- Afghanistan Veteran Receives World’s First Total Penis And Scrotum Transplant
- US Troops To Show They Can Do Dog And Pony Shows Just As Well As The French
- The Military Veteran’s Guide to Civilian Lingo In The Workplace
- ‘Super Troopers 2’ Was Worth The Wait
- The Company Behind Your Favorite Firearm Accessories Make A Pretty Slick Wallet, Too
- A New Film Reexamines The Haditha Massacre With Troubling Conclusions For The Corps
- This Deported Marine Veteran Came Home The Only Way He Could — In A Casket
- The ‘Most Powerful’ Helicopter Ever Fielded By The US Is Also The Most Expensive
- Why Do So Many Recent Veterans Dislike Police Officers?
- North Korea’s Shocking Nuclear And Missile Test Announcement Isn’t What It Seems
- The Army Reserve Simply Doesn’t Have Enough People Willing to Fill Command Slots
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 04:37 PM PDT
Doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said a U.S. military sergeant has received the world’s first total penis and scrotum transplant.
The man, who has not been identified, was injured in an IED blast in Afghanistan several years ago.
“We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” said W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The 14-hour surgery, conducted by a team of nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons on March 26, involved a transplant from a deceased donor of the entire penis, the scrotum without testicles and partial abdominal wall. The testicles, which could have contained sperm from a deceased donor, were not included in the transplant.
The Pentagon has focused on advancements in genital transplants to treat the scores of soldiers injured by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a statement, the recipient said his injury was “not an easy one to accept.”
“When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal…with a level of confidence as well. Confidence… like finally I’m OK now,” he said.
The patient is expected to be discharged from the hospital this week.
The procedure is the second penis transplant to be reported in the U.S., but the first full transplant of its kind.
©2018 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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Posted: 23 Apr 2018 03:43 PM PDT
There is absolutely nothing that troops love more than standing at attention in formation — especially in the hot sun.
That's exactly what nearly 500 service members from all five military branches will do on Tuesday when President Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron "review the troops" on the White House's South Lawn.
To be clear, all presidents inspect troops. It is customary for the president and the visiting head of state to review the troops during such visits, Adrienne Combs, a spokeswoman for the Military District of Washington, told Task & Purpose. This is not a tradition that began with the Trump administration.
Trump is not the first U.S. president to be influenced by European military showmanship. Former President Nixon was so impressed by Spanish palace guards that he required Secret Service agents guarding the White House to wear Spanish-style military caps that looked nothing like anything U.S. troops or police officers (the headgear did not last long).
Macron and his wife Brigitte arrived Monday in Washington, D.C., for the Trump administration's first state visit.
The Army is sending three units: two from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard"), including the Presidential Salute Gun Battery; and the United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own," Combs told Task & Purpose on Monday.
Marines from Alpha, Bravo, and Headquarters & Service companies based at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., will represent the Corps, said Capt. Colleen McFadden, a spokeswoman for the D.C.-based Marines.
American presidents are typically either Anglophiles or Francophiles, and Trump appears to have both feet clearly in the Gallic camp, just like Thomas Jefferson. On Monday, the two leaders and their families planted a tree from Belleau Wood, the site of a historic World War I battle that is important to Marine Corps Lore.
The forest was renamed "Woods of the Marine Brigade" after the 5th Marine Regiment, which cleared the woods of German troops in June 1918. According to service legends, the Marines fought so tenaciously that the Germans nicknamed them "Devil Dogs."
For the troops who will be standing at attention in their dress uniforms on Tuesday as the leaders of the United States and France pass by in review, remember to hydrate and not to lock your knees. No one wants to be the one who falls out and hears Macron yell, "Sacré bleu!"
The post US Troops To Show They Can Do Dog And Pony Shows Just As Well As The French appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 01:18 PM PDT
When I was a staff officer in the Army, once a quarter we'd meet for a day of the most painfully long PowerPoint briefs you can imagine. Quarterly training briefs (QTBs) would lay out all of our unit's training goals and our overarching status on our mission essential task list (METL). These meetings were a long list of slides with red, amber, or green bubbles that gave a snapshot of how close we made it to our goals.
