NORTH KOREA : The Reclusive One

40° North – 127° East

Population: 25 M

GDP: 40 B

Per Capita $1, 800

The Peninsula

The Peninsula

 Built around a cult like admiration for their oligarchical (small powerful group) leader, North Korea is bloated with repression, propaganda and agreeably the most closed off nation on the planet. 

Geography 

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (N. Korea) shares its borders with its southern partner South Korea on the peninsula. This stretch of land is almost surrounded completely by water. Mainly,  three bodies of water encompass the land including, the Korean strait a narrow stretch of water to the sea of Japan which sprouts from the Pacific; its west coast and lastly the Korean Bay on its east coast, which is indented into the land from the sea. (Dictionary of Geography, Moore, W.G. 1949).

The big significance of this peninsula is great because four major superpowers have interests in the region. To include China whose continent size country is always looking to expand, Russia; who has purely commercial interests in oil around the maritime areas. The last two are Japan and U.S. who will come to the aid of the South Korean people should any real action take place. Thus the biggest economies have some sort of interest to deter Korea from being wiped off the maps.

Two countries on one large peninsula, increases the tension between these obviously different nations.  To the south, a vibrant, bustling modern economy with colorful ads and bright lights, and the North with its bleak, secretive dim-lit Stalinist approach to governing its people.

Political Control

The nation is described by political writer, Gene Sharp as an isolated dictatorship”. The official deemed name,  the Workers party; controls all aspects of life that monitor its borders, cyber media and punishes its objectors with extreme brutality, which is eerily reminiscent of Nazi Germany prison camps in the desolate and choked of mountains where no one can be heard. In response to the 2002 George W. Bush’  ‘Axis of Evil‘ proclamation, North Korea has become obsessively anxious. This is due to their isolationist stance, or a solo belief that Western forces will act in a preemptive way or initialize action first in a militant effort to prevent Korea from unleashing all out war with their hidden arsenal, which has been increasing its use since 2009(Congressional Research Service). They believe we will strike them the way we did to Iraq or  in Yemen with drone warfare against Islamic extremists.

Kim Dynasty

The nuclear family centered  and traditionalist Koreans of the North have succeeded in continuing their family sequence of leaders for three generations (1953). The military totalitarian rule has been in place since the establishment of the Communist regime by the Grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong Un ( Kang, Korean Studies Institute, University of Southern California, 2013).

The succession has been successful due to the hermit like preservation of the old life, not ‘selling out’ to become more westernized.  In this attempt to contain all that classical about the old ways comes political oppression, and detainment of political refugees that are not adhering to the central control of the party. Reports are that the most sever prison camps are in the north of the country, where individuals are forced make clothing.

In essence, the confrontation is two-sided, one  is a struggle to maintain a more traditional lifestyle for North Korea; to keep its strong sense of national identity and two to prove that it has the capability of projecting its own force in the peninsula.

The now twenty something commander, Kim Song Un sits on the throne of the newly given position only years after his father Kim Jong Il passed away from a heart attack when he was travelling on a train though the country side (2011). North Korea’s main objective is their ” supreme national goal” of reuniting the peninsula’s Korea’s, which has “technically been in war for 60 years” (Hodge, H Korean Strategy)

The brutality of the slave camps are some of the most evil works to date, where the works of wretched men inflict psycho torture on the weak. Included is starvation, that leads to some of the most horrifying acts survival to harsh to mention in this post.

 

My turn to play...

My turn to play…

 

Security/ Military Threat

Former ambassador Christopher Hill affirmed “missiles that Korea posses cannot reach the continental U.S. yet. ” (MSNBC) This being said, the motivated Koreans are continually testing, tweaking and improving their rockets and are attempting to develop a nuclear payload that could be placed on a rocket. The problem is not so much the conventional idea of all out launching of missiles from Seoul to L.A., but the real threat of Korea making transactions on the black market with other rogue organizations who have no problems of targeting western alliances.

North Korea is a far right, ultra conservative, ultra nationalist country with no motivation to become Westernized like its southern counterpart.  A racially biased cadre of leadership controls their people with ‘brainwashing.” The state has an extreme penal system and is clinging to its Hammer and Sickle ideology, evidence of this is “all TV and radio stations are pre-tuned to government channels.” (http://www.cia.gov)

This area of the world is under constant analysis and the threat of a regional conflict is always present.Evidence of this can be witnessed with the dividing line that is the 38th parallel, which slices the two countries in half and is monitored by both Republic Korean troops and American forces alike. Called the most militarized zone in the world, the tension is said to be palpable with both forces literally staring nose to nose in an area of the world which hasn’t changed since the Cold War.

So, we have stalemate in which if one side is backed into the corner, they may only have a few cards to play. Our options are limited to economic assistance and military deterrence. This will continue to be a major headline in the world of geopolitics until this an evolution of some sort will come.  Three priorities will be the focus 1. The military threat, 2. the social arena and bringing Korea into the global picture with business and finally 3. human rights, if we can maneuver their people to see the light, perhaps other threats will stop.  This needs to happen for all parties to maintain peace.

Situation Report: Jordan

JORDAN: Intelligence Report

 Greenwich Mean Time +2 Hours

31 degrees North 36 Degrees East

Capital: Amman

Major Cities: Irbid, Aqaba, Petra

 

 

Intelligence defined; the product resulting from the collection, evaluation, analysis, integration, and interpretation of all collected information (United States Marine Corps). This is an open source report or 0SINT (open source intelligence), a quick resource for your travels abroad. I have used CIA fact books, geographical books, intelligence publications, radio broadcasts, internet videos, state releases and my personal collection of books to produce the information provided. As with all intelligence, time is always a factor for a ‘renewing’ cycle.  Stay informed, stay vigilant and stay safe.

Jordan also known as The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan sits with a population around 6.5 million (2008, CIA). It is filled with a landscape that has succumbed to its shift in tectonic plates that dissects the region. This Middle Eastern plot is home to a moderate throne, a more westernized way of living, and national security military industrial and naval port (Aqaba) keeps the country safe and running. Although many countries boast about blending traditional roles with the new modernization, Jordan truly has both worlds to offer. With its young educated demographic returning from Western education, bringing the best of art, culture and food back to the hills of Amman.  An epicenter of culture of the new Middle East.

The center of the royalty ruled being Amman, with its rolling twenty one hills and ancient ruins. Jordan is renowned for its geographic landscape that can vary from the Dead Sea elevation to 1,000 meter mountainous formations. The three top physical areas that are of most importance are the West Bank, where the rift valley is, the south eastern barren lands of the Syrian Desert that stretches; “Great boxes of sand take over as the water is scarce in these parts of the world.” (Library of Congress) and The

 

Historic Brief

According to the profile report from the 2006 Library of Congress, “Islam spread through ought the Arabian Peninsula since the seventh century, and with it came the empires of the Arabs, into the deserts swept in the Monotheistic faith.” The Hashemite descendants claim to their lineage all the way to the Islamic Prophet Mohamed. Through a series of family clans, tribes and geographic zones the country is dissected, although most Jordanians are of the left inclined Sunni sect. Bedouin who are composed of a huge majority of Arabs are the main composition of the people, along with one percent of Armenians (Congressional Research Department)

  

Commercial brief

The Congressional Research Service states, “the economy has few natural resources and a small industrial base, which is why the country is heavily dependent on external aid from abroad, tourism, expatriates and service sectors to produce.”

The cultivation of the Kingdom- cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus fruits and fish from the sea port which weigh over one ton annually. (Library of Congress)

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) sits around $5,300 per capita (2010 est.) in a land where state privatization of goods such as phosphate and agriculture fields has been strongly protested. (CIA World Fact Book)

Unrest in Kings Tribal base- “Since 2010 economic frustration has led to public criticisms of the King and Queen Rania, due to high unemployment of youths, regional rampant corruption and limited economic mobility.” (Congress Research Division, Jordan: Background Relations Foreign Policy.com)

A livelihood that does seem to flourish, is that of the military industrial complex/ security establishment.  Is heavily involved in training of the worlds and regions best Special Forces, such as Qataris, Chinese and American elite commando units participate in an event coordinated by the Kings Special Operations Command. The special mock complex boasts a plane, rappel tower and runway. All this is available due to what I call the special protectionism for Jordan.

Protectionism

Jordan being an official ally of the United States is much safer in general than the other Middle East medley, simply because all of the military aid packages it receives from Big Brother (U.S.), it is an incentive for Jordan, which is a key partner in the fight against international terrorism, to act cognizant of their foreign relations, always siding with the West.  Being a pivotal role into maintaining a security presence that is pro-western amongst a nation where the borders with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria and the Holy Lands of Israel and Palestine territories makes Jordan the most crucial in terms of raw security ties and capabilities in the whole Middle Eastern cradle.

Military budgets, a big cooperation with the Pentagon, reported by the State Department. Jordan receives Military aid in form of training and technologies. King Abdullah has a lot to lose, terms like border integrity and capacity building are correlated with national security and outside investments.

 

Topographical Layout

The terrain is dominated by landscape that is world renown, including the ancient labyrinth city of Petra, The Dead Sea (lowest elevation), and the Great Rift Valley, which joins the country with the Gaza’s West Bank.  Mountainous Plateaus and barren sediment rock formations dominate the landscape, from the west portion of the country eventually giving way to the east, with high steppes, and rivers. Its overall system is labeled by the Library of Congress as, “maritime weather category with gorges and valleys.” Its primary water route is accessed through the southern port, the Gulf of Aqaba harbor, and 35 kilometers of shared coastal with Israel in the very southwest of the country. This is a key area in the south of Amman and even further past the ancient Petra, the city carved in a canyon of winding entry ways. An astonishing work of colossal proportions with engraved monuments. Mountains along the western side of the country give way to desert plateaus and a dry and arid desert to the south and east.

 

Governmental Control

The political order in this of the Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, with ultimate power resting in the King, a traditional family ruler who descends from a direct lineage from his father. In classic monarchy form, the Prince is designated from an early age to rule the country. King Abdullah II, the King has been on the throne since 1999, after his father King Hussein sat on the monarchy since the 50’s. Switching from a conservative role, it is Abdullah who is seen as a progressive in Middle Eastern standards is concerned.

Infrastructure

The City of Amman, which is home to 60% of the population is, “a series of overpasses, underpasses, and the taxi drivers are quite honest.” (www.jordanjubilee.com) Be advised, whenever stepping into a cab, that you have someone with you, know exactly where you are going and always carry a map, most likely found in a four or five star hotel.  Are you traveling south, north? How long does it take to get to airport or main souk?

The dominate Trans-Jordanian highway, once made it possible for Saddam Hussein to transport his lucrative oil to Jordan back before the first Bush saw fit to reduce the Baath Party tyranny, later he was disposed of, leaving Jordan dry in the wells.

Intelligence Brief

G2/S2: in military jargon is the tactical intelligence section of a unit which provides reports, advisements, warnings and notifications. In this section I will discuss recent happenings in country.

In 2009, a suicide bomber attacked military outpost Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, killing members of a CIA intelligence team and two security contractors, the attack was reenacted in the 2013 film, Zero Dark Thirty. The attacker was 32-year-old Jordanian doctor named Humam Khalil Muhammad Abu Mulal al-Balawi.

