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Mattis Tells Air Force Graduates to Be Ready for War

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Security Troops on US Nuclear Missile Base Took LSD

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WASHINGTON — One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind.”

Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in America’s arsenal. Air Force records obtained by The Associated Press show they bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure military base in Wyoming. After investigators closed in, one airman deserted to Mexico.

“Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn’t,” said Capt. Charles Grimsley, the lead prosecutor of one of several courts martial.

A slipup on social media by one airman enabled investigators to crack the drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in March 2016, details of which are reported here for the first time. Fourteen airmen were disciplined. Six of them were convicted in courts martial of LSD use or distribution or both.

None of the airmen was accused of using drugs on duty. Yet it’s another blow to the reputation of the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps, which is capable of unleashing hell in the form of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. The corps has struggled at times with misbehavior, mismanagement and low morale.

Although seen by some as a backwater of the U.S. military, the missile force has returned to the spotlight as President Donald Trump has called for strengthening U.S. nuclear firepower and exchanged threats last year with North Korea. The administration’s nuclear strategy calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending in coming decades.

The service members accused of involvement in the LSD ring were from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand “on alert” 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains.

Documents obtained by the AP over the past two years through the Freedom of Information Act tell a sordid tale of off-duty use of LSD, cocaine and other drugs in 2015 and 2016 by airmen who were supposed to be held to strict behavioral standards because of their role in securing the weapons.

“It’s another black eye for the Air Force — for the ICBM force in particular,” says Stephen Schwartz, an independent consultant and nuclear expert.

In response to AP inquiries, an Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, said the drug activity took place during off-duty hours. “There are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely and effectively,” he said.

Airman 1st Class Tommy N. Ashworth was among those who used LSD supplied by colleagues with connections to civilian drug dealers.

“I felt paranoia, panic” for hours after taking a hit of acid, Ashworth said under oath at his court martial. He confessed to using LSD three times while off duty. The first time, in the summer of 2015, shook him up. “I didn’t know if I was going to die that night or not,” he said as a witness at another airman’s drug trial. Recalling another episode with LSD, he said it felt “almost as if I was going to have like a heart attack or a heat stroke.”

Airman Basic Kyle S. Morrison acknowledged at his court martial that under the influence of LSD he could not have responded if recalled to duty in a nuclear security emergency.

In prosecuting the cases at F.E. Warren, the Air Force asserted that LSD users can experience “profound effects” from even small amounts. It said common psychological effects include “paranoia, fear and panic, unwanted and overwhelming feelings, unwanted life-changing spiritual experiences, and flashbacks.”

It’s unclear how long before being on duty any of the airmen had taken LSD, which stands for lysergic acid diethylamide. The drug became popularized as “acid” in the 1960s, and views since then have been widely split on its mental health risks. Although illegal in the U.S., it had been showing up so infrequently in drug tests across the military that in December 2006 the Pentagon eliminated LSD screening from standard drug-testing procedures. An internal Pentagon memo at the time said that over the previous three years only four positive specimens had been identified in 2.1 million specimens screened for LSD.

Yet Air Force investigators found those implicated in the F.E. Warren drug ring used LSD on base and off, at least twice at outdoor gatherings. Some also snorted cocaine and used ecstasy. Civilians joined them in the LSD use, including some who had recently left Air Force service, according to two officials with knowledge of the investigation. The Air Force declined to discuss this.

Airman 1st Class Nickolos A. Harris, said to be the leader of the drug ring, testified that he had no trouble getting LSD and other drugs from civilian sources. He pleaded guilty to using and distributing LSD and using ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.

He acknowledged using LSD eight times and distributing LSD multiple times to fellow airmen at parties in Denver and other locations from spring 2015 to early 2016.

“I absolutely just loved altering my mind,” he told the military judge, blaming his decisions to use hallucinogens and other drugs on his addictive personality.

Other airmen testified that it was easy to obtain LSD in a liquid form spread on small tabs of perforated white paper. Airmen ingested at least one tab by placing it on their tongue. In one episode summarized by a military judge at Harris’ court martial, he and other airmen watched YouTube videos and “then went longboarding on the streets of Denver while high on LSD.”

Harris was sentenced to 12 months in jail and other penalties, but under a pretrial agreement he avoided a punitive discharge. The lead prosecutor in that case, Air Force Capt. C. Rhodes Berry, had argued Harris should be locked up for 42 months, including nine months for the “aggravating circumstance” of undercutting public trust by using hallucinogens and other drugs on a nuclear weapons base.

“I cannot think of anything more aggravating than being the ringleader of a drug ring on F.E. Warren Air Force Base,” Berry said at the courts martial.

In all, the AP obtained transcripts of seven courts martial proceedings, plus related documents. They provide vivid descriptions of LSD trips.

“I’m dying!” one airman is quoted as exclaiming, followed by “When is this going to end?” during a “bad trip” on LSD in February 2016 at Curt Gowdy State Park, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Cheyenne, where F.E. Warren is located. A portion of that episode was video-recorded by one member of the group; a transcript of the audio was included in court records.

Others said they enjoyed the drug.

“Minutes felt like hours, colors seemed more vibrant and clear,” Morrison testified. “In general, I felt more alive.” He said he had used LSD in high school, which could have disqualified him from Air Force service; he said that his recruiter told him he should lie about it and that lying about prior drug use was “normal” in the Air Force.

At his court-martial, Morrison acknowledged distributing LSD on the missile base in February 2016. A month later, when summoned for questioning by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Morrison confessed and became an informant for the agency, an arrangement the Air Force said yielded legally admissible evidence against 10 other airmen. Under a pretrial agreement, he agreed to testify against other airmen and avoided a punitive discharge. He was sentenced to five months’ confinement, 15 days of hard labor and loss of $5,200 in pay.

Most of the airmen involved were members of two related security units at F.E. Warren — the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron and the 90th Security Forces Squadron. Together, they are responsible for the security and defense of the nuclear weapons there as well as the missile complex.

By coincidence, the No. 2 Pentagon official at the time, Robert Work, visited F.E. Warren one month before the drug investigation became public. Accompanied by an AP reporter, he watched as airmen of the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron — whose members at the time included Harris, the accused leader of the drug ring — demonstrated how they would force their way into and regain control of a captured missile silo.

Work, the deputy defense secretary, was there to assess progress in fixing problems in the ICBM force identified by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who ordered an investigation after the AP reported on personnel, resource, training and leadership problems in 2013-14. Those problems included the firing of the general in charge of the entire ICBM force for inappropriate behavior the Air Force said was linked to alcohol abuse. A month later the AP revealed that an unpublished study prepared for the Air Force found “burnout” among nuclear missile launch officers and evidence of broader behavioral problems, including sexual assaults and domestic violence. Air Force officials say the force has since rebounded.

In an interview, Work said he was not aware during his visit that anything was amiss. Nor was he briefed later on the investigation. He said he wouldn’t have expected to be briefed unless the Air Force found that LSD or other illegal drugs were a “systemic problem” for the nuclear force, beyond the security forces group at F.E. Warren.

Work said he had never heard of LSD use anywhere in the nuclear workforce.

For the inexperienced members of the drug ring, Harris, the ringleader, had set out several “rules” for LSD use at a gathering of several airmen in a Cheyenne apartment in late 2015 that was recorded on video. Rule No. 1: “No social media at all.” He added: “No bad trips. Everybody’s happy right now. Let’s keep it that way.”

But social media proved their undoing. In March 2016, one member posted a Snapchat video of himself smoking marijuana, setting Air Force investigators on their trail.

As the investigators closed in, one of the accused, Airman 1st Class Devin R. Hagarty, grabbed a backpack and cash, text-messaged his mother that he loved her, turned off his cellphone and fled to Mexico. “I started panicking,” he told a military judge after giving himself up and being charged with desertion.

The Air Force said Hagarty was the first convicted deserter from an ICBM base since January 2013. In court, he admitted using LSD four times in 2015-16 and distributing it once, and he said he had deserted with the intention of never returning. He also admitted to using cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana multiple times. He was sentenced to 13 months in a military jail.

In all, disciplinary action was taken against 14 airmen. In addition, two accused airmen were acquitted at courts martial, and three other suspects were not charged.

This article was written by Robert Burns from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Marine Reservist, Off-Duty New Jersey Trooper Killed in Crash

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Reading Eagle, Pa. 22 May 2018

An off-duty New Jersey state trooper was killed Sunday night in a fiery crash on Interstate 78 in northeastern Berks County, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Brian McNally, 30, of Bedminster, N.J., a Marine veteran and active reservist, was on his way home from weekend military duty when he was killed.

McNally worked out of the Washington Station with the New Jersey State Police.

Troopers said he was traveling in the left eastbound lane of I-78 near the Krumsville interchange in Greenwich Township when he encountered slow-moving traffic due to a backup from an active construction zone over the county line in Lehigh County.

According to troopers, McNally switched from the left lane into the right lane and crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer driven by Nuritdin Juraev, 33, of Windsor Mill, Md.

McNally was pronounced dead at the scene by personnel from the Berks County coroner’s office.

Juraev was taken by ambulance to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.

After impact, the car McNally was driving burst into flames.

Firefighters from surrounding municipalities put out the fire.

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Marine Corps Tells LIDS to Quit Using its Name to Sell Baseball Jerseys

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A popular retail chain surrendered to the Marines on Tuesday, following a warning from the Corps to quit using its name to sell Memorial Day merchandise.

By late afternoon, Lids.com – part of the larger Indianapolis-based Hats Inc. that includes LIDS Sports Group and Locker Room outlets – had abandoned a recently-unveiled online ad campaign.

“Honor the U.S. Marine Corps brave men and women with this authentic New York Yankees Giancarlo Stanton Majestic MLB Men’s USMC Cool Base Jersey,” read one ad. “This camouflage-themed jersey will be worn by the New York Yankees during 2018 Memorial Day weekend games.”

Shortly after The San Diego Union-Tribune showed copies of the ads to Marine officials, Major League Baseball launched a probe into the campaign, too.

By early evening on the East Coast, Lids had removed all online references to the Corps.

Marine spokesman Maj. Brian T. Block told the Union-Tribune by email that the service “should not have been used in the promotional language on the website.”

“We do not have a license relationship with either the company selling that product, nor the MLB,” he added. “The USMC Trademark Office will contact the parties involved to relay our position that USMC trademarks may not be used in the promotion of an unlicensed product.”

The Lids campaign mentioned the Marine Corps in selling jerseys priced between $100 and $120 each that would be worn over the Memorial Day weekend by the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers.

The jerseys featured stars such as Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Giants catcher Buster Posey and Robinson Canoe, the Mariners second baseman serving an 80-day suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

None of these players served in the Marines although Hall of Famers such as Ted Williams, Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Collins and Ted Lyons did.

A baseball fan, Marine commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller last year tossed ceremonial first pitches for both the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals.

Jeff Pearson, senior vice president of e-commerce and marketing at Lids, called the Union-Tribune to say that the online ad campaign might have been launched in error and he was investigating.

As a reseller, the company often receives the right to vend trademarked merchandise from licensed companies, he added.

LIDS Sports Group operates more than 1,350 mall-based, airport, street level and factory outlet locations in the U.S. and Canada.

LIDS and its affiliates are subsidiaries of Genesco Inc., a publicly-traded apparel and licensed-merchandising firm headquartered in Nashville with nearly $3 billion in annual revenues.

Major League Baseball officials in New York told the Union-Tribune that they also were investigating the ad campaign but insisted teams had no prior knowledge of the Lids sales.

Club caps made by New Era for the weekend games don’t bear any military insignia and MLB’s online promotional materials don’t mention any of the armed forces by name.

Franchises plan to hold special pre-game ceremonies at stadiums nationwide throughout the weekend and also participate in a moment of silent rememberance on Memorial Day to honor troops lost at home and abroad.

The Toronto Blue Jays will wear four maple leafs on the right side of their caps to honor the four branches of Canada’s military, too.

Like the Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and Army, the Marine Corps runs a trademark licensing office so that it can control how its logos, slogans and marks are used.

Headquartered in Virginia, the Marine Corps Trademark Office owns the eagle, globe and anchor device, “USMC” and other iconographic elements of the service. Even the digital camouflage pattern on Marine uniforms – called “MARPAT” – is trademarked.

Those trademarks also allow the Marines to generate licensing revenues to boost morale, welfare and recreation programs worldwide, officials say.

Lids also is running a promotion offering for $28 two “NCAA teamwork” caps emblazoned with bulldogs wearing the Corps’ famous eagle, globe and anchor insignia.

The Corps doesn’t participate directly in National Collegiate Athletic Association events, although the U.S. Naval Academy commissions some midshipmen as Marine officers.

Block asked Lids to look into that product and Pearson told the Union-Tribune that he would investigate it, too.