Turns out, the civilian world has many of the same processes. Actually, the larger organization you join, the more likely it is to feel like the military. That's why I was surprised when I joined a startup and we had a meeting that felt just like a QTB. Granted, we were on the large side of a startup, with 140 people, but when we assembled for an "all hands meeting," I saw the projector fire up and slides load, I felt like I was right back in the Fort Riley, Kansas battalion classroom.
While the format felt mighty familiar — each section head presenting what their team accomplished in the last quarter and setting goals for the next — the acronyms were different (and thankfully, they were using Google Slides, not PowerPoint).
Once you make the jump to a civilian job, you'll have to do some internal translating for the first few months. To help you get started, here is a selection of acronyms and phrases you need to know:
All hands meeting or town hall: This is what many companies name their monthly or quarterly meetings that the entire staff attends.
OKR: Objectives and Key Results. This goal framework was originally developed by Intel's CEO and later made popular by Google. Many startups and tech companies use OKRs the way we used METL in the Army. For example, in the military, an objective might be to make a battalion 90% deployable. A key result would be all companies reaching a 95% rate for weapons qualification or hitting 90% for medical readiness. A civilian company's objective could be to increase profit by 10% month over month for the next six months. A key result for a tech company could be increasing page views from 300,000 to 800,000 in those six months. Another key result could be hitting app download numbers each month. Results are quantifiable markers of progress toward the objective.
KPI: Key Performance Indicators. In the military a KPI could be PT scores. A civilian example could be customer service ratings or number of fans on social media. Anything that indicates performance — good or bad — can be an indicator.
Fiscal Year (FY): Unlike the military's fiscal year, based on the U.S. government's October schedule, civilian fiscal years are whenever the company decides to mark a year in regards to accounting. Some start in January at the beginning of the new year. But, in some industries, a June fiscal year is the norm.
EOD: End of Day. This is the civilian version of COB; end of day versus close of business — it means the same thing.
PM: Product or product manager, most often heard at tech companies or digital agencies.
Looping you in: Adding you to the conversation.
Circle back: We'll come back to it.
It's a safe bet you'll hear more acronyms specific to the industry you choose than the ones outlined above. And, over time, you'll get to know civilian jargon just as well as you learned the military's endless amount. But it's always smart to learn some of the language before you even set foot in an interview. In my experience, at least, I heard OKRs in my first interview and had to scramble to figure out what it meant.
The post The Military Veteran's Guide to Civilian Lingo In The Workplace appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 11:57 AM PDT
Back in high school, I was a tennis-playing theater kid who was scared of a dodgeball. Then I saw Super Troopers and my life was changed. I developed a love for cheap beer, babes, and mustaches. I'm also pretty sure it's also what motivated me to become a Marine.
Seventeen years have passed since then, and the idea of a sequel seemed like nothing more than a rumor for the longest time. But after one intense IndieGoGo campaign by the Broken Lizard crew and three years of hoping and praying, Super Troopers 2 is finally here — and as the reviews come in it's important to note that mine is the only one that matters.
I was a little worried that the movie would suck since so many comedic sequels leave me feeling like I just drank a skunk beer; I walked out of Anchorman 2 wondering if I would ever be the same. Those fears subsided about one minute into the movie.
The plot (without giving away any spoilers) is simple: the former officers of the Spurbury Police Department, in need of new work after an incident involving Fred Savage, and are called up to assist the U.S. in the smooth takeover of a Canadian town due to a newly-discovered border problem. This allows not just for some beautiful verbal jabs between Americans and Canadians alike, but for the notorious Officer Farva to transform into the human avatar of every angry veteran you've ever seen online (if you've seen it, please let me know what you think of his rendition of the National Anthem).
