Category Archives: military news

Enjoying a front-row seat of progress

Our new “home” across the way from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and the Bell Helicopter aircraft assembly plant has given me a front-row seat to an amazing display of engineering and economic progress.

My wife and I have been living at an RV park within spittin’ distance of AMA and Bell. From our living room we are able to watch jets fly in and out of the airport while also witnessing test flights of a state-of-the-art combat aircraft that is put together right here on the High Plains.

I refer, of course, to the V-22 Osprey, the notable tilt-rotor aircraft that’s seen plenty of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. The Marine Corps has been using the bird to ferry troops and supplies on and off battlefields in both countries for, oh, about the past decade.

The Osprey hasn’t been without controversy. Many of us recall the terrible crash in Arizona that killed nearly 20 Marines on a test flight.

The Osprey, though, has been re-engineered since that crash. It has been improved. It has been modified to some degree. Today, from what I have heard, it has performed its mission well. The aircraft gives American fighting personnel quicker entrance and exit from the battlefield.

Amarillo used an interesting — and occasionally mocked — economic tool to lure Bell/Textron to the High Plains in the late 1990s. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation offered a lot of money that it collects from sales tax revenue to Bell/Textron, which ended up receiving about $45 million in various inducements, including tax abatements and free land next to AMA.

Bell returned to Amarillo, where it once repaired and maintained Huey helicopters during the Vietnam War.

AEDC hit a home run when it lured Bell/Textron to the region. We have seen it grow over the years, expanding its mission.

I think of all this on occasion as I watch the Osprey take off and land. I recall the ridicule we heard from the Fort Worth area that lost the Bell operation, thanks to Amarillo’s aggressive and creative marketing campaign.

I also look with some pride at what this community has been able to accomplish for its local economic health as well as contributing to the nation’s vaunted military establishment.

I spoke once with a Marine pilot who was stationed in Amarillo to test-fly the Osprey earlier in its development. He mentioned to me how this aircraft was so hard to learn to fly, but once he got the hang of it, the Osprey has turned out to be a lot of fun to fly.

On occasion I think of that Marine as I watch the Osprey glide through its paces above us, and I wonder how much fun they’re having overhead.

Thanks for the recognition, but no parade, please

Strike up the band, fire up the tanks, lock and load, forward … march!

The word is out that preliminary planning has commenced for what Donald J. Trump is seeking: a full-blown military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The president wants to honor the service and sacrifice of active-duty military personnel and to thank the nation’s veterans.

Well, gosh. I do appreciate the expression of thanks from the president. Really. I do! I served a couple of years in the U.S. Army, serving some of that time in Vietnam in wartime.

That was a zillion years ago and to this day I still get “Thank you for your service” greetings from strangers. I appreciate the recognition that we didn’t receive when we were mustering out of the service and returning home.

To be honest, that’s all I want.

Do I want to see a military demonstration with tanks, artillery, thousands of troops from all branches of our 1.5 million-member military? No. I consider it a waste of money and an unnecessary showing off by the commander in chief.

I’ve read that the president was so taken by a Bastille Day parade he saw in Paris that he wanted to do something like it here. Except for this little item that I believe the president is ignoring: The French parade included troops from other nations as well as the French military. Is the president planning to allow foreign fighting forces mach alongside our men and women in uniform? I don’t think so.

If the president wants to honor our military, all he has to do is have a White House ceremony. The leaders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff can speak publicly about the sacrifice each of the personnel under their command make to protect us.

Donald Trump could offer some legislative remedies to ensure that our veterans receive top-tier medical care.

A parade down Pennsylvania Avenue? A parade that will cost the country millions of dollars it cannot afford to spend? An event that will stretch our overworked and stressed-out military men and women even more?

No thank you, Mr. President. A simple — and sincere — expression of gratitude would work just as well. The world’s greatest military machine doesn’t need to show off its might in this ostentatious — and costly — event.

Military parade in D.C.? You can’t be serious!

I cannot believe what I just read. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

Donald J. Trump apparently wants to stage a military parade along the boulevards in Washington, D.C. You know, the kind of spectacle we’ve witnessed in places like, oh let’s see, Moscow. Beijing. Pyongyang.

My reaction when I stumbled across this item was simple: Are you f****** kidding me?

According to The Washington Post: Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

What is the purpose? I read in the Post that Trump wants to show the world just how tough we are. He wants to demonstrate U.S. military muscle, to put it on display, to show North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, for instance, just how much hardware we possess.

Is this man for real? Does he really intend to clear out the streets of Washington and roll Abrams tanks, heavy pieces of artillery — and parade thousands of American soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard personnel in front of the world?

As the Post reports: A White House official familiar with the planning described the discussions as “brainstorming” and said nothing is settled. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

Still, the official said Trump is determined to have a parade. “The president wants to do something that highlights the service and sacrifice of the military and have a unifying moment for the country,” the official said.

The American military is strong enough to have persuaded the rest of the world already that we can destroy Planet Earth with the push of a button. Do we really and truly need a military parade?

No! Let me put it another way. Hell no!

Here’s a thought: Stress diplomacy over nukes

Donald Trump has offered a word of praise to Hawaii officials.

The president lauds them for taking “full responsibility” for the near-panic caused when someone “pushed the wrong button” and sent out an false alarm that declared there was an incoming missile from … possibly North Korea.

As The Hill reports:

“That was a state thing but we are going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. They took total responsibility,” Trump told reporters Sunday.

“But we are going to get involved. Their attitude and their — I think it is terrific. They took responsibility. They made a mistake,” he continued.

When asked what he will do to prevent a similar false alert from taking place, Trump didn’t answer directly but said, “we hope it won’t happen again.

He added, again according to The Hill:

“Part of it is people are on edge, but maybe eventually we will solve the problem so they won’t have to be so on edge,” Trump said.

Yes, they are “on edge,” Mr. President. Indeed, Trump’s bellicosity along with the unpredictability of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has put millions of Americans — not just those in Hawaii — on edge.

With that, I’ll offer a modest suggestion for the president: How about stressing diplomacy and setting aside the threats of “fire and fury,” “total annihilation” and using a “big nuclear button”?

The military option we keep hearing about ought to be the option of last resort — not the first, second or third resort. Military confrontation with North Korea is, shall we say, fraught with grievous consequences.

I, too, am glad that Hawaii officials have owned their mistake. Hawaii Gov. David Ige has apologized to his constituents and, by extension, to the rest of the nation.

Yes, the federal government can get involved. The commander in chief can set aside the tough talk and start sending signals to North Korea that it’s time to settle our differences through diplomacy.

Transgender ban put on hold … hopefully it’ll disappear

Transgendered Americans can still serve in the U.S. military. They can continue serving their country, fighting for it, defending our way of life against enemies who seek to destroy it — and us.

If the president of the United States were to have his way, he would ban transgendered patriots from serving. Donald Trump has played a shameful hand on behalf of the one-third of Americans who still support him.

A federal judicial panel has blocked the president’s declaration from taking effect, meaning that transgendered soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, Coast Guardsmen and women and Marines can continue to enlist and serve.

Trump’s order denies patriots the opportunity to defend their country? How can that be a good thing?

He said something in a tweet announcing the transgender ban that the military couldn’t afford the medical burden associated with Americans who sought to change their sexual identity. Get real! As critics of the Trump order noted, the military spends many times more money on medication that seeks to cure erectile dysfunction than it does on transgender-related medical issues.

Pentagon brass declared it intended to wait for a direct order from the defense secretary before it implemented the order. Good for them.

And good for the judicial panel in the District of Columbia for stopping this disgraceful discrimination against Americans who already are serving their country with honor and distinction.

They wanted to get into the fight

My late father was 20 years of age on Dec. 7, 1941.

Pete Kanelis was a second-year student at the University of Portland (Ore.) when word filtered back to the mainland about the “dastardly act” in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

It didn’t take Dad long to make up his mind on what he wanted to do. He wanted to get into the fight. He waited about two whole months before going downtown. He went to the armed forces station and sought to enlist in the Marine Corps. The door was locked. He walked across the hall to the Navy office and signed up.

He was after all, young and full of what might be described as “p*** and vinegar.”

He would become one of about 16 million young Americans who responded just as he did. He went looking for a fight and oh, brother, he found it. The Navy sent him to the Mediterranean theater, where he fired a 3-inch, 50-caliber deck gun at Italian and German aircraft.

He was part of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” I was — and still am — so very proud of his service.

The attack at Pearl Harbor, which occurred 76 years ago today, defined a generation. Dad’s generation — virtually all of them, as near as I can tell — fought willingly in that great conflict. Their hearts were broken at the prospect of a foreign power killing so many of our young Americans — on American soil to boot!

They answered our nation’s call, did their duty and then came home to help build a postwar country that has set the economic and military standard around the world.

I’ve re-thought a bit the notion that Dad’s generation was the “greatest” this nation ever has produced. I am not yet willing to hand that title to another generation of Americans, but my sense is that today’s young Americans are competing with Dad’s brethren for the title of “greatest.”

Many of today’s military men and women dropped what they were doing one Tuesday morning, on Sept. 11, 2001. Let’s call them the “9/11 Generation.”

I’ve actually met young Americans who joined the military because they, too, wanted to get into the fight — just as Dad did so long ago. I recently made the acquaintance of a young physical therapist at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. She joined the Navy right after 9/11 because — like many of us — was enraged at the attack carried out on U.S. soil.

Whereas Dad and his brethren enlisted — or were drafted — to serve “for the duration” of World War II, the current fighting force has been deployed multiple times to battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, I long ago lost count of the deployments a cousin of mine has served in those conflicts before retiring from the Army.

It’s good today to recall how an earlier generation of Americans surrendered their relative comforts to take on a direct and existential threat to their nation’s way of life.

Dad was one of them.

Trump managed to yank spotlight from WWII heroes

Leave it to the inimitable Donald John Trump Sr. to do the seemingly impossible.

Three men — all heroes from World War II — came to the White House recently to be honored for their exploits during the great conflict.

So, what did the president do? With a thoughtless, careless quip he turned attention from the men and those who they represent and turned it onto himself for all the wrong reasons.

He said he “liked” the men who stood with him in the White House. He then chided a member of the U.S. Senate who has said she, too, has Native American heritage in her background. Trump just had to call Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” which he has used for years to deride her claim. That’s what the media have been talking about, not about the men who served so heroically.

The men are Code Talkers. They are of Navajo descent. They were deployed as Marines during World War II to communicate battle plans and intelligence in a language the Japanese couldn’t de-code. They were instrumental in several key Pacific Theater battles.

CNN.com published a story chronicling the men’s heroics.

See the story here.

The story notes that the use of Native American tongues in war began in World War I, when Choctaw soldiers spoke to each other to confound the Germans on the other side of the battle lines. But in the period between the world wars, the Germans figured out that language.

The Navajo was more difficult to decipher. As CNN.com noted, it isn’t a written language. Therefore, the enemy was unable to figure what they were listening to when the Navajo Marines were communicating.

They risked their lives. They fought for their country.

Only 13 of the Code Talkers are still living. They all are old men who are suffering the usual ravages of aging.

The president should have known better than to yank the spotlight from those heroes. He should have shown a semblance of class and grace as he welcomed these brave Americans to salute their commitment to their country.

Indeed, if the president understood or appreciated anything about the sacrifice these men paid, he might have seen fit to keep his mouth shut about a political foe.

 

Trump sure has a way with words

Donald John “Quipster in Chief” Trump Sr. is the master of context and impeccable timing.

The president welcomed some Navajo veterans of World War II. They were the legendary Code Talkers who helped win the U.S. combat effort in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

The White House event was set up to honor those veterans, all gallant Marines. So what does the president do? The idiot in chief decided to shoot a barb at a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate.

According to The Hill: Trump said the Code Talkers “were here long before any of us were here,” referencing, I suppose, their Native American heritage. Then the said, “Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”

What a knee-slapper!

His reference is to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who Trump has been deriding for years because Warren claims to have some Native American ancestry in her background.

The former Marines didn’t react to Trump’s dig. Hmm. Imagine that. They are too dignified to get snookered into that kind of childishness.

Read The Hill story here.

For the record, the Code Talkers were deployed in the Pacific Theater to communicate battle plans and intelligence in their native language, which the enemy couldn’t decipher. Precious few of these brave men are left.

The president simply couldn’t salute these men’s valiant service to their country during its darkest time without offering a stupid remark about a contemporary political opponent?

Is this what his fans call “telling it like it is”?

I prefer to call it a demonstration of stupidity.

Senators concerned about POTUS and the nukes

More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked some tough questions about the president of the United States’ fitness to be in command of the nuclear launch codes.

President Richard Nixon was being swallowed up by the Watergate crisis. Questions arose about whether the president would do something foolish in a moment of intense political anguish.

Concerns arise once again

Flash forward. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of today is now concerned, apparently, with the current president’s ability to handle this awesome responsibility. Senators didn’t come to any conclusions or seek any substantial change in the policy, but they got to air their concerns on the record about Donald John Trump.

As Politico reports: “We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that yielded few clear answers about checks on the commander in chief’s power. “Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment.”

Though Republicans were not as vocal about their concern, some did express worry that one person alone can make the decision to launch a nuclear war.

The president hasn’t yet demonstrated the complete understanding of command and control. He keeps popping off via Twitter, threatening North Korea with destruction.

And oh yes, the president has virtually sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. The policy was designed during the Cold War when the United States need a quick response in case the Soviet Union decided to launch missiles against us.

The Cold War is over, although the peril of a nuclear strike remains acute, given the enormous number of nuclear-armed nations around the world.

Which requires a U.S. president to be of sound temperament and judgment. The Senate panel today sought to explore those issues today as it relates to the current commander in chief.

Given the president’s behavior and the goofiness of his public pronouncements, senators have ample reason to wonder out loud about the commander in chief’s ability to keep us safe.

Vets are bound together by common experience

I heard an interesting analysis on National Public Radio about the dysfunction that has troubled the U.S. Congress in recent years.

It is that so few members of Congress — House members and senators — are veterans. The analyst noted that today, about 20 percent of congressmen and women are veterans; that total used to be around 70 percent.

Do you see where this is going?

We’re about to celebrate Veterans Day and I thought that observation was worth noting as a way to suggest that military service has contributed to a better-functioning Congress than what we have today.

I think of the World War II veterans who came home from completing their mission to save the world from tyranny. They went about rebuilding their lives. Some of them chose careers in public service. The ran for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. They won and were thrown together on Capitol Hill.

They forged partnerships and friendships. They had a common bond. Their friendship crossed the partisan divide. Democrats and Republicans all had been to battle. They all had fought a common enemy.

Congressional lore is full of legendary friendships that bridged that partisan divide: Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Daniel Inouye; Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy; Republican Barry Goldwater and Democrat George McGovern. These men were political opponents, but they each respected each other. They had earned their mutual respect because of their service in defense of the nation they all loved.

The Vietnam War produced a similar bond among brothers. Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry became good friends during their time in the U.S. Senate. They worked together to craft a normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam. Republican Chuck Hagel returned from ‘Nam to serve in the Senate, along with Democrat Bob Kerrey.

The Vietnam War generation, along with the World War II and the Korean War generation, contributed mightily to a government that actually worked.

That kind of camaraderie appears to be missing today. Yes, Congress is sprinkled with vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. They, too, belong to both major political parties. I don’t sense that they have yet made their mark on the larger governing body. Perhaps it will come in due course.

The veterans who have served first in the military and then in both chambers of Congress have done demonstrated the value of common experience. It translates into political comity and collegiality … a lot more of which we can use today.