21 April 2014

An Undisclosed Location

It's one thing if the mission is actually secret - you don't talk about it in the press. It's another thing if the country you're helping protect is embarrassed to have you there. At that point, you ask them what's more embarrassing - admitting we're there to help, or getting overthrown?

Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s chief artillery headquarters left the South Sound this week for a nine-month assignment at an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

The 17th Field Artillery Brigade took about 60 soldiers from its command group for the assignment, the brigade public affairs officer said. They left Lewis-McChord late Thursday.

The soldiers are not heading to Iraq or Afghanistan. They will serve in a Middle East country that does not want to advertise the presence of U.S. soldiers in its boundaries.

19 April 2014

Ukraine 4/19: US Group Troops to Poland?

It appears as though the issue of US ground troops to Poland is a matter of "when" and not "if".

A small contingent of U.S. soldiers will deploy to Poland and Estonia for a series of upcoming ground exercises aimed at reassuring allies shaken by Russian intervention in neighboring Ukraine, according to a report.

The U.S. is planning to send a company sized Army element of roughly 150 troops to conduct drills with allies, spanning roughly two weeks respectively in both Poland and Ukraine, The New York Times reported Friday.

The land force exercises being planned by the Obama administration are part of a broader undertaking by NATO to beef up its presence in eastern Europe. It is unclear what U.S. unit will be taking part in the exercises in Poland and Estonia, but more details are expected to be announced next week, the Times reported.

On Wednesday, NATO said it would increase its presence in the region both on land, sea and air. Measures include plans for more fighter patrols over the Baltic nations and warships in the Baltic Sea and eastern Mediterranean.

One way to ensure a steadier presence of ground forces in the region is through a series of on-going troops rotations. The plan to send 150 troops to Poland and Estonia could be a first step with more such rotations to come in the future.

“There’s an entire range of possibilities and measures that are being considered,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a Thursday news conference at the Pentagon with Poland’s defense minister Tomasz Siemoniak. “Rotational basis of training and exercises are always part of that.”

One such possibility that has been under consideration is the deployment elements from the Texas-based 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division — the unit already designated as the U.S. contribution to the NATO Reaction Force — to maintain a steadier regional presence.

Warsaw is unlikely to be satisfied by such limited, rotational deployments. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has urged NATO to station 10,000 troops in Poland.

18 April 2014

Ukraine 4/18: Handshakes in Geneva, Fists in Slaviansk

There's been a deal cut, but the separatists on the ground don't look like they're moving.

Armed pro-Russian separatists were still holding public buildings in eastern Ukraine on Friday, saying they needed more assurances about their security before they comply with an international deal ordering them to disarm.

The agreement, brokered by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union in Geneva on Thursday offered the best hope to date of defusing a stand-off in Ukraine that has dragged East-West relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.

Enacting the agreement on the ground though will be difficult, because of the deep mistrust between the pro-Russian groups and the Western-backed government in Kiev, which this week flared into violent clashes that killed several people.

The fact any deal was reached at all came as a surprise, and it was not immediately clear what had happened behind the scenes to persuade the Kremlin, which had up to that point shown little sign of compromise, to join calls on the militias to disarm.

In Slaviansk, a city that has become a flashpoint in the crisis after men with Kalashnikovs took control last weekend, leaders of the pro-Russian gunmen were holding a meeting early on Friday inside one of the buildings they seized on how to respond to the Geneva agreement.

16 April 2014

Ukraine 4/16: Civil War Finally Percolating?

Now that Ukraine is taking actions against pro-Russian violence-mongers, is a true civil war about to break out?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was "on the verge of civil war" in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after acting President Olexander Turchynov announced the start of the operation to reclaim territory.

Russian officials said both leaders "emphasised the importance" during the conversation of planned four-way talks on Thursday between senior diplomats from Russia, the EU, the US and Ukraine.

However, Ukrainian and Western officials have accused Russia of being behind the pro-Russia activism in the region. Moscow strongly denies fomenting the unrest.

Ukrainian counter-terrorism chief Gen Vasyl Krutov, speaking to reporters at Kramatorsk airfield late on Tuesday, emphasised that armed individuals had crossed the border into Ukraine.

"We have to deal with a very serious, highly skilled and very professional opponent," he said according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

"They display a very high level of preparedness, tactical and practical skill. These people must have been to hot spots across the world and on their own territory."

Last month's annexation of Crimea by Moscow was preceded by the presence of uniformed, armed men believed to be Russian troops, although in greater numbers than the similarly dressed and equipped men who have been seen in eastern Ukraine, correspondents say.

The Kremlin has condemned the Ukrainian military operation in eastern Ukraine as an "anti-constitutional course to use force against peaceful protest actions".