Part of the appeal of the sequel is that, well, it doesn't really feel like a sequel. The original script for Super Troopers had the goal of a joke every six seconds. Super Troopers 2 maintains that goal without having to rely on callbacks from the first film, allowing for a true standalone comedy despite its sequel status.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 11:15 AM PDT
While you probably know them for tactical gear — P-Mags, weapon stocks and the like — Magpul makes some other handy stuff. Today I take a look at their Magpul DAKA Everyday Wallet. Having put in some time with it, I like it. It does everything I ask of it in a nice clean package
Ivan Loomis is a former Marine who also served in the Air Force. This review originally appeared on Kit Badger.
The post The Company Behind Your Favorite Firearm Accessories Make A Pretty Slick Wallet, Too appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 11:15 AM PDT
On Sunday night, a full house turned up at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan for the premiere of "House Two," an investigative documentary more than decade in the making that makes troubling allegations regarding the Marine Corps' handling of one of the most brutal war crimes cases of the Iraq War. It also raises questions about the involvement of the current Secretary of Defense in a serious miscarriage of justice.
When filmmaker Michael Epstein originally set out to make a 40-minute documentary about the trial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, one of the Marines implicated in the 2005 slayings of 24 Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha, "Jim Mattis was the last man on Earth I wanted to malign or take on," he told Task & Purpose.
The film tells a dramatically different story than the version presented by the media when Haditha was dominating headlines around the world. And it could prove problematic for the Marine Corps. It comes at a particularly delicate time for Mattis, a beloved military leader and once a favorite of President Donald Trump, who was reportedly overruled by the President on the appropriate response to chemical weapons gas attacks in Syria, along with other policy issues.
The film's argument relies in part on the testimony of special agents Mike Maloney and Tom Brady, both former Marines, who had helmed the Haditha investigation for the Naval Criminal Investigative Services and were responsible for providing the forensic evidence the Marine Corps needed to successfully prosecute the case.
Ultimately, the prosecution appears to have ignored or dismissed their findings, granting blanket immunity to seven of the eight Marines implicated in the massacre to build a case against Wuterich based almost entirely on their testimony. As Maloney put it in a recent interview with Task & Purpose, "They went after Frank Wuterich in the face of evidence that did not support it at any level."
In March 2006, when allegations first surfaced that U.S. Marines had rampaged through a residential enclave of Haditha, killing unarmed men, women, and children, the Corps dismissed the claims as insurgent propaganda. The massacre began after a convoy of Marines with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines struck an IED that killed a beloved member of Wuterich's squad and wounded two others.
According to the Washington Post, a classified Army investigation later concluded that officers in the accused's chain-of-command "may have willfully ignored reports of the civilian deaths to protect themselves and their units from blame." House Two goes a step further, making a case that the prosecution put witnesses on the stand who they knew were lying in an attempt to, as Epstein put it, "bury the truth in court."
Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps judge who now teaches U.S. military law at Georgetown University, flatly dismisses Epstein's hypothesis. "It's my experience that in the Marine Corps, we do the best we can," he said. "Some cases just don't make it. Sometimes you screw up, you make a mistake. Sometimes you make a conscious decision to go after A when you should've gone after B, but it's not because you had a bad motive. It's just because you screwed up."
"House Two" is a reference to the designation NCIS agents used in their reports when referring to the home where some of the grizzliest killings took place. Two women and five children were shot to death at close range in one of the bedrooms. Maloney's forensic analysis — and the testimony of a survivor that the prosecution withheld from investigators until it was too late — indicated that Wuterich couldn't have been one of the shooters. The prosecutors charged him anyway.
In January 2012, Wuterich walked out of a courtroom on Camp Pendleton having pled guilty to just one count of negligent dereliction of duty. His punishment amounted to a reduction in rank of private. The Haditha case had been one of the longest, most expensive courts-martial in history, but neither he nor any of the other Marines involved in the massacre spent even a single day in the brig.
And as the convening authority who signed off on many of the key decisions along the way, including granting immunity to Marines who, the forensic evidence suggests, may have committed serious crimes, Mattis made such an outcome all but inevitable, the film contends.
"I'm not going to speculate on why Mattis did what he did," Epstein said. "My only hope is that he watches this film, realizes how fucked up it was, and goes back and fixes it."
The Office of the Secretary of Defense did not respond to a request to interview Mattis for this article.
Opinions about how and why the prosecution's case against the Marines failed so spectacularly varied among the members of Wuterich's defense team, who attended the premiere and fielded questions from the audience after the film. Attorney Haytham Faraj, a former Marine Corps lawyer who now practices law as a civilian, said he had worked with Mattis in the past — including on another war crimes case — and knew him to be a very scrupulous convening authority.
"James Mattis is one of the most detail-oriented commanders the Marine Corps has known, and there is no way he didn't read every document in this investigation," Faraj said. "I think that Mattis understands the challenges of war."
Faraj's former Marine Corps colleague, Colby Vokey, disagreed, explaining that he too had previously worked with Mattis — "on many different matters" — and was certain the decisions he made throughout the Haditha case were guided by "a lot of bad" and "conflicting" advice.
"You can take a set of facts and what happened, and kind of pitch a story, and if you control the evidence to your audience, that's all they'll know," Vokey said. "We've read all of those documents. I can't even count the number of times and there's still a disagreement among the three of us about exactly what went on in the back bedroom of house two."
The post A New Film Reexamines The Haditha Massacre With Troubling Conclusions For The Corps appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 11:00 AM PDT
Veteran Lance Cpl. Enrique Salas’ flag-draped casket was loaded into a hearse with a Marine Corps seal and two miniature American flags protruding from either window.
Salas finally made it home to the central San Joaquin Valley the only way he could.
The Persian Gulf War veteran, who was deported to Mexico in 2006, was buried with military honors in a Reedley cemetery on Friday beside his younger brother, another fallen Marine.
“My parents gave two of their children to the Marine Corps, and now they’ve lost both of us,” Salas once told the American Civil Liberties Union for a report titled “Discharged, then Discarded: How U.S. veterans are banished by the country they swore to protect.”
“The veterans, they fought for the country,” said Salas’ sister, Miriam Rodriguez, tearfully outside St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Reedley. “Some made some mistakes, but they shouldn’t be punished by being sent to a foreign country. He was here since he was a kid. He grew up here.”
Salas, a graduate of Reedley High School, was recently seriously injured in a car accident in Tijuana, where he was living after he was deported.
Rodriguez said an emergency humanitarian parole visa was applied for after the accident and was granted 10 days later to transport him across the border to receive better medical care from the University of California, San Diego. While waiting, he suffered a heart attack, then another en route to San Diego, where he was pronounced brain dead. His sister called the treatment he received in Mexico “inhumane” and “awful.”
Salas died April 12 at age 47.
Hardworking and funny, family and friends recall, Salas was devoted to his family and finding a way to return to them. His jovial, warm personality earned him the nickname of “Papa Bear.”
“Unfortunately, we were not able to bring him back to the United States to seek the medical treatment that he’s entitled to in time to save his life,” said Ricardo Franco, chairman of the Committee on Deported Veterans under the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party.
Salas is among up to 1,500 U.S. veterans who have been deported, Franco said, with an estimated 200 to 300 alive and known by the Committee on Deported Veterans.
Franco, who is running for Congress against incumbent Rep. Devin Nunes, said it’s hard to get an exact number because immigration officials and the Department of Veterans Affairs don’t keep track of how many deportees are veterans.
“Getting deported to a country that you don’t really understand is one of the worst crimes that we can ever think of,” Franco said, “and to think that this is happening to people who put on that uniform and swore allegiance to our country to protect it from every single other country on this planet – then we discard them like this, it’s a national travesty and disgrace, quite frankly.”
Franco was among around 150 people who attended Salas’ funeral Mass, including friend and fellow deported veteran Hector Barajas.
Barajas, director of Deported Veterans Support House, made national headlines this month after Gov. Jerry Brown granted him a pardon that paved the way for his return to California. Last week, he became a U.S. citizen.
Barajas believes the same fate was in store for Salas. “He was one of the guys who was going to be able to come home. … We shouldn’t bring these men and women home in a body bag.”
