You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) — military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn’t know quite how expensive.

The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That’s money they’ll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it’s so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.

Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.


“We’re struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We’re skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it’s not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time,” said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.

Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost ,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost ,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.

“Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable,” said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.

Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.

“They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn’t there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter’s dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it,” said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.

The moving costs data is part of MFAN’s larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.

Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled “green,” meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be “green”, the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.

Once a region is determined to be “green,” the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:

  • Local travel restrictions have been removed
  • The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
  • Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they’re leaving and to the one they’re going to
  • Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available

For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it’s no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.

Articles

Two Marines punished for cyber bullying fellow Leathernecks

The military has punished the first two people linked to the Marines United cyber-bullying and sexual-denigration scandal — a pair of service members from Camp Pendleton.


A non-commissioned officer and a lower-ranking enlisted member of the 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment at that base pleaded guilty to nonjudicial punishment, instead of going to trial in military court, for comments they made on United States Grunt Corps.

That’s an online community created after Facebook shuttered the Marines United private page following allegations that some members swapped salacious images of female service members — often without the women’s knowledge or consent — and openly derided them.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
(Photo: USMC)

On April 5, Camp Pendleton officials were alerted that the two Marines in question had used the Grunt Corps site to make contemptuous remarks against a person in their chain of command. The two Marines’ battalion commander, Lt. Col. Warren Cook, initiated an investigation and the pair admitted their guilt.

Both Marines were demoted by one pay grade, sentenced to 45 days of restriction to their barracks and given 45 days of punitive duties concurrent to the other punishments. No other details about the case, such as the two Marines’ names and what they wrote in the online forum, were disclosed.

In a statement released by the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Cook said the case proved that his unit refuses “to tolerate personal attacks on their Marines, online or elsewhere.”

“This kind of behavior flies in the face of our service’s core values and this organization refuses to condone it. Each member of this battalion is a valued part of a storied and effective combat unit, and our success is based on trust, mutual respect, and teamwork,” Cook said.

The case was first reported on April 7 by the Washington Post.

Since March 22, service members in Marine units worldwide have signed counseling statements — called “Page 11s” — that are then added to their permanent records indicating that they understand and will follow the Corps’ revamped guidelines on cyber bullying.

Those tougher standards were created in the wake of the Marines United scandal.

At its peak in February, Marines United counted nearly 30,000 members — active-duty or reserve Marines and sailors, along with veterans who served in those military branches.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
As female roles within the military expand, the service members must evolve. (Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe)

Most of those members didn’t share inappropriate images or cast slurs against female service members; the ongoing criminal investigation has focused on an estimated 500 men who did.

The probe involves the Marine Corps, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and law-enforcement agencies in various states.

During a Pentagon roundtable with reporters on April 7, Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, vowed to continue going after online wrongdoing by Marines while enacting deeper reforms to root out an often toxic culture in the military that vilifies women.

“Our Marines and the American people deserve nothing less. Marines don’t fail. The vast majority of Marines live our ethos, and a part of that ethos is to correct or hold appropriately accountable those Marines who don’t,” Glenn said.

“Marines don’t degrade their fellow Marines. Marines don’t disrespect or discriminate based on gender, religious affiliation, sexuality or race. Semper Fidelis — always faithful — has a deep meaning that we are called to defend. The Marine Corps owns this problem and we are committed to addressing it for the long term.”

Glenn pointed to NCIS innovations that have increased information sharing and streamlined reporting of incidents to track online misconduct. NCIS agents can now ship investigative material on minor offenses or non-criminal actions to a “fusion cell” within the larger task force probing the Marines United scandal.

The info is then routed to local commanders to punish the online scofflaws, such as the two Marines at Camp Pendleton.

Part of the task force, which is led by Marine Col. Cheryl Blackstone, continues to study more than 150 potential changes to the way the Corps recruits, trains, and retains personnel to clean up an institution long deemed by critics to be corrosive to women.

Blackstone has commissioned studies exploring whether to increase the number of events where male and female Marines train together while looking at dozens of recently instituted changes to the training of Marine recruits, Glenn said.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Future revamping could include a “Women in the Marine Corps Advisory Council” and the creation of a forum where current and former female Marines who were victimized in their careers can share their stories without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

Since the Marines United case became public, critics of the Corps’ gender policies have expressed a range of reactions.

