Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, June 20, 2018, which is American Eagle Day, National Ice Cream Soda Day, National Vanilla Milkshake Day, and World Refugee Day.
Today in American Legion History:
· June 20, 1917: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and his brother Archie sail for France after successfully arguing, with a letter of support from their father, for the opportunity to serve in the first wave of the American Expeditionary Forces under Gen. John Pershing. Roosevelt, Jr., enters the war as a major and soon distinguishes himself in battle, fighting through enemy fire and gas, and leading from the front. He receives high praise as a battalion commander and ultimately commands the 26th Regiment of the 1st Division through multiple battles.
· June 20, 1943: Ten crew members of the USS American Legion lose their lives near New Zealand’s Paekakariki Beach after their landing craft – which had been separated from the ship during a fierce storm – capsizes. Fifteen survive, and the deadly incident prompts orders requiring all Navy personnel on landing crafts to wear life vests.
Today in History:
· On this day in 1782, Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion.
· 1863: During the Civil War, West Virginia is admitted into the Union as the 35th U.S. state, or the 24th state if the secession of the 11 Southern states were taken into account. The same day, Arthur Boreman was inaugurated as West Virginia’s first state governor.
· 1963: To lessen the threat of an accidental nuclear war, the United States and the Soviet Union agree to establish a “hot line” communication system between the two nations. The agreement was a small step in reducing tensions between the United States and the USSR following the October 1962 Missile Crisis in Cuba, which had brought the two nations to the brink of nuclear war.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
· Defense News: Trump wants a Space Force. Now what?
· Military Times: Despite 17 years of war, next US commander in Afghanistan sees progress
· Military Times: US remains coming home from North Korea soon, report says
· Marine Corps Times: Marine with neo-Nazi affiliations found guilty at summary court-martial
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By: Leo Shane III | 17 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs’ independent watchdog office is accusing department leaders of improperly withholding records dealing with employee complaints, saying the action could be covering up potential criminal misbehavior.
Veterans Affairs leaders have responded by accusing the inspector general of overstepping its authority and improperly issuing reports that “recklessly cast the VA and its employees in an unfavorable light.”
Lawmakers pulled into the fight this week call the conflict concerning.
“The total lack of cooperation from the VA is alarming and a disservice to American veterans and taxpayers,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“I’m demanding the VA immediately comply with the IG’s request for access to information. The VA leadership that prides itself on transparency is not above the law or exempt from independent oversight.”
At issue is an ongoing request from VA Inspector General Michael Missal to review all complaints filed with the department’s new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, stood up in summer 2017 in an effort to help root out misbehavior within the department.
In a series of letters to VA leadership, Missal said he was promised access to those records in his role as an independent overseer for the federal agency. Earlier this month, he accused acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter O’Rourke of violating the law by refusing to open those files to the IG staff.
In response last week, O’Rourke (who previously served as the head of the whistleblower office) denied unfettered access to the documents, calling the request too broad and impractical.
He also blasted Missal’s office for repeated failure to “demonstrate due professional care” and “not performing its responsibilities in a fair and objective manner” in a series of reports in recent months.
“You also appear to misunderstand the independent nature of your role and operate as a completely unfettered autonomous agency,” O’Rourke’s letter stated. “You are reminded that (the IG) is loosely tethered to VA and in your specific case as the VA inspector general, I am your immediate supervisor. You are directed to act accordingly.”
Conflicts between the inspector general and VA leadership are common, given the inherently confrontational role of the oversight office.
Department investigators during President Barack Obama’s administration were accused both of being too close to VA leadership and too hostile towards them, and multiple recent VA secretaries have complained about disagreements with their findings.
But the IG has also enjoyed strong support from lawmakers despite those criticisms. Tester said the current fight indicates that “the department must be held accountable to veterans and must stop this reckless behavior.”
Missal said his staff needs access to the accountability office complaints to ensure that work isn’t being duplicated and that criminal accusations are being properly pursued.
“Denying the IG access, or selectively providing access to certain records, is also antithetical to the fundamental purpose of (the whistleblower office) and its stated commitment to transparency,” he wrote in a letter to O’Rourke.
“It deprives veterans and the public of the ability to ensure that (the whistleblower office) is in fact holding department officials accountable consistent with its mandate.”
O’Rourke said in his response that unrestricted access to those files is neither realistic nor required. He argued that the impetus behind setting up the new office was because IG officials failed to do enough to protect whistleblowers, and that officials are sharing complaints when appropriate.
He called the latest fight between the offices more evidence that the IG “has significantly deviated from (professional) standards in ways that have materially harmed the VA and its employees.”
O’Rourke was named acting VA secretary on May 30 after then-acting secretary Robert Wilkie was named the permanent nominee for the top department post. His paperwork has not yet been delivered to the Senate for consideration, so no timeline has been set for confirmation hearings or a full chamber vote.
Defense News: Trump wants a Space Force. Now what?
By: Valerie Insinna | 14 hours ago
WASHINGTON — On June 18, President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to begin establishing a new “Space Force,” a process that could add a sixth military service to the Defense Department.
But military service branches aren’t built overnight, and the department immediately went to work figuring out exactly how to stand up a space force.
“We understand the President’s guidance,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later that day. “Our policy board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”
Many questions have yet to be answered, including whether Trump can secure needed congressional support for the plan, the timeline to stand up a space force and whether it will fall under the Department of the Air Force or warrant the establishment of its own department and budget.
