Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

Chinese troops are reportedly operating in Afghanistan, but it is unclear what they’re doing there.


There is evidence that China has security forces operating inside eastern Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is reportedly very aware of their presence. “We know that they are there, that they are present,” a Pentagon spokesman revealed to Military Times, without going into specifics.

China is worried that increasing instability in Afghanistan will stir unrest in Xinjiang Province, which is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority which maintains a rocky relationship with the Chinese government. (Photo: U.S. Military)

Late last year, India’s Wion News Agency released photos of suspected Chinese military vehicles in Little Pamir. Franz J. Marty at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute claimed in February that “overwhelming evidence,” including “photographs, an eyewitness account and several confirming statements of diplomats and observers, among them a Chinese official familiar with the matter,” indicated the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting joint drills in Afghanistan.

The governments of Afghanistan and China have both denied reports of joint patrols. Towards the end of last month, China conceded that security forces have been conducting counter-terrorism operations along the shared border. Ren Guoqiang, a PLA spokesman, intimated that “the law enforcement authorities of the two sides have conducted joint law enforcement operations in border areas to fight against terrorism,” adding that, “Reports in foreign media of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan do not accord with the facts.”

Ren also denied that there were non-military patrols being carried out in Afghanistan, further adding to the mystery of exactly what China is doing in the region.

Although Beijing denies engaging in military operations in Afghanistan, there was a strange, albeit unconfirmed, Chinese media report claiming Chinese soldiers in Afghanistan rescued U.S. special forces. While the story is likely untrue, it suggests that there may be more to Chinese activities in Afghanistan than meets the eye.

China has made its counter-terrorism concerns, particularly in Afghanistan, known numerous times. The Asian powerhouse is worried that increasing instability in Afghanistan will stir unrest in Xinjiang Province, which is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority which maintains a rocky relationship with the Chinese government. Beijing fears that Afghanistan will become a base of operations for militant Uighur separatists, specifically the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

China has been working with Afghanistan on countering this threat for several years now.

Afghanistan assured China in 2014 that “it would never allow the ETIM to take advantage of the Afghan territory to engage in activities endangering China, and will continuously deepen security cooperation with the Chinese side.” China agreed to “continue to offer training and material assistance to Afghan military and police” to “strengthen cooperation in aspects such as anti-terrorism, the fight against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and transnational crimes.” The following year, Afghanistan turned several captured Uighur militants over to Beijing. China provided tens of millions of dollars to support Afghanistan’s security forces.

In recent weeks, Beijing has been putting increased pressure on Uighur militants at home. Last Monday, around 10,000 Chinese troops marched on Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in a massive show of force against terrorism. That same day, Uighur militants fighting with the Islamic State threatened to return to China and “shed blood like rivers,” giving China a reason to step up its involvement regional counter-terrorism activities.

Furthermore, the withdrawal of coalition forces has created an eroding security situation in Afghanistan which could facilitate the rise of dangerous militant groups along China’s western border.

Beyond security concerns, China also has significant commercial interests in the war-torn region. China’s massive Silk Road Economic Belt will span parts of Central Asia and the Middle East, possibly including Afghanistan.

China has motive for increased involvement, but it is unclear what China is doing in Afghanistan. China may have soldiers, armed police, security personnel, or some combination of the three in the area. Beijing has, so far, not been particularly forthcoming about its activities and intentions in Afghanistan.

Some observers suggest that Chinese involvement in Afghanistan might actually be beneficial for both the U.S. and China, arguing that China might be considering taking on a greater security role in the region after the U.S. and its allies withdraw; however, Chinese troops are unlikely to push far beyond the shared border as long as the U.S. coalition forces maintain a presence in Afghanistan.

There is also the possibility that China is training its military under the guise of counter-terrorism operations, just as it has used peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions to enhance the capabilities of its armed forces in the past.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

China doubles down with anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea

Anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems were stationed on Chinese outposts in the contested South China Sea, in yet another signal that China intends to cement its presence on the disputed islands.

Sources familiar with US intelligence reports said the weapons systems were installed on three fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands, west of the Philippines, according to a CNBC report.


The YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles would provide China the ability to engage surface vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs; and the HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles are expected to have a range of 160 nautical miles, CNBC reported.

“We have consistently called on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of disputed features, and to commit to managing and resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants,” a Pentagon official said to CNBC. “The further militarization of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants.”

“These would be the first missiles in the Spratlys, either surface to air, or anti-ship,” Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters.

An anti-ship cruise missile.
(Photo by Jeff Hilton)

“Before this, if you were one of the other claimants … you knew that China was monitoring your every move. Now you will know that you’re operating inside Chinese missile range. That’s a pretty strong, if implicit, threat,” he said.

China’s increased military presence in the region comes amid another maneuver, one which exacerbated concerns among the US military and its allies. US officials said that in early April 2018, intelligence officers detected China was moving radar and communications-jamming equipment to the Spratly Island outposts.

“This is not something that the US will look kindly on or think they can overlook.” Stratfor military analyst Omar Lamrani told Business Insider editor Alex Lockie, when asked about potential moves to jam communications channels. “The US will likely seek to counter this in some way,” he said.

Hotly disputed, $3.4 trillion shipping lane

Six countries, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, are contesting at least part of the chain of islands, reefs, and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Located between Vietnam and the Philippines, the natural resources and trade routes that pass through the Spratly Islands are a lucrative venture for the countries — around $3.4 trillion in trade is reportedly transported through the South China Sea every year.

CSIS/Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

China has been one of the most prominent claimants to territory in the South China Sea since the 1980s. It currently has around 27 outposts throughout the islands and has continued to outfit them with aircraft runways, lighthouses, tourist resorts, hospitals, and farms.

According to some experts, the creation of civilian attractions in the region signals that China is undertaking a two-pronged approach in attempts to legitimize its ownership — by arguing it has a vested interest in the region, both militarily and otherwise.

In April 2018, US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, nominated to lead the US’ Pacific Command, said Beijing’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete.

Davidson said China could use the bases pose a challenge the US and “would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.

“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.

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

Articles

Air Force drone pilots are about to make bank if they agree to re-up

If you fly a killer drone and you’re thinking of pulling chocks when your commitment ends, the Air Force has some cold hard cash to entice you to stay.


Top Air Force officials announced Aug. 10 that Remotely Piloted Aircraft operators who re-up for another five-year contract would receive $35,000 per year in bonus cash. That nets out to a whopping $175,000 when all is said and done and is $10,000 more than previous bonuses.

Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of deployed service members while maintaining the normalcy of their day-to-day lives through programs designed to enhance communication skills, family and spiritual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

“The Air Force recognizes the important contribution RPA pilots make every day, and retaining these valued aviators to execute our current operations and shape the future is critical,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “While we applaud this effort, we recognize we have similar challenges across our entire pilot force, and we’d like the opportunity to offer higher retention bonuses for all our pilots.”

Drones are some of the most sought-after air assets for ground commanders worldwide, from launching missiles at bad guy convoys to snooping around insurgent bases and scooping up radio chatter, the RPAs can go deep behind enemy lines without risking the lives of American pilots and crew.

But as the demand increases, so does the pace of pilot operations and both the drones and their crew are burning out fast, Air Force officials say.

“What we are doing in the world of our RPAs [is] to try to lessen some of the strain and improve quality of life,” said Air Force Sec. Deborah James. “With respect to our ‘get well plan,’ is that it is proceeding at pace. It is not all done yet, but there is a lot going on – a lot in process.”

An MQ-9 Reaper performs a low pass during a first-ever air show demonstration May 29, 2016, at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The 2016 Cannon Air Show highlights the unique capabilities and qualities of Cannon’s Air Commandos and also celebrates the long-standing relationship between the 27th Special Operations Wing and the High Plains community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

To relieve the stress, the Air Force plans to establish a new MQ-9 Reaper aircraft wing and is in the midst of surveying potential bases to host it. Officials say the service is also supplementing drone crews with Air National Guard pilots and has hired on contractors to fly some surveillance missions.

The service has also doubled the number of drone pilots in the force since 2015.

“Producing more pilots of course means a better quality of life for all of our RPA airmen, because it will give them more family time and more opportunities to pursue developmental opportunities,” James said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.

The US military’s recent Indo-Pacific Strategy paper, published June 1, 2019, goes further than perhaps any US document ever issued in how it might provoke China’s rage over what it sees as the most sensitive issue.

Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”


“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”

President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.

In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”

But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.

‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’

In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.

At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.

“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”

Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.

Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.

China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.

But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.

The arms are already moving

The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.

According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.

A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.

For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.

Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.

With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Your smartphone is China’s next target in the ongoing trade war

Xi Jinping, China’s president, may have deliberately revealed how he plans to strike back at the US in the trade war by taking a trip to a magnet factory in eastern China on May 20, 2019.

Xi visited the JL MAG Rare-Earth factory in Ganzhou, where he learned about the “production process and operation” of the company, which specializes in magnetic rare-earth elements, “as well as the development of the rare-earth industry,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

He was accompanied by Vice Premier Liu He, the country’s top economic adviser, who has been leading trade negotiations with his US counterparts, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.


Xi’s highly publicized attention on the country’s rare earths suggests he could use the products to cripple the US tech and military industries and make the Trump administration back down in the yearlong trade war.

Rare-earth materials consist of 17 elements on the periodic table that can be found in products critical to the US’s manufacturing, tech, and defense industries — from batteries and flame retardants to smartphones, electric cars, and fighter jets, according to Reuters and the Financial Times. They are used in tiny amounts but can be crucial to the manufacturing process.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk by one of his company’s cars. Rare-earth materials can be found in Teslas.

(Tesla)


“It’s signalling they know it’s not only important to US high-tech industries — electric vehicles, wind — but also defence. That’s the message they’re trying to get out,” Ryan Castilloux, the managing director of Adamas Intelligence, a rare-earths consultancy, told the Financial Times.

What rare earths mean to China and the US

China is the world’s largest supplier of rare-earth materials, accounting for 90% of global production, and the US relies on it for 80% of its rare-earth imports, the South China Morning Post and Bloomberg reported.

China’s state-affiliated Global Times tabloid described Xi’s Monday visit as the leader’s “huge support to the critical industry that has been widely viewed as a form of leverage for China in the trade war with the US, but one that also faces issues that need to be addressed.”

Six of the 17 rare-earth materials, clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium.

(U.S. Department of Agriculture photo by Peggy Greb)

The Trump administration did not include Chinese imports of rare-earth materials in its latest lists of tariff targets, showing its reliance on China for them.

The US raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on 0 billion worth of Chinese goods on May 10, 2019. Days later, it drew up a list of prospective tariffs on another 0 billion worth of goods.

China also said earlier this month that it would raise tariffs on billion worth of American goods starting June 1, 2019, resulting in duties of 5% to 25%.

There is also “growing speculation” that China could ban rare-earths exports to retaliate against the US, the South China Morning Post reported.

Shares of companies working with rare-earth elements skyrocketed after Xi’s visit.

China has weaponized its rare-earths exports in the past. In 2010, Beijing cut off the exports to Japan amid a maritime dispute that saw a Chinese boat captain captured by Japanese authorities.

The export ban was so powerful that Japan immediately released the captain in what The New York Times described at the time as “a concession that appeared to mark a humiliating retreat in a Pacific test of wills.”

In 2011, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs voiced concerns over China’s ability to use rare-earth exports in its foreign policy, in a hearing titled: “China’s monopoly on rare earths: Implications for US foreign and security policy.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin Attends Naval Parade, Promises New Ships, Weapons

President Vladimir Putin said the Russian Navy will get 40 new ships and vessels this year, as he attended a naval parade in St. Petersburg marking Navy Day in Russia.

The parade in St. Petersburg on July 26 featured 46 ships and vessels and over 4,000 troops and aimed to “demonstrate the growing power of our navy,” Putin said.


Putin said 40 ships and vessels of different classes will enter service this year, and that the Russian Navy will be equipped with hypersonic weapons to boost its combat capabilities.

The combination of speed, maneuverability, and altitude of hypersonic missiles, capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound, makes them difficult to track and intercept.

Russia has made military modernization its top priority amid tensions with the West that followed Moscow’s 2014 seizure of Crimea.

Similar parades marking Russia’s Navy Day on July 26 took place in the Far Eastern cities of Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk, Sevastopol in the annexed Crimea region, the seaport towns of Severomorsk and Baltiysk, Kaspirsk in the south of Russia, and the port city of Tartus in Syria.

Earlier this week, during a ceremony of keel-laying for new warships in Crimea, Putin pledged to continue an ambitious program of building new warships, saying that Russia needs a strong navy to defend its interests and “help maintain a strategic balance and global stability.”

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

Articles

The B-29 Superfortress debuted 73 years ago – relive it’s legacy in photos

A B-29 from the 468th Bombardment group attacking Hatto, Formosa on 18 October 1944 with high-explosive bombs. Overshot runway due to prop failure Jun 17, 1945 at West Field, Tinian. (Photo by US Army Air Forces Birdsall, Stephen via Wikimedia Commons)


On September 21, 1942, 73 years ago, the maiden flight of the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” took place.

The plane was the successor of Boeing’s ultra-tough B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and the predecessor to the B-52 “Stratofortress,” which is still in use today.

The plane would become the long range, heavy bombing workhorse of the Pacific theater of World War II, where it achieved fame and infamy for dropping Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Relive the legacy of this iconic bomber in the pictures below.

The B-29 was very advanced for its time, featuring a pressurized cabin, tricycle dual-wheeled landing gear, and remote controlled gun turrets.

Photo: USAF via Wikimedia Commons

Only the front and back compartments were pressurized, meaning that the crew had to crawl over the bomb bay via a narrow 35-foot tunnel.

Photo via US National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons

At the time, it was the heaviest production plane in the world, weighing in at 105,000 pounds with an optional 20,000 pounds of bombs.

Photo by US Army Air Forces Birdsall, Stephen via Wikimedia Commons

A B-29 from the 468th Bombardment group attacking Hatto, Formosa on 18 October 1944 with high-explosive bombs. Overshot runway due to prop failure Jun 17, 1945 at West Field, Tinian.

In addition to bombs, the B-29 was armed with 12 remotely controlled .50 caliber Browning machine guns and a 20 millimeter cannon at the tail gun.

Photo by US National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons

Kenneth W. Roberts, of Weitchpee, Calif., assigned to the Japan-based 98th Bomb Wing, checks his trio of .50 caliber tail-stingers before another mission over North Korea in his U.S. Air Force B-29 “Superfortress.”

Here is rare color footage of a formation of B-29s dropping bombs.

via GIPHY

And watch the .50 caliber Browning machine guns take out a Japanese Zero.

via GIPHY

Famously, the Enola Gay bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Three days later, another B-29, the Bockscar, bombed Nagasaki.

Photo by US Department of Energy

The crew of the Enola Gay stands outside the plane.

After World War II, the B-29 went on to face jet-powered fighters in the Korean war.

Photo by US Air Forces via Wikimedia Commons

A US F-84E refueling from a B-29 Superfortress over Korea.

Of about 4,000 B-29s produced, only one, the Fifi, remains airworthy. It is owned and maintained by the Commemorative Air Force, based at Addison, Texas.

Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons

The last flying B-29 at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

Israel is buying copter drones bristling with machine guns

The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.


According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.

(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”

Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.

This has been done before. Last year, the Dallas Police Department used a modified bomb disposal robot to take out a mass shooter who had killed five police officers. The Marines have also begun to use robots to replace humans as “door kickers” in urban operations.

An armed tracked drone with 40mm grenade launchers and a machine gun. (Photo from Qinetiq)

The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.

But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.

The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.

The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.

You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.

Lists

7 helpful habits that veterans instantly toss out after leaving

Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, they seem to glide right back into civilian life.

Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.


We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.

(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

Waking up early

The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.

When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).

Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)

Exercising daily

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working.

The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.

Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.

(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

Shaving every day, haircuts every week

If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.

When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.

“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

15 minutes prior

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.

Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore.

Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.

(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

Suppressing opinions

Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.

The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.

Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.

(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)

Putting in extra effort

Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.

However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.

In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.

(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)

Sympathy toward coworkers

A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.

Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.

Articles

The Navy’s new attack sub is 337 feet of stealthy, black death

The Navy’s youngest sub is the USS John Warner, a Virginia-class attack submarine. Commissioned in August and launched in September, it’s the most advanced and dangerous vessel in the oceans today.


Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Casey Hopkins

The John Warner “is the most high-tech, it is the most lethal warship pound for pound that we have in our inventory,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert told CNN while he was the Chief of Naval Operations.

The 337-foot long sub carries 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles in vertical launch tubes and has four torpedo tubes that can fire Mk 60 CAPTOR mines, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, or Mk 48 heavyweight torpedoes. The submarine can carry up to 40 weapons, trading out certain missiles and torpedoes as required.

All this firepower means the USS John Warner can kill targets whether they’re underwater, on the surface, or on land.

A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

Alternatively, weapons racks can be removed and the sub can carry and deliver unmanned undersea vehicles or a team of Navy SEALs. Both UUVs and SEALs can be launched underwater from a large lock-in/lock-out chamber.

Here are a few other impressive features of the John Warner:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finds a fix for safety failures in M4 and M4A1 rifles

U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.

In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.

After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.


“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”

During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”

“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”

“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.

The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.

(U.S. Army photo)

Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.

Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.

About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.

The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.

The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.

“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”

It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”

TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.

“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret to receive Medal of Honor for actions in Battle of Shok Valley

More than a decade ago, Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams earned the Silver Star Medal for saving several of his Special Forces comrades during an hours-long mountainside firefight in Afghanistan.

This week, the Green Beret will see that decoration upgraded to the highest level — the Medal of Honor.

Williams was born Oct. 3, 1981, and spent most of his childhood in the small town of Boerne, Texas. He initially wanted to be a detective or work for the FBI when he grew up, so he got his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.


But after 9/11, Williams started rethinking how he could serve his country. He did some research into Special Forces programs and, in September 2005, joined the Army. Two years later, he became a weapons sergeant — someone who knows U.S. and foreign weaponry well and often goes behind enemy lines to help friendly forces train and recruit.

On April 6, 2008, then-Sgt. Williams was on his first deployment with several other Special Forces operators for Operation Commando Wrath, a mission to capture or kill high-value targets in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley.

His team and about 100 Afghan commandos were dropped into the mountainous area by helicopter. As the leading edge of the group began moving up a jagged mountainside, insurgents started attacking from above.

“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once,” Williams later explained in an interview. “[The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters, and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”

A map pinpoints the Operation Commando Wrath insertion point in Shok Valley, April 6, 2008.

(Army graphic)

The part of the group under attack, which included the ground commander, was trapped. Meanwhile, Williams and the rest of the team had trailed behind at the bottom of the mountain, and they were forced to take cover while trying to fight back.

When Williams got word that some in the group ahead of him were injured and close to being overrun, he gathered several of the commandos.

He led them across a 100-meter valley of ice-covered boulders and through a fast-moving, waist-deep river on a rescue mission up the mountain. When they got to the forward group, the Afghan forces kept the insurgents at bay while the Americans figured out their next move.

“I went about halfway down, called a couple more of our guys and asked them to bring more commandos up so we could basically make a chain to pass these casualties down, because they were going to be on litters (stretchers),” Williams said.

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams and other team members assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group pose for a photograph as they to be picked up by a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan in late spring 2007.

(Photo by Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

As they were setting up, another soldier was hit by sniper fire. Williams braved the enemy onslaught to give him first aid, get him on his feet, and help him climb down the mountain.

Williams then fought his way back up to the top to bring the rest of the endangered men down.

“I knew we couldn’t go up the same way we’d gone other times because it had been getting pretty heavy fire,” Williams said. “There was a cliff face that went around to a little outcropping. I saw that if we could scale that, we could get onto this outcropping, and we’d be able to come up from behind where those other guys were.”

It was a near-vertical, 60-foot mountain.