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(c)2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This article is written by By Carl Prine from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Former Marine Fighter Pilot Wins Democratic Congressional Primary

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath vanquished Lexington’s mayor in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a congressional seat in Kentucky, setting up a tougher mission against a Republican incumbent in a district seen as a pickup opportunity for her party.

McGrath, a political newcomer who spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, defeated Lexington’s mayor, Jim Gray, along with state Sen. Reggie Thomas and three other opponents.

“Six months ago, political pundits and establishment insiders didn’t think we could pull this off,” McGrath said in her victory speech. “Did you ever show them!”

McGrath joined a surge of women and military veteran candidates running as part of a Democratic strategy for challenging Republican control of Congress this year. Her win sets up a high-profile fall campaign against U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in the 6th District, which Republican Donald Trump carried in 2016. Democrats see it as their best chance to gain a seat in the Bluegrass State.

The district stretches from the Appalachian foothills to bluegrass country in and around Lexington, and has swung between Democratic and Republican representation for decades. Barr, a supporter of Trump’s agenda now seeking a fourth term, easily defeated challenger Chuck Eddy in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

McGrath and Barr quickly set their sights Tuesday night on what looms as a bruising fall campaign.

Since his election to Congress in 2012, Barr has joined the GOP push to dismantle much of Obama’s legacy, including the health-care law known as Obamacare. McGrath supports the Affordable Care Act, but says she would try to improve it by creating a public health insurance option. She also supports expanded access to Medicare to people 55 and older.

McGrath portrayed Barr as being part of a “broken Congress.”

“Like so many in Congress today, he puts his political party and his big-dollar special interest donors first,” she said. “That is the problem. I think Kentucky and our country should come first.”

Barr linked McGrath to former President Barack Obama’s agenda and touted the tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks pushed by the GOP Congress.

“The country is moving in a positive, more prosperous, more safe … direction,” the congressman said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “What we don’t want to do is go backwards.”

Meanwhile, in Kentucky’s most urban congressional district, the state’s former top-ranking health official, Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, won a three-way Republican primary. Glisson led the state’s effort to impose the nation’s first work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Now she’ll challenge U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, the only Democrat in Kentucky’s congressional delegation, in the Louisville-area 3rd District.

Elsewhere across Kentucky, Democrats were nominating candidates who will be prohibitive underdogs against four Republican congressmen in November.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, dean of the state’s congressional delegation, cruised past a challenger in Tuesday’s Republican primary; the other GOP incumbents — U.S. Reps. James Comer, Brett Guthrie and Thomas Massie — were unopposed.

The state’s biggest political splash this spring was in the 6th District, where McGrath had to overcome Gray’s early advantages in name recognition and political connections as both of them reached out to voters with a series of TV ads.

McGrath played up her military career, which ended in 2017 when she retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel who had flown 89 combat missions, including bombings targeting al-Qaida and the Taliban. Gray, Lexington’s first openly gay mayor, touted his successes in business and in running the district’s largest city.

The tame primary campaign turned negative when Gray ran a late ad noting McGrath was a relative newcomer to the district. McGrath, who grew up in northern Kentucky, took up residency in the 6th District last year after ending her military career.

Gray’s bid to make residency an issue didn’t sway voters like Dixie Klier of Versailles, who backed McGrath.

“The fact that she came back to her state to support it when we really need a national change, I admire her for that,” Klier said. “She didn’t have to do that. That was a choice.”

Two years ago, Gray narrowly won the 6th District in his losing campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. McGrath had criticized Gray as being recruited by establishment Democrats.

Teresa Newman of Versailles struggled to decide, but chose McGrath in the end.

“It was very hard because I like Jim Gray, too,” she said. “It was a last-minute decision. … I think we need young energy in there. I know she cares about the health care issue. She wants Kentuckians to have heath care.”

This article was written by Bruce Schreiner from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Commander, Chief Master Sergeant Fired from Civil Engineer Squadron

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Less than a year after assuming command, the head of the 90th Civil Engineer Squadron at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and her enlisted counterpart have been removed from their leadership positions.

Lt. Col. Erin Weatherly and Chief Master Sgt. James Clark were removed from their duties earlier this month after a leadership change was deemed necessary, 90th Missile Wing spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Mikayla K. Gomez told Military.com on Tuesday.