Some have conveyed cautious optimism that top leaders of the service, including commandant Gen. Robert Neller, appear to be taking the scandal seriously.

Others had said they can’t trust the Corps to police its own because similar incidents in the past were ignored or minimized.

Still others have given support to the Corps’ current reform efforts but question whether it, NCIS, and other enforcement agencies are nimble enough to pursue violators in the rapidly shifting world of online forums.

Articles

What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

Physically fit? Check. Mentally fit? Check. Spiritually fit? Hmm.


That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
Time to get your ‘spirit’ on Marine! (USMC photo)

Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”

“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”

The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.

It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”

In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?

If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.

But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”

The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.

So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?

The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”

“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”

Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”

A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.

Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”

While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.

“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.

In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.

But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.

Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”

Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.

Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”

But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?

It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”

Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.

The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.

Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).


You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why people think Area 51 has aliens

Area 51 is highly classified, mysterious Air Force base in Nevada. It’s been at the center of numerous conspiracy theories pertaining to aliens and UFOs.

Over 1 million people have responded to a Facebook event to “storm” the site. The event is supposed to take place on Sep. 20, 2019, with the end goal of getting the group to “see them aliens.”

The event is likely a joke, but it’s also led to memes. From spy planes to tourist attractions, here’s how the military base became associated with the theories.


You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Area 51 is an active Air Force base in Nevada.

Very little is known about the highly classified, remote base, making it the perfect object of fascination and conspiracy.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

The extraterrestrial highway cuts through the desert near Area 51 but not into it. It is a tourist attraction.

It’s unclear why the base is even called Area 51.

According to the CIA, Area 51 is its map designation. But it begs the question — are there other “areas?”

As National Geographic notes, there are many other names for the base. One of those names, is Groom Lake, a reference to the dry lake near the base, while another is the sarcastic moniker Paradise Ranch. Its official site name is Watertown, but it’s sometimes referred to as Dreamland, after the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(Photo by Dustin Belt)

The base is not open to the public, but there are plenty of nearby tourist attractions that capitalize on its history.

The active base has high security 24 hours a day. This means if a person — or, say, 1 million — wanted to storm the base in an attempt to see aliens, it would be incredibly dangerous.

But, as Travel Nevada notes, there are several attractions around the state that have glommed on to the alien-theme, playing up the secrecy of the base, including the Extraterrestrial Highway. Stops along the highway include Hiko, Nevada, where you can visit the Alien Research Center and purchase ET Fresh Jerky, and Rachel, Nevada, which is considered the “UFO Capital of the World.”

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Area 51, from up above.

(Google Maps)

Until 2018, you couldn’t view satellite images of Area 51. Now you can.

The base is located relatively far off from any public roads. According to a 2017 Business Insider video, some Area 51 employees have to fly to work on personal planes out of the Las Vegas airport.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

A 1966 Central Intelligence Agency diagram of Area 51, found in an untitled, declassified paper.

The government won’t say what exactly goes on at the site.

It’s unclear what the base is used for these days. The secrecy has led to a great deal of public speculation and, in turn, conspiracy theories — especially those relating to aliens and space.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

The U-2 can fly higher than 60,000 feet.

We do know that it was used for military training during World War II.

The remote location was later used by the US government to test high-flying U-2 planes during the 1950s.

The base was used to build prototypes and run test flights for the vessels, which could reach higher altitudes than standard crafts of the time, as declassified documents would later reveal.

After the U-2 was implemented, the Air Force continued to use the base to test other aircraft, like the OXCART and F-117 Nighthawk.

But, at the time, the American public had no idea.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

The US government didn’t confirm that Area 51 was an Air Force base until 2013.

After the National Security Archive at George Washington University filed a Freedom of Information Act in 2005 about the U-2 spy plane program, the CIA was forced to declassify documents related to Area 51 in 2013.

In doing so, the CIA not only revealed that the military spent 20 years testing the aerial surveillance programs U-2 and OXCART, but also confirmed the existence of the Area 51 base.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

The area is also linked to conspiracy theories — mostly pertaining to aliens, space, and UFOs.

Although the supernatural theories have been debunked, the base is still associated with aliens and UFOs. Some of the excitement around the area have to do with the aircraft flying in, out, and around the base.

As a 2017 Business Insider video notes, there was an increase of supposed UFO sightings in the area in the 1950s — around the same time the U-2 planes were being tested. The secrecy of the program prohibited Air Force officials from publicly refuting the UFO claims at the time.

Jeffrey T. Richelson, the man who filed the FOIA that confirmed the existence of the base, explained this theory.

“There certainly was — as you would expect — no discussion of little green men here,” Richelson told The New York Times in 2013. “This is a history of the U-2. The only overlap is the discussion of the U-2 flights and UFO sightings, the fact that you had these high-flying aircraft in the air being the cause of some of the sightings.”

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Bob Lazar.

And then there are the rumors started in the 1980s by a man named Robert Lazar, who claimed to have worked near the base.

In an interview with reporter George Knapp from the time, he described working on propulsion systems for “nine flying saucers of extraterrestrial origin,” according to archival footage reviewed by Vice.

Lazar is also the subject of a documentary called “Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers,” which was released in December 2018. In the documentary, he goes into further details about his claims about what he alleges happened while he worked at Area 51 and what life has been like for him since.

Lazar’s claims may have cemented the base’s association with aliens and inspired others to come forward with stories and theories of their own.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

In the music video for the “Old Town Road” remix, Young Thug, Billy Rae Cyrus, Lil Nas X, and Mason Ramsey storm Area 51.

(Lil Nas X/YouTube)

The mysteries around Area 51 have prompted over 1 million people to come together to “storm” the base. The event is likely a joke — but it’s led to some really good memes.

The Facebook event titled, “ Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” has gone massively viral. The participants, according to the event’s description, hope to raid the active base and see aliens.

It’s likely a joke. The event comes from a Facebook group called “Shitposting cause im in shambles.” It’s even spawned its own meme cycle, complete with an “Old Town Road” music video, because why not?

But not everyone is so amused.

Namely, the Air Force.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told the Washington Post. “The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia, Syria, and Iran are no match for just 2,000 US troops

Since the US-led effort against ISIS has destroyed almost all of the terror group’s territorial sovereignty in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields— something that Iran, Syria’s government, and Russia openly oppose.


But unfortunately for Russia, pro-Syrian government forces, and Iranian militias, there’s not much they can do about it.

A small US presence in a western town called Der Ezzor has maintained an iron grip on the oilfields and even repelled an advance of hundreds of Russian mercenaries and pro-Syrian government forces in a massive battle that became a lopsided win for the US.

Also read: US troops in Syria prepare for more Russian attacks

Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but, in reality, it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.

US forces at risk, but not as much as anyone who would attack them

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers, it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that, they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”

According to Badran, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something that he and other experts seriously doubt, the Syrian government-aligned forces don’t stand much of a chance.

More: No one is afraid of Russia’s advanced fighter plane in Syria

“I think the cruise missile attack in April 2017 showed, and the ongoing Israeli incursions show, the Russian position and their systems are quite vulnerable,” said Badran, referring to the US’s April 2017 strike on a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack in the country. Though Russia has stationed high-end air defenses in Syria to protect its assets, that did not stop the US when President Donald Trump’s administration decided to punish the Syrian air force with 59 cruise missiles.

Russia has just a few dozen jets in Syria, mostly suited for ground-attack roles with some air supremacy fighters. The US has several large bases in the area from which it can launch a variety of strike and fighter aircraft, including the world’s greatest fighter jet, the F-22.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
Russia’s military aircraft at a base in Syria. (Photo by Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.)

Iran has a large inventory of rockets in and around Syria, according to Badran, but an Iranian rocket attack on US forces would be met by a much larger US retaliation.

“It’s vulnerable,” Badran said of Iran’s military presence in Syria. “It’s exposed to direct US fire, just like it’s exposed to direct Israeli fire.”

If Iran fired a single missile at US forces, “then the bases and depot and crew will be destroyed after that,” said Badran, who added that Iranian forces in Syria have poor supply lines that would make them ill-suited to fighting the US, which has air power and regional assets to move in virtually limitless supplies.

Related: Once powerful al-Qaeda terrorists are losing in Syria

Badran noted that before the US entered the Syrian conflict, ISIS fighters, whose training and equipment pales in comparison to the US’s forces, had good success in disrupting Iranian-aligned militias’ supply lines “even though they’re under bombardment.”

“Imagine what it would be like” if Iranian militias had to fight against the full power of the US military, Badran added.

Syria’s military has struggled for years to take territory from Syrian rebels, some of whom do not receive any funding and backing from the US. With Syria’s government focused on overcoming the civil war in the country’s more populous east, it’s unlikely they could offer any meaningful challenge to US forces in the country’s west.

The US defending itself is a given and Russia, Iran, or Syria would be too bold to question that

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
(Photo by US Air Force)

“Everybody poses this question as though the US is Luxembourg,” Badran said, comparing the US, which has the most powerful military in the world, to Luxembourg, which has a few hundred troops and only some diplomatic or economic leverage to play with while conducting foreign policy.

For now, the US has announced its intentions to stay in Syria and sit on the oil fields to deny the government the funds to reconstruct the country. Syria’s government has ties to massive human rights violations throughout the seven-year-long civil war and its ruler, Bashar Assad, clings to power in the face of popular uprisings.

While the US has failed to oust Assad or even meaningfully decrease the suffering of Syrian people, it remains a force incredibly capable of defending itself.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Listen to the cockpit audio of the Navy’s infamous ‘sky penis’ flight

After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.

“You should totally try to draw a penis.”


It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.

They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.

“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”

While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:

  • “You should totally try to draw a penis.”
  • “Which way is the shaft going?”
  • “It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
  • “I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”

While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.

The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.

More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

You’re 11 years old, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.


Whether we’re 11, 27, or 80, our human bodies read social anxiety like a physical threat. Will you be able to find and keep food? Experience physical safety? Find meaning in work and life? Throughout history, all of these things have been made exponentially more difficult without a tribe or group.

Today, we know that being disconnected from others and feeling lonely is extremely dangerous to your health. In fact, it’s even more dangerous than smoking.

Think Sparta, Not Lone Wolf

Stress hormones surge when you’re feeling lonely or rejected, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy, or engaging in high-level thinking. This makes connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.

The good news is, you can increase your health and performance at work and home by finding or building a tribe.

Strong Spartans

The strange but true fact is that there’s nothing more important to your physical health than community. This is true even if you’re an introvert. It’s true even if your tribe embraces unhealthy behaviors like smoking, high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse and more.

 

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

 

In the military, your tribe is easy to identify. Your tribe may be your branch of service, unit, platoon, or even fireteam. From the first day of training, you and other members of your tribe are working to overcome challenges together. Camaraderie continues as you train, deploy, and socialize together in the coming years.

In Gates of Fire, his epic novel about the Spartan 300, Steven Pressfield writes:

“War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love…There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.

For many, military service offers the kind of community they’ve never experienced. In this community, we may find purpose, self-knowledge, identity, and so much more. Challenged by our tribe, we grow stronger, faster, and ideally into better leaders.

However, when we inevitably leave the military, we may find ourselves unmoored – adrift in a sea of isolation and alienation that threatens to sink us into depression, stress, and declining performance at work and home.

Crossing the Chasm

In the age of an all-volunteer military, we often hear about the military-civilian divide. It’s not just a divide, though – it’s a chasm.

If you’re a male veteran, only about 12 percent of peers in your age group have served in the military. If you’re a woman who served, that number drops to 3 percent.

When you leave the military you’ll likely struggle to find people who have a deep understanding of your service, experiences, and the unique culture and traditions of military life. Data shows us that alienation – or feeling out of place – is strongly correlated with PTSD and other stress injuries. Finding or building a tribe is critical to good physical, relational, and mental health.

When you’re part of a group and have a deep sense of belonging, a relaxation response takes place in your body and brain. In fact, every system of your body works better when your relaxation response firing. For example, when you’re relaxed and eating a salad, your body absorbs 17 percent more iron than when you’re stressed and eating a salad. Being part of a community results in a positive cycle.

