21 facts about the First Gulf War - We Are The Mighty
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21 facts about the First Gulf War

Remember The First Gulf War? Persian Gulf War? Desert Storm and/or Desert Shield? They’re all the same war. Whatever we call it now, it was the war which expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait, checked a decade of Saddam Hussein’s aggression toward his neighbors, and broke the looming spectre of Vietnam that hung over the U.S. military.


U.S. troops had seen smaller actions in before that time, but nothing like the scale and scope of a real “mother of all battles,” pitting Saddam’s Iraq vs. the United States and its UN-mandated coalition partners.

“Yours is a society which cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle.” — Saddam Hussein, July 25, 1990.

“This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.” — President George H.W. Bush, Aug. 6, 1990.

21 facts about the First Gulf War

The invasion of Kuwait is now just over 25 years old. It probably seemed like a quick victory, one unlikely to have lasting effects in the annals of history, but little did we know it was just setting the stage for the region’s next 30 years. There was no way to predict this war would even happen. In 1990, President Bush (41) was unable to shake off the “wimp” moniker bestowed on him by Newsweek in 1987.

21 facts about the First Gulf War

In the post-9/11 world, the events leading up to and after the conflict came to lasting importance. Today, U.S. troops have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone from Iraq. The country has become America’s enduring sidepiece. Then Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch gave way to Operation Iraqi Freedom and with it Bayonet Lightning, Red Dawn and countless others who themselves gave way to Operation Inherent Resolve. There are troops in Iraq today who weren’t yet born when Saddam first captured the Kuwaiti oil fields, and Saddam himself didn’t live to see this day.

Here are 21 facts about your daddy’s Iraq War.

1. The Iran-Iraq War led to Iraq invading Kuwait.

Iraq owed $80 million in foreign debt from its 1980-1988 war with Iran. Saddam Hussein demanded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait forgive $30 billion in Iraqi debt, which he saw a result of protecting Kuwait from Shia Iranian forces for eight years. He then accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil through slant drilling.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
This also makes Saddam Hussein the first person to think of an idea before the Simpsons.

Since Iraq’s economy depended on oil sales, Saddam hoped to repay its debts by raising the price of oil through OPEC oil production cuts, but instead, Kuwait increased production and repeatedly produced more than its quota, lowering prices in an attempt to leverage a better resolution of its border dispute with Iraq.

2. In 1991, Iraq had the fifth largest army in the world.

It’s true, Iraq’s armed forces boasted more than a million men in uniform in 1991, but only a third of those were skilled professional fighting forces. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with 120,000 of these and 2,000 tanks. After the Gulf War started, he concluded Iraq’s peace with Iran and raised his occupying force levels to 300,000. Iraq conscripted three fourths of men between ages 15 and 49. Even so, Iraq’s Air Force was large but weak and its Navy was “virtually nonexistent.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War

3. Saddam thought the United States gave him the okay to invade Kuwait.

President Bush’s Ambassador to Iraq was April Glaspie, who, in a meeting with the Iraqi dictator, stressed to him that the U.S. did not want a trade war with Iraq. Saddam reiterated his commitment to peace in the region, so long as the Kuwaitis agree to meet OPEC production standards. Ambassador Glaspie told Saddam:

“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”

When nothing changed in Kuwait and Egyptian diplomacy failed, Saddam began the invasion. Saddam, frequently emphasizing a desire for U.S. friendship, was surprised to find his actions condemned by President Bush. When asked later why she said that to Saddam, Glaspie said: “We had no idea he would go that far.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War

4. Saddam thought Arab states would be okay with Iraq annexing Kuwait.

The invasion happened during the first Palestinian Intifada, which enjoyed wide Arab support. As Palestinians tried to shake off Israeli occupation, Saddam tried to appeal to pan-Arab nationalism by being the strongman who would stand up to the West and Israel. He reasoned that the British illegally cut Kuwait out of greater Iraq in the 19th century and he was trying to right a Western wrong. The Arab League was not okay with this.

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried to negotiate a treaty to avert a war, but Saddam walked out after two hours. His forces invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Two-thirds of the Arab League states joined the UN in a resolution condemning the invasion as King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Kuwaiti leaders asked NATO for help. Iraq annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali) as governor.

5. Iraq rolled over Kuwait in two days.

Unlike the Iran-Iraq War (which went on for eight years), Iraq’s Elite Republican Guard (with names which sound like they were made up by an American teenager, like the 1st Hammurabi Armored Division or the 4th Nebuchadnezzar Motorized Infantry Division) swiftly defeated Kuwaiti forces, reaching Kuwait City in an hour.

They either overran Kuwaitis on the ground or forced them (like 80% of the Kuwaiti Air Force) into neighboring Saudi Arabia or the island of Bahrain. Kuwait had not mobilized for war despite Saddam’s constant threats.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
A Kuwaiti M-84 main battle tank in Operation Desert Shield. (Wikimedia Commons)

Whenever possible, Kuwaitis resisted fiercely, even establishing an underground resistance movement, though it was largely untrained and incapable. In trying to capture Kuwait’s Emir, Iraqis assaulted Dasman Palace even though the Emir had already left. The Emir’s brother was killed after leading a 12-hour defense of the palace, outnumbered by an entire Iraqi division. His body was placed in front of a tank and run over.

6. Iraq occupied Kuwait between August 1990 and January 1991 — and it was brutal.

In that time, the Iraqi forces committed at least sixteen crimes against the Laws of Armed Conflict as outlined in the Geneva and Hague Conventions. Those crimes include running of at least two dozen torture sites in Kuwait City alone, torturing civilians to the point of death and disfigurement. Kuwaiti women were taken hostage and raped repeatedly. Iraqi occupation forces killed at least 1,082 Kuwaiti civilian noncombatants, including women, children, and the mentally handicapped. Then they rigged the oil wells to explode if they were attacked.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
UN Photo

Coalition Forces didn’t begin to expel Iraqis from Kuwait until January 1991, after the UN-mandated January 15th withdrawal deadline. Once Coalition forces and Iraqi forces met in the field, the Iraqis committed more war crimes. Among them, they pretended to surrender to U.S. Marines, then opened fire on them. Iraqis would disguise themselves as civilians and then ambush Coalition forces. Iraqi troops also tortured prisoners of war.

7. The U.S. could not have prevented Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia.

Shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the UN passed resolutions condemning it, calling for the removal of Iraqi troops, and the nullification of Iraq’s annexation. Desert Shield began as the U.S. and the Coalition took six months building up air and naval forces in the region, enforcing the UN blockade of Iraq and U.S.-imposed sanctions. Until the buildup, however, Iraqi forces would have easily overwhelmed the Saudi defenses. Why Saddam didn’t immediately press his advantage is unknown.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
These guys may have had something to do with it. (U.S. Army photo)

Iraqi forces invaded Saudi Arabia at the January 1991 Battle of Khafji, capturing the city on the night of 29 January. By this time, however, it was far too late. Coalition forces had more than enough troops and hardware to repel the Iraqis. The attacks were fought off by U.S. Marines, Army Rangers, and Coalition aircraft and the city was soon recaptured by Saudi and Qatari forces, backed by U.S. airpower.

8. The Coalition built fake bases and units to dupe Iraqis into defending the wrong area.

The coalition used deception cells to create the impression that they were going to attack near the Kuwaiti “boot heel,” as opposed to the strategy actually implemented. The Army set up FOB Weasel near the opposite end of the Kuwaiti border, which was a network of fake camps manned only by several dozen soldiers. With computer-controlled radios, messages were passed between fictitious headquarters sections. Smoke generators and loudspeakers playing prerecorded tank and truck noises were used, along with inflatable Humvees and helicopters.

9. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf commanded a force larger and more complex than the D-Day invasion in WWII  and didn’t want a ground war.

“Stormin’ Norman,” as he came to be known, was a highly-decorated and respected Vietnam War veteran. He commanded a Coalition of 670,000 personnel from 28 countries, along with combined Naval and Air Forces, with 425,000 troops from the United States. According to his memoirs, he implemented his operational plan to defend Saudi Arabia and expel Iraq from Kuwait using Gen. Colin Powell’s (then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) doctrine of overwhelming force and incorporated Montgomery’s desert armor tactics from the second battle of El-Alamein in World War II, all in an effort to minimize casualties on both sides.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
With Gen. Colin Powell in Saudi Arabia (U.S. Army Photo)

“I hate war. Absolutely, I hate war,” he once said. “When the war started, we were hoping that they’d come to their senses and stop right then,” he said. “After 38 days, we got to a point where we could launch the ground war and, by that time, they hadn’t withdrawn.” Once begun, the ground war lasted only 100 hours before Iraq capitulated.

10. Desert Storm was a relatively cheap war.

Though the U.S. was the primary supplier, 39 countries contributed men and/or materiel to the Coalition in some significant way. Yeah, that’s Afghanistan in blue down there.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Coalition in blue vs. Iraq in orange

The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated the cost of the Gulf War at $61 billion. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states covered $36 billion while Germany and Japan covered $16 billion. Still, as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (0.3%), Desert Storm was the cheapest war fought in U.S. history. The greater cost of the war to the region was likely more than $676 billion.

11. Saddam Hussein declared a jihad against the U.S.-led coalition.

Saddam began to convey a more Islamic, religious appearance in Iraqi media, showing himself praying at mosques and supporting the Palestinian cause, hoping to reframe the war as a struggle against Western imperialism and Israeli scheming.

21 facts about the First Gulf War

The plan didn’t work. Sheik Abdul-Aziz Bin Baz, the Saudis’ leading interpreter of Islamic law, called Saddam Hussein the “enemy of God.”

12. Desert Storm helped secure a Bill Clinton presidency.

The Iraqi invasion already caused the price of oil to more than double, which led to a worldwide recession in the 1990s and the defeat of George H.W. Bush at the hands of Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election, despite being a popular, successful wartime President. Bill Clinton’s election team famously coined the term “It’s the economy, stupid” as their campaign mantra.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Also, mean sax solos became policy.

13. Iraq used oil as a weapon.

Smoke plumes from burning oil fields were intended to disrupt coalition aircraft and the heat from fires was expected to slow the advance of coalition troops. Iraqi combat engineers dug trenches filled with oil and ignited them to slow Coalition advances and spilled oil into the Persian Gulf in an effort to keep U.S. Marines from making an amphibious landing. Estimates of Iraqi oil spilled into the Gulf range from 4 to 11 million barrels, several time the size of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and was never cleaned up on Saudi Arabian shores. The 610 oil fires set by Iraq destroyed 85% of Kuwaiti oil wells. The total amount of oil burned is an estimated 1 billion barrels, worth $2.8 billion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L77BSBKvMJk

The oil fires took down a Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) C-130, killing 92 Senegalese soldiers and the 6 Saudi crew members. They allowed Iraqi Republican Guard units to get the jump on Americans at the Battle of Phase Line Bullet, one of the few Iraqi victories of the war.

14. Israel had the third largest casualty count, despite not being in the war.

Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel in an attempt to draw the country into the conflict, a move that would force many Arab states in the Coalition to choose between withdrawing or fighting alongside Israel, neither of which were appealing to the Arabs. In response, the U.S. and Netherlands deployed Patriot Missile Battalions to Israel and Turkey to keep Israel from retaliating (The Gulf War marked the first mid-air missile-to-missile interception).

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Israelis  in their home in Tel Aviv. Many feared Iraqi chemical attacks would come with the Scuds.

Seventy-four Israelis died as Iraq fired Scud missiles toward Tel Aviv. Many hit the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Gan which was, oddly enough, a neighborhood of Iraqi expatriates. Strangely, only three Israelis died from the missiles — the rest died of heart attacks or similar ailments as a result of the bombing. Iraq launched some 88 Scud missiles toward Israel and Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.

15. The Air War was one of the most massive, effective air campaigns ever.

The Iraqi Air Force was almost completely annihilated, and was never fully effective. The Coalition massed more than 3,000 airplanes leading up to the January 15th withdrawal deadline. It was the largest airlift effort in history, surpassing even the Berlin Airlift. The U.S. Air Force launched more than 100,000 sorties (air missions) starting on Jan. 17th, 1991 and dropped more than 88,500 tons of bombs.

Iraqis lost 38 MiGs to Coalition air forces, while the rest fled to Iran rather than be shot down. There they were captured and held for years and Iran kept the planes. Coalition laser-guided “smart bombs” still caused hundreds of civilian casualties, even hitting a civilian air raid shelter, then hitting the civilian al-Fallujah neighborhood in Baghdad. When relatives and first responders rushed to the area in the wake of the bombing, they were bombed too.

16. One American pilot was believed missing in action for 18 years after the war.

Coalition forces captured some 70,000 Iraqis throughout the course of the war. At the end of the war Iraq was known to have held a total of 26 allied prisoners: 22 Americans, two Britons, an Italian and a Kuwaiti. Iraq also is believed to have abducted 30-40,000 Kuwaiti civilians. According to Marine Col. Jim Acree, the Iraqis followed the Geneva Convention “for all of 20 minutes.” American POWs were tortured, beaten, and starved. Many of these POWs forcefully appeared in Iraqi Propaganda.

For years afterward, U.S. Navy Lt. Col. Scott Speicher remained missing in action after his FA-18 Hornet was shot down over Iraq, and his flight suit was found near the crash site. Speicher’s remains were found in 2009, and returned home.

“Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, in a statement at the time. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us.”

17. President Bush didn’t press on to Baghdad to abide by the UN Mandate.

President Bush only wanted to do what the UN Security Council authorized. Coalition forces expelled the Iraqi Army from Kuwait by February 27th and President Bush halted all offensive operations. This would be controversial until his son George W. Bush’s presidency, when we learned to respect our elders.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(photo from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)

“Had we taken all of Iraq,” Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf wrote in his memoirs, “we would have been like a dinosaur in the tar pit — we would still be there, and we, not the United Nations, would be bearing the costs of that occupation.” In 2007, Colin Powell remarked, “In recent months, nobody’s been asking me about why we didn’t go to Baghdad. Pretty good idea now why Baghdad should always be looked at with some reservations.”

18. More Americans died from HIV infection in 1991 than in Operation Desert Storm.

An estimated 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the conflict, while the United States had only 383 fatalities in the region. 1991 was the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as infection rates increased 15.3% over the previous year. HIV/AIDS was the ninth highest cause of death in the U.S. that year, killing 29,850 Americans. The number of infected and dead from HIV/AIDS would double by 1993.

19. The First Gulf War brought about the rise of cable news, and thus, cable television.

Media Coverage was very restricted as Coalition commanders feared the horrors of war would lead to another Vietnam syndrome, where the imagery turns the public against war in general. The Pentagon gave regular briefings but few journalists were allowed to visit the front. At the same time, satellite technology allowed for live video of missiles firing off of aircraft carriers and airstrikes on Iraqi targets while night vision camera technology gave the war a futuristic, almost video game like feel. So much so, it came to be dubbed “The Nintendo War.”

Oil covered birds, Coalition war briefings, videos of rockets being shot down chimneys and immediate responses from Kuwaiti and Saudi civilians all made for great television imagery. CNN’s live reporting from a hotel in downtown Baghdad became the main driver of its viewership, as it was the only network broadcasting the war 24 hours a day. Since CNN was only available through cable, subscriptions spiked and pay TV became a permanent facet of American life, the first step in ending the dominance of the “Big Three” networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
So yes, Saddam Hussein is kind of responsible for Don Lemon

20. The U.S. encouraged uprisings against Saddam’s regime.

President Bush gave speeches hinting the U.S. would support factions fighting against the Iraqi Ba’athist regime. A Shia rebellion began in Southern Iraq in 1991, but was not supported militarily by the U.S. or Coalition forces — even allowing pro-regime helicopters to brutally suppress the rebellion — despite the Southern No-Fly Zone. In the North, Kurdish fighters staged an uprising of their own, but since no U.S. help was forthcoming, Iraqi generals stayed loyal and massacred the Kurds.

21. Saddam Hussein publicly apologized for the Invasion of Kuwait

Sort of. The Iraqi information minister, Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf (who became known as “Comical Ali” or “Baghdad Bob” during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq), who also announced in 2003 that there were no U.S. troops in Baghdad as U.S. troops were rapidly capturing most of the city, read a statement:

“We apologize for what happened to you in the past,” he read for the Iraqi dictator. “The devoted and the holy warriors in Kuwait met with Iraqi counterparts” under their common creator against the “infidel armies” of “London, Washington and the Zionist entity.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War

If we’ve learned anything, it’s to be careful about who you call a “wimp.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War

NOW: 17 Wild Facts About the Vietnam War

OR: 15 Unforgettable Photos from Operation Desert Storm

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6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

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Iran wants to join the ‘carrier club’

Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.


According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble

Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.

Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.

Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.

2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.

In January, Iran held a number of U.S. sailors for 15 hours after one of the boats there were on had engine trouble. This past summer, Iranian harassment reached the point where USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots.

United States Navy aircraft received threatening messages from Iran in September. The following month, Iranian-backed rebels damaged HSV 2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel, then carried out multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, prompting retaliation from the Mason’s sister ship, USS Nitze (DDG 94).

Articles

This Iraq war veteran has been running with the bulls since 2007

A former Army officer has been running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain since 2007 — all while filming a documentary on the event which was released last month.


Each year in July, Pamplona hosts a fiesta that brings together approximately one million people for a massive party, but most people know the city for just one reason: the crazy event that sees people running as bulls chase them from behind.

Dennis Clancey, a West Point-educated Army officer who served in the Iraq War, wanted to document the run, while trying to understand why some people risk their lives in this way each year.