“Col. Stacy Jo Huser, 90th Missile Wing commander, lost confidence in their abilities to carry out their duties and determined that new leadership was necessary to ensure the highest levels of precision from a squadron leadership,” Gomez said in an email.

She did not give specific reasons for their removal. The news was first reported by Air Force Times.

The move to fire two top leaders in the same squadron is rare.

The Air Force did remove two commanders the 422nd Air Base Group at Royal Air Force Croughton, England, in 2014, citing a loss of confidence. It would emerge that Col. Charles Hamilton, commander of the 422nd Air Base Group, and Lt. Col. Matthew Olson, commander of the 422nd Communications Squadron, were relieved on allegations of creating a toxic work environment for airmen.

The 90th Missile Wing is part of the 90th Mission Support Group, which is made up of “1,100 men and women [who] provide civil engineering, transportation and logistics, communications, contracting, and personnel and services support” to the missile wing, according to the Air Force.

The 90th Missile Wing oversees 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. F. E. Warren became the U.S.’s first operational ICBM base in 1958.

Gomez did not say whether new leaders have been named for the unit.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Vietnam Veteran Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross After 45 Years

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SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — The sunshine reflecting off the black marble of The Wall That Heals in Camden, South Carolina, served as a backdrop for the Air Force ending a 45 year wait for retired Capt. Johnny Blye.

Blye received the Distinguished Flying Cross May 5, for his participation in Operation Linebacker II during the bombardment of Hanoi.

“I flew 150 combat missions in B-52s,” said Blye. “I flew in North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. At the end of the war I flew in the ‘big one’ into Hanoi, the most heavily defended city in the world at that time.”

Linebacker II was the final major operation the U.S. Air Force launched during the Vietnam War. The joint airborne operation consisted of approximately 200 B-52 Stratofortresses and approximately 2,000 supporting tactical aircraft including: F-4 Phantom II fighter escorts, EA-6A Prowler and EB-66 Destroyer radar-jamming aircraft, F-105 Thunderchief Wild Weasel surface-to-air missile suppression aircraft and KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft.

“I am very grateful that I was one of the fortunate ones that made it back,” said Blye. “A lot of my B-52 friends got shot down. We had 15 B-52s shot down in 11 days. I was fortunate to have been one of the survivors, but I appreciate the sacrifice of all of those people that weren’t.”

Upon returning home from Vietnam, veterans did not always receive a warm welcome from a nation divided on the validity and purpose of the Vietnam War.

“I would like to thank the Vietnam vets, their family members and all the Americans who have helped turn it around to show the right way to welcome home service members and their families who have made sacrifices,” said Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist, 9th Air Force commander. “Whenever I find a young Airman, I tell them to seek out Vietnam veterans and say ‘thank you’ to them. Military members today get treated amazingly well, and it’s a great time to serve now. A lot of Vietnam veterans did not have that”

The 13-year Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and the nationwide tour of The Wall That Heals are ways America is honoring, remembering and paying back service members who sacrificed for their nation and are still dealing with the effects of the war.

Blye’s Distinguished Flying Cross is an honor being rendered late, but with full honors.

Blye said, it’s been 45 years since he should have gotten the decoration, but waiting made it that much sweeter.

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Germany Reportedly Reviving WWI-Era “Leopards”

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While the EU is paving the way for tanks in Europe, preparing infrastructure, Germany is arming itself with the newest А7V modification for the Leopard 2, advertised by the producer as the world’s most powerful main battle tank.

The newspaper Die Welt has reported about the unusual rise of one of Germany’s most renowned machine modifications, the Leopard 2 А7V. The German army has been training with the unusual high-tech generation of these battle tanks on the country’s largest army base and its central training center close to the northern city of Munster. According to the newspaper, the German military has 20 such tanks, produced by manufacturer KMW.

The number of tanks, which are said to absorb revolutionized warfare and secured the success of the Nazi Germany during the first two years of World War II, shrunk in the German army as the so-called Iron Curtain fell, as they were considered relics of the Cold War. But Die Welt points out that this type of war machine has been gaining importance again as a “deterrent to Russia in the Baltic Region. The newspaper stresses that concerns in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries that view their Eastern neighbor as a threat, absorb been growing because of the clash in Ukraine after Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Besides, according to the media, the NATO countries absorb moved the alliance and national defense spending back into the center of their security policy.