It is extremely important to be aware of your environments. The main streets, the markets, the souks, the main shopping plazas, not everything is what it seems on the surface, so stay vigilant and informed every day; before you travel anywhere, know your destination, province and location relative to Amman, as the capital will be your base if you will.

Security issues always plague the country, not in the true sense, but always in a theoretical sense of what ifs.

  • What if Wahhabism      from the south eastern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spreads its extreme      ideologies to Jordan?
  • Wahhabis      belief preaches the extreme Jihad, which is power by death and blood, the      Jihad, to extinguish all lesser behaved Muslims and even more extreme      non-Muslims. Through the strict rules of abiding by the Mullahs, including      Sharia Law and the maltreatment of women.

Jordan has always been a loner in its region since 1991 when it sided with the Western unilateral force to remove Iraqi’s Baath command. (Global Disorder, Harvey, R.) Its neighbors haven’t enjoyed the same handsome military aid package, which is evident by the Kings Special Operation Command Training Center north of Amman. The Special Operation Command (S.O.C.) hosts several elite military teams for training and competition in honor of King Abdullah and boasts a top level training complex complete with a mock training town and airstrip facility.

The adjacent proxy conflict with Syrian sectarian violence is both an internal and external forces has created thousands of refugees to Jordan’s borders. These people are mostly Palestinian descent and the influx has created tension with official border crossing points. (Human Rights Watch, HRW.ORG) It is now a growing concern that,

“Zones of chaos are increasingly becoming a problem for Israelis and Jordanians.” (Brookings Institute Counterterrorism Report, Bynum)  In a 2008 Council on Foreign Relations press release, it was evident that there is shift from Iraq conflict to the Syrian/Jordanian border, this is what the council might have been advised on.

Hezbollah – party of God” – in Jordan, a number of people reported that some Jordanians linked to the Muslim Brotherhood are receiving training in Hezbollah camps. Though the extent of this seems limited, it speaks to an overall concern in Jordan about increasing Iranian influence.”

 

External Influences

The following excerpt is from the National Public Radio’s Debra Amos on the refugees in Jordan-

“Jordanians told me that they might use financial penalties to encourage the Iraqis who overstayed their welcome to leave, but then undercut this by saying Jordan could not abandon them. This led to a pitch (one I endorse) for the United States to take more refugees and for the international community to give more aid to Jordan to take care of the refugees.”

Through this idea of protectionism, is one of many policies which keep the U.S. in the target of right wing extremist groups like Al-Qaeda.

“Although Jordan itself does not seem prone to radicalization, daily violence and unrest are now common not only in Iraq but also in Gaza and Lebanon. This could easily spread to Syria and the West Bank. This is not a terrorism problem per se (though terrorism, of course, would be part of the challenge), but it reflects broader governance issues that are a problem for much of the Arab world”

 

  • The      Syrian Civil Conflict has created an influx of people, fleeing the war      torn areas, “
  • A half      million in Jordan, cramped in camps, chaos between the state police trying      to manage buses with heaving crowds. Jordanian riot police, families separated,      fleeing camps grim life, Not enough room for everyone is standing
  • “Life      is bad at Zatri , 25,000 in trailers.” zatri is hell, a reverse      exodus,”
  • UN-      10,000 return to Syria each month.
  • People      are anxious to enjoy the struggle, and return to properties.
  • Constant      shelling in Syria.
  • Quotas      for border police, overwhelmed by strain
  • In a      country where resources are already scarce, “sympathy for Syrians is      running out and are now being treated less than second tier citizens.”

Defense Report; Drones, The Pacific and JSOC.

predator_dronecropped-globe3t2.jpg

There is a shift in defense policy as the once bulky armed forces of Iraq now switches and leaves conventional and turns to an evident increase of special force strike teams, task force missions, and a innovative way of unconventional warfare. Through this organization and covert style, several proxy wars have come about in the last few years, conflicts though which two parties engage each other through actors, such as Syria and Mali.

The major Pacific policy, area of operations (AO) is now Asia South Pacific, Seth Jones from the Rand Corp, a thin-tank stated, “Back to the Marines original modus operandi as an amphibious strike force, with our major ally Australia basing 2,500 Marines.” This strategic placing of Marines is more of a deterrent to the rising power China. It ensures that the Pacific will be covered tactically from Japan and Australia and the NAVY’s vast range of its fleet.

 

 

Budget sequestration is a real impact and how the Pentagon, had to make cuts in every department. It will now manipulate or use their manpower and technologies to be heavily relied upon through international cooperation, dominance over water ways and fighting over air space. Lastly, the preemptive domestic factors and battling new threats which are growing. Three major factors have made President Obamas new defense policy a force to be reckoned with, special forces teams via the Joint Special Operations command, a one stop gathering of all elite units and the command that facilitates hand in hand work with CIA. (Defensestudies.org)The Osama Bin Laden targeting was done by members of the Special Air Unit (SOAR) and S.E.A.L.S., the top tiered counter terrorist strike unit with global capability. Made up of 12 man teams who are experts at strike package force, precision target killings and deep reconnaissance, the SEALS teams are masters of chaos.

Two, the seamless and globalized communication infrastructure that allow digital intelligence and up to minute messages with the constellation of space and ground stations operated by the United States and her allies. Organizations can share info, stream live video feed across the world, and give an order with the stoke of a keypad.  The wired world is now converging with battle space, and the Generals are aware of this and take every advantage to win a battle.

Third is the high tech melding of the Central Intelligence Agency with the Defense Department, this tandem for whatever reason has stuck together and has dated way back, “1990’s- the intelligence community failed to warn US command of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.” (Defensestudies.org)

President Obama prefers to run covert operations and high risk than conventional troops, his early decision in July 2010, the President agreed to sign and send 30,000 additional troops as part of a surge to Afghanistan, a war which is now the longest in US history. Mr. Obama in his second term is, “toggling with the covert campaign that can be rife with diplomatic and sovereign legal risks. “ (Defensestudies.org)

Drones; auto-mode and mobile. The ‘predator’ is fit with smart bombs, and has played a significant role in taking out members of the ever present Al-Qaeda, in more than two countries. The Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are contracted to US BOEING aeronautics, Raytheon and General Dynamics Corps. Their sleek outfit with grey armament, missiles, infrared surveillance and real-time analysis is exported to NATO countries to capture or kill foreign fighters. A tactical strike in Yemen is no longer uncommon, targeting extremists within any theatre of operations such as Yemen (Central Command), after surveillance, a pre-emptive strikes follows via drones and clandestine forces. Yemen is home to the fleeing Jihadists returning to the battlefield amongst other North African nations. Yemen is latest covert operation in USCENTCOM- United States Central Command.

These robots are pilotless, with a state of the art designed aerodynamics control with a fire and forget system. Specially trained personnel from the US Air force can directly navigate drones to and from their respective control hubs, while being firmly planted somewhere in the Southwest United States.

Precision guided munitions and rockets can be attached to the underneath hub of a drone, can be programmed and have devastating aftermath when the target is hit and missed. Human rights watch group organization Amnesty International, “denounced the US raid on UBL (Bin Laden) and its drones.”

There is a current , “Rebalancing” of  resources, places like Nigeria, Somalia, North Africa,  and  Australia will be key to maintaining superior set in intelligence and sources. Water, natural gas, and petroleum will be a scarcity like never before.

Sources

http://www.defensestudies.org

http://www.bbc.com

CQ Researcher Online

CHARLIE
1000 MDT

Moroccan Nights & Sahara Days

I arrived in New Orleans from Denver. The moment I stepped into the airport I felt the mugginess hit me in the face. I don’t know how anyone can live in that sticky heat trap. The humidity was inescapable. I gathered my luggage and proceeded to find another group of Jarheads, clearly identified by their digital designed packs and high and tight hair cuts. I was waiting for a charter bus to pick us up to head to the Navy Station. We were shuttled in yellow taxis. Being the only marine from Colorado, I knew I had to make friends on what would be an interesting trip.
I introduced myself to a group of leathernecks, a reserve group from the West Coast who trained together often on active missions. We sluggishly made our way through Nola’ passing over a few bridges that spanned the Mississippi river and its wide banks. I looked to the left at one point and seen the Superdome, I couldn’t help but remember the hurricane Katrina victims sprawled out, waiting for FEMA relief. The dome was being painted all black. Most homes looked, as they were sunken in, with neighborhoods with patches of grass everywhere.
The Naval Activities Station was small and compact with one exchange, few base homes, one gym and a civilian ran hotel. On a foggy afternoon we dropped our organized luggage into two columns and waited for further word from the Gunnery Sergeant who was our point of contact for our flight tickets. During that time I met a Hispanic marine from Southside Chicago, Joe Pizo. Joe was easy to talk to. In his first post he was stationed in Hawaii and deployed to Iraq, we had similar experience in the Corps. Joe made his way up to Corporal as a motor transport mechanic by trade. He had wide brown eyes, a fresh high cut, arm tattoos and a contagious smile with an easygoing attitude.
“What did you pack? He curiously asked.
“I have civilian attire, uniforms, a sleeping bag, a camera, a knife and a camel back. The Major said we would be issued gear.” I told him.
“I didn’t know what to pack, so I brought everything.” He replied.
We unpacked our bags and were given a room for the night. Shortly after our meeting and assignment of rooms, we were issued a Kevlar helmet, a flak jacket and a tent.
The next day we boarded a 747 to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, close by we would sleep for the night in a suburb hotel. The next day, finally aboard, peering out the window seat I noticed a few black suburban SUV speed across the flight line. Secret Service was busy securing the airspace for President Obama who would arrive via helicopter. This was the first delay. After the Presidential aura left, we ran into another bump. The flight assigned to fly to Africa had cabin pressure issues.
The climate inside the compartment was intense. In the seats, were a myriad of specialties from 0311 Infantrymen to senior Navy medical personnel and administrative people. Some troops thought the flight was doomed. After more than ten hours on the TARMAC, we lifted off to cross the big drink. I prayed, ‘please God just me get there…’

