military

Body of MAJ Brent Taylor, Utah mayor killed in Afghanistan, returns to US

The body of Utah mayor and Army National Guard major Brent Taylor arrived in the United States on Election Day — a somber homecoming his widow called “fitting.” Taylor, who was shot and killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan on Saturday, had only days earlier praised the Afghan people who fearlessly filled up polling stations during that country’s parliamentary elections and also exhorted Americans to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections. “It seems only fitting that Brent, who in death represents so much more, has come home to U.S. soil in a flag-draped casket on our Election Day,” Jennie Taylor said during an eloquent address in which she memorialized the ultimate sacrifice made by her husband. “The price of freedom surely feels incredibly high to those of us who know and love our individual soldier. The value of freedom is immeasurable to those who love American and all she represents.” Jennie ended her remarks by echoing Brent Taylor’s call to cast a ballot. “Brent himself put it best just days ago when he implored of us all, ‘I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote and whether the Republicans or Democrats win I hope that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us,” she said. Military officials said the 39-year-old North Ogden mayor was killed in Kabul by an Afghan commando he was training. The assailant was then killed by Afghan forces. Taylor is the eighth American killed in action in Afghanistan this year. Maj. Taylor had been expecting to return as Mayor Taylor in January. Aside from his wife, Taylor leaves behind seven children, ranging from 11 months old to 13 years old. “To say that our hearts are anything less than shattered would be nothing short of true deceit and yet to deny the sacred honor that it is to stand that close to some of the freshest blood that has been spilt for our country would be absolute blasphemy,” Jennie said. Following news of Taylor’s death, condolences poured in from far and wide. One of the letters was written by Maj. Abdul Rahman Rahmani, an Afghan Army Aviation pilot. Rahmani tweeted the letter, which he addressed to Jennie, saying he was a “better person” after meeting Taylor. “He died on our soil but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries,” Rahmani wrote. Taylor, a military intelligence officer with Joint Force Headquarters, served two tours in Iraq and was on his second tour in Afghanistan.

As a former Military Intelligence Army (“field grade”) officer who also served in Afghanistan, this story really hits home on a personal level.  Our prayers are with Jennie and her kids during this heartbreaking time.  And, our thanks to Brent for his service and ultimate sacrifice.  For more, click on the text above.

Russian fighter jet intercepts US Navy plane

A US Navy reconnaissance aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian fighter jet Monday in an unsafe and unprofessional manner, according to three US defense officials and a statement from the Navy. During an encounter that lasted a total of 25 minutes, the Russian SU-27 jet passed directly in front of the US EP-3 aircraft at a high speed, the officials said. The US crew reported turbulence following that initial interaction in which the direct pass occurred. The SU-27 then made a second pass of the US plane and applied its afterburner while conducting a banking maneuver, which is believed to have caused a vibration that was experienced by the American crew. “This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second,” according to a statement from the US Navy. Officials so far, have not been able to estimate how close the Russian aircraft came to the US plane, but described the flight behavior of the Russians as the key factor in making the determination the encounter was unsafe. US officials were not initially aware of whether the Russian aircraft was armed. The Navy EP-3 was operating out of Souda Bay, Greece, according to Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon. The Navy plane had its transponder on for the duration of the mission but there was no communication established or attempted between the Russian and US aircraft, Pahon said. A Twitter account for the Russian embassy in the US posted a brief statement about the encounter on Monday saying the fighter jet “followed all necessary safety procedures.” “The Su-27 jet’s crew reported identifying the #US EP-3 Aries spy plane and accompanied it, preventing a violation of Russian airspace and followed all necessary safety procedures,” the tweet said. The last reported unsafe intercept of a US Navy aircraft by a Russian jet occurred in January when a Russian Su-27 jet flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3, forcing the Navy plane to fly through its jet wash. The US Navy deemed that intercept unsafe and unprofessional. Following that incident, the US State Department issued a statement accusing the Russians of “flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law.” In May, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet performed an “unprofessional” intercept of a US Navy P-8 surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet came within about 20 feet of the US aircraft, one official said, adding that the encounter lasted about nine minutes. That intercept was described by officials as safe but unprofessional..

U.S. military to deploy 5,000 troops to southern border: Report

The U.S. will send 5,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico to counter a massive migrant caravan, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The new estimate is a dramatic increase from Thursday, when the military planned to only deploy 800 troops. According to The Journal, troops will be stationed at ports of entry divided among Texas, Arizona and California and will later help with administrative tasks on the U.S.-side of the border. President Trump aimed another warning at the caravan, stressing that “our military is waiting for you!”

Donald Trump Awards Army Medic Ronald J. Shurer II with Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday to Army medic Ronald J. Shurer II for his heroic actions in Afghanistan. Shurer was a medic in Afghanistan during the six-hour battle in Shok Valley, and he raced to save the lives of his fellow soldiers by treating their wounds and evacuating them to safety in treacherous territory. Shurer’s Special Forces team was traveling to take out a terror target when terrorists attacked them with snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms, and machine guns. Trump recounted the story, noting that the medic kept treating the men even after an enemy bullet struck his helmet. He made multiple trips into the fight to defend his fellow soldiers in the special forces, carrying them down a mountain and shielding them with his body. All of the United States soldiers made it out of the valley alive. Shurer currently serves as a member of the Secret Service on the agency’s Counter Assault team. Trump recalled that he recently surprised Shurer and his wife with the news of his decision to award him the Medal of Honor. The president also noted that Shurer was recently diagnosed with cancer. “He’s been fighting it every single day with courage and strength,” Trump said. He called Schurer “the best dad and role model” to his two sons, after which one of the boys told Trump that their father was the “best dad ever.” “We stand in awe of your father’s courage,” Trump added.

Indeed..  A big Army HOOAH!! to former Staff Sergeant Shurer (E-6) for his exemplary service in Afghanistan!  There is more to this story..  SSG Shurer killed several bad guys while trying to get to his Special Forces team members.  That was just getting to them!  Then, he put his body in between the insurgents and his team, and got everyone out alive.  THAT is the definition of courage, folks.  SSG Shurer, who is now a Secret Service Special Agent, is a role model…and rightly earned the Medal of Honor.  Outstanding!!     🙂

Suicide rates up among younger veterans, VA says

The number of suicides among younger veterans has increased “substantially,” according to a report released Wednesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA). The latest statistics show that 45 of every 100,000 veterans ages 18-34 committed suicide in 2016 – up from around 40 a year earlier. “These findings underscore the fact that suicide is a national public health issue that affects communities everywhere,” the VA said in a statement obtained by The Wall Street Journal. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among all veterans — even those who do not and may never seek care within VA’s system.” The VA found that there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016. Veterans accounted for 14 percent of all suicides in the United States in 2016, yet veterans comprise just 8 percent of the population, the report said, according to the newspaper. In the report, the VA described veteran suicide as an “urgent crisis” that it can’t address by itself. Still, some advocates say the department has not devoted enough resources to this issue. “If any other population of 20 million people were exposed to these threats, it would be considered a public health priority,” Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the newspaper. “There has never been a national call to action.” Last year, the VA’s inspector general found the department’s suicide hotline had routed a high percentage of calls to backup centers, a major flaw the department says it has resolved. On Tuesday, the inspector general also released a report after a veteran killed himself less than 24 hours after his departure from a VA facility in Minnesota. The report accused the facility of not providing followup care for the veteran, who was taken into the hospital over suicidal ideation. “Because many veterans do not use VA services and benefits, we must build networks of support, communication and care across the communities where veterans live and thrive,” the report states. The data was released a day before a scheduled hearing by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. At the Thursday hearing, lawmakers are to discuss veteran suicide prevention efforts. The VA’s confidential Veterans Crisis Line is open 24/7 for vets and those concerned about them. The telephone number is 1-800-273-8255.

US B-52s fly near contested islands amid China tensions

The US Air Force conducted two bomber flights this week into areas considered sensitive by the Chinese military, missions that have come amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. Earlier this week, US B-52 bombers flew from Guam and transited through the South China Sea, an area where the Chinese government has built islands and established military facilities on disputed features. “That just goes on, if it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday when asked about the bomber flight. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it,” Mattis added. On Tuesday, US B-52s also “participated in a regularly scheduled, combined operation in the vicinity of the East China Sea,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told CNN. A US defense official told CNN that the bombers were escorted by Japanese fighter jets and flew in proximity to the Japanese controlled Senkaku Islands which China lays claim to. The bombers also flew into the Chinese military’s unilaterally declared Air Defense Identification Zone which extends over the area. The two missions comes amid heightened tensions over a series of issues in the last week. Earlier on Wednesday, President Donald Trump accused China of attempting to interfere in the 2018 US elections and the countries are involved in a high profile trade dispute. In the last week, the Chinese government denied a US Navy warship permission to visit Hong Kong, the US sanctioned a Chinese defense entity over its purchase of Russian-made weapons, the State Department approved a military equipment sale to Taiwan and a high-ranking Chinese naval officer canceled a meeting with his American counterpart. “We’re sorting out obviously a period with some tension there, trade tension and all, so we’ll get to the bottom of it but I don’t think that we’re seeing a fundamental shift in anything, we’re just going through one of those periodic points where we got to learn to manage our differences,” Mattis said when asked about the tensions.

Well said, Sec. Mattis.  That’s exactly right.  Nothing really newsworthy about this military flight.  It’s just in the context of the other areas where we’re having some differences with China, that it’s somewhat relevant.

Female who became infantry Marine is getting kicked out for fraternization

Remedios Cruz joined the Marine Corps in 2013 as a supply clerk. One year later, she completed infantry training, and in 2017, made history when she became one of three females to join 1st Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Now, Cruz is awaiting separation from the Marine Corps after pleading guilty to maintaining a romantic relationship with a subordinate. Cruz, 26, eventually married the person, who was a lower-ranking Marine in her unit, according The New York Times. “The biggest mistakes I’ve made in the infantry were from my personal relationships,” Cruz told the Times. “I really want to move on.” Cruz was reduced in rank from sergeant to corporal and restricted to the base after pleading guilty to fraternization as part of a broader plea agreement. The commanding general of 2nd Marine Division will now decide if she will be forced out with an other-than-honorable discharge, according to the Times.