READ MORE: German Army Lacks Combat Ready Tanks for NATO Ops – Reports

According to the German defense minister, cited by the newspaper, state and alliance defense matters got high priority as the recent “trends were reversed in the last legislation session, when it was proposed to adapt the German military to the unusual security situation.”

“This also included increasing the number of main battle tanks from the current 220 to 328,” said the spokesman.

However, the turn has face difficulties within NATO allies in Europe, first of all the infrastructure. Aiming to ensure faster transportation for troops crossing the continent due to growing tensions with Russia, in March 2018 the EU Commission presented a arrangement to expand roads, bridges and rail networks.

Another difficulty Germany’s tanks currently face is operational readiness. According to February’s report from the Ministry of Defense, cited by Die Welt, only 105 of Germany’s 244 Leopard 2 battle tanks were on average ready for action because of an insufficient supply of spare parts and problems with maintenance due to budget cuts. The Bundeswehr plans to be fully operational in 2019 when Germany is to grasp over the leadership of the NATO’s multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) team in Eastern Europe.

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Pentagon Fears Command Plane Vulnerable to Russian Missiles

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According to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint spy Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) would be useless in a fight against an advanced military.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense late last week, Wilson admitted that even an upgraded version of the aircraft would finish runt splendid.

“Russian and Chinese surface-to-air missiles acquire more range, and the plane would be shot down in the first day of clash,” she said, as reported by the Air Force Times.

The Air Force’s preferred alternative, according to the officer, would be a recent integrated combat management system based on intelligence data from a series of manned, unmanned and satellite-based systems.

Wilson noted that the Air Force could pursue both systems, but that this would cost $7 billion more than the Air Force proposes in its budget.

The Air Force is looking to scrap the E-8 revamp program for its 2019 budget. Lawmakers, however, are resisting the concept, urging the Air Force to recede ahead with the purchase some 17 recent Boeing 707-sized planes for the program.

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One of the Marine Corps’ Most Iconic Enlisted Leaders Just Retired

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A Navy Cross recipient who overcame grievous war wounds to continue to lead Marines on active duty has finally retired.

Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal, perhaps best known for appearing in an iconic image by photographer Lucian Read, retired from his post as sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force on May 18, Marine officials said.

The famous photograph shows a wounded and bloody Kasal emerging from a building in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 supported by Marines on his right and left. Then a first sergeant, Kasal had sustained wounds from seven bullets and taken more than 43 pieces of grenade shrapnel during a firefight. He reportedly had lost 60 percent of his blood by the time he emerged from the house, supported by two lance corporals, but still brandishing his sidearm and Ka-Bar knife.

In 2006, Kasal would receive the Navy Cross, the military’s second-highest award for valor, for his heroism that day. According to his medal citation, Kasal had rolled on top of a wounded Marine to shield him, absorbing the shrapnel from an enemy grenade with his own body.

“When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention,” the citation read. “Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure.”

The photograph captured that day would later provide inspiration to sculptor John Phelps, a Gold Star father whose son, Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Versions of Phelps’ sculpture, Hell House, now stand at the entrance to wounded warrior Hope and Care Centers at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Camp Pendleton, California.

A 2012 biography of Kasal by Nathaniel Helms, “My Men Are My Heroes,” quickly became a staple of the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List.

The book characterizes Kasal as an icon even prior to his heroism in Fallujah.

“Even before entering Iraq, Kasal was almost mythical among Marines, known for leading his troops at the front to ensure that he would always be the first man into a fight,” Helms writes. “In his mind, that is what Grunts do, and Brad Kasal is a true Grunt.”

Kasal previously served as the senior enlisted leader of 4th Marine Division before becoming sergeant major of the Camp Pendleton-based I MEF. The posting is one of the most prestigious available to a Marine Corps sergeant major.

When Kasal assumed his post at I MEF in February 2015, he addressed troops within the unit with a brief and characteristically gritty speech.

“To all the Marines and sailors of I MEF, I thank you for what you do,” he said. “I thank you for creating hate and discontent among the bad guys around the world, and I’m truly humbled to work for you and serve beside you.”

When Kasal surrendered his sword of office to conclude a 34-year career May 18, he kept his message simple.

“I want every Marine and sailor to understand they enlisted for a reason and a purpose,” Kasal said, according to a Marine Corps news release. “That purpose was to do something better, to swear to support and defend the constitution, and to be a part of something greater. I ask the Marines and sailors to always be proud of that.”

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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