Here's the real story about how the Air Force's MC-130J got its name - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
MC-130J operating from desert airstrip. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.

On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.

“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”

The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.

With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”

The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.

More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.

A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.

So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.

Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.

“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”

Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.

Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.

Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
A modified MC-130J awaits its next mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The aircraft has been fitted with vertical fins on each wing, called winglets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”

Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.

The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.

As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.

As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.

The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.

Back at Wright-Patterson, the officials in charge of names balked at the idea of two names for one plane. Air Force Materiel Command ultimately approved Combat Shadow II for all MC-130Js.

This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”

Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.

On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.

Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.

With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”

The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.

Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.

Articles

U.S. Navy vet and comedian Charlie Murphy has died

Charlie Murphy, a standup comedian and Navy vet known for his work on the “Chappelle’s Show,” died after a battle with leukemia. He was 57.


Murphy joined the Navy after being released from a stint in jail. His mother wanted him to get out of the neighborhood to prevent him relapsing into his old habits and he enlisted the same day. He had to lie to get in, but has told interviewers ever since that he doesn’t regret it.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
Charlie Murphy played himself in skits with Dave Chappelle dramatizing Murphy’s run-ins with Rick James. (Photo: YouTube/TV One)

“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”

Somehow, Murphy made it through his service without ever being issued dog tags.

“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
Comedian and Navy veteran Charlie Murphy performs standup. (Photo: YouTube/Leon Knoles)

After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.

Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Articles

This Hornet pilot makes energy shots loved by special operators

Energy drinks are one of the staples of military service. They’re all around the combat zone, a must for going into the field, and a favorite in care packages.


Marine Corps Maj. Robert Dyer, now an instructor at the Naval Academy and a former member of Marine Special Operations Command, wanted an energy drink that his Marines and he could drink that was caffeine free and contained all the vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that they’d normally take a handful of pills to get.

When they couldn’t get it from the current supplement industry, they decided to make it themselves and created RuckPack, a 3-ounce shot designed to keep troops going without risking a caffeine or sugar crash. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, the shot features amino acids to promote awareness and muscle recovery. And for those who want their nutritional supplements with a little caffeine, a new strawberry flavor contains 120mg of caffeine pulled from green tea.

The company makes an effort to assist veterans. They donate 10 percent of their profits to non-profit organizations such as the MARSOC Foundation, the Navy Seal Foundation and the Green Beret Foundation. Also, they’re recruiting veterans into a distribution network that pays a 10-percent commission for sales to independent retailers. And they have a program for people to donate RuckPacks to those deployed overseas.

RuckPack’s website has some impressive testimonials from athletes as well as more information about their product and business model.

RuckPack was featured on Shark Tank where Dyer spoke about the business and pitched the company. Check out this video:

MORE: ‘The Bunker’ is helping veteran entrepreneurs launch the next big tech company 

AND: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

MIGHTY FIT

High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) vs High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

I led multiple combat conditioning programs in the Marine Corps, and I did my Martial Arts Instructor Certification at the MACE in Quantico with the creators of MCMAP. Yet, I had no idea what HITT was. I thought it was just a cheap rip-off of HIIT that the Marine Corps wanted to get their proprietary mitts on.

I was a little salty at certain points in my career.

The short of it is: HIIT is a type of workout and HITT is a comprehensive program that encompasses all aspects of fitness.


Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

A few seconds of this, a few seconds of that…

What HIIT is

High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) really got popular when the Tabata method got some good press. The Tabata method is a type of HIIT workout where you perform a movement for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You repeat this sequence for as many rounds as you are adapted to.

Other styles of HIIT follow the same basic layout. You perform a movement for a certain period of time, and then you rest for about half the time you did the movement for.

If you are really particular, you would measure your heart rate and rest until your heart rate gets to about 60% of your estimated maximum heart rate.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjzcNion5Qq/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “Here’s how to do a HIIT workout properly. . A lot of people do “HIIT” but they don’t understand the purpose. It’s to to boost your output…”

www.instagram.com

It might sound like math class, and it basically is. There are plenty of apps and timers out there for HIIT workouts, but most people just wing it.

In fact, most people completely miss the point of HIIT.

At its base, HIIT is a fat burning workout that takes advantage of the anaerobic fuel systems of the body. If you don’t allow your heart rate to get down low enough between sets, you are preventing your body from truly resting. Without enough rest, you cannot perform at 90-100%+ effort, and therefore miss out on burning a maximum amount of fat.

I can and will go more in-depth on this topic in the future. Take a look at the above Instagram post for details on how to properly use HIIT to help you lose that adorable baby fat on your tummy.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

Run fast and lift heavy. Sounds pretty good to me.

(Photo by Capt. Colleen McFadden)

What HITT is

High-Intensity Tactical Training, on the other hand, is a program designed by the Marine Corps to prepare Marines for combat. You can read the whole methodology behind it here.

It has 3 basic principles:

  1. Prevent potential for injury
  2. Increase performance levels that support combat specific tasks
  3. Build strength, optimize mobility, and increase speed

Subtle how they squeezed five principles into three, but I’ll roll with it.

High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) Promo Video- USMC

youtu.be

I’d argue that these components should be the base of every single human being’s training plan, not just military personnel. I would just switch the wording around in number two to read “increase performance levels to support career specific tasks” for the normies.

Reading through the methodology, linked above, I could nitpick some of the specifics of the program. Ultimately though, I’m a fan.

Unlike HIIT, HITT has nothing to do with burning fat whatsoever. Actually, it would probably be in a Marine’s favor to keep a modest amount of body fat on their frame in case things go south and they are without food for multiple days.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

The next step is to do the workout with a full combat load. That’s HITT.

(Photo by Capt. Colleen McFadden)

Execution is everything

HIIT and HITT couldn’t be more different. HIIT is for people who are primarily concerned with how they look while HITT is for Marines who want to f*ck sh*t up.

Both of these can be very beneficial to you depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Military personnel don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into with a deployment until they get there. A well-rounded plan, like HITT, that increases all aspects of fitness is ideal if you have the time.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

Don’t let this image fool you. This man’s primary form of exercise is not HIIT. He lifts.

(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

HITT is for someone who is looking for long-term nonspecific training that will focus on all aspects of fitness. It doesn’t need to be just for those getting ready for a deployment.

HIIT is for someone who is looking to burn fat while maintaining lean muscle. That’s it for HIIT. It won’t make you stronger, it probably won’t make you much faster. It is exclusively for people who want to lose fat.

The bottom line of this showdown between fitness modalities is that the Marine Corps needs to get better at naming their programs. Otherwise, most people will just write off their highly researched program as a shameless government knock-off of something that already exists.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Iran surpasses 1,000 deaths with highest 24-hour rise yet; Hungary eases border closure

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 201,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.


Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 1,135, with 147 deaths over the past 24 hours — the highest 24-hour rise yet — state TV reported on March 18, as President Hassan Rohani defended his government’s response to the outbreak.

Iran has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with a total of 16,169 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region’s cases.

Iran has been accused of acting too slowly and of even covering up initial cases.

But Rohani on March 18 rejected criticism of his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling a government meeting that authorities have been “straightforward” with the nation, and that it had announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.

“We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay,” Rohani said.

Government officials pleaded for weeks with clerics to completely close crowded holy shrines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government finally shut down the shrines this week.

“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it,” Rohani said.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Norouz, that begins on March 20.

It was later announced that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, to mark Norouz.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on March 18, adding that “almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well.”

Judicial officials had previously announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran’s prisons. They confirmed that those freed included political prisoners, which Iranian authorities describe as “security-related prisoners.”

Pakistan

The Pakistani government has confirmed the country’s first fatality from coronavirus in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The South Asian country had a total of 260 confirmed cases of the infection as of late March 18, including 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“With deep regret I confirm the death of first Pakistani due to coronavirus. A 50-year-old male from Mardan city recently returned from Saudi Arabia. He developed fever, cough, and breathing difficulty and tested positive for the COVID-19,” Health Minister Zafar Mirza tweeted.

A 36-year-old man from Hangu district also died of the respiratory disease after returning from Turkey to Islamabad via Dubai, according to a spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been put in quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst-affected countries.

Amid the steep rise in known cases, Pakistani authorities have moved to discourage crowds and gatherings.

Islamabad on March 17 announced that all gyms, swimming pools, religious shrines, and children’s parks would remain closed for three weeks.

Health officials in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, urged the public to avoid unnecessary social contacts or traveling and to stay indoors.

Governments around the world continue to take sweeping measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 201,000 people and killed over 8,000.

Ukraine

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and other lawmakers will be tested for the novel coronavirus after one of their colleagues tested positive on March 18, local media has reported.

Authorities are trying to trace everyone who has been in contact with lawmaker Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group since he entered the legislature earlier in the week following a trip to an unspecified European Union member state.

Shakhov appeared on Ukrainian television on March 12-13, according to deputy Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, and participated in a meeting of the parliament’s Environment Committee on March 13.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the infected lawmaker’s voter card was registered in parliament on March 17 and was used to vote, although Shakhov was absent.

“Unfortunately, his colleagues are guilty of multiple voting,” Zelenskiy said about the widespread phenomenon in parliament that is now punishable by law.

Ukraine, which has confirmed 16 cases of the respiratory illness and two deaths in four regions and the capital, Kyiv, closed its borders to foreigners for two weeks starting on March 16.

Authorities have also canceled air, rail, and bus connections between cities and regions, and shut down the subway in all three cities where they operate, including Kyiv.

Moldova

Moldova on March 18 reported its first death from coronavirus.

“A first Moldovan citizen died of the coronavirus infection last night. This is a 61-year-old woman,” Health, Labor, and Social Protection Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said.

The woman had recently returned from Italy and was suffering from several illnesses, Dumbraveanu said.

The manager of the Chisinau hospital where the woman died told the media that the woman’s village has been placed under quarantine.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, reported 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 18.

Moldova’s parliament on March 17 imposed a 60-day state of emergency in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

The country, one of the poorest in Europe, has already temporarily shut its borders and suspended all international flights from March 17.

Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have been working abroad, many of them in Italy and Spain, two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester declared a state of emergency until April 5 in the wake of the outbreak.

Transdniester declared independence in 1990 and fought a bloody war with Moldova two years later. It is unrecognized by the international community but is unofficially backed by Russia, which stations hundreds of troops in the region.

Romania/Hungary

Hungary on March 18 moved to relax a sweeping border closure after thousands more travelers – many angry and lacking supplies — clogged its crossings with Austria to the west and Romania to the east.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government on March 17 closed its land crossings to foreigners as well as border crossings at airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands of travelers were massed on March 18 at the Nickelsdorf-Hegyeshalom border crossing between Austria and Hungary, after missing a window of several hours allowed by Budapest overnight for those who wanted to transit the country on their way to Romania and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, some 7,000 people who had reached the Romanian border to the east overnight were facing another hours-long bottleneck due to health checks imposed by Bucharest.

The two-pronged crisis prompted Budapest to reopen the border with Austria at noon on March 18 until the easing of the blockage to the west, and to allow daily passage for Romanians and Bulgarians from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. on preapproved routes, according to a statement by Romania’s Foreign Ministry.

Austrian authorities on March 18 advised drivers to keep away from the Hungarian border as the traffic jam there grew to 45 kilometers and protests broke out among stranded travelers.

“There is no use in coming to the border,” said Astrid Eisenkopf, the deputy governor of Austria’s Burgenland Province, which neighbors Hungary.

Most of the delayed Romanians are workers returning from Italy and Spain, the world’s second- and fourth-most affected countries by the virus, but also from other Western countries.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

On March 18, Romania reported 29 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 246, as well as 19 recovered cases. There have been no coronavirus deaths inside the country.

But specialists warn that Romania has so far tested only some 3.000 people for the coronavirus, while in other countries the number of those tested was in the tens of thousands.

Hungary reported having 50 confirmed coronavirus infections on March 17, with one death.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria announced it has entered into a fiscal deficit and Ukraine said it is seeking a bigger lending program from the International Monetary Fund beyond the .5 billion for which it was asking.

Confirmed cases in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest but least indebted country, spiked by 30 percent on March 17 to 81. The government in Sofia banned all foreign and domestic holiday trips until April 13.

Kosovo

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu for purportedly spreading “panic” about coronavirus after he backed a presidential call for a state of emergency over the pandemic.

Kurti announced Veliu’s dismissal on March 18, just hours after Veliu said he supported a proposed state of emergency that has divided officials in the Balkan country.

President Hashim Thaci late on March 17 signed a decree declaring a state of emergency. It has been sent to Kosovo’s parliament, which has 48 hours to either accept or reject the move.

But Kurti has rejected calls for a state of emergency. He said it would cause “unnecessary panic.”

“At this time, when the entire public administration is making the utmost efforts to minimize the damage caused by the coronavirus, the heads of central institutions, including those in the government cabinet, need to prove maturity both in decision-making and in making statements,” Kurti said in his announcement about firing Veliu.

The move may resonate far beyond the debate about how to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

It could cause a rift in the governing coalition that took power in Kosovo just over a month ago.

Veliu is from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is in a fragile coalition with Kurti’s Self-Determination party.

LDK leader Isa Mustafa gave Kurti until the end of the week to “annul the decision to dismiss Veliu and make a decision to abolish the tariffs” on Serbian imports.

Pristina is under huge pressure from the European Union and the United States to revoke the 100 percent import tariff it imposed on goods from Serbia in November 2018.

The tariff came in response to Belgrade’s diplomatic campaign to encourage some of the 110-plus countries that have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008 to reverse their position.

Kosovo says it has confirmed 19 cases of the coronavirus since the first infected person was discovered on March 13.

Most cases are people who had traveled to nearby Italy or had been in contact with others who’d been to Italy.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina declared a state of emergency to enable coordination of activities between its two autonomous regions.

“We are focusing in all ways on how to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija told reporters.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first three cases of the coronavirus in a group of travelers returning from Saudi Arabia.

Kyrgyz Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbaev said on March 18 that the three Kyrgyz citizens are from the southern Suzak district in the Jalal-Abad region.

The infected had returned to Kyrgyzstan on March 12, he said. They are 70, 62, and 43 years of age.

Authorities in the district have sealed off the villages of Blagoveshchenka, Boston, and Orta-Aziya. They’ve also set up 19 checkpoints nearby, regional officials said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov said in a statement that as of March 18, all foreigners are banned from entering Kyrgyzstan.

Elsewhere In Central Asia

In neighboring Kazakhstan, the Health Ministry said on March 18 that the number of coronavirus cases had reached 36, after three more infections were confirmed in Almaty.

Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency until April 15. As of March 19, the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty will be in lockdown.

Uzbekistan announced on March 18 that its total number of confirmed cases had reached 15.

So far, no coronavirus cases have been officially announced in the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The new coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries worldwide. It has infected more than 201,000 people and killed more than 8,000, with the number of people now recovered at more than 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Feb. 12, 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10, 2019.


“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.

“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues – both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander – and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape.”

The final transmission, sent via the 70-meter Mars Station antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Complex in California, ended a multifaceted, eight-month recovery strategy in an attempt to compel the rover to communicate.

“We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts,” said John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project at JPL.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

The dramatic image of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s shadow was taken on sol 180 (July 26, 2004) by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera as the rover moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

(NASA)

Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its twin rover, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the 103-mile-wide (166-kilometer-wide) Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. Spirit logged almost 5 miles (8 kilometers) before its mission wrapped up in May 2011.

From the day Opportunity landed, a team of mission engineers, rover drivers and scientists on Earth collaborated to overcome challenges and get the rover from one geologic site on Mars to the next. They plotted workable avenues over rugged terrain so that the 384-pound (174-kilogram) Martian explorer could maneuver around and, at times, over rocks and boulders, climb gravel-strewn slopes as steep as 32-degrees (an off-Earth record), probe crater floors, summit hills and traverse possible dry riverbeds. Its final venture brought it to the western limb of Perseverance Valley.

“I cannot think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL. “The records, discoveries and sheer tenacity of this intrepid little rover is testament to the ingenuity, dedication, and perseverance of the people who built and guided her.”

More Opportunity achievements

  • Set a one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters).
  • Returned more than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas.
  • Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces for analysis and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection with spectrometers and a microscopic imager.
  • Found hematite, a mineral that forms in water, at its landing site.
  • Discovered strong indications at Endeavour Crater of the action of ancient water similar to the drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth.

All of the off-roading and on-location scientific analyses were in service of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ primary objective: To seek out historical evidence of the Red Planet’s climate and water at sites where conditions may once have been favorable for life. Because liquid water is required for life, as we know it, Opportunity’s discoveries implied that conditions at Meridiani Planum may have been habitable for some period of time in Martian history.

Opportunity: NASA Rover Completes Mars Mission

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“From the get-go, Opportunity delivered on our search for evidence regarding water,” said Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the rovers’ science payload at Cornell University. “And when you combine the discoveries of Opportunity and Spirit, they showed us that ancient Mars was a very different place from Mars today, which is a cold, dry, desolate world. But if you look to its ancient past, you find compelling evidence for liquid water below the surface and liquid water at the surface.”

All those accomplishments were not without the occasional extraterrestrial impediment. In 2005 alone, Opportunity lost steering to one of its front wheels, a stuck heater threatened to severely limit the rover’s available power, and a Martian sand ripple almost trapped it for good. Two years later, a two-month dust storm imperiled the rover before relenting. In 2015, Opportunity lost use of its 256-megabyte flash memory and, in 2017, it lost steering to its other front wheel.

Each time the rover faced an obstacle, Opportunity’s team on Earth found and implemented a solution that enabled the rover to bounce back. However, the massive dust storm that took shape in the summer of 2018 proved too much for history’s most senior Mars explorer.

“When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Callas said. “But what I suppose I’ll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth. It’s the accomplished exploration and phenomenal discoveries. It’s the generation of young scientists and engineers who became space explorers with this mission. It’s the public that followed along with our every step. And it’s the technical legacy of the Mars Exploration Rovers, which is carried aboard Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission. Farewell, Opportunity, and well done.”

Mars exploration continues unabated. NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on Nov. 26, is just beginning its scientific investigations. The Curiosity rover has been exploring Gale Crater for more than six years. And, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover both will launch in July 2020, becoming the first rover missions designed to seek signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet.

JPL managed the Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity and Spirit for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tries to explain away MH17 missile once again

The Russian military has made a new claim about the downing of a passenger jet over the war zone in eastern Ukraine in 2014, asserting that the missile that brought Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.

Defense Ministry officials made the claim at a news conference in Moscow on Sept. 17, 2018, in an apparent attempt to discredit the findings of an international investigation that determined the system that fired the missile was brought into Ukraine from Russia before the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014, and smuggled back into Russia afterward.

Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an “awkward fake,” while the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long ago and that Russia had made “factually inaccurate” claims in the past.


In a statement to RFE/RL, the Dutch government said it had “taken notice of the publications in relation to the press conference by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

“The Netherlands has the utmost confidence in the findings and conclusions of the JIT,” the statement added. “The JIT investigation has broad support by the international community. The government is committed to full cooperation with the criminal investigation by all countries concerned as reflected in [UN Security Council] Resolution 2166.”

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service in an interview, the founder of cybersleuthing outfit Bellingcat accused Russia of “lying about the content” of videos it used as evidence, and said there was “absolutely no way to know” whether the records it cited are genuine.

All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the jet, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in an area held by Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.

The tragedy caused an international outcry and deepened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support for the militants in their fight against Kyiv’s forces after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

The JIT also found that the Buk missile came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade and was fired from territory held by the Russia-backed separatists.

Many of the JIT’s findings have been corroborated or supported by evidence gathered by journalists and independent investigators, such as the British-based Bellingcat.

The Russian Defense Ministry officials claimed that some of the evidence used by the JIT, including videos investigators used to track the path of the missile from Russia to Ukraine and back, was falsified. They cited alleged evidence whose authenticity and accuracy could not immediately be independently assessed.

Citing what they said were newly declassified documents, the Defense Ministry officials asserted that the missile was manufactured in Dolgoprudny, outside Moscow, in 1986 — five years before the Soviet Union fell apart — and was sent by railway to a missile brigade in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine in December of that year.

“The missile belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces and never returned to Russian territory,” said Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin, chief of the Defense Ministry’s missile and artillery department.

In Ukraine, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia’s “statement alleging that the missile that downed MH17 had a Ukrainian footprint was yet another awkward fake [issued] by the Kremlin in order to conceal its crime, which has been proven by both the official investigation and by independent expert groups.”

Earlier, Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins cast doubt on the allegation that video footage was doctored by investigators, writing on Twitter that the Russian Defense Ministry “should probably know we have the original version of the video they’re talking about at the moment.”

“And we’ve never published it. And the JIT has it,” Higgins added in successive tweets.

In a statement on Sept. 17, 2018, the JIT said it would “meticulously study the materials presented as soon as the Russian Federation makes the relevant documents available to the JIT as requested in May 2018″ and required under a UN Security Council resolution.”

The JIT said that it asked Russia to provide “all relevant information” about the incident back in 2014, and in May 2018 “specifically requested information concerning numbers found on several recovered missile parts.”

The investigative body said that it had “always carefully analyzed” information provided by Russia, and in doing so “has found that information from the Russian Ministry of Defense previously presented to the public and provided to the JIT was factually inaccurate on several points.”

Bellingcat’s Higgins echoed that statement, telling RFE/RL’s Russian Service that “the Russian Ministry of Defense has a long and well-established track record of lying and faking evidence.”

“So, really, there is absolutely no way to know that this information is genuine,” Higgins said. He also disputed the claim that videos were doctored, accusing the Defense Ministry of making “purposely misleading” statements about video evidence and “just lying about the content.”

The new Russian assertions follow several other attempts by Russia to lay blame for the downing of MH-17 on Ukraine, including initial suggestions — now discredited — that the jet was shot down by a Ukrainian warplane.

The 298 victims of the crash are among more than 10,300 people killed since April 2014 in the war in eastern Ukraine, where fighting persists and the Moscow-backed militants continue to hold parts of the Donestk and Luhansk provinces despite internationally-backed cease-fire and political-settlement deals known as the Minsk Accords.

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

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It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

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This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.


The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
An Apache attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, California. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.

The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.

That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.

According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.

Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
Apache helicopters have successfully taken out advanced air defenses before, but it would still be better to use F-22s when possible. (Photo: US Army Capt. Brian Harris)

So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?

Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.

That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.

This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.

A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, Ca. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.

The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.

Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.

Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.

That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.

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Russia has a ‘pipe dream’ of replacing the US as the world’s dominant naval power

In the November issue of the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, Commander Daniel Thomassen of the Royal Norwegian Navy argued that Russia’s dream to build a blue water, or global, navy remains a “pipe dream.”


Russia’s navy has made headlines recently with high profile cruise missile strikes on Syria, and the deployment of the core of its northern fleet, including the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, to the Mediterranean.

Also read: This is who would win if the USS Midway took on the Admiral Kuznetsov

According to Thomassen, Russia’s navy has considerable regional defense and anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) capabilities, but no reasonable path towards the type of naval power the US wields.

“Russia is capable of being a regional naval power in local theaters of choice. But large-scale efforts to develop an expensive expeditionary navy with aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships only would diminish Russia’s geographically overstretched homeland defense forces,” writes Thomassen.

Thomassen goes on to point out that strong navies have strong allies and healthy fleets. While Russia has been improving its fleet with some particularly good submarines, it lacks a big fleet that can build partnerships with allies around the world through bilateral exercises.

The US, on the other hand, regularly engages with allies to strengthen joint operations. The US can do this in part because it has enough ships around the world.

