Saturday, September 10, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 8, 2016) -- A British soldier who was assigned to Camp Lee at the time of his death was recently honored with a rededication ceremony Aug. 27 after an error was found on his headstone where his remains are interred at Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg.
The error to Company Sgt. Maj. Instructor George M. Symons, grave marker was discovered by Betsy Dinger, a park ranger from the National Parks Service assigned to the cemetery. In conjunction with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission team in Ottawa Canada, she obtained a new, correctly inscribed headstone. The stone was stored pending refurbishment of the cemetery.
Symons, part of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) was a member of the British Military Mission based at Camp Lee as a bayonet fighting instructor. He helped prepare U.S. troops to fight in the trenches of France during WW1. The veteran of Gallipoli and France died in October 1918 during the influenza epidemic at Camp Lee, which infected nearly 6,500 and resulted 167 deaths.
The ceremony was organized by Dinger and British army Lt. Col. Steve Caldwell, the British liaison officer at CASCOM. In attendance were Symons’ niece, Joyce Fletcher, and other family members; Command Sgt. Maj Leabarron J. Bates, 71st Transportation Battalion, CSM; the French and New Zealand Army representatives at Fort Lee; representatives of the National Parks Service; a piper, Chris Peavey, and bugler, Bill Stallings; and a 10-man re-enactment contingent from the U.S. Great War Association, who wore WW1 British and Australian uniforms.
The short ceremony included brief presentations by Dr. Kenneth Finlayson, CASCOM command historian about the founding of Camp Lee. Flowers were laid at the grave by the national representatives and by the family.
For more details on the life of Symons, visit https://ww1sacrifice.com/2015/02/19/company-sergeant-major-george-mayer-symons/. For information on the Great War Association, visit www.great-war-assoc.org.
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Expedition cruise ship Hanseatic has navigated the Northeast Passage for the second time, completing its journey through the Arctic Ocean sea route in the early hours of September 7, 2016. After sailing a total of 5,542 nautical miles, the ship will arrive in Nome on September 10 and officially end its cruise.
In 2014, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Hanseatic became the first non-Russian cruise ship to navigate the Northeast Passage, which runs along the north coasts of Asia and Europe, from the Bering Strait to the White Sea.
The ship’s second expedition through the legendary sea route departed from Tromso, Norway on August 16, 2016. The first port of call was Murmansk, Russia, where the adventure of the Northeast Passage officially began. After cruising through the Barents Sea/Arctic Ocean, Hanseatic stopped at anchor in Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, before the ship went on through the Kara Sea to Severnaya Zemlya. Other stops at anchor took place off Siberia, Wrangel Island and Chukchi Island.
The transit through the Northeast Passage officially ended at 6 a.m. on September 7, when the ship rounded Cape Dezhnev.
The cruise was fully booked. The crew organized 20 landings and tours with the 14 on-board Zodiacs, rubber boats, which are well suited to expeditions. During wildlife observations, guests saw walruses and polar bears. On one island, 16 polar bears at the same time were seen, some even mothers with their babies. In total 86 polar bears were counted from the bridge.
“The Northeast Passage is a spectacular voyage and always will be. This route is not comparable to a regular cruise,” said Captain Natke. “Nature impresses with unique and exciting insights. On this cruise we have seen a high number of polar bears. I have never before seen so many polar bears on an Arctic cruise. Furthermore, we have seen the fantastic Northern Lights and enjoyed three sunny days with blue skies at Wrangel Island.”
Military Services Report Low Readiness Levels as Russia, China Demand Increased Commitments By Morgan Chalfant
The U.S. military has reported persistently low readiness levels as threats from Russia and China have demanded increased American presence in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, according to a government watchdog.
The Pentagon lacks a comprehensive plan to rebuild readiness across the force as manpower and spending cuts have threatened the armed services’ preparedness for commitments abroad, concluded a Government Accountability Office reportpublicly issued on Wednesday.
The military services expect low levels of readiness to persist into the next decade, according to interviews conducted by auditors.
“The military services have reported persistently low readiness levels, which they have attributed to emerging and continued demands on their forces, reduced force structure, and increased frequency and length of deployments,” the GAO wrote in the report.
Between fiscal years 2013-16, the active component end strength decreased by about 7 percent across the force and the reserve component end strength by 4 percent, according to the GAO.
The Department of Defense has also faced spending cuts across the board due to sequestration, which kicked in more than three years ago.
Service leaders have warned about reductions in force structure and budgetary constraints.
The U.S. Navy, for example, has been allocated $30 billion less than it has requested over the last four years, according to congressional testimony delivered earlier this year by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations. The Navy has also seen an 18 percent decrease in its fleet of ships over the last two decades, according to the GAO, which has resulted in increased deployment lengths for its naval craft.
The Army and Marine Corps have each undergone years-long drawdowns of active duty members. The Obama administration plans to decrease the number of active-duty Army soldiers from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of 2016. The count of Marine Corps personnel will also drop to 182,000 by the end of this year, which the Marine commandant recently described as a “red line” for the service.
Gen. David Goldfein, the new Air Force chief of staff, said in June that the Air Force is short about 4,000 active-duty airmen at the current decades-low level of 311,000. While the service is expected to increase the number of airmen to 317,000 by the end of the year, the Air Force secretary hassaid the service will need thousands more to ease current strains on the service.
In the face of reductions in budgets and manpower, overall demand for forces has remained high despite reduced commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Obama administration. Combatant command officials who spoke to auditors emphasized the growing demand for forces in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
“For example, U.S. European Command officials noted that the command’s assigned forces are now staying in Europe and being used to meet the growing needs of the command, such as the response to Russian aggression, which officials noted has been the most significant driver of changes to the command’s needs since February 2014,” auditors wrote.
“Moreover, U.S. Pacific Command officials noted that their operational requirements have steadily increased to ensure adequate capability exists to address increasingly unpredictable and provocative actions of North Korea and China,” they wrote.
The services’ plans to resolve persistent readiness challenges have fallen short, according to the GAO report, which faulted the Pentagon for exercising insufficient oversight of efforts to rebuild readiness across the force.
While the Defense Department has made rebuilding readiness a priority, the department lacks a comprehensive plan for recovering readiness with long-term goals and ways to measure progress.
“Without metrics against which to measure the services’ progress toward agreed-upon, achievable readiness recovery goals, DOD will be unable to determine the effectiveness of readiness recovery efforts to assess its ability to meet the demands of the National Military Strategy, which may be at risk,” auditors concluded.
Lawmakers appropriated $1 billion into a warfighting account for the Defense Department’s readiness improvement efforts during the current fiscal year.
The GAO was mandated by Congress to review the Pentagon’s efforts to rebuild military readiness. Auditors delivered a classified version of the report to congressional lawmakers in June, a “secret” assessment that provided greater detail of classified readiness assessments made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military commanders.
“The high pace of operations has created challenges for the all-volunteer force in its ability to respond to current demands,” GAO auditors wrote in a note to congressional defense committees accompanying the report.
“The global security environment will likely continue to require significant reliance on U.S. military forces to respond to a range of demands even as the department faces a period of budget constraints including across-the-board spending reductions through sequestration and force structure reductions. As a result, DOD must ensure that the force is poised to meet a range of global needs,” they wrote.
The Pentagon, which concurred with the watchdog’s recommendations to establish a comprehensive plan for recovering readiness, did not respond to a request for comment.
by Martin Farrer (TheGuardian) China has sent a coded warning to the United States to stay out of the South China Sea dispute after Beijing was again accused of building permanent structures on islands in the area. Speaking after talks with rival countries at a regional summit in Laos, premier Li Keqiang said China wanted to work with other […]
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|Coat of Arms of North Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Acknowledging reality: A pragmatic approach to Pyongyang
With North Korea having conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, the Korean Peninsula seems more distant than ever from denuclearization. Given this reality, what's the most effective way to approach the nuclear problem?
The obstacles to progress are enormous. Pyongyang's inclinations are strongly realist, and the country's leadership sees nuclear deterrence as the ultimate guarantee of security. It will likely continue to see things that way for some time. The North perceives Washington's attitude as essentially realist as well—so Pyongyang is likely betting that US policy toward North Korea will eventually change direction. This is especially true considering that Washington experiences regime change every four or eight years.
The North may in fact believe that Washington, once it accepts the nuclear reality on the Korean Peninsula, will ease sanctions. This calculus may make sense. The United States never approved of Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, but it has had to live with the hard reality of a nuclear Israel—and protect Tel Aviv from the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapon free zone. Nor does Washington approve of a nuclear India, and indeed it imposed sanctions on New Delhi following India's 1998 nuclear test. But those sanctions were lifted within days of the 9/11 terror attacks. In 2008 the United States even waived its ban on civilian nuclear cooperation with India—a ban it had imposed through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which it helped create in 1975 precisely to punish India for its "peaceful" nuclear test in 1974. As for Pakistan, the United States designated that country a major non-NATO ally in 2004 in order to gain Islamabad's cooperation in the fight against terrorism—despite Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, President Obama is pursuing normalized relations with Cuba after decades of hostility between Washington and Havana. All this may encourage Pyongyang to believe that Washington will not wait additional decades to normalize relations with North Korea.
Meanwhile, China and North Korea have been allies for decades. But China has been cooperating more closely with the United States on sanctions against North Korea, so Pyongyang likely feels betrayed by Beijing. Then again, considering the rising distrust that characterizes Washington and Beijing's relationship, the North may be betting that China will hedge against any future possibility of US reconciliation with the North.
North Korea has certainly noted China's insistence that sanctions against Pyongyang must not generate instability on the Peninsula, risk war, or create humanitarian problems. China is simply unwilling, whether Pyongyang has nuclear weapons or not, to see North Korea collapse. This stance would seem to ensure North Korea's survival. In fact, Beijing may be more concerned about Washington's "rebalancing" in Asia than it is about Pyongyang's nuclear program. Beijing and Washington may cooperate on North Korea to some degree, but they don't trust each other, and both sides will hedge their bets. This could well play into North Korea's hands, and compromise the effectiveness of US-China collaboration.
Consequently, the Korean Peninsula won't likely be free of nuclear weapons any time soon. So any successful approach to the Korean nuclear issue must be incremental, pragmatic, and cooperative in nature; and must provide assurances to all sides. North Korea will only be enticed by denuclearization proposals that espouse a win-win philosophy.
What might be workable, on an interim basis, is to demand of North Korea a "three noes" policy: no further development of nuclear weapons (including nuclear tests); no transfers of nuclear weapons outside North Korean territory; and no using (or threatening to use) nuclear weapons. Essentially, Pyongyang would be asked to accept a "nuclear freeze" regime—which would include a unilateral arms control ceiling and an appropriate verification system. In return, North Korea would receive a package of benefits including a multilateral security assurance arrangement; initiation of a diplomatic process toward normalization of North Korea's relations with the United States and other nations; and removal of economic, trade, and investment sanctions—if Pyongyang adheres to the "three noes."
Clearly, such a process wouldn't achieve denuclearization at once. But North Korea is adamant about not relinquishing its nuclear capabilities, so any path toward disarmament must be phased. Establishing denuclearization as a short-term objective would only invite total failure. It's better just to get the ball rolling with diplomacy.
Essentially, the goal of the "three noes" would be to establish a productive atmosphere of cooperative nuclear restraint. In some ways, this formula resembles the approach underlying the Iran nuclear deal. In negotiations toward that deal, the international community could not prevail on Iran to acceptcomplete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear programs. But Iran did commit itself to eliminating the lion's share of its uranium enrichment capacity—though it nonetheless retains certain nuclear fuel cycle competencies. The point is that both sides compromised: Iran obtained sanctions relief by curtailing its dubious nuclear operations, while the international community greatly reduced the risk that Iran will become a nuclear weapon state, even if complete dismantlement wasn't achievable.
If this model were followed on the Korean Peninsula—if nuclear tensions were contained through cooperative, incremental measures aimed at nuclear threat reduction—the international community (North Korea included) could reinvigorate a diplomatic process toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Once the initial stages of the approach succeeded, Pyongyang's leadership might transform its outlook toward the importance of nuclear arms in national security. Eventually the North might be ready to take concrete steps toward eliminating its entire nuclear arsenal.
Denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula is a distant prospect. Such a prospect draws no closer as long as the world rejects pragmatic engagement with the North.
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Posted by Neptunus Rex at 3:25:00 AM