Numerous scams often target military members due to their consistent paychecks and many troops being young and financially inexperienced. From predatory lending to online scams, it’s important for service members to learn how to protect themselves from being taken advantage of. Here are 9 scams every military service member needs to be aware of.
1. Social Media Scams (Card Popping)
Fake accounts are being created on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, where scammers often impersonate military personnel. They will then friend military troops and begin building a relationship through direct messaging. Eventually they will claim they can make you quick money by depositing money in to your account and in exchange you just send them a fee. They will ask for personal banking information such as your username, password, bank card number, and pin. Once the information is exchanged they deposit fraudulent checks and withdraw the cash, leaving you without money and possibly liable for the losses.
2. Rental Housing Scams
Scammers will post fake rental properties on classified websites in areas around military bases and communities targeting troops. Service members moving in to the area will be offered fake military discounts and be asked for a security deposit by wiring money to the landlord.
3. Military Loans
Military car and personal loans that require no credit check, have instant approval, upfront fees, or promise guarantees are highly likely to have hidden fees and terms that take advantage of service members, leaving them with crippling debt.
4. Veterans’ Benefits Buyout Scam
Military veterans hard pressed for cash may be lured into this buyout plan offering a cash payment in exchange for their future disability pension payments and benefits. However, these payouts are only about 30 to 40 percent of what their value is and structured in ways harmful to veterans’ finances.
5. Car Purchase Scams
Using websites that offer classified ads, scammers will create car ads targeting military members. They will pretend they are a service member who is being deployed or moving because they are being stationed somewhere else and need to get rid of their car quickly. They will ask for wire transfers or up front fees and will offer fake claims such as free shipping or discounts.
6. Employment Scams
Veterans and active duty members searching for jobs may come across employers who offer special consideration for their military service. Be wary of employers asking for personal information such as bank account numbers or that want to conduct a credit or background check. Some are scams that use your personal information to steal your identity and/or expose you to fraud.
7. Jury Duty Scam
Military members will be targeted by callers who claim they work with the court system and tell the service member has a warrant out for their arrest due to not showing up for jury duty. Fearing they can get in trouble by their command, the caller says it can be taken care of by providing personal information such as a social security or credit card number.
8. Veterans Affairs Scam
Military veterans are being targeted by phone scammers who call claiming they work for Veterans Affairs and say they need to update their information with the VA. The VA never calls and asks for your private information by phone.
9. Military Life Insurance Scams
Hard sales tactics are used by agents who target military members. They will make false and inflated claims about life insurance policy benefits which are expensive and most likely unnecessary.
Learn how to protect yourself!
To help military members and their families the Better Business Bureau has created a BBB Military Line to educate service members on how to protect themselves. Be sure to follow their Facebook page to keep up to date on all current scams and ways to protect yourselves.
(Note: The BBB has put out a warning about scammers trying to take advantage of the military and veteran community during Memorial Day weekend. Read how you can protect yourself.)
Currently, 46 out of 50 states have some form of face mask guidelines in place, but some are more lenient than others.
The most strict mask requirements exist in a total of 17 states, where residents are required to wear a mask outside at all times when social distancing isn’t possible, and also face penalties if they don’t abide by the rules.
It differs from the more lenient states that, for example, only make people wear masks in certain businesses. Four states — Iowa, Montana, Wisconsin, South Dakota — have no mask requirements at all.
The official guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that everyone should be wearing face coverings in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
A recent study found that the use of face masks has been the most effective way to reduce person-to-person spread of the virus.
Scroll down to see which 17 states have mandated the use of face coverings in public.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issues the order to make mask-wearing mandatory in most public places on June 19.
Under the new law, all Californians must wear some type of face coverings in public, including while shopping, taking public transport, or seeking medical care, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The same applies to public outdoor spaces where social distancing is not an option.
“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Newsom said in a statement.
“California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations.”
There were no more details about how the order will be enforced or if violators will face any punishments, CNN reported.
Any Connecticut resident over the age of 2 must wear a face mask in a public space where social distancing isn’t possible, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Ned Lamont that came into effect on April 10.
Only children under the age of 12 are exempted from this rule, due to the risk of suffocation.
“Wearing a face covering in public settings is important to prevent transmission of this disease. But wearing a face-covering is not permission to go out in public more often,” the statement said.
4. District of Columbia
While initially, there was some confusion around face masks rules in the district, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the use of face coverings when conducting essential business or travel and social distancing isn’t possible.
Masks or other face coverings are required in grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeout restaurants. On public transportation, face coverings are required if individuals are unable to be six feet apart. Children between the ages of 2 and 9 are advised to wear masks.
A state emergency order issued by Gov. David Ige on April 20 requires customers as well as employees at essential businesses to wear face coverings, according to local media.
