The Air Force created an army of online trolls - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Everyone gets Facebook friend requests from strangers. We used to worry about them being identity thieves. Nowadays, those strangers might be spooks.


The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Many experts agree cyberspace is the battleground of the future, and for good reason. We see that future playing out in many ways, even now. There are real cybersecurity threats out there, as the recent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management demonstrates. Experts estimate the cost of information lost to hackers could be as high as $4.6 billion.

This isn’t The Pirate Bay sharing films and music via free torrent downloads. This is actual damage from ideological foes like ISIS and North Korea. China alone accounts for 70% of intellectual property theft. One Air Force counter strategy took a play from Russia’s playbook: create an online army of trolls.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Russian trolls pump out 135 comments, 50 news article posts, and maintain 6-10 Facebook and Twitter accounts per 12-hour shift. But Russia uses actual humans to do this work, while the Air Force commissioned software to allow one service member to control the same number of online identities, accounts known as “sock puppets,” toward purposes not specified.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Unlike the Air Force’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts, which rightfully celebrate National Waffle Day.

In 2010, Air Force contractors took bids for developing this software on FedBizOps (which is a real government website, despite sounding like a subsidiary of Cash4Gold) as legally required for potential contractor opportunities. According to the contract synopsis the Air Force wanted:

“50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per user. Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”

That’s 500 people spreading disinformation and propaganda, much more than the mass emails your parents send to all their friends.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has the same technology. It might even be better than the Air Force’s request, as CENTCOM’s can fool geolocating services, allowing for misinformation and propaganda (or anything else the software could provide) from anywhere in the world.

“This contract supports classified social media activities outside the U.S., intended to counter violent extremist ideology and enemy propaganda,” said Commander Bill Speaks, the chief media officer of CENTCOM’s digital engagement team.

In contrast, the Air Force’s guidelines for actual humans posting on blogs and social media is actually pretty well constructed.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

One of the original bidders for the software was the now-defunct HBGary, whose CEO infamously bragged he was able to take down hacker collective Anonymous, the same collective who subsequently dumped HBGary’s secret documents onto the Internet, where it was found HBGary had developed similar software as a part of the U.S. government’s ongoing not-so-secret supervillain plan to destroy the Wikileaks website.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Supervillainy is another area dominated by the Russians

Whatever the persona technology was for, it was launched in March 2011, presumably in support of Operation Earnest Voice. For the record, it would be illegal for the Air Force or CENTCOM to use “sock puppet” accounts against American citizens.

NOW: Russia has a ‘troll farm’ of people posting crazy internet comments all day long

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This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

On the day that 19 terrorists from the radical Islamic group al-Qaeda attacked the United States using airliners as cruise missiles, the U.S. military jumped to respond.


And it was a response that began even before the Pentagon was hit.

Some stories of 9/11 are well-known, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld racing to the scene of devastation at the Pentagon to aid victims of the attack, or the pilots plan to ram Flight 93 foiled hadn’t by passengers on the plane.

But there were other heroic deeds during the attack.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
When Flight 93 hit the Pentagon, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ran to the scene to assist victims rather than remain in relative safety. (PentagonMemorial.org)

According to the 9/11 Commission report, when word reached North American Aerospace Command, also known as NORAD, of the first hijacking, two F-15 Eagles from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were scrambled to try to intercept the planes. They took off just as Flight 11 hit the North Tower – WTC 1 – at 8:53 AM on that Tuesday morning.

NORAD had last dealt with a hijacking in 1993. One thing that worked against NORAD during that terrible day was the fact that that there were very few sites from which interceptors could launch.

During the Cold War, the 9/11 Commission Report noted, there had been 26 sites.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
NORAD Command Center. (Wikimedia Commons)

Other military jets — F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia, and F-16s from the District of Colombia Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base — had also scrambled. Pilots from the latter unit were armed only with dummy rounds for their M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon.

The F-15 pilots, according to the commission report, didn’t even know they were looking for hijacked airliners. The lead pilot would later be quoted in the report as saying, “I reverted to the Russian threat. …I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Maj. Gen. Marc Sasseville, who was the lead F-16 pilot, and prepared to ram a hijacked airliner. (USAF photo)

It as a credit to NORAD, that even though they were unable to keep the airliners from hitting targets, military personnel were able to face an unprecedented threat and challenge with an improvised air-defense system cobbled together in a matter of hours, despite having never trained to face that threat.

On the first day of what one unidentified officer called “a new type of war,” they reacted with skill and professionalism.

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US Navy SEALs are training with Ukrainian special operations forces

Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.


An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.

This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.

This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
A U.S Naval Special Warfare Operator observes a Ukrainian SOF Operator during a weapons range in Ochakiv, Ukraine during exercise Sea Breeze 17, July 18, 2017. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region. (U.S. military photo)

Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.

He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.

“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”

Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Ukrainian SOF prepare to board a U.S. CV-22 Osprey during exercise Sea Breeze 17. Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Lopez

Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.

“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”

Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.

“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
US Navy Special Warfare Operators train at a small-arms range with Ukrainian SOF at Ochakiv, Ukraine, July 13, 2017 at exercise Sea Breeze 17. Photo by Spc. Jeffery Lopez.

As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.

“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.

On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.

“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”

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The first ‘battle’ of World War II was a Nazi war crime

The Air Force created an army of online trolls


The beginning of World War II started with a brutal Nazi war crime.

On Sep. 1, 1939, German soldiers began their invasion of Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II. The shelling of a Polish garrison at Westerplatte is commonly believed to be the first shot fired in the war, but the beginning actually happened five minutes prior, according to Deutsche Welle.

At 4:40 a.m., the town of Wieluń was bombed by the Luftwaffe as most of its 16,000 residents slept. There were no anti-aircraft, military, or economic targets of any importance, in the sleepy town just 13 miles from the German border. The target of the bombing was civilians.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Nick Siekierski translates this article from a Polish newspaper:

Overall, 380 bombs fell on Wieluń, weighing a total of 46 tons. The first ones hit the All-Saints Hospital. 32 people died there – patients and staff. These were the first victims of the German air raids during World War II. The next target was the oldest parish church in Wieluń, St. Michael the Archangel, built in the beginning of the 14th Century. The Piarist building was the only surviving structure on the old square.

In total, as a result of the attack on Wieluń by the German air force, which lasted until 2pm, over 1200 people died. Certain sources note as many as 2,000 victims. Bombs dropped by the Stukas (Junkers Ju 87) destroyed 75% of the city. 90% of the city center was destroyed.

The people of Wieluń were the first to experience the German tactic of “blitzkrieg” (lightning) war, which was later used during the invasions of Belgium, North Africa, the Netherlands, and France. Just minutes after the bombing of the town began, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of Westerplatte.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and the conflict lasted for six years at the cost of millions of lives. When it was all over in 1945, it ended with the surrender of the Nazis, and the exposure of the most shocking and brutal war crime the world had ever seen.

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Marines hold hilarious ‘memorial service’ for their porn stash

In 2009, the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines stationed at Forward Operating Base Eagle, Iraq said goodbye to their porn stash.


“Golf co. 2/9 was replaced by a bunch of reservists from Utah.” reads the video description by MrTriptrop.

Related: This military-friendly porn star is starting a project just for veterans

With their deployment coming to an end, they decided to properly send off the women that provided temporary release from their sexual repression, according to the video. The ceremony and obituary are pure comedy, check it out:

We gather here today to honor the eternal memory of the women that have sacrificed services for the good of those that have suffered sexual repression through geographic isolation, mainly: us.

These ladies of the periodical, queens of the center fold have inspired our imaginations and other parts that should not be mentioned at this time.