So how do I find a tribe?

As you begin your search for a tribe, one of the most important things you can do is stay humble. Don’t let your veteran status, and all the good things that come with it, become a limiting factor as you build new relationships. Build relationships with veterans and civilians alike.

On the veteran front, give yourself permission to be around people who understand what you’ve just lived through. A great starting place is any post-9/11 veteran organization – they’ll get you connected with veterans who are in a healthy place.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money
Team Rubicon volunteers on assignment (TeamRubiconUSA.org). Photo: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon

Team Red White and Blue’s entire mission is to build social community at the local level – to bring people together. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues can help you discover purpose through service.

Purpose is also key. Ask yourself what your passion, ideal volunteer work, or dream venture looks like, then get to work. You may find your civilian tribe doing volunteer work, as part of a faith group, or while living your purpose-driven life.

Finding your tribe may feel tough at first, but like most things it gets easier with practice.

CHECK OUT THESE TRIBES

  • Volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, to rebuild communities around the nation after natural disasters.
  • Meet up with civilians and fellow veterans for a hike, run, or yoga class with Team Red White Blue.
  • Put your unique skills to use for a local non-profit, and get paid doing it, as part of The Mission Continues.
  • Check out a faith community of your choosing
  • Sign up for a local sports league or class

About the Author

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This year marks the centennial of the American Legion

The American Legion was founded on March 15, 1919, with a charter by Congress to focus on service to veterans, service members, and communities. Today, with over 13,000 posts worldwide, membership stands at over 2 million — with a growing number of post-9/11 veterans joining.

All across the country, posts are pouring shots celebrating the centennial with pride.


To Strengthen a Nation: Prelude

youtu.be

Related video:

In honor of the celebration, American Legion National Headquarters released the first two episodes of a new documentary that captures the history and influence of the American Legion.

Many people think of the legion as an old-school boys club, but posts like Hollywood Post 43 are shifting the dynamic with the recruitment of younger generations of veterans. It’s more than a club or a bar — it’s a home. It’s family.

Also read: How post-9/11 vets are bringing new life to the American Legion

“Veterans. Defense. Youth. Americanism. Communities.” The American Legion works every day to uphold its values. Just recently during the 2019 government shutdown, the Legion stepped up to help Coast Guard service members and their families with limited assistance.

Legion programs assist with youth sports and education, community projects and events, and support to non-profit organizations. Not only that, but posts often become a community of their own, providing companionship, service opportunities, and support for veterans after their service.

And not for nothing, but you can’t beat the bar tab if you’re a Legionnaire…

Congratulations to the American Legion – and thank you for one hundred years of support, community, and laughs.

Click here to find a celebration near you — and for all the service members out there who haven’t joined yet, I highly recommend checking out your local post.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Questions surround crash of special operations helicopter in Iraq

Late Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Aug. 20, 2018, as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Aug. 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.


CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin.

In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”

The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.

The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on Aug. 19, 2018, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(US Army photo)

Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.

This latest crash brings the total of serious U.S. military aircraft accidents this year to at least 14.

The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.

In 2015, a MH-60M Black Hawk crashed on the deck of a U.S. Navy ship near Okinawa, Japan, injuring seven; more recently, in August 2017, a 160th SOAR’s MH-60 crashed off Yemen killing one soldier.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Venezuela’s new ‘interim president’ is in hiding

Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself interim president in January 2019, appeared to be in hiding as the country’s military leaders declared their support for his rival, President Nicolás Maduro.

The whereabouts of Guaidó, 35, remains unknown after he symbolically swore in as the country’s interim president on Jan. 23, 2019, before tens of thousands of supporters, promising to remove Maduro from power.


Guaidó has said that he needs support from three groups: The Venezuelan people, the international community, and the military, The Associated Press reported.

He hasn’t passed all three tests yet.

The long list of countries supporting his claim — including the US, the EU, and most of Venezuela’s neighbors — gives him a good argument that he has persuaded the international community.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

President Nicolás Maduro.

It is difficult to measure Guaidó’s popular support, though his rallies have pulled in huge crowds. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in support of Guaidó in January 2019.

Venezuela’s military, however, is much more clear-cut. Its leaders have remained staunchly loyal to Maduro.

Guaidó told the Univision TV channel from an undisclosed location on Jan. 24, 2019, that he would not rule out granting amnesty to Maduro and his military allies if he secures power.

“Amnesty is on the table. Those guarantees are for all those who are willing to side with the Constitution to recover the constitutional order,” he told Univision.

He appeared on a low-resolution video feed against a blank background, with poor-quality audio.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Guaidó spoke to Univision from an undisclosed location on January 24, 2019.

(Univision)

Venezuelans protested against Maduro for days, describing his presidency as unconstitutional and fraudulent.

Under Maduro’s rule, Venezuela is going through one of the world’s worst economic crises, with hyperinflation, power cuts, and food shortages.

More than a million Venezuelans have fled the country into neighboring Colombia, with hundreds of thousands more in Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

US President Donald Trump declared his support for Guaidó on Jan. 23, 2019, shortly after he swore in as the country’s interim president.

Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Maduro told all US diplomats in the country to leave within three days. Washington has refused to comply.

The EU, Canada, and almost every country in Latin America also recognized Guaidó as president.

Russia, Turkey, Bolivia, and Cuba have explicitly declared support for Maduro.

China, Iran, and Syria condemned what they called US interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 easy and refreshing gin summer cocktails

The gin and tonic is a perennial favorite for a reason. It’s easy to make, easy to drink, and genuinely refreshing, especially on a sweaty summer day. Like most of the world, we love the the classic highball cocktail. Hell, just hearing the word gin, makes us immediately think ‘tonic’. But that reflexive snap of the synapses is something we are trying to correct because a good gin is a wonderfully versatile spirit — great for sipping or crafting a variety of excellent mixed drinks. This is especially true in summer, when the floral notes pair well with the season. So, if you’re tired of the standard G+T, here are six gin cocktails — and the best types of gin to use in them.


You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

1. The Negroni

The Negroni celebrated its 100th birthday this year and we are raising our glass to 100 more years for this venerable cocktail. It’s a serious drink, refreshing, yet bitter and perfect as an aperitif. We like ours with Beefeater thanks to its balanced citrus and juniper notes.

Ingredients:

  • 1oz Campari
  • 1oz Gin
  • 1oz Sweet Vermouth

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with one large cube of ice and garnish with an orange peel.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(Photo by Lily Banse)

2. French 75

The French 75 is a wonderfully refreshing, easy to make cocktail. The pairing of gin and Champagne adds a sparkle to any brunch or a pop to an evening soirée. Plymouth Gin is a staple on our bar and it works well in the 75 thanks to complimentary citrus notes and a spice that plays off the the drink’s sweetness.

Ingredients:

  • 2oz Gin
  • 3/4oz Lemon Juice
  • 3/4oz Simple Syrup
  • 2oz Champagne

Directions:

Add gin, lemon juice and simple syrup to an ice filled shaker. Shake until ice cold and pour into a champagne glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon peel.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(Photo by Jose Soriano)

3. Gin Rickey

Nearly as easy to make as a gin and tonic, the Rickey is a gin highball with a more fun name. Clean and crisp, Tanqueray’s herbal and spicy bouquet is made even more aromatic by the bubbles from the soda.

Ingredients:

  • 2oz London Dry Gin
  • 3/4oz Lime juice
  • Club soda

Directions:

Fill a highball with ice, add gin, lime juice and top with soda. Garnish with a lime wheel. For those who like a touch of sweetness, add a dash of simple syrup.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(Flickr photo by Tim Sackton)

4. The Last Word

This once and future crowd-pleaser was prohibition era drink resurrected in the early 2000s. Now on menus at cocktail bars around the country, it’s an easy drink to make at home. While it’s ratio is 1:1:1:1, the gin in the recipe is the star of the show and that’s why we like to use The Botanist, a robust floral Scottish variety that boasts a nice pop of juniper.

Ingredients:

  • 1oz Gin
  • 1oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1oz Fresh Lime Juice

Directions:

Shake all ingredients with ice until chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lime twist and/or a maraschino cherry.

