Entries in U.S. Marines (9)


Marines Land in Australia to Help Counter China's Influence

Greg Wood-Pool/Getty Images(DARWIN, Australia) -- Two hundred U.S. Marines arrived in northern Australia Wednesday, the first deployment of an estimated 2,500 troops the Pentagon has promised to bolster American presence in the region.

President Obama made the deal during a trip to Australia last November.  At the time, Obama told that nation’s parliament, “The United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping [the Asia-Pacific] region and its future."

The deployment, which was done with the approval of Asia-Pacific allies, recognizes China's growing military and economic influence that threatens not just surrounding nations but the U.S. as well.

Upon the Marines' arrival in Darwin, Defense Minister Stephen Smith strongly dismissed speculation that his continent is acting as America’s “deputy sheriff” as some critics have suggested.

As a continuation of the six-decade military alliance with Washington, Australia said it would consider allowing the U.S. military to fly long-range spy drones over its territory.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marine Corps in Trouble Again over Questionable Photo

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Marine Corps, already in hot water over a video showing four of its members urinating on what are believed to be the bodies of dead Taliban fighters, is again facing criticism for a photograph that seems to glorify the Third Reich.

The snapshot, which was taken 18 months ago in the Afghan province of Sangin, show members of a scout sniper team posing in front of a flag with what looked like the Nazi SS log.  The SS stood for the Schutzstaffel, originally Adolf Hitler's bodyguards that grew into Germany's all-powerful police force during World War II.

According to Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the flag was only symbolizing the scout sniper team but was nonetheless unacceptable to the Marine Corps and those in the photo are no longer with the service.

However, that explanation did not suffice with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which wants a full investigation into the matter.

Mikey Weinstein, the group's president, said former Marines have contacted him to express their disgust with the photo, which appeared online, adding, "Heads need to roll and this needs to be fully investigated.  This is a complete and total outrage."

Weinstein said he contacted both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the head of the Marine Corps.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan May Move US Marines to Guam

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Thousands of U.S. Marines in Japan could be headed to Guam soon.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says he is considering a plan that would transfer close to 5,000 Marines out of the southern island of Okinawa, where a majority of the U.S. bases are located.

That's a break from a previous bilateral agreement that calls for 8,000 Marines to be moved out of Japan, so long as the controversial base Futenma is moved to a remote part of the island.

Okinawans, who are increasingly frustrated with U.S. military presence, say they want that base off the island altogether. That opposition has stalled U.S. efforts to realign troops in Asia. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Marines in Urinating Video Identified, Could Face Charges

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The four U.S. Marines who were seen allegedly urinating on the corpses of suspected Taliban fighters in a video that surfaced online Wednesday have been identified and may be criminally charged as early as Friday.

They face charges of bringing dishonor to the armed forces, as well as possible jail time.

According to defense officials, commanders were able to ID the Marines by viewing the footage.  Their identities have not been revealed.

The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) confirmed all four were part of a sniper unit belonging to the 3/2 Marine battalion out of Camp Lejeune -- a claim made by one of the first websites to host the video.

The unit returned from Afghanistan in mid-September and is currently at the North Carolina base.  They were deployed to northern Helmand Province during the spring and summer.

The USMC has vowed to fully investigate the matter and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan President Calls USMC Video 'Deeply Disturbing,' 'Inhuman'

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, spoke out Thursday about a video that purportedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of suspected Taliban fighters, calling the incident "inhuman."

"The Government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans," Karzai said in a statement, referring to the Marines. "This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the U.S. government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime."

The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) said it is investigating the video, which surfaced online Wednesday morning. At less than a minute long, it appears to show four men in uniform looking around before urinating on three dead bodies. At least one of the men chuckles as they do so.

"Have a great day, buddy," one of the men is heard saying, apparently to a dead body.

In a statement, the USMC said the video had yet to be verified, but if true, portrayed actions "not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Karzai Thursday morning to "express his view that the conduct depicted in the footage is utterly deplorable," Pentagon spokesperson George Little said.

The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan similarly condemned the video, saying, "This behavior dishonors the sacrifices and core values of every service member representing the fifty nations of the coalition." The ISAF also announced a criminal investigation into the incident is now underway.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a D.C.-based human rights group, said "the apparent desecration of the dead" was "totally unbecoming of American military personnel and that could ultimately endanger other soldiers and civilians."

"We trust that this disturbing incident will be promptly investigated in a transparent manner and that appropriate actions will be taken based on the results of that investigation," CAIR said in a statement.

The video surfaced after the U.S. government announced it was holding tacit peace talks with the Taliban that could possibly include a prisoner exchange, but a Taliban spokesperson reportedly said the footage will not have an impact.

On Twitter, a user who identifies himself as another spokesperson for the Taliban linked to a report about the video and simply asked the ISAF, "You guys love the spotlight, don't you?"

On one of the first websites to feature the video, the member who posted it identified the Marines as belonging to the 3/2 Marine battalion out of Camp Lejeune, an assertion later confirmed by the USMC. The battalion served in the northern Helmand Province in Afghanistan last summer.

The 3/2 Marine battalion last made headlines in November when movie star Mila Kunis attended the 3/2 Marine Corps Ball at Camp Lejeune after being asked on a date by a Marine via online video.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio 


Obama in Australia: Honors Troops, Gets Crocodile Insurance

Scott Barbour - Pool/Getty Images(DARWIN, Australia) -- “Aussie Aussie Aussie!” President Obama yelled Thursday in a Royal Australian Air Force hangar containing 1,650 Australian troops.

“Oi Oi Oi!” they yelled back.

The president spent much of his day solemnly honoring the service of U.S. and Australian troops and Marines, but he took a note while addressing troops -- 55 U.S. Marines were also present in the hangar -- to try out that cheer, and to mention “the most unique gift I’ve ever received.”

Paul Henderson, the chief minister of the Northern Territory, presented Obama on Thursday with crocodile insurance.

Henderson told Sky TV that “we’ve got the crocodile insurance ready to go for Michelle and the kids -- 50 grand if the president does get taken.  We don’t think that’s going to happen, but it should provide a little bit of reassurance.”  Crocodiles are prevalent in the region.

Obama said that the gift of the insurance “relieved” the first lady.

“I have to admit when we reformed health care in America, crocodile insurance is one thing we left out,” the president quipped.

Obama came to Darwin to thank the Australian military for hosting the new U.S. military presence there.  A small liaison team of U.S. Marines is already there, but by 2012, a company-sized U.S. Marine presence -- between 200 and 250 Marines -- will call Darwin home, and that force will ramp up to 2,500 in the coming years.

The president and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier visited a memorial for the USS Peary, a U.S. warship bombed by the Japanese on Feb. 19, 1942 during World War II.  Ninety-one crewmen were killed.

Obama also met with four local survivors of the bombing on Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Details of US Military Presence in Australia Announced; China Responds

U.S. Marines/Cpl. Garry J. Welch(CANBERRA, Australia) -- President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday announced that the U.S. military will begin a permanent presence Down Under -- part of a greater Obama administration strategy to contain the rise of China in the Pacific.

By mid-2012, a company-sized rotation of Marines, between 200-250, will be stationed at an Australian military base in the Northern territory.  That will ramp up to a full force of 2,500 Marine personnel, including sea, air, and ground task forces.

In addition, the U.S. Air Force will be able to use Australian Air Force facilities significantly more than it does now.

“This rotational deployment is significant because what it allows us to do, is to not only build capacity and cooperation between our two countries, but it also allows us to meet the demands of a lot of partners in the region that want to feel that they’re getting the training, they’re getting the exercises, and that we have the presence that’s necessary to maintain the security architecture in the region,” the president said at a joint press conference at the Australian Parliament.

Chinese government officials immediately expressed reservations about the new arrangement, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin telling reporters, “it may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region.”

In response, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said, “It is not just entirely appropriate but an important step to dealing with the challenges of the future of the Asian Pacific region.”  He said the U.S.-Australia military announcement came “in response to demand from within the region.”

President Obama was asked on Wednesday about the strategy of containing China by establishing stronger economic and diplomatic ties with countries in the region -- such as with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which excludes China -- as well as with Wednesday’s military announcement.

When asked what the U.S. fears from China, Obama said, "The notion that we fear China is mistaken.  The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken.”

The president insisted that “we haven’t excluded China from the TPP.  What we have said is the future of this region depends on robust trade and commerce and the only way we’re going to grow that trade is if we have a high-standards trade agreement where everybody is playing by the same rules...China says we want to consult with you about being a part of this as well.  We welcome that.  It will require China to rethink some of its approaches to trade, just as every other country that’s been involved in the consultations for the TPP have had to think through what kinds of adjustments are we willing to make.”

Obama insisted, “We welcome a rising, peaceful, China.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Arrives in Australia: Third Time's a Charm

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(CANBERRA, Australia) -- When Air Force One touched down in Canberra, Australia Wednesday afternoon, President Obama at last made good on a promise to visit the “land down under” after twice delaying an official visit over the past year.

Obama came to Australia bearing a big gift: a new military agreement that will bring U.S. troops to the Australian continent as early as the middle of next year.

Before announcing the details of the plan, Obama was treated to a formal, official welcoming ceremony on the steps of the Australian Parliament, including a 21-cannon salute, a review of the 100-member honor guard of Australian troops and a playing of the U.S. national anthem -- twice.

Once Obama moved inside the Parliament building, he was greeted by screaming fifth and sixth grade students from the territories surrounding the capital.

“Thank you so much for your wonderful greeting,” reporters heard the president say to the kids.

“G’day … g’day mate.  I’m getting the hang of it,” he said.

Obama also signed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s visitor’s book before meeting with her behind closed doors.

“To the People of Australia, with whom we have stood together for a century of progress and sacrifice.  On this 60th Anniversary of our Alliance, we resolve that our bonds will never be broken, and our friendship will last for all time,” the president wrote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Nuclear Emergency Response Marines Being Sent to Japan

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHARLES COUNTY, Md.) -- The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan has prompted the U.S. military to send a marine unit specializing in nuclear emergency response to be on hand if needed, ABC News has learned.

Trained in personnel decontamination and monitoring of radiation levels, the team would not be involved in the efforts to stabilize the reactors at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Approximately 155 Marines from the Marines' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) received their deployment orders for Japan early Wednesday and are scheduled to arrive on Friday.

The team is being sent as what a Defense Department official calls "an initial response force" because they are only a portion of the much larger CBIRF unit.

Based at the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland, CBIRF is a Marine unit specially trained to counter the effects of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident. Usually, that entails being available to assist local, state and federal agencies with domestic emergency responses to CBRNE incidents.

The unit's deployment to Japan "will provide the U.S. on-scene commander a rapid response capability and, if requested, [allow the commander to] assist Japanese authorities by providing advice and expertise in the areas of agent detection and identification, casualty search, rescue, personnel decontamination and emergency medical care," a defense official said.

The deployment of the initial response force is not of an emergency nature, but more as a precautionary move in case they are needed, another defense official said.

The U.S. military has barred its personnel in Japan from entering a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, though exceptions are made for certain relief missions.

The new Marine unit will not be allowed within that 50-mile exclusion area and, if needed, will provide personnel decontamination and monitoring support from Yokota Air Base outside of Tokyo, a defense official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio