeat for those who opposed the Russian-led coalition."

On the other hand, I thought as I read this grim assessment, military victory does not guarantee political success–as the U.S. whole of government has demonstrated so well in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I have to wonder, is winning Syria really that big a prize? Or will there be a sequel ("Syria II: Putin vs. the Ayatollahs") in which Russia grapples with Iran over who is in charge?

Interesting side note from the article, something I didn't know: "Russian drones are rumored to have flown more sorties than manned aviation over Syria. The best Russian drones were licensed production variants of Israeli models—a product of Russian-Israeli defense cooperation. Despite substantial spending on development, Russia still has no armed unmanned aircraft systems, and thus lacks a real time recon-strike option for its drone platforms." Worth keeping this grain of salt in mind when Putin goes shooting his mouth off about all the fancy new weapons he has.


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Medal of Honor Recipient Clint Romesha: People Should Stop ‘Armchair Quarterbacking’ What They’d Do In A School Shooting

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 07:25 AM PST

Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha says people need to stop “armchair quarterbacking” what they would do during a school shooting.

In an appearance on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Romesha said all those would-be heroes should “stop talking about it” if they’ve never been in a situation like that. Although the question from Tapper was vague and mentioned “some people” were saying they would have run into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to confront the gunman, President Donald Trump said earlier this week he would have “run in there,” even if he were unarmed.

Trump went on to criticize police officers on scene, saying they “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.”

Romesha — who is a Medal of Honor winner (yes, I know, he’s a recipient and you don’t “win” it) — knows a thing or two about running into fire. During a coordinated attack on his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009, Romesha ran repeatedly through enemy fire to tend to wounded soldiers, lead his men, and kill enemy fighters.

Here’s what he said in full:

It’s one of those…I never looked to go be a hero. I guess I don’t feel like I’ve ever been a hero. I’m just someone who did a job. Until you’re actually put in that experience, that situation, it’s all about timing. We’re all going to be faced with something in our lives. But to hear someone say in hindsight — armchair quarterbacking — ‘Yeah I would’ve ran in there and would’ve done this, that, and the other,’ well until you do it, you know, stop talking about it.


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Warren Buffett On The People He Works For

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 06:30 AM PST

Hyper-billionaire Warren Buffett, in addition to being rich, is the best business writer of our time. I particularly liked this comment in his latest annual report, which has a sense of humanity in it often lacking in our public discourse these days:

"We do not follow the common practice of talking one-on-one with large institutional investors or analysts, treating them instead as we do all other shareholders. There is no one more important to us than the shareholder of limited means who trusts us with a substantial portion of his or her savings. As I run the company day-to-day – and as I write this letter – that is the shareholder whose image is in my mind."

I don't think this is sentimental hokum. Rather, I think it is someone who appreciates the value of a dollar to people trying to get by on what they have saved over a lifetime of hard work. As a former Berkshire Hathaway shareholder (when I was a reporter there, the Wash Post Co. sold shares to employees without charging commission costs, but I sold the stock to buy the house in Maine), I am thankful to him.


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A Marine Officer Allegedly Concluded A Multi-State Adultery Spree By Terrorizing His Wife

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 06:29 AM PST

A commissioned officer at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is accused of terrorizing his wife, bedding mistresses across three states and then trying to cover it all up by blackmail and threats.

In a series of eight assaults allegedly committed in late 2015 in or near San Diego, Capt. Jameson P. Hustek twice bent the wrist of his wife, twice lifted her off the ground and suspended her in the air, twice struck her head and once placed a knife near her neck and hit her arm, according to a charge sheet prepared by the Corps.

Between October 2012 and mid-September 2015, he also allegedly engaged in a string of sexual relationships with individuals other than his wife, including a monthlong 2014 affair in Nashville with a woman in such a manner that was "unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman."

An MV-22B Osprey pilot assigned to the "Lucky Red Lions" of Miramar's Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Hustek is accused of carrying on another adulterous romance in Florida in late 2015, plus San Diego liaisons beginning three years earlier.

Because members of the armed forces are held to a high ethical standard, adultery is a military crime. Prosecutors lodge charges against suspects when the alleged misconduct is prejudicial to good order and discipline or brings discredit upon the services.

Prosecutors contend that Hustek, 34, tried to cover up his liaisons and the abuse of his wife, 29.

On Dec. 5, 2015, he communicated to an unnamed witness that he had forwarded a message to himself "to keep as leverage in case I need it" in case he or she tried to "do something crazy," according to charge sheet documents.

The next day, he allegedly threatened to harm a witness — the name was redacted by Marine officials — if his actions were reported to commanders.

And then on Christmas Eve of 2015, he allegedly tried to get an unnamed witness to cooperate with him, promising "tons of money from me."

"Also no going around telling people I am a slime bag. If you do either, it's not going to go well for you," he allegedly said, according to records released to The San Diego Union-Tribune under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Formerly from Connecticut, Hustek was informed of the charges against him on Oct. 2, the records show.

On Nov. 20, Maj. Gen. Mark "Notso" Wise — commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing — convened a court-martial for him but officials have not indicated when the trial will begin.

Hustek did not return telephone or email messages seeking comment. His attorney, John Shelburne, strongly defended him.

"We're contesting the charges and will continue to vigorously contest them going forward," he said.

Pointing to the ongoing litigation, Miramar officials declined comment.

Hustek remains free on his own recognizance, according to his criminal records. He remains on active duty.

Allegations of spousal abuse have long dogged the military.

Released in May, the Pentagon's annual study on domestic abuse showed that the number of incidents and victims reported to the military's Family Advocacy Program ticked up in 2016 — the most recent year available — highlighting a pattern of incremental growth since 2009.

Called the "unduplicated rate" of spousal abuse because it weeds out multiple reports of domestic violence linked to the same partners, the program reported 9.3 victims per 1,000 couples in 2016, up from 9.1 per 1,000 couples in 2015.

The Pentagon counted nine spouse or intimate partner fatalities in 2016. Three of the victims and an equal number of offenders already had been reported to the program.

The typical victim is a female spouse. Slightly more than half also serve in the military.

While the typical offender also is in the military, reported cases of officer offenders remain relatively rare. Only about 1 percent of them are junior officers, according to the Pentagon data.

Details about Hustek's case emerged only because of a series of federal records requests and appeals by the Union-Tribune over the past five months.

Unlike most other military units nationwide, policies instituted by officials at 3rd Marine Air Wing, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Marine Division and Marine Corps Recruit Depot have delayed or blocked release of criminal justice information to citizens, often for months after a court-martial trial concluded.

Even a list of court-martial cases that was supposed to appear on an online trial docket was denied to the Union-Tribune before Navy officials overturned that decision following a formal appeal by the newspaper to an administrative court at the Navy.

After that victory and two other successful appeals, the Union-Tribune awaits decisions in five other cases filed against the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Marine Corps Recruit Depot and several other commands that refused to release records tied to three suspicious deaths at Camp Pendleton as well as multiple rape, battery and criminal cases tied to the troops.


©2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The Best Airborne K-9 You’ll See All Week

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 05:06 AM PST

'Shiva' is in the Marines. Cleared hot.

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