Check your benefits - that’s an order! - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

There are plenty of lofty quarantine goals going on right now. We stand firm that using this time to start marathon training, grab a new certification or simply up your nap game are all worthy endeavors. However, there is one thing which all service members should be checking in on right now: their benefits.

Beyond the paycheck, there’s plenty of benefits offered to military personnel that way too often go unutilized. The second we can all get back to “normal” life again is the second things like “use or lose days” and tuition assistance packets should be tossed into play. We’ve conveniently outlined everything you should square away while we all know you have the time.

Use or lose days 

Americans have a weird unspoken tradition of taking pride in hoarding (and never using) vacation days. “Use or lose” refers to the unused vacation days service members accrue that are carried over into the next fiscal year. Anything above 60 days of leave “in the bank” will be slapped with an expiration date, which is when you either use them by a certain date or lose them. At 2.5 days per month earned, things can add up at high tempo locations.

We’re fiercely advocating to end that weirdness right now and mandating that you book a trip to go on before the end of the year once all the travel bans are lifted, get out, and enjoy the freedom you protect. A long weekend getaway, a surf trip, or a drive down the 101 highway are all exactly what you need to recharge and show back up to work even better than before.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Tuition assistance

Tuition assistance is one of the best benefits available to service members across multiple branches. It’s not the GI Bill and it’s not a loan. Plainly put, tuition assistance is a certain dollar amount you are eligible for per semester to use toward earning college credit.

Participating universities often offer flexible online courses that can accommodate for field training, deployments and occasionally give credit for military training courses you have already completed depending on your degree.

If you’re sitting on your couch, three years into active duty and haven’t used a penny, we suggest starting. Earning a degree slowly while on active duty, all without touching your GI Bill benefits is smart.

Pay changes after a PCS 

Ok so this isn’t a benefit per se, but it’s a big mistake we see made way too often that can send your finances into a death spiral that is hard to recover from. Special pay options like hazard, jump, flight or any other hardship or incentive pay you’re receiving thanks to specific circumstances don’t always transfer with you from one PCS to another.

Knowing exactly what special pay benefits will or will not transfer with you in addition to the incoming new BAH and BAS rate you fall under is essential. Why? Because nothing is worse than earning an extra few hundred dollars each month, having the military find the mistake (they will) and then having it all taken from your next paycheck leaving you with next to nothing to cover your bills.

There is no such thing as tricking the military in terms of pay. Making a mistake with your pay will never be a “my bad” situation that you benefit from. Always know exactly what you should be paid, put in the correct paperwork to stop special pay, and meticulously check your LES statements to ensure the figures are correct.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Special programs for dependents

There’s enough out there in terms of programs, scholarships, grants, loans and more that it would take an entire other article (or three) to outline, so we’ll keep it brief. Just like service members, military dependents should investigate opportunities first before tackling any educational costs out of pocket.

The Army Emergency Relief rolled out an exciting new program offering up to ,500 that spouses can apply for toward professional relicensing expenses when they PCS. Also new from AER is a Child Care Assistance Program created to help offset areas with high living expenses at up to 0 per month per family in the few months after a PCS.

Military spouses are offered preference when applying for certain DoD and other governmental jobs, including working for USDA, US Fish and Wildlife jobs and more.

The bottom line here is that when the quarantine is over, we should all emerge smarter, stronger and ready to take charge of our lives. So check your benefits and make sure you’re getting all you can out of your paychecks.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Is Bran Stark the ultimate skater?

We are more than halfway through the final season of Game of Thrones and with only two episodes left, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered. But while season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks” established the clear endgame for the beloved show, it did ignore what is arguably largest remaining questions in all of Westeros: What is the point of Bran Stark? Seriously, for eight seasons we have been watching this kid learn to harness magical powers only for none of it to have any payoff and if he doesn’t start doing something useful ASAP, he may turn out to be the most pointless character on a beloved TV show since Cousin Oliver managed to ruin The Brady Bunch.

Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”


“The Last of the Starks” was a classic “setting the table” episode of Game of Thrones, as the fourth episode of season 8 allowed characters and viewers paused to briefly look back on what just happened (Arya fucking up the Night King) while also establishing the conflicts that will surely define the remaining two episodes. Dany struggled with her Mad Queen impulses while her two most trusted advisors discussed the merits of committing treason. Cersei told Euron she was pregnant with their baby approximately 48 hours after they fucked and the steampunk pirate seems dumb enough to believe it, even with Tyrion accidentally showing the obvious holes in the timeline. And Jaime finally had sex with someone he wasn’t related to before breaking her heart and heading south to play a high-stakes game of Fuck, Marry, Kill with his twin sister.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Daenerys Targaryen.