When Williams and others made it back to the top, he killed several insurgents and helped get communications back up and running. Then, still under fire, he went back to moving the wounded men down the mountainside to a little house they were using as their casualty collection point.

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

But they still weren’t safe; insurgents were threatening that position, too. So, over the next several hours, Williams led the Afghan commandos on another counterattack against more than 200 insurgents, keeping the enemy at bay until helicopters were able to fly in and evacuate the wounded.

“They were taking fire the whole entire time,” Williams said of the helicopter crews. “They were awesome pilots. They saved the day, really.”

Williams helped load the wounded men into the helicopters, then continued to direct fire to quell the enemy attack. That gave the rescue patrol time to move out without any further casualties.

The whole ordeal lasted more than six hours. Thankfully, no American service members were killed.

“That day was one of the worst predicaments of my life,” Williams said. “But the experience from that has helped me through my whole entire career — remain level-headed and focus on what needs to happen as opposed to what is happening.”

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams poses for a photo with his operational detachment’s interpreter in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in the spring of 2007.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Earning accolades

Several months later, for his amazing leadership under fire, Williams and nine of the men with him during that mission each received Silver Stars. Now, his decoration is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He’ll receive the award Oct. 30, 2019, in a ceremony at the White House.

“I think it’s an honor for me to receive this on behalf of the Special Forces regiment, hopefully representing them in a positive manner and helping get the story out about what it is that we’re actually doing and what Green Berets are capable of, ” Williams said.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the nation’s highest honor for this operation. Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II received it a year ago.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Williams poses with his wife, Kate, just before they attend a friend’s wedding in October 2013.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

After his 2008 deployment, Williams went home and met his wife, Kate. They had a son. Williams has deployed five times since then and has done several extended training rotations in the field.

The family lives at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Williams continues his role in the Special Forces. He said he’s hoping to keep that up, even with the notoriety that comes with being a Medal of Honor recipient.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

13 new shows and movies vets should watch

Hollywood and other multimedia producers get it wrong a lot of the time when they’re trying to appeal to the military community.


But there are those out there who try their best to nail it.

Here are 13 upcoming shows and movies that get it right, according to Got Your 6.

1. “American Veteran”

The feature length documentary tells the story of U.S. Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, who was paralyzed from the neck down by a 500 pound improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. The documentary follows Nick for five years following the explosion as he rebuilds his life and falls in love with Wendy, an extraordinary medical caregiver he meets in a VA hospital. The film chronicles his long recovery, struggles, and pain, but never perpetuates the stereotype of the “wounded veteran.” BetterThanFiction Productions

2. “Criminal Minds”

The long-running American police crime drama, set primarily at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) based in Quantico, Virginia, follows a group of FBI profilers who catch various criminals through behavioral profiling. The plot focuses on the team’s cases and their personal lives, depicting the hardened life and statutory requirements of a profiler. Actor Joe Mantegna plays Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, a senior level profiler who happens to be a Vietnam veteran as well as a moral core of the show. His service is primarily mentioned in passing, depicting his veteran status as one of many characteristics as opposed to defining his identity. The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, CBS Television Studios

3. “Fences”

Directed by Denzel Washington with a screenplay by August Wilson based upon his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Fences” follows Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh as he fights to provide for those he loves. Troy once dreamed of a baseball career, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart. Troy’s brother Gabriel, a disabled veteran, acts as a shining beacon of hope, despite his traumatic backstory. Gabriel is a fresh take on the sorts of wounds soldiers endure and showcases the strength of the human spirit. Paramount Pictures, in association with Bron Creative and Macro Media

4. “Five Came Back”

Netflix’s “Five Came Back” is a three-part adaptation of Mark Harris’ bestseller, directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Meryl Streep narrates Harris’ story of how five esteemed Hollywood directors – Frank Capra (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), George Stevens (“Swing Time”), William Wyler (“The Letter,” “Jezebel”), John Ford (“Stagecoach,” “The Grapes of Wrath”), and John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”) – volunteered to make propaganda films for the United States and its fighting corps. For the adaptation, it was Bouzereau’s vision to ask five current filmmakers – Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan and Paul Greengrass – to consider the Hollywood quintet who went to war and returned forever altered by what they saw and did. Amblin Television, IACF Productions, Netflix, Passion Pictures, Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment

5. “Megan Leavey”

This film is based on the true life story of a young U.S. Marine corporal (played by Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish”) and written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt, the film documents their journey of more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them. Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment

6. “Sand Castle”

Set in Iraq in 2003, “Sand Castle” follows a platoon of U.S. Army soldiers in the early days of Iraq War. Inexperienced Private Matt Ocre (played by Nicolas Hoult) and his unit are ordered to the outskirts of the village Baqubah to repair a water pumping station damaged by U.S. bombs. Ocre struggles with the true cost of war and learns that trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals is a task fraught with danger. The film was written by U.S. Army veteran and Tillman Scholar, Chris Roessner. Treehouse Pictures, Voltage Pictures, 42/Automatik, Netflix

7. “Seeing Blind”

A digital short produced by Crown Royal as part of its “Living Generously” campaign, “Seeing Blind” tells the story of U.S. Army Major Scotty Smiley, a combat veteran who was blinded in Iraq and continued to serve in active duty for another decade as the Army’s first blind commander. To thank Major Smiley for his service, Crown Royal paired him with internationally renowned poet Matthew Dickman to help him visualize his hometown of Pasco, Wash., in a poetic new way. Good Company

8. “Seven Dates With Death”

This moving documentary short is about Moreese Bickham, a man jailed for an act of self-defense who survives half his life in prison by holding onto his faith, resilience, and hope. Viewers don’t learn he is a veteran until the end credits when an American flag is draped on his coffin at his funeral; however, this symbolic end showcases the depth of Moreese’s life and sacrifice. The short documentary is currently playing in film festivals across the U.S. and London and is expected to be publicly released by the end of 2017. Executive Producers Joan M. Cheever, Mike Holland

9. “Taken”

A television series based on the “Taken” film trilogy, this series acts as a modern day origin story for former Green Beret Bryan Mills (played by Clive Standen), who overcomes a personal tragedy while starting his career as a special intelligence operative. As a former CIA agent and post-9/11 veteran, Mills has spontaneous flashbacks to his military service. While the show touches on his service, it allows the audience to be empathetic with his experience and the skills learned while in uniform. “Taken” consulted with Got Your 6 team members on specific issues regarding active duty service and veteran reintegration. FLW Films, Universal Television, Europacorp Television, NBC

10. “The Vietnam War”

This 10-part documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick will air on PBS in September 2017. In an immersive 360-degree narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War through the testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many American veterans who served in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Florentine Films, PBS

11. “This is Us”

This hit American television series stars Milo Ventimiglia (Jack) and Mandy Moore (Rebecca), parents of triplets – two natural-born and one adopted after their third child is stillborn. The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin and Randall as their lives intertwine. After 18 episodes, it is revealed that Jack – who must balance being the best father he can be with the struggles of supporting for his family of five – is a Vietnam War veteran. This dramedy challenges everyday presumptions about how well we think we know the people around us. Rhode Island Ave. Productions, Zaftig Films, 20th Century Fox Television, NBC

12. “VOW” (digital shorts)

“VOW” (Veterans Operation Wellness) is a Spike campaign created to inspire veterans to make the same commitment to their health and wellness that they made to their country. Two of the campaign’s digital shorts, “Operation Surf Helps Returning Soldiers” and “NYC Veterans Day Parade 2016,” were awarded 6 Certified status. In addition to featuring inspiring veterans, the shorts serve to motivate civilians to connect with veterans through community-building events and activities. Witness Films, Viacom

13. “When We Rise”

This four-part mini-series event which chronicles the real-life personal and political struggles, set-backs, and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBTQ men and women who helped pioneer the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Ken Jones (played by Michael K. Williams and Jonathan Majors), an African-American Vietnam veteran, joined the gay-liberation movement in San Francisco, only to discover and confront racism within the gay men’s community. For years he organized services for homeless youth, worked to diversify the gay movement, and led efforts to confront the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. ABC Studios