After more than twelve hours, I opened my window blind to see the jagged cliffs, desert and roads carved into the mountains of Africa. The flight path into Morocco was lined with agricultural roots, with hundreds of farming lines. The architecture was squared and aligned with plots of land. Agadir airport gave me relief, as the arrival was smooth, exchanging modes from air to ground with two commercial buses.
From the airport, we drove into Agadir.
Upon arriving at the Jacaranda (Chauga- rand-dah) hotel, we were ordered to gather out back, in an outdoor columned amphitheatre that was adjacent to a swimming pool. Here we were assigned open bay hotel rooms with a bed, a dresser and a community bathrooms and showers. The yellow pasty bungalow is where we slept while not in the field. The complex during the winter, served as hotel vacationing spot for the Moroccan forces top officer corps. It had an open bay cafeteria, plush gardens, a headquarters building, and a carved wooden awning.
Shortly there after, we reported as a unit to the stadium chaired amphitheater. An officer with the State Department was the first of a set to give us a security brief about the area.
“Morroco, is the hashish capital of the world marines, be advised if you use drugs while here on duty you will be disciplined.”
I pondered, “Who would be dumb enough to smoke pot while on a mission?”
The clean-shaven man with, sunglasses and a cargo pants continued on the security in the monarchy.
“You might not see security, but have no doubt it is here. There are three circles of security here in Agadir. The main circle being the traffic cops, they’ll report any suspicious activity. If you’re not where you’re supposed to be, civilian attire marines will find and return you back here. The King of Morocco is nice enough to let us train here, respect the country. Don’t stray off the beaten path.”
At this point all the troops were now engaged in the brief. I looked around to see how many sergeants there were, not many. I was one among a handful. Concluding the report, the State officer told us to be safe.
I was eager to see the nightlife. After securing our personnel items and gear, Joe and I checked out in the logbook, we penned our rank, destination, and time. We were to return at 2200. The Major who recruited the team had strolled past out at the same instant. He and a slim Master Sergeant were heading to a seafood joint, one of the best in the city. Joe and I managed to catch a free ride. The Major, an intelligence officer was happy to finally meet and talked about the two-phase operation. We received some tips about the main strip; with it’s packed shops and restaurants.
“Shukran!” The Major said loudly, as he paid the fare.
We arrived on the south side of the main port of the busy coastal stop. The two senior men went their way in fedora hats and slacks. Joe and I, wearing jeans and cargo shirts kept heading south, to the bar and club area.
Walking past a women and her infant baby laying on the ground, I angrily asked myself, “ Why is no one helping this women?”
We searched the entire strip for an ATM so I could access funds. I had a twenty-dollar bill in my wallet and a VISA debit card. I wanted a few scarves and perhaps a rug.
Crossing the streets your head had to be on a panning swivel, as the traffic did not obey any laws or lights. Or it seemed that way.
Taxis would usher you from the hotels to the strip with NASCAR speed, diving in and out of lanes, nearly swiping motorcycles, usually carrying two men. The public city buses were jam-packed, like sardines with people pressed against the double doors. I joked at my liberty buddy that it would suck to be on the buses with all that body odor.
We arrived at the main beach strip lined with casinos, bars, drugs, and exotic women. After walking for at least an hour, we rested on a corner by the beach to gather our bearings. While looking through a newspaper stand, an elder man approached me. In a heavy accent, he asked,
“My frriend, are you looking for thee stuff?”
I couldn’t believe it, I politely told him no.
We proceeded to look at some canvas art. The club we planned to attend was known throughout the town as the best one by Western standards. We waited to pay the fair to enter with Russians, Italians and French speakers. At this time I was relaxed. This was a two level club lined with ceiling to floor mirrors. A pale light-skinned Moroccan girl brought us a grape hookah as I sipped on a chilled orange juice. A group of young Egyptians in the corner were laughing and partying.
Indeed, it was a state of art club, the sound system blasted French dance music with the heavy mix of electronic pop hits. Girls with tiny waists danced in skin-tight dresses, as the elite of the club watched from plush chairs and couches. Bobbing my head to the music, I turned to the bar on a stoop and noticed a Captain from the unit. He was a small man of height, with old style rimmed glasses and ensured you Penn State was his alma mater.

The next day we decided to make our way through the off-white colored apartments that lined the beach. A few feet from the beach, a middle-aged man selling fresh strawberries slowed us down. Joe brought a plastic carrier from him and tipped him extra. The berries were refreshingly sweet and juicy. The temperature dropped when we hit the beach as a cool breeze from the Atlantic swept in. I was interested to see how the girls were dressed in Western bikini tops and bottoms. I thought, ‘Pretty modern for a monarchy.’ The sun covered my skin with a warm glow as Joe and I sat near the break line to enjoy the sights. Young kids kicked a soccer ball around. We blended in until the sunset.
Our quick trip included one to the casino. It had tiered levels of gaming pits, including backgammon and poker. A group of six of us walked in, gazing at all the elegant decor. I immediately felt everyone looking at us.
Being bored with the main strips of chai teashops and billboards, Joe and I decided to veer off the avenue. The first thing I noticed in the slums was the scarcity of water. There was no running plumbing in most of the buildings. Human waste ran along the streets. The back roads of the city were full of non-stop rush of people, chicken and goats about and horns blaring. I found their version of a Goodwill thrift shop, I was so excited to discover the shop, I yelled at Joe ahead, already looking for something else interesting.
This back neighborhood slum village was layered, one of the buildings had a basement where the local bread maker was hard at labor, shoving and pulling out fresh loaf bread. I quickly glanced down into the fire pit where the oven was and flames shot out, nearly burning the man, but he was skilled turning his head slightly to avoid the burst. The people were just as diverse as their languages with Arabic, French, and Spanish being spoken. The dialect of Arabic differed from the Iraqi Gulf type, so I made sure to use only the words I knew.
Our mission was to provide security for a Navy Chaplain from Kentucky. Tagging along, we left Agadir southbound along the coast.
My heart skipped as we passed over scantily made bridges. We gained hundreds of feet ascending switch back roads higher into the southern tip of the Atlas mountain range. Tiznit, a smaller village, with yellow and pastel painted homes displayed a true sense of the country with tiny markets with fruits and one gas station. Arched lights over the roads and tall exotic trees followed the roads. Mid-trip while maintaining a perimeter, we filled our Mitsubishi mini-van up with fuel, and grabbed some glass sodas.
One highway dominated the terrain, north and south bound with a couple main avenues that branched off into living areas. Traffic circles where people just blow by, motorcyclist dodge taxis like a video game.
We arrived in Tan-Tan.
The southern zone of Tan-Tan is wide barren area, where the new African Command (AFRICOM) is capacity building. A defense term that means they are expanding operations in the area with training, logistics and sources. Roughly a mile from our position, the vast, wavy sand dunes eventually gave way to Atlantic Ocean, carving jagged cliffs into the coast.
All the outer security was provided. The Moroccan forces posted sentries in the middle of nowhere. They were usually smoking and carrying the ubiquitous AK- 47 assault rifle, a Russian rudimentary weapon that is the most popular in the world.
In our arsenal we had plenty of weapons. Atop a troop carrier I observed a sniper team send rounds down range. A Staff Sergeant waved me over to explain their newest gadget a range finder. The site in which I looked into was crisp, with a numerical value in the lower corner of the vision. This tool helped the team call in extraordinary accurate fire. The Staff non-commissioned officer was assigned to the West coast ANGLICO (Air Naval Gun Liaison Company). These teams are specially designed for calling in direct fire support from all avenues and capabilities for the USMC.
We camped for a week in the Sahara a hot and dusty desert with unforgiving wind. We set up our hooch at the far side of the platoon of infantrymen, a group of wild, weapon slingers from Illinois. In their tested ranks snipers, mortar men and small tanks. This contingent was the main force training and operated all live fire ranges. A lot of training was thrown together. I stepped out from my issued two-man tent to attend an impromptu trauma lesson.
After the brief, we ate chow in a portable tent. I passed time in the HQ tent while covering radio transmissions, I heard the Navy Doc’ warn us of scorpions in the desert and advised us to take fluorescent lights to check for them, as scorpions have a toxin in them that is visible through this light. As suspected a few were found jammed underneath tents and radio boxes. Great…here come the Sahara days.

An interview with Marine Captain Kates

Tradition in the 21st century, with Captain Scott A. Kates

By Chris B. Sena

I met the tall Captain Scott Yates in his personal office, on the first floor in the Tivoli center on the Auraria Campus. The recruiting room buzzed as a civilian secretary helped me, two candidates with cropped cuts and boyish looks sat on a couch signing forms. Meeting him, I glanced at a post near the entrance. On top of the stand sit three parallel rows of emblem coins, each unique. Coins not only note service but also camaraderie.

The captain hails from the picturesque suburb of Crofton, Maryland. He is a graduate in Latin from the University of Missouri, a married man of four and half years and a proud father to a two-year-old son. He spent 12 years in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) enlisted ranks and the last four as a Marine officer. As an amphibious troop he deployed three times around the globe, literally. Now a leading commanding officer in Denver, he selects and prepares the men who are to follow his lead. The candidates he filters through will join the ranks as Marine officers and lead the next generation of warriors. 

I searched for a person of tested character and morals. So, pay attention as the Captain speaks on leadership, priorities, and service to country.

Q. How do you improve recruiting?

A. Stay happy and always look for something that we (recruiters) can do better or improve upon. My current job is commander for the officer programs. I let people know what we have to offer them. I find candidates who want to serve and make sure their respective paper work is completed. Day to day paper work needs to be completely done.  I do the best I can and make sure people are taken care of.

Q. Has recruiting fluctuated over the generations with world politics?

A. I joined in 1997.  After 9/11 it was common knowledge that there was an influx in recruiting numbers, it was a catalyst for some people. It goes in cycles; certain actions through out the world have an impact. However, you’re always going to have people who feel the sense of duty or call to serve in the military.

Q. What was worst job held before the Corps?

 A. I started my own lawn business at age 13, that didn’t go so well. I was kind of limited to my block, pushing the lawn mower to people’s houses. I also worked at Wendy’s, Burger King and a moving company in the warehouse. I learned from all my jobs, the moving job was more enjoyable. I love the physical aspect of work.

 Q. Where in the globe has the Marine Corps taken you?

A. The Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU- a roaming naval/marine contingent) took us to the Black Sea. We traveled down the eastern coast of Africa, the Middle East and all through the Mediterranean Sea. I specialized in training foreign militaries. I learned from all the cultures and locations. As a Sergeant, I experienced some good bi-lateral training with the Kenyan army. So after my time in the MEU’s, the Marines sent me to a mountain warfare school. Then I went to college.

Q. While deployed on ship, what item did you always pack in your sea bag?

A. Pictures in some form, whether it’s a hard copy photo or a digital format. Because, you never know what your computer access is going to be like. I usually carry a couple photos.

Q. How did you handle pressure in combat?

A. Be calm and collected. I have been in a lot of intense situations and you’ve gotta’ be able think rationally and really use your judgment.

Q. How does a leader portray good communication?

A. Posses the ability to write and speak, so that others can understand what your trying to say.  Not being long winded, be clear and concise. There are other factors too, like your body language. I think those are important as well. People can pick up vibes.

Q. How does a hardcore Marine graduate in Latin?

A. I wanted to teach when I retired from the Marines. Initially I chose history then I realized it wasn’t for me. Romance languages didn’t interest me.  So I chose Latin, as I got into it I loved it, absolutely loved it. The Marine Corps didn’t care what I got my degree in.

Q. While in college, how did you deal with stress?

A. Being able to prioritize goes along way to not having stress. College is a piece of cake compared to my previous experiences. It’s not hard to go to class and study, prioritize what’s important in your life. Balance your education and family. When its time to work, you got to focus.

 

 

 

Final review- Jeff Becker Journalism 241

i. Never was I late to class, although I missed a few due to sickness.

ii.  I took my in never missing a time line. This was a great course for setting your own tempo.

iii. As said before, I did miss however, I made all the work count.

iv. I loved meeting and working with the students in this class, so it wasnt hard for me to be sociable. As writers we love to mingle!

v. Extra work was hard to complete, for a full load, but I tried to incoporate all the nuts and blots to every artticle. Plus one interview.

vi. From the beginning of the class, I tried to display an open attitude. Keeping my mouth shut and ears open.

