<![CDATA[Army Times]]>https://www.armytimes.comFri, 14 Jul 2023 04:19:37 +0000en1hourly1<![CDATA[No legal reason against giving cluster bombs to Ukraine but moral?]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/08/no-legal-reason-against-giving-cluster-bombs-to-ukraine-but-moral/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/08/no-legal-reason-against-giving-cluster-bombs-to-ukraine-but-moral/Sat, 08 Jul 2023 12:00:00 +0000Editor’s note: This commentary was first published in The Conversation.

The Biden administration announced on July 7, 2023, that it would send cluster bombs to Ukraine – a deeply controversial move given the munition is prohibited by more than 120 countries because of risks to civilian populations.

The U.S. has been here before. It provided Saudi Arabia with cluster munitions – which contain bomblets that can scatter across a wide area, often not exploding until later – during the kingdom’s military intervention in Yemen.

Washington suspended sales of cluster bombs to the Saudis in 2016 following mounting concern over the toll they were taking on civilian lives. But the U.S. is still holding out from joining an international ban on cluster bombs.

As a scholar of the law of war, I know that cluster bombs highlight a reality about the use and regulation of weapons, even those that can cause widespread civilian suffering: These munitions are not in themselves illegal, but their usage can be. Furthermore, the decision by the U.S. to provide Ukraine with cluster bombs could weaken the argument against others’ doing likewise. And that, in turn, could increase the chances of cluster bombs’ being deployed illegally.

Effective or indiscriminate?

Cluster munitions have been part of nations’ arsenals since World War II. Delivered by air or ground artillery, they have been used by the United States in Laos and Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Israel in southern Lebanon, the U.S. and U.K. in Iraq, Russia and Syria in the ongoing Syrian civil war, and the Saudis in Yemen. And now they are being deployed in Ukraine.

If deployed responsibly, they can be an effective military tool. Because they can spread hundreds of bomblets across a wide area, they can prove a potent weapon against concentrations of enemy troops and their weapons on a battlefield. In 2017, a U.S. Department of Defense memo said cluster munitions provided a “necessary capability” when confronted with “massed formation of enemy forces, individual targets dispersed over a defined area, targets whose precise location are not known, and time-sensitive or moving targets.” And on June 22, 2023, it was reported that the Department of Defense has concluded that cluster bombs would be useful if deployed against “dug-in” Russian positions in Ukraine.

Indeed, the Department of Defense argued that in some limited circumstances cluster bombs can be less destructive to civilians. In Vietnam, the U.S. sanctioned the use of cluster bombs – over more powerful bombs – to disrupt transport links and enemy positions while minimizing the risk of destroying nearby dikes, which would have flooded rice fields and caused widespread suffering to villagers.

Still, their use has always been controversial. The problem is that not all the bomblets explode on impact. Many remain on the ground, unexploded until they are later disturbed – and that increases the chances of civilians’ being maimed or killed. Their use in urban settings is particularly problematic, as they cannot be directed at a specific military target and are just as likely to strike civilians and their homes.

A cluster bomb (including its bomblets) is on display at the Spreewerk ISL Integrated Solutions weapons decommissioning facility near Luebben June 23, 2009. A two-day conference on the destruction of cluster munitions stockpiles begins in Berlin June 25, 2009. AFP PHOTO JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Cluster bombs under international law

Concern over the risk to civilian harm led in 2008 to a Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans their use, production or sale by member states.

But as of 2023, the convention is legally binding for only the 123 states that are signatories – and Ukraine, Russia and the U.S. are not among them. Nor can they – or any of the other countries yet to sign up to the convention – be compelled to join the ban.

As such, there is no legal reason that Ukraine or Russia cannot deploy cluster bombs in the current conflict – as both have done since the invasion of February 2022. Nor is there any legal reason the Biden administration can’t sell the munitions to Ukraine.

But there are laws that set out how cluster bombs can be used, and how they must not.

The relevant part of international humanitarian law here is 1977′s Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, which both Ukraine and Russia have ratified. The additional protocol sets out rules the warring parties must observe to limit harm to civilians. Acknowledging that civilian deaths are an inevitable part of war, Article 51 of Additional Protocol I prohibits “indiscrimate” attacks. Such attacks include those employing a weapon that cannot be directed at a specific military target or of such a nature to strike military targets and civilians and civilian objects without distinction.

Meanwhile, Article 57 of the additional protocol stresses that attacking armies have a duty of care to spare civilian populations. This includes taking “all feasible precautions in the choice of means and method of attack.”

Neither article specifies any weapons deemed off-limits. Rather, it is how the weapons are used that determines whether the attack constitutes an indiscriminate one and hence a crime under international law.

More than an ‘optical’ risk?

Even if cluster bombs are not inherently indiscriminate – a claim that advocates of an international ban put forward – their use in urban settings greatly increases the chance of civilian harm. In 2021, 97% of cluster bomb casualties were civilians, two-thirds of whom were children. And the experience of cluster bomb use in Syria and Yemen shows that it can be difficult to hold governments to account.

Which is why Ukraine’s request for U.S. cluster munitions has led to concerns. The Cluster Munitions Monitor, which logs international use of the bombs, found that as of August 2022, Ukraine was the only active conflict zone where cluster bombs were being deployed – with Russia using the weapon “extensively” since its invasion, and Ukraine also deploying cluster bombs on a handful of occasions.

Ukraine reportedly sought some of the United States’ stockpile of Cold War-era MK-20 cluster bombs to drop on Russian positions via drones. The White House had previously aired “concern” over the transfer.

In announcing the decision to send U.S.-made cluster bombs to Ukraine, Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, noted that “cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance,” adding: “This is why we’ve deferred the decision for as long as we could.”

The Biden administration’s earlier hesitancy was reportedly over the “optics” of selling cluster bombs and that it may introducing a wedge between the U.S. and other NATO countries over the weapon’s use.

Certainly, there would be very little legal risk under international law of providing cluster bombs to Ukraine – or any other nation – even if that country were to use the weapon illegally.

A view shows the internal components of a 300mm rocket which appear to contained cluster bombs launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 3, 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians on March 3, in a second round of talks since Moscow invaded last week, negotiators on both sides said. (Photo by Sergey BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

There is no case I know of in which a state has been found legally responsible for providing weapons to another that flagrantly misuses them – there is no equivalent to efforts in the U.S. seeking to hold gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings, or state “dram shop laws” that hold the suppliers of alcohol culpable for the actions of an inebriated driver.

Yet one of the things that worried people in Congress regarding the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia was that the Saudis’ consistently indiscriminate use of those weapons in Yemen could be seen at home and abroad as making the U.S. complicit in those violations.

I would argue that it became difficult for Washington to continue to supply the Saudis on moral ground. But still, there was and is presently no clear-cut legal obligation for the U.S. to stop supplying other nations with cluster bombs.

In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that Ukraine will deliberately use U.S.-supplied cluster munitions to target civilians and their environs.

And Ukraine provided “written assurances that it is going to use these in a very careful way,” Sullivan said in announcing the transfer.

Nonetheless, providing Ukraine with cluster weapons could serve to destigmatize them and runs counter to international efforts to end their use. And that, in turn, could encourage – or excuse – their use by other states that may be less responsible.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 7, 2023, in light of the Biden administration’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/there-is-no-legal-reason-the-us-cant-supply-cluster-bombs-to-ukraine-but-that-doesnt-make-biden-decision-to-do-so-morally-right-207717.

Scott Olson
<![CDATA[Clint Lorance wants to be a lawyer. A soldier he led says he’s unfit]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/07/clint-lorance-wants-to-be-a-lawyer-a-soldier-he-led-says-hes-unfit/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/07/clint-lorance-wants-to-be-a-lawyer-a-soldier-he-led-says-hes-unfit/Fri, 07 Jul 2023 13:51:41 +0000On July 2, 2012, Clint Lorance led his platoon out on a patrol in Afghanistan’s Zhari District. Little did he know, that day would change things forever. Not just for him, but for everyone in the platoon, including myself.

I was the Weapons Squad Leader, and I was there on that fateful day in 2012. During a routine patrol to help get out the word about a shura (a small meeting between our forces and local villagers), the platoon would eventually see three people on a motorcycle, traveling towards the formation. Lorance’s defense would later argue that it was a split-second decision, but after a few minutes, he ordered a nearby gun truck to open fire. Two would end up dead. It would have devastating effects on U.S. forces in Zhari not just for the duration of that deployment, but for years after.

This story has been covered widely: in the Starz! documentary, “Leavenworth,” by journalists Greg Jaffe and Nathaniel Penn (for the Washington Post and The California Sunday Magazine, respectively) as well as in various military-related newspapers. People know about it.

What people might not know is that Clint Lorance, free after his pardon by then-President Donald Trump in November 2019, graduated from the Appalachian School of Law on May 13. Yes, the very man who was in a courtroom being sentenced to 19 years in prison (later dropped to 18) wants to practice law, and applied for the Oklahoma State Bar Exam, which he plans on taking in July.

Here’s the thing of it-Lorance was never quiet about his intention to pursue law as a vocation. There have been many formerly incarcerated that have followed a similar path: Reginald Betts, who was imprisoned for a carjacking as a minor, would go on to attend Yale Law. Jarret Adams was wrongfully accused of rape and spent 10 years in prison before he was exonerated, after which he went on to attend law school at Loyola in Chicago. Others, knowing they did wrong, pursued the law as a means to make up for their prior mistakes, provide a quality defense for those accused of crimes, and have shown remorse for their past actions.

However, these are things that Lorance has not done, and most likely will not do.

A large part of Lorance’s defense came from a biometrics expert, Bill Carney, who was able to tie the victims to bombs or bombmaking materials through fingerprints that were taken on the spot and entered into ABIS, or the Automated Biometric Identification System. As someone who was in charge of taking biometrics, and overseeing the admission of biometric information into ABIS, the information collected in Afghanistan at that time was spotty at best, largely incomplete, and just outright wrong at the worst of times.

In a piece for the New York Times on Jan. 9, 2021, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author Annie Jacobsen, who wrote a book on this subject titled “First Platoon,” covered the shooting and dove into biometrics, and the faults in those systems. During her research, she would discover that one of the people Lorance’s attorney, John Maher, and Carney, his legal defense’s biometrics expert, claimed built bombs and was killed in the shooting, had been arrested multiple times by U.S. forces after the shooting occurred. Carney admitted during the interview that he had never actually run any of the names through ABIS, he just knew they were bomb makers whose names he got from a disk that he brought home from working as a contractor in Afghanistan.

After the shooting, Lorance confronted me and Staff Sgt. Daniel Williams, who was the sergeant of the guard that day and watched the entire situation unfold through cameras, and asked “What are we going to do about this?” Before we even left the village, I came to find out that he threatened to harm and kill the women and children who had come out to collect the bodies of their dead. Giving orders to shoot unarmed people, threatening women and children, and then asking subordinates to cover it up is pretty damning evidence of a lack of moral fiber. What displays that even more is Lorance’s insistence that he was the victim, his complete lack of remorse, and his failure to take accountability for his actions in Afghanistan.

In a lengthy June 22 Twitter thread, Todd Fitzgerald, my friend and former teammate in the platoon, shared this: “That has stuck with me because he KNEW he killed innocent people…He told us to ‘forget’ we saw their identification. He tried to cover it up and obstruct justice. We deserve better people representing us.”

What sort of example would it set if Lorance was allowed to practice law? A man who asked his subordinates for assistance to cover up his crimes? Someone who, prior to receiving his pardon, asked for relief that was “different” from a pardon because precedent made the accepting of a pardon an admission of guilt?

What would his acceptance into the Oklahoma bar mean to those veterans who served honorably and with integrity? What would it mean to those who might have fallen short, but have accepted their shortcomings, as well as the consequences of their actions? Lorance’s story should be one that inspires others to do better — until that person digs into the details, and witnesses the fluid and manipulative nature of his defense and release. Being an officer in the United States military and an attorney, which is an officer of the court, are privileges. They are not rights, and Lorance has shown that he lacks the moral character and judgment to be either.

We deserved better in 2012, and potential clients deserve better now. Clint Lorance is a free man and should be able to live out his days, hopefully staying within the law and doing whatever it is he enjoys doing. But at no point should he ever again hold a position of power or influence over people. He has shown that he cannot be trusted with that.

Mike McGuinness is a freelance writer and journalist, previously having been published in the War Horse and on Brownsnation.com. He is the host of the upcoming podcast on iHeartMedia “The War Within: The Robert Bales Story.” He currently resides in North Carolina.

Mark Lennihan
<![CDATA[Shame on those who failed to take Coast Guard sexual assault seriously]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/07/shame-on-those-who-failed-to-take-coast-guard-sexual-assault-seriously/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/07/shame-on-those-who-failed-to-take-coast-guard-sexual-assault-seriously/Fri, 07 Jul 2023 09:00:00 +0000On June 30, reports were brought to light about an investigation into alleged sexual abuse at the Coast Guard Academy that revealed a history of sexual assaults and misconduct that was largely ignored. The story, first reported by CNN, was also picked up by local papers in Connecticut and national press, including The Associated Press, whose story was republished by Military Times. Shortly after the stories appeared online, Adm. Linda Fagan released a message to the Coast Guard community stating that Coast Guard leaders “own” the failure of not taking appropriate action at the time of the alleged crimes.

I’m a former Coast Guard judge advocate general and as I read the story I quickly realized that I had served at Coast Guard headquarters during four of the years in which the cases weren’t investigated, from 1988 to 2006, according to the reports. The next question running through my mind was why were these allegations not investigated? Who gave the legal advice to handle the crimes as administrative violations? Who advised on issuing punishments in the form of extra homework or lowered class standing in lieu of prosecution?

The likely answer — Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, and Department of Homeland Security lawyers. They have a lot to answer for.

Coast Guard headquarters during those days was located at Buzzard Point, near Fort McNair. The legal team was on one floor and the various divisions were led by a Coast Guard captain or civilian GS-15. Coast Guard lawyers stationed at the Coast Guard Academy provided immediate assistance to the school with the headquarters team providing more specialized guidance.

All reported to the Coast Guard chief counsel, who advised the Coast Guard commandant. The commandant advised the Secretary of Transportation prior to 2003 and afterwards, the Secretary of Homeland Security.

After I left the Coast Guard, I became a chief counsel at the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD. The agency is responsible for the fifth federal service school. This experience taught me that agency chief counsels are always involved in sexual assault investigations and information about sexual assaults is shared at high levels within the federal government. As MARAD chief counsel, I regularly briefed the Department of Transportation general counsel. The Coast Guard chief counsel briefs the Department of Homeland Security General Counsel.

The same lines of communication apply for investigations. When the Coast Guard in 2014 launched its investigation into the mishandled cases, dubbed Operation Fouled Anchor, Coast Guard lawyers at the Coast Guard Academy would have been responsible for briefing the Coast Guard Chief Counsel. Then he would be responsible for sharing information with the Department of Homeland Security General Counsel. Once the investigation was completed, Coast Guard lawyers would have advised on who should have seen the results.

Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., sent a letter to the Coast Guard on June 30 demanding answers about the missing prosecutions and the secret investigation. It’s my hope that the senators expand their line of investigation and ask questions about the lawyers assigned to the school and their leadership team.

Sexual assault was a crime in 1980s. It was a crime when I served in the late 1990s. It was a crime when the investigation started in 2014 and it is a crime today. Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, and Department of Homeland Security lawyers should have been advocating for prosecution of said crimes.

If their client, the Coast Guard Academy superintendent, the Coast Guard commandant, and/or the Secretaries of Homeland Security/Transportation opposed the prosecutions then the lawyers should have said something. Lawyers, especially those who swear an oath to uphold the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, can’t turn a blind eye to criminal activity that physically harms another person.

K. Denise Rucker Krepp is a former Coast Guard officer, former U.S. Maritime Administration Chief Counsel, and former locally elected Washington, D.C., official.

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Carolyn Kaster
<![CDATA[Congress should mandate provider choice for pregnant service women]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/06/congress-should-mandate-provider-choice-for-pregnant-service-women/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/06/congress-should-mandate-provider-choice-for-pregnant-service-women/Thu, 06 Jul 2023 09:00:00 +0000The military this month celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which allowed women to serve in all branches of the armed forces. Days before that anniversary, Military Times reported that pregnant service women and dependents receiving prenatal care at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa in Japan would need to be transported back to the United States to receive pregnancy care due to staffing shortages.

While the Defense Health Agency reversed course shortly afterward, incidents like this are all too common — and serve as a reminder that women have not been integrated into the military.

Senior leaders are failing active duty service women by not openly acknowledging that access to adequate health care during all phases of womanhood continues to plague our military medical system. Specifically, access to prenatal and post-partum health care presents a bleak outlook on what it is like to have a baby as a service woman. The Department of Defense’s own Defense Health Board found that decades of recommendations to bolster gender-specific health care across the services have not led to “sustained improvements.”

Most would be shocked to learn that active duty service women get no choice in the prenatal or post-partum care they receive. They receive care wherever they are based, per government regulations that require active duty personnel to use Tricare Prime insurance, instead of being able to elect coverage through Tricare Select like military dependents. So, all pregnant active duty service women are required to receive care at a military treatment facility, or MTF, at the base they are assigned to if the MTF can “support” such care.

These regulations impact large military populations areas like the National Capitol Region; Colorado Springs, Colorado; San Antonio, Texas; Fort Liberty, North Carolina and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where a military treatment facility with obstetrics, labor and delivery and post-partum care exist. Because these areas have large military populations, they likely have the largest populations of active duty service women, who make up roughly 17% of the military.

Allowing pregnant women to choose their service provider results in better medical outcomes, according to a 2012 study that found a women’s perceived amount of control over her birth experience positively impacts the birthing experience. It was not necessarily the type of care that the woman chose but that she had some control over her birth experience. And a 2021 study found that a negative birth experience could have an overall negative impact on women’s health after childbirth to include increased risk of postpartum depression and anxiety.