“This is beyond me just asking them what it is like to run,” Clancey told The Chicago Sun-Times. “The film is an accurate stamp of what it means to be a runner. The experienced runners are running out of a sense of obligation. They run in part to protect other runners. If someone falls, you do what you can to distract the bulls and protect your fellow runners.”

Clancey self-funded his documentary — called “Chasing Red” — from 2007 to 2011, until he met a fellow filmmaker who helped him put together a trailer for the project. The trailer helped generate interest in the project, and led to a successful backing on Kickstarter that helped raise nearly $23,000.

“It’s a character-driven documentary following eight runners,” Clancey told Outside Magazine. “They each have their own goals and aspirations and we follow them in their pursuits of those dreams.”

The film is now available to rent or download. Here’s the trailer:

NOW: This powerful film tells how Marines fought ‘one day in hell’ in Fallujah

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Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission

A 48-year-old U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane reached a milestone — 30,000 hours of flight time — while flying a mission to gather intelligence on ISIS, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.


A release from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing said that a U-2 flown by a pilot identified only as “Maj. Ryan” hit the 30,000-hour mark while “collecting critical, real-time information to give commanders the decisional advantage” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance plane flew out of a base in Southwest Asia, the report said.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan enters into a cockpit before flying a sortie in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward

The Lockheed U-2 is only the second of the unique aircraft to reach the 30,000-hour mark. In 2016, a U-2 with the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base in South Korea completed 30,000 flight hours as the first-ever in the U.S. fleet.

“It takes a lot of people to launch and recover a jet and to keep this going,” said Ryan, of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. “Today, we hit 30,000 hours. I hope it gets 30,000 more.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo

An assistant maintenance operations officer identified as Capt. Lacey said, “The mere fact alone that we’re able to continue flying this aircraft to this day is an achievement in itself, let alone fly 30,000 hours on one aircraft.”

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

A maintenance superintendent was quoted as saying, “The accomplishment of the U-2 flying 30,000 hours is extraordinary because the airframe itself is 48 years old, and it is flying with the most technologically advanced ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance] systems available today.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
These guys are clearly stoked.

With a thin fuselage and 80-foot wings, the U-2 was developed during the Cold War for photo reconnaissance against the Soviet Union. The aircraft were first flown by decommissioned Air Force pilots for the CIA but later became Air Force assets.

The service has plans in the works eventually to replace the U-2s with unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawks but, in the meantime, the aircraft remain a vital intelligence tool.

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16 intense photos that show how sailors fight fires at sea

Firefighting is dangerous, scary work even when it’s done on solid ground where firemen can fall back if the flames get too fierce.


Sailors at sea, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. They have to battle the fire on a ship filled with fuel. And failure means that the ship, the only home they have on the waves, will sink and take some of their brothers with it.

To keep everyone as safe as possible, the Navy uses dedicated firefighters and cross-trains some sailors to assist them in an emergency. Here’s how they prepare to protect their floating cities from burning up:

1. They conduct frequent drills in their firefighting equipment.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mason M. Gillan)

2. They keep full firefighting suits on board and practice using them in hallways and other tight areas.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Sykes)

3. To help them spot flames behind bulkheads or in sections filled with thick smoke, firefighters carry thermal imaging devices.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Patrick Enright)

4. The Navy Firefighting Thermal Imager displays infrared video that can show sources of heat even when there’s no visible light or thick smoke obscures firefighters’ vision.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ellen Hilkowski)

5. Firefighters have to operate as teams to stay safe in flame-filled areas of the ship.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher S. Haley)

6. The ship’s spaces can turn into a living hell once the flames start to spread.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Sykes)

7. Frequent communication is key to keeping everyone safe and fighting the fire.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

8. While firefighters are forced to concentrate on saving the ship, rescuing injured personnel is also a huge part of the mission.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

9. If an aircraft is aflame on the flight deck, sometimes the best option is to cut out any survivors and then throw the plane or helicopter overboard. The Navy practices for this possibility on land.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Cdr. Chad Falgout)

10. It’s best to fight fires while they’re small, which is why suited up firefighters will position themselves to respond during dangerous landings.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

11. Ships have some automated systems to help firefighters. Here, sailors practice with firefighting foam during ship trials.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dennis Grube)

12. Sailors often compete in “Damage Control Olympics” where they try to show who’s the best at putting out fires and other damage control activities.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Mai)

13. Other preventative training includes simulated firefighting on the ship.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg)

14. Different flags are used for various types of fire, and observers will keep track of how teams respond.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael J. Lieberknecht)

15. Teams learn to respond during an actual emergency through realistic training scenarios.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Grady T. Fontana)

16. There’s just a thin yellow line between sailors and the potentially catastrophic danger of a fire, and the Navy works hard to make sure that line is as robust as possible.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Sykes)

Articles

The ‘Hatchet Brigade’ rode into battle with some awesome blades

Union Army Col. John T. Wilder was a unique American officer, noted during the Civil War for his innovations that were initially considered strange but often proved to be revolutionary as well.


21 facts about the First Gulf War
Soldiers in Col. John T. Wilder’s brigade all carried long-handled hatchets. The dual use of as both a cutting tool and hammer served the soldiers well in camp and on the trail. (Photo: Amazon/Cold Steel)

For instance, Wilder’s brigade was one of the first Army units to carry Spencer Repeating Rifles, and it was the first to carry them into a major battle when they attacked Confederate forces in Hoover’s Gap on June 24, 1863, winning a huge Union victory.

When these Union infantrymen rode into Hoover’s Gap, they were carrying another unconventional weapon for infantry at the time, long-handled hatchets.

Wilder was given wide latitude in equipping his brigade, and he selected the rifles they carried, pushed for the horses they rode, and procured the hatchets.

The weapons were meant for use in battle. The 2-foot handles would let the soldiers reach enemy infantry from the saddle when necessary, allowing the men to cut their way through enemy lines.

At Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the appearance of so many hatchets made a strong impression on other Union forces and the unit picked up the nickname “The Hatchet Brigade.”

The nickname may have been derogatory, though. Cavalry units carried sabers and dragoons, which, prior to the 18th Century, operated as a sort of mounted infantry and had also preferred sabers. Wilder’s men, untrained in saber use and cavalry operations, may have received the hatchets because of their inexperience.

But the brigade proved itself in its first engagement, scattering Confederate forces in their wild dash through Hoover’s Gap and their subsequent defense of the gap. The brigade’s success despite being wildly outnumbered led to a second nickname: “The Lightning Brigade.”

As exciting as the sudden appearance of thousands of hatchets at the front was, it’s not clear that they were actually used violently. The mounted infantrymen carried them into battle, but the weapons’ main contribution to the war effort seems to have been logistical.

The plethora of hatchets allowed the men to build their own supply wagons, cutting the necessary wood and parts from destroyed wagons found on roads. Since hatchets also have a “striking head” on their reverse side, they could be pressed into service as a hammer when necessary.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Union Col. John T. Wilder outfitted his men with the Spencer Repeating Rifle after the War Department refused to do so. (Photo: Library of Congress)

It’s unlikely that the unit would have found much use for the hatchets in combat. Each man could fire seven shots between reloads, making it unlikely that enemy forces could march into range of the hatchets. And the men rarely rode their horses during the actual fighting. Instead, they would ride quickly to the battlefield, dismount, and send the horses to the rear.

In that way, the mounted infantrymen really were the predecessors to mechanized infantry and air assault infantry rather than cousins to the cavalry.

And if they had been cavalry, they probably would have been saddled with those common sabers instead of their awesome, namesake hatchets.

Articles

The Golden Knights put on a show for military children

All April, schools on and around Fort Bragg have been celebrating the Month of the Military Child.


Today, that celebration took to the skies for students at Irwin Intermediate School on Fort Bragg.

The school’s roughly 470 students, wearing purple shirts with the words “Keep calm and be military kid strong,” were treated to a performance by the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights are based at Fort Bragg and are international ambassadors for the Army, performing at air shows, sporting events and on the international stage where they are the world’s most highly decorated parachute team.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
U.S. Army Parachute Team members prepare to land on target as part of the Golden Knights annual certification cycle on Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 27, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Jerry Morrison)

Lt. Col. Carlos Ramos, commander of the Golden Knights, said the team has just started its annual “show season,” meaning they will soon be traveling the nation to perform for millions.

According to officials, the Golden Knights are seen by an estimated one-third of the U.S. population each year.

But Ramos said there was something special about performing in the Golden Knight’s own backyard on Fort Bragg.

“It’s a great honor,” Ramos said. “What better crowd is there than a Fort Bragg crowd?”

The Knights took off from nearby Pope Field and jumped at roughly 2,400 feet.

It was a special treat, said Miriam Breece, principal of Irwin Intermediate.

Breece said the Golden Knights are the latest visitors to the school, after the 82nd Airborne Division Band performed earlier this week.

She said the Month of the Military Child was meant to show the students that while they have unique challenges, they are also special.

“We like to thank them,” Breece said. “We exist to support them.”

Articles

Vietnam could bring Tigers back into service

In 1975, South Vietnam fell, and while many escaped, a lot of gear fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese. In fact, as late as 1987, FlightGlobal.com credited the Vietnamese People’s Air Force with as many as 50 F-5A/B/E variants in service, along with at least 25 A-37 Dragonfly counter-insurgency planes.


21 facts about the First Gulf War
A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Now, Vietnam, which is facing off against China in the South China Sea, may be considering an effort to bring some of the F-5s back into service. This is not a real surprise in some respects. The Marine Corps has been looking to acquire used F-5s for service as aggressors in recent months. Upgrade kits have kept the Tiger as a capable fighter, notably with Brazil and South Korea, according to FlightGlobal.com’s 2017 inventory.

Presently, Vietnam has 40 Su-27/Su-30 “Flanker” fighters in its inventory, with six more on order, according to FlightGlobal.com. These planes are supplemented by 36 Su-22 “Fitter” ground-attack planes, similar to those targeted earlier this year in a Tomahawk strike on a Syrian air base. Vietnam retired its MiG-21 “Fishbed” fighters in 2015. Like the F-5, upgrade kits are available for the Fishbed.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Northrop F-5E (Tail No. 11419). (USAF photo)

The F-5E was a widely exported daytime fighter, capable of carrying up to 7,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, and AIM-9 Sidewinders. It has a top speed of 1,060 miles per hour, a range of 870 miles, and was first flown in 1972. It is equipped with a pair of M39A2 revolver cannon, each with 280 rounds.

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Air Force denies intimidating disgruntled drone driver’s mom

Hours after former U.S. drone operator Brandon Bryant testified in front of the German parliament, two USAF officer arrived at his mother’s house in Missoula, Montana to warn her she was on ISIS’ “hit list.”


Is this a coincidence? Does the terror group have a hit list targeting mothers of service members in Missoula, Montana? Why would the Air Force frighten a civilian like this for no reason?

Bryant was testifying on the how the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany contributes to the unmanned aerial vehicle program. He served six years in the Air Force, racking up a staggering kill count of more than 1,600 people — a number that he said sickens him. He rejected a reenlistment bonus of more than $100,000.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Bryant with a UAV during his time in the Air Force

Ramstein Air Base is one of the main hubs of the U.S. drone program. A high-tech satellite relay station there allows drone operators to run their aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, or the Middle East from Nevada (or elsewhere) via the Germany-based installation. A major problem with this revelation is Europeans in general abhor the American military’s use of drones and the program itself may be a violation German law, which makes the use of drones via Ramstein a violation of the agreement that allows the U.S. to use the base. As a result American personnel at Ramstein could be subject to prosecution under German law.

“The U.S. government has confirmed that such armed and remote aircraft are not flown or controlled from U.S. bases in Germany,” said spokesperson Steffen Seibert, a delicate statement that employs semantics to present non-damning facts without contradicting Bryant’s testimony.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force officers who visited Bryant’s mother informed her that her personal information might have been acquired by ISIS in the days after the recent Office of Personnel Management hack. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations vehemently denied any accusation of whistleblower intimidation. They told Bryant’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack (who also represents whistleblower Edward Snowden), it was their “duty to inform” Bryant’s mother.

Bryant has been slamming the Air Force since he separated, and the Air Force has been denying his claims just as long. Bryant sent Air Force Times a certificate from the Air Force confirming his kill count. Radack believes the Air Force is attempting to silence Bryant by “delivering death threats from ISIS.”

Bryant told The Intercept that without Ramstein the U.S. would either have to find another relay base in the area or operate the drones in country, which would require deploying more operators and create greater risk to personnel than is currently faced with U.S.-based operations.

Articles

Vladimir Putin’s Extraordinary Path From Soviet Slums To The World Stage

Vladimir Putin may be the wild card in world affairs right now, but he didn’t gain that influence overnight.


The Russian President’s ascension to power is filled with spies, armed conflicts, oligarchs, oil and (of course) judo.

So here’s how a onetime “nobody” climbed up the ranks to become the “World’s Most Powerful Person.”

Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad on Oct. 7, 1952.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Putin, Age 4. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the only child of a decorated war veteran and factory worker in the slums of Leningrad. He grew up in a Soviet Union styled communal apartment with two other families — as was typical at the time.

Source: Encyclopedia, TIME

As a teen Putin worked at his school’s radio station, where he reportedly played music by the Beatles and other Western rock bands.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Wikimedia

The photographer Platon — who took Putin’s infamous Time Magazine cover in 2007 — said that Paul is Putin’s favorite Beatle, and “Yesterday” is his favorite song.

However, “by [Putin’s] own account, his favorite songs are Soviet standards, not Western rock. He has been deeply conservative his whole life,” Karen Dawisha wrote in her new book, “Putin’s Kleptocracy.”

Source: Encyclopedia

Early on in life, Putin got into judo. He was his university’s judo champion in 1974.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Jedimentat44/Flickr

Former deputy finance minister and first deputy chairman of the Central Bank Sergey Alaksashenko believes that Putin’s love of judo says something about his foreign policy.

“Unlike chess, a judo fighter should not wait for the opponent’s move. His strategy is to wait until he gets a chance to execute a single quick move — and then take a step back. Successful judo fighters must anticipate their opponents’ actions, make a decisive, preemptive move and try to disable them,” he wrote in the Moscow Times.

Source: Encyclopedia

He also really loved spy novels and TV shows — especially one about a Soviet double agent.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Fictional character Stierlitz, the double-spy, portrayed by Vyacheslav Tikhonov. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin reportedly loved the popular 1960s book series turned TV series “17 Moments of Spring” starring the Soviet double-agent Max Otto von Stierlitz (né Vsevolod Vladimirovich Vladimirov) who rose up the ranks into Nazi elite during World War II.

Putin said about the series: “What amazed me most of all was how one man’s effort could achieve what whole armies could not.”

Source: Putin: Russia’s Choice 

And in a moment of life imitating art, in 1985 the KGB sent Putin to Dresden, East Germany where he lived undercover as a “Mr. Adamov.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
A former KGB prison in Potsdam. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Reportedly, Putin mastered the German language so well that he could imitate regional dialects. Unlike most KGB agents, Putin liked hanging out with Germans. He was particularly fond of the “German discipline.”

But how exactly Putin spent his time in East Germany is relatively unknown. According to the Kremlin, he was awarded the bronze medal “For Faithful Service to the National People’s Army.”

Source: Newsweek

In 1989 the Berlin wall fell, and within a year Putin was back in Leningrad where he took a job under the first democratic mayor of Leningrad, Anatoly Sobchak (who was Putin’s former law professor.)

21 facts about the First Gulf War
The Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate. (Photo: Wikimedia)

By 1991, Putin officially resigned from the KGB’s active reserve.

Sobchak took his former student with him into office, and thus Putin began a life in public government work.

Source: Kremlin

There’s a group of St. Petersburg democrats who believe that Putin was assigned to the mayor’s office by the KGB … but there is no definitive proof.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Anatoly Sobchak, standing. (Photo: Wikimedia)

For the most part, people didn’t really care either way because they knew that they “were under surveillance” in general at the time, according to Newsweek.

Publically, Putin has never tried to deny his involvement with the KGB.

Source: Newsweek

While working under the Leningrad mayor, Putin earned the nickname “Gray Cardinal” and was “the man to see if things needed to get done.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Wikimedia

Putin was always behind the scenes and kept a low profile. Reportedly, he was “the man to see if things needed to get done” and “Sobchak’s indispensable man.”

Source: Barbarians of Wealth: Protecting Yourself from Today’s Financial Attilas

Additionally, Putin was once investigated for “allegations of favoritism in granting import and export licenses.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr

… but the case was dismissed pretty quickly “due to lack of evidence.”

Back in the early 1990s, Putin was in charge of a deal where $100 million worth of raw materials would be exported in exchange for food for the citizens of St. Petersburg. Although the materials were exported, the St. Petersburg citizens never got the food.

Reportedly, Putin was the one who signed off on the deal — but the Kremlin denies this.

Source: Barbarians of Wealth: Protecting Yourself from Today’s Financial Attilas

When Sobchak lost the re-election for mayor, the victor offered Putin a job. However, Putin turned it down saying: “It’s better to be hanged for loyalty than be rewarded for betrayal.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Putin and Yakovlev meeting again in the future, 2000. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin was the campaign manager for Sobchak’s re-election. Vladimir Yakovlev, who had the support of the powerful Moscow mayor, ran against Sobchak and won. He offered Putin a gig in his office, but Putin declined it.

Source: Newsweek

Next up: the big leagues. In 1996 Putin and his family relocated to Moscow, where he quickly climbed up the ladder and became the head of the FSB.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Putin as the FSB director, dated January 1, 1998. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin held a variety jobs in Moscow from 1996 to 1999, eventually ending up as the head of the FSB (aka the KGB’s successor.)

“In July 1998, Yeltsin named Putin head of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB. It was a job the president would have given only to the most trusted of aides,” according to Newsweek.

Source: Kremlin

Interestingly, Putin isn’t particularly fond of Moscow. He considers it to be “a European city.”

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Wikimedia

utin has said about the Russian capital: “I can’t say that I didn’t love Moscow. I just loved St. Petersburg more. But Moscow, it’s completely obvious — it’s a European city.”

Source: Kremlin

 

And on top of his rapid career growth, Putin allegedly still found time to defend his economics thesis.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
St Petersburg Mining Institute. (Photo: Wikimedia)

“Despite the workload, in 1997 he defended his Ph.D thesis in economics in the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute,” according to the Kremlin.

However, Putin’s economics expertise has been called into question.

The man who used to be the “Kremlin’s Banker,” Sergei Pugachev, said: “Vladimir Putin does not understand economics. He does not like it. It is dry. It’s boring to hear these reports, to read them.”

Source: Kremlin

In August 1999, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin the prime minister. One month later, Putin’s popularity rating was at 2%.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Boris Yeltsin, then-president and Putin, then-prime minister, in December 1999. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin was the fifth Prime Minister in less than two years, and nobody believed Yeltsin when he declared Putin as his successor.

In fact, everyone was expecting Yevgeny Primakov to be the next president because he had a more impressive career and was a “friend of everyone from Madeleine Albright to Saddam Hussein.”

Source: Newsweek

And then — seemingly out of nowhere — Yelstin stepped down as president and named Putin the acting president on New Year’s in 1999.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Boris Yeltsin being awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland 1st Class, 2001. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Many people believed that Yeltsin propelled Putin to presidency in order to protect himself: The war in Chechnya was starting to curdle, and his ratings were starting to drop.

Interestingly, one of Putin’s first moves was to pardon Yeltsin “immunity from criminal or administrative investigations, including protection of his papers, residence and other possessions from search and seizure.”

Source: New York Times

In his first speech as acting president, Putin promised freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, the right to private property …

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Putin’s first public speech as Russia’s Acting President, December 31,1999. (Photo: YouTube)

The exact quote from his speech is:

“I want to warn that by any attempts to go beyond the Russian laws, beyond the Constitution of Russia, will be strongly suppressed. Freedom of speech. Freedom of conscience. Freedom of mass media. Property rights. These basic principles of the civilized society will be safe under the protection of the state.

You can watch the whole speech here on YouTube.

During his first presidential term, Putin focused primarily on domestic affairs. He had two items on the agenda: the war with Chechnya and the Yeltsin-era oligarchs.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Alexei Makhotin, an internal service colonel who fought in Chechnya, being given the title the title of Hero of Russia at a state award ceremony. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin inherited Russia during a particularly complicated time. The country was in the midst of a conflict with Chechnya — a region that’s officially considered a Russian subject.

Additionally, Yeltsin-era oligarchs were increasingly interested in expanding their political influence.

Source: The Guardian

Putin recognized that the Yeltsin-era oligarchs had the potential to be more powerful than him … so he struck a deal with them.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Boris Berezovsky. (Photo: AJ Berezovsky/Flickr)

“In July of [2000], Putin told the oligarchs that he would not interfere with their businesses or renationalize state resources as long as they stayed out of politics — that is, as long as they did not challenge or criticize the president,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: The Council on Foreign RelationsThe Guardian.

And then Putin established his reputation as a “man of action” with his handling of the Second Chechen War.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
A farewell ceremony for the 331st Airborne Regiment of the 98th Airborne Division withdrawn from Chechnya. (Photo: Wikimedia)

In 2002, a Moscow theatre was seized by 40 Chechen militants, who were led by the warlord Movsar Barayev, and 129 out of the 912 hostages died during this three-day ordeal.

This was a critical moment for Putin, and many expected his domestic approval to plummet. But his “ruthless handling of the siege and his refusal to negotiate with the hostage-takers further shored up his reputation as a man of action.”

His approval rating was up at 83% after it was all over.

Source: BBC

In 2004, Putin was re-elected for a second term. He continued to focus on domestic affairs, but drew major criticisms for his crackdowns on the media.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Wikimedia

Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment lobby after she wrote about corruption in the Russian army with respect to Chechnya. Many in the Western media criticized Putin for failing to protect the media.

Those accused of the murder “testified that Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovksy (one of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs) could be the clients, who ordered the murder of Anna Politkovskaya,” according to TASS.

Source: Independent

But overall, Putin was well-liked. During his first two terms, the Russian economy grew at an incredible rate.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
The Russian economy since the fall of the Soviet Union. (Photo: Wikimedia)

During Putin’s first two terms, Russia’s GDP went up 70%, and investments went up by 125%.

“Russia’s GDP in 2007 reached the 1990 level, which means that the country has overcome the consequences of the economic crisis that devastated the 1990s,” following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Putin’s Russia was really lucky in that the country largely relied on oil. (The recent drop in oil prices reflects how much of a difference it makes.)

Source: Sputnik News

In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected president. One day later, he made Putin the new Prime Minister … And then Russia got clobbered by the financial crisis.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Medvedev and Merkel in 2008. (Photo: Wikimedia)

When the global financial crisis hit, things got really got bad. The Russian economy was slammed particularly hard because it relied heavily on Western investment.

Additionally, the financial crisis really showed just how dependent the Russian economy is on oil and gas, and how intertwined the industry was with the country’s political economy, according to the Brookings Institute.

Source: Brookings Institute

In that same year, Russia got involved in a five-day international conflict — the Russo-Georgian War.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Border between Russia and Georgia. (Photo: Wikimedia)

The Russo-Georgia conflict involving Russia, Georgia, and the two regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two regions have been trying to get formal independence since the 1990s — Russia recognizes the independence, which has been condemned by Western nations.

“After the 2008 conflict, Moscow declared that it would formally recognize the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia’s allies Nicaragua and Venezuela followed suit, as did a number of small Pacific island states,” according to the BBC.

Internationally, South Ossetia is still considered to be “officially part of Georgia.” And Georgia considers Abkhazia to be a “breakaway region.”

Source: BBC

Fast forward to 2012: Putin wins his third presidential election with 63.6% of the vote. (This one’s a six-year term, rather than four.)

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Putin’s 2012 inauguration. (Photo: Wikimedia)

There was some controversy over this election. The constitutionality of his third term was called into question, and critics believed that there was electoral fraud.

However, officially, Putin registered nearly 64% of the vote.

Source: The Guardian

Two years later, in March 2014, Putin annexed Crimea in one of the most complicated and controversial geopolitical moves of the year.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Ceremony signing the laws on admitting Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia, 21 March 2014. (Photo: Wikimedia)

The ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych “sent a letter to” Putin “requesting that he use Russia’s military to restore law and order in Ukraine.”

The Russian Parliament granted Putin “broad authority to use military force in response to the political upheaval in Ukraine that dislodged a Kremlin ally and installed a new, staunchly pro-Western government, the Ukrainian government in Kiev threatened war if Russia sent troops further into Ukraine,” reported The New York Times.

On March 2, Russia took complete control of Crimea, and on March 16, an “overwhelming majority” of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Source: NBC News

Most recently, Putin has started exploring a relationship with China — mostly because Russia needs other trading partners following the Western sanctions.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Wikimedia

Russia has a deal to build a $70 billion gas pipeline with China. The two nations are also considering building “a high-speed rail line thousands of kilometers from Moscow to Beijing.”

“Isolated over Ukraine, Russia is relying on China for the investment it needs to avert a recession,” three people involved in policy planning told Bloomberg.

Source: Bloomberg News

No one’s quite sure what Putin’s next move will be, but since he’s considering a fourth term, we may be seeing much more from him until at least 2024 …

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: Wikimedia

Back when Putin was a deputy mayor in St. Petersburg, his inner circle cronies referred to him as “Boss.” Today, they refer to him as “Tsar,” and Forbes just named him the most powerful person in 2014.

And there’s no telling what people will call him next.

More from Business Insider:

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

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11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

 

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

21 facts about the First Gulf War
(Photo: US Army)

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

21 facts about the First Gulf War

One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps game up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

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Trump’s vet endorsement came from a Super PAC disguised as a not-for-profit

On Tuesday, a Veteran’s group called Veterans for a Strong America (VSA) endorsed billionaire Donald Trump’s Presidential candidacy during a rally on board the decommissioned U.S.S. Iowa in San Pedro, California.


In a press release, Trump said, “I am honored to receive the endorsement of this fantastic group… If I win I am going to get our vets the care they need, treatment they deserve, and make America and our military great again!”

21 facts about the First Gulf War

Except details about this veterans group are not entirely clear. Founded in 2010, VSA is run by South Dakota lawyer Joel Arends, who says the organization doesn’t usually endorse a candidate until the general election but recognizes Trump as an “inherent leader capable of achieving mission success.”

What Trump can or can’t do is for American voters to decide, but the back story behind Veterans for a Strong America is a bit hazy.

The fundraiser on the battleship Iowa this week was ostensibly meant to be a fundraiser for the 501(c)4 VSA, which will “go towards helping Veterans for a Strong America supporting our warriors on and off the battlefield and not to any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

Except the nonprofit status of VSA has since been revoked for failure to file the IRS form 990 for three consecutive years. So, the money from the event will likely go to the VSA Super PAC, and thus, to Joel Arends, who as of last night, may have been the sole member of VSA.

21 facts about the First Gulf War
Arends deployed to Iraq in 2004 and later served with the rank of Major in the Army Reserve. While in Iraq, he was awarded the Bronze Star for operations in and around Baghdad. So his veteran status is beyond reproach.

Though he did paint a rather rosy picture of the war in Iraq in 2006, telling a reporter from Sioux City, Iowa at the time that “Iraq is a place of great progress” and that “American troops in Baghdad won the locals’ hearts and minds,” with 14 of the 18 provinces “considered relatively peaceful.”

VSA is not a non-partisan group

The group dates back to at least 2012, when the left-leaning Mother Jones website ran an article about their attempt to “swift boat” Obama during the 2012 election.

“Swift Boating” is now a political term meant to surprise a candidate’s military record, either truthfully or not, by “Veterans” who may or may not be associated with the candidate. The term refers to the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ad ran against John Kerry during the 2004 Presidential election. In the 2012 Mother Jones article, Arends made no bones about his group’s activities.

“Yes, it’s the swift boating of the president, in the sense of using what’s perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness,” which Arends meant as the Bin Laden raid.

Arends contends his group is nonpartisan, though he has a history of working for Republican candidates and causes, including as a field director for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 1999, as the Veteran’s Director in Iowa in 2007 for John McCain for President, and working to promote events for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, according to his Facebook page. The group’s registration also lists it as a conservative action group, which means…

VSA is a Super PAC

Super PACs are the anonymous dark money receptacles that are a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, allowing anyone to to donate unlimited sums to be distributed by these groups, as long as the candidate does not help coordinate how that money is spent.

In the 2012 election cycle, VSA spent all of the more than $170,000 it raised on Republican candidates during that time and some of it was spent against another Republican candidate. It also appears most of that money was donated to itself (VSA has a 501(c)4 “social welfare” nonprofit with the same name).

The VSA Super PAC spent more than it brought in, ending the election $14,000 in the red. Where that money came from is not known, but what is known is before last night’s endorsement/Trump fundraiser, VSA had $30 in cash and $318 in debts.

When looking up the domain owner for VSA’s website, www.veteransforastrongamerica.org, we found it was registered to DomainsByProxy.com, a GoDaddy site which gained notoriety in the 2012 elections for allowing political entities to pay to hide the owners of certain websites.

Interestingly enough, VSA claims membership numbers that include its over 57,000 Facebook fans and “500k grassroots.” It’s a bit of a stretch to claim a Facebook fan as a “member,” since it could be practically anyone who just wants to learn more about VSA and clicks “like.” The grassroots membership claim comes from a Sep. 1 press release that claims “500,000 supporters nationwide.”

We have reached out to VSA and will update if we hear back.

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