Though these many months have been long and hard, they provided us with a means for us to have a temporary release.

Your undying patriotism and service to those who serve has not been in vain and though our time together may have come to an end, you will forever live on in our hearts.

We salute you oh princess of the page, you will never be forgotten.

Now we will sound off a few of the names of those who have inspired us …

MrTriptrop, YouTube

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Army Legend Hal Moore Dies at 94

Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.


The Air Force created an army of online trolls

According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in Vietnam. Plumley died in 2012.

Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.

Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.

According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (US Army photo)

While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.

Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.

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‘Eye In The Sky’ is a thriller that challenges the ethics of drone warfare

Above: An exclusive clip from “Eye in the Sky.”


A group of terrorists huddle in a house in an al-Shabab controlled area of Kenya. Among them are high-value individuals who perpetuate terror attacks throughout East Africa. They pray and then rig their suicide vests. Drones overhead beam the scene to allied forces, but time is running out and there is potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties.

The new movie “Eye In The Sky” tackles this scenario. The allied mission commander, British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), orders a U.S. military drone strike on al-Shabab terrorist organizers and would-be suicide bombers, but her call is made more complicated by the fact that a little Kenyan girl (Aisha Takow) will likely be killed in the strike.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

The film, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival, shows a unique vision of how calls are made in the heat of battle. From Col. Powell and the drone pilot, 2nd Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) to the highest rungs of the British and American governments, those watching the camera feeds decide the fates of the terrorists and the innocent bystander. They each make their own arguments in turn as the situation evolves.

The film shows a number of thought-provoking moral questions in the microcosm of this one drone strike. It weighs morality against the tactics of modern warfare. The characters try to minimize the damage done by drone strikes while suicide bombers prepare to kill as many people as possible. The film also questions the value of targeted killings over real human intelligence in the war on terror. But the moral calculus has to be figured out in a hurry. The clock is ticking on this potential strike. A decision must be reached before the terrorists are allowed to disappear into the sprawling city to carry out their suicide missions.

“Eye in the Sky” depicts the divide between civilian leaders and the men and women who conduct targeted operations. Civilian leaders want to achieve political goals but dislike the means by which they have to achieve them. The warfighters have to educate elected leaders on weighing the risks of collateral damage while the civilians have to remind the them about the propaganda value of targeted killings for the enemy. Neither side comes away clean as they argue over the fate of civilians who are otherwise going about their daily lives while this international debate unfolds.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

The film’s final scene features the late Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role as British Lt. Gen. Frank Benson. In one of his finest moments as an actor, he delivers a harsh rebuke to a civilian Member of Parliament: “Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.”

“Eye In the Sky” is a thrilling nail-biter that also asks questions about the ethics of fighting a high-tech war.

 

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Can ‘The Punisher’ outmatch ISIS in the Philippines?

While the world focuses on Syria and Iraq, the menace of Islamic State is quietly expanding into Southeast Asia.


Eight thousand miles from the Middle East frontline, the Philippines has become the region’s main transit hub for Jihadists traveling to Syria, complete with a network of terror training camps.

Not that this is widely known – even by those living in the country. Contrasting against strong-armed efforts in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Filipino government – preferring to label terrorists as ‘criminal gangs’ or ‘bandits’ – has appeared weak.

Until now, that is. Enter the new president: Rodrigo Duterte.

Known as “Duterte Harry” or “the Punisher” after allegations of vigilante killings to cut crime in the city of Davao, where he served as mayor, the President’s pledges include dumping a hundred thousand gangsters’ corpses in the Manila Bay. Gangs, bandits or terrorists – the growing number with affiliation to Islamic State warrant his immediate focus.

Myriad Militant Problem

Terrorism is nothing new to the Philippines. Separatists, Communists, Islamists have all utilised the southern island of Mindanao and the surrounding Sulu Sea archipelago as a remote safe haven for decades.

Today’s is a myriad militant problem riddled with competing interests, egos and continual splits.

The plethora of rival groups plays into the hands of more entrenched and radical elements with a global agenda and deeper financing. Islamic State has taken up where Al-Qaeda left off in building links to militias such as Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Justice Movement.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Bangsamoro Justice Movement, led by Usman Basit (tauntingly unmasked), is among local groups allied to Islamic State.

Islamic State’s motive in the region is clear. The Philippines is the only immediately viable launch pad for its Southeast Asia aspirations. Obtaining a foothold here would facilitate a satellite province, or wilayat, endorsing the Islamic State’s objective of a “borderless sphere of influence in Asia.”

Quite how this ambition plays out will be determined in part by a political decision looming June 30 on autonomy for the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao.

Amidst all the infighting, groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been supporting the legal process to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The aspiration for the Bangsamoro Basic Law has significantly reduced terrorism in Mindanao. For now, the region’s separatists are likely to resist ties to Islamic State for fear it could derail progress toward autonomy. Any failure to enact the law, however, is almost certain to trigger a resurgence of attacks and a search for scale.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Islamic State has demonstrated an ability to seize opportunities offered by regional extremist conflicts. It operates by first requiring a proposal detailing the local militia’s governance strategy. The next stage is identifying a collectively chosen leader.

Among its quarrelsome Filipino members – whose rival leaders have on occasion ordered their men to shoot at each other – this is likely to be the biggest sticking point in any affiliation with IS.

Nevertheless, the potential rewards for both side are big enough to motivate solutions. The porous nature of maritime routes into Malaysia and Indonesia, and a lack of security around the Mindanao islands, offers Islamic State extensive supply and logistical routes.

Despite declarations to the contrary from the Philippine government and security agencies, Islamic State has already made in-roads to some of the local jihadist groups in Mindanao.

Black Standard

A stronghold of conservative Sunni Islam, the Mindanao people are largely impoverished, long politicised, disenfranchised and aggrieved. They’re a Muslim minority in a country that is 87% Roman Catholic. Parts of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago once belonged to the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu, founded in 1405 – a reference point not lost on Islamic State’s recruiters. The Black Standard synonymous with al-Qaeda and now Islamic State has been seen with the words ‘Islamic State of Mindanao and Sulu’ on several videos and social media pages of Filipino extremists this year.

The area is fertile ground for Islamic State’s efforts to spread its Salafist ideology, and can become a base for further allegiances across Southeast Asia. Such ties are already taking root, as demonstrated by the attacks on Jakarta in January, the arrest of suicide bombers during planning phases in Kuala Lumpur the same month, and the ongoing internment of suspected jihadists across Malaysia since the middle of last year.

Should the Bangsamoro Basic Law pass on June 30, turning the region historically referred to as Bangsamoro, or ‘region of the Moros,’ into a politically autonomous province, then Islamic fundamentalism will be championed by lawful separatism. It should help to slow the local aspirations of Islamic State.

Failure to ratify, on the other hand, could be a catalyst for resurgent separatist terrorism. As in the past, Mindanao could become a total no-go zone for the government. Without doubt, this would serve to benefit the plethora of radical jihadist militants and their aspirations, including Islamic State.

The new President has expressed support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law and wants to move toward federalism to bring peace to Mindanao.

If he can achieve this, the Punisher would warrant a new name: the Peacemaker.

But such rational thinking might be too much to expect. This is, after all, a president who publicly entertained rape fantasies and called Pope Francis a ‘son of a whore’ after the papal entourage tied up traffic in the already-busy streets of Manila last year. His unapologetic stance toward the Vatican, though distasteful toward many of his Catholic constituents, may be an indication of his refusal to back down from the more existential threat posed by Islamic State.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Phill Hynes

The authors of this report are Phill Hynes and Hrishiraj Bhattacharjee, analysts at ISS Risk, a frontier and emerging markets political risk management company covering North, South and Southeast Asia from its headquarters in Hong Kong.

 

 

Check out more in-depth reporting and analysis from Frontera News here.

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US general suspects Russia is supplying the Taliban

VOA News


Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.

“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.

His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.

“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.

Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .

VOA Afghan contributed to this report.

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5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

“Choose Your Own Adventure” books were an easy way to feel accomplished as a child. In a few short, simple pages, you could make the decisions which would ultimately kill your character and you could count it as an entire book read — all the way through. Book that, Pizza Hut.


If you had more time to kill or wanted to go on another adventure, you could just crack the book open again and find a new way to die. Either way, you know how these books end.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
There’s seriously no other way.

It should be simple to go back and revisit these books now that we have a lifetime of experience from which to help guide us and make decisions. Suddenly it’s a lot easier to break your friends out of Nazi Germany or get that secret message to George Washington. And now it all makes sense why your character died so often — some of these books give you absolutely terrible choices.

No matter what, it prepares you for a life of making bad life decisions.

1. Sabotage

No, they did not make a book from a Beastie Boys song (though that would have been awesome and could have explained so much). Sabotage places you in 1942 Casablanca, where you are an agent for Secret Forces. No country, just Secret Forces. You’re working with the French Resistance to break some friends out of a castle prison in Nazi Germany, but the notorious SS Agent Kruptsch is out to foil you.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Your handler gives you an envelope you’re supposed to open when you’re about to enter the castle and sends you off with Resistance operatives Simone and Raoul. Getting to the castle is really difficult because the Germans keep surprising you. When you get to the castle, the envelope lets you know why: Raoul is a double agent. There’s no explanation for why Secret Forces let him continue being a double agent or why they didn’t tell you that in the first place. But that doesn’t matter because if you take too long getting to the castle, your friends escape on their own anyway. Thanks for your help, chummmmmmmmmp!

2. Spy for George Washington

The American Colonies are in open rebellion against Great Britain. You are too young to enlist as a Continental Soldier, so a man you know enlists you (a child) to deliver a message to General George Washington about the British attack on Philadelphia. That’s not nearly as dangerous, right?

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Benedict Arnold would have trouble with this.

You are given every opportunity to tell everyone from Royal Navy Captains to strangers on the street about your super secret mission. The book lets you make that choice. And every time you avoid direct confrontation, you are waylaid and/or eventually killed off. The lesson here is Americans don’t avoid fights, even as spies.

3. Gunfire at Gettysburg

You are a bossy jerk of a kid in 1863 Pennsylvania who is more than a little confused about the ongoing Civil War. On one hand, slavery is wrong, but on the other, the Rebels are fighting in their homeland. I’m not kidding, this is your rationale, your great conundrum.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

You just happen to be on the battlefield when the Battle of Gettysburg starts and your sociopath best friend implores you to stick around and watch for a while. You’re held at gunpoint by a Confederate officer who gives you the option of helping the Rebels with your knowledge of the local terrain or making a break for it. You consider helping the Confederates because — and I sh*t you not — you want to meet General Lee.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
Sploosh. Apparently.

The author clearly has some kind of man crush on Robert E. Lee. With blazing speed you are given so many options to betray your country. If you try to help slaves escape, you lose. Eventually, you are staring, dumbfounded, as the battle rages around you. The endings where you actually survive always finish with a Southern loss, but your character always looks back wistfully at what might have been.

4. UN Adventure: Mission to Molowa

Only a book for kids would be naive enough to think the UN is anything more than a bureaucratic nightmare. But “to start on tomorrow’s paperwork, turn to page 91” doesn’t make for good reading.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
It looks like that mountain is giving birth to a Jeep.

Anyway, you are representing the U.S. in a model UN in New York. You meet a friend there named Achmed from the United Arab Emirates and a girl named Benati from Myanmar at a Middle Eastern restaurant down the street. For some reason the UN Secretary General calls on you three CHILDREN to solve a civil war in Africa and settle a nuclear arms deal with a dictator from a fictional breakaway Russian Republic.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
The U.S. President sends his kids to hotspots. Why not the UN Secretary General?

Achmed disappears entirely and you drive into Molowa in an armed convoy to negotiate with five warlords. In true UN fashion, unless you stop to talk, negotiate, or barter with people, you are either left to starve in the wilderness or are eaten by hippos.

5. Hostage!

You are on a field trip to Washington, DC when the Alarin Cartel, a crime syndicate, threatens the White House. Your bus is then taken captive by the worst terrorists ever. They immediately leave all hostages alone on the bus.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
You think Pablo Escobar would just leave you all there alone? That’s not how real cartels roll.

If you act unilaterally and immediately, you can escape in no time, leaving your classmates to whatever fate. The terrorists are after a deadly virus the government is making anyway — they don’t really care if anyone lives. In some endings, the virus is cured by antibiotics (which is medically impossible) and in others it spreads around the world.

The Air Force created an army of online trolls
The first step toward zombies.

You will either work with the President of the United States to force a surrender (while completely glossing over this blatant American violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention) or join the terrorists in South America. All in all, the only decisions you make are really awful, just like the ones you make in real life. At least the cartels have free booze.

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Army relaxes standards on beards, turbans and dreadlocks

Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.


Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.

Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.

“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”

Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.

“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”

The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”

All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.

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Spc. Harpal Singh, with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, watches as his fellow Soldiers go through the Slide to Victory obstacle at the Fort Jackson Confidence Course. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons)

The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.

The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.

In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.

“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.

“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.

Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.

That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”

Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.

If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.

Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.

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A Marine makes sure his gas mask has a proper seal to keep contaminants away from his face. Beards can inhibit a proper seal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”

Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.

If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.

Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.

For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.

Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.

“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”

Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.

“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”

Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.

 

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How the WW2 bomber Memphis Belle got its wings back

For the first time in 14 years, one of the most iconic planes in American history has earned its wings.


Restorers have reattached the wings to the B-17F Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Wednesday, the museum provided a behind-the-scenes look as aircraft workers reattached more pieces to the bomber’s wings in preparation for a public unveiling next year.

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(Photo: NASA)

“It’s amazing,” said Casey Simmons, a restorer who has labored on the project since 2008 . “I don’t know if there’s words that really say it because you’re little and you build this kit as a little model (airplane) and now you’re actually doing the real thing.

“My favorite part about working on it is just the fact that I get to work on it,” added Casey, 36, of Dayton. “It’s the Memphis Belle. It’s one of the most famous planes. Everything about it, it doesn’t seem like a job. It’s what I’d be doing in my free time if I got to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Related: This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

The Army Air Forces plane is set to make its debut among fabled aircraft inside the World War II gallery at the museum on May 17, 2018, the date that marks the 75th anniversary of the 25th and final wartime mission of the storied bomber that battled Nazi Germany.

The final crew and the bomber gained fame on a nationwide wartime bond tour, which stopped in Dayton, and for a 1944 movie “Memphis Belle” that documented its combat exploits over Europe.

“The big significance of the Belle is it’s an icon and it represents those heavy bomber crews that helped win the war against Germany,” said Jeff Duford, a museum curator.

The Memphis Belle will sit as the centerpiece of a large-scale exhibit on strategic bombing. Archival footage of the historic plane’s missions retrieved from the National Archives, crew artifacts flown in combat and interactive screens will tell the tale of thousands of bombers and their crews in the bloody aerial battles that killed more airman than any war American airmen have fought in.

Crews have roughly 13,000 hours of work left, said Greg Hassler, restoration supervisor. The museum was not able to provide a cost estimate or how many hours workers and volunteers labored so far to bring the Belle back to its former end of combat luster.

Also read: This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

Restorers have labored to meticulously off and on to scrape paint, bend metal and fabricate parts since the Boeing built-bomber arrived in 2005 hauled in on a truck from near Memphis, Tenn.

“You get lots of parts and boxes and things that aren’t marked and it’s trying to figure out where things go (you) look at the drawings and it’s like a puzzle,” Simmons said.

The plane will be repainted to reflect how it looked at the end of its combat bombing runs and before flying across the nation on the war bond tour, Duford said. The paint on the plane today is not the original markings, he said.

“The skin all over the the fuselage is engraved with the names when it went on its war bond tour so you want to try and keep all that as much as you can because if you replace that, that’s history gone,” Simmons said.

The reborn Belle will have a woman in a red dress on one side of the plane and in a blue dress on the other side of the nose to reflect the original look. A row of swastikas added for the war bond tour will be removed because they weren’t on the bomber immediately after it finished its days in combat, Duford said

The wings were last attached in 2003, officials said.

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7 tips for getting away with fraternization

So, you’ve got a fever and the only cure is a consensual adult relationship that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice? It happens.


And by the way, it can happen among friends, but for this article, we’re going to talk about sexual or romantic relationships.

Related video:

 

Paraphrasing here from the
Manual for Courts Martial: Fraternization in the military is a personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member that violates the customary bounds of acceptable behavior and jeopardizes good order and discipline.

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That’s a mouthful, but it boils down to the intent of guidelines for any relationship among professionals: The appearance of favoritism hurts the group, and, with the military in particular, could actually get someone killed.

Also read: 13 Hilarious Meme Replies To Our Article About Dating On Navy Ships

But we’re only human, right? It’s natural to fall for someone you work with, so here are a couple of tips that can help keep you out of Leavenworth:

1. Don’t do it

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Seriously. Cut it off when you first start to feel the butterflies-slash-burning-in-your-loins. Flirting is a rush and it’s fun and
NO.

Hit the gym. Take a break.
Swipe right on Tinder. Do whatever you have to do to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.

2. Be discreet

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Okay, fine, you’re going for it anyway. We’ve all been there (nervous laughter…).

People are more intuitive than you think. Don’t give them any reason to suspect you and your illicit goings-on. Be completely professional at work. Don’t flirt in the office. Don’t send sweet nothings over government e-mail (yes, it is being monitored).

3. Keep it off-base

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Don’t be stupid, okay? Get away from the watchful eyes all the people around you who live and breathe military regulations.

4. Square away

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The thing about military punishment is that you are usually judged by your commander first. If you do get caught, you want people to really regret the idea of punishing you.

Be amazing at your job — better yet, be the best at your job. Be irreplaceable. Be a leader and a team player and a bad ass. Set the example with your physical fitness and your marksmanship and your ability to destroy terrorism.

Be beloved by all and you just might get away with a slap on the wrist…

5. Plausible deniability

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I would never tell you to lie because integrity and honor are all totes important and stuff, but…

If lawyers can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were actually engaged in criminal activity, you could be spared from a conviction.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that you both
happened to be volunteering at the same time. It was for the orphans…

How could you have known that you both like to spend Christmas in Hawaii?

It’s not your fault Sgt. Hottie wanted to attend a concert in the same town where your parents live, right?

6. Talk it out

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If you can’t have a mature conversation with this person about how to conduct yourselves in the workplace or how you’d each face the consequences of being discovered, you really shouldn’t be getting it on.

You are both risking your careers and livelihoods because of this relationship — don’t take it lightly.

And whatever you do, treat each other with honesty and respect — you’re all you have right now.

7. Don’t go to the danger zone

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I know you know this, but here’s the thing: REALLY DON’T DO IT (PUN INTENDED) WHILE IN A COMBAT ZONE.

This is life and death. Remind yourself why you chose to serve your country. Pay attention to the men and women around you who trust you and rely on you to protect them.

LOCK IT UP. You’re a warrior and you have discipline.

Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment and let us know.

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