However, masks are not required in banks or at ATM’s. Furthermore, those with pre-existing health conditions, first responders, and children under the age of five are exempt from this rule.
If anyone violates these rules, they could face a fine of up to ,000 or up to a year in prison, according to the order.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ordered the use of face masks for anyone stepping outside their house as of May 1, local media reported.
This includes everything from shopping at essential businesses, picking up food, or visiting the doctor. It is also implemented in any public space where people cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance.
Even though Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an order requiring all state residents to wear a mask in public as of May 11, the governor also said that those who are caught not wearing one, won’t be fined or arrested.
However, the order does give businesses the right to turn away anyone who does not wear a mask and if law enforcement officers see unmasked people, they will ask them to don a mask.
Not everyone in the state has been following the order.
“It’s a concern,” Judge-Executive Mason Barnes of Simpson County — which has one of the highest infection rates in the state — told USA Today. “I’d say 70% to 80% of the people are not wearing masks when they’re out and about.”
Maine residents are required to wear face-coverings anytime they step foot into a supermarket, retail store, pharmacy, or doctor’s office, according to an order issued by Gov. Janet Mills which went into effect on May 1.
Anyone taking public transport is required to wear face coverings, according to Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that came into effect on April 18.
Other places where this is mandatory include grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores, laundromats, and hardware stores, according to USA Today.
Employees of essential businesses and customers over the age of 9 must also wear them.
In Massachusetts, residents are not only required to wear face masks in public while indoors, but also need to wear them in outdoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
According to Michigan state law, “any individual able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth.”
This also applies to business owners, who must provide their workers with “gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks as appropriate for the activity being performed.”
Businesses are also allowed to deny entry to anyone who refuses to wear a mask.
Nevada was one of the most recent states to implement a mandatory mask order which went into effect on June 25.
Face coverings must be worn in public, but also in private businesses. Those who are exempted from the order include people with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, homeless people, and children between 2 and 9 years old, according to The Independent.
During his announcement last week, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said: “Wearing mask coverings saves lives, period. End of story. We owe it to each other to accept the fact that wearing face mask coverings saves lives.”
12. New Jersey
New Jersey was the very first state to make customers and workers wear face coverings at essential business sites.
Wearing a mask is also mandatory on public transit, and if anyone is seen without a mask, they could be denied entry, according to CNN.
13. New Mexico
Face masks are mandatory in New Mexico in all public settings, except while eating, drinking, exercising, or for medical reasons.
The mandate came into effect on May 15.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a news conference: “As the state opens up and our risk increases, the only way we save lives and keep the gating criteria where it is is if we’re all wearing face coverings,”
New York, which was one of the worst-affected states at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, made it mandatory for everyone over the age of 2 to wear a face mask in public on April 17.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been very vocal about wearing face coverings while out, regularly reminding residents on Twitter.
Essential businesses must give their employees masks and are allowed to deny customers entry for those not wearing one, according to an order from Pennsylvania’s Department of Health which went into effect on May 8.
With the tax season upon us, service members and their families can access free tax-filing software and consultations to help them navigate the task of submitting their annual taxes.
Military members and their families can visit the Military OneSource website or call 1-800-342-9647 for the no-cost “MilTax” software, explained Erika Slaton, a program analyst with Military OneSource.
The Defense Department recognizes military members and their families have unique filing situations with deployments, relocations and various deductions and credits, she said.
The MilTax software, previously known as “Military OneSource Tax Services,” was created with the military situation in mind, Slaton said.
Expert Tax Consultants Ready to Help
Tax consultants are available via phone through Military OneSource, Slaton said. In-person tax filing assistance can be accessed at military installations at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location.
The tax consultants can inform eligible users about the unique tax benefits available to service members and their families, Slaton said.
Tax laws change each year, Slaton pointed out, adding MilTax consultants are experts on the nuances of the law and can help users get the tax credits they earned and deserve.
“That’s why it’s such a great program because it is a program that is specifically designed for those unique military tax situations,” she said.
Confidential, Secure Resources
MilTax is confidential and secure, Slaton said. The online filing program allows users to submit a federal return and up to three state tax returns, she said.
Those eligible for MilTax include members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard. Coast Guardsmen serving under Title 10 authority are entitled to the services as well. Retired and honorably discharged members are authorized for up to 180 days past their separation. Spouses, dependent children and survivors are able to use the free services as well.
Calculations are backed by a 100-percent accuracy guarantee, Slaton said.
The deadline to file taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18. The traditional tax deadline day is April 15, but it falls on a Saturday this year, and the following Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day, in the District of Columbia — a legal holiday — according to the IRS.
Call, Click, Connect
Slaton wants the military community to know about the range of services and resources available at no cost through the Defense Department-funded Military OneSource, including related to health, family relationships, education, employment, financial issues, deployments and transitions.