The fix is simple: Congress should direct that upon a positive pregnancy test, a service woman is given the option to be referred to a provider of her choice within the Tricare network. This would not require any drastic changes to the Tricare system because military providers already have the ability to refer patients to other providers in the Tricare network.

The arguments in favor are simple: if service women have lengthier recoveries postpartum due to negative, traumatic birth experiences, then they are likely to take longer to return to active duty. Studies have found service women tend to leave the military at higher rates than their male counterparts. More specifically, a 2018 Rand Corp. study on addressing barriers to female officer retention in the Air Force found that between the 10 to 13 year marks women officers left the service at higher rates than their male counterparts — a time that just so happens to be right during the middle of their childbearing years, if they joined in their late teens or early twenties. Could it be they leave service at this point to avoid continued shortfalls in medical care especially if they desire to have more children? Is this likely exacerbated if they had a previously negative birth experience? Yes and yes.

Readiness. Recruitment. Retention. This issue touches it all. No woman should be forced to receive maternity health care with no options as to how, where and from whom they receive that care given the data supporting provider choice and its overall positive impact on birth experience and post-partum recovery. But, yet, this is exactly what is happening to active duty service women. Women who have raised their hands to support and defend our nation are stripped of basic healthcare options that most civilian women find commonplace.

It’s an easy fix. Congress should direct provider choice for active duty service women, and the Department of Defense should quickly implement, if Congress chooses to make this welcome change.

Sam Sliney is a mother of two and wife to an Army Green Beret. Since 2014, she has served in the Air Force as a Judge Advocate. Sam is passionate about creating an inclusive Department of the Air Force and Department of Defense to increase lethality of the joint force. Specifically, she advocates for equitable support and accessibility for women during all phases of womanhood, particularly pregnancy and post-partum.

These views are solely those of the author, and do not purport to be the views of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

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Ron Mooney
<![CDATA[Uniform standards needed now for sexual assault prosecution offices]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/03/uniform-standards-needed-now-for-sexual-assault-prosecution-offices/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/03/uniform-standards-needed-now-for-sexual-assault-prosecution-offices/Mon, 03 Jul 2023 09:00:00 +0000The United States military is this year executing the most historic and transformative change to military justice since the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1950. On Dec. 28, 2023, the decision to charge and try a service member for sexual assault and 13 other special victim related crimes will be removed from commanders and will rest in the hands of independent military prosecutors. The offices housing these specialized litigators became fully operational on July 1, 2023.

But the secretary of defense has one crucial outstanding task left: create uniform prosecution standards across all the services, which he can do with a stroke of a pen. This final action — or failure to act — could make or break the success of the independent special victim’s prosecution offices.

In 2021, service members past and present raised their voices to the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military. They identified the command-driven justice system as a perpetrator of broken trust for survivors and criminally accused navigating the military justice landscape. The secretary of defense and the Congress listened.

On Dec. 28, 2021, the historic legislation removing commanders from prosecuting special victim cases became law. On July 1, the new Offices of Special Trial Counsel, or OSTC, in the Department of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force made their groundbreaking debut.

On June 9, 2023, after five years of rigorous study, data collection, and stakeholder engagement, the Defense Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, or DAC-IPAD, released a report to the secretary of defense and Congress recommending Secretary Lloyd Austin revise Appendix 2.1 of the MCM to establish uniform prosecution standards that align with the prosecution principles contained in the United States Justice Manual.

In its report, the DAC-IPAD included a proposal to create a statement of prosecutorial practices and policies that every judge advocate can use when exercising prosecutorial discretion. The proposed prosecution standards provide that counsel for the government refer charges to a court-martial only if they believe that the service member’s conduct constitutes an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction when viewed objectively by an unbiased fact finder.

This is not a radical idea — in fact, admissible evidence to obtain and sustain a conviction is the gold standard used by prosecutors across the United States Department of Justice. Presently, the military uses the much lower standard of probable cause to send a case to trial and that is not the industry standard.

The DAC-IPAD is comprised of current and former United States district court judges, a state circuit court judge, a former clerk of court for federal bankruptcy court, federal and state prosecutors, a defense appellate counsel, the federal public defender for Washington, D.C., a nationally recognized criminologist, the nation’s top forensic nurse examiner, a former Department of Defense general counsel, a former DoD associate deputy general counsel, a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Education, and the executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute. Many committee members have prior military service as judge advocates (including these two authors who both served as Army judge advocates) and have the expertise and judicial prowess to underwrite such a recommendation that elevates the referral standard.

This policy detail is essential, and timing is everything.

Presently, the military does not have uniform standards to properly guide its prosecutors and each OSTC is writing its own so-called “business rules” that will detail how judge advocates screen, charge, and refer cases. Shrouded in a veil of secrecy, these “rules” are deemed “pre-decisional” by the Pentagon so the public has had no visibility, input, or oversight of their development.

If the secretary of defense does not move swiftly, each service may create different standards governing prosecutorial decision-making. Uniform prosecution standards issued by the secretary of defense would assure service members that criminal cases are being evaluated consistently to avoid charging disparities and unfavorable trial outcomes for both victims and accused.

Uniform prosecution standards also would forever put to rest the military’s archaic practice of using the less rigorous standard of probable cause to refer a case to court-martial. Over the last decade, the probable cause referral standard has likely been the culprit for the abysmal conviction rate in sexual assault cases in the armed forces. Additionally, the military is the only jurisdiction in the United States of America that uses probable cause (the standard of proof to obtain a warrant) to refer a case to a felony level trial where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The probable cause standard to refer a case to court-martial has plagued military sexual assault prosecutions for years. As the military professionalizes lawyers in its ranks with the establishment of independent offices charged with prosecuting special victim crimes, it must also adopt uniform principles of prosecution on par with the Department of Justice. And its prosecutors across all services should use the heightened referral standard of admissible evidence to obtain and sustain a conviction.

Secretary Austin need only adopt the DAC-IPAD’s proposal contained in Appendix G of its newly released report. The proposed standards provide military prosecutors policies and practices that promote the reasoned exercise of prosecutorial authority that will contribute to the fair, evenhanded administration of the UCMJ. Furthermore, the promulgation of these standards by Secretary Austin will establish trust that important prosecutorial decisions will be made rationally and objectively based on an individualized assessment of the facts and circumstances of each case. Establishing the rules now and making them uniform sends a message to sexual assault victims, those criminally accused, and the American public that the military’s new prosecutorial offices will abide by policy designed to prevent unwarranted preferral and referral disparities — both actual and perceived.

The implementation of independent special victim prosecution offices is imminent. The policy guiding these new offices must ensure uniformity, reliability, and consistency that is vital to any prosecutorial function. Without uniform guidance from the secretary, each OSTC may have conflicting standards for screening cases, preferring charges, and referring cases to trial. Worse, prosecutors within each service’s OSTC could use different standards for exercising prosecutorial discretion. Disparate case outcomes will only exacerbate the problem of broken trust in the military’s handling of sexual assault cases. Without uniform prosecution standards, a decade’s effort at military justice reform and the success of the independent special victim prosecution offices will be in jeopardy.

The Hon. Paul Grimm is a retired United States district court judge and professor of the practice of law and director of the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law School. Meghan Tokash is a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice and served as a commissioner on the Secretary of Defense’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military. When she was an active duty Army judge advocate, Ms. Tokash served as Gen. Austin’s senior trial counsel for U.S. Forces-Iraq from 2010-2011.

Both Judge Grimm and Ms. Tokash are members of the Defense Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces. Their opinions are their own and not those of the full DAC-IPAD, the Department of Justice or the Duke Law School.

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Staff Sgt. Joshua Jospeh Magbanua
<![CDATA[Author retraces the steps of World War II journalist Ernie Pyle]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/01/author-retraces-the-steps-of-world-war-ii-journalist-ernie-pyle/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/07/01/author-retraces-the-steps-of-world-war-ii-journalist-ernie-pyle/Sat, 01 Jul 2023 10:00:00 +0000Editor’s note: This book excerpt was first published in The War Horse, an award-winning nonprofit news organization educating the public on military service. It was republished with permission. Subscribe to their newsletter.

Author David Chrisinger spent the past four years walking in war journalist Ernie Pyle’s footsteps for his new book. This excerpt first appeared in “The Soldier’s Truth: Ernie Pyle and the Story of World War II,” from Penguin Publishing Group.

Yomna Mansouri cinched the belt on her coat as a rundown pickup loaded down with sheep blew past us. A blazing sun high in the clear December sky warmed my face and the top of my head. Once she was ready, we darted across the two-lane highway, hopped a concrete water pipe that ran the highway’s length, and landed in a ditch. The ground beneath our feet was spongy and uneven where the earth had healed over discarded plastic shopping bags, crinkled water bottles, and paper espresso cups. A stiff wind kicked up sand from the west, stirring the smells of modern life in rural Tunisia into an odd bouquet of damp earth, truck exhaust, and the sweet smell of barbequed camel.

“We will not be eating that,” Yomna told me when I asked about the food served up by the roadside eatery we passed a few hundred yards down the highway from where we parked.

On the other side of the ditch, a small field with neatly cultivated rows sprawled out before us. In the far corner of that field, two farmers Yomna had spotted, a man and a woman, picked onions with their two mangy dogs.

We were there to climb Djebel Hamra, the Red Mountain—a jagged, steep-sloped escarpment that juts out of the desert valley a short distance from the farmers’ field. On Feb. 15, 1942, Ernie Pyle scaled Djebel Hamra after he and several other correspondents were assured its summit would provide an unobstructed view of the Americans’ planned counterattack on the ancient camel-trading city of Sidi Bou Zid, which had fallen easily to the two German Panzer tank divisions the day before.

Despite the devastating losses sustained at Sidi Bou Zid, an impenetrable sense of denial blanketed the Allied high command over the border in Algeria. Rather than withdraw and regroup, they issued an order to counterattack more than 200 German tanks, half-tracks, and big guns with what little was left of the American force: a tank battalion, a tank destroyer company, an infantry battalion, and some artillery pieces.

“We are going to kick the hell out of them today,” an army officer told Ernie, “and we’ve got the stuff to do it with.”

“Unfortunately,” Ernie would report, “we didn’t kick hell out of them. In fact, the boot was on the other foot.”

When Yomna had picked me up from the hotel in Kasserine that morning, she told me that she wasn’t going to let me climb any mountain in Tunisia until she first talked with a local—a farmer—who knew the area well. Since the winter of 2012, Islamist terrorists had used the cave-rich mountains in central and western Tunisia to hide from the military and stage attacks.

“I don’t want you to end up on some ISIS propaganda video,” she told me from the back seat of our rental car as she queued up a playlist of her favorite Frank Sinatra tunes on her phone.

We met the farmer’s dogs first. Yomna stayed behind me, using me as a shield. The mixed breeds seemed friendly enough. They jumped up at me and nipped at the bottom of my jacket until the man whistled for them. We met and shook hands in the middle of the field, between rows of onions that looked ready to be picked. The man wore a dingy white scarf wrapped loosely around his head and a baggy black suit jacket and pants. Earth had worked into his pores and under his nails, and his hand felt cool and hard in mine. His wife stood behind him, squinting in the sun. Her colorful scarf looked handmade and much too nice to be worn while laboring in the dirt. Their faces were as wrinkled and weathered as their clothes, their eyes kind and watery from the wind.

Once I had exhausted my conversational French, which didn’t take long, Yomna spoke in the Tunisian dialect of Arabic—a mix of Berber, Arabic, and a little French—about my project, how I was there to write a book about a man who had watched a tank battle between the Americans and the Germans from the Red Mountain.

“You mean ‘Black Mountain’?” the woman said, pointing to it in the distance behind us.

I looked down at the map I had brought with me titled “Central Tunisia, 1943: Battle of Kasserine Pass.” Allied movements were marked in blue dotted lines. The Germans were red. With my finger I found Fäid Pass, where the Germans had launched their offensive. Halfway between Sidi Bou Zid and Sbeïtla, I looked for the mountain. It wasn’t there. I flipped to another map.

“Here,” I said looking to Yomna for confirmation. “This map calls it ‘Dj Hamra.’ Are we in the right place?”

“She says everyone always called it ‘Black Mountain,’” Yomna said with a shrug. “Maybe because it isn’t red?”

The man spoke to me in French. I nodded politely and waited for him to finish.

“He wants to know what Ernie looked like,” Yomna interjected.

He was a small man, I said, holding my hand flat against my sternum. About 110 pounds. When he was here, he was 42 years old, I continued. Thinning white hair on the top of his head. He had a big nose, too. People said he looked frail, like he was sick all the time.

Yomna translated. The man nodded. He looked down at the ground, then back up at me. His lips tightened. His brow furrowed. When he spoke, it seemed he was trying to comfort me, as if he were a doctor gently explaining the inoperable nature of a lump I had found.

I looked to Yomna as I folded my maps and slid them back into the inside pocket of my jacket. She took off her sunglasses and smiled.

Ernie Pyle’s “everyman” approach to writing about the war won him praise among the service members he worked with in combat. (Courtesy of the Defense Department)

“He says your friend is not there anymore.”

After thanking the couple for giving us the go-ahead to climb the mountain, Yomna and I hurried back to the car, where we found her cousin, Zakariya—our chauffeur for the week—leaned against the front fender, scrolling on his phone and finishing a cigarette. About a thousand yards up the highway we crossed a bridge and turned left down a dirt road that followed the edge of an olive grove. The road dissolved into more of a trail, with ruts so deep Zakariya had to stick his head out the window to navigate them. As we crawled along, Yomna cranked up the volume on Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young.” At the end of the trail stood a small stucco building, 10 feet by 10 feet and 15 feet tall. There was enough shade on the eastern side of the building for Zakariya to park and continue checking his text messages while Yomna and I hiked the rest of the way to the base of the 2,000-foot mountain.

‘But What if They Have a Gun?’

I scanned the ground, searching for any signs of the battle. Slit trenches or rusty C ration cans, maybe a rifle cartridge or shrapnel if I was lucky. Many American soldiers treated bits of shrapnel like good-luck amulets. In the half an hour it took Yomna and me to hike from the base of Djebel Hamra, there was nothing to be found but sand, shale, and flecks of mica that glittered in the sun.

The side of the mountain was steeper than it looked from a distance. With Yomna trailing behind me, I switchbacked across the south-facing slope. The sun baked the back of my neck. Dressed in tight black jeans and pearly white Adidas sneakers, Yomna kept pace with me until we hit a stretch made up of flat, loose stones. It was like trying to walk on dinner plates spilled all over the kitchen floor—Yomna slipped every few steps. She fell down hard on her side about three-quarters of the way to the top. I heard her break her fall with her elbow and hip. She winced in pain as I trotted back to where she had fallen and helped her regain her footing. Her right side was dusted with powdery soil, like flour.

“Is that a cave?” she asked as she dusted herself off.


“There!” she pointed up and to the left. “Right there! That’s a cave. That’s definitely a cave.”

A few hundred feet above us, a black hole big enough for a person to climb through stuck out among the light brown stones and green shrubbery.

“We need to turn back,” Yomna said. “We need to get off this mountain.”

For the first time in Tunisia, I occupied the exact ground Pyle had. We were so close, yet Pyle suddenly seemed to be drawing back, like a desert mirage. I took a deep breath. The cool breeze dried the sweat on the back of my neck.

“What if we hiked this way?” I said, pointing to the far side of the mountain, away from the cave opening. “Then if someone comes out of there, we’d have more time to go down.”

“But what if they have a gun?” Yomna asked. Her arms were crossed.

“We’ll be fine,” I tried to assure her.

‘I Felt Exhausted by Everything Left Unsaid’

After Yomna and I reached the summit of Djebel Hamra, I sat down on a flat rock next to a low shrub. When Ernie sat and took in the same sight back on Feb. 15, 1943, he was reminded of the high plains of the American Southwest.

“The whole vast scene was treeless,” with semi-irrigated vegetable fields broken up by patches of wild growth, he wrote. He saw “shoulder-high cactus of the prickly-pear variety” and the occasional stucco house, tiny and square. Through a pair of binoculars, Pyle viewed the smear of Sidi Bou Zid, 13 miles away, which Ernie described as “a great oasis whose green trees stood out against the bare brown of the desert.” Beyond Sidi Bou Zid loomed Djebel Lessouda and the infantrymen marooned there.

The vista Yomna and I spied from atop Djebel Hamra nearly eight decades later closely matched Ernie’s description. The dips and folds of the tan-brown plain below the mountain undulated like waves in the ocean. The sun sat high in the sky, shining brightly over a monotonous landscape of sand, gullies, and dry washes, broken up only occasionally by patches of dark prickly pears and the geometric patterns of olive orchards and irrigated farm fields planted by hand.

Columnist Ernie Pyle rests on the roadside with a Marine patrol on April 8, 1945. (Photo by Barnett, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

Sidi Bou Zid, 13 miles to the southeast, was a tiny spot of dark-hued greenery and cream-colored houses. Beyond the city, the purple ridges of Djebel Ksaira stood above an arid haze. To our left, rising majestically from inhospitable soil, we saw Djebel Lessouda. Other than the semitrucks barreling down the highway in the distance, the panorama seemed little changed since Ernie had been there to watch the Americans’ disastrous tank battle.

Looking out over the land, I tried to picture Ernie in his knit cap and brown army coveralls fading white from exposure and too many washings. I tried to picture his overshoes and the weariness of his features, his body bundled tightly in his double-breasted coat. I tried to picture him squinting into the sun, taking mental snapshots, waiting for the action to begin.

All I could envision was a young man, wavy-haired and silhouetted in a rising sun. It wasn’t Ernie; it was my grandpa, Hod. I’d read about what his tank company endured during the Battle of Okinawa, and I learned the details of the battle he had survived. It had been as devastating as the tank battle Ernie watched from atop Djebel Hamra. On April 19, 1945—the day after Ernie was killed—22 of 30 American tanks from my grandfather’s company were disabled or destroyed while attacking a village called Kakazu. It was, according to one historian of the battle, the greatest loss of American armor in a single engagement during the entire Pacific war.

I thought about the last time I spoke to my grandfather. It was in the summer, August, I think— the year before I started eighth grade. The battered shell of a rusted-out 1927 John Deere B tractor rotted in the front yard, overgrown with weeds. Crumbling concrete steps and a rusty pipe for a handrail led to the front door. My father went inside first, leaving me, my mother, and my younger brother in the yard. There was a hollowness in the air, a dark unspeakable silence as we waited for my father to return to the steps and give us the go-ahead to enter.

We filed into the tiny kitchen and lined up, tallest to shortest. With only a single kitchen chair to his name, no one except my grandfather could sit, not that I would have wanted to. The stained linoleum floor and the windowsill above the table were layered with dust and dead flies. The soles of my shoes stuck to the linoleum. His old stove and the week’s dishes piled up in the crusty kitchen sink mixed into a faint stench that seemed to hang in the air above our heads.

I remembered standing there before him, wondering to myself how long it had been since he’d handled the greasy wrenches piled up on the table where a guest might have joined him for coffee and a chat. It had been decades since he’d retired from the tractor repair shop he’d once owned with his father, and still, I remember the calluses and the fingernails lined with grease. I remember his eyes, a deep blue, like mine. I remember his face, rough and broken in a way that could have been handsome. I remember the sweet-and-sour smell of brandy on his breath and fixating on the way he dug the bloated knuckles of his left hand into the top of his thigh to keep himself propped up in his chair. He was almost like an exhibit in a museum. “The Lasting Effects of Unaddressed Combat Trauma,” his display placard would have read. Only no signage existed to explain what I saw and what it all meant.

My father did most of the talking. The weather was nice, he said. Nice for cutting hay.

He seemed so different while in his father’s presence. Diminished, somehow, hiding behind a carefree demeanor, as if what had become of his father was normal or acceptable. Then he talked about me and my brother, how we were playing football again that fall. Grandpa smiled with his toothless farmer’s grin. Were we practicing our war cries? he asked. My father laughed. I tried to follow his lead. Then my father patted me on the back. He smiled at me through clenched teeth. There was nothing left to talk about. We had been there only 15 minutes, and I felt exhausted by the tension, by everything left unsaid between my father and his.

‘I Can’t Help Feeling the Immensity of the Catastrophe’

Before sunrise Sunday morning, Feb. 14, 1943, Ernie slept inside an igloo tent at Gen. Lloyd Fredendall’s II Corps’ headquarters on the Algerian side of the border with Tunisia. For nearly a month, the frigid tent pitched at the bottom of a sunless valley had served as Ernie’s personal base camp. When he wasn’t poking at his typewriter perched atop a wooden crate he begged off a supply sergeant, he jetted up and over mountains and across barren stretches of frozen mud in an open-air jeep, the wind burning his face.

During most of January, the frontline units had been preparing for Operation Satin— designed to knock the Germans in North Africa out of the war by trapping them between a rock and a hard place. The rock was British Gen. Bernard Montgomery’s Eighth Army coming up on Erwin Rommel from the south; the hard place was Fredendall’s green-as-grass II Corps. Right before the operation was set to begin at the end of January, however, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower scuttled it because the Eighth Army had yet to arrive in Tunisia from Libya.

The rock in the equation was missing.

Rather than push east toward the Tunisian coast, Fredendall’s troops were split and scattered across hundreds of miles into a “bits and pieces war” aimed at keeping the Germans off balance until better weather afforded the Allies ideal conditions for a coordinated offensive.

After Ernie reached the front dressed in his army coveralls, a private’s mackinaw, knit cap, and overshoes, he would catch up with a unit and do his best to blend in. After setting up his pup tent and laying out a heavy canvas bedroll stuffed with blankets, he visited foxholes and hung out by the mess tent, talking to soldiers and mentally recording the details of their everyday lives.

Most of his colleagues in North Africa weren’t doing that. They were mostly press association reporters tethered to Eisenhower’s headquarters staff back in Algiers. From the safe confines of seaside hotels, they attended press briefings, reviewed dry military communiqués, and churned out articles liberally sprinkled with vivid verbs like “smash” and “pound” that failed to impress on the folks at home any of the harsh realities of war.

Ernie, on the other hand, reveled in the “magnificent simplicity” and “perpetual discomfort” of life on the front lines, where he learned firsthand that the easy war Americans had come to expect—bolstered by articles that gave the impression that this place or that German division could simply be bombed out of the war—bore little resemblance to the terrifying reality on the ground.

After he’d gathered enough material, Ernie would strap on a pair of race-track goggles, bundle himself in a heavy army blanket, and travel back to his base camp in the valley with the windshield down so the glare wouldn’t attract the attention of a German dive bomber. But even with hot food in his belly, an endless supply of cigarettes, and a wonderfully warm combat suit Fredendall had gifted him, Ernie struggled to type with numb fingers in the bitter Algerian cold. With the icy wind drumming on his tent, snapping its flaps, Ernie’s head froze as cold as his fingers.

How could he possibly convey to the folks at home the disturbing duality of life at the front?

On the one hand, the front could be characterized by the loneliness, the danger, and the never-ending fear that combined to create an ugly imitation of life there.

“You just sort of exist, either standing up working or lying down asleep,” Ernie wrote after realizing the best path forward for him might be to simply describe what he had seen and felt, even if it didn’t necessarily speak to the bigger political questions about the war. “There is no pleasant in-between. The velvet is all gone from the living.”

On the other hand, there was also an electric excitement and an addictive sense of purpose and awe inherent in life at the front, something Ernie had never quite felt before.

“A big military convoy moving at night across the mountains and deserts of Tunisia is something that nobody who has been in one can ever forget,” he wrote.

With the sounds of tanks clanking and trucks groaning in low gear running through his mind on repeat, and the images of his friends’ faces painted white by the moonlight, Ernie continued: “I couldn’t help feeling the immensity of the catastrophe that has put men all over the world, millions of us, to moving in machinelike precision throughout long foreign nights—men who should be comfortably asleep in their own warm beds at home.”

‘We Wondered if the Officers Knew What They Were Doing’

“Word came to us about noon that the Germans were advancing upon Sbeïtla,” Pyle wrote of the remote, sun-parched city 85 miles east of Fredendall’s secluded headquarters. Feb. 14, 1943, was “a bright day and everything seemed peaceful,” Ernie noted as he raced toward the sounds of battle on that fateful Valentine’s Day. “The Germans just overran our troops that afternoon,” he continued, swarming out from behind the mountains around Faïd Pass on their way to the sleepy village of Sidi Bou Zid, about a dozen miles west. “They used tanks, artillery, infantry, and planes divebombing our troops continuously” in a blitzkrieg reminiscent of Germany’s armored offensives in the spring of 1940.

Characterizing the attack as a “German surprise” that swamped, scattered, and consumed the Americans, Ernie made it seem as if Fredendall and his commanders had simply been outfoxed by Rommel. The ugly truth was much more complicated than that.

Two weeks before the Germans began their five-day mauling—shortly after Eisenhower canceled Operation Satin—about 1,000 French troops defending Faïd Pass were killed or captured by a three-pronged attack spearheaded by 30 tanks from the 21st Panzer Division.

During the worst of the fighting, French officers begged Gen. Fredendall to rescue their two battalions. The general refused. Instead, because he was unwilling to weaken the defenses he established around Sbeïtla, Fredendall ordered only a dozen Sherman tanks and two battalions of infantrymen from the First Armored Division to counterattack the pass first thing the next morning.

Fredendall, it seemed, was far less concerned with the fate of the French than he was with the defenses being built at his command post in Algeria. For weeks before the Germans attacked Faïd Pass, Fredendall had a desperately needed regiment of engineers work around the clock to construct a pair of enormous underground shelters for him and his staff at the bottom of the valley.

Ernie Pyle, of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, interviews Sgt. Ralph Gower of Sacramento, California; Pvt. Raymond Astrackon (left) of New York City; and 2nd. Lt. Annette Heaton of Detroit, Michigan, attached to an evacuation hospital on Dec. 2, 1942, in North Africa. (Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

With the French out of the way, and the Americans slow to react, the Germans had plenty of time during the night of Jan. 30 to fortify their defenses in and around the pass. The next morning, the American tank crews that had never been in combat before roared straight into the narrow pass, blinded by the rising sun. Interlocking fields of machine guns and mortars—along with a few 88 mm anti-aircraft guns—would be waiting for them.

From the razorback ridges on three sides, the Germans whipcracked round after round from their 88s straight down upon the vulnerable Shermans. Confusion and error, valor and misdeed—the tanks had stuck their necks straight into a German noose.

“The velocity of the enemy shells was so great that the suction created by the passing projectiles pulled the dirt, sand, and dust from the desert floor and formed a wall that traced the course of each shell,” an officer who was there later recalled. Within 10 minutes, half of the American tanks had been transformed into metal funeral pyres. The few that hadn’t yet been knocked out hauled out of the pass in reverse as quickly as they could, careful to keep their heavily armored fronts pointed toward the thundering German muzzle flashes.

Tankless survivors stumbled through the mud and over the corrugated vegetable fields west toward Sidi Bou Zid with the devilish hammering of the German’s new MG 42 machine gun all around them. My Great-Great-Uncle Robert was among the First Armored Division infantrymen who tried several times to stop the German advance. Each defensive position they tried to occupy, however, had already been overrun, and their attacks against the Germans resulted in nothing but heavy losses.

The next day, the Americans counterattacked one last time. Two infantry battalions hiked up the ridgeline three miles south of the pass in the hopes that they could outflank the German positions that had torn the Shermans apart the day before.

As one officer later wrote, the Germans “held their fire until we were practically at the foot of the objective. The men got a terrific raking over by the enemy as they fell back.” One commander signaled the general in charge of the attack, Raymond McQuillin, that there was “too much tank and gunfire. … Infantry cannot go on without great loss.”

Not long after, 15 panzers swung out from the pass and fired along the length of American infantrymen with their long-barreled 75 mm cannons from the left until they were checked by countercharging Shermans.

“They shook us like we had been dragged over a plowed field,” one sergeant later wrote.

The failed defense of Faïd Pass and the foolhardy American counterattack cost the French and the Americans dearly. More than 900 French soldiers were dead or missing. The American First Armored Division alone sustained 210 casualties. Faïd Pass was lost.

“We could not help wondering,” wrote an officer in his company’s war diary, “whether the officers directing the American effort knew what they were doing.”

‘You Are on Your Own’

Soon after he arrived in Sbeïtla, as the sun died down on Feb. 14, Ernie pitched his pup tent, ate supper, and went to bed. The next morning he caught a ride with two officers headed to a forward command post.

“Occasionally we stopped the jeep and got far off the road behind some cactus hedges,” Ernie wrote, “but the German dive bombers were interested only in our troop concentration ahead.”

When they finally reached the command post, Ernie found two acres of random vehicles and a few light tanks, along with only half of the troops who would normally staff a command post.

“Half their comrades were missing,” Pyle told his readers. “There was nothing left for them to work with, nothing to do.”

For the next few hours, Ernie sat with the men who “had been away—far along on the road that doesn’t come back,” and listened to their stories of near misses and miraculous survival.

Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, interviews Joe J. Ray and Charles W. Page on board the USS Yorktown on Feb. 5, 1945. (Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

“Not one of them had ever thought he’d see this dawn,” Pyle later wrote, “and now that he had seen it, his emotions had to pour out. And since I was the only newcomer to show up since their escape, I made a perfect sounding board.” Ernie listened without saying a word until the stories finally became merged into a generalized blur, “overlapping and paralleling and contradicting until the whole adventure became a composite.”

In the early hours of Feb. 14, two weeks after the first battle at Faïd Pass, more than 100 German tanks, including a dozen Tigers, had come across a small squad of American soldiers who were supposed to be on the lookout for a German attack through the pass, Ernie learned from the men. At the first sign, they were to fire rockets into the air, which would alert the artillerymen near Djebel Lessouda who had registered their guns on known features around Faïd. Fredendall believed that his men could use accurate artillery fire like a wall to keep the Germans from spilling out of the pass and into the desert below. By the time the artillerymen heard the rumbling of German armor and smelled the scent of diesel coughing from the back of at least 100 infantry lorries and half-tracks, every member of the squad was dead, their rockets still in the boxes.

From there, the Germans came across a company from the First Armored Division. Most of the crews, unaware an attack was headed their way, were outside their idle tanks cooking Valentine’s Day breakfast. In less than an hour, the Germans had reduced 16 of the company’s tanks to burning hulks of steel.

Emboldened by such quick and decisive victories, a group of about 80 German tanks and trucks then went north toward Djebel Lessouda while the rest headed south to envelop Sidi Bou Zid in a pincer movement, aiming to divide their forces and attack both flanks of the Allied defenses there.

In an order entitled “Defense of Faïd Position,” Fredandall explicitly dictated the positioning of units down to individual companies. Two prominent hills within sight of the pass were to be occupied, Fredendall wrote: “Djebel Ksaira on the south and Djebel Lessouda on the north are the key terrain features in the defense of Faïd. These two features must be strongly held, with a mobile reserve in the vicinity of Sid bou Zid.”

When Col. Peter C. Hains III of the First Armored Division saw Fredendall’s plan, he was disgusted.

“Good God,” he muttered.

He knew that any troops placed on the two hills would be marooned if a fast-moving attack swept around them. While the hills were mutually visible 10 miles across the desert, they were not close enough for defenders on one to help their comrades on the other. Fredendall’s orders resembled a defensive plan that might have worked during the first World War, without an appreciation for the speed and power of modern tank divisions.

American units fell like tenpins. East of Sidi Bou Zid, the Second Battalion of the Seventeenth Field Artillery—armed with a dozen and a half antique 155 mm howitzers—was erased. The Germans got “every gun and most of the men,” a staff officer later reported. Trying to avoid a similar fate after their forward observers were all killed or wounded, Battery A of the 91st Field Artillery dragged their dead to an empty trailer, tossed them in, and retreated to the west.

“We didn’t know exactly where to fire,” one platoon leader said. “There was artillery fire, machine-gun fire, armor-piercing tank shells whizzing through the town.” A captain in a jeep sped through the olive groves that sheltered the American supply trains. “Take off, men!” he roared over the noise of battle. “You are on your own.”

What happened next reminded an artillery lieutenant of the Oklahoma land rush, except that “the air was full of whistles” from enemy projectiles. Of the 52 American tanks that took on the Germans that day, only six survived past lunchtime. At 1:45 p.m., half a dozen German Tigers bulled through the rubble on the outskirts of Sidi Bou Zid. About three hours after that, tanks from the 21st Panzer Division in the south and those from the 10th in the north met two miles east of town.

The double envelopment had taken fewer than 12 hours to complete.

‘Then Came the Sound of Explosions’

At a quarter to three on Feb. 15, the battalion commander’s voice crackled to life over the radio, snapping Ernie to attention.

“We’re on the edge of Sidi Bou Zid and have struck no opposition yet,” the commander reported.

Across the parched plain before them, 40 American tanks and a dozen tank destroyers roared and poured blue smoke into the sand-dusted sky. Following in their dust plumes were trucks and half-tracks shepherding a battalion’s worth of infantrymen. Behind them came a dozen artillery pieces.

“The peaceful report from our tank charge brought no comment from anyone around the command truck,” Pyle wrote. “Faces were grave: It wasn’t right—this business of no opposition at all; there must be a trick in it somewhere.”

The Germans must either be much smaller than they thought—or they were biding their time, sucking the Americans into a trap.

Ernie Pyle talks to Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine during Pyle’s first trip into the Pacific on Jan. 22, 1945. Previously, he wrote about “GI Joe” from the European Theater of Operations. From left to right: Maj. Gen. Erskine, Lt. Comdr. Max Miller, Col. Robert E. Hogaboom, Ernie Pyle, PFC James R. Jerele, Pvt. Louie E. White, and Jeep (dog). (Tech Sgt. Mundell, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

As the outnumbered and outgunned American tanks reached the outskirts of the blown-apart village, a flare arced over Sidi Bou Zid, “like a diamond in the afternoon sun,” A.D. Divine reported from Djebel Hamra. Ernie and the other correspondents glued their eyes to their binoculars. Muzzle flashes blinked like Christmas lights near the town.

“Then, from far off, came the sound of explosions,” Ernie wrote.

German artillery airbursts ripped to shreds the artillerymen and their tubes pulling up the rear of the American attack. “Brown geysers of earth and smoke began to spout.”

Fredendall’s plan to counterattack two battle-hardened tank divisions with the reserve elements of a battalion that had never seen combat was doomed from the moment it was drawn out in grease pen on some map board back in Speedy Valley. The Germans held nothing back. Stukas dived and strafed. Panzers fired hundreds of armor-piercing rounds with a deafening report. Most of the dead had been killed in a small onion field two miles west of town. The bodies were twisted and bent into cruel angles. Maroon blood pooled atop the sand, and black smoke blotted out the sky. “One of our half-tracks, full of ammunition, was livid red, with flames leaping and swaying,” Pyle wrote of the peculiar sights and sounds of battle. “Every few seconds one of its shells would go off, and the projectile would tear into the sky with a weird whanging sort of noise.”

U.S. service members and an Okinawan pose for a photo at the Ernie Pyle Memorial after the memorial ceremony on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, April 14, 2013. Ernie Pyle was killed during the battle of Okinawa. (Lance Cpl. Tyler S. Dietrich III/Marine Corps)

“As dusk began to settle, the sunset showed red on the dust of the Sidi Bou Zid area,” General McQuillin later reported. “There was no wind, and the frequent black smoke pillars scattered over the terrain marked locations of burning tanks.”

He counted 27 American tanks aflame, but “the heavier dust cloud near Sidi Bou Zid no doubt obscured more that were afire. It was easy to recognize a burning tank due to the vertical shaft of smoke.”

After the attack was aborted, four Sherman tanks rallied below Djebel Hamra. They were all that remained after the slaughter. All through the night, diesel-blackened tankers who had managed to escape their burning coffins stumbled back to the American lines in Sbeïtla exhausted and dazed.

“I found myself all alone wandering amongst the dead and wreckage,” said one. “The night had a dead silence except for a few howling dogs.”

By the next morning, it was estimated that the previous two days of fighting had cost the Americans at least 1,600 men, nearly 100 tanks, and plenty of half-tracks and artillery pieces.

Also lost that day, after so many had been led so ineptly, was confidence. Soldiers lost confidence in themselves and in their commanders; commanders in each other.

The “awful nights of fleeing, crawling, and hiding from death,” in Ernie’s words, had begun.

From The Soldier’s Truth by David Chrisinger, published on May 30, 2023 by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by David Chrisinger. This work was fact-checked by Penguin Press, and copy-edited by Mitchell Hansen-Dewar. Headlines are by Abbie Bennett.

David Chrisinger is the executive director of the Public Policy Writing Workshop at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and the director of writing seminars for The War Horse. He is the author of several books, including “The Soldier’s Truth: Ernie Pyle and the Story of World War II” and “Stories Are What Save Us: A Survivor’s Guide to Writing about Trauma.” In 2022, he was the recipient of the 2022 George Orwell Award.

U.S. National Archives
<![CDATA[Why US agencies buy personal info and what it means in the age of AI]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/29/why-us-agencies-buy-personal-info-and-what-it-means-in-the-age-of-ai/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/29/why-us-agencies-buy-personal-info-and-what-it-means-in-the-age-of-ai/Thu, 29 Jun 2023 21:25:55 +0000Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in The Conversation.

Numerous government agencies, including the FBI, Department of Defense, National Security Agency, Treasury Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, Navy and Coast Guard, have purchased vast amounts of U.S. citizens’ personal information from commercial data brokers. The revelation was published in a partially declassified, internal Office of the Director of National Intelligence report released on June 9, 2023.

The report shows the breathtaking scale and invasive nature of the consumer data market and how that market directly enables wholesale surveillance of people. The data includes not only where you’ve been and who you’re connected to, but the nature of your beliefs and predictions about what you might do in the future. The report underscores the grave risks the purchase of this data poses, and urges the intelligence community to adopt internal guidelines to address these problems.

As a privacy, electronic surveillance and technology law attorney, researcher and law professor, I have spent years researching, writing and advising about the legal issues the report highlights.

These issues are increasingly urgent. Today’s commercially available information, coupled with the now-ubiquitous decision-making artificial intelligence and generative AI like ChatGPT, significantly increases the threat to privacy and civil liberties by giving the government access to sensitive personal information beyond even what it could collect through court-authorized surveillance.

What is commercially available information?

The drafters of the report take the position that commercially available information is a subset of publicly available information. The distinction between the two is significant from a legal perspective. Publicly available information is information that is already in the public domain. You could find it by doing a little online searching.

Commercially available information is different. It is personal information collected from a dizzying array of sources by commercial data brokers that aggregate and analyze it, then make it available for purchase by others, including governments. Some of that information is private, confidential or otherwise legally protected.

The sources and types of data for commercially available information are mind-bogglingly vast. They include public records and other publicly available information. But far more information comes from the nearly ubiquitous internet-connected devices in people’s lives, like cellphones, smart home systems, cars and fitness trackers. These all harness data from sophisticated, embedded sensors, cameras and microphones. Sources also include data from apps, online activity, texts and emails, and even health care provider websites.

Types of data include location, gender and sexual orientation, religious and political views and affiliations, weight and blood pressure, speech patterns, emotional states, behavioral information about myriad activities, shopping patterns and family and friends.

This data provides companies and governments a window into the “Internet of Behaviors,” a combination of data collection and analysis aimed at understanding and predicting people’s behavior. It pulls together a wide range of data, including location and activities, and uses scientific and technological approaches, including psychology and machine learning, to analyze that data. The Internet of Behaviors provides a map of what each person has done, is doing and is expected to do, and provides a means to influence a person’s behavior.

Better, cheaper and unrestricted

The rich depths of commercially available information, analyzed with powerful AI, provide unprecedented power, intelligence and investigative insights. The information is a cost-effective way to surveil virtually everyone, plus it provides far more sophisticated data than traditional electronic surveillance tools or methods like wiretapping and location tracking.

Government use of electronic surveillance tools is extensively regulated by federal and state laws. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, requires a warrant for a wide range of digital searches. These include wiretapping or intercepting a person’s calls, texts or emails; using GPS or cellular location information to track a person; or searching a person’s cellphone.

Complying with these laws takes time and money, plus electronic surveillance law restricts what, when and how data can be collected. Commercially available information is cheaper to obtain, provides far richer data and analysis, and is subject to little oversight or restriction compared to when the same data is collected directly by the government.

The threats

Technology and the burgeoning volume of commercially available information allow various forms of the information to be combined and analyzed in new ways to understand all aspects of your life, including preferences and desires.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence report warns that the increasing volume and widespread availability of commercially available information poses “significant threats to privacy and civil liberties.” It increases the power of the government to surveil its citizens outside the bounds of law, and it opens the door to the government using that data in potentially unlawful ways. This could include using location data obtained via commercially available information rather than a warrant to investigate and prosecute someone for abortion.

The report also captures both how widespread government purchases of commercially available information are and how haphazard government practices around the use of the information are. The purchases are so pervasive and agencies’ practices so poorly documented that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence cannot even fully determine how much and what types of information agencies are purchasing, and what the various agencies are doing with the data.

Is it legal?

The question of whether it’s legal for government agencies to purchase commercially available information is complicated by the array of sources and complex mix of data it contains.

There is no legal prohibition on the government collecting information already disclosed to the public or otherwise publicly available. But the nonpublic information listed in the declassified report includes data that U.S. law typically protects. The nonpublic information’s mix of private, sensitive, confidential or otherwise lawfully protected data makes collection a legal gray area.

Despite decades of increasingly sophisticated and invasive commercial data aggregation, Congress has not passed a federal data privacy law. The lack of federal regulation around data creates a loophole for government agencies to evade electronic surveillance law. It also allows agencies to amass enormous databases that AI systems learn from and use in often unrestricted ways. The resulting erosion of privacy has been a concern for more than a decade.

Throttling the data pipeline

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence report acknowledges the stunning loophole that commercially available information provides for government surveillance: “The government would never have been permitted to compel billions of people to carry location tracking devices on their persons at all times, to log and track most of their social interactions, or to keep flawless records of all their reading habits. Yet smartphones, connected cars, web tracking technologies, the Internet of Things, and other innovations have had this effect without government participation.”

However, it isn’t entirely correct to say “without government participation.” The legislative branch could have prevented this situation by enacting data privacy laws, more tightly regulating commercial data practices, and providing oversight in AI development. Congress could yet address the problem. Representative Ted Lieu has introduced the a bipartisan proposal for a National AI Commission, and Senator Chuck Schumer has proposed an AI regulation framework.

Effective data privacy laws would keep your personal information safer from government agencies and corporations, and responsible AI regulation would block them from manipulating you.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey
<![CDATA[How to reform and reconstruct Ukraine after the war]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/06/21/how-to-reform-and-reconstruct-ukraine-after-the-war/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/06/21/how-to-reform-and-reconstruct-ukraine-after-the-war/Wed, 21 Jun 2023 18:48:54 +0000From June 21-22, officials and investors from around the world are gathering in London for the 2023 Ukraine Recovery Conference. Hostilities in Ukraine are ongoing, but it is not too early to plan post-war reconstruction. Indeed, the United States and Europe have already begun planning what likely will be the most ambitious post-war rebuilding effort in modern history.

As we explain in our new Rand Corp. report, Ukraine will be far different from recent post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ukraine is a European state, and the war has been unifying, not divisive. Its rebuilding will resemble that of Western Europe after World War II, Eastern Europe after the Cold War and the Western Balkans after the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. The lessons of these episodes should inform Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Their basic and successful formula was established early. The United States provided seed money and security; the Europeans provided the bulk of the funding and advanced the historic process of European integration.

In each of these efforts, security was essential, as it will be for Ukraine’s reconstruction. Security and reconstruction are mutually reinforcing. Durable security arrangements give businesses and investors the confidence to take risks and make long-term commitments.

But Ukraine’s prospects for growth are uncertain, and any reconstruction effort will need a strong reform component. In 2021, Ukraine was the poorest country in Europe and had the lowest productivity. Pervasive corruption has hindered growth, and previous reform efforts have been slow to gain traction.

Ukraine will need to administer large-scale funding, and its credibility will be on the line. Accordingly, Ukraine and its donors will need a strong inspector general and effective monitoring and evaluation. Ukraine will face the challenge — but also have the opportunity — of reversing 30 years of unsatisfactory economic and political development.

Reconstruction should be organized around a few simple principles: Ukraine should set priorities, while the United States should spearhead security and the European Union should lead economic reform and recovery. But both the United States and the Europeans need to participate in the latter.

To guide reconstruction in Eastern Europe after the Cold War, Congress gave a single senior coordinator broad oversight power. Replicating this approach for Ukraine will strengthen Washington’s contributions to reconstruction. The United States, Europe and multilateral agencies should have senior officials on the ground in Kyiv in daily contact with Ukrainian authorities; periodic donor conferences are insufficient.

Sequencing and prioritizing essential tasks — de-mining vast swaths of land, clearing rubble, building shelters and schools, and providing basic medical care — will jump-start reconstruction. About 35% of Ukraine’s prewar population are displaced. Unless policymakers actively facilitate returns, it will not happen organically on the scale needed to enable recovery.

Paying for reconstruction will require international aid, private financing and Ukraine’s own resources. Historically, aid provided a relatively small amount of the total, but it attracts other funding and serves as risk capital when the private sector is reluctant to invest. Private investment will likely provide the bulk of reconstruction funding. In each historical case, private investment, trade and economic integration proved essential to success. Frozen Russian assets, both official and private, could comprise a significant contribution; however, using them will require strong legal justifications.

Longer-term security planning also needs to start now. The promise of reconstruction and EU membership will give Ukraine powerful incentives to adhere to whatever conflict settlement is reached. But Russia’s adherence will rest principally on deterrence. This could take a variety of forms. The United States and its allies could promise to continue providing Ukraine arms, ammunition, training and advice. They could threaten to insert Western forces into Ukraine if Russia reattacks. Or they could bring Ukraine into NATO.

Stronger measures of deterrence might make renewed fighting less likely; however, they could also raise Russia’s threat perceptions, perhaps leading Moscow to take desperate measures. If deterrence fails, the resultant conflict is less likely to be limited to Ukraine.

Arrangements for Ukraine’s security might require new models. Europe’s current security architecture offers a binary choice: A country joins NATO, or it is on its own.

Alternatives for Ukraine, which has never quite fit this model, should be evaluated.

‘We need more’ before Ukraine can join NATO, says Stoltenberg

Ukraine has urgent needs for both economic and security assistance today; these will not end when hostilities cease. Ukraine’s recovery could take decades, and enduring public support will be vital. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman’s administration and congressional leaders launched a coordinated, bipartisan effort to gain public approval for the Marshall Plan. The United States will need a similar strategy for Ukraine.

Ukraine’s reconstruction will be a lengthy, complex undertaking. But the United States should tackle the following now:

  • U.S. policymakers need to carefully examine alternatives, both old and new, for Ukrainian security in preparation for engaging with allies. Assured security is essential for every other aspect of reconstruction.
  • The administration and Congress should approve a modern version of the laws enabling U.S. activities in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union after the Cold War. An important component will be the creation of an empowered coordinator to deal with European governments, international financial institutions, and the people and government in Ukraine.
  • Public endorsement for longer-term U.S. policy in Ukraine cannot be taken for granted. It will require a bipartisan effort to explain and build support among the American people.

The challenge of reforming and reconstructing Ukraine should be viewed through the lens of Europe’s successful post-war rebuilding and reintegration record, and the 75-year security and economic policies of the United States. Security and reconstruction will go hand in hand. A secure, economically prosperous Ukraine that is fully integrated into European institutions will be a capstone achievement, bringing to fruition a multigenerational European project, sustained by an enduring trans-Atlantic partnership.

Howard J. Shatz is a senior economist at the think tank Rand, where Gabrielle Tarini is an associate policy researcher, Charles P. Ries is a senior fellow and James Dobbins is the distinguished chair in security and diplomacy.

<![CDATA[Two young soldiers and the fathers they became]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/16/two-young-soldiers-and-the-fathers-they-became/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/16/two-young-soldiers-and-the-fathers-they-became/Fri, 16 Jun 2023 09:00:00 +0000My dad died almost 16 years ago. I miss him every day. Yet, this year I celebrate Father’s Day with great joy because of the gift another father and his daughter gave me — a long-lost sketch and the memories behind it. The story begins years ago, during the last months of World War II.

My dad, Joe Thornhill, served on a five-man artillery forward observer team with the 78th Infantry Division. The team worked closely with the infantry, lugging equipment to elevated observation posts, usually in exposed positions like church steeples and on hilltops, to call in artillery strikes.

Dad’s forward observer team entered the war during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Shortly after the battle, a new soldier, Lou DeRuccio, joined the team as a casualty replacement. Together Dad, Lou, and the rest of the team fought through the battle for Schmidt and the Roer River dams, then crossed the Rhine at the Remagen bridge. The division moved north as part of the Ruhr encirclement and was fighting there when Germany surrendered in May 1945. With the fighting over, the division was assigned to Berlin occupation duties which included guarding notable German civilians interned at the war’s end. One of these detainees was German artist Franz Stassen.

Although ordered not to fraternize with the internees, the young soldiers considered this order more of a “suggestion” than a directive. And, over time, Lou came to know Stassen well enough to have him draw Lou’s picture on a napkin. Lou showed it to my dad, who decided he would like a sketch of himself as well. Stassen agreed and sketched my dad in exchange for a couple of cigarettes. When my dad received orders to return to the U.S. in December 1945, on the spur of the moment, he gave Lou the picture and said “here, you can remember me.” That’s how Lou ended up with my dad’s sketch.

A sketch of Joe Thornhill in 1945. (Courtesy Paula G. Thornhill)

Lou came home in 1946, bringing the sketch with him. Over the years, Lou and my dad both married, had families and moved on with their lives. My dad told our family about the drawing and some of the antics in Berlin but forgot Lou had the sketch. So, we knew it had once existed, and had heard a vague story associated with it — but nothing more.

Dad spoke fondly of Lou over the years, but sadly their paths never crossed again, and my dad passed away in 2007.

That’s where matters rested until November 2022. It turns out Lou remembered the sketch and wanted to return it but had misplaced it decades ago. His son-in-law, aware of Lou’s desire, helped with the search and eventually found it in a folder in the back of a file cabinet. Then, Lou turned to his daughter Diane to find someone related to my dad in order to send it ‘home.’ Diane began an internet search and eventually found my sister. Gentle queries followed until identities were confirmed. Diane, fulfilling her father’s request, sent the sketch to my sister. Diane also questioned Lou on our behalf about those momentous events so many years ago. That’s how we learned, after all this time, a little more about dad.

My dad would talk about the war, but never in much detail. From Lou, we learned what type of soldier, and, more importantly, man, he was under fire. Lou told us some stories and summed it up, noting “he was very brave. He did not get shaken when shelled like some of the others. He was steady. And good to be with.” Lou, in short, saw in my dad the same qualities that my brothers, sister and I did. Because of Lou’s quest and his daughter’s persistence, 77 years later, for a brief moment, my dad was once again 22 years old, with a full life ahead of him. A fine soldier, friend, husband, and father — my dad will always be my hero.

Happy Father’s Day to Joe and Lou, two ordinary yet remarkable young soldiers who grew into loving, extraordinary fathers.

A sketch of Joe Thornhill in 1945. (Courtesy Paula G. Thornhill)

Paula Thornhill is a retired Air Force brigadier general, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and author of Demystifying the American Military.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

<![CDATA[Service academies can be proving ground to defeat sexual misconduct]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/14/service-academies-can-be-proving-ground-to-defeat-sexual-misconduct/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/14/service-academies-can-be-proving-ground-to-defeat-sexual-misconduct/Wed, 14 Jun 2023 19:18:44 +0000The Military Times recently published commentary that because of increased prevalence in sexual assault and harassment at military service academies, the academies should be canceled. By that logic, the military departments should also cease to exist. Allow us to offer a different perspective: military service academies have been and will be important change agents for solving the broader social problem of sexual violence and harassment, particularly at college campuses.

Why service academies at all?

Eliminating service academies was offered as the best option for the current dilemma. However, dismantling service academies in the face of data that unfortunately tracks broader societal trends would amount to excessive zeal that discards the value academies offer to society.

Learning to lead requires interaction among cadets and midshipmen, navigating hierarchical and social structures, and learning within a real-world environment rather than in a bubble. In this environment, cadets and midshipmen are also inevitably learning parameters of healthy and unhealthy interpersonal behaviors.

Academies provide promising young leaders from every corner of our nation the opportunity to be developed into leaders of character ready to serve and lead our military in the conflicts of tomorrow. As such, the academies represent a rare level playing field in higher education where socioeconomic status plays little role in the leaders they can become.

Top-notch education that is mostly taxpayer-funded is a strength that allows the academies to attract a wide crosscut of talented people with diverse backgrounds who are all motivated for service. Challenges in recruiting persist, but the academies remain a beacon of opportunity where students can achieve their educational goals while pursuing a career of service.

