Task & Purpose is a news and culture site geared toward the next great generation of American veterans. We offer an outlet for well-written analysis and commentary on veterans and greater military affairs.The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to an end, and what results is a new kind of American veteran.
SEOUL (Reuters) - The South Korean military fired two warning shots at a Russian military aircraft that entered South Korean airspace on Tuesday, the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said, and Chinese military aircraft had also entered South Korean airspace.
It was the first time a Russian military aircraft had violated South Korean airspace, a ministry official said.
The warplane was one of three Russian aircraft to enter the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) early on Tuesday. Two Chinese military aircraft also entered the KADIZ, the defense ministry said in a statement.
There was no immediate public comment from Russian or Chinese officials.
The South Korean government would lodge official complaints about the violations with China and Russia, the defense ministry in Seoul said.
According to the South Korean military, the Russian aircraft then violated South Korean airspace over Dokdo - an island that is occupied by South Korea and also claimed by Japan, which calls it Takeshima - just after 9 a.m. (midnight GMT Monday).
"The South Korean military took tactical action including dropping flares and firing a warning shot," the defense ministry statement said.
The Russian aircraft left South Korean airspace but then entered it again about 20 minutes later, prompting the South Koreans to fire another warning shot.
The ministry said South Korean warplanes "conducted a normal response" to the incursion, without giving further details.=
First, America had to grapple with the 'storm Area 51' raid. Now black helicopters are hovering ominously over Washington, D.C.
Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio
first reported on Monday that the Army has requested $1.55 million for a classified mission involving 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility" at Fort Belvoir, Va.
"Without additional funding, the Army will not be able to perform this classified mission," the Defense Department said.
"Soldiers from assault helicopter company and aviation maintenance units will be supporting the mission with 10 UH-60s and maintenance capabilities for four months," according to the document, referring to the Black Hawks.
It was not immediately clear what this mission is, which service members might be involved, or why it is taking place in the nation's capital.
The mission began in early fiscal 2019, said Army spokesman Wayne Hall, who referred questions about how much the operation costs to the Defense Department.
“The mission is an actual operation and the duration is undetermined," Hall told Task & Purpose on Monday. “The nature of the mission is classified."
Camesha Walters was a petty officer 3rd class living in Norfolk. Her husband was a foreign national living in Bangladesh.
But to boost her take home pay, Walters told the Navy in 2015 her husband was a U.S. citizen living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She said she needed larger housing and cost of living allowances to support him.
Walters, 37, was sentenced Friday to five months in jail on charges she stole almost $140,000 from the federal government.
Following her release, she will be on house arrest for six months. She also must perform 200 hours of community service and pay full restitution.
"When a service member lies in order to inflate their benefits, that member offends a system built on trust, and insults those colleagues who approach the system honestly," Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Layne said in court documents, arguing for a sentence of 10 months in jail in the hopes of deterring others from engaging in such frauds.
The charges against Waters, who enlisted in 2013, stem from May 2015 through February 2018 — when she was assigned to the Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington aircraft carriers.
According to court documents, Walters traveled to Bangladesh to marry Amrito Gomes in February 2015.
Later, Walters informed the military of her marriage and identified her husband as a U.S. citizen living in New York.
In various documents filed with the military, Walters asked to transition her Navy Basic Allowance for Housing from her mother's address in Norfolk to her husband's address in Brooklyn. She also requested an increased cost of living allowance.
The housing and cost of living allowances are pay supplements designed to offset the cost to service members or their dependents who live in more expensive parts of the country.
In 2015, a petty officer 3rd class with a dependent in Brooklyn could qualify for a $3,474 monthly base allowance, according to the Defense Department. The same sailor in Norfolk could qualify for $1,419 a month. Without a dependent, it would only be $1,173 a month.
To receive the housing allowance, Walters signed multiple documents regarding her husband's Brooklyn address. And to prove her claims, she also provided a signed lease and a notarized letter supposedly from a property owner suggesting the apartment's utilities were contained in the rent.
Layne said Walters was not entitled to the inflated allowances because her husband never lived in Brooklyn. He's never even visited the United States, he said.
In all, Walters' various lies led the Navy to pay her $139,420.60 she was not entitled.
"The military is somewhat unique in the broad benefits it affords its employees. The military also relies on its members to honestly convey their living and family situations in order to properly allocate those benefits and finite resources," Layne said.
To the surprise of U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, Walters received an honorable discharge from the Navy earlier this year despite knowing of her fraud.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Lindsay McCaslin asked the court for leniency, arguing her client was a Jamaican immigrant who had worked hard over the years to become a U.S. citizen and better herself.