“This is a very big bureaucratic shift, lots of complex moving parts, lots of budget implications, doctrine implications, command relationship implications, funding implications, legal implications, all of those have to be worked out,” said Brian Weeden, director of program planning for space policy thinktank Secure World Foundation and a former Air Force officer working in space situational awareness.
The first of those hurdles is Congress. Although Trump’s directive propels the issue forward, reversing the Defense Department’s long-held opposition to a separate space force, only Congress can amend Title 10 of the United States Code to create a new military service.
And some lawmakers — including several powerful members on the defense committees — have already indicated that they could throw up barriers to the execution of Trump’s order.
“Establishing a service branch requires congressional action,” said Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican who chairs the House Armed Services tactical air and land subcommittee and one of the biggest opponents to the space force idea. “We still don’t know what a Space Force would do, who is going to be in it, or how much is it going to cost.
“The congressionally mandated report evaluating a Space Force to answer those questions is due in August,” Turner added. “After we get the report that we required as a legislative body and the President signed off on, then this issue can be appropriately evaluated for what’s best for national security.”
Even if Congress can be persuaded to create a space force, Weeden warned that the process will take years — especially as both the House and Senate have already passed their versions of the defense policy bill for fiscal year 2019.
“You’re talking about FY20 being the first time that actually happens, and there’s not a whole lot the military can do until changes in the authorization [bill] and to Title 10,” he said, adding that the issue could be even further complicated, delayed or dropped altogether if Democrats win the House this fall or if Trump loses the election in 2020.
Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that FY2020’s defense policy bill would likely be the starting point for legislative changes.
“It’s not a given that Congress will pass this, and it will be up to Congress to work out all of the details,” he said.
“Then you start the implementation process, and it will probably take at least two or three years to actually stand up the new service.”
So you want to build a space corps?
But once Congress makes the legal changes necessary to stand up a space force, the effort won’t get any easier.
Trump’s comments referred to a “space force” that would be “separate but equal” to the Air Force — leading experts to believe he favors standing up a completely independent service like the Army, Navy or Air Force rather than something in line with House lawmakers’ “space corps” proposal — a space service that would still fall under the Department of the Air Force but would have its own uniform, budget and chain of command.
And experts said a purely independent space force could potentially entail big increases to the space budget and military space personnel.
“I think it’s going to be more bureaucracy, and I think people are going to thrash about for years trying to pull this thing together,” said former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “And that thrashing will take away from focusing on these other problems.”
James said that the military has already added billions of dollars to the space enterprise over the last few years. If more money is needed, she said, Congress should appropriate more — but a new space force wouldn’t solve it.
Space currently makes up a very small portion of the military services’ budget and operations.
The Air Force is responsible for the preponderance of military space activity, but Air Force Space Command is comprised of only 38,000 people and the service’s unclassified space budget averages about $10 billion per year. The Navy also manages some space programs through Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, while the Army has some space functions in its Space and Missile Defense Command.
But Weeden warned that it’s possible that as space operators are pulled into a single service, the existing services could also try to keep their own organic space capabilities in much the way that the Army, Marine Corps and Navy continued buying and flying their own aircraft even after the Air Force was stood up.
Space force leaders could also push for greater spending on space, expanding the defense budget or taking away funding for other priorities.
“I think it would mean a lot more people and budget, and so far that’s not in any proposals anywhere,” Weeden said. “And if you’re talking about adding tens of thousands of more, well that has budget implications, that has recruiting implications, it’s going to take a while to do that. It’s not something that happens overnight, and it’s not something that’s in the budget [plans].”
However, Harrison noted that the department could simply realign its existing people, organizations and infrastructure into one single chain of command. That would keep the budget roughly the same, with some adjustments to overhead expenses.
“Or you could choose to gold-plate it,” he said. “If you want to make it expensive, you could create a brand new service academy, you could create all sorts of new bases around the country.”
Weeden opposes formulating a separate service for space in part because he believes it won’t necessarily solve one of the key problems facing defense space operations: a sluggish, bureaucratic acquisition process.
“Why not just solve the problem with what we have right now?” he said. “I have my own frustrations. It’s been seven, eight years since they [the Air Force] have had this direction to focus on resilience and we haven’t really seen them do anything. But in the last six months there have been signs that they’re finally taking it seriously and making changes.”
James also agreed with criticisms that the acquisition process is too slow, particularly when it comes to space. Some steps have been taken to address that, particularly at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Air Force Space Command, and other transaction authorities are being used for space contracting.
“Do you want to know more?”
Another challenge for a future space force comes down to culture. When Trump’s announcement hit, users on Twitter joked that the military would finally settle the question of whether a space warfighting force would reflect an army or navy-style rank structure.
However, such matters will need to be spelled out and could become controversial, especially if airmen, sailors, Marines and soldiers find themselves shuffled into a new service they had never planned to join.
“How do you create a unified cadre of personnel in the space force, and what are the unique characteristics of people that you want in that cadre? Because it doesn’t need to necessarily model what the other services do in terms of the rank structure, in terms of career progression, in terms of the skills. I would go into this with a clean sheet of paper,” said Harrison, who added that space forces could be required to have more math and science training.
“You need to make it distinct, culturally, from all of the other services,” he continued. “Part of that is through training that you start sending people through the same common induction training, whether it’s bootcamp or field training or whatever…and you start to build that ethos. ’This is who we are. We’re space operators. That’s what we do.”
Weeden said one model worth considering is U.S. Special Operations Command, which pulls in troops from all of the different services who operate under their own unique command structure, with different acquisition rules, doctrine and culture than conventional forces.
By: Leo Shane III | 19 hours ago
WASHINGTON — While acknowledging that 17 years of war “is a very long time,” the incoming head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan told lawmakers he sees progress in the ongoing fight thanks to recent changes in military strategy there.
“I can’t guarantee you a timeline or an end date,” said Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller, nominated to succeed Army Gen. John Nicholson leading the American and NATO mission in Afghanistan.
“But I go back to the vital interests of national security for America. I know this is having an effect on elements that would attack us.”
The comments drew skepticism from several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who expressed confidence in Miller to lead the Afghanistan effort but grave concerns with the ongoing mission there.
Congressional officials said about 16,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan in training and counterterrorism roles. Pentagon estimates have about two-thirds of the country’s population in areas under Afghan government control, with the rest still contested or being held by Taliban fighters.
Miller, who would be the 17th commander to oversee the Afghanistan mission, acknowledged when pressed by lawmakers that Pentagon leaders need to be evaluating the possibility of a full U.S. withdrawal of troops in coming years.
At one point in the hearing, he motioned to his son — a second lieutenant in the Army — and said he “never anticipated his cohort would be in a position to deploy there.”
But Miller also warned that “with a precipitous and disorderly withdrawal, we would see negative effects on U.S. national security.” He said without more training and preparation for Afghanistan security forces, “I would be concerned about ISIS and al-Qaida’s ability to emerge” as terrorist threats against the American homeland.
Like several previous commanders for the Afghanistan mission, Miller said he sees progress in that training, and said military officials need more time to complete that work.
Democratic lawmakers questioned whether that will ever be finished.
“I’m afraid we’re asking our military to perform an impossible task,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Our military cannot and should not be in Afghanistan forever. We’re heading deeper down a path that does not have success at the end.”
Several others expressed concerns that President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the region — which included another plus-up of American troops deployed in Afghanistan — has no realistic exit strategy.
But other Republicans on the panel used Miller’s warning of a premature withdrawal as justification for the continued presence, and a reminder that serious threats still remain nearly two decades after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I wish that you and all of those other lieutenants and captains who said in 2001 that they were there so their kids wouldn’t have to be could have had that prediction come true. But it’s simply not the case,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and an Iraq War veteran.
“The enemy is still there. And the enemy still gets a vote.”
Miller is expected to be confirmed to the post in the next few weeks.
By: Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press | 9 hours ago
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Nearly eight decades ago, Ray Emory, then a young sailor, watched in disbelief as Japanese torpedoes tore into American ships in Pearl Harbor.
Emory survived the devastating attack but didn’t forget his fellow sailors and Marines who died and were buried in Hawaii without anyone knowing their names.
His relentless efforts in the years that followed led to nearly 150 of those servicemen finally being identified so their families could find closure.
Now frail with white-hair, the 97-year-old Emory arrived Tuesday in a golf cart at the pier where his ship, the USS Honolulu, was moored on Dec. 7, 1941. He came to say what could be his final goodbye to the storied naval base.
More than 500 sailors were there to greet him. They lined the rails and formed an honor cordon, shouting cheers of “Hip, Hip, Hooray!” Emory saluted them.
“I’m glad I came and I’ll never forget it,” Emory told reporters after a ceremony in his honor.
Emory wanted to visit the pier before leaving his Hawaii home for Boise, Idaho. His wife died about a month ago and he plans to live with his son and go fishing.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Emory managed to fire a few rounds at the airplanes that dropped the torpedoes. He still has an empty bullet casing that fell to his ship deck.
In 2012, the Navy and National Park Service recognized Emory for his work with the military and Department of Veterans Affairs to honor and remember Pearl Harbor’s dead.
Bureaucrats didn’t welcome his efforts, at least not initially. Emory says they politely told him to ”‘go you-know-where.’” It didn’t deter him.
First, thanks to legislation sponsored by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink of Hawaii, he managed to get gravestones for unknowns from the USS Arizona marked with the name of their battleship.
In 2003, the military agreed to dig up a casket that Emory was convinced, after meticulously studying records, included the remains of multiple USS Oklahoma servicemen. Emory was right, and five sailors were identified.
It helped lay the foundation for the Pentagon’s decision more than a decade later to exhume and attempt to identify all 388 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma who had been buried as unknowns in a national cemetery in Honolulu.
Since those 2015 exhumations, 138 sailors from the Oklahoma have been identified. About 77 have been reburied, many in their hometowns, bringing closure to families across the country.
“Ray, you’re the man that did it. There’s nobody else. If it wasn’t for you, it would have never been done,” Jim Taylor, the Navy’s liaison to Pearl Harbor survivors, told Emory during the brief ceremony Tuesday at the USS Honolulu’s old pier.
Taylor presented Emory with a black, folded POW/MIA flag printed with the words: “You are not forgotten.”
Some of the remains, especially those burned to ash, will never be identified. But the military aims to put names with 80 percent of the Oklahoma servicemen who were dug up in 2015.
Altogether, the Pearl Harbor attack killed nearly 2,400 U.S. servicemen. The Oklahoma lost 429 men after being hit by at least nine torpedoes.
It was the second-largest number of dead from one vessel. The USS Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines. Most of those killed on the Arizona remain entombed in the sunken hull of the battleship.
The Pentagon has also exhumed the remains of 35 servicemen from the USS West Virginia from Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. None have been identified so far.
Military Times: US remains coming home from North Korea soon, report says
By: Tara Copp | 13 hours ago
Remains of U.S. servicemembers who died in North Korea during the Korean War, and have been in limbo for years, may be starting their final journey home within days.
President Donald Trump made the return of the remains, believed to be about 200 individual sets, part of the agreement he made with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un last week in Singapore.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) stated on its Korean War website that “on several occasions in the past, [North Korean] officials have indicated they possess as many as 200 sets of remains they had recovered over the years. The commitment established within the Joint Statement between President Trump and Chairman Kim would repatriate these.”
CNN reported Tuesday the repatriation could take place within days. The returned remains would be one of the terms the two countries agreed to, to also include the cancellation of annual military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. The first cancelled exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, was set to begin in August.
If returned, the remains would be sent to a DPAA lab. There the painstaking process of matching bone fragments, personal items or other potential DNA sources, such as teeth, with DNA samples it has collected from surviving family members would begin, in order to identify the remains and begin the process of reuniting them with their families.
North Korea has allowed the return of war remains previously. North Korea allowed 33 previous field investigations between 1996 to 2005 to document and if possible recover remains from crash sites or other locations. In those instances DoD pays for the recovery and repatriation but does not pay to obtain remains or obtain information leading to remains, the agency said.
“Should high level U.S.-[North Korea] negotiations result in the resumption of field operations, subsequent planning and logistical discussions would be conducted to determine how they would be executed,” the agency said on its webpage.
In his press conference following the Singapore summit, Trump said the outreach from families moved him to request the remains be added to the U.S. official request.
“They want the remains of their sons back and remains of their fathers and mothers,” Trump said last week. “The remains will be coming back. They will start that process immediately.”
“So for the thousands and thousands — I guess over 6,000 that we know of in terms of the remains — will be brought back. The POW/MIA issue is a clearly big issue to people.”
Marine Corps Times: Marine with neo-Nazi affiliations found guilty at summary court-martial
By: Shawn Snow | 13 hours ago
A Marine and alleged neo-Nazi who allegedly participated in and the deadly “Unite the Right” rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, was found guilty at a summary-court martial on Monday and is likely to get booted from the Corps.
Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis’ sentencing produced some confusion after Task & Purpose reported Monday the Marine was sentenced to 28 days of confinement, reduction in rank to private, and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one month.
Emily Gorcenski, an activist who confronted white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally, tweeted that the Corps had just let a neo-Nazi stay in the Marines.
But that is not entirely accurate.
Pistolis has about a week to file for leniency before the convening authority in his case initiates any action. That means no final decision has been made regarding separation.
If precedence has bearing in this case, Pistolis is likely to be separated.
Two Marines, Sgt. Michael J. Chesny and Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Manning, were both separated from the Corps in April and December, respectively, for ties to white supremacist groups.
“The guidance to Marines is clear: participation in supremacist or extremist organizations or activities is a violation of Department of Defense and Marine Corps orders and will lead to mandatory processing for separation following the first substantiated incident of misconduct which is what occurred with these former Marines,” Nat Fahy, a spokesman with Marine Corps Installations East, told Marine Corps Times in a statement about Chesny and Manning’s separation.
Gorcenski helped expose Chesny’s white supremacist ties and others associated with the “Unite the Right” rally.
Gorcenski told Marine Corps Times that she is sure there is more to Pistolis’ story and that it is not over yet.
ProPublica reported Pistolis’ ties to a neo-Nazi organization known as Atomwaffen Division and his actions during the Charlottesville rally.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Atomwaffen Division is a neo-Nazi organization “whose members are preparing for a race war to combat what they consider the cultural and racial displacement of the white race.”
Alarmed by the revelation that members of the military were caught participating in Atomwaffen Division, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., sent a letter in early May to Defense Secretary James requesting information on investigations into white supremacist activities within the military.
Pistolis is assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, June 19, 2018 which is World Sickle Cell Day, Juneteenth, National Martini Day and National Sauntering Day,
This Day in American Legion History:
June 19, 1951: President Truman signs into law the nation’s first-ever Universal Military Training and Service Act, introduced earlier in the year as S. 1, The American Legion’s long-desired solution to a lack of wartime preparedness. A massive grassroots lobbying effort and support campaign, as with the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, comes from the Hearst newspapers and helps push the measure through both houses of Congress at the same time U.S. troops are fighting on the Korean peninsula. For more than 30 years, The American Legion had fought for UMT – which was not to be confused with UMS, or compulsory Universal Military Service. The bill may have been passed into law, but implementation would require further legislation that would prevent it from full and immediate adoption. Civilian or military authority questions, the shelf life of the program (the Legion sought for it to be permanent) and its compatibility with the Selective Service mired implementation legislation and on March 4, 1952, the House sends the long-awaited UMT enactment legislation into the vortex of more study.
“Recommit this bill for further study? How many years of study have we had on this subject? Do we not have the moral fortitude and courage to meet this issue? If we are not ready today, when will we be ready?”
· Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, arguing against further study of UMT after a move to defeat its implementation altogether loses by a narrow 196-176 margin on March 4, 1952, but a motion passes 236-162 later in the day to send it to the House Armed Services Committee … for further study
This Day in History:
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
· Washington Examiner: Pentagon suspends planning for August ‘war game’ with South Korea
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A member of the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) holds an American flag as he stands next to the POW/MIA flag before a service for U.S. Army Cpl. Robert E. Meyers, of Greencastle, Pa., a soldier from the Korean War who’s remains have been identified due to advances in technology, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) — The Associated Press
Military.com 18 Jun 2018 By Richard Sisk
The Pentagon agency in charge of accounting for missing Americans troops has yet to receive notice to prepare for the return of remains by North Korea that President Donald Trump called a key success of the Singapore summit.
"We’re standing by [but] we haven’t officially been asked to do anything," Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), said Monday.