Military members and their families, she said, can “call, click and connect today” to access these services.
“We encourage service members and their families to learn more about Military OneSource, MilTax and all of the services that are available because it is a benefit that they deserve,” she said.
This comes after Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq said the week before that certain countries in the region were keeping the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.
He said countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding and equipping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in order to fuel the war machine and pursue their own objectives.
Raziq said some countries in the region have a vested interest in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He claimed that there is sufficient evidence to show that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding the Taliban and other militant groups in the country.
“The Russians have been in contact with the Taliban militants since 2004 or 2005. It is not correct to say that they (Russians) engaged in ties with the Taliban in recent times (only), but now these relations have been clarified. Pakistanis, Iranians and the Russians are jointly supporting the terrorists, however the Russians do their work through Iran, for instance sending the Taliban weapons and money,” said Raziq.
U.S director of defense intelligence Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart said in Congress that despite signs of Russia’s support for the Taliban, U.S officials have not found physical evidence to back these claims.
On May 24, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance had heard reports to this effect but they too did not have proof.
The Afghan government has also said on a number of occasions in the past that they do not have evidence to back these claims.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan to seure the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)
The Russian embassy’s statement further said that Moscow once again declares that allegations of its support to the Taliban “does not match the reality (of the situation) and are merely unsubstantiated claims.”
This coincides with the Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the sidelines of a summit in Moscow, the national security council said in a statement.
The NSC said the two sides held talks on further expanding bilateral, political, and security relations.
The statement added that the two sides also held talks on the establishment of a comprehensive plan to support and strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Atmar arrived in Moscow on May 23, heading a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials.
Officials from 25 countries are meeting at the Russia Security Conference, which will focus on countering terrorism in the region.
In May of 1942, U-boat 506 sank the freighter “Heredia” approximately 40 miles off New Orleans. Most of the crew onboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Sonny, and eleven-year-old Lucille. When the ship exploded, chaos ensued and Ina and Lucille were separated from Ray and Sonny who found refuge in a four-foot balsa wood life raft. Father and son were joined by the Heredia’s captain, Captain Edwin Colburn, and civilian George Conyea. The following narrative, excerpted from Michael Tougias’ new book “So Close to Home,” chronicles their final hours in the life raftwhen all hope seemed lost.
The baking rays of the sun pounded down on the four souls clinging to the square life raft, that was now partially submerged. If we don’t drown, thought Ray Downs, we’re going to die of dehydration. They had been drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for over fourteen hours, and Ray worried his boy Sonny wouldn’t last another hour.
Sonny was lost in his own exhausted stupor. Then he felt something against his leg. He glanced down and could not believe what he saw: a banana, perhaps the same one he had lost earlier, was bobbing in the water.
“Dad, look!” he gasped, reaching out and snatching the green banana.
“I knew you’d find it. I think that banana is really going to help us. Why don’t you unpeel it and take a big bite and then pass it around for all of us to share?”
Sonny did as he was told. It was a struggle to swallow his piece of the banana with his mouth and throat so dry. Twenty seconds later, he felt nauseous and vomited the banana bite back into the sea.
“Well, that didn’t work so well,” Ray said. “The banana wasn’t ripe anyway.”
Sonny only nodded. He was slumped forward with his head hanging so low that it almost reached his knees.
A few minutes later, Sonny said, “Dad, can we go in now?” He said it as if they were on a fishing trip and it was up to his father when to call it quits.
Rather than try to explain the situation, his father answered, “Soon, son, soon.”
Sonny looked up at his father and just nodded.
It wasn’t long after this exchange that Ray noticed fellow survivor George Conyea staring at something directly behind where Ray was sitting. Ray turned his head and saw not one but four grey shark fins lazily cutting through the sea just five feet away from the raft. When he looked over at Conyea and the captain, he saw another couple of fins. By now, all four of the survivors could see the sharks. No one said a word.
One shark turned toward the raft and then glided directly under it. The group could see the outline of its body as it passed directly beneath them. It looked to be about five to six feet long.
Sonny quickly pulled his feet out of the water.
“Take it easy, Sonny, don’t thrash around,” said his dad. “They’ll move on.”
But they didn’t move on.
The four survivors now counted seven different sharks making slow half-loops around the raft before making a pass directly underneath it. This was by far the most terrifying experience of the ordeal for both Sonny and the three adults. The raft was too small for the men to try and get their legs on top of the balsa wood. Ray was right: their best defense was not to make a commotion.
The men did not know what kind of sharks they were, only that they were as big as themselves. The life raft probably acted like a magnet for sharks, attracting their interest simply because it was a floating object, and the sharks, with their keen sense of smell, could also have been drawn in by the scent of the blood from the wound on Ray’s leg. And any movement the group made, such as switching position, