According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.
“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.
Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.
Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.
The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.
With a distinguished history dating back to the end of American Civil War, the men and women of the elite Secret Service take on one of the world’s toughest tasks — protecting the U.S. president and other government officials from assassination attempts.
Originally designated to control the issue of combating US currency counterfeiting, it wasn’t until after the assassination of former President William McKinley when the Service Secret was assigned to protect the POTUS in 1901.
The Secret Service’s mission is to prevent life-threatening incidents well before they occur. They scope out meeting locations days before their clients show up and map out vantage points and escape routes if the situation goes pear shaped.
In the sniper world, the mission is the same. Highly-trained sharpshooters are always on the alert, completely focused and ready to strike at all times.
Working in teams of two, you can usually spot them posted on the White House’s rooftop examining your every move.
Usually armed with high-powered rifles, each team is equipped with a shooter and a spotter. These snipers go through intense training learning how to react to any situation that they may face.
Remarkably, no sniper team has ever had to fire a shot since the unit was formed in 1971.
In 2015, Skydance CEO David Ellison said a script was being written and that the story would take place in the contemporary times and feature drone fighters.
“It’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today,” Ellison said at the time.
Later that year, fellow “Top Gun” star Val Kilmer confirmed that he would be in the sequel.
The original “Top Gun,” which starred Cruise as a hotshot pilot who’s training at the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School, was one of the biggest hits of the late 1980s, earning over $350 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. The movie didn’t just attract the male audience that wanted to see intense aerial action scenes, but women also flocked to the theaters thanks in part to Cruise’s sex-symbol status and the music that ranged from Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to Berlin’s Oscar-winning ballad “Take My Breath Away” (used as background music to Cruise’s romance with Kelly McGillis in the film).
Hackers working for Russia claimed “hundreds of victims” in 2017 in a major, long-running campaign that enabled them to gain control over some U.S. electric utilities, where they could have caused blackouts, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
Citing officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported on July 23, 2018 that the Russian hacking campaign has likely continued in 2018 and involves a state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear.
The hackers broke into supposedly secure networks owned by utilities with relative ease by first penetrating the networks of vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies, the Journal reported.
“They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and disrupted power flows, Jonathan Homer, a department analyst, told the Journal.
‘Hundreds’ of victims
The department has been warning utility executives with security clearances about the Russian threat to critical infrastructure since 2014.
But on July 23, 2018, the department gave out detailed information about the intrusions publicly for the first time at an unclassified briefing for the industry. It did not provide the names of alleged victims, but said there were “hundreds.”
It also said some companies still may not know they were compromised, because the attacks used credentials of actual employees to get inside utility networks, potentially making the intrusions more difficult to detect.
“They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack,” Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, who is now a senior director at the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Journal. “They are waging a covert war on the West.”
Russia has denied targeting critical infrastructure.
Homer told the Journal that the long-running cyberattack, which surfaced in the spring of 2016 and continued throughout 2017, exploited relationships that utilities have with vendors who have special access to update software, run diagnostics on equipment, and perform other services that are needed to keep millions of pieces of gear in working order.
He said the attackers began by using conventional tools — spear phishing e-mails and watering-hole attacks, which trick victims into entering their passwords on malware-infected websites — to compromise the corporate networks of suppliers, many of whom were small companies without big budgets for cybersecurity.
Once inside the vendor networks, they pivoted to their real focus: the utilities, officials told the Journal. They said it was a relatively easy process, in many cases, for the intruders to steal credentials from vendors and gain direct access to utility networks.
Then they began stealing confidential information. For example, the hackers vacuumed up information showing how utility networks were configured, what equipment was in use and how it was controlled.
The hackers also familiarized themselves with how the facilities were supposed to work, because attackers “have to learn how to take the normal and make it abnormal” to cause disruptions, Homer told the Journal.
The department said it plans three more industry briefings and hopes to determine whether there are any new network infections, and whether the hackers have figured out ways to defeat security enhancements like multifactor authentication.
In addition, the department is looking for evidence that the Russian hackers are automating their attacks, which investigators worry could presage a large increase in hacking efforts.
It isn’t yet clear whether the hackers used their access to prepare for some future, devastating blow to the U.S. electric grid, investigators told the Journal.
Cards for Connection is a free resource that puts simple coping skills and VA phone numbers directly into veterans’ hands. Originally created for veterans who had experienced homelessness, the card deck has now been updated with information for all veterans.
As a result, veterans playing a game of cards read positive affirmations, reminders to breathe, and encouragement to make a connection with others.
Developing Cards for Connection
VA received input by veterans and that helped inform the VA staff that works with them.
Some veterans reported great feedback. Many wanted to see phone numbers on the cards, whether to see a doctor, find a safe place to sleep, or ask about VA resources.
Cards for Connection hopes to help Veterans cope with different situations.
“I like the feel of them. I was noticing the texture, it’s nice,” said one veteran.
Another veteran said, “I love this picture. If you’re in a [bad place], and you actually have a picture of something beautiful to look at, that’s something great.”
Veteran feedback will update future versions
VA will collect additional feedback on the cards via anonymous pre-addressed/stamped postcards. It will also collect from focus groups and anonymous staff surveys. VA will use this information to update future versions.
How do I get a deck of Cards for Connection?
There are about 8,000 decks available for any veteran who could benefit from using them. Requests for a deck from veterans can be sent to Katherine.Juhasz@va.gov.
North Korea has claimed to have destroyed the Punggye-ri test site, which had been previously used for numerous nuclear tests.
Officials from Kim Jong Un’s regime blew up tunnels at the site in front of some 20 foreign journalists from the US, UK, Russia, China, and South Korea on May 24, 2018.
Tom Cheshire, a Sky News correspondent who was invited to witness the destruction from 500 metres away, described a “huge explosion,” seeing part of a hill collapsing, and a wooden observation cabin being blown to “smithereens.”
He also described doors to a tunnel being “theatrically rigged,” and seeing wires and plastic bags strewn everywhere.
The journalists, who were staying in Wonsan, had to take a 12-hour overnight train and a four-hour bus, and then hike for two hours in order to get to the test site, located in North Korea’s sparsely-populated northeast.
Punggye-ri is believed to be where North Korea carried out at least five nuclear tests in the past, including in September 2017, when the regime claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb.
South Korean journalists had been excluded from the trip until the last minute as the North protested a US-South Korean military drill. The destruction of the tunnels was also done according to North Korea: It does not meet US or international standards for verifiable or complete denuclearisation.
Chinese authorities also said in April 2018, that Punggye-ri had collapsed. In September 2017, analysts also told The Washington Post that the mountain was suffering from “tired mountain syndrome” after its numerous nuclear tests.
Moreover, if North Korea truly has completed its nuclear programme, as it has claimed, it no longer needs an active test site anyway.
Kim is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in June 2018, although Trump said the summit could be delayed.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As President-elect Biden builds his team, one key unknown appointment is causing friction: who could be President Biden’s Secretary of Defense?
Coalition leaders within the political landscape are pushing for different contenders. The Congressional Black Caucus is encouraging him to choose a Black leader while many within the progressive wing of politics are pressuring Biden to select a female leader. There has never been a female or Black Secretary of Defense, something both groups are vying to change.
Among the speculated contenders for the position include retired four-star Army General Lloyd Austin and Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Army National Guard veteran and America’s first female double-amputee from the Iraq War. Michele Flournoy is also under consideration as is former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Although there are others being considered, these four have the most ties to the military community through service and experience.
All potential candidates represent the president-elect’s commitment to building a diverse cabinet. In November of 2020, Biden announced the historic appointment of an all female-led communications team.
For Austin to be President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense, he would require a congressional waiver from Congress since he only retired just four years prior from active duty service. There is widespread discontent with him as a choice due to his time working within defense contracting as well as a congressional hearing that left more questions than answers. If chosen, he would be the first Black Secretary of Defense, as would Johnson. Although Duckworth would be a history-making nominee as a female and combat-wounded veteran, CNN reported that Biden is reluctant to leave vacancies within the Senate. Flournoy is experiencing some backlash as a choice as well, due to her connection with arms sales and unanswered questions about her consulting company, WestExec Advisors, LLC.
The Secretary of Defense position has been full of tumult under President Trump, with a leadership change six times. While retired General Jim Mattis led for almost two years when Trump began his presidency, his successors didn’t last nearly as long. Patrick Shanahan held the position for six months, Mark Esper for 21 days, Richard Spencer for only eight days before Esper took over again, this time for a year and 109 days. The current Acting Secretary of Defense was only appointed in November of 2020 after Esper was fired on Twitter by President Trump.
With the continued changing leadership at the Pentagon, it’s understandable that those voicing opinions on Biden’s pick are concerned. The administration appears to be taking pains to ensure President-Elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense is a solid and secure pick. Until then, the military community waits in the wings, breath held in anticipation of their new defense leader.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently laid out a new U.S. approach to the conflict in Syria, and two things became immediately clear — the U.S. is staying in Syria and conflict with Iran could be coming.
Up until this point, the U.S. presence in Syria has focused on fighting ISIS, the terror group that gained control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014. But with ISIS in rapid decline and its once U.K.-sized territory all but completely removed from their grasp, Tillerson described Iran as the new principal threat to U.S. interests in Syria.
“Continued strategic threats to the U.S. from not just ISIS and Al Qaeda, but from others, persist,” Tillerson said earlier in January. “And this threat I’m referring to is principally Iran.”
Tillerson said Iran “is positioning to continue attacking U.S. interests, our allies, and personnel in the region” through its positioning in Syria.
In no uncertain terms, Tillerson said Iran dreams of a land arch that would connect them to their ally, Lebanon, through Syria, where it can provide weapons support to anti- U.S. and anti-Isreal terror groups. He noted that one of the U.S.’s desired end results is that “Iranian influence in Syria is diminished, their dreams of a northern arch are denied, and Syria’s neighbors are secure from all threats emanating from Syria.”
While the new strategy does not guarantee outright fighting between the U.S. and Iran, it puts the U.S.’s 2,000 or so troops in Syria in direct strategic competition with Iran’s estimated 70,000.
Numbers can be deceiving
Despite an apparent 35 to 1 numbers advantage for Iranian and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria, Iran’s forces are weak, overexposed, and certain to fare poorly in a direct competition with the U.S., according to Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
U.S. and U.S.-backed forces have already come into contact with Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria, and the short engagements proved decisive victories for the US, which holds considerable advantages in air power and high-end warfighting.
But those skirmishes only focused on getting Iranian forces off the backs of U.S.-aligned forces while the U.S. focused on defeating ISIS. In the US’s new campaign to shut down Iran’s hoped-for land bridge to Lebanon, the U.S. will likely have to work with local allies, according to Badran.
“The U.S. is going to have to develop local Arab fighting forces,” said Badran, “But you can do a lot more damage a lot quicker by expanding or amplifying the existing Israeli campaign by going after installations, mobile targets, or senior cadres.”
Israel, while it has stayed out of the majority of its neighbor Syria’s civil war, has made no apologies for stepping in with airstrikes when it feels Iran getting to close to Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia vows to wage war against the Jewish state.
With Israel potentially at its back, the U.S. “has assets far beyond 2,000 guys out in the desert somewhere,” said Badran. The U.S. can call on naval power, aircraft carriers, nearby air bases, allied air power, standoff weapons like cruise missiles, and artillery.
Iran sacrifices asymmetrical advantage
While Iran usually enjoys what military analysts call an “asymmetrical advantage” over U.S. forces in the Middle East, or its ability to fight against U.S. interests using proxy armies and less-than-lethal force, that advantage disappears in a direct confrontation. If Iran mounted a large-scale attack on U.S. forces in Syria, the bases, depots, and planners involved in the attack would be quickly reduced to rubble, according to Badran.
For that reason, Iran may look to avoid direct military engagement with the U.S., and simply continue to support the U.S.’s enemies while playing the long game of aggravating the U.S. and hoping Washington’s will breaks before Tehran’s.
But another prong of the U.S.’s strategy in Syria is to isolate the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
“We’re going to treat Syria like North Korea — an economic, not just a political pariah,” said Badran.
With the U.S. pressuring allies not to do business with the Assad regime and providing no money for reconstruction, the Syrian government, Iran’s ally, may weaken, making way for a less Iran-friendly administration in the future, thereby denying Tehran its land bridge without a shot fired.
The U.S. won’t go it alone
Tehran has its own problems to worry about. Country-wide protests over the country’s steep inequality and billions in spending on foreign adventurism have threatened the very fabric of its leadership. Local Syrians — a diverse, mainly Sunni bunch — also may prove resistant to Iran, the dominant Shiite Muslim power in the region.
Though the U.S. and Turkey frequently clash over differences in their vision for Syria, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute expert James Jeffrey says Washington and Ankara ultimately agree on the broad goals.
“Right now, about 40% of Syria is under control of U.S. or Turkey, and while U.S. and Turkey are not all that well coordinated, both U.S. and Turkey see the goal to a transition to a regime that will not do what [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has done,” said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey added that Turkey also would like to reduce the role of Iran in Syria, as Tehran has a “tendency to bully the Sunni Arab population” which could lead to another civil war.
Badran does not question that the U.S. could easily overwhelm or destroy Iranian forces in Syria, and instead believes the real challenge lies in determining who will establish control of southern Syria in the future.
Legendary U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis once said, “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Service members who have deployed during today’s complex conflicts likely have a special appreciation for Mattis’ assertion that the mind matters most.
In an era where the military is heavily involved in both combat operations and nation-building, troops are often expected to simultaneously sustain focus, make nuanced, split-second decisions about the use of force, and reach back into their memories to draw on their training during high-stress situations.
These efforts require a high frontal cortex functional capacity. The frontal cortex helps us with both emotional regulation (being able to think and not just react) and upper level cognition (focus). These brain functions comprise our working memory capacity, and interestingly, we can improve that capacity with the use of some well-studied, relatively simple exercises.
Unfortunately, although the military emphasizes the importance of physical training and does a wonderful job creating developmental stress opportunities, it doesn’t do a great job training service members to rest, or do the restorative practices needed to maximize the mind’s growth opportunities.
Restorative practices move our bodies to a rested state between action and sleep. These practices matter because they increase our physical and mental performance, which are important both in and out of the military. The same things that make you a better warrior can also make you a better parent, partner, employee, and friend.
Why does mental fitness training matter?
For active duty servicemembers and veterans alike, mental fitness training should include stressors alongside very intentional mental recovery time. When both are combined, physical and mental performance increase, clarity of thought improves, and you’re able to slow your reaction times in the right contexts.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for the military to provide this training – you can train yourself.
But before we get to the training part, let’s take a quick look at what happens in your body during and after you encounter stressors.
Think about the last time you experienced stress. Maybe it was being stuck behind a slow driver in traffic or gearing up for a mandatory run with a wicked hangover. Maybe it was being in a firefight or being lost somewhere. Here’s a snapshot of what happens in your body in those scenarios: Your brain is operating in an active state, indicated by what researchers call Beta waves. This is a high-functioning mental space. As the stress is registered by your brain, a chain reaction fires. Your body releases cortisol (a stress hormone), adrenaline, and a host of other chemicals to help you cope. It also releases a hormone called DHEA into your bloodstream.
DHEA’s entire role is to help your brain grow from the stressor you just survived. The hormone increases synaptic firing and neural connectivity (you’ll think faster) and increases working memory capacity (emotional regulation and focus). DHEA is what makes stressful experiences worth your time, but there’s a catch: although the hormone is released when your body or brain are stressed, it only does its work during recovery time – when your body and brain consciously downshift.
One of the best, validated ways to move your brain to this state is through mindfulness-based stress reduction, or – as it is more commonly known – meditation.
Meditation takes your brain from Beta state (alert, on guard) to Theta space (at rest, but aware). When you sleep, your brain produces Delta waves (deep, dreamless sleep).
Mediation is one of the fastest ways to give your mind and body the space they need to turn stress into strength. Even if you only dedicate 15 minutes each day to it, you’re likely to see dramatic changes in your ability to focus and regulate emotions within a week or two of practice.
Every hurdle you jump over and every stress or trigger you encounter becomes more useful if you carve out recovery time. Meditation is performance enhancement – it trains us for mental fitness.
How can I train myself?
You don’t have to run to an island somewhere to start experiencing more calm – it’s something you can easily make part of your day.
Learn mindfulness meditation (takes about 10 minutes). It’s simple to teach, simple to learn, but not simple to practice – it may take some getting used to. I like iRest.us (it’s been validated specifically in military community). It’s simple and a great place to start.
Ritualize your practice by making mindfulness a regular part of your day. Prioritize this opportunity for growth.
Track your progress. How did you mentally feel week 1? Week 2? Write down wins so you can remember them. A great journal might work for you.
Continue your practice daily.
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
The 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, enables rapid global mobility with a diverse group of airmen and soldiers from all walks of life.
With a mission to expedite global reach through its air mobility control center, strategic airlift maintenance, and aerial port operations, the 8th EAMS enables the warfighter by incorporating a wide range of experience brought to the theater by its personnel.
Moving passengers and cargo at the largest military aerial port in U.S. Central Command requires deliberate action through close partnerships. 1st Lt. Benjamin Schneider, 295th Ordnance Company, U.S. Army Reserve, leads a team of 16 soldiers, under tactical control of the 8th EAMS, in moving sensitive munitions to support operations throughout the theater.
Schneider integrates his civilian professional experience to galvanize logistics operations at Al Udeid AB.
“Working for Amazon Logistics has given me the skills and knowledge of how to effectively allocate the resources of my team to complete any ammunition movement, and eliminate any process shortcomings and dead space, to more efficiently complete any mission,” Schneider said, adding that his experience working for Amazon “has also provided me the ability to better manage the supply of munitions and communicate that supply need more effectively to any required party.”
As a leader in the 8th EAMS, he leverages his soldiers’ ordnance and transportation expertise to partner with aerial port airmen to ensure seamless interoperability to load mobility aircraft.
1st Lt. Benjamin Schneider, 295th Ordnance Company, U.S. Army Reserve, inspects a pallet at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
(US Air Force photo)
“Being able to work alongside the Air Force in a joint environment has opened my eyes to the logistical capabilities of each branch of the military,” said Schneider. “Being able to not only move ammunition and other resources by land, but by air and sea as well, has given me a true understanding of how important integrating different organizations together can provide a more well-rounded and complete unit.”
Schneider noted that the “knowledge that I have gained working alongside the Air Force, and learning from many of their leadership, will be brought forward into my civilian career to help grow my own organization.”
Tech. Sgt. Janet Lindsay, an 8th EAMS special cargo handler, directly partners with Schneider’s soldiers.
Lindsay, an Air Force Reservist, directly supports the warfighter as a special cargo handler lead at the aerial port, by integrating her civilian leadership experience as a teacher and now as a principal at Paris Elementary School in Paris, Idaho.
“As a teacher, I spent years teaching and building relationships with students, understanding that everyone’s learning style is unique; through this experience I was able to effectively and positively teach each student to achieve personal success,” said Lindsay. “Now as the principal the same techniques are not only applied to my faculty and staff, but directly into my leadership role in the Air Force.”
At Al Udeid AB, Lindsay guides her airmen to safely execute the mission while overcoming extreme heat and constant demands to move warfighters and their assets to the fight. In July 2018 alone, the 8th EAMS moved more than 1,100 tons of special cargo. Lindsay noted that “individual accountability and discipline play an important role whether on campus, district, or military level. The overall mission success depends squarely on team work and dedication.”
The 8th EAMS heavily relies upon its diverse Total Force airmen from the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and active duty components to optimize air mobility operations.
After Lindsay and her fellow aerial porters load the cargo and passengers, the task of launching and repairing mobility aircraft falls on the shoulders of Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Marcelo Plada, 8th EAMS maintenance operations officer.
Plada is assigned to Joint Base Lewis McChord where he is responsible for all C-17 Globemaster III maintenance activities as part of an exchange program. He was selected by Canada’s Aerospace Engineering Officer Council to attend the Air Force’s Accelerated Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. He was then assigned to the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron where he transitioned from learning and assisting to eventually being expected to function effectively as the maintenance operations officer.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1.
“The exchange program has allowed me to grow my aircraft maintenance management skills. I never would have had the opportunity to work at such a high warfighting level if I had stayed in Canada,” said Plada. “The exposure gained at (JB Lewis-McChord) and on my deployment with the Air Force is unprecedented for my AERE trade. It is tremendously beneficial for both the Royal Canadian Air Force and AERE community.”
This experience is leveraged while deployed as Plada oversees the maintenance for all C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, and commercial aircraft at Al Udeid AB. As a coalition member and leader in the 8th EAMS, Plada integrates his knowledge and perspective to receive, repair, and launch Air Mobility Command’s strategic airlift fleet.
“This opportunity gives us a unique firsthand experience into a high operational tempo deployed environment that very few AEREs have ever been or can be a part of,” said Plada. “Now my future looks a lot brighter as I will be able to bring extensive firsthand experience in one of our country’s most important strategic airlift aircraft back to our flying community.”
The diversity of the 8th EAMS, as reflected by its joint, coalition, and total force squadron members, directly enables the squadron’s mission to expedite global reach. Whether it is a soldier moving ammunition, an Air Force reservist processing special cargo, or a coalition airman leading aircraft repairs, the 8th EAMS moves with precision to support the warfighter through dedication and teamwork.
From detecting improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan to being on the front lines during World War I, military working dogs have been used to help service members win battles for generations. The same holds true today, as Cpl. Cody Hebert, military working dog handler, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion and his military working dog, Ziggy, give us a look into their everyday lives.
“We start our daily duties when we come in every morning,” Hebert said. “Those duties include cleaning out the kennels and doing any tasks like preparing for any type of training that we might be doing that day.”
When it comes to training, there can be different variations that can influence the handlers and the dogs in order to become mission ready.
“Just like us, the dogs have training jackets for everything that they learn,” Herbert said. “This includes commands they know, training they have done, what they are good and bad at and even which handlers had them in the past.”
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Casey Deskins, with the Military Police Department at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, plays with Ronnie, his military working dog partner.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)
For a MWD handler, it is important to know the history of who and what the dog knows and how they are currently performing. Each handler creates a special bond with their dog to instill confidence in both the dog and themselves. “When you and your dog deploy, there should be confidence in everything you do,” Herbert said. “If you’re on patrol with an explosive detector dog, not only do you have to trust to follow him, but the unit also has to be able to trust you and your dog because they are going to follow every step that you take.”
Cpl. Sean Grady, a dog handler and pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog, pause for a break while sweeping a chokepoint during a patrol.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)
Training can take on different types of aspects between the dogs and their handlers. Training can involve doing an agility course to recreate real life situations, practicing commands for listening and direction and physical training to build strength and stamina.
“We have the opportunity to spend time with the dogs after hours almost anytime,” Hebert said. “We’re given the chance to build a bond and reward the dogs for all that they do. If we are willing to do that, the dogs are willing to work with us by listening to the commands while working for longer periods of time as well.”
Lance Cpl. Jeremy D. Angenend, combat tracker handler, Military Police, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Okinawa, Japan, and his dog Fito play around at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.
The best way for the dogs to learn is to let them know that they are getting rewarded by either a ball or positivity and sometimes even belly rubs from their handlers.
“These dogs get taken care of like us,” Hebert said. “They get attention, exercise, training and medical care. As handlers, we’re trained to know the information just like how the dogs know what they are looking and listening for.” A MWD’s average military career is eight years before it can retire.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)
“It just depends on the dog for when it retires,” Hebert said. “Most of the time they retire because of medical reasons. Going full speed and biting constantly puts a lot of strain on their bodies. Just like us, as the dogs get older their bodies aren’t able to do as much.”
Whenever a dog retires from the service, they have a chance to be adopted by their handlers.
Whether a MWD is spending time with its handler or training to protect Marines, they will always be rewarded for doing their job in every clime and place.
Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.
Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.
The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports
Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia
Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory
Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.
It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.
Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.
It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.
With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.
In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.
A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise
Georgia’s NATO woes
Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”
“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.
The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”
‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’
The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.
“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.
“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.
“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind
The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.
The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“We’re fortunate to be chosen,” said Cmdr. Leslie “Meat” Mintz, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213). Mintz, a career weapons system officer on the Super Hornet, spoke to Military.com on Jan. 31, 2019, ahead of the flyover.
The tribute, announced by the Navy, will take place as Mariner receives a full military graveside service at New Loyston Cemetery in Maynardville, Tennessee.
The pilots have performed other flyovers, Mintz said. But “it’s certainly the first time I’ve done this for a female aviator. Everyone is truly humbled to be a part of it.”
Mariner was one of the first eight women selected to fly military aircraft in 1973, according to her obituary. A year later, she became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L Skyhawk and the A-7E Corsair II. She died Jan. 24, 2019, after a years-long battle with cancer, the service said.
Rosemary Mariner is shown in the 1990s when she was commanding officer of a squadron on the West Coast.
(U.S. Navy photo)
She was also the first female military aviator to command an operational air squadron, and during Operation Desert Storm, commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34), the Navy said.
Among other achievements, she executed 17 arrested carrier landings in her career, and, as an advocate for the pilot community, helped pave the way for those who came after. Mariner retired in 1997.
“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their path,” said Katherine Sharp Landdeck.
Landdeck, an expert on the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASPs) and a professor at Texas Woman’s University, told NBC News on Thursday she saw her friend Mariner as a brave “and badass” pilot.
Lt. Emily Rixey, left, Lt. Amanda Lee, middle, and Lt. Kelly Harris, right, talk to each other in a hangar bay on Naval Station Oceana.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)
“Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think, as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure,” Landdeck said in the NBC News interview.
Mintz will be flying alongside Cmdr. Stacy Uttecht, commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32); Lt. Cmdr. Paige Blok, VFA-32; Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106; Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana; Lt. Christy Talisse, VFA-211; Lt. Amanda Lee, VFA-81; Lt. Kelly Harris, VFA-213; and Lt. Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic.
On Feb. 2, 2019, like any mission, the women will brief the plan before four F/A-18F Super Hornets and a single F/A-18 E-model launch from Oceana, roughly 400 miles from Mariner’s burial site. One of the jets will act as a backup in case something in the flight plan gets reshuffled, Mintz said.
Female Aviators, Flight Officers, and aircraft maintainers pose for a group photograph.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)
The jets will hold until the signal is given for the missing formation “so that the timing is perfect,” she said.
Uttecht will lead the formation. Mintz will be backseat in a jet on the flank as Thiriot pulls up thousands of feet into the sky.
The crew appreciates “the outpouring support, the text messages, the Facebook messages, for what we’re doing,” Mintz said.
“It’s truly an honor to do this … for Capt. Mariner. I’ve been in this business for 19 years. I really haven’t thought about male vs. female gender issues because it’s strictly merit-based. ‘Can you fly? Can you perform?’ [but] really I owe that to her,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.