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May 2015

Photo - Seahawk in Sagami Bay

Hires_150519-N-BX824-246cAn MH-60R Seahawk lands on the flight deck of the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam in Sagami Bay, Japan, May 19, 2015. The Antietam is patrollng the 7th Fleet area of operation supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.The Seahawk is assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77. 
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman

Photo - Comforting Smile, Continuing Promise

Hires_150518-A-BK746-111cDr. Judith Brill comforts a Nicaraguan patient in the post-operating room aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort during Continuing Promise 2015 in the Caribbean Sea, May 18, 2015. Continuing Promise conducts civil-military operations, including humanitarian-civil assistance, subject matter expert exchanges, and medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support to partner nations. Brill is a physician volunteering with Operation Smile, a nongovernmental organization. 
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lance Hartung 

Book Review & Author Interview with Nelson DeMille about "Radiant Angel"

The following book review and interview of Nelson DeMille is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780446580854_p0_v4_s260x420Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille is the 7th novel in the John Corey series. Mr. DeMille has been writing political thrillers for approximately thirty-five years, but like a fine wine he has gotten better with age.  With this new novel he has pivoted from the antagonists of Arab terrorists to the new dangers or a newly resurgent Russia. John Corey has left the Anti-Terrorist Task Force and returned home to New York City, taking a job with the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. Corey must follow Vasily Petrov, a colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, who poses  as a diplomat with the Russian U.N. Mission. After he mysteriously disappears from a Russian oligarch's party in Southampton, it's up to Corey to track him down before he endangers America.

Elise Cooper:  This book seems out of character with its length. Agree?

Nelson DeMille:  I purposely made it short.  I could have put more about the ex-Soviet Union and the re-emergence of Russia. But I just wanted to get into the action.  I decided to throw a fastball down the middle. 

EC:  What inspired you for this plot?

ND:  A number of things.  I regret not writing more on the Cold War.  I did write The Talbot Odyssey and The Charm School, but by the time the paperback of The Charm School came out the Soviet Union was imploding.  I also was tired of writing about Arab terrorists, which is why I gave John Corey a new job. Finally, I thought the events of this book could happen. In the real world, the Russians are being aggressive in their area of influence in Europe and, to some extent, in Asia, but also they’re hacking into our computers. I took resurgent Russian to an extreme.

EC:  Why the Long Island setting?

ND:  A lot of my books are set on Long Island because it's diverse culturally, ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically. For a small land area there's a lot going on here. I've written four books about Long Island and I could write another five or six. I've yet to set a book specifically in the Hamptons, but that's something I'm thinking about.

EC:  You had three women protagonists in this story.  Can you explain?

ND:  I got tired of Kate.  I might have broken the rules of series characters, but I think it worked, the implication of her having an affair.  I had to make John’s new partner a female to make it interesting.  Tess, a State Department official, is a viable character.  But the one who definitely knows how to handle John is detective Beth Penrose.  Kate will not be a part of the next book, but Beth will be John’s lady.  It was time to bring her back, which I did in this novel.  I think readers will enjoy Beth’s line to John, “All my friends call me Detective Penrose.  Why don’t you do the same?” But a little later when she wanted to find out what was happening she reminded John that he used to confide in her and he responded, “I also used to call you Beth.”

She concurred and told him to “please call me Beth,” and to see her before he leaves.

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of this book?

ND:  This quote from the book emphasizes the point, “the Cold War was back and no one was paying attention.” The Russian story is still unfolding.  It is a huge country.  Let’s not forget that during the Cold war they were our military equivalent and that can happen again.  Russia has been badly handled since the end of the Cold War, specifically this administration.  President Obama after the election said he was going to have a different relationship.  Well, he was right, but it is not a good one, but a bad one. 

EC:  Rumor has it you are thinking of shelving John for the next book.  True?

ND:  The setting will be in Cuba and Florida.  I am hoping to travel to Cuba sometime this fall.  This stand-alone book will probably be released a year from October. I am not sure in which direction the plot will go.  There are a number of possibilities including having the protagonists searching for millions of dollars of treasure buried by the Batista government; finding six nuclear warheads left behind by the 1962 Russian pullout; and/or finding a convicted police killer, the Black Liberation Army militant. The main character, Mac, is a US veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.  After being severely wounded he decides to start a fishing and tour boat business.  Because of his expertise a Cuban exile group hires him.  The leading lady is a “hot” Cuban female fluent in Spanish. Having a character in the heart of darkness allows for a lot of adventure and suspense. I will definitely weave the backstory of the Cuban Missile Crisis into the plot.

EC:  Are you writing about a new setting and character to get out of your comfort zone?

ND:  I understand the readers are comfortable with the books and the characters.  But after awhile the author gets bored and it shows within the books. The problem with a long running series is how much of the backstory must be told.  Old readers might be bored and new readers don’t know the background.  Authors have to ponder where to begin, what to tell, and do people really remember the first books details, something that fades from my mind. With this next book, I am definitely excited about the Cuban plot.  It is such a part of our history and is so close geographically I think Americans can relate. 




Photo - Supply Run

Hires_150520-N-KU391-164dAn MH-60S Seahawk helicopter picks up supplies from the Military Sealift Command Fast Combat Support Ship USNS Arctic during a replenishment with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the 5th Fleet area of operations, May 20, 2015. The Roosevelt is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, which includes strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed. The Seahawk is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22. 
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Josh Petrosino

Climate Change Is Our Largest National Security Threat?

Hires_ObamaScreenShotPresident Barack Obama delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., May 20, 2015. During his comments, Obama discussed the impact of climate change on national security. DoD screen shot

President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy last week.  At first, I think that he does a very presidential job of talking about history and the place of the graduating Cadets in our national strategy.

...We need you to safeguard our ports against all threats, including terrorism.  We need you to respond in times of disaster or distress and lead your rescue teams as they jump out of perfectly good helicopters.  We need you in the Caribbean and Central America, interdicting drugs before they reach our streets and damage our kids.  We need you in the Middle East; in the Gulf; alongside our Navy; in places like West Africa, where you helped keep the ports open so that the world could fight a deadly disease.  We need you in the Asia Pacific, to help our partners train their own coast guards to uphold maritime security and freedom of navigation in waters vital to our global economy...

Sound about right?  

Then he gets political...although I agree that sequestration should not affect national security.  

...We’re moving ahead with new Fast Response Cutters, new Offshore Patrol Cutters.  We’re on track to have a full fleet of new National Security Cutters -- the most advanced in history.  And I’ve made it clear that I will not accept a budget that continues these draconian budget cuts called sequestration, because our nation and our military and our Coast Guard deserve better...

But really, sequestration is not a budget cut as much as a mechanism to enforce a budget.  Depending on your views of where the money should be spent, your mileage will vary...

Then we move on to climate change....President Obama talks about the undeniable science and facts that our globe is heating up before moving to the actual threat about our national security (although he calls it "global security"):

...Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict.  Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes.  Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well.  Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees.  And I guarantee you the Coast Guard will have to respond.  Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions.  All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier.” 

Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world.  Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram.  It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East.  So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services -- including the Coast Guard -- will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready...

Not exactly sure how one factors in climate change into a near term op...unless it is planning to use bio-fuels and solar energy to power radios etc...

...Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people.  Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide.  Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable.  It’s estimated that a further increase in sea level of just one foot by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.

In New York Harbor, the sea level is already a foot higher than a century ago -- which was one of the reasons Superstorm Sandy put so much of lower Manhattan underwater.  During Sandy, the Coast Guard mounted a heroic response, along with our National Guard and Reserve.  But rising seas and stronger storms will mean more disaster response missions.  And we need the Coast Guard to be ready, because you are America’s maritime first responder...

So, how to respond?

...Now, everything I’ve discussed with you so far is about preparing for the impacts of climate change.  But we need to be honest -- such preparation and adaptation alone will not be enough.  As men and women in uniform, you know that it can be just as important, if not more important, to prevent threats before they can cause catastrophic harm.  And only way -- the only way -- the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet.
And that's why I’ve committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge.
So, going forward, I’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution.  And that means we all have to step up.  And it will not be easy.  It will require sacrifice, and the politics will be tough.  But there is no other way.
So this will be tough.  But as so often is the case, our men and women in uniform show us the way.  They're used to sacrifice and they are used to doing hard stuff.
The Coast Guard is building more fuel-efficient cutters.  So you're already leading.  And, Cadets, as you go forward, I challenge you to keep imagining and building the new future we need -- and make your class motto your life’s work:  “To go where few dare.”  This is a place where we need you.  

Across our military, our bases and ports are using more solar and wind, which helps save money that we can use to improve readiness.  The Army is pursuing new, lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.  The Air Force F-22 broke the sound barrier using biofuels.  And the Navy runs an entire carrier strike group -- the Green Fleet -- with biofuels.  Our Marines have deployed to Afghanistan with portable solar panels, lightening their load and reducing dangerous resupply missions.  So fighting climate change and using energy wisely also makes our forces more nimble and more ready.  And that’s something that should unite us as Americans.  This cannot be subject to the usual politics and the usual rhetoric...

I wonder how carbon free the Obama retirement home in Hawaii will be?

Never Forgotten

The Washington Post brings us the story of the Dutch who continue to honor the fallen Americans who fought the Nazis.

On Sunday, they came again, bearing Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own.

For the American relatives of the fallen, it was an outpouring of gratitude almost as stunning as the rows of white marble crosses and Jewish Stars of David at the Netherlands American Cemetery. Each grave has been adopted by a Dutch or, in some cases, Belgian or German family, as well as local schools, companies and military organizations. More than 100 people are on a waiting list to become caretakers.

Airborne Girl's Guide to Memorial Day

Memorial Day honors those who gave their lives in the service of our country. It also marks the start of Summer and most of us spend a good portion of it engaged in happy events with family and friends. Those two things are completely compatible and complementary with just a little thoughtful respect. Samantha Nerove, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, explains in this episode of the Airborne Girl's Guide series.