But, for a moment, let’s forget about all the heavy-handed foreshadowing and the baffling logistics of travel in Westeros to focus on Bran. More specifically, let’s focus on the sincere question of whether or not Bran is actually going to do anything. Since he was pushed out of the Winterfell Tower by Jaime in the first episode, the last remaining son of Ned Stark has been on a unique journey, mostly avoiding the politics and wars of the realm in favor of becoming the Three-Eyed Raven by watching memories whilst sitting in a tree. And once he finally became the Three-Eyed Raven, he was suddenly an emotionless, all-knowing demigod whose only real weakness was lacking social decorum.

Curb Your Game of Thrones – Jaime reunites with Bran

www.youtube.com

Of course, Bran’s exact powers and purpose remained a mystery to viewers and characters alike, leading to a wide array of internet speculation about Bran’s unspecified motivation. Many have pointed to him becoming the true hero of the show, while others have said he is Westeros’ Gepetto, secretly pulling all of the strings of the less enlightened. Many insisted that he was secretly the Night King. Others have said that he only defeated the Night King because he’s actually the show’s true villain. Some people still think he’s going to be responsible for Dany becoming the Mad Queen while also making her father the Mad King.

Point is, there were a lot of theories and while it was never really clear what role Bran had to play in the Game of Thrones, it seemed obvious that whatever he was going to do was going to be pretty massive. After all, the entire reason the Night King was heading south was to kill Bran, so it stood to reason that Bran was going to have some epic trick up his sleeve to undo his would-be killer. However, Bran ended up playing virtually no part in taking down his longtime rival, as Arya was the one who delivered the final blow.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
Giphy

Bran’s lack of involvement or scheming in the battle left many fans confused and underwhelmed. But Game of Thrones has long been a show that specialized in undermining and subverting expectations, so while Bran was essentially a glorified bench-warmer in the Battle of Winterfell, perhaps he would reveal his true masterplan in the Battle for King’s Landing. Except, with only two episodes left, none of this has actually happened and we are quickly running out of time. As Jon and Dany prepare to face-off against Euron and Cersei, Bran continues to speak in haikus and not actually contribute in any meaningful way. And, at this point, it’s hard to even imagine what he could do because we still don’t really know what Bran’s whole deal is.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey is crushing Syria’s army after wiping out its heavy armor with superior tech, daring Russia to step in and save them

Turkish forces decimated the Syrian army in a series of drone, artillery and bomber attacks this weekend, leaving Syria’s top ally Russia weighing how much it should intervene to stop the offensive.


Turkey turned its total air superiority — via a fleet of cheap drones and high-tech F-16s — into an operation that claimed at least two Syrian jet fighters, eight helicopters, 135 tanks, and 77 other armored vehicles, with as many as 2,500 Syrian troops killed, according to the Turkish defense ministry.

It’s left the Syrian military unable to protect its frontline armor and artillery units, which have been methodically targeted by cheap but highly accurate missiles.

And with Russia thus far unwilling to directly confront the Turkish military, Bashar al-Assad’s army could continue to suffer, paving the way for Turkey to achieve its goal of pushing regime forces out of Idlib.

Turkey’s defense ministry has been tweeting footage from the attacks:

Turkey’s aggressive push into Idlib ramped up late last week after a suspected Russian airstrike killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers last Thursday night, and Turkey and Syria moved into direct military confrontation.

Turkey poured at least 7,000 regular army forces into the rebel-held Syrian pocket of Idlib, whose collapse after a monthslong offensive from the regime threatened to send almost a million Syrian refugees over a border into Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week had warned that the Syrian offensive into Idlib — which is backed by heavy Russian air support — must end to prevent hundreds of thousands of new refugees from joining more than 3 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

But when Syrian troops ignored these demands, Ankara approved a military operation that immediately began the systematic destruction of Syrian regime units in the area.

On Sunday the Turkish defense ministry officially announced “Operation Spring Shield,” a campaign to push against the Syrian advance in Idlib, though the attacks had already begun days earlier.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

On Monday, Russian air units were supporting Syrian military units attempting to recapture the strategic crossroads of Saraqeb from the rebels, but they appeared to only be targeting Syrian rebels backed by Turkey, rather than Turkish forces directly.

Control of Saraqeb could determine much of the final outcome for Idlib as it controls a highway junction that links Damascus, the Syrian capital, to Aleppo, the country’s largest city.

Turkey is believed to only seek security for the Idlib pocket to prevent a further influx of refugees fleeing the regime advance.

So far, it’s unclear how far Moscow is willing to go to help its Syrian allies retake the entirety of the country after a nearly ten-year-old civil war that’s killed half a million people and displaced nearly a third of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan have scheduled a meeting in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the situation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 more surprising things that go against the laws of war

Lines get blurred on the battlefield. The only thing that clearly gives one side the moral high ground is their ability to follow the rules of law. Sure, it may make troops fight with one hand tied behind their back, but it is a line that should never be crossed.


The laws of war are clearly defined by the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations, and the International Criminal Court. Many laws are self-explanatory. In general, they state that wars are only to be fought among the fighters and all collateral damage should be limited — that wars be fought to end the enemy, not cause suffering.