MOH: SGT Kyle White

President Obama will award a Congressional Medal of Honor to the former SGT Kyle White.

An Army veteran credited with trying to save the lives of fellow soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan will be awarded the nation's highest military award, the White House said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama will bestow the Medal of Honor on May 13 to former Sgt. Kyle White for heroics stemming from the 2007 battle during which his only cover from enemy fire was a single tree jutting from a mountain cliff.
Six Americans were killed and several others, including White, were wounded in the four-hour attack.
The Medal of Honor is received for conspicuous gallantry on the battlefield above and beyond the call of duty. White will be the seventh living recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
He left the military in 2011 and is now an investment analyst in Charlotte.
White was a platoon radio telephone operator and among 14 American troops and Afghan soldiers ambushed while on patrol on November 8, 2007, in eastern Afghanistan.
He quickly returned enemy fire and was knocked unconscious by a rocket-propelled grenade as he tried to reload his weapon. When he came to, his face was hit with shrapnel.
White and four others were cut off from the other soldiers, who jumped from a cliff. He applied first aid to a wounded soldier and they both moved to the only cover they had: a single tree on the mountain.
His radio not working, White moved into the open to try to reach a Marine about 30 feet away who was so severely wounded he could not move. He braved enemy fire, moving back and forth several times to drag him to the tree although he died of his wounds.
White then exposed himself to withering fire again, crawling into the open to try to recover the platoon leader. When he reached him, the man was already dead.
By this time, the soldier White initially brought to the tree had been hit again, this time in the leg. White applied first aid by using his own belt as a tourniquet.
He then located a working radio and called for mortar, artillery, air strikes and helicopter gunships. But a friendly mortar round landed near him, resulting in a concussion.
After nightfall, White established a security perimeter and ensured that no U.S. military equipment fell into the hands of enemy forces.
The impact of multiple concussions was now causing his own condition to deteriorate, so he called for a medevac. He knew if he passed out, no one there could work the radio and guide the rescuers.
When help arrived, White refused assistance until the other Americans and Afghans were aboard the helicopter.

15 April 2014

Ukraine 4/15: More Bullshit from Russia

Claiming that using force to eject illegal Russians from their sovereign buildings would be a 'criminal' use of force, Russia's foreign minister sounds more like a moron every day.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday warned Kiev against using force to quell pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying the "criminal" act would undermine talks planned in Geneva.

The four-way meeting set for Thursday involving top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union is the latest step in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at easing the worst European security crisis in decades.

"One cannot issue invitations to talks while at the same time issuing criminal orders for the use of armed force against the people there," Lavrov said during a visit to Beijing.

"You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland earlier played down US expectations for the summit, although she maintained that "it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open and will see what they bring".

14 April 2014

Ukraine 4/14: Russian Claims US CIA Chief Visits Kyiv, Demand Explanation

Ah yes, the smell of fresh bullshit in the morning.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged Washington to explain Russian media reports that CIA director John Brennan visited the Ukrainian capital.

Lavrov also accused the West of "off the scale" hypocrisy over the crisis in Ukraine, where protests in the southeast led to fresh violence at the weekend.

"We can remember when violence on Maidan (Independence Square in Kiev) that ended with dozens and dozens of deaths was called democracy, while peaceful protests that are ongoing now in southeastern Ukraine are called terrorism," he said.

"The hypocrisy is off the scale."

The West has accused Moscow of fomenting unrest in Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions by providing logistical support to separatists and sending representatives of its special services there.

Lavrov, however, denied that members of Russia's FSB security service or the GRU military intelligence service were operating in Ukraine's east.

"We are not meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. This contradicts our interests," he told reporters.
"We are not meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. This contradicts our interests," [Lavrov] told reporters.

09 April 2014

DoD Announces START Compliant Structure

The DoD has officially announced their strategic force structure.

Today, the Department of Defense announced the United States' Strategic Force Structure to comply with the New START Treaty (NST).
The treaty limits the total number of deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery vehicles to 800. By Feb. 5, 2018, the total deployed and non-deployed force will consist of 454 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, 280 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and 66 heavy bombers. U.S. deployed forces will consist of 400 deployed ICBMs. There will also be 240 deployed SLBMs. DoD will also maintain 60 deployed nuclear capable heavy bombers, for a total of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, the treaty limit.
This capable, survivable, and balanced force fully supports the president's national security strategy and nuclear weapons employment strategy and maintains strategic stability and deterrence, extended deterrence, and allied assurance.
This force structure maintains the commitments set forth in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the report to Congress on the president's new nuclear employment guidance, and the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review that the United States will maintain a triad of ICBMs, SLBMs, and nuclear-capable heavy bombers within the central NST limits.