"This is our business," he said of recovering remains from foreign battlefields. But he added that the work of diplomacy must come first. "We’re at the tail end of this."
On the North Lawn of the White House last Friday, Trump suggested to Fox News that the remains of missing Americans from the Korean War might already be in the process of being repatriated.
He said the North Koreans "are already starting to produce the remains of these great young soldiers who were left in North Korea. We’re getting the remains, and nobody thought that was possible."
At the Singapore summit last Tuesday, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint declaration committing to sending the missing troops home.
"The United States and the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified," the declaration reads.
At a news conference after the summit, Trump said he was acting on behalf of the families of the missing.
"I must have had just countless calls and letters and tweets, anything you can do — they want the remains of their sons back," Trump said.
It’s unclear, however, how many parents of troops killed in a war that ended with an armistice 65 years ago might still be living.
"I asked for it today, and we got it. That was a very last minute," Trump said of the agreement. "The remains will be coming back. They’re going to start that process immediately."
Richard Downes, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, told Military.com by email last week that North Korea may already have about 200 sets of remains ready to be returned.
Downes, whose airman father Lt. Hal Downes is still listed as missing from a flight over North Korea in 1952, said he learned of the possibility that the North has 200 sets of remains on a visit to Pyongyang in 2016 with the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.
During the visit, Downes said he had received an offer from North Korea’s vice foreign minister regarding his father’s remains.
"We took it to the Obama administration but were refused," Downes said. "They preferred to hold out until NK responded to the nuclear issue. It was heartbreaking."
Downes praised Trump for being "the first to make the leap" on the recovery of remains.
"A lot of people/organizations worked to get it on the summit’s agenda," he said.
According to DPAA, more than 7,800 Americans have not been accounted for from the Korean War.
An updated Convention Program for TAL Department of Arizona has just been posted at www.azlegion.org
As always, changes may still occur…
Arizona American Legion
(602) 264-7706 Fax (602) 264-0029
"Ora et labora et lege; Deus adest sine mora”. (Pray and work and read, God is there without delay)
Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, June 18, 2018, which is Autistic Pride Day, Go Fishing Day, International Picnic Day, and National Splurge Day.
Today in History:
· 1812: The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.
· 1815: At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.
· 1983: From Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space shuttle Challenger is launched into space on its second mission. Aboard the shuttle was Dr. Sally Ride, who as a mission specialist became the first American woman to travel into space. During the six-day mission, Ride, an astrophysicist from Stanford University, operated the shuttle’s robot arm, which she had helped design. Her historic journey was preceded almost 20 years to the day by cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, who on June 16, 1963, became the first woman ever to travel into space.
· 1966: Gen. William Westmoreland, senior U.S. military commander in Vietnam, sends a new troop request to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Westmoreland stated that he needed 542,588 troops for the war in Vietnam in 1967–an increase of 111,588 men to the number already serving there. In the end, President Johnson acceded to Westmoreland’s wishes and dispatched the additional troops to South Vietnam, but the increases were done in an incremental fashion. The highest number of U.S. troops in South Vietnam was 543,500, which was reached in 1969.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
· Washington Examiner: Jim Mattis: Putin seeks to ‘compromise our belief in our ideals’
· Military Times: This week in Congress: A new commander in Afghanistan
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By: Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press | 16 hours ago
SEOUL, South Korea — After being blindsided by President Donald Trump’s decision to shelve major U.S. military exercises in South Korea, Seoul appears to be going along with it.
A senior South Korean presidential official said Friday that Washington and Seoul have begun discussions on temporarily suspending the massive “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” exercises that usually take place in August and possibly other joint drills while nuclear diplomacy with North Korea continues. Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Defense Minister Song Young-moo held “deep” discussions about the drills with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in a telephone conversation Thursday evening.
The presidential official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules, said an official announcement on the drills is “coming soon, within the next few days” and it seems almost certain the exercises will be halted.
The official spoke a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in, holding a National Security Council meeting for the first time since a North Korean long-range missile test in November, said the allies can be flexible about their military pressure on the North. But that’s only as long as North Korea, which launched a diplomatic initiative in 2018, remains sincerely engaged in negotiations on its nuclear disarmament, Moon said.
Moon’s assessment highlights the big “if.” There are lingering questions over whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will ever agree to fully relinquish a hard-won nuclear arsenal he may see as a stronger guarantee of his survival than whatever security assurances the United States could provide. Those doubts only increased after Tuesday’s summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore, where they issued an aspirational vow to seek the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.
The joint drills and the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea have been the core of the alliance between the two countries.
Trump’s decision to suspend the exercises, coupled with the vague joint statement issued after his summit with Kim, have reinforced fears in South Korea that the North is attempting to take advantage of a U.S. president who appears to care less about the traditional alliance than his predecessors.
Such concerns are shared in Japan, the region’s other major U.S. ally. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodra told reporters Friday that the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are “important pillars in maintaining regional peace and stability.”
Not everyone thinks suspending the war games is a bad idea. Some analysts say putting off the drills is a necessary trust-building step with North Korea following nearly 70 years of hostility and would allow the allies to push the process forward more easily.
But others are decidedly more critical, saying Trump wasted critical leverage against North Korea, which has yet to take material steps toward denuclearization.
“We will know whether it was a good move or not in a month or two,” said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “If the North responds by providing evidence of its claimed closure of a missile engine test site and also freezes and shuts down some of its nuclear facilities, then the suspension of the drills can be chalked up as a success. If the North doesn’t take quick steps toward denuclearization, then we gave up the drills for nothing.”
Kim Jae-yeop, a professor of defense strategy at South Korea’s Hannam University, said the suspension of the drills was likely the one clear move the allies had to lure North Korea into a denuclearization process.
He said it would have been a colossal mistake to pre-emptively lift the heavy economic sanctions against North Korea, and that Washington couldn’t unilaterally remove the most stringent measures anyway because they were passed by the U.N. Security Council.
Washington and Seoul tried to entice North Korea with a possible declaration to formally end the Korean War, which halted 65 years ago with an armistice, not a peace treaty, but apparently that wasn’t enough for Kim Jong Un.
“Unlike sanctions, the allies can just snap their military exercises back on if it becomes clear North Korea won’t be delivering on their end,” said Kim, the professor, who said the allies would be able to maintain operational readiness with routine and lower-level drills.
He also noted that the allies have used the war games as a bargaining chip before. To entice North Korea to sign on to a non-nuclear agreement, Seoul and Washington called off the now-defunct “Team Spirit” drills in 1992. But, annoyed with North Korea’s refusal to allow nuclear inspections, they revived the exercises the following year.
This year, the allies delayed their springtime drills for weeks to encourage North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The U.S. and South Korea hold major joint exercises every spring and summer in South Korea. The spring one — actually a pair of overlapping exercises called “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” — includes live-fire drills with tanks, aircraft and warships, and usually involves about 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean troops.
The summer Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise consists mainly of computer simulations to hone joint decision making and planning. Some 17,500 American and 50,000 South Korean troops participated last year.
North Korea has always reacted to the exercises with belligerence and often its own demonstrations of military capability.
During last year’s Ulchi exercises, North Korea fired a powerful new intermediate range missile over Japan in what its state media described as a “muscle-flexing” countermeasure to the drills. North Korean leader Kim then called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, a U.S. military hub. North Korea did not carry out a threat to lob missiles toward Guam.
During the Ulchi drills in 2016, North Korea successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, a critical military breakthrough that raised alarm in South Korea and Japan. Shortly after the drills, the North carried out its fifth nuclear test.
The suspension of the drills could allow more diplomatic space for Washington and Seoul to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea. But for Seoul, the way Trump announced the decision is also a cause for concern, some experts say.
In addition to not consulting with South Korea before saying the war games should be stopped, Trump called the exercises “very provocative,” contradicting countless previous declarations by Washington and Seoul over the years that the drills are routine and defensive in nature. Trump also complained that the drills “cost a fortune” and said he would eventually want to bring home all U.S. troops from South Korea.
Nam Sung-wook, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Korea University, said Trump’s comments indicate he considers the stoppage of the drills and the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea as a goal, rather than a concession to be granted to North Korea if it takes irreversible and verifiable steps to relinquish its nuclear weapons, facilities and materials.
“What has become clear is that the security provided by the U.S.-South Korea alliance has likely reached its limit,” said Nam, a former analyst for South Korea’s spy agency. “South Korea has to start thinking about new defense strategies so that it could maintain security against North Korea on its own.”
An editorial published Friday in the conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, echoed Nam’s concern, saying the U.S.-South Korean alliance is being substantially undermined while the prospects for disarming the North are getting murky.
“Now everyone is concerned about the security of the North Korean regime, but who’s looking after the safety and security of South Korean people?” the newspaper said.
BY REBECCA KHEEL | 06/15/18 | 04:45 PM EDT
A federal court on Friday again said the Trump administration cannot implement its ban on most transgender military service while a lawsuit against it proceeds.
“The status quo shall remain ‘steady as she goes,’ and the preliminary injunction shall remain in full force and effect nationwide,” Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington wrote Friday.
In doing so, Pechman quoted the top Navy admiral, who told a Senate panel in April that it’s been “steady as she goes” since transgender people have been allowed to serve openly.
Pechman is one of four federal judges to have issued a preliminary injunction preventing President Trump from banning transgender military service while lawsuits against the ban work their way through court.
In April, Pechman ruled the lawsuit would go to trial and the injunction would stay in place after the Pentagon issued a memo outlining a policy that would ban most transgender people from serving. In that ruling, Pechman said the memo did not represent a new policy, but rather an implementation of the ban Trump announced on Twitter in July 2017.
The Trump administration appealed Pechman’s April ruling and then asked her for a stay on her injunction pending the appeal. The administration argued a stay was necessary to “prevent irreparable harm to military interests.”
Pechman’s ruling on Friday goes against the administration’s request for a stay.
In her ruling, Pechman wrote that the Trump administration made no arguments she had not already rejected and noted that there would be no demonstrable harm in keeping the injunction in place.
Underscoring her argument, Pechman propped up Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s “steady as she goes” testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s testimony to the Senate panel that there have been “precisely zero” reports of problems with unit cohesion, discipline and morale.
The lawsuit was brought in Seattle by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN and joined by the state of Washington on behalf of six troops that are currently serving, three people seeking to enlist and three LGBT rights groups.
“Yet again, the Trump administration has tried to implement and expedite discrimination, and yet again, the court has said no,” Lambda Legal senior attorney Peter Renn said in a statement.
“You would think the administration would get tired of all the losing, and more importantly, would read the writing on the wall and abandon this discriminatory and harmful scheme to prevent brave and qualified transgender people from serving their country.”
Washington Examiner: Jim Mattis: Putin seeks to ‘compromise our belief in our ideals’
By Jamie McIntyre | June 15, 2018 | 1:21 PM
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday of working to undermine American values and destroy the Western alliance that has acted as a counterweight to the Kremlin since the end of the Cold War.