Related video:

While the overarching themes may be self-evident, there are many laws in place to prevent a sort of domino effect from happening — one that would eventually cause unnecessary harm or death. We’ve discussed a few of the more obscure laws in a previous article, but there are still plenty to discuss.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Even if the phrase is spoken in jest by someone with authority over another, it’s a war crime.

(Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Saying the phrase, “no quarter given” (Fourth Hague Convention. Article 23 (d))

Because anything said by a commander or a leader is to be taken as a direct order, even just uttering the phrase, “no quarter given” is against the laws of war — regardless of the circumstance.

Quarter, or the act of taking prisoners of war, should always be a top priority if any combatant has surrendered or has lost the ability to fight. This is such a big deal that it is clearly given its own rule.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

It’s one or the other. Not both.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden)

Using CS gas on combatants (Chemical Weapons Convention Art I (5))

The use of riot control gas is a gray area. It is deployed in moments of civil unrest, but it cannot be used in addition to deadly force.

Meaning, against a large crowd of aggressive (but not violent) protesters, non-lethal CS gas may be used to accomplish dispersion. The reason such gas is banned from war, however, is because it removes combatants from a fight and causes unnecessary suffering. If the goal is to detain the combatant, it’s fine. The moment someone opens fire on an incapacitated individual, however, it’s a war crime.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Besides, light blue isn’t really a choice camouflage pattern in most environments.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Rosas)

Using light blue headgear in combat (Geneva Convention Prot. I Art. 85)

There aren’t too many wrong answers in designing a combat uniform. As long as it follows the general color palette of a given area, it’s usually fair game and used by nearly everyone. The only color that is strictly off-limits is the shade of blue used by UN peacekeepers.

The use of light blue on headgear may misrepresent a combatant’s intentions. The light blue headgear is officially recognized because it can be seen from a distance. UN Peacekeepers have their own guidelines, which include never initiating combat unless absolutely necessary. And attacking a UN peacekeeper opens up an entirely different can of worms.

Those who are not with the UN are forbidden from using this color.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Their focus is healing the injured and wounded. Anything that prevents them from saving any life should be avoided.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Smith)

Even slightly interfering with Red Cross workers (First Geneva Convention Art. 9)

Medical professionals with the International Red Cross are heavily protected by the laws of war. It’s fairly well known that harming them is a war crime and forcibly stopping them from giving aid is also a war crime. What you might not know is that “interfering with an aid worker” is loosely defined — and for good reason.

In the past, combatants would stop aid workers from leaving their area so that they only give aid to their troops. But Red Cross workers aren’t supposed to take sides. They need to be able to give equal and unbiased treatment to all wounded on the battlefield.

Anything more than a routine security check is off-limits.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Military necessity may require troops to engage the enemy on a farm and accidents, unfortunately, happen. But willfully attacking a civilian’s livestock is not necessary.

(Photo by Pfc. David Devich)

Anything involving fresh waterways or farms (Geneva Convention Prot. I Art. 51-54)

Intentionally damaging a drinking well is punishable by The Hague. Unintentionally doing so is treated just as harshly.

There is the caveat of “military necessity,” which would protect a combatant that is forced to fight on a farm or a river that is used as drinking water. Ideally, all fighting would take place where, without a shadow of a doubt, no food or water will be poisoned or damaged by conflict. Sometimes, however, you’re not given a choice.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.

During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.


Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen’s family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.

“The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her,” the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. “We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.

“This gruesome murder should never have happened.”

Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.

“We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen,” Phelps said.

Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.

Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen’s disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.

Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.

Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.

“Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains,” Phelps said. “We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin.”

Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is “no credible information” that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

“The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance,” Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance.”

At Efflandt’s request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.

Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen’s family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.

He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.

“After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation,” Phelps said. “Nevertheless, we are still investigating.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

A military kid is learning about her dad’s life and experiences through the eyes of her mom.

Ever since Britt Harris first met her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, eyes have played an important part of her story.


Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Chris and Britt Harris. Courtesy photo.

From the beginning, she couldn’t help but notice his baby blues, so different from her own hazel eyes. The North Carolina natives fell in love and married in October 2016. A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Chris deployed to Afghanistan the next summer.

Then came the eyes of the nation on her when her 25-year-old husband was killed in a vehicle explosion on August 2, 2017, making her a Gold Star wife. Just one week earlier, Britt thrilled him with the news that they were expecting their first child.

Unit connection

Britt’s grief felt all-encompassing, but she still wanted to feel connected to her husband’s unit. She included them in her gender reveal, shipping confetti poppers with the appropriate color to Afghanistan. The men and women celebrated amidst a shower of pink in a now-viral video.

When her daughter, Christian Michelle, arrived on March 17, 2018 — the day Chris’ unit returned — Britt knew the story wasn’t over. So she arranged for a photoshoot featuring Christian, herself and Chris’ fellow soldiers.

With the same otherworldly blue eyes as her father, Christian quickly captivated millions. The moment wasn’t just for show, however; the men and women who served alongside Chris (he and Britt are only children) are viewed as family.

“We still see each other. We get lunch, or send texts, or social media,” says Britt, 28. “It makes me feel like I’m still part of the group even though I don’t have Chris anymore.”

Yet thanks to Christian’s uncanny resemblance to Chris — especially his eyes — Britt still does, in a way. Christian loves doing handstands now, the result of toddler gymnastics classes.

“She does them everywhere we go,” Britt laughs. “She dances all day, every day.”

Pageant platform

Living as a single mom in Moore County, North Carolina, was never Britt’s original plan. But she has plenty of new accomplishments to list since her world came crashing down in 2017, including hiking Kilimanjaro in Africa and starting a PhD program in psychology at Liberty University.

“My husband was really adventurous and he was always the person to push me to do something new,” Britt says. “When he passed away, I didn’t have anyone to push me anymore, so I started pushing myself to try new things.”

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

And in going after those firsts, Britt now holds the title of Mrs. North Carolina Universal 2020. Though this year’s national pageant fell victim to quarantine, she still plans to compete in 2021. Her platform will be bringing awareness to families of the fallen.

“A lot of people don’t even know what Gold Star means,” Britt said. “I’ve met veterans who don’t know what Gold Star is.”

The publicity that pageants offer could majorly change that, giving Britt a wider audience to educate on the definition and needs of Gold Star families, perhaps even affecting future related legislation.

“The pageant world isn’t really a place where widows go,” she said. “I’m hoping out of curiosity people will read up on Gold Star or ask when I give my interviews so I can speak more about it.”

Road trips

Besides getting ready to eventually compete in a national pageant, 2020 has held another rookie experience for Britt and Christian: being the recipients of a Gold Star canine training program.

Ridgeside K9 Carolinas recently boarded Atlas, the Harris’ one-year-old Blue Heeler, and professionally trained him to be a well-behaved family dog. The Harrises were the first selected for this free service for families of the fallen.

“Atlas is a very high-energy dog that was by no means a ‘bad dog,’ but I certainly needed help teaching him obedience,” Britt said. “He’s very patient and well-behaved now. He listens and the stress of chasing him and him avoiding and ignoring my calls and demands is long gone!”

Now, Atlas could happily join Britt and Christian on their road trips to places where Chris visited. Britt documents each trip in photos.

“I want to show the re-creations of her in the places Chris went, to walk where he walked, to feel close to him,” she says. “I want her to feel connected to him and the things he enjoyed.”

As a Gold Star wife, Britt understands that Chris is physically absent. But he — and those blue eyes he passed on to the daughter he never met — will always be a part of their lives.

Follow Britt at https://www.instagram.com/britt.m.harris/ to keep up with her and Christian’s future adventures.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Among many revelations during the trial of Mexican cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are some that shed light on his daring escapes.

Late January 2019, Damaso Lopez Nuñez took the stand. Like Guzman, Lopez is from Sinaloa state. The son of a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ran Mexico for most of the 20th century, Lopez was first a security official in Sinaloa before he became deputy security director at Puente Grande prison in southwest Mexico.


On Jan. 23, 2019, Lopez told the court he met Guzman at Puente Grande in 1999. He said he resigned in late 2000, deciding to leave when the government launched a corruption probe at the prison. Guzman contacted him soon after, Lopez said, seeking help to maintain the privileges he had gotten through bribery and other inducements.

It long been suspected that Lopez aided the escape, and it is widely believed that Guzman was snuck out in a laundry cart, though others dispute that account. On the stand, Lopez denied involvement in the January 2001 escape but said a laundry cart was involved.

Senior “Chapo” Guzman lieutenant Damaso Lopez arrested in Mexico

www.youtube.com

Guzman “told me the only person responsible for that escape had been Chito, who was employed in the laundry,” Lopez testified, according to Vice reporter Keegan Hamilton.

Chito, a laundry room worker at the prison, “had taken [Guzman] inside a laundry cart that was picking up dirty laundry and transported him to the parking lot … he put him in the trunk of his car,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that Guzman revealed more about the escape months later, in the mountains of Nayarit, a state near Sinaloa in northwest Mexico.

“He told me that really the plan for his escape was spontaneous,” Lopez testified, according to Hamilton. “This was because some of his friends in the federal government had notified him that an extradition order had been issued.”

After that, Guzman offered Lopez a job, and over the next decade and a half Lopez became deeply involved in the cartel’s operations — including efforts to spring Guzman from prison in 2015.

Lopez said he met with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, and his sons in mid-2014, just a few months after Guzman was recaptured.

During that meeting, he said, they discussed buying land near the high-security Altiplano federal penitentiary, west of the capital in Mexico state, where Guzman was held and that Coronel told Lopez that Guzman had asked for him to buy weapons and an armored vehicle to use in the breakout.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Emma Coronel Aispuro

(Telemundo)

It took months to dig a mile-long tunnel under the prison, and Guzman could reportedly hear the excavation in his cell — so loud that other inmates complained. (Footage from Guzman’s cell the night of the escape also picked up sounds of his henchmen smashing through the floor of his shower.)

During that time, Coronel was a major player in the plot, Lopez said, carrying messages to and from Guzman.

Coronel has never been charged with a crime, but her role as intermediary for Guzman and his associates during the 2015 escape may explain the tight restrictions the US has put on her contact with her husband while he’s been in US custody. In November 2018, as the trial was starting, the judge in the case denied a request to allow Guzman to hug her.

The audacious escape through a mile-long, ventilated tunnel on a motorcycle rigged on rails garnered international attention. Lopez added more detail to the account, saying that one of Coronel’s brothers was driving the motorcycle, which had been towed through the tunnel.

Upon exiting the tunnel, Guzman was spirited to a warehouse and then boarded a plane that flew him to neighboring Queretaro state and then to his hometown of La Tuna, in western Sinaloa state.

Lopez said that, like the 2001 escape, his involvement was limited. “I never knew, not even about one shovel of earth that was removed there,” he said. “His sons were doing that.”

In early 2016, Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that Mexican officials allowed a private company to connect a geolocation-monitoring bracelet to Guzman while he was at Altiplano, but Reforma was unable to find definitive answers about who authorized the device, rising concern it was part of the kingpin’s escape plan.

“Some high officials in the federal government consider that, because of the grade of precision in the digging and the excavation,” Reforma reported at the time, “the tunnel through which ‘El Chapo’ escaped could not have been constructed without the help of geolocation device.”

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

President Enrique Peña Nieto, accompanied by Cabinet members, holds a press conference in the Palacio Nacional announcing the capture of Joaquín Guzmán.

Lopez said the excavation was in fact aided by a GPS watch smuggled into the prison for Guzman to wear. (A Mexican official who talked to Guzman after he was recaptured in 2016 said Guzman told investigators that his henchmen dug two tunnels under the prison, the second coming after they arrived at the wrong cell.)

Guzman remained on the run for 13 years after his 2001 jailbreak, but his freedom after the second escape was short-lived. Mexican authorities caught up with him in northwest Sinaloa state in January 2016.

After his capture he was returned to Altiplano, which holds many high-profile criminals. While there, Guzman sent a message through his wife that he wanted to mount an escape again, Lopez said. To carry that out, Lopez said the Sinaloa cartel paid a million bribe to the head of Mexico’s prison system.

But that escape never came to fruition. Guzman was transferred to a prison near Ciudad Juarez in May 2016, where he was held until his extradition to the US in January 2017.

Lopez’s freedom after Guzman’s recapture was also brief.

After the kingpin’s arrest in January 2016, a factional struggle emerged within the cartel, pitting Lopez and his son, Damaso Lopez Serrano, against Guzman’s sons, who were allied with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a cartel figure on the same level as Guzman and who Guzman’s lawyers have tried to cast as the true leader of the cartel. (Guzman’s brother Aureliano was also believed to be vying for control of the organization at that time.)

The Lopezes were on the losing side, however. The elder Lopez, 52, was arrested in Mexico City in May 2017; two months later, his son crossed the border into California and surrendered to US authorities in Calexico.

Lopez Nuñez is now serving a life sentence in the US for drug trafficking; he has said he’s cooperating with US prosecutors in hope of getting a lighter sentence.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

8-year-old returns to life-changing USNS Comfort

Distant footsteps lightly echo through the empty passageway. Two figures of different height walk briskly through the hall toward a heavy steel door labeled “General Surgery: Authorized Personnel Only.” Attached at the hand, the smaller of the two, stops abruptly pulling his mother to a halt.

She sharply whispers something in Spanish to her frightened son. The boy inches toward the now-opened door, as the bright lights expose the sweat on his sun-kissed forehead. What the anxious boy doesn’t realize is that this room has a familiarity to him. He was a patient in it once before — ­when he was only 8 months old. And now, same as then, he is in good hands.


Pedro Daniel Anton, 8, returned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) to receive further care for his cleft lip and palate. His mother, Petronia Eche, reflects on her first experience with the Comfort caring for her son during Continuing Promise 2011, in Peru.

“In 2010, he was born with a cleft palate and when he was 8 months old and the ship came to provide care, we came for his surgery,” said Petronia, translated from Spanish. “They were very helpful, we received so much support when we had his first surgery. It was a great surgery, we were very well attended and my son came out well.”

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

After his initial surgery, Petronia knew he needed more surgery to improve his quality of life, but had little to no success in getting the follow-up, in Peru.

“I have tried in the past to get his follow-up surgery done but we have been denied continuously,” said Petronia. “But I never gave up. As a mother I knew I needed to be there with him, I never gave up on this because I only want the best for my son.”

After more than seven years from his initial surgery, Comfort returned to Paita, Peru. Petronia’s prayers were answered and she knew he needed to get aboard to get the care he needed.

“What a coincidence, it must be fate that we are here again,” said Petronia, on the verge of tears. “We were in such a long line, sleeping outside in the lines. I was losing my spirits in the wait, but I decided to keep waiting. And out of so many people, we are here.”

Pedro and his mother arrived to the ship under the impression that he was going to have surgery on an umbilical hernia in his abdomen. When the doctors looked at his cleft lip, they realized that they had an opportunity and the resources to give him further care.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt (left), an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, and Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., perform surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

“Initially, I came because he has an umbilical hernia, but the doctors told me that he needed both surgeries,” said Petronia. “Knowing that made me nervous, but I have trust in the doctors and in God. Many of the doctors here in Paita tell me they can’t help my son but here they said they can do it.”

When the call came in to the medical ward that Pedro and his mother were in, they were overcome with emotion. They both found the courage and strength to stand, take each other’s hand, walk up to surgery to complete the journey, and fulfill the reason why they were on the Comfort.

“I’ve told the doctors, that my son’s life is in their hands,” said Petronia, overcome with emotion and tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’m so appreciative of this because, here in Peru, we don’t have the money to pay for these surgeries, I have tried but we just don’t have enough. But, as a mother, I kept trying to find a way for him to get the surgery. I had faith in God and I would tell my husband that one day—someone would come to help us.”

Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon aboard Comfort, was the attending surgeon with Pedro for his cleft lip operation. He said it is common for a cleft lip and palate patient to return for further surgeries as they grow and start cutting teeth and forming a stronger jaw. He was also glad to see a repeat patient because it is a rarity that the Comfort’s doctors are ever able to follow up with the patients they treat.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

“It was very rewarding to see him here again,” said Schmidt. “I wasn’t personally involved with his care the first time, but cleft lip and palate are complicated cases that need follow-up and repeated procedures over time in a staged manner. Without this, he would not have been able to return to full function. He wouldn’t be able to eat normally, he wouldn’t be able to have normal speech and he would be at higher risk for health issues such as infections in his sinus.”

When Pedro was brought to the operating room, the surgeons and staff operated on his umbilical hernia first, completing the operation in about 20 minutes. Then, Schmidt and his staff took over for the next part of his surgery, which was very complex and took much longer.

“The patient had an alveolar cleft*, so basically what has happened in that case, is that the upper jaw of the maxilla** didn’t have bone connecting it all the way through and there was a hole where that should have been extending from the mouth to the nose,” said Schmidt. “So what we did, is we opened up that area, reconstructed the gums in that area to create a new floor of the nose.”

“We made sure there was a good seal on the palate side,” continued Schmidt. “And then we used some bone from his hip so that we can reconstruct it. We brought that bone and then we placed it into the defect that was there so that we could grow new bone and create a new full shaped maxilla that will be able to support teeth and have teeth erupt through there.”

Pedro’s surgery was a success and the hole connecting his mouth and nose, including the gap in the bone, was repaired.

“We are very excited about the procedure and I feel we got a really good result,” said Schmidt. “Checking up with Pedro right before he left the ship, he seemed to be in good spirits, and we are expecting a very good recovery for him.”

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Oral surgery is performed on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

Feeling jubilant and blessed, Pedro and his mother made their way to disembark Comfort. With their journey one step closer to its completion, Petronia embraced many doctors, nurses and staff before heading back to Paita. With her heart full of graciousness and exuberance, her and her son boarded a small boat to go back ashore.

“I have to be strong for my children,” said Petronia. “I encourage them to be strong, we have suffered together throughout his journey and I am thankful to God that he is going to be okay now.”

Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas.

*An Alveolar Cleft is an opening in the bone of the upper jaw that results from a developmental defect and is present at birth. This area of the jaw that is missing bone is otherwise covered by normal mucosa and may contain teeth. (dcsurgicalarts.com)

**The maxilla forms the upper jaw by fusing together two irregularly-shaped bones along the median palatine structure, located at the midline of the roof of the mouth. The maxillary bones on each side join in the middle at the intermaxillary suture, a fused line that is created by the union of the right and left ‘halves’ of the maxilla bone, thus running down the middle of the upper jaw. (healthline.com)

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s scared off 587 enemy aircraft in ‘combat surge’ over Syria

US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets just completed their first “combat surge” in operations over Syria, and in doing so it backed down almost 600 enemy aircraft in the crowded skies there that see Syria, Iranian, and Russian combat aircraft on a regular basis, the Pentagon said.

F-22s, which combine both stealth and top-of-the-line dogfighting abilities, functioned as both fighter jets and bombers while defending US forces and assisting offensive missions against heavily armed foes.

F-22 pilots from the 94th Fighter Wing completed 590 individual flights totaling 4,600 flight hours with 4,250 pounds of ordnance dropped in their deployment to the region in the “first-ever F-22 Raptor combat surge,” the Pentagon said.


The Pentagon said the F-22 “deterred” 587 enemy aircraft in the process, suggesting the jet commands some respect against older Russian-made models often in operation by Russian and Syrian forces. This surge saw F-22 operations maximized over a three-day period.

Unlike any other battle space today, US forces on the ground in Syria have come under threat from enemy airpower.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

F-22s on this deployment escorted US Navy F/A-18s as part of their mission. In June 2017, Lt. Cmdr. Mike “MOB” Tremel, an Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot scored the US’s first air-to-air kill in years after downing a Syrian Su-22 that threatened US forces in the country.

The stealth fighter pilots defended US forces against enemy bomber aircraft and also backed up US, UK, and French forces when they struck Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the country’s west in response to chemical weapons attacks.

The F-22s flew “deep into Syrian territory, facing both enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile systems,” the Pentagon said.

While no US or allied aircraft went down, photos from the most recent US attack on Syria’s government show the country’s air defenses firing blindly into the night sky as the F-22s worked overhead.

The F-22 has encountered enemy fighter jets above Syria before, but the Pentagon has only reported relatively safe interactions and intercepts.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

We’ve talked about British officer John “Mad Jack” Churchill before. He waded ashore on D-Day with his trademark Scottish claybeg sword, he killed at least one Nazi with his longbow, and he was an all-around BAMF having served in World War II, Israel, and Australia.

Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.


Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.

(Imperial War Museum)

The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.

The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.

So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.

Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.

For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.

(Imperial War Museum)

It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.

First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)

The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.

This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.

Churchill would fight through the rest of the war, earning new accolades despite being captured once in Italy and later in Yugoslavia. After World War II, he served in Palestine and then Australia before retiring from the military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military prepares tanks for July 4th blowout parade in DC

President Donald Trump wants to put armored vehicles on the National Mall for his Fourth of July extravaganza, the Washington Post reported July 1, 2019, citing people briefed on the plans for the event.

The president has reportedly requested that armored warfighting vehicles be set up in the nation’s capital as props for his “A Salute to America” event. The vehicles being considered for the holiday blowout include M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

For President Trump’s previously planned military parade in DC, the Department of Defense rejected plans calling for tanks rolling down the streets of Washington, DC, arguing that they could damage the roads. The Pentagon is considering setting up static displays to fulfill the president’s request. Deliberations on this matter have not concluded, even as the Fourth of July is only days away.


The holiday blowout is expected to include a military parade, a flyover by Air Force One, the Blue Angels, and other military aircraft, fireworks, and a presidential address on the mall.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

The U.S. Navy fight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, demonstrate choreographed flight skills.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

President Trump has longed for a patriotic military parade since he experienced France’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris in July 2017. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” the president said a few months after the event. “We’re going to have to try to top it.”

“I think we’re going to have to start looking at that ourselves,” he said. “So we’re actually thinking about Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength.”

In February 2018, President Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin planning a big military parade for Veteran’s Day. Critics compared Trump’s plans to the military parades characteristic of authoritarian regimes, such as China or North Korea; the US has historically only held military parades after victories like World War II and the Gulf war.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

An M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle kicks up plumes of dust.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The president later cancelled his planned parade as costs ballooned from million to million to as high as million. President Trump suggested that the event could be rescheduled for 2019 if costs could be kept low. “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he tweeted after announcing the cancelation.

The initial estimate of million was based on a review of expenses for the Gulf war parade held in Washington, DC in 1991, the last major US military parade.

The cost of the president’s Fourth of July event has not been disclosed to date.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the VA is celebrating female veterans

Throughout March people across the country will celebrate Women’s History Month, paying tribute to the vital role women have played in United States history. Generations of women have courageously blazed trails, broken barriers and fundamentally changed our society. At VA, we are proud to spend this month honoring and celebrating women service members and veterans for their past, present and ongoing service to our country.

As the daughter of a Navy veteran and someone who has had the privilege of working to advance veterans for more than 23 years, supporting women veterans feels very personal to me. My colleagues, mentors and friends are veterans — many of them women veterans. I am proud that here at VA, women are represented at every level throughout our organization. And while studies show that people typically imagine a man when they think “veteran” — women veterans have been around for much of America’s history.


Well before the women’s rights movement came along in 1848, women in the military were breaking barriers to serve our county. During the Revolutionary War, women served in military camps as laundresses, cooks, nurses and spies. Up until World War I, women served as soldiers disguised as men. During the last two years of World War I, women were finally allowed to join the military in their own right. Thirty-six thousand women served in that war, and more than 400 nurses died in the line of duty.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A 1917 recruitment poster illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.

Today, about 219,000 women Service members are currently stationed throughout the world filling a diverse range of roles from radio operators, translators, and pilots to rangers. Times have certainly changed.

As the number of women in military service grows, so does the number of women veterans. Today, nearly 2 million veterans are women. As the fastest growing veteran subpopulation, women veterans are making their mark. Before 2012, there had been only three women veterans in Congress in history. Today, a record six female veterans hold office on Capitol Hill.

But while the success of our women veterans is undeniable, the explosive growth in the number of women veterans means VA must continue to adapt to better meet their diverse needs — and we are.

I spent the first eighteen years of my VA career in Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) Service — and I know first-hand how essential it is that veterans receive their benefits and services to put them on the path to a meaningful civilian career. It’s our job at VA to anticipate the services women veterans need and to provide that to them.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jessica Domingo, right, and Cpl. Daisy Romero, assigned to a female engagement team.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum)

For instance, women veterans are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of businesses owned by women veterans increased by 296 percent, to reach a total of 384,548 businesses, up from about 130,000. And the number continues to grow: over the past five years the number of companies owned by women veterans has almost quadrupled.

I hope you’ll take a look at the Center for Women Veterans’ new Trailblazers Initiative, which celebrates the contributions of women veterans who served our country — especially those who blazed a trail for others to follow.

At VA we are proud of our women veterans, and we will continue to work to ensure that we anticipate and meet their needs as they continue to be a vital part of our military and nation. I extend my thanks to women veterans who continue your service every day in big and small ways.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

7 longest range sniper kills in history

These 7 snipers reached out and touched the enemy from a long way away:


1. The British sniper who nailed three 1.53-mile hits

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
UK (Ministry of Defence photo)

Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison was providing sniper support in a firefight between his buddies and Afghan insurgents. Near the end of the three-hour battle in Nov. 2009, Harrison spotted the enemy machine gun team that was pinning everyone down. He lined up his sights on the targets that were over 1.5 miles away.

Each shot took 6 seconds to impact. He fired five times. Two shots missed but one round ripped through the gunner’s stomach, another took out the assistant gunner, and the last one destroyed the machine gun.

2. A Canadian sniper who took out a machine gunner in Operation Anaconda

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
Photo: Canadian Army Cpl. Bruno Turcotte

During Operation Anaconda, the bloody hunt of Afghan militants in the Shahikot Valley in Mar. 2002, Canadian Cpl. Rob Furlong was watching over a group of U.S. troops and saw an insurgent automatic weapons team climbing a ridge 1.5 miles away. His first two shots narrowly missed but the third broke open the gunner’s torso and left him bleeding out on the ground. The shot barely beat out Master Cpl. Arron Perry’s shot discussed below.

3. Another Canadian sniper in Operation Anaconda who took out an observer from nearly the same distance

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
Photo: Canadian Army 3 PPCLI Battle Group Cpl Lou Penney

Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry was also supporting U.S. troops in Operation Anaconda when he spotted an enemy artillery observer 1.43 miles away. Perry took aim at the observer and nailed him. Perry held the record for world’s longest sniper kill for a few days before Furlong beat it.

4. The Ranger whose longest-American kill is still mostly secret

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
Photo: US Army Capt. John Farmer

Sgt. Bryan Kremer was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Mar. 2004 when he took a shot from 1.42 miles away and killed an Iraqi insurgent. The details of the battle have been kept under wraps, but his Mar. 2004 shot is the longest recorded sniper kill by an American.

5. The Marine legend who set the world record with a machine gun

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of the most respected names in the Marine Corps and set the record for longest kill in 1967 with a machine gun. The record stood for 35 years before Perry beat it.

Hathcock had an M2 in single-shot mode with a scope mounted on the top. He saw a Vietcong soldier pushing a bike loaded with weapons and took two shots. The first destroyed the bike and the second killed the soldier.

READ MORE: This Marine made history’s 5th longest sniper kill with a machine gun

6. The South African sniper who recorded hits from 1.32 miles while killing six officers in a day

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
Photo: US Marine Forces Reserve Cpl. Jad Sleiman

A South African battalion deployed in a U.N. brigade fought viciously against the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the Battle of Kibati, an unnamed South African sniper killed six M23 officers in a single day in Aug. 2013. His longest kill that day was an amazing 1.32-mile shot.

7. The Army sniper who tagged Taliban who walked into his personal firing range

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
Photo: US Army Cpl. Bertha Flores

Snipers sometimes fire at different objects on the battlefield to collect information about how their rounds move through the air at a given location. Spc. Nicholas Ranstad had been firing at a boulder near his position, leaving a small trail of white marks on the rock.

In Jan. 2008 he was lucky enough to spot four Afghan insurgents standing in front of his normal target. The men were 1.28 miles away, but standing in the spot that Ranstad had the most experience firing. His first shot narrowly missed, but his second killed one of the fighters. The other three bugged out.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information