Shutting down service academies would not only represent a huge loss of talent for our military branches, but would also signal that these benefits to non-perpetrators and survivors of assault and harassment don’t matter. Shutting them down would also deny the opportunity of repairing the institutional betrayal that makes military sexual trauma so detrimental.

Academies will help the broader community right a wrong

From the perspectives of a current faculty member and cadet of the Air Force Academy, both immersed in sexual assault prevention and culture change efforts, we offer you to consider how service academies fit within the broader societal problem and how they might yet again contribute to broad cultural change.

Twenty years ago, the Air Force Academy’s sexual assault scandal jump-started a conversation in higher education about sexual violence. It ignited the study of sexual violence as a byproduct and symptom of harmful cultural norms, more readily pinpointed within the stereotypical “macho” subcultures of service academies. Today, these subcultures are being reclaimed by cadets to define strength, loyalty and warrior ethos in a less toxic and gendered way.

Removing academies would eradicate the opportunity for these institutions to yet again be agents for necessary consciousness and change. It is precisely their focus on character development, unmatched resources and separation from broader communities that allow them to be a testing ground for culture change efforts that can have real impact outside their gates.

Yes, external accountability is an important piece of resolving this complex problem, but it’s not the only solution. External accountability can only result in top-down protocol, whereas the true root of the issue, a cadet culture that has normalized more constructive values, needs to be solved at the cadet level, through cadet motivation. Resolving complex problems requires studying root causes in a responsible, longitudinal way that takes time, not searching for soundbites and clickbait.

Addressing necessary culture change through students

Illuminating and addressing harmful culture is now the clear focus, not merely addressing the symptom of sexual violence. Culture change requires a holistic approach because culture is complex.

Principal in this effort is empowering students to determine their own healthier culture from within. Culture is made up of campus norms, legacy, social structures, and symbols. No culture ever changed from external voices telling it to, which might be why previous efforts to reduce sexual assault and harassment have been so ineffective in isolation.

Leaders and administrators are identifying ways to encourage helpful patterns through cadets, rather than attempt to dictate culture and results. A recent example at the Air Force Academy is the April 10, 2023 “Encouraged to Report” policy, written and championed by a team of legal studies majors, that restores discretion to commanders to exercise judgment in disciplining witnesses of sexual assault and witnesses or victims of harassment for collateral misconduct upon a good faith report of the underlying sexual assault or harassment.

Drawing upon and extending recent Safe to Report policies, the policy is a necessary step to reduce social pressure to remain silent because reporting sexual assault or harassment illuminates minor misconduct by peers. With this discretion comes an upchanneling requirement to encourage consistency across units and develop a culture among cadets of encouraging accountability.

This barrier to reporting, compounded by the service academies’ cultural value of loyalty, was largely undetected by data and the broader educational community. It was only identified because students engaged and led the way.

Policies like “Encouraged to Report” enable members of the culture to take ownership from within. Seeing peers empowered has an amplifying effect on other students’ perceived efficacy. Empowerment of students begets innovation and buy-in among other students.

Other examples of decentralizing change agents are plentiful. This includes enabling cadet networks within the academies to have a direct line to leadership, such as barrier analysis working groups like the Women’s Initiative Team, cadet-led affinity groups, and peer advocates and resource connectors such as Teal Ropes.

Teal Ropes are a group of cadets specially trained in sexual assault prevention and response and who are often the first resource a victim seeks. These cadets also represent an important culture shift because by wearing a teal rope on their uniforms, they supply a daily powerful symbol by a peer against sexual assault and harmful cultural elements.

The community is growing both in number and influence as these cadets help to initiate a culture shift from within. Teal Ropes have teamed up to tackle this problem with other helping rope agencies across the institution. These include cadet “PEERs,” volunteer Personal Ethics and Educations Representatives specially trained to provide support and referral services to cadets facing stressors, as well as cadets tackling diversity and inclusion efforts and “White Ropes” providing spiritual support services. The culture change will require the harmonious intersection of all helping ropes in order to address the problem head on.

Culture change will also require partnering with external agencies and networks that care to link arms with academy leadership to make the effort comprehensive. An example is Zoomies Against Sexual Assault, or ZASA, a private organization of Air Force Academy graduates who have partnered with academy leadership and cadets to offer support for cadets and solutions. Members of ZASA work to build a bridge between the Academy and those who have lost faith in the institution and its leadership.

These relationships help to empower formerly stifled voices including survivors and advocates. They are necessary to help shape more effective training and focus on healthy relationships going forward, not merely the low-hanging fruit of demonizing assault.

Culture work is also informing how training is conducted. Healthy relationships training, a bright light in typically disfavored training on the topic, is being scaled beyond intercollegiate athletes to the rest of the student body. This involves uncomfortable, but honest and open conversations amongst athletic teams to confront and inspire healthy relationships. Implementing this training has been a step in the right direction, but we are far from our goal.

Robust data, comprehensive response, student ownership, and laser focus at the service academies are necessary to spark the next phase in moving the needle on assault and harassment at college campuses. The keystone is empowering students toward self-determination and a healthier culture. The examples above are not all-inclusive or even complete, but they give the authors hope.

Ultimately, the end goal is not to minimize and reduce sexual assault but rather eliminate it entirely. If there’s any campus where that might be attainable, it could be at the service academies based on who we recruit and the academies’ comprehensive devotion to the problem despite ingrained norms inherited from military culture throughout history. Service academies are required because they are undergoing massive efforts towards confronting and eliminating the problem by shifting the culture from the bottom up.

Our counter narrative is simple: Culture change is explicitly the goal across the service academies and culture change requires rolling up sleeves, not throwing in the towel.

Lt. Col. Taren Wellman is an assistant professor of law and senior military faculty at the Air Force Academy. She is also a 2006 Air Force Academy graduate. Cadet Madisen Campbell is a junior at the Air Force Academy and cadet leader in the Teal Rope Program.

The views represented in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Air Force Academy, Department of the Air Force, or the Department of the Defense.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

Trevor Cokley
<![CDATA[Trump faces Espionage Act charges, which covers a lot more than spying]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/12/trump-faces-espionage-act-charges-which-covers-a-lot-more-than-spying/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/12/trump-faces-espionage-act-charges-which-covers-a-lot-more-than-spying/Mon, 12 Jun 2023 18:31:22 +0000Editor’s note: This commentary was first published in The Conversation.

Former President Donald Trump’s indictment by a federal grand jury in Miami includes 31 counts of violating a part of the Espionage Act of 1917.

The Espionage Act has historically been employed most often by law-and-order conservatives. But the biggest uptick in its use occurred during the Obama administration, which used it as the hammer of choice for national security leakers and whistleblowers. Regardless of whom it is used to prosecute, it unfailingly prompts consternation and outrage.

We are both attorneys who specialize in and teach national security law. While navigating the sound and fury over the Trump indictment, here are a few things to note about the Espionage Act.

Espionage Act seldom pertains to espionage

When you hear “espionage,” you may think spies and international intrigue. One portion of the act — 18 U.S.C. section 794 — does relate to spying for foreign governments, for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

That aspect of the law is best exemplified by the convictions of Jonathan Pollard in 1987, for spying for and providing top-secret classified information to Israel; former Central Intelligence Agency officer Aldrich Ames in 1994, for being a double agent for the Russian KGB; and, in 2002, former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was caught selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia over a span of more than 20 years. All three received life sentences.

But spy cases are rare. More typically, as in the Trump investigation, the act applies to the unauthorized gathering, possessing or transmitting of certain sensitive government information.

Transmitting can mean moving materials from an authorized to an unauthorized location — many types of sensitive government information must be maintained in secure facilities. It can also apply to refusing a government demand for a document’s return. Trump’s charges reportedly include an allegation of “unauthorized retention of national security documents,” which can include both possessing the documents and refusing to return them to the government. All of these prohibited activities fall under the separate and more commonly applied section of the act — 18 U.S.C. section 793.

A violation does not require an intention to aid a foreign power

Willful unauthorized possession of information that, if obtained by a foreign government, might harm U.S. interests is generally enough to trigger a possible sentence of 10 years.

Current claims by Trump supporters of the seemingly innocuous nature of the conduct at issue — simply possessing sensitive government documents — miss the point. The driver of the Department of Justice’s concern under Section 793 is the sensitive content and the connection to national defense information, known as “NDI.”

One of the most famous Espionage Act cases, known as “Wikileaks,” in which Julian Assange was indicted for obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, is not about leaks to help foreign governments. It concerned the unauthorized soliciting, obtaining, possessing and publishing of sensitive information that might be of help to a foreign nation if disclosed.

Two recent senior Democratic administration officials — Sandy Berger, national security adviser during the Clinton administration, and David Petraeus, CIA director under during the Obama administration — each pleaded guilty to misdemeanors under the threat of Espionage Act prosecution.

Berger took home a classified document — in his sock — at the end of his tenure. Petraeus shared classified information with an unauthorized person for reasons having nothing to do with a foreign government.

The act is not just about classified information

Some of the documents the FBI sought and found in the Trump search were designated “top secret” or “top secret-sensitive compartmented information.”

Both classifications tip far to the serious end of the sensitivity spectrum.

Top secret-sensitive compartmented information is reserved for information that would truly be damaging to the U.S. if it fell into foreign hands.

One theory floated by Trump defenders is that by simply handling the materials as president, Trump could have effectively declassified them. It actually doesn’t work that way — presidential declassification requires an override of Executive Order 13526, must be in writing, and must have occurred while Trump was still president — not after. If they had been declassified, they should have been marked as such.

And even assuming the documents were declassified, which does not appear to be the case, Trump is still in the criminal soup. The Espionage Act applies to all national defense information, or NDI, of which classified materials are only a portion. This kind of information includes a vast array of sensitive information including military, energy, scientific, technological, infrastructure and national disaster risks. By law and regulation, NDI materials may not be publicly released and must be handled as sensitive.

The public can’t judge a case based on classified information

Cases involving classified information or NDI are nearly impossible to referee from the cheap seats.

None of us will get to see the documents at issue, nor should we. Why?

Because they are classified.

Even if we did, we would not be able to make an informed judgment of their significance because what they relate to is likely itself classified – we’d be making judgments in a void.

And even if a judge in an Espionage Act case had access to all the information needed to evaluate the nature and risks of the materials, it wouldn’t matter. The fact that documents are classified or otherwise regulated as sensitive defense information is all that matters.

Historically, Espionage Act cases have been occasionally political and almost always politicized. Enacted at the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War I in 1917, the act was largely designed to make interference with the draft illegal and prevent Americans from supporting the enemy.

But it was immediately used to target immigrants, labor organizers and left-leaning radicals. It was a tool of Cold War anti-communist politicians like Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1940s and 1950s. The case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, is the most prominent prosecution of that era.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the act was used against peace activists, including Pentagon Paper whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Since Sept. 11, 2001, officials have used the act against whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. Because of this history, the act is often assailed for chilling First Amendment political speech and activities.

The Espionage Act is serious and politically loaded business. Its breadth, the potential grave national security risks involved and the lengthy potential prison term have long sparked political conflict. These cases are controversial and complicated in ways that counsel patience and caution before reaching conclusions.

This is an updated version of an article originally published Aug. 15, 2022.

The Conversation

Scott Olson
<![CDATA[Five urgent steps to prevent American military defeat in the Pacific]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/06/12/five-urgent-steps-to-prevent-american-military-defeat-in-the-pacific/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/06/12/five-urgent-steps-to-prevent-american-military-defeat-in-the-pacific/Mon, 12 Jun 2023 11:00:00 +0000As lawmakers in Washington move this month to consider the fiscal 2024 defense budget and annual defense authorization bill, the United States is on a path toward military defeat in the Pacific.

China’s strategic investments threaten to outpace the Pentagon’s ability to expand munitions stocks, integrate emerging technologies and weapon systems, and maintain the ability to fight at long distances from America’s shores.

Repeated wargaming of Taiwan conflict scenarios in the 2027 time frame demonstrates that even if the United States acts promptly and decisively once the conflict begins, American military forces would often be stretched too thin to support Taiwan quickly enough to prevent a fait accompli.

The good news is that such an outcome is not inevitable if Washington takes several steps this year. These include:

  1. Enhancing the United States’ ability to strike attacking Chinese forces.
  2. Strengthening Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.
  3. Bolstering the survivability of forward-positioned U.S. forces.
  4. Improving the ability of the United States and its partners — principally Taiwan, Japan and Australia — to fight together.
  5. Building more cyber-resilient U.S. infrastructure to support military mobility and economic continuity.

Admittedly, deterring and defeating aggression from the People’s Republic of China is easier said than done. That is because Beijing is undertaking the most ambitious and extensive military modernization effort in the history of the PRC, focusing its efforts on defeating the U.S. military and taking Taiwan.

Why is China strengthening its military? It’s not all about war.

Opposing such aggression would also be difficult because the United States is trying to deter conflict in areas within 100 miles of Chinese ports and airfields, but 8,000 miles from the U.S. West Coast. To make matters worse, in several likely scenarios in the Taiwan Strait, Beijing would likely enjoy “first mover” advantage — potentially concealing preparations for an actual attack behind the guise of yet another military exercise and deciding when and where to strike the first blow.

So what can be done?

Wargaming and operational exercises show that long-range strike weapons are America’s most reliable tool to both win a conflict with China and reduce U.S. casualties. Because of the cost of long-range strike systems, the U.S. military will require a large and mixed inventory of expensive, high-lethality weapons and less expensive swarming munitions.

The U.S. military should develop the capability to launch these munitions from as many platforms as possible to create difficult dilemmas for the People’s Liberation Army. That includes leveraging one of the U.S. military’s greatest remaining asymmetric advantages: the continuing stealthiness of U.S. attack submarines.

Relatedly, to support effective bomber actions in the Western Pacific, the United States will also need to leverage advanced fighter aircraft and newly delivered air-battle management assets, eventually including the E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, to regain control over Taiwan’s airspace and offset China’s geographic proximity to the battlefield.

In addition to bolstering American offensive capabilities, the United States simultaneously needs to help Taiwan reach an appropriate level of defensive self-sufficiency to survive the adversary’s initial onslaught before U.S. and allied forces can arrive in numbers. While Congress authorized up to $2 billion per year in assistance to Taiwan in the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act, the funding still needs to be appropriated.

Other necessary supporting efforts for Taiwan include prioritizing and expediting the delivery of foreign military sales by cutting red tape and bolstering industrial capacity; pre-positioning key munitions in Taiwan that U.S. or Taiwan forces can use in a crisis; and strengthening Taiwan’s cyber capacity to withstand Beijing’s cyberattacks.

To ensure U.S. forces can fight within the second island chain, Washington has to mitigate forward basing vulnerabilities, particularly vulnerabilities related to missile defense. (The first island chain runs parallel to the mainland of the Asian continent, starting in the Kuril Islands, through the Japanese Archipelago; includes Taiwan and the northwestern portion of the Philippines; and finishes in Borneo. The second island chain runs parallel to the first farther out to sea and includes Japan’s Bonin Islands and Volcano Islands; the Mariana Islands, including Guam; the Western Caroline Islands; and extends to Western New Guinea.)

Key among these efforts is the need to develop U.S. hypersonic defensive countermeasures, which currently lag Beijing’s offensive technology development. It will significantly undermine deterrence if China has an offensive hypersonic capability before the United States is able to defend against such a threat.

Indeed, we should expect that China will attack U.S. air bases with swarm assaults consisting of a broad range of missiles and drones. To facilitate their survival and combat effectiveness, U.S. air assets will need to be able to disperse and operate in a nimble and unpredictable manner to alternate locations. That’s the big idea behind the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept, which deserves congressional support and oversight.

While the United States should do everything it can to ready its own forces, it should also leverage the most valuable advantage it holds over the Chinese Communist Party — allies. Wargames often assess the value of operational force integration with partners, such as Japan, Australia or Taiwan, and the results are consistently clear: When U.S. and partner forces are more coordinated and integrated, they are more likely to win and more likely to win with fewer casualties.

The United States can support this objective by conducting increased training and exercises with Taiwan, and it can improve its operational partnership with Taiwan, Japan and Australia by rapidly establishing a dedicated joint force headquarters in the Indo-Pacific theater to integrate mission command and control with partners.

Lastly, to support the military’s mobility and resiliency, we must better protect the cyber, information and critical infrastructure systems that support the projection and sustainment of forces from the United States. That will require increased efforts to improve the security of American ports, airports, power-generation facilities and rail systems.

There is a clear and affordable path to deterring aggression in the Pacific — or at least preventing American military defeat. But action needs to be taken by Congress in this year’s NDAA and defense appropriations legislation to match China’s rapid military investment and development.

If Congress makes targeted investments to meet the five key objectives laid out above, America’s ability to project power, impose costs and deter aggression can be retained using only a small portion of the defense budget.

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. He previously served as policy director of the Senate Armed Services Committee under Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and as director of operations (J3) at U. S. Pacific Command. Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at FDD. He previously served as a national security adviser to members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, and was an officer in the U.S. Army.

Ellen Knickmeyer
<![CDATA[Stigmatization, not loneliness, is the true national security threat]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/11/stigmatization-not-loneliness-is-the-true-national-security-threat/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/11/stigmatization-not-loneliness-is-the-true-national-security-threat/Sun, 11 Jun 2023 17:44:03 +0000On the morning of May 31, only a few hours before the Army Times revealed delays to the Army’s over-promised, under-delivered suicide prevention regulation, the Military Times published an opinion that asked the provocative question, “Has loneliness become a national security issue?” In it, retired Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, using Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified documents, as his poster child, argued for “a comprehensive review” of the security clearance process. He went further, suggesting the government develop new screening criteria to identify “people who exhibit loneliness, poor self-esteem and grandiose narcissism,” and then, for those so identified, suspend or revoke access to classified information.