 

 

Part two- Alot of these jobs involve some form of new media, ie. social networking and soft skills. Having the right tools would be helpful in landing these jobs. More camera work, internet site hosting too.

An NBC freelance segmant writer. I would need more creative writing help, along with a very nice writing style.

 

A photo researcher with MTV- I could use a crash course on art media or photography. Basics of fact checking.

Source Report: Memoirs from the front…

2,006 words

The past Iraq war and current Afghanistan campaign produced some of the highest casualties percentages known to man. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 60% of all troops in the countries reported being attacked or ambushed.  This author once the target of a rocket-propelled grenade also known as an RPG and an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

Also a towering 86% of troops received incoming fire from mortars and other explosive missiles.  The hip shoot style of the enemy mortars relied on lucky shots. A mortar is launched from a cylinder tube with trajectory angles. Simple grid coordinates would suffice for the urban warfare operator. This is presenting two accounts from the real battlefield; actual missions show the resilience of the men who overcame these odds in the latest combat theatres.

            In 2007 amid the northeastern Diyala province of Iraq, Army Sergeant Roger Chang’s active status landed here with the famed 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Lewis Washington. Army scout troops designated mechanized are cavalry, meaning they battle an environment with their vehicles (workhorses). They integrate with tactic maneuvering, such as right flanking or assembling into an arrow formation. In laymen terms, they gather in gun trucks to step to the fight. Both army and marines train their own contingencies of land and water operators.

             “2ND to none!” the men shouted the combat brigades motto. Chang’s team operation and tasks ran successful.  During the “pump” or tour, the 24 man squad assisted in capturing one of the largest weapon cache’ or collections. Most noteworthy of their massive 700 lbs of unexploded ordnance the scouts secured. Daily mission routes in and around their area of operations (AO) remained random. Radical Islamite Mullah al Sadr issued an order for Muslims to fight the “crusaders”. A result, local religious violence broke the streets as both sections, Shia and Sunni Muslims, erupted towards the occupying force. One of the men was killed in action (KIA) from a sniper. Roger recalls, “The sniper that shot him, Syrian national. The border was right there.”

            During a dry summer day they traveled northeast. The mission; the reconnaissance troops assigned to link up and escort a military police team. Along the desert vegetation with a couple of wadis (water streams) they began their journey, The current platoon procedure required three vehicles to be moved in a convoy, single staggered style, three armored STRYKERS –a troop carrier equipped with mini cannons and heavy machine guns atop of the vehicle. 

             The Denver native, muscle bulked Roger had been assigned dismounted leader as these body-armored troops trudging amidst their nine-month long tour. This role placed all power in Roger when boots hit the ground. Quick in leading his men in close quarter combat (CQB). His knowledge and down to earth demeanor made him a platoon standout.

Second to none, 16,000 strong.

Suddenly chaos broke free with an explosion from underneath as ground burst open, impacting the elevated wheelbase.  Meanwhile in the interior, all eight men slammed against the walls of the crammed mini tank. When the detonation occurred, Roger sat bashed inside with no room. The optic sighted Colt m4 carbine held by his black assault gloves felt the enormous blast. Each soldier tumbled around with 80+ pounds of bulletproof plates and Kevlar helmets capable of stopping an AK rifle bullet.  A flash came in a gunner sight “hell hole”; the smash broke his right arm, damaged the left leg and disoriented immediate surroundings.

             The medical evacuation air asset soon would be called after the attack, with pivotal radio frequency communications; they sent a “nine line” request for an emergency evacuation. Nine lines’ include amongst other key information, rank, injury, nationality and blood type. The evacuation of a fallen soldier also requires a secure location for a helicopter to land,

A workhorse in the air.

“WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP”, the distinct rotors of the Chinook few hundred yards away. Roger remembers,

 “Next to the IED blast, that was the most deafening sound I ever heard.”

An inbound Boeing helicopter arrives with deafening turbines blowing the sand and loose rocks around.  The elongated black “bird” propped its hydraulic tail down to receive soldiers were then flown to the nearest Joint Command Operating Base- JCOB, a center of commands to execute missions. Here, medical field surgeons have the capability of saving lives. Long-range radios alongside battle tested doctors help someone survive a potentially mortal wound.

            Although U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces have the best weapons and protection, the “dirty” tactic of groups such as Al – Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have made a major impact. A Special Forces veteran named Kodiak (interviewed on the bus) called the building materials “low grade.”  Kodiak then compared the modern guerilla tools to that of Laos and Cambodia jungle -“pressure plates”. The enemy uses this as monetarily cheap tool.  David v. Goliath maneuvers, allowing damage to coalition forces with planning and surprise attack. Planting old artillery shells from the previous conflicts in the region, and packed them with any explosive.

            Go ahead, and ask a veteran about one- they’ll tell you their legitimate threat. Rather than bulk offense or traditional forces like large groups of infantry troops, guerilla tactics use cell phone signals, pressure plates and old fashion wirework to inflict massive damages.

            In the May 2001 edition of the Journal of rehab and research, Dr. Robert Glasser stated, “This is the first war in which troops are very unlikely to die if they’re alive when a medic arrives.” The advance of medicine technology combined with an air contingent has allowed a larger amount to remain alive, albeit with life changing results.  So this produces a better survival rate yes, but what future do those persons have? Exposure rose with severe loss of limbs to many combat arms troops on the front lines with multiple explosions.  Overexposure can add more stress to an already complicated injury. Roger admitted, “I have dizzy spells, I’ll be walking down the stairs and the room will start to spin one me. It sucks!”

Previously, in year three of the war, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) security team named Praetorian One rolled around AO “Denver”.   The central base, Camp Blue Diamond sat in the populous western city of Ramadi, the tri ethnic provincial capital.  Young to the area, the marines received mixed daily briefs of intelligence. A recurrent report at the time- mortar fire, improvised explosive device (IED) along with snipers inflicted a majority of the deaths/injuries. Networks of terror produced their own individual whose “unique skill” is valuable on an open battlefield with foreign fighters. Improvisation has caused extraordinary damage to troops physically and mentally.

Looking down road, the drivers and vehicle commanders gripped their gear in an intense scenario, turning on to Route Michigan. A gauntlet choked road that led to the cities mayoral/government office. A scarred piece of asphalt sat lined with bullet-ridden homes, barbed wire and few chi’ teashops.  A quarter-mile through guided barricade drivers and gunners were the eyes and protection for a tactical movement convoy. Along the streets, Police checkpoints and marine strongholds’ sat ready.

 One afternoon we zoomed into the compound, now timing our trips, after the last vehicle (ViC) made a right, a whizzing RPG blasted past the secure point- hitting a small building. This sent the ground team flying out, helping the security with the compound. Later a two-man team, spotted an IED further down the market lined strip. The team used an M-19 (automatic grenade launcher). The leathernecks slowly landed the booming shrapnel closer to the target- a wired IED. After a couple more fired thumps, a louder crash boomed. On the front lines you gained an extra knowledge, a different scenario accompanying every blazing day.

The narrow streets increased the tension.

I grabbed a Vietnam born M79 grenade launcher (Thumper) from the right side of my turret compartment. Standing up, loaded single barrel white flare, aimed slightly up at the upcoming intersection of traffic, and squeezed the trigger. To my surprise, landing dead center, immediately, the cars approaching-stopped. No shots fired and all Vic’s accounted for.

            First-hand account of this new war came in 2005. The day after Christmas troop morale improved from all the care packages and mail received.  Adrenaline pumped as the Second Division marines left the barbed wired compound doors. Day after day, trips with Major General James Williams, a beast of a man at 6’6’’- a reconnaissance marine from Pennsylvanian. A Georgetown Hoya, earning a master’s degree in security policy. Ar Ramadi once coined “most dangerous place on Earth” with combat outposts overlooking huge potholes, trash debris combined with finite dirt and dust. Traveling parallel against the city market, the diesel engine roared. I glanced at hundreds of people in the jagged food gallery. The trained drivers whipped the high utility motor vehicle (HMVE) at top speed of a measly 60 MPH. The personal security mission: escort the Assistant division commander to the provincial government center. The final intelligence analysis suggested the “new guys” in town and the General was enemy number one.

 Before turning left into the perimeter, a flash bang! My then 18-year-old life came and went before my eyes.  BOOOM! Jumping, I swerved 180 degrees, quickly turning the turret crank to see if the blast hit any one. Amazingly all men came shooting through the enormous cloud. Inside our chaotic ride, lance corporal David Cho, a west coast radio guru, immediately reported our status to the master sergeant commander, “Praetorian One – Up-Over!”

 

 

 

The gauntlet road- Route Michigan.

 

            Who helps these men you say? I’ll tell you. The Veterans Affairs (VA) is a department under the executive branch, which handles all medical interests of today’s and histories warriors. It is an altogether, utility service to those who have served, and is responsible for many revolving issues to take care of the men and women. 

            The main sectors that are involved in service educational, financial and health issues. For instance in GI bill benefits those who have given a certain amount of time to the government, in exchange for a tuition paid in forms of direct terms. The Community College of Denver (a two-year college) as of 2012, two hundred veterans recorded their benefits to acquire college curriculum. Veterans can also use the Post 9-11 GI Bill for trade schools such as flight training and technical underwater welding.

The dental office is available; x-rays, cleaning and maintenance help a myriad of tales from the local branch. Located in Denver cherry creek on East 8th avenue, it is a dated facility that is to be replaced by the latest high-tech location in further east Aurora. A handful of these people are former Vietnam veterans who have seen the worst that war has to offer.  Brutal head injuries, traumatic experience, all of these dramatic occurrences produce some of the most life altering disabilities.

“There are so many different levels of injuries that alone affect the efficiency of the VA,” Roger states. Time is a big negative of this Uncle Sam institution. A simple form for reporting an injury is six-month average wait.

The hospital wing always filled with clouds of smoke. Puffing away are Vietnam, Korean, Gulf War, Iraqi and Afghanistan vets, gathering around. I say to myself “They’re in formation,”- waiting for “good word.”  This location is for initial reporting and healing action goes down. A list of injuries span as the years past, Iraq- where a surprising number of young men have been designated paraplegic. To Afghanistan – in a terrain with considerable elevation and sharp valleys, where friendly fire rains amongst                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 coalition forces (blue on blue). This begs the question, “When will we leave this war?”

. Also consider the mental issues such as bi-polar syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), veterans still grieving for all the horror.  Each war carries its own devastating casualty some tangibly physical and some deeply emotional. Thankfully, there are the few who serve these front lines.

The Camp Lejeune, North Carolina team received grand recognition, for

Protection duties in the Al Anbar province.

 

Army Scout Sgt Chang, R.  Received campaign awards for performance and a Purple Heart for the wound suffered in battle. Now a civilian, he is considering medical school in Colorado.

Roger with Rep. Coffman at his presentation ceremony. Hooyah.