But the state of Russia’s navy now is only part of the picture. Russia has never been a major naval power, Thomassen points out. At times Moscow has established itself as a coastal naval power, but it never had a truly global reach on par with historic powers like England or Spain.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a parade celebrating Navy Day. | Russian state media

Furthermore, Russia’s future as a naval power isn’t that bright. Russia has been in a recession for 3 solid years. International sanctions tied to its illegal annexation of Crimea have greatly reduced Moscow’s ability to bulk up its fleet.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to Russian leadership, which has set “highly ambitious governmental guidelines for developing and using sea power over the next decades.”

In addition to its submarine fleet, Russia wants new frigates, cruisers, and even carriers. These prospects seem especially dubious because Russia’s Kuznetsov isn’t really a strike carrier like the US’s Nimitz-class carriers.

The Kuznetsov has never conducted a combat mission. Mechanical troubles plague the Kuznetsov, so much so that it often sails with a tugboat. Also, the Kuznetsov just isn’t built for the kind of mission it will undertake off Syria’s coast.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. | Creative Commons photo

Taylor Mavin, writing for Smoke and Stir, notes the following:

“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.

In fact, Russia itself doesn’t have the makings of a global sea power. While it has both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, like the US, the population of Russia’s far east is about as sparse as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

But one powerful reason dictates why Russia’s leadership still marches towards this seemingly unattainable goal — prestige. Being seen as a credible alternative to Western naval power seems important to Russian leadership, and operating a carrier is one way to do that. Additionally, Moscow will spin its carrier deployment as propaganda, or a showcase for its military wares.

So while Russia has capable, credible naval forces to defend its homeland and near interests, it will likely never project power abroad like the US and other naval powers of the past have.

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Disabled Veteran’s Specially-Adapted Home a Dream Come True

(This is a sponsored post.)


A specialized VA lender, a military-friendly real estate agent and a national homebuilder joined forces to help a disabled veteran use his VA loan benefits with a government grant to build the home he’d dreamed of for almost 2 decades.

Real VA Loan Stories by iFreedom Direct®

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

John Swanson comes from a long line of military members. He was born at Southern California’s Fort MacArthur. His grandfather was in WWII and retired as a full bird Colonel. His father was an Army Sergeant in the Korean War, and his Uncle was an Army Captain. John was determined to carry on the family tradition. The Vietnam War was in full swing in 1971, and while he was more than ready to join, he was too young. Just before his seventeenth birthday, John enlisted in the U.S. Army Delayed Entry Program (DEP) to ensure an active duty slot when he came of age.

During an infantry training exercise, John fell 50 feet repelling from a helicopter. The medics found nothing broken, so John was ordered to keep training under advisement. He was ordered on a 10-mile compass run in shower shoes, during which John’s ankles collapsed underneath him. This time, the doctors determined he could not continue training. He was released under the discharge category “undesirable conditions. ”

“My whole purpose was to serve my country, but it wasn’t meant to be,” John shares. The Vietnam Era veteran had to fight for his honorable discharge, which he eventually received. Meanwhile, he had darting pain and decreased mobility in his arms and legs. Upon further medical examination, he was diagnosed with a chronic neurological syndrome called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Now confined to a wheelchair, John was upgraded from 60 percent to 100 percent disability.

“It was hard not to notice the wheelchair,” says John’s finance Terry Kaut, whom he met at a singles club 13 years ago. “But John was so full of life and joy. Later I found out how much pain he was in, which made his outlook even more amazing,” she added. After 10 years of dating, John and Terry decided to live together in a two-bedroom apartment near Sacramento. The only room suited for John’s disability was the bathroom.

“I’ve bruised my knee caps and broken several toes,” shares John, referring to the narrow halls and doorways in typical rentals. “I chased the American Dream for a long time, but accessible homes just don’t come up that often,” John explains. “So I lived in what was available.”

John’s housing frustrations turned to hope when he heard of a grant administered under the VA Loan Guaranty Division. Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities build or modify homes to best suit their needs. He applied for the grant in 2012 and searched for a VA-approved mortgage lender to help him use his VA benefits.

John applied for a loan with iFreedom Direct®, a nationwide lender that specializes in home loans for veterans. Later John was connected to Sherry Dolan, a Sacramento-based Keller Williams® real estate agent familiar with the VA loan process. Sherry says, “I’ve sold a lot of homes to a lot of veterans, but this was the most challenging and most rewarding.”

The first issue was the grant. It had been months and John still hadn’t heard back from the VA. Debbie had a connection at the Department of Veterans Affairs that reported the paperwork had either been lost or never received. Together, Sherry and Debbie helped John reapply. Sherry enlisted the help of Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s office to expedite the second application to make up for lost time. Within just a few months, John was awarded the fully-allotted $67,555.

Meanwhile, Sherry set out with the couple to look for a house. She saw John struggling. “Terry and I lugged a heavy ramp around just so he could get up the front steps,” she explained. “He couldn’t access back rooms or step-down garages.” Sherry also saw that sunken living rooms, common in California, were a problem.

Then another issue surfaced regarding renovation. John’s respiratory problems required that they live in their apartment until any construction dust settled. With John’s fixed disability income and Terri ‘s modest income as a middle school registrar, they could afford rent or a mortgage payment. Not both.

Sherry thought to seek help from a builder. She approached several, but only one took an active interest in helping John. Lennar Homes had a new subdivision in Rancho Cordova with six model homes. The company agreed to adapt a single-story floor plan under SAH guidelines to suit John’s disability. Lennar® also financed the construction phase so John and Terri could keep renting until the home was finished.

The original blueprint was modified with John and Terry in mind. The specially-adapted model resulted in a 1,794 square-foot, three-bedroom home with 42-inch doorways, wheelchair-friendly flooring, an accessible master bathroom with roll-in shower, a ramped garage, flat front and back entrances, left-handed light switches, and many more customized details.

“The home represents a unique situation for us, but the project has definitely increased our awareness and the need for adaptable homes,” says Division President Gordon Jones. “We were honored to be able to serve a veteran in this way.”

Given the venture’s success, the builder welcomes the opportunity to serve other veterans. According to Lennar®, John’s house was the first-ever specially adapted home built by the Northern California division with money from an SAH grant.

“Thanks to this dedicated team of professionals who worked together, Mr. Swanson was finally able to get into a home,” shares iFreedom Direct’s Customer Experience Director Tim Lewis, a Retired U.S. Army Major.

John may have never gotten the opportunity to serve on foreign soil, but, as fiancé Terry relays, he has served for years from his wheelchair. “He counseled GIs and other individuals with RSD and answered a hot line for years,” says Terry. “And, now because of John, the way is paved for other disabled veterans to build a Lennar® home to fit their needs.”

A housewarming party took place shortly after John and Terry moved into their new home. The entire team came together to celebrate, along with many of the couple’s new neighbors and some local veterans. To honor the special occasion, iFreedom Direct had installed a 20′ flagpole in the front yard and Tim Lewis presented John with an American flag during an emotional dedication ceremony.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name
(Left to Right: In front of the specially-adapted Lennar home after flag raising ceremony are iFreedom Direct loan officer Debbie Losser, Keller Williams real estate agent Sherry Dolan, homeowner John Swanson and fiancé Terry Haut and Dolan’s real estate partner Belinda Mills)

When asked what this house meant to him, John fought his emotions to get these words out, “It means the world. It’s hard holding back the tears when I think how everybody came together to make it happen for us.”

Veterans with permanent and total service-connected disabilities may be eligible for SAH grants. To apply, submit VA form 26-4555 to your VA Regional Loan Center. For information about VA loans, contact iFreedom Direct®.

iFreedom Direct®, a top VA-approved lender, has served America’s brave men and women by providing quality VA loans since 1996. These zero-to-low down payment mortgages, backed in part by the Department of Veteran Affairs, help eligible borrowers purchase and refinance homes at competitive interest rates. Pre-qualify at www.ifreedomdirect.com or 800-230-2986.

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The 9 most badass unit mottos in the Marine Corps

There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.

Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.


These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.

1. “Whatever It Takes”

1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

2. “Get Some”

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

3. “Balls of the Corps”

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”

3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

5. “Retreat Hell”

2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”

2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

9. “Make Peace or Die”

1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

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