Barajas said the Deported Veterans Support House is aware of more than 350 men and women who are being deported to 42 countries, or who have recently been deported.
Deporting a veteran
The ACLU report details Salas’ story. It begins with his arrival in Los Angeles at age 6 with his parents and four younger siblings.
Salas wanted to be a Marine from the age of 11, when he saw a television commercial recruiting for the Marine Corps. He enlisted at age 17 and celebrated his 18th birthday in boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
Salas served four years’ active-duty in security details in the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. He was honorably discharged in 1992 after serving in the Persian Gulf War, his military record rife with commendations including National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Ribbon, and Good Conduct Medal. He remained in the Marine Reserve until 1996.
However, the report goes on to say, Salas began to struggle with drugs, which he attributed in part to his military service. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Salas was convicted in 2004 for possession of a controlled substance for sale, which was flagged as an aggravated felony under amended immigration law that made his deportation mandatory.
He was arrested on the spot at a border checkpoint in December 2006 while trying to return home on a trip with family to Tijuana. Salas had asked for a replacement green card at the checkpoint after losing his wallet in Tijuana.
“Facing a long detention that would prevent him from providing for his family and without enough money to consult an attorney, Salas signed his own deportation order,” the report reads. “He believed his military service and his grandmother's status as a U.S. citizen would help, but it was to no avail.
“After 30 years in the United States, including four years of honorable active-duty military service, Salas was forced into exile.”
Desperate to reunite with his family and provide for his two daughters, he reentered and was deported from the country two more times. After receiving a traffic ticket in 2014, the report states Salas was prosecuted on a federal charge of illegal reentry after a removal order and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
“The judge acknowledged Salas' military record and work history, but under the 1996 immigration mandates, his hands were tied. ‘I don't know what you're doing here,’ the judge reportedly said. ‘You don't belong in Mexico, but I can't do anything for you.”
Waiting for answers
In Tijuana, Salas met other deported veterans through the Deported Veterans Support House. He was active with the group, attending as many of their events as possible in hopes he’d someday be allowed to return to his family in Reedley.
Through his own research, Salas learned he had been eligible to become a U.S. citizen upon discharge from the Marines. Had he applied for citizenship anytime prior to his 2004 conviction, he could have been a citizen, the report reads, “but he was never given what would have been life-changing information.”
In Tijuana, Salas lived with a relative and worked for a plant that services and repairs industrial gas tanks.
He was unable to continue his treatment for PTSD in Mexico. He also suffered from back pain that may have stemmed from a car accident while in the Marines.
Franco said so much of Salas’ life was stolen from him.
“We have to recognize this as that kind of travesty and correct it,” Franco said.
Fred Martinez stood solemnly outside the Reedley church as the body of his second cousin was loaded into the hearse.
Martinez, also a retired Marine, said Salas’ death “really hits me pretty hard.”
“This is a bad way to get back to the states.”
©2018 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post This Deported Marine Veteran Came Home The Only Way He Could — In A Casket appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 09:46 AM PDT
The CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is on track to enter arsenals around the world within the next few years — but it'll cost militaries a pretty penny.
Marine Corps officials announced early this month that the CH-53K was on track to enter service sometime in 2019 as a replacement for the existing CH-53 Echo fleet. Weeks later, manufacturer Sikorsky debuted the CH-53K at a German air show in a move that, per Aviation Week, signals that the defense contractor is "preparing to fight for export orders." Both are signs of the King Stallion's imminent arrival downrange after more than a decade in development.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght told the audience at the annual Sea-Air-Space expo on April 9, per Military.com. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But boy, the King Stallion is expensive as hell. Back in April 2017, a leaked decision memo revealed that each CH-53K would cost around $138.5 million; a month later, that figure had ballooned to $144 million apiece. All of these figures are well above the multimillion-dollar price tag of the notoriously garbage F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter, which has seen its price decline in recent weeks.
The King Stallion's costs will likely only grow. After the CH-53K successfully pulled off its first cross-country flight last summer, Naval Air Systems Command announced its first official production contract for two helicopters for $303.97 million, or just under $152 million for each aircraft, "along with engineering and integrated logistics support, spares, and peculiar support equipment."
Then again, the King Stallion might just be worth the eye-popping price tag. Sikorsky engineered the CH-53K to haul up to 27,000 pounds, three times the cargo of the Pentagon's current heavy-lift workhorse, without any significant changes in the airframe dimensions. And that makes a difference downrange, as Task & Purpose's Brian Jones wrote of the King Stallion in March:
When I was in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, the CH-53 was so critical to combat operations it was the only squadron the Marine Corps kept two iterations of. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) had a CH-53E Super Stallion squadron and a CH-53D Sea Stallion squadron. But both versions of the aircraft were decades old, but were incredibly busy across the theater of operations. Those platforms desperately need to be upgraded.
The new CH-53K King Stallion certainly seems to be an excellent iterative development of this combat-tested and combat-proven platform. The new helicopter can hoist an external payload of more than 27,000 pounds, more than triple what the CH-53E could do. While the old version, the CH-53E, was just barely too thin to hold a Humvee in its fuselage, the new helicopter can hold a Humvee.
It's also worth noting that unlike other uber-expensive next-generation military projects, the King Stallion isn't a complete garbage pile (see: the Littoral Combat Ship). Sure, the program has its set of very special technical problems — airspeed indication anomalies, reliability issues in the rotor gearbox, and tail boom and rotor structural problems, according to a 2017 DoD report — but the airframe has demonstrated mission reliability beyond expectations for this point in its development lifecycle.
"I am proud of what the team has negotiated to bring this remarkable and unrivaled helicopter one step closer to the fleet," Vanderbrough said of the airframe in September. "Future Marines, not even born yet, will be flying this helicopter well into the future." Here's hoping he's right.
The post The 'Most Powerful' Helicopter Ever Fielded By The US Is Also The Most Expensive appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 06:30 AM PDT
The photos out of Newnan, Georgia, of local police pointing rifles at peaceful demonstrators over the weekend, reminded me of a running discussion I've been having with several friends: Why do so many of our recent veterans dislike police officers?
The first answer, which some have said to me, is that the cops treat them like they treated Afghans and Iraqis, with weapons, flex-ties, and shouts that often were not understood. A second answer is that while our vets were off fighting our wars, a lot of local police militarized after 9/11, getting body armor, military helmets, automatic weapons, and even wheeled armored vehicles.
But a third, more complex answer, on top of those two, is that the soldiers feel they were well trained to use all that tactical gear, but that the police are not — and that is dangerous.
"The worst thing we can do is give police military equipment without the training that needs to go with it," Aaron Barruga, a former Special Forces soldier, wrote in my old Best Defense column. "Without such training, departments that are given military equipment simply will informally make up their own tactics. This uncertainty can lead quickly to tactics that are actually dangerous to officers and citizens alike."
What do you think, commenters? Are you under 35 or so, and if so, have you felt this way toward the police? (Old white guys, your experience is different. When I got pulled over on I-95 in Maine in December in our rental Behemoth, after a deer clobbered our Subaru, the State Trooper smiled and said, "I have to ask this: Do you have any drugs in the vehicle"?—and then he laughed. My wife said, "Well, Ambien.")
The post Why Do So Many Recent Veterans Dislike Police Officers? appeared first on Task & Purpose.
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Posted: 23 Apr 2018 05:30 AM PDT
Within minutes of North Korea's announcement that it was suspending nuclear and missile tests and closing a test site, President Donald Trump proclaimed a victory of sorts.
"Big progress!" he tweeted, eager to bask in the glow of credit for having influenced a significant reversal by a traditionally intractable foe. "Look forward to our Summit," a potentially historic first-time meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
But Kim Jong Un was also basking in what he sees as his new and fortified position of strength.
Kim's announcement merely reiterated promises he had made last month: a moratorium on nuclear tests in the run-up to a summit this week with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and then the Trump encounter planned to take place by mid-June.
Kim can afford to suspend tests because, he proclaimed earlier this year, his nuclear arsenal is complete — and capable, he claims, of attacking the United States. He has not offered to give up any bombs or dismantle any production infrastructure.
According to the South Koreans, Kim has also offered to drop his usual demands that U.S. troops leave the Korean peninsula and that Seoul and Washington end joint military exercises.
The eagerness with which many in Trump's inner circle seem willing to embrace Kim's apparent overtures would bolster a notion percolating in the administration — not acknowledged publicly — that a nuclear-armed North Korea is already a fait accompli. The more realistic goal now is to freeze, reduce or contain North Korea's bellicose capabilities, but not eliminate them.
Tacitly, North Korea would be unofficially recognized as a nuclear power, fulfilling Kim's dream, albeit short of becoming a full-fledged member of the so-called nuclear club under terms of the 1970 international nonproliferation treaty.
Officially, the U.S. goal remains a "complete, irreversible and verifiable" ending of North Korea's nuclear program, as unlikely as many experts here and in Asia believe that to be.
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said North Korea would not receive any economic assistance unless it takes steps to remove or destroy the weapons.
"We are not to give them a nickel until they substantively dismantle their nukes," the official said.
Japan has also been assured that Trump will not strike a deal that allows Kim to keep short- and medium-range missiles, which threaten Japan. "The president was very strong and reassuring on that front," the official said.
Veteran U.S. diplomats warn that any apparent concessions that Kim offers in the run-up to the summits do not mean the wily leader has changed his spots.
Kim "studied at the feet of the master," another administration official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity, alluding to the dynastic nature of the North Korean leadership. Kim learned from his ruthless father, who learned from his father, the revered founder of the nation.
Kim has long invested his legitimacy in his nuclear program. But, the diplomats said, he may now believe that, by building the arsenal and killing or otherwise eliminating potential challengers, he has consolidated his power to the degree that he can change the narrative and reshape his image and that of his struggling country.
Also of concern, the United States and North Korea speak with different vocabularies. "Denuclearization" does not necessarily mean the same thing to both countries, a nuance that the inexperienced Trump entourage may not grasp.
Trump last week expressed optimism about the summit — its exact date and location yet to be determined — after the secret visit in early April of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to discuss details with Kim. Pompeo is now Trump's nominee for secretary of State.
"I think we're going to be successful," Trump said, while also promising to walk out of the talks if he did not sense progress. "But for any reason if I think we're not (successful), we end," he said.
Some experts fear the opposite could take place. Trump, with his proclivity for braggadocio, might declare a great accomplishment when nothing of substance had in fact been agreed upon.
Trump loyalists at the State Department and within the White House have credited his "campaign of maximum pressure," a combination of crippling economic sanctions, aggressive rhetoric and occasional words of outreach, with changing Kim's behavior.
"The president has made clear that continuation of the pressure campaign is the tool that enables the opportunity to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome in North Korea," Pompeo testified at his hearing to become secretary of State before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month.
"President Trump isn't one to play games at the negotiating table, and I won't be either," he added.
Indeed, Kim may have met his match in hyperbolic threats, when "Little Rocket Man" — Trump's one-time derogatory nickname for Kim — took on "the Deranged Dotard," as Kim responded in describing Trump.
And the sanctions, which the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, says have choked off nearly 90 percent of North Korea's legal export revenue, have clearly hurt an already impoverished nation. Sanctions packages have been imposed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council and also unilaterally by the Trump administration, essentially a continuation and ratcheting up of President Barack Obama's policies.
"Our sanctions are working," Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., a Trump supporter, said Saturday. "The message is becoming clear to Kim Jong Un that he's been isolated by sanctions and no one in the modern world wants North Korea to have nuclear capabilities."
But other factors are also at play. Moon, a recently elected progressive with a more reconciliatory attitude toward Pyongyang, has instigated and championed most of the rapprochement that may now be coming to fruition.
China's role has been key. As North Korea's principal ally, President Xi Jinping is uniquely positioned to demand actions from Kim. Kim made his only known travel outside North Korea since becoming leader to meet with Xi in Beijing in March.
Xi had been angry with Kim for upstaging several major events in China with showy launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the same time, Xi, fearful of regional instability, is reluctant to make conditions so difficult for Kim that he might lose control of his population.
In their March meeting, however, where Xi treated Kim like a visiting high-level dignitary, it is possible that the Chinese leader persuaded Kim to cooperate with his longtime rivals in exchange for economic relief and steadfast Chinese support and protection.
©2018 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post North Korea’s Shocking Nuclear And Missile Test Announcement Isn’t What It Seems appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 04:30 AM PDT
The U.S. Army Reserve is facing a mid-grade leadership crisis. No, I don't mean the one in which only 62% of sergeant first class and 71% of major positions are filled due to a shortage of bodies at those grades; I mean the crisis caused by a lack of commanders at all levels.
This crisis has become so bad that there was a special announcement to the field for all senior leaders to recruit officers to submit for the battalion command selection board as there were 32 fewer competitors than there were command opportunities to compete for. This does not include or account for the fact that the historical fill for Army Medical Department battalion and equivalent command billets in the Army Reserve is around 44% due to a straight up shortage of officers in those branches.
This is not a good situation, and it seems to be headed in the wrong direction.
For years, the Army Reserve has battled what I'll call the "tyranny of the opt-in board" for flag and general officer selection, artificially limiting the pool from which boards have to select the next crop of one-stars. But we're starting to see that trickle down to brigade and battalion command boards, which are also "opt-in" due to the travel and extra time requirements of these key positions.
The end result of having a fixed requirement of positions to fill with a declining pool from which to fill them is not just that some go un-filled and have acting commanders installed. What we don't necessarily see is that when the pool is slim, we end up selecting commanders who should never be selected to command and who would not if the pool were bigger.
Quite apart from the predictable command climate issues this inevitably causes (a short-term problem) is the damage done to the institution long-term due to a lack of mentorship for the few company grade officers who choose to command as well as the drop in morale and pride of association among NCOs who're subject to sub-standard leadership.
When you think about it, it's not all that surprising that there is such a lack of officers and NCOs at the mid grades. Most of these folks left active duty due to the damage the operational tempo of 17 years of constant combat deployments caused to their lives and when they enter the Army Reserve to complete their service obligation, they're confronted with an increased operational tempo due to readiness demands, reduced strength, crushing mandatory training requirements, and substandard leadership at the Battalion and higher levels, so they vote with their feet once their obligation is complete.
Identifying the problem is easy. What's hard is fixing it. Some suggestions:
First, the USAR needs to re-orient the incentives that were very effective at getting folks to Command back to that purpose. IDT Travel reimbursement is a great tool, but it loses its effectiveness when everyone gets it, regardless of their position or level of involvement. Lodging in Kind should be for all. Let's restrict travel reimbursement to Com
Next, we need senior leadership to support and proactively look out for those bold enough to Command. If I can get paid the same regardless, why should I put myself "at risk" for a promotion board seems to be the attitude of many in the field, and for good reason?
Finally, we need to, within the law, select folks who have their 20 years but don't want to do what needs to be done for our Army Reserve to retire. Service to MRD is not a right – we say it, but we don't really believe it. If we did, we'd have an early retirement board every so often that "culled the herd."
I offer those suggestions as I'm not sure we can fix our evaluation system, no matter what we try, but until we're able to have candid conversations with Officers about their potential (or any conversations at all), anything we do is a Band-Aid only. Soldiers deserve great leadership, and we need to figure out how to provide it.
Chris Govekar is an Army Reserve Logistics Colonel with 28+ years experience in the Active Army and Army Reserve. He’s commanded at all levels from Company to 1-Star at home and in Combat. As a Civilian, he holds a Doctorate in Management and spends his time thinking about organizational culture and the impact of personnel decisions. Views expressed are his own and not those of the U.S. Army or Army Reserve.
The post The Army Reserve Simply Doesn't Have Enough People Willing to Fill Command Slots appeared first on Task & Purpose.
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