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Author: TriSec    Date: 06/21/2016 10:12:24

Good Morning.

It's been a thin couple of weeks on the veteran's front, given the sudden focus on domestic issues. Nevertheless, there's a couple of things going on that we can check out. We'll start this morning near China. It seems like that little spat over the Spratly Islands is growing ever larger. One wonders what the next showdown is going to be.

After three months, the carrier John C. Stennis departed the world's most contested body of water.

Stennis left the South China Sea on June 5 after arriving in early April in what was intended as a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the region after aggressive moves and island-building by China raised concerns among U.S. allies and partners there.

The months-long patrol was shadowed almost the entire time by People's Liberation Army-Navy vessels, and certainly raised the ire of Beijing. In May, the Chinese government cancelled a port visit in Hong Kong, saying it was "inconvenient" for the flattop to pull in.

Not long after departing the South China Sea, the Stennis participated in a massive show of force in the Philippine Sea as it rendezvoused with carrier Ronald Reagan. In a release, Navy Task Force 70 headlined the dual carrier flight operations as "Two carrier strike groups double down in Western Pacific," noting that this showcases "United States unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups in close proximity."

During the three months, Stennis frequently became a symbol of the U.S. response to increasingly aggressive Chinese moves across the region. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory and has reinforced its claims by constructing man-made islands on rocky outcroppings, reefs and atolls in the region. Its neighbors claim China is bullying them, and the U.S. has opposed what it sees as China's coercive tactics to enforce its claims.

While on patrol, Stennis played host to some of the military's top brass, receiving visits from the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who brought along his Philippines counterpart for the trip.

Stennis participated in an exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian navy, and over the weekend it participated in the flight ops with the Reagan, said Lt. Clint Ramsden, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet. Reagan departed June 5 from its home port of Yokosuka, Japan, for its summer patrol.

"This is a great opportunity for us to train in a high end scenario." Rear Adm. John Alexander, the Reagan's strike group commander, said in the CTF 70 release. "We must take advantage of these opportunities to practice warfighting techniques that are required to prevail in modern naval operations."

The destroyer Spruance is on patrol in the South China Sea. The Spruance, which is part of a three-ship surface action group deployed to the western Pacific, has been in the South China Sea since June 8, Ramsden said.

China has been building artificial islands in the Spratly Islands on top of reefs and atolls to bolster its claims and to gain fishing and resource rights to most of the South China Sea

But that's not the only far-flung place we seem to be posturing. How's Kenya grab you? I've made note of this before - it seems like every time we turn around, there's another spot on the map we've sent in "advisors" to "train" the local military.

The Air Force on Monday begins training a variety of service members from African countries looking to boost their regional security. The militaries aren’t specifically out there to hunt down rebel leaders or run operations against extremist groups. But the training the African service members receive during the week-long program will likely aid their stability should conflicts arise.

“Terrorism is a hot topic everywhere, but the only time that would come up is in a discussion sense,” said Maj. Hartmut “Dirk” Casson, chief of African operations, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa.

Roughly 200 U.S. and African airmen will be participating in the U.S. Air Force-led African Partnership Flight program hosted by Kenya this summer, and more regional nations could join in as well. A few U.S. Army personnel, Guard and Reserve, have also been invited to participate.

“If they take any of the training or lessons learned that we talk about and it makes them a better airman, and if they ultimately are in that situation [fighting terrorism], we would hope if anything happens, the region could work together toward solutions,” Casson told Air Force Times June 13. Casson has commanded a few APF programs.

In its fourth year, APF has held eight exercises: six on the African continent, one in Ramstein, Germany, and one in the United States, Casson said. The Air Force tries to do two events per year.

“We first do a survey to see what they can handle down there ... and we invite regional countries around there, an additional five to seven countries,” Casson said. Through various classes, airmen discuss what their partners need to improve on before they can advise and assist. Each class has roughly 15 students from African nations, and 15 from the U.S.

Tanzania and Uganda are also participating in the annual exercise between June 20 to 28.

“We don’t spend the entire time in the classroom. We expect a hands-on approach solving issues, and getting a little dirty,” Casson added. “They come up with the course work, and we help them come up with solutions.”

At the participating countries’ request, the USAFE-AFAFRICA members fly down there to teach a few hundred military members better ways to boost their regional security. Each country’s request can vary.

“It’s based on the host nation and what they would like us to discuss,” Casson said. “Anything the Air Force is capable of doing...we’re open to. It can be a medical piece, it can be airfield ops, it can be flight procedures, so we’re really not limited.”

We will bring this one home today. After all, there's some little presidential shindig happening later on this fall. One of the major nominating conventions is ready to happen in just four weeks, so one wonders what the candidate might be planning to talk about for the veteran's community?

In the face of another round of protests from veterans who oppose his presidential campaign, presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump is ramping up his focus on veterans issues and courting the community’s votes in November.

The controversial business mogul plans on making veterans hiring and integration a key talking point in coming weeks, according to individuals working with the campaign. That includes highlighting vets in the party’s platform process and providing them key roles at the July convention.

Themes will include not just strengthening national defense and improving the Department of Veterans Affairs but also “changing the whole narrative of the broken veteran,” according to Matt Miller, director of Veterans for Trump.

Supporters say the moves aren’t a shift but a re-emphasis of the campaign’s past statements in the area in the face of mounting protests from Democrats, who have hammered Trump on a series of missteps on defense and veterans issues in recent weeks.

On Monday, a small group of veterans identifying themselves as “Vets vs. Hate” staged a protest outside Trump’s headquarters in New York, demanding apologies for “the dangerous consequences of (his) campaign rhetoric.”

Organizers have called the event a grass-roots opposition effort, but outside news organizations and Trump supporters have linked the group to a series of liberal advocacy organizations and parts of the campaign of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

And Trump's supporters have said the veterans' protests do little more than confuse and distract the larger veterans community from more important issues.

“The Trump plan for VA has been established,” said David Bellavia, an Iraq War veteran and conservative activist. “It’s a matter of using the political capital to fix it. It’s going to take a commander in chief that has the intestinal fortitude to make it happen.”

“It’s about firing incompetent executives that have already failed us, the modernization of VA, allowing doctors outside the system to help guys get the best care. Mr. Trump is talking about eliminating red tape, talking about the veteran and the family.”

Instead, the campaign has spent most of its time recently responding to questions about Trump’s donations to veterans groups, a scandal Bellavia dismissed as overinflated.

Of course, our veterans are one thing - I won't link to any of this information, but I've heard anectdotally over this past week that the Pentagon is already working on a replacement for the F-22. The F-35 "Flying Turd" is still nowhere ready to be deployed, and the Marine Corps is looking at replacements for the AAV-7 landing craft despite having no real need for one. However many billions of dollars are going to be spent on these three RFPs alone just boggles the mind.

22 comments (Latest Comment: 06/22/2016 11:32:24 by Mondobubba)
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