Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, September 25, 2018 which is National Comic Book Day, National One-Hit Wonder Day (Chumbawumba!), National Voter Registration Day and National Lobster Day.
This Day/Weekend in Legion History:
- Sept. 25, 1939: As war engulfs Europe, The American Legion National Convention in Chicago passes a resolution to immediately expand the U.S. Armed Forces “to maintain our neutrality.” The American Legion’s top priority is clear: strengthen a Depression-depleted military in the event the United States is called to war, as it was in 1917.
- Sept. 25, 2017: The House of Representatives passes H.R. 2519 by unanimous consent, authorizing the striking of an American Legion 100th Anniversary Coin by the U.S. Mint. The Senate approves the measure three days later, and President Trump signs it in early October.
This Day in History:
- 1957: Under escort from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine black students enter all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks earlier, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had surrounded the school with National Guard troops to prevent its federal court-ordered racial integration. After a tense standoff, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent 1,000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to enforce the court order.
- 1789: The first Congress of the United States approves 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and sends them to the states for ratification. The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states and the people.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Stripes: Coalition alters tactics in Afghanistan as casualties among local forces mount
- Military.com: Alleged al-Qaida War Criminal Recovering from Surgery Stalls Gitmo Hearing
- Military Times: Advocates start work on what — and where — the Global War on Terror Memorial will be
- Marine Corps Times: The state of the Marine Corps: Can the Corps’ new vision actually become reality?
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Stripes: Coalition alters tactics in Afghanistan as casualties among local forces mount
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: September 25, 2018
KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan is adjusting tactics to address mounting casualties among local security forces, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week.
Mattis said the international coalition — which focuses on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces — had begun providing more support in other areas. He didn’t elaborate.
“The Afghan army has taken severe casualties over the past year and a half,” Mattis told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. Mattis stopped short of calling the casualty rate unsustainable when asked if it was.
“When people say something is unsustainable, it is better to look at what they have actually sustained, and it appears they’ve sustained it somehow,” he said.
Mattis’ comments came a day after Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami told parliament’s upper house that the past month had been the deadliest ever for the Afghan army.
“Unfortunately, in the last month, 513 [Afghan National Army] soldiers were killed, 718 wounded and 43 captured; it was the highest number of fatalities we have had in a single month,” Bahrami said, according to Afghanistan’s TOLO News.
Adding to the toll were the Taliban’s storming of Ghazni city – which required U.S. special operations forces and air power to tackle – and attacks on three military bases in different parts of the country in August.
Bahrami said enemy casualties during the same period were three to four times those of government forces.
Afghan casualties, an important number for gauging success in the U.S.’s longest war, now in its 17th year, have largely been kept from the public since last year.
In October, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said it had been asked by the U.S. military not to publish casualty data, attrition rates or recruitment numbers.
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said much of the information was being restricted at the request of the Afghan government, which has fueled speculation that the Afghans are sustaining heavy losses and finding it difficult to recruit new soldiers.
SIGAR in July highlighted continuing manning shortfalls among Afghan security forces, saying they were at only 89.3 percent of their goal strength.
The Afghan army and police have suffered rising casualties since 2014, when international combat operations ended and they took charge of securing the country.
Roughly 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, split between NATO’s mission to train local forces and a separate counterterrorism mission.
Military.com: Alleged al-Qaida War Criminal Recovering from Surgery Stalls Gitmo Hearing
Miami Herald 25 Sep 2018 By Carol Rosenberg
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE,Cuba — An Iraqi captive held at Guantanamoand accused of commanding al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan after 9/11 failed to show up at a hearing Monday, stalling progress toward the war crimes trial following a health setback from his fifth spine surgery in less than a year.
The no-show presented a quandary for Marine Lt. Col. Michael Libretto, the new judge in the case against Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, 57. At the war court, cases have not gone forward without the prisoner coming to the first day of a hearing, and Libretto scheduled this hearing to make his first war court appearance.
Civilian defense attorney Adam Thurschwell said Hadi, who says his real name is Nashwan al Tamir, suffered "severe back spasms" on four days last week "when he’s tried to sit up for any length of time, requiring him to lie down immediately." In two instances, Thurschwell said, sitting up impaired his breathing.
Last week, after the first episode, Thurschwell asked to postpone this week’s hearing, "arguing that it would be an enormous waste of time and resources while putting Nashwan’s health at serious risk."
Pentagon officials were not immediately able to estimate the cost of this week’s hearings but in 2012 a court official said in a sworn affidavit that each war-court air shuttle to bring court personnel from the United States costs $90,000. No estimates were available on how much would have been saved by canceling the flights as well as not bringing down court stenographers, security officials and linguists on Sunday for a week-long stay before Saturday’sreturn shuttle to Washington.
A prison doctor had medically cleared Hadi for a single move, to a half-day hearing. But the judge had not authorized a forced-cell-extraction.
In September 2017, as Hurricane Irma was headed toward Guantanamo, the Pentagon scrambled a neurosurgical team to the base to conduct emergency spine surgery on the Iraqi after he became incontinent in his cell. Hadi has had four follow-up operations, the last one in May.
His lawyers have said some of those procedures were to correct complications from his Navy base surgeries. They also said that Hadi, whom the CIA handed over to the U.S. military in 2007, suffered disc degeneration before his capture. But when he complained about the condition at Guantanamo, prison doctors treated it with pain killers and back ointment.
Based on a prison doctor’s health assessment, an earlier trial judge had canceled hearings for June and August. Monday, Libretto was awaiting a doctor’s opinion on why Hadi did not come to court.
"Can we not just let Nashwan get better?," said his defense attorney, Air ForceMaj. Yolanda Miller. "Every time we try to comply with the government’s schedule, the government’s request we eventually end up retarding his progress."
Hadi is accused of commanding irregular Taliban and al-Qaida forces who targeted both troops and civilians with suicide bombings, roadside explosives devices and firing on a medical evacuation helicopter after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. His charge sheet describes these as classic war crimes, for which prosecutors seek a maximum sentence of life in prison, if he is convicted.
Military Times: Advocates start work on what — and where — the Global War on Terror Memorial will be
By:Leo Shane III 20 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — Michael Rodriguez doesn’t know what the national Global War on Terror memorial will look like, but he’s confident about where it should be.
“I believe it needs to be on the National Mall,” said Rodriguez, president of the memorial’s foundation. “In a lot of ways, this has already become a forgotten war. We need that national reminder.”
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation is about to launch a multi-month outreach project discussing the size, scope and meaning behind the planned tribute, authorized by Congress in 2017.
That will include surveys of troops, veterans, military family members and even individuals with no direct link to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to collect their thoughts on what the memorial should include. Foundation officials announced that Winstanley Architects & Planners will serve as the architect for project and will lead that effort.
Like other national war memorials, the foundation is following a rigorous 24-step process outlined by the National Planning Commission to establish site selection, memorial design and construction schedule.
But unlike other memorials, foundation officials are conducting their work while troops remain deployed overseas in support of the Global War on Terror.
Supporters had to gain special permission from Congress to waive the mandatory 10-year waiting period for the memorial construction process, arguing that waiting longer would prevent veterans from the earliest days of the 17-year-old conflict from ever seeing the final honor.
Rodriguez said that presents an unusual challenge of putting the still-ongoing worldwide military operations in context with the height of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We don’t know how long this war is going to continue,” said Rodriguez, a former Army Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and saw his wife and son also deployed overseas in recent years.
“I just welcomed my first grandson, and he very well could one day be fighting in this war. So we don’t know what the memorial is going to be yet and how to capture all of that.”
But given the scope of the individuals involved — nearly 7,000 U.S. troops killed and hundreds of thousands of others who served overseas — Rodriguez said he feels the memorial needs a prominent public placement, like the National Mall.
Earlier this year, federal officials approved plans for the National Desert Storm War Memorial to be located there, just a short walk away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and the Lincoln Memorial. The Global War on Terror Memorial is still several years away from any such decision.
Once a site is approved, foundation officials will host a nationwide design competition to establish the memorial’s look and scale. Rodriguez said the goal is to have groundbreaking on the final site in 2022, with dedication by the end of 2024.
For more information on the memorial effort, visit the foundation’s website.
Marine Corps Times: The state of the Marine Corps: Can the Corps’ new vision actually become reality?
By: Shawn Snow 12 hours ago
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The Marine Corps is on track to fulfill many of the promises it has made to overhaul grunts and prepare the force for a more sophisticated modern battlefield.
The plan calls for new tech, gear, training and various structural changes to hone massive combat power within the rifle squad.
But the rapid pace of the Corps’ modernization efforts invites a host of manpower challenges, especially as the Corps expects tepid growth over the coming year.
And the Corps is facing down serious questions as to whether it can tackle America’s ever-expanding irregular warfare in the developing world while also modernizing a force for a bout with near-peer threats.
Some changes already have taken place.
So far this year, the Corps has completed fielding all 32 infantry battalions with small quadcopter drones as part of the top Marine’s “Quads for Squads” initiative.” It has qualified nearly 1,000 Marines since 2016 to help rain down precision air and naval gun fire as part of an effort to increase lethality of the Corps’ rifle squads.
And to date, the Corps has fielded 5,636 brand new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles and has completed its issuing of the marksmen version of the IAR, known as the M38, to all the three Marine Expeditionary Forces, according to Barbara Hamby, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command.
The Marines just received the first of one of the most powerful heavy lift helicopters in the U.S. arsenal: the CH-53K. It plans to take delivery of the first new amphibious combat vehicle by spring of 2019. The force is still amid plans to overhaul the MV-22 into a refueling gunship. And the Corps has embarked on a bold plan to procure its first group five futuristic sea drone, dubbed the MUX.
The Corps contends its new expensive toys are needed for the Marines to survive as a distributed force across the vastness of the Pacific Ocean in the face of rising ballistic missile threats from peer competitors like China.
The Marines are boosting firepower with a new suite of weapons and skills within one of its most building blocks of combat power, the rifle squad, and beefing up air capabilities to help the force move massive quantities of supplies and troops.
The changes will afford the Corps to operate with independence and as small decentralized fighting units across the Pacific.
However, these programmatic changes in tech and gear and structural changes may leave the Corps with serious manpower shortages or too few systems to adequately handle future threats as the Corps tackles more problems than it can realistically handle.
While these programs are moving at near light speed, there appears to be a real disconnect between the Corps’ intellectual notions to modernize and the reality of staffing the Corps to manage these changes.
“The Marine Corps wants all the new stuff like cyber, wants to sustain contributions to special operations command, wants to beef up higher headquarters like the MEF information group, or intel and comms,” Dakota Wood, a senior fellow for the Heritage Foundation and former retired Marine officer, told Marine Corps Times.
“And since they are not growing the size of the force appreciably they have to find that manpower from other places.”
The rifle squads appear to be the first victim in the Corps’ sprint to modernize.
The decision by Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, to cut a Marine from the rifle squad frees up Marines to be staffed elsewhere across the Corps in areas like cyber and intel.
But it enacts a high price on the rifle squad at a time when operational reports and evaluations suggest “more people are needed, not fewer,” Wood argues.
The new 12-man rifle squad model “doesn’t allow for fire teams to stand watches in pairs or to be able to sustain operations in the face of attrition,” Wood said.
The Corps has routinely argued new night vision, automatic weapons, anti-tank rockets like the 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, drones and tablets will continue to boost lethality of infantry units despite the loss of a Marine from the squad.
The Marines are also heavily leaning on the retention of top tier talent within the infantry, like squad leaders and Marines trained at the Corps’ Infantry Small Unit Leaders Course. And the Corps is targeting massive bonuses to influence decisions by these Marines to stay in the service.
But the Corps is already facing a shortage of squad leaders, and new tech and gear may not necessarily plug the gap in manpower.
“New things are additions not replacements,” Wood said.
There is a real cost that is enacted with these developments being pushed by the Corps.
“I think where they [Marine Corps] are at intellectually is good,” Wood added. “But we are seeing a big gap between the intellectual development of these concepts, the likely programmatic changes and what they are buying and how they are organizationally structured.”
Right now the Corps is “unwilling to make hard calls about what it won’t do,” Wood argues.
Take for example the Corps’ push to rapidly modernize its aviation.
The Corps is procuring new CH-53K heavy lift helicopters and expects to turn its Osprey’s into an air refueling gunship.
The new V-22 Aerial Refueling System for the Osprey is currently in the development phase. Testing will kick off in fiscal year 2019 and the system is expected to be in use in the fleet by FY 2021, according to Sarah Tate, a spokeswoman with Naval Air Systems Command. The Osprey as a refueler will boost the range of fighter aircraft like the F-35B, which will help in the expanse of the Pacific theater.
And the Corps wants to upgrade the MV-22’s underbelly Gatling gun, known as the Defensive Weapon System, so it can fly escort missions.
The Corps is also pushing for its first group five drone, known as the MUX, that it wants with all the bells and whistles to include airborne early warning, kinetic and electronic attack, and communications relay.
But the Corps lacks institutional knowledge in staffing and operating large group five drones and has been piggybacking off the Air Force to learn on the job.
All these developments are aimed at the near-peer battle and the Corps’ notions of distributed operations in the Pacific.
And while the Corps does all of this, it is still working with the Air Force to potentially procure an old school turboprop plane like Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine or the A-29 Super Tucano to fight in more permissive counterinsurgency type battlefields.
Any decision to field a new aircraft for America’s irregular warfare battlefields will come structural adjustments to the force that could impact everything from needing more maintainers to pilots, manpower the Corps has little slack to maneuver in.
“The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments,” Capt. Christopher Harrison, a Marine spokesman, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
“Currently, the Marine Corps is examining potential force structure options for the platform while the Air Force assesses the viability of the two nondevelopmental, light-attack aerial platforms in the experiment.”
The value added by any new light attack will greatly depend on the “time and attention,” the Corps invests into the new aircraft and a decision by the Corps on “where it wants to focus,” Wood explained.
The Corps has a great history of being innovative on the battlefield, Wood added. The Corps introduced helicopters to the fight, tilt rotor aircraft, and has solved complicated tactical issues with opposed amphibious landings.
But the Corps “needs to start learning how to say no,” Wood said.
To work out some of these issues, the Corps needs more “robust experimentation,” according to Wood.
The Corps has carried out various experimentation exercises like Sea Dragon, which has helped the Corps to lock down on future gear and tech.
But the Corps appears to be overextending itself as it attempts to juggle all of America’s national security concerns.
The Marines want to staff its new information groups with intel professionals while building a cyber force and staffing more than 3,000 special operators at the Raider battalions and building an elite infantry force. It’s taking on a host of challenges without a real focus on what its primary mission should be.
The Corps’ mantra is to be most ready when the nation is least ready, but with budgetary constraints, expensive new toys and small growth the Marines Corps could find itself in a readiness crisis.
More robust experimentation could help the Corps iron out some of the wrinkles by bringing to light where shortages exist and how the Corps can best employ the tech and manpower it has for the fighting concepts it has recently developed, or it will highlight for the Corps what is realistically feasible.