This is the sort of opinion that sounds nice, logical — national security-conscious even. And the author isn’t wrong in noting that “poor judgment or unreliable, untrustworthy, or dysfunctional behavior” can be symptomatic of some mental illnesses; they can. It’s just that by calling out “loneliness, low self-esteem, and narcissism” as things that should disqualify one from holding a security clearance, his suggestion may well increase the stigma surrounding mental health, making it less likely that troops seek help, and thereby — setting aside the primary harm to our most important assets — further masking eligibility concerns in a way that weakens national security.

The author begins by focusing on the recent pronouncement by the surgeon general of the United States of an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation,” before deploying statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health about the rising rates of mental health illnesses among the 18-25 year-old demographic, a sentence that reads almost like an accusation without apparent relevance. (For what it’s worth, these statistics may have resulted more from a shrinking stigma among younger generations coupled with the problem of underreporting among older ones.)

From the example of airman Teixeira, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s “plan to mend the social fabric of our nation,” and these statistics, the author draws the following conclusion: “loneliness, low self-esteem, and narcissism,” along with all other “mental health issues,” represent “red flags” in any security clearance adjudication.

Yet nowhere does the author define “loneliness.” Worse, he conflates emotion with illness, trait with symptom. Loneliness and low self-esteem can arise from adversity — a move, job change, divorce, or, yes, a pandemic — and bring about a diagnosable mental illness, like depression or anxiety. Or they can present as symptoms of an existing mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress, aka PTS. To the second, with the Department of Veterans Affairs estimating that anywhere from 10–30% of veterans experience PTS, there’s potentially a significant number of active duty service members presenting so-called “red flags.” Loneliness and low self-esteem, then, aren’t even on the same plane as narcissism, its own distinct illness that goes by the name “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and may look to outsiders like confidence, but can be much harder to treat.

And at what point does one cross the threshold between the loneliness most humans experience and the sort of loneliness that threatens national security? When does one cross from being “self-confident” which describes most military leaders, to “grandiose narcissist,” which describes a few? And who makes this determination? A security clearance adjudicator untrained in behavioral health?

A U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division soldier provides cover for advancing troops during movement March 20, 2003 across the southern Iraqi border. (Photo by Scott Nelson/Getty Images)

Yet in all of this, by singling out the lonely, the diffident, the self-centered, the author is actually increasing risk to national security.

Why? Because the author reignites the stigma the military services have labored — albeit unsuccessfully — to quash over the past two decades. Though likely unintentional, the author’s proposed solution communicates in hushed tones that, if you experience loneliness, if you hold yourself in low esteem, if you border on narcissism, then you should eschew seeking treatment because, to do so otherwise, will place you at increased risk of losing your security clearance. May God help you if you’re an introvert.

Nor is this speculative. In 2015, a paper published in Epidemiological Reviews revealed that upwards of 60% of military members “who could benefit from professional treatment do not access help or services.” Stigma was identified as one of the “barriers to help-seeking.” This belief that mental health treatment will impact — disparately and negatively — one’s security clearance is so pervasive that, as late as 2022, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command had to release a statement dispelling the stigma surrounding mental health treatment, stating, “Security clearances are not denied for seeking help.”

There was a time when the Questionnaire for National Security Positions asked applicants to disclose whether, in the last 7 years, he or she had “consulted with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, etc.)” or “consulted with another health care provider about a mental health related question.” Fortunately, our understanding of mental health issues, and the stigma this question reinforced, has advanced in the last two decades. The author’s proposal, though, would have us return to that foregone era — one where stigma was king, and service members, its subject.

I am all for protecting national security secrets, for ensuring that only the loyal, trustworthy, reliable possess access to our closely guarded secrets. But this proposal does not advance that end; rather, it increases stigma, forcing service members living with mental illness to retreat even further into the shadows, and denying them life-saving treatment and a means for improved mental health.

And that is the true threat to national security.

Eric Michael (E.M.) Liddick is the author of the memoir All the Memories That Remain: War, Alzheimer’s, and the Search for a Way Home. His work has appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The War Horse, War on the Rocks, The Moving Force Journal, and Thought Catalog. A native of central Pennsylvania, E.M. graduated from Penn State University and Tulane University Law School. He served in the 75th Ranger Regiment and 82nd Airborne Division, with multiple deployments overseas. He currently lives in Northern Virginia.

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This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

<![CDATA[The US Army is facing excessive risk. Here’s how to mitigate that.]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/06/08/the-us-army-is-facing-excessive-risk-heres-how-to-mitigate-that/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/06/08/the-us-army-is-facing-excessive-risk-heres-how-to-mitigate-that/Thu, 08 Jun 2023 11:00:00 +0000“General, never let it happen again. Never let it happen again.” Those words of caution from a World War II paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division during a commemoration on the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, resonated deeply with then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. Now, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley repeatedly emphasizes that the United States must deter great power war in what the 2022 National Security Strategy calls a “decisive decade” that “will shape whether this period is known as an age of conflict and discord or the beginning of a more stable and prosperous future.”

Given the grave rhetoric, reports of possible 10% to 20% cuts to Army special operations forces — a prime force for competing in the “gray zone” to achieve U.S. aims short of armed conflict — seem misaligned with U.S. goals. While it is important to weigh the potential strategic ramifications of these reductions, it is as critical to recognize that they are just the latest manifestation of a misalignment between U.S. defense strategy and resources. This misalignment compels the Army to make short-term decisions to meet budgetary constraints that harm the joint force’s ability to execute the U.S. defense strategy.

The 2022 National Defense Strategy describes the most complex strategic environment the United States has faced in decades. The joint force must outpace the People’s Republic of China, deter Russia’s “acute threat,” and remain vigilant of the “persistent threats” of North Korea, Iran and global violent extremist organizations. The 2018 National Defense Strategy Commission assessed that to execute the 2018 NDS — the core tenets of which the 2022 NDS maintains — U.S. defense funding required 3% to 5% of real annual growth.

But between 2019 and 2023, the defense budget was more than $200 billion below what was necessary to have achieved 5% real growth. The fiscal 2024 defense budget request is a 0.8% increase in real terms, but it will be a decrease if inflation remains above 2.4%.

The Army has faced the most severe budgetary challenges of the joint force. Assumptions that the United States will likely fight short, high-tech wars predominantly in the air and sea, instead of protracted ground wars, have resulted in budgets that accept excessive risk to U.S. land power and the joint force. Between FY19 and FY23, the Army lost nearly $40 billion in buying power, and the FY24 request represents a 3.3% decrease in real terms from the previous year.

The Army’s end strength has fallen to its lowest level since 1940 to satisfy budgetary constraints while maintaining fight-tonight readiness and keeping modernization on track. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth has indicated that, in part driven by current recruiting shortfalls, more force structure cuts are on the horizon.

These trends would be less alarming if the historical data of all major U.S. wars in the past eight decades were not so definitive about the Army’s central role in combat. Across WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army has averaged approximately 60% of forces deployed to the combat theater and about 70% of wartime fatalities.

Counter to the conventional wisdom that ground forces play a minimal role in the Indo-Pacific region, the Army’s share of combat deployments and casualties in the United States’ three major ground wars in the theater has been consistent with wars fought elsewhere. The war in Ukraine demonstrates that while the character of warfare is constantly evolving, there is no substitute for land forces in imposing political will.

Even in times of relative peace, the Army accounts for about two-thirds of global U.S. combatant commander requirements. As an example, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Army provided about three-fourths of the additional U.S. forces deployed to reinforce Eastern European NATO allies. Additionally, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve have been instrumental in training U.S. partners and allies, enabling global operations with logistics support, and responding to crises at home, whether COVID-19 or natural disasters.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted as saying: “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your strategy.” A budget that disproportionately decrements the service that routinely faces the heaviest demands both in times of peace and war is divorced from the aims of the ambitious National Defense Strategy. One temptation might be to drastically reduce U.S. commitments — in the Middle East, Africa or even Europe — to close the resource gap. But this ignores the increasingly interconnected nature of geopolitics, forfeits the strategic competitive space and discounts the potential for security deterioration that later requires a more significant U.S. commitment once vital interests are threatened. There are few risk-free reductions in either budget or global force posture.

To safeguard American security, Congress should ensure that the Army’s budget receives 3% to 5% real annual growth, matched by the necessary investments in U.S. air, sea, space and cyber power. If this is truly a “decisive decade,” the military’s budget must reflect this urgency. A joint force capable of converging each service’s capabilities across warfighting domains is one that potential adversaries will not seek to fight. To quote Milley: “The only thing more expensive than deterrence is actually fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting one and losing one.”

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Robert Brown is the president and CEO of the Association of the United States Army. He previously served as the commander of U.S. Army Pacific.

Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele L Tejada
<![CDATA[US, Chinese warships’ near miss hints at troubled diplomatic waters]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/06/us-chinese-warships-near-miss-hints-at-troubled-diplomatic-waters/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/06/us-chinese-warships-near-miss-hints-at-troubled-diplomatic-waters/Tue, 06 Jun 2023 23:12:36 +0000Editor’s note: This commentary was first published in The Conversation.

An encounter in which a Chinese naval ship cut across the path of a U.S. destroyer in the Taiwan Strait on June 3, 2023, has both Beijing and Washington pointing fingers at each other.

It was the second near miss in the space of just a few weeks; in late May a Chinese plane crossed in front of an American surveillance aircraft above the South China Sea.

Meredith Oyen, an expert on China-U.S. relations at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, helps explain the context of the recent encounters and how they fit within growing tensions between the two countries.

What do we know about the Taiwan Strait incident?

It came as the U.S. and Canada were conducting a joint transit of the Taiwan Strait — a body of water that separates the island of Taiwan from mainland China. Washington does these transits fairly regularly, but not usually with another country.

As the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal traveled up the channel, a Chinese warship passed and veered across the U.S. vessel’s path at a pretty close range, according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. As a result, the USS Chung-Hoon had to reduce its speed to avoid a collision.

The U.S. has characterized the incident as an “unsafe” maneuver on behalf of the Chinese and protested that it took place in international waters.

The perspective from Beijing is that the U.S. and Canada were “deliberately provoking risk” by sailing a warship through Chinese waters.

Who is right? Did it take place in international or Chinese waters?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that a country’s “territorial waters” extend 12 nautical miles off its coast – anything above or on the sea in that zone is considered part of the country’s territory. After that, there is a further 12-mile “contiguous zone,” over which a coastal state has rights to prevent infringement of the country’s “customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary” laws, according to the UN treaty.

Complicating matters, Beijing — a signatory to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, unlike the U.S. — claims the island of Taiwan as part of China. Under the U.N. convention’s stipulations, this would also mean Beijing can claim the 12 miles of territorial waters off Taiwan’s coast, as well as a 12-mile contiguous zone.

But even at its narrowest point, the Taiwan Strait is around 86 miles wide. So even accepting Beijing’s territorial claim, there would, under U.N. law, be a channel that falls outside its territory.

Nonetheless, Beijing claims sovereignty of the entirety of the waters between Taiwan and China under its exclusive economic zone.

Despite not signing the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, the U.S. abides by the 12-mile standard and views a large chunk of the strait as international waters.

How common are these ‘near misses’?

The United States has regularly sailed vessels through the Taiwan Strait for decades. At times of tension — notably during the Korean War and Taiwan Straits crises of 1954-55, 1958 and 1962 — the U.S. has deployed destroyers in the channel as a deliberate show of military strength and support for Taiwan.

This continued after the U.S. normalized relations with China in 1978 until today, with few incidents that caused the level of tit-for-tat recriminations such as in the latest case. But there have been “near misses” in the sky, noticeably the recent airplane-to-airplane encounter that preceded this incident.

What we have increasingly seen, though, is Chinese officials protest these Taiwan Strait transits by the U.S. And the number of protests by China has increased in recent years, as tension over Taiwan has increased.

How does this incident fit growing maritime tension in the region?

The past few years have seen a deterioration in U.S.-China relations. There have been no direct, high-level military talks between the two countries since 2019. Meanwhile, relations have further soured on other topics, such as the ongoing trade war, the issue of Taiwan and allegations relating to the spread of COVID-19.

At times of better relations between Beijing and Washington, military transits such as the one in the Taiwan Strait might have gone largely unremarked upon. But amid such tensions, any incident is elevated to the level of uniquely bad provocation.

The broader context is that the U.S. regularly holds military drills and “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea. These activities are used by the U.S. Department of Defense to demonstrate that the U.S. has a right to sail in waters it views as international, even if they are claimed by nation states.

The concern is that with tensions as they are — and with no official direct line of dialogue — a near miss during such a drill, or, worse still, an actual collision, could escalate beyond control, leading to military conflict.

Any significance over why this happened now?

The near miss came at a curious time — while top diplomats and defense chiefs from both the U.S. and China were attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

At that security summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shook the hand of his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu. But they didn’t hold a side meeting — as some observers had hoped.

Austin also underscored the importance of the Taiwan Strait to Washington: “The whole world has a stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The security of commercial shipping lanes and global supply chains depends on it. And so does freedom of navigation worldwide. Make no mistake: conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be devastating.”

Washington has suggested that it wants to resume official talks with Beijing. Incidents such as that in the Taiwan Strait underscore the potential need for such discussions, if only to avoid encounters escalating into something more serious.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

The Conversation

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre T. Richard
<![CDATA[Veterans deserve choice in how they claim VA disability benefits]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/05/veterans-deserve-choice-in-how-they-claim-va-disability-benefits/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/06/05/veterans-deserve-choice-in-how-they-claim-va-disability-benefits/Mon, 05 Jun 2023 22:39:41 +0000While I appreciate the ongoing debate about private sector services helping veterans navigate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability claims process, a May 1 KFF Health News article published by Military Times left the impression that private benefit guides generally overcharge for their services and provide little value to veterans. That is an unfair characterization, and your readers deserve additional context.

Honorable companies like Veteran Benefits Guide, where I work — which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau — are providing a needed service to veterans, helping guide them through the complex claims process and ensure they receive the full benefits they earned from their service. As a company founded by a veteran and staffed by many veterans and family of veterans, we are proud that our clients receive an average increase to annual benefits of $13,200, benefits they would not receive without our help.

Veterans service organizations, or VSOs, are intended to help free of charge, but too often they are understaffed and inadequately trained. In March 8 testimony before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, which represents county VSOs nationwide, acknowledged that it does not have enough representatives nor funding to meet veterans’ demand for assistance.

The KFF Health News article described a $2,829.70 fee charged by one private company and quoted the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, or NOVA, a group representing accredited attorneys and agents that has called for giving the VA more authority to crack down on unaccredited companies.

However, the article then failed to mention that attorneys and agents represented by NOVA often charge veterans significantly more. In fact, accredited attorneys charge between 20% and 33% of a veteran’s backpay, which can exceed $50,000 on complicated cases. In nearly every scenario, an attorney will charge multiples more than a private benefit guide and take years longer to achieve the same result.

At Veteran Benefits Guide, our focus is on ensuring veterans submit fully developed, accurate claims to the VA, which helps get the correct rating for the veteran the first time, avoids the need for costly appeals and speeds up the final benefits decision.

Attorneys, on the other hand, are only paid to assist veterans during an appeals process. And they are incentivized to drag out appeals, since they are paid a percentage of the veteran’s backpay. The longer an appeal takes, the more the attorney is paid.

Veteran Benefits Guide and other honorable companies have strongly supported efforts to establish guardrails and crack down on bad actors, such as the recently introduced PLUS for Veterans Act, which would impose criminal penalties on those seeking to take advantage of veterans, establish safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest, and institute caps to prevent unreasonable fees — while still preserving the right of veterans to seek assistance from the private sector. It would have been helpful context for your readers to know that such reasonable legislation has been introduced and is being considered in Congress right now.

Michael Licari is the chief legal officer of Veteran Benefits Guide.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

<![CDATA[Military life wellness tips from the 2023 Spouse of the Year]]>https://www.armytimes.com/podcasts/2023/06/03/military-life-wellness-tips-from-the-2023-spouse-of-the-year/https://www.armytimes.com/podcasts/2023/06/03/military-life-wellness-tips-from-the-2023-spouse-of-the-year/Sat, 03 Jun 2023 09:00:00 +0000Military spouse wellness and some of the barriers this population faces are the platform for the newest Military Spouse of the Year, Army spouse Evie King. She shares practical wisdom for prioritizing wellness during deployments and military moves as well as underutilized resources all spouses should know about.

About the guests:

Evie King is the 2023 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year who advocates for the well-being and mental health of all military spouses. As President of InDependent, she established professional volunteer opportunities that develop transferable skills. She espouses and reinforces team well-being through healthy digital boundaries and open feedback. Her focus on wellness extends to her involvement in the military community, where she creates dynamic and educational content that empowers military spouses to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. King, who is also the child of two Army veterans, recognizes the importance of building a resilient military community and eliminating barriers to wellness. Through engagement with military organizations and the media, she has raised awareness about the challenges and diverse needs of military spouses. She seeks to bridge gaps in existing resources and foster more inclusive mental health and holistic wellness programs. King’s leadership and advocacy is focused on ensuring that every military spouse feels supported and valued in pursuit of their well-being.

About the podcast:

The Spouse Angle is a podcast breaking down the news for military spouses and their families. Each episode features subject-matter experts and military guests who dive into current events from a military perspective — everything from new policy changes to research on family lifestyle challenges. The podcast is hosted by Natalie Gross, a freelance journalist and former Military Times reporter who grew up in a military family.

Follow The Spouse Angle on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Subscribe on Spotify.

Subscribe on Stitcher.

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Marcus Fichtl
<![CDATA[Has loneliness become a national security issue?]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/31/has-loneliness-become-a-national-security-issue/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/31/has-loneliness-become-a-national-security-issue/Wed, 31 May 2023 10:00:00 +0000Last month, we learned that top-secret military documents, which provided insight into Russian moves within Ukraine, were leaked on the internet — straining relationships with American allies and compromising our intelligence collection assets.

The culprit was not a foreign spy or ideology-driven digital warrior. It was a socially awkward airman first class in the Air National Guard with low self-esteem, attempting to show off for a group of teenage gamers on a chat platform.

The breach calls into question the standards the national security community applies in determining who gets top secret clearance. We must move beyond the current vice-based criteria that look for people who are vulnerable to blackmail, have a connection to “bad actors,” or have highly recognizable psychological issues. Loneliness, low self-esteem, and narcissism must be added to the list of red flags to look for.

This month, the surgeon general of the United States announced an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” affecting the country, and he laid out a framework for a “National Strategy to Advance Social Connection,” as part of a plan to mend the social fabric of our nation.

While the full impact of the mental health issues associated with pandemic isolation will not be fully understood for some time, a survey published by the National Institute of Mental Health identified that the prevalence rate for mental health illness — which includes mental, behavioral or emotional disorders — was highest among 18-25 year-olds.

Moreover, in the Air National Guard, where Jack Teixeira served, directors of psychological health across 90 wings reported 109,000 in-person encounters with service members and their families.

These revelations present us with several challenges, chief among them, calling into question how security clearances are vetted. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which determines the eligibility for access to classified information, “a security clearance investigation is an inquiry into an individual’s loyalty, character, trustworthiness and reliability to ensure that he or she is eligible for access to national security information.”

Mental health issues raise concerns about eligibility because they may cause poor judgment or unreliable, untrustworthy, or dysfunctional behavior. Mental health will influence how a person perceives the world and makes their decisions. Because of this, there are lists of disqualifying conditions, indicators, and behaviors used to determine suitability for a security clearance.

Absent from these lists are loneliness, poor self-esteem, and social anxiety, narcissism which are the traits exhibited by Teixeira — as well as most mass shooters.

Clearly, there were red flags overlooked or missed by those who approved Jack Teixeira’s top-secret clearance, and it appears that a number of oversight responsibilities failed. The current FBI and DoD investigations will sort this out, this disgraced airman likely will go to jail for a long time and a number of people should and will lose their jobs.

Moving forward, however, there must be a comprehensive review of our current security vetting and monitoring. We must move past the legacy perception of people who represent a “security risk,” and develop new screening criteria that quickly identifies people who exhibit loneliness, poor self-esteem and grandiose narcissism (as displayed by Teixeira), remove them from access to classified information, and provide them with the support and tools to address these issues before they become toxic and make bad decisions.

Jack Hammond is a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General with multiple combat commands, and he currently serves as the chief executive for the Home Base National Center of Excellence for Mental Health and Brain Injuries.

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This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

Lance Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg
<![CDATA[How stand-up comedy can heal the military-connected community]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/30/how-stand-up-comedy-can-heal-the-military-connected-community/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/30/how-stand-up-comedy-can-heal-the-military-connected-community/Tue, 30 May 2023 10:00:00 +0000As I ascended the few short steps to the showroom stage at the DC Improv, it seemed as if time briefly stood still. In that dark, non-descript basement venue in Northwest D.C., I now occupied the same space that hundreds of household names and homegrown talent alike had held for decades. My lime-green rhinestone mesh halter top glistened under the blinding stage lights. This was my moment to shine.

For five glorious minutes, I laid my soul bare to a crowd of faceless silhouettes. I told jokes about my divorce. I poked fun at my bisexuality. I detailed the hilarious woes of being re-married to an active duty service member. With the landing of each punchline, a sense of relief washed over me. I felt seen. I felt heard. At last, I felt understood.

What does standup comedy have to do with military life? It can help veterans connect to other veterans, once they’ve left the active duty side of the military. And it can serve as a way to bridge the cultural gap between the military and civilian populations, also called the military-civil divide, in American society.

Melissa A. Sullivan performs at the ASAP comedy bootcamp graduation showcase on May 3, 2023, at the DC Improv in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Melissa A. Sullivan)

Today, about 1.3 million active duty personnel serve in the armed forces, or less than one-half of 1% of the U.S. population. The lack of integration and interaction between the military and civilian populations can perpetuate harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about service members, veterans and their families and are especially prevalent in media depictions.

Not all service members are battle-hardened warriors. Not all veterans have post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. And military spouses are their own special breed, juggling our individual careers while supporting our partners’ personal and professional needs, which is even more complicated when raising a family and changing duty stations every three years.

Despite its myriad challenges, being a part of the military-connected community is an honor. I am immensely proud of my spouse’s service and of my contributions to the mission as a federal employee.

Non-profit organizations like Armed Services Arts Partnership, or ASAP — because the military loves its acronyms — offer free art and comedy classes to service members, veterans, military spouses, family members, and caregivers.

As the Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded its creative arts therapy programming and begun to shift from the once knee-jerk solution of pharmaceutical interventions for managing conditions like PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, anxiety and depression, more veterans are discovering the tangible benefits of creative expression.

Whether by participating in comedy, storytelling, acting, or visual arts, ASAP program graduates gain confidence, resilience and are more empowered to confront their trauma, particularly in a safe and supportive environment like the one ASAP provides.

Navy Lt. Joey Deaven performs at the ASAP comedy bootcamp graduation showcase on May 3, 2023, at the DC Improv in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Melissa A. Sullivan)

My spouse and I took a six-week ASAP comedy bootcamp course culminating in a graduation showcase at the DC Improv. Along with seven of our veteran, active-duty, and military family classmates, we performed the tight set we developed with guidance from our veteran-comic instructors. Our class met each week for three hours, workshopping our material and adopting tricks of the trade from bonafide comedians, but most of all, we learned how to be vulnerable with ourselves and each other. ASAP classes are not only about gaining artistic skills — they are profoundly cathartic.

Admittedly, my spouse and I were skeptical going into this experience. For a community that prides itself on privacy and maintains a stiff upper lip, sometimes to its detriment, I wondered if everyone could let their guard down so quickly. By the end of the first class, we met with our classmates over beers and dove right in. Dead parents. Failed marriages. Physical imperfections. We mined our collective trauma for comedic gold. The more we normalized our pain, the easier it became to laugh at the absurdity of life — and at ourselves.

We learned that comedy is truly a team sport. Our instructors built us up after we bombed at an open mic. They gave us constructive criticism to improve our odds of getting the oh-so-coveted belly laugh. They generously imparted their wisdom and genuinely wanted us to succeed on our big night. They had once gone through this exact process and understood the transformative power of that stage.

In partnership with other veterans’ service organizations like The Mission Continues and The Bob Woodruff Foundation, ASAP packed the DC Improv showroom with members of the military-connected community and civilians eager to bridge that elusive military-civil divide.

By speaking our truth, each performer took a sledgehammer to that dividing wall. With every strike, we saw the crowd, and ourselves, a little more clearly.

Melissa A. Sullivan is a military spouse and a federal employee. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She and her spouse live in Washington, D.C.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

Armed Services Arts Partnership
<![CDATA[At the heart of Memorial Day, an appreciation of duty to one’s country]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/05/29/at-the-heart-of-memorial-day-an-appreciation-of-duty-to-ones-country/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/05/29/at-the-heart-of-memorial-day-an-appreciation-of-duty-to-ones-country/Mon, 29 May 2023 12:00:00 +0000Memorial Day is a powerful time to reflect on a question essential to citizenship: What is duty to country, and how is it relevant to our lives today?

How often have we pondered the dimensions of duty to our nation, much less spoken about it to our children? Odds are not much. According to Google Ngram Viewer, use of the word “duty” is down 25% since 1988 (the year I joined the Army) and down by a factor of three over the last 100 years. So, it’s not surprising that in our “me-centered” culture, the concept of duty is becoming increasingly unfamiliar. Where do we look for guidance and inspiration?

Steven Pressfield’s historical fiction novel “Gates of Fire” captivatingly illustrates how duty can transmute from obligation to honor, from a vision of the present to an investment in the future. It’s the story of the Battle of Thermopylae and the 300 Spartans — along with roughly 7,000 other Greeks — who chose to stand and die, giving Greece precious time to organize a defense against the invading Persians. I’m sure many Greeks initially acted out of what we commonly consider duty, or perhaps a desire to avoid shame or to fulfill the requirements of the role — soldiers are expected to fight, after all.

But surely this most elemental form of duty alone can’t explain their decision to fight to the death. Every soldier knows they’re taking a risk in war, but the Greeks at Thermopylae knew this was a suicide mission. Why, then, did they choose to lay down their lives for their country?

It was love. Love for the men on their right and left who were willing to die for them. Love for the freedom their sacrifice would bequeath to their families and their countrymen. And midwife to this sacrifice born of love was the hope that their example would inspire future generations to bear the heavy burdens that freedom demands.

This is how they transformed duty from obligation to the sublime, from an act that shaped not only their present, but also spoke to ages hence. This is duty to country in its most shining and unalloyed form. Some 2,500 years later, we can still draw inspiration from this noble and multi-layered example of duty by serving the defense of our nation in ways large and small. After all, our freedoms stand on the foundation of our armed forces. This is the lesson at the heart of Memorial Day.

Few know that we are facing a national security crisis whose remedy lies in reinvigorating a dedication to duty among our youth. The Army missed its recruiting goals last year by about 15,000 soldiers. That’s roughly the size of one division. They’ll miss their recruiting goal again this year. Let that sink in. We’re running short one division a year when we only have 10. How many more years until our Army is too small to be effective? This major security threat is emerging just as an era of geopolitical power struggles intensifies.

There are many potential reasons for the decline in enlistments. Fewer than 1% of Americans volunteer to serve in uniform, so many Americans simply don’t know anyone who served. Basic civic education in high school along with exposure to the military as a potential career path has also fallen over the last few decades. And, certainly, worsening political divisions are a factor.

However, just as the Spartans did in her time of need, America’s youth must step forward in greater numbers to serve our nation in uniform. All Americans can be part of the solution by using our voices and influence to encourage a renewed sense of duty to country across this great land. To lift, like Sparta did, a commitment to service in uniform to rank among our highest national values. Advocate for military service to your communities, to your schools, and especially to your children. From those to whom much has been entrusted, much is expected. And all Americans have been abundantly blessed. Let’s rekindle our nation’s sense of duty — it’s our honor and privilege to do so.

David Kim, Military Times’ 2022 Veteran of the Year, is a combat veteran, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and father of a son and a daughter in the U.S. Army.

Elizabeth Fraser
<![CDATA[‘Snapshot of their memories:’ Gold Star widow reflects on Memorial Day]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/27/snapshot-of-their-memories-gold-star-widow-reflects-on-memorial-day/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/27/snapshot-of-their-memories-gold-star-widow-reflects-on-memorial-day/Sat, 27 May 2023 12:00:00 +0000Memorial Day — the beginning of summer, campouts, barbeques and lazy days at the lake. That is what Memorial Day used to mean to me. On March 31, 2004, the day took on a completely different meaning, and now it and the days surrounding it are spent reflecting on the lives of those who died in the service of their country. My husband, 1st Lt. Doyle M. Hufstedler, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. He was 25. Four others died with him.

Nearly every Memorial Day, our daughter, Grace, and I visit Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where we picnic at the mass grave where the remains of my husband Doyle and the four soldiers he perished with are laid to rest.

We make sure we bring all of Doyle’s favorites — Double Stuffed Oreos, Dr. Pepper, and an ice-cold Lone Star Beer (or two), of course. Doyle loved all things Texas. While we reminisce, we’re serenaded by the voices of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings from one of our iPhones. Classic country and western tunes were the sounds that flooded the airwaves of Doyle’s green, 1993 Chevy Silverado pickup, which our daughter now proudly drives.

This undated photo shows the gravestone of 1st Lt. Doyle M. Hufstedler and the four soldiers who died with him in Iraq at Arlington National Cemetery. (Courtesy of the Hufstedler family)

We met our senior year of college. He proposed to me in the end zone during halftime at a football game.

Despite his favorite snacks, he was in tip-top shape, had a high-wattage smile, was respected by those who served with him, and he was the hardest working man I’ve ever known. Diagnosed with severe dyslexia in elementary school, he worked extraordinarily hard to earn his degree from Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering. After he earned his commission as a second lieutenant, he had to work twice as hard as anyone else just to keep up, but work he did — and then some, all while sporting that smile of his.

Grace never got to be the catalyst that triggered Doyle’s winning smile in person; I was eight months pregnant when he was killed. While she may never have met him, she knows him through our shared memories, his pictures and the letters he wrote.

She knows his voice from the books he read to her and recorded on a hand-held tape player in his bunk. In the background, you can hear gravel crunching beneath the tracks of armored personnel carriers rolling past. She has learned the story of his life from his family and friends: the purest gift anyone can really give is a snapshot of their memories.

Memorial Day probably draws the most people to Arlington. Many families do as we do, plunking down blankets and bags near the headstones of their fallen loved ones, lovingly cleaning their memorial plaques, poring over mementos left behind. It’s a solemn occasion, of course, but there’s also plenty of joy and laughter. It’s like a big family reunion. You bump into people you see once a year and are happy to hug them and catch up.

Children run around blowing bubbles, placing flowers at the graves of strangers and loved ones alike. They run and laugh and play, and oftentimes newcomers to Arlington scold them but the more seasoned visitors like us share our Oreos and bubbles and stories and encourage them to keep playing.

This year we are staying home in Texas. I’m going to miss it, and I’ll be sure to be back next year, but we have a reason. I just returned from a trip to Paris where I learned firsthand that grief is not a national trait, and the struggles of women who lost their husbands in service to their nations are universal. I’ll still be processing the trip at home while the other families gather in Arlington.

The event I attended was called The Woman’s World Peace Symposium, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Tuesday’s Children, which helps provide healing for families of fallen soldiers and others whose lives have been forever changed by terrorism, military conflict or mass violence. The symposium was a gathering of American widows like me, but also widows from France and Lebanon. My husband died in Iraq. The husbands of at least a few of the French women died on soil that was foreign to them. The Lebanese friends I made lost the loves of their lives in their homeland, in their own towns. To me, Doyle’s death, as excruciatingly painful as it was and is, occurred in a foreign land on a road I’ll never see, a landmark I will never have to drive past; for these women their trauma took place nearby.

Forgetting, I discovered, was a fear many of us shared. At one point a new Lebanese friend asked me, “Why do you cry after all these years?”

I was taken aback, even momentarily embarrassed — 19 years have passed, shouldn’t I be able to contain my tears? Shouldn’t I be “over it?”

I did my best to answer. I told her I cry because I grieve all the things Doyle has missed and will miss — watching our daughter grow up, attending her college graduation and even getting to know her children and being a grandfather. His death wasn’t a solitary event. It happens again and again with every moment he can’t share with us.

My Lebanese friend paused reflectively. I braced for her response. And then she said, “Ok, I just wondered. Because these are the things that I cry for, too.”

Leslie Hufstedler Alvarez, of Harker Heights, Texas, is pursuing her masters degree in family and community services and volunteers with Tuesday’s Children, EIN # 52-2347446, a national nonprofit that has provided long-term healing and resilience-building support to over 45,000 impacted by terrorism, military conflict, and mass violence for over 20 years. Tuesday’s Children sponsored the Woman’s World Peace Symposium in Washington, D.C. in 2022.

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<![CDATA[Memorial Day is for those we’ve lost, on the battlefield and at home]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/27/memorial-day-is-for-those-weve-lost-on-the-battlefield-and-at-home/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/27/memorial-day-is-for-those-weve-lost-on-the-battlefield-and-at-home/Sat, 27 May 2023 10:00:00 +0000In July 2015, on a typical Sunday night at home in Wilmington, North Carolina, I prepared to attend a suicide prevention course the next day as part of my National Guard duties.

Suicide in the military and veteran community had been steadily rising for years, and the hope was through prevention training, those of us serving could intervene early and slow down the trend.

That evening, I received the call veterans dread getting.

My friend and battle buddy, my brother in service, Jimmy, a fellow soldier with whom I had deployed to Iraq a decade earlier, had taken his own life.

The news was difficult for me to even comprehend. Jimmy had come home safe from a deployment. He had built a family. He had a successful career, full-time with the National Guard. He seemed happy from what I could observe.

So many veterans of the wars of the past two decades grapple with dark thoughts — we made it through so much, we are finally home, and then suddenly the life of one more comrade in arms comes to an abrupt and tragic end. We can’t make sense of it; it weighs on our souls. Jimmy’s story weighs on mine.

Combined New York Army National Guard unit at a memorial service for two New York soldiers who were killed in action, Baghdad, Iraq, December 2004. (Photo courtesy of John Byrnes)

Perhaps the saddest downside to military service: losing friends I served with to suicide has become a part of my life as a veteran, as it has for thousands of other veterans and service members.

Military and veteran suicide is a tragic hallmark of the post-9/11 wars, and a greater killer than enemy weapons. More than four times as many post-9/11 service members and veterans have died by suicide than during combat operations.

The rate of suicide among veterans increased almost 50% between 2007 and 2017 alone, today an average of 17 veterans take their own lives each day.

On Memorial Day, we tend to think about those killed in combat. We think of lives lost on the beaches of Normandy, in the jungles of Vietnam, and in the sands of Afghanistan. And we should, because those men and women made incredible sacrifices for this country.

But we should also reflect on those whom the war followed home, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Those whose service resulted in tragedy too, just delayed. Those deaths are service connected, too. Dead of wounds sustained earlier to the mind and soul.

I will honor brothers and sisters I lost in Iraq and Afghanistan like Segun, Kevin, and Mark, as well as Jimmy, Eric, and Joe who I lost later at home. Each of them served their country bravely and honorably. Their sacrifice deserves our respect and recognition this weekend.

I’ll also be thinking about my own responsibility to honor their sacrifices and memory.

Suicide has become an epidemic affliction in the veteran community. But it is a problem we can strive to solve. Veterans are not broken, and we are certainly not weak. We just need to connect and empower one another with support, and to ensure there is access to the care that truly helps us overcome and live healthy lives.

That’s how I honor those we have lost to service, both in combat and at home.

John Byrnes works on VA reform and suicide prevention as deputy director of Concerned Veterans for America. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and Army National Guard who served tours in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.

<![CDATA[How the ‘remarriage penalty’ is hurting Gold Star families]]>https://www.armytimes.com/podcasts/2023/05/27/how-the-remarriage-penalty-is-hurting-gold-star-families/https://www.armytimes.com/podcasts/2023/05/27/how-the-remarriage-penalty-is-hurting-gold-star-families/Sat, 27 May 2023 09:00:00 +0000With the sunset of the widow’s tax earlier in 2023, Gold Star families are turning to a new fight: changing a law that takes away survivors’ benefits for spouses who remarry before age 55. With the so-called “remarriage penalty” being reevaluated in Congress, an advocate shares the latest updates — and military widows share their personal experiences.

About the guests:

Linda K. Ambard is a retired community support coordinator. She retired from Kadena Air Force Base, Japan. Ambard started working for the Air Force in 1986 at the Mountain Home Air Force Base swimming pool. She has held a variety of positions to include Child Development Center director, Youth Programs director, Family Child Care coordinator, DoDEA teacher, and community support coordinator. During her community support coordinator tenure, led the youth resiliency effort at AFMC, created a training video still in use for training casualty officers, and was published for her research in positive trauma growth. Furthermore, Ambard was featured in many public forums to include television, radio and newspaper for her efforts in resiliency and military loss awareness. Ambard was the voice on the Gold Star Air Force training video.

Kaanan Fugler, surviving spouse of Staff Sgt. Matthew Mackey, visits his grave with her children. (Courtesy of Kaanan Fugler)

Kaanan Fugler is the healthcare navigator in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Department for Volunteers of America South Central Louisiana. She is the surviving spouse of Staff Sgt. Matthew Mackey, who died 18 days after an active duty accident on July 28, 2010. She is also the mother to five Gold Star children. In 2017, she remarried and became the wife of a disabled veteran, Joshua. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern New Hampshire University and a master’s in public administration from Louisiana State University. Before joining the VOA staff, she had spent the last 13 years advocating to protect and improve the rights and earned benefits of surviving families and veterans. She has spent much of her free time making phone calls to legislative representatives advocating for a change of policies that have impacted countless veterans and military surviving families. She continued this advocacy after graduation where she joined others to rally Congress to fix the military widow’s tax. She has written several testimonies about the impacts of current laws on her family that the Transition Assistance Program for Survivors has read and written for testimony before the Veterans Affairs Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives. The most recent was testimony supporting the Love Lives On Act. Through her remarriage, she brought attention to the need for surviving spouses to maintain DoD access to minor children’s records upon remarriage. It was part of the most recent NDAA. She is active in several Gold Star communities and sat on the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Alumni Committee for Snowball Express last year. She has spent time in the past traveling for the Folds of Honor Foundation as an event speaker, helping raise donations that support scholarships for families of the fallen and wounded service members. At VOA, she advocates for and assists homeless and at-risk veterans in obtaining the resources necessary to obtain and maintain permanent housing.

About the podcast:

The Spouse Angle is a podcast breaking down the news for military spouses and their families. Each episode features subject-matter experts and military guests who dive into current events from a military perspective — everything from new policy changes to research on family lifestyle challenges. The podcast is hosted by Natalie Gross, a freelance journalist and former Military Times reporter who grew up in a military family.

Follow The Spouse Angle on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Elizabeth Fraser
<![CDATA[‘Embrace the Suck’–Life as a Gold Star child is a race with no finish ]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/05/26/embrace-the-sucklife-as-a-gold-star-child-is-a-race-with-no-finish/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2023/05/26/embrace-the-sucklife-as-a-gold-star-child-is-a-race-with-no-finish/Fri, 26 May 2023 18:35:59 +0000Editor’s note: This piece was first published in The War Horse, an award-winning nonprofit news organization educating the public on military service. Subscribe to their newsletter.

It’s Saturday morning in Lynchburg, Virginia, shortly before sunrise. I lace my Nikes and head out the door for a weekly run with my dad. I’m 12 years old.

I tiptoe down the steps and gently open and close the front door so I don’t disturb my mother and siblings, still asleep in their beds. My father and I hop in his 1984 Jeep Cherokee and cruise to the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. The sound of Mumford and Sons blares from the speakers as the cool wind blows through our hair.

When we arrive at the base of the trail, the sky is split into deep blue and orange streaks—the afterglow that appears for only a few minutes after sunrise.

I follow his lead. As we jog down the path, our legs fly over roots and leaves as the sound of our footsteps and breaths echo in sync along the winding trails. A couple of miles in, he points to one mountain, Sharp Top, as we stretch at an overlook.

“Look, Bailey!” he says.”That’s your mountain.”

A few miles later, when fatigue kicks in from the altitude, he repeats the same words he always says when grit is required more than ever before.

“Embrace the suck.”

Bailey Donahue, age 11, poses with her dad’s race bib. Photo courtesy of the author.

When my father and I arrive back home, he begins making breakfast. The smell of pancakes and coffee blends with the sounds of Pearl Jam. My brother, sister, and mom slowly gather at the dining room table. We eat, make a plan for how we want to spend the day, and then leisurely stack dirty dishes into the dishwasher.

The time I spend with my dad is rare but intentional, like wearing the necklace he gave me from Iraq when I turned 10, brittle from age and reserved for the most special occasions.

I am always happier when I’m with him, especially on the days he drops me off at school because they are so rare. They mean he isn’t at work or deployed to another combat zone. It means more time with my partner in crime.

And it means one more ride in his beat-up, faded-from-the-sun Jeep, and looking at him behind the driver’s seat saying three words I can still hear.

“Do good things.”

* * * *

It’s a Tuesday afternoon on Sept. 16, 2014. I am 16.

The day ended 10 minutes ago, but I’m working on an extra credit assignment with my brother Seamus, who shares a history class with me. When it’s over, we walk down the hall and through the side doors of our school, laughing over stupid jokes before we go our separate ways. He has cross-country practice, and my mom is picking me up. She is never late.

Five minutes pass. I begin to worry.

Another five minutes pass. Now I’m scared.

Now 15 minutes have passed.

I call her cell phone.

No response.

Another five minutes pass. Silence.

After 25 minutes, I begin pacing the sidewalk.

30 minutes. Still. No. Response.

I call again and again. My mother finally picks up.

I can feel her tears as she tells me a family friend will pick me up. She says she has to stay late at work.

I know she is lying.

Our conversation is abrupt. She tells me she loves me.

I call my best friend, Jesse. “I hope this doesn’t have anything to do with my dad,” I tell her.

A few minutes later, my mom’s friend arrives. I pelt her with questions.

I know something is wrong.

She tells me she doesn’t know. That she doesn’t have answers.

I know she is lying. I worry that my dad is dead.

Then, as we round the corner of my street, I see a strange car in my driveway. And I know.

It takes me only a few steps to get to my front door. I turn the door handle with the greatest hesitancy that my body can allow. That’s when I see two men in uniform standing in my living room.

My mother is on her knees, kneeling atop a carpet my dad sent us from Afghanistan.

“You have the wrong guy,” she cries out. “I know he’s out there hiding, you just have to go find him!”

I walk towards my mom and wrap my arms around her.

In my head, I see a montage of future moments flash in my mind. College acceptance. Graduation. The flat tires and car problems he’s supposed to help fix. Getting my first job. Walking down the aisle on my wedding day. The marathon we were supposed to run together.

But this time, without my dad. All taken away by a Taliban fighter.

Mike Donahue in Afghanistan in 2014. Photo courtesy of the author.

After a few seconds, I let go of my mother and slowly walk upstairs to my room. I shut my door and sit on my bed.

Time stops. All I can hear is the watch on my bedside table.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The minute hand moves forward without me. I sit for a while without moving. I stare blankly.

My mom’s friend slowly opens my door and embraces me. I begin to feel my body again. She ushers me downstairs as our house fills with family, friends, and strangers. My mom is on all fours on our front lawn, throwing up as our casualty assistance officer drives down the street and parks in our driveway.

Next, I see Seamus walk through the front door. His eyes are the saddest I’ve ever seen them. I walk back upstairs, wanting to hide from it all.

My dad was supposed to be home already. But he was involuntarily extended for 30 days. He had just 23 days of his deployment remaining.

Time passes.

I hear the house pile with more people. More time passes. I isolate myself from it all.

From my bedroom, I hear my brother and another family friend leave to pick up my older sister, Victoria, from college in Boone, North Carolina. My mom’s greatest fear was that my sister would find out about our dad from someone else, so she’d told her over the phone—only after telling my sister to hand the phone to her roommate.

“I need you to step into a different room and let me know when you have. I’m about to tell Victoria that her father is dead, and I need you to be by her side until we can pick her up so she’s safe.”

I lay on my bed beneath the sheets. I listen to the watch on my bedside table again.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Mike Donahue hanging out with kids around the Um Eneej village outside the old Radio Relay Point 10’ in Iraq in 2008. Photo courtesy of the author.

It’s Wednesday morning. My first day waking up as a Gold Star child. As I open my eyes, I think my dad’s death was just a nightmare.

Then I hear my mom’s sharp reverberating cries and I remember our new reality.

Moments later, a family friend enters my bedroom. We have to fly to Delaware for my dad’s dignified transfer. I sit on my floor and stare blankly in my mirror. My mom’s friend brushes my hair. She tells me I’ll look beautiful.

I feel nauseous.

Later in the day, as the plane’s wheels on our commercial flight lift from the tarmac, tears stream down my face. I hope the flight will crash.

As my family and I arrive at a hotel, my mom talks to the widow of someone killed alongside my dad. She has two children. One is a young daughter.

I sit with her, broken by her youth. She is 9 years old.

We eventually drive to Dover Air Force Base and are shuttled to the tarmac. We wait.

The dignified transfer of Mike Donahue on Sept. 17, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo courtesy of the author.

When the tail of the plane opens, six uniformed men march onboard and carry my dad’s flag-draped coffin from the aircraft to American soil. It’s dark outside except for the lights illuminating the runway. A spotlight on the dream I can’t wake up from.

We stand in silence until my mom points out a butterfly that has landed on my dad’s casket. It is in the direct light. You can’t miss it. I smile.

As they carry him to the vehicle, the butterfly flits away.

The next two weeks are a blur, and before I know it, I’m looking at my dad in his casket. He looks real and absent at the same time.

Until now, none of it felt real.

Later, the awareness of his absence grows as I hear the sharp, hollow sounds of horses drawing louder on the roads between fields of green and rows of white, leading my father’s flag-draped silver box into Section 60.

When the horses come to a stop, eight men in uniform lift his casket and march in synchronicity. They set him down a few feet away from rows of chairs. Red roses mark our seats.

The funeral of Mike Donahue at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the author.

When the chaplain begins to speak, all falls silent. His words are beautiful, but I can’t process them. I am beginning to realize that I will never see my dad again.

A soldier plays “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. A retired soldier places an 82nd Airborne medallion on my dad’s casket.

Seven men in crisp uniforms each fire their rifles three times. A bugler plays taps.

An officer kneels down and presents my family with a folded American flag, an honor I don’t wish to receive. I can’t accept that he’s a few feet away from me, waiting to join a sea of white stones and perfectly cut green grass. I don’t want to walk away.

My father, Mike Donahue, is dead.

* * * *

It’s a Wednesday in May. I’m 25 years old—the age my dad was when I was born.

It’s just before sunrise when I put on my Hokas and tiptoe over the creaky wood of the cabin I’m sharing with others, careful not to wake them. I gently open and close the front door, then walk down the steps and stretch.

I follow the dirt path that leads to the end of the ranch, the sound of my dad’s playlist blaring in my headphones as I run alone down a Texas road. With each step, the sky splits into deep blue and orange streaks—the afterglow that appears for only a few minutes after sunrise.

A few miles later, when fatigue begins to kick in, I hear the same words my father would always say when grit was required more than ever before.

“Embrace the suck.”

Bailey Donahue runs a marathon in honor of her dad alongside Wear Blue in San Antonio, Texas, in December 2021. Photo courtesy of the author.

For years, I’ve felt like people are temporary, like the whispers my brother and I heard in the hallways when we returned to school two weeks after my dad was killed. I hated that. I hated the announcement my school made over the intercom and the condolences texts sent by strangers. I hated seeing my mom cry. I hated that I couldn’t focus in class or bear to think about taking the SATs or where to apply for college. Or how I tried to hide my pain for so long that I no longer recognized myself.

After running the Marine Corps Half Marathon alongside Wear Blue, Bailey’s brother, Seamus Donahue, leaves his medal at his father’s gravesite. Photo courtesy of the author.

I hated that I was afraid to take up any space at all until I filled my space up so much that I didn’t have room to feel anything anymore. Worst of all, I hated myself. So much that I considered how much easier it’d be if everything just stopped.

I push on under the vast Texas sky.

I remember the military bases as playgrounds, the paracord bracelets I wore as jewelry, and traveling through cardboard box tunnels with my brother when the Army moved us into a new home.

I begin to realize the gifts my father has given me, even in loss. Because of my dad, I recognize the individual value of every person I meet. Because of my dad, I live my life with intention and purpose. I connect more deeply with people. Because of my dad, I know the finiteness of life and the importance of the words spoken about your character when your life comes to an end.

After running the Marine Corps Half Marathon alongside Wear Blue, Bailey’s brother, Seamus Donahue, leaves his medal at his father’s gravesite. Photo courtesy of the author.

Because of my dad, I graduated from college debt-free and now serve families like mine through the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. I have met friends who also lost a parent, and I ran my first Wear Blue marathon with them. Because of my dad, I met President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden and asked her what advice she had for a 24-year-old.

“Be kind,” the first lady told me. “Always be kind.”

I cannot change the fact that I lost my father. But I can learn to love where I am and find meaning while sitting in discomfort. Above all, I can find the good in every day.

I can embrace the suck. It’s the duality of fullness and emptiness at the same time. Often, it’s being in two places at once. On one hand, I’m stuck with the grief of losing a piece of myself. On the other, I’m hungry to grow older, to take all that life has to offer.

Living without him is a race that never ends.

Sunrise at the Lucky Spur Ranch in Justin, Texas, where Bailey Donahue joined other Gold Star children and siblings for a week-long writing seminar in May. Photo by Bailey Donahue.

Some moments, I feel my feet strike the pavement paired with an inner fullness of purpose and direction. In other moments, I’m on the side of the road, hunched over on the curb with my heartbeat throbbing in my ears and my mind trying to convince myself I can’t make it to the next light post.

I keep running. Not running away. Not running to. But running with.

Bailey Donahue is an enrollment administrator at Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation helping to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. She studied public health and holds a master’s from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington and is a 2023 War Horse Writing Fellow. Her father, Army Maj. Michael Donahue, was killed in action on September 16, 2014. Donahue describes her dad as “a hero loved deeply and widely with a passion for running and living life adventurously and intentionally.”

<![CDATA[Sharing pride in their service, pain over their loss]]>https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/26/sharing-pride-in-their-service-pain-over-their-loss/https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2023/05/26/sharing-pride-in-their-service-pain-over-their-loss/Fri, 26 May 2023 10:00:00 +0000On this upcoming Memorial Day, we unite to honor the courageous men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. The impact of this day can be profound, especially for those who have a direct connection, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, to someone who has died in connection with military service.

As a veteran and a father who has experienced this personal loss, I know firsthand the life-changing effect it has on families, both emotionally and psychologically.

However, the impact is also felt indirectly by people not ‘related to’ someone who was lost. A loss impacts friends, military units and installations, as well as organizations like Family Readiness Groups that are associated with those units.

It can be a time of mixed emotions for those both directly and indirectly connected to fallen soldiers, as they may feel a sense of pride for their service and sacrifice, but also feel the pain of their loss and the absence of their presence.

Survivors’ guilt can resurface as well as a deep sadness for the holidays and events missed together.

On Memorial Day, it is our nation’s duty to reflect on the importance of supporting our military community and families who continue to bear emotional scars and have difficulty moving forward from the memories of recent losses, as well as those lost long ago.

That is why I am proud to lead Vets4Warriors, which provides confidential peer support and resources to service members, veterans, and their families 24/7, 365 days a year. I have seen the direct impact that our veteran peers have had on the lives of the military community, and I am inspired by their commitment to making a difference.

Around Memorial Day, our veteran peers historically field a higher volume of calls from members of the military community struggling to find closure or coming to terms with loss they have experienced.

For many service members who have lost a military friend or comrade, there are feelings of guilt or shame that often arise from having survived a traumatic event or circumstance when others did not. Survivors may feel a sense of responsibility for their friend’s death, or may struggle with the feeling that they should have done more to prevent it.

Vets4Warriors was founded on the belief that no veteran should ever feel alone or unsupported, and that every veteran deserves access to the resources and support they need to thrive. Our peer support model, which is staffed entirely by veterans, allows us to connect with callers on a deeper level and provide personalized support that is tailored to their unique needs.

As we remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, let us also remember the living heroes who continue to serve our country and our communities every day. Let us honor their sacrifice by committing ourselves to supporting them in every way we can. Whether it’s volunteering with veteran-focused charities, donating to organizations like Vets4Warriors, or simply taking the time to thank a veteran for their service, we can all make a difference.

Together we can remember the fallen, honor the living, and commit ourselves to building a brighter future for our veterans and their families. On this Memorial Day, we must unite as a nation to renew our commitment to supporting those who continue to serve.

Most importantly, let us honor the sacrifice and courage of the brave men and women willing to serve knowing the potential consequences of their service. Their courage, which brings pride to our nation, needs to be remembered not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

Without the willingness of the few to serve, our nation would not be the amazing country it is today.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham is the executive director at Vets4Warriors & Rutgers UBHC National Call Center. Donations to Vets4Warriors are handled through the Rutgers University Foundation, EIN 23-7318742.

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