“Putin seeks to shatter NATO. He aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority,” Mattis said in an address to graduates at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
“His actions are designed not to challenge our arms, at this point, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals.”
Mattis said as the military power closest to the United States in terms of nuclear parity, Russia remains the biggest threat because it has “proven willing to use conventional and irregular power in violation of international norms.”
“For the first time since World War II, Russia has been the nation that has redrawn international borders by force of arms in Georgia and Ukraine, while pursuing veto authority over their neighbors’ diplomatic, economic, and security decisions,” he said.
It was Russia’s unchecked aggression in Ukraine that got it expelled from the G-8 in 2014.
But President Trump Friday again expressed a desire to let Russia back in what is now the G-7 and said he’ll probably meet with Putin this summer.
“I think it’s better to have Russia in than to have Russia out, because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it’s much better if we get along with them, than if we don’t,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.
In his advice to the graduates of the Naval War College, Mattis told them to not shy away from “hard problems and tougher solutions.”
“Keep your wits about you. Keep your grace under fire, your civility with subordinates, inspiring those you lead with humility and intellectual rigor in reconciling war’s grim realities with your political leaders’ aspirations,” Mattis said.
By NATHAN MATTISE | 6/17/2018 | 7:15 AM
AUSTIN, Texas — If you ask Graham Yost — prolific TV producer with a resume including Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and Justified — accuracy in on-screen military portrayals is a relatively new phenomenon, similar to how tech ranging from the latest hacker tools to futuristic autonomous bots have recently become increasingly grounded in reality. Ground zero for this idea won’t surprise any fans of this particular entertainment genre.
"In some historical military films, there have been some training of actors, but I think a lot of this really starts with Dale Dye and [Saving] Private Ryan ," Yost says during ATX TV Festival’s panel on modern military television. "That set a template for people, and we wouldn’t have done Band without it. In fact, when the cast of Band gets together every year, the day they pick for their reunion is the first day of boot camp. That’s when they felt they came together as a unit."
Of course, even projects like Band and Saving Private Ryan ran up against limits to realism despite lauded end-products. Even if Yost and others could set up months-long boot camps for actors and get prop and VFX teams to recreate gear and tactics as accurately as possible, historical wars inherently had the sad hurdle of firsthand accounts increasingly being inaccessible. Donnie Wahlberg (Carwood Lipton in Band) was uniquely fortunate that he could connect with his real-life inspiration, Yost recalls. But the same approach to research and accuracy couldn’t happen for The Pacific, and it gets increasingly difficult for any newly proposed period projects as 20th-century wars and veterans from WWII to Vietnam and Korea age.
Military projects on TV in general feel less frequent today — "We had a huge boom in military drama to now almost everything being cancelled," says Mikka Alanne, showrunner of NatGeo’s new Iraq War miniseries, The Long Road Home. "But it ends up being cyclical, and I think it’ll come back. There will always be a place for these stories."
But current projects appear to have a distinct advantage. Not only has there been a swell of new series focused on more recent military happenings (meaning more vets to tap as research resources), but these shows have started enlisting veterans to be more than just fountains of knowledge — they’re increasingly becoming technical advisors, producers, directors, and even actors.
"I’ve got two SEALs and two former Army operations vets as three producers and an advisor," says Tyler Grey, a former Army ranger working as an actor and producer on CBS’ new SEAL Team. "We hired 150 [veterans] over the course of a season between stunts, acting, and other various roles. Whenever I can push for a veteran to get these roles, can they do it? Are they good? Let’s do it."
More than technique
Getting veterans involved directly with TV and film projects comes with a multitude of benefits according to the panel; increased accuracy merely represents the most obvious one. As just one example, the CW’s Valor focuses on a female pilot in Army special ops according to executive producer Anna Fricke. While the show did snag two female veterans for its team — April Fitzsimmons and Shamar S. White — originally, the CW had a former SEAL in mind to act as the show’s technical advisor. But then Fricke started having conversations with Grey, given the veteran has a reputation as a go-to contact in Hollywood for military projects.
"[The show’]s about 160th Special Ops helicopters, but you were going to use a SEAL," Grey recalls. "I said, ‘Let me get you the guy… I need a 160th guy. I don’t need a guy, I need the guy."
"And Dan Laguna was definitely the guy," Fricke recalls, speaking about the veteran formerly of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment. "The man who wrote the pilot had a brother who was a Ranger, so we wanted to be respectful and tell this story and why they did what they believed in as accurately as possible."
For the vets themselves, that sometimes subtle-on-screen dedication to the truth feels important. Poor portrayals of war and military life can at best lead to veteran viewers being taken out of the story and at worst can perpetuate misinformation or inaccurate stereotypes. And even if budget restraints or network concerns prevent a project from being a 100-percent accurate depiction, having a veteran around for production ensures a level of authenticity that avoids such pitfalls.
"I ask vets all the time, what do you think about the way military is portrayed? ‘It’s horrible, it’s wrong.’ OK, so how do you think it’s going to change? If we’re not there, will it magically fix itself?" Grey says. "’Is it real?’ I say no, it’s a TV show. It’s not meant to be real, but it’s meant to feel authentic. We focus on the story, making it feel as authentic as possible. And then I address every detail I can — cause if someone’s helmet is on backwards, I’m out of it now. You had me, but the helmet’s backwards, you lost me. You have to balance your time, but you don’t want to pull a vet, service member out of it."
Off-screen, veteran participation serves another important role —t hat of healing, of therapy. Eric Bourquin now serves as a consultant for The Long Road Home, but the project didn’t immediately interest him. This 1st Cavalry Division vet lived this particular story, after all. Why go through it all again?
"Eric was reluctant to get involved — the material is traumatic, harrowing, and certain difficult to relive," Alanne admits. "But he appreciated our desire to make it as authentic as possible, so I asked for an interview. He said ‘I don’t know, let’s do lunch…’ Then we had lunch. Next, it was, ‘OK, I’ll do it, but I can’t promise my wife will do an interview.’ Then I went to their house and spent a day with them. Eric took me to Ft. Hood to see how they trained, and it started the journey for Eric to become an advisor with his friend Aaron [Fowler, Bourquin’s fellow vet of the 1st]."
The two vets worked with the prop teams on everything from how the Kevlar looked to the way radios were configured, Alanne says. They also helped with actors’ boot camp and worked constantly on set to help the actors understand the psychological burden of war.
"I can’t say enough about the selflessness to constantly reopen the wounds of that day so we can share that story with the world," Alanne says.
"When you share your story, it becomes more real and more people can experience it," Bourquin replies. "And that’s healing, because it becomes a shared experience."
Going forward, those in attendance all shared a similar goal — to see this trend not only continue but to see it expand beyond vets largely acting as tech advisors and research resources. Grey, for instance, started appearing on screen in SEAL Team. That’s both a newer opportunity for veterans and it can lead to increased technical detail since, when the time comes for a character to clear a room, for instance, Grey can do it quickly and correctly while star David Boreanaz can follow with the other actors to then handle the drama. "They can focus on really portraying the emotions and playing to the camera, and I can sell the technique," Grey says. "Everyone can specialize — it’s movie magic."
Alanne even notes military veterans should be looked to as a resource for TV and film projects beyond this specific genre. After all, time in the military places a person in many unique situations — active battles, imminent horror, dealing with loss or injuries, working as a highly efficient team, etc. — that seem applicable within more frequent project premises.
"Vets have had experiences that just a small fraction of people have had — I’m always struck by stories of what the act of killing is like and how it changes you, or what the consequences of war are," the showrunner says. "During night shoots talking with Eric, we’d discover we both loved horror, and we’d talk about aliens and various sci-fi. It’s clear [veterans] can offer so much more. They have experience others haven’t, and it’s our obligations to give them more opportunities."
Military Times: This week in Congress: A new commander in Afghanistan
By: Leo Shane III | 8 hours ago
WASHINGTON — After the Senate votes on advancing the annual defense authorization bill on Monday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will turn its attention to Afghanistan a day later with the nomination hearing for the new military commander there.
Lt. Gen. Austin Miller will testify before the committee Tuesday in hopes of taking over command of the 17-year war. Miller has spent the past two years leading Joint Special Operations Command, and is expected to face an easy confirmation vote.
But the confirmation hearing may be more contentious. Miller is expected to face questions from Democrats and Republicans skeptical of President Donald Trump’s strategy for the region, including how long the U.S. military presence in the country will continue.
Meanwhile, the committee’s House counterpart has four oversight hearings scheduled for this week, including the second in seven days dealing with aviation problems in the armed forces.
Tuesday, June 19
Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — Dirksen G-50
Committee members will consider the nomination of Lt. Gen. Austin Miller to serve as the new commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan
Senate Appropriations — 10 a.m. — Dirksen 124
Homeland security appropriations
The subcommittee on homeland security will mark-up its draft of that department’s fiscal 2019 appropriations legislation.
Senate Appropriations — 3 p.m. — Dirksen 138
State Department appropriations
The subcommittee on foreign relations will mark-up its draft of the State Department’s fiscal 2019 appropriations legislation.
Wednesday, June 20
House Foreign Affairs — 10 a.m. — Rayburn 2172
State Department officials will testify before the committee on recent changes in U.S. policy towards Afghanistan.
Senate Foreign Relations — 10:15 a.m. — Dirksen 419
Mark Green, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, will testify before the committee on planned reforms at his agency.
House Oversight — 2 p.m. — Rayburn 2154
Outside experts will testify before the committee on U.S. relations with Cuba and actions against U.S. federal workers stationed there.
House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — Rayburn 2172
North Korea summit
Outside experts will testify before the committee on the recent U.S. summit with North Korea and oversight responsibilities for Congress.
House Foreign Affairs — 2:30 p.m. — Rayburn 2200
The subcommittee on global human rights will hear from outside experts on rights’ issues in Sri Lanka.
House Armed Services — 3:30 p.m. — Rayburn 2118
Military health system
Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency, and other military health officials will testify on pain management and opioid use in the military.
Thursday, June 21
House Armed Services — 10 a.m. — Rayburn 2118
Military technology transfer
Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research, and other Defense Department officials will testify before the committee on technology transfer challenges.
House Veterans’ Affairs — 10:30 a.m. — Cannon 334
VA hiring authorities
Department officials will testify on current VA hiring authorities and challenges with recruiting and retention efforts.
Senate Appropriations — 10:30 a.m. — Dirksen 106
The full committee will consider final mark-up of the fiscal 2019 homeland security and State Department proposals.
House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — Rayburn 2172
Outside experts will testify before the committee on the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals.
House Armed Services — 3:30 p.m. — Rayburn 2212
Aviation officials from all four service officials will testify about recent problems with aircraft mishaps and possible solutions for the future.
Friday, June 22
House Armed Services — 9 a.m. — Rayburn 2118
The subcommittee on strategic forces will hear from defense officials on space situational awareness and proposed reforms to military space programs.