While prosecutors questioned the legitimacy of Walter's marriage to Gomes, McCaslin said her client has no plans to divorce him. She said they love each other, even though Gomes isn't sure exactly what Walters gets from the unorthodox marriage.
"Sadly, good people can do bad things," McCaslin said, arguing for a sentence of probation or house arrest.
If it looks too good to be true, chances are it probably is.
That's certainly the case with this wholly fake (but totally hilarious) special request chit for 72 hours of leave for the
upcoming fictional assault on Area 51 that's circulated on social media in the last few weeks.
The document, which first appeared on the Navy-centric Facebook page
Shit My LPO says 4 — Operation Enduring Memes, features a humble plea to allow a fictional submariner from the USS Ohio nuclear submarine "to storm Area 51 and clap them alien cheeks."
The signature on thee approved form? "Clap some cheeks for me! HOOYAH!"
To be fair, few of the commenters on the Facebook page believed for a second that this was a real chit, but the prospect of a U.S. service member receiving authorization to assault a different service branch's installation is a bit too amusing not to check out.
Sadly, your suspicions were right: it ain't real.
"I can confirm that hat special request authorization sheet did not originate on USS Ohio and is not an authentic Navy document," Lt. Mack Jamieson, spokesman for Submarine Group 9, told Task & Purpose.
Oops. In the meantime, here's a very real scene from the upcoming civilian assault on the secretive Air Force facility:
In a not-so-veiled threat to the Taliban, President Donald Trump argued on Monday the United States has the capacity to bring a swift end to the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, but he is seeking a different solution to avoid killing "10 million people."
"I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth," Trump said on Monday at the White House. "It would be gone. It would be over in – literally in 10 days. And I don't want to do that. I don't want to go that route."
Trump spoke to reporters about Afghanistan while meeting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday. The two leaders are expected to discuss ongoing peace negotiations with the Taliban led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
The president has repeatedly said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and Reuters has reported that a political settlement with the Taliban could involve all foreign troops departing Afghanistan within 18 months of the agreement being signed.
Trump hinted that he will have "some very good answers on Afghanistan very quickly."
"I think Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves," he said. "We've been there for 19 years in Afghanistan. It's ridiculous. And I think Pakistan helps us with that because we don't want to stay as policemen. But if we wanted to, we could win that war. I have a plan that could win that war in a very short period of time."
See President Donald Trump's comments about Afghanistan below:
"I think Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves – we're like policemen. We're not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it – I could win that war in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people. Does that make sense to you?
"I don't want to kill 10 million people. I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone. It would be over in – literally in 10 days. And I don't want to do that. I don't want to go that route.
"So we're working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves – nor do we want to be policemen, because basically we're policemen right now. And we're not supposed to be policemen.
"We've been there for 19 years in Afghanistan. It's ridiculous. And I think Pakistan helps us with that because we don't want to stay as policemen. But if we wanted to, we could win that war. I have a plan that could win that war in a very short period of time.
(Turning to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan) "You understand that better than anybody. We've been in there – not fighting to win – just fighting to – They're building gas stations. They're rebuilding schools – the United States. We shouldn't be doing that. That's for them to do.
"But what we did and what our leadership got us into is ridiculous. But I think we will have some very good answers on Afghanistan very quickly."
The seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the latest example of how tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled into one of the world's most strategic and vital waterways for oil. Since May, Iran has been accused of harassing and attacking oil tankers in the strait.
As the British government continues to investigate Friday's seizure, experts worry that it raises the potential of a military clash. However, they also say it offers a lens into Iran's strategy toward the U.S.
Here is a look at what's been happening and why the Strait of Hormuz matters.
Q. Why is the Strait of Hormuz important?
A. The Strait of Hormuz is the busiest, most important waterway for the world's oil industry. More than a third of the world's seaborne oil passes through the strait, which connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and is situated between Oman and Iran. In 2016, the Energy Information Administration estimated that 18.5 million barrels of oil passed each day through the shipping lane, which is only two miles wide.
Q. What's been going on there?
A. Over the last several months, the United States has accused Iran of attacking and harassing commercial shipping vessels on the waterway, as well as shooting down a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf.
And American warships have had close encounters with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
In recent weeks, the U.S. and its allies have found themselves responding in a tit-for-tat with Iran. On July 4, British marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar after claiming it had violated European Union sanctions by transporting oil to Syria. Late this week, the U.S. said it had downed an Iranian drone; Iran denied it.
The events have raised concerns that the tensions could lead to a military conflict.
This isn't the first time that the Strait of Hormuz has been the site of international conflict. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the waterway became a point of contention for the warring countries. Iran placed sea mines in the paths of ships, and Iraq retaliated by firing missiles at them.
Q. What is Iran trying to achieve?
A. Experts said Iranian officials are trying to demonstrate to the U.S. and its allies that the Islamic Republic is able to push back and gain leverage against the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" policy, which intensified after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions, making it difficult for Iran to export oil, the foundation of the country's economy.
China, Russia and leading Western European countries have sought ways around the U.S. sanctions, but it has been difficult to bypass them.
"The message that Iran is sending is that it is capable of making international waters unsafe not just for the U.S., but for international trade," said Reza Akbari, a program manager and Iran expert at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
By escalating the risk of conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, Ariane Tabatabai, an associate political scientist at Rand Corp., said that Iranian officials will be able to use that as leverage and as bargaining chips if they were to resume negotiations with the U.S.
"The Iranian strategy is designed to get Europeans and the international community to step up and force the U.S. to change its policy," Tabatabai said.
"Iranian officials want to make sure the international community also understands that they have a stake. But the situation remains fragile, and it's unclear whether Iran's gamble will pay off or raise the risk of a military conflict."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House meeting with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, said on Monday the United States is working with Islamabad to find a way out of the war in Afghanistan.
Trump held out the possibility of restoring U.S. aid to Pakistan, depending upon what is worked out, and offered assistance to Islamabad in trying to ease strained ties with India.
Khan told Trump there was only one solution for Afghanistan and that a peace deal with the Taliban was closer than it had ever been. He said he hoped in the coming days to be able to urge the Taliban to continue the talks.
The United States views Pakistan's cooperation with a deal to end the 17-year-old war as essential but the two countries have a complicated relationship.
Trump wants to wrap up U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and sees Pakistan's cooperation as crucial to any deal to end the war and ensure the country does not become a base for militant groups like Islamic State.
Washington wants Islamabad to pressure Afghanistan's Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in talks with the Afghan government.
Trump last year slashed millions of dollars of security assistance to Islamabad, which it accused of serving as a safe haven for militants. Pakistan has denied the accusations.
U.S. President Donald Trump greets Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 22, 2019.
Authorities in Pakistan last week arrested Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of a 2008 militant attack on the Indian city of Mumbai who has been designated a terrorist by the United States and the United Nations. More than 160 people were killed in the four-day siege.
But Pakistan has not released Shakil Afridi, the jailed doctor believed to have helped the CIA track down former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whose organization was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
India, which in February came close to war with Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir and which accuses Islamabad of supporting militants, will be watching the talks in Washington closely.
The Pentagon said Pakistan's army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, will meet later on Monday with the top American military officer, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.
Analysts believe Bajwa will play a key role in behind-the-scenes discussions in which much of the serious business of the visit will take place, with the military looking to persuade Washington to restore aid and cooperation.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force has suspended paying incentive fees at all 21 military housing bases operated by landlord Balfour Beatty Communities following a Reuters-CBS News report that the company falsified maintenance records at an Oklahoma base to help it qualify for millions of dollars in bonuses.
The Air Force previously had suspended fees at three Balfour Beatty bases. Now, it has halted such payments at all 21 company sites after new allegations of improper handling of maintenance records arose at another base in Idaho, Mountain Home Air Force Base, John Henderson, the Air Force assistant secretary for installations, said in a statement to Reuters late on Friday.
Balfour Beatty will not receive any management incentive fees, which the company says are worth 13 percent of its $33 million in annual military housing net income, or about $4.3 million, until it provides the Air Force with an independent review of its maintenance and work order processes and ensures they meet all Air Force requirements.
"The Air Force has communicated the gravity of the situation to BBC leadership," Henderson said in the statement.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating allegations of fraud at three Balfour Beatty bases, the Air Force said: Tinker in Oklahoma, Fairchild in Washington and Travis in California. The new allegations at Mountain Home have also been referred to the Office of Special Investigations; the Air Force did not provide details on the alleged irregularities at the Idaho base.
Earlier this month, Balfour Beatty announced it had hired an outside law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, to investigate reports it falsified maintenance records. Balfour Beatty said its policy is to report repairs properly and has blamed a single former employee for problems in Oklahoma.
"The allegations in relation to work orders at Tinker Air Force Base and Mountain Home Air Force Base are being taken seriously and are in the process of being investigated," Balfour Beatty said in a statement to Reuters.
Last month, Reuters, working with CBS News, reported how Balfour Beatty Communities, a unit of British infrastructure conglomerate Balfour Beatty plc, kept two sets of maintenance records at Tinker in Oklahoma. An official set of electronic records, shown to the Air Force, listed prompt responses to maintenance requests, helping the company earn incentive fees.
The other, an accurate handwritten log not shared with the military, showed the company consistently took much longer to finish jobs.
A former Balfour manager told Reuters the company at times doctored records to make it appear maintenance issues were repaired quickly. Even as Air Force personnel on site questioned the maintenance logs, the Air Force continued to pay the company incentive fees.
Along the way, some military tenant families at Tinker and other Balfour Beatty-managed communities were forced to live with health and safety hazards such as sewage spills, vermin and rampant mold.
In addition to suspending fees, the Air Force says it is hiring additional housing oversight personnel and revising its home inspection program to avoid similar problems at all of its housing bases.
Along with the 15,500 homes it manages at Air Force bases, Balfour Beatty's portfolio includes 18,900 Army and 8,600 Navy homes.
The Navy and Marine Corps will examine the maintenance work order systems of all of their private landlords in coming weeks, a Navy spokesperson said. "Should this examination or other reports indicate matters of concern, we will take appropriate and timely action."
Congresswoman Kendra Horn, who represents a district near Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, said Congress must hold "bad actors" accountable. Earlier this year, she toured Tinker with Balfour officials. "I thought I wasn't getting the whole story," Horn said.
Balfour has told Reuters several times this year, since it started publishing reports on military housing, that it is cooperating with the military and Congress.
The questions about the company's work add to a chorus of concerns about housing conditions at militarybases nationwide. Last year, a Reuters series, Ambushed at Home, described widespread breakdowns in housing operations, prompting a flurry of congressional hearings and reform efforts, including a proposed tenant bill of rights giving military families greater say in housing disputes. The military also launched a half-billion dollar nationwide cleanup plan.
Beginning in 1996, the Department of Defense shifted ownership of more than 200,000 family housing units on bases to more than a dozen private real estate developers and property managers under 50-year contracts. These contracts include fees for companies that meet quarterly and annual goals, such as responding to resident maintenance requests within a specified time. The fees are payable each quarter, and are generally worth up to 2% of the total rent payments from service families living on base.
The Navy has identified the missing sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, who was assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5, with Carrier Air Wing 7.
Navy officials have not yet released any information about how Saldana went overboard.
His fiancé Lexi Posey posted on Facebook on Monday that the day marked the couple's 38-month anniversary.
They had planned to get married in April.
"Since I'm traveling back to the States and 'traveling back in time' due to time zones, today, our anniversary, will be a very long day," Posey wrote in a message to Saldana. "But I wish I could travel back in time to the start of our relationship over 3 years ago and constantly reassure you how much I have loved you and appreciate all the little things that you did for me."
The wait is over: the Marine Corps's brand new sniper is officially ready for action.
The Mk13 Mod 7 sniper rifle reached full operational capacity earlier this year after extensive testing, Marine Corps Systems Command announced on Wednesday. Now, the new rifle is finally available in both scout snipers and recon Marine arsenals.
"Scout snipers are now being fielded a weapon system that makes them even more lethal at distance than they were previously," MARCORSYSCOM project officer Capt. Nick Berger said in a release. "This weapon better prepares us to take the fight to any adversary in any clime and place."
Selected back back in March 2018 as a much-needed and long-overdue replacement for the M40 sniper system that Marines have wielded since the Vietnam War, the Mk13 is chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum and offers an effective range well over 1,000 yards,
While that effective range is nowhere near that of the Army's 1,300-yard M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle and U.S. Special Operations Command's 1,600-yard Precision Sniper Rifle, it far outstrips the M40's comparatively limited reach amid the Pentagon's ongoing emphasis on lethality and precision fires.
"When shooting the Mk13, the bullet remains stable for much longer," MARCORSYSCOM infantry weapons team leader Maj. Mike Brisker said in a release. "The weapon gives you enough extra initial velocity that it stays supersonic for a much longer distance than the M40A6."
The Corps started fielding the a handful of infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in September 2018, with plans to roll out the new system II MEF and II MEF units.
"At our new equipment trainings, the resounding feedback from the scout snipers was that this rifle is a positive step forward in the realm of precision-fire weapons," Berger, the MARCORSYSCOM project officer, said in the release. "Overall, there has been positive feedback from the fleet."