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(Photo by Kim Daniels)

5. Basil Gin Smash

A delicious summer cocktail, the basil gin smash is so easy to drink it can be a little dangerous. It’s also simple to make. Hendrick’s Gin is our go-to when whipping one (or a pitcher) up, as the gin’s cucumber notes play beautifully with the basil.

Ingredients:

  • 2oz Gin
  • 1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 – 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
  • Fresh Basil

Directions:

Muddle six to 10 basil leaves with lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker. Add ice and gin then shake until chilled. Strain into a larger rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a sprig of basil

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

(Flickr photo by Alan Levine)

6. The Vesper Martini

We can thank James Bond or at least Ian Fleming for this excellent riff on the traditional martini. It’s definitely booze-forward, so we don’t recommend having more than one unless you’re 007 and your liver isn’t real. The original recipe calls for Gordon’s gin and who are we to argue?

Ingredients:

  • 3oz Gin
  • 1oz Vodka
  • 1/2oz Lillet Blanc

Directions:

Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garish with a lemon twist.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO addresses Russian ‘military build-up,’ situation In Afghanistan

NATO foreign ministers concluded a two-day meeting on December 2 that paves the path for reforms within the transatlantic alliance as it faces twin challenges from Russia and China, as well as key decisions about the situation Afghanistan.

The meeting, held via videolink as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, discussed how the alliance must adapt to new threats, including “persistently aggressive Russia” and “the rise of China.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on December 1 told reporters that the ministers discussed the Russian “military build-up” around the alliance and the mission in Afghanistan.

The Western military alliance “will have to take some hard decisions” about the mission when NATO defense ministers meet in February, he said.

A 67-page expert group report outlining suggestions about how to reboot the alliance noted that while NATO faced one big threat during the Cold War, it now faces two “systemic rivals” — Russia and China — along with “the enduring threat of terrorism.”

Speaking to reporters, Stoltenberg said the ministers discussed “Russia’s continued military build-up in our neighborhood, as well as arms control.”

He said NATO is adapting its deterrence posture “to address Russia’s destabilizing actions,” but the ministers agree that they must continue to pursue dialogue with Russia.

They also expressed support for preserving limitations of nuclear weapons and for developing a more comprehensive arms control regime, and welcomed talks between Russia and the United States ahead of the expiration of their bilateral New START treaty in February.

“We should not find ourselves in a situation where there is no agreement regulating the number of nuclear warheads,” he said.

The ministerial also included a meeting with the foreign ministers of Georgia and Ukraine on security in the Black Sea region and NATO’s continued support to both partners.

Foreign ministers also discussed developments in Belarus following nearly four months of pro-democracy protests and the situation in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the wake of a Russian-brokered peace deal that ended 44 days of fierce fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces.

On Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said NATO supports the peace process while remaining committed to the mission to help fight terrorism.

But he added: “As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year.”

The security alliance risks an even longer-term engagement if the NATO mission stays in Afghanistan, and if it leaves there is a risk that it will become a safe haven for international terrorists again, Stoltenberg said.

“So, there is a price for staying longer, but there is also a price for leaving too soon,” he said.

NATO now has about 11,000 troops from dozens of countries stationed in Afghanistan. Their mandate is to help train and advise Afghanistan’s security forces.

But the presence of U.S. forces, which NATO relies on for air support, transport, and logistics, is scheduled to shrink by 2,000 troops to 2,500 by January 15.

Under a peace deal reached between the United States and the Taliban, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 if security conditions on the ground permit.

The policy report also suggested the Western military alliance find a way to stop individual countries vetoing policy decisions, as Hungary has done over plans for a deeper partnership with non-NATO member Ukraine.

Other recommendations included creating a consultative body to coordinate broader, Western policy toward China, holding summits with European Union leaders, and giving the secretary-general more power over personnel and budgets.

“NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation,” according to the report, whose suggestions are not binding.

The document is to be presented to NATO leaders at a summit planned for next year. They could be included in an update to NATO’s Strategic Concept document, which dates from 2010 and sought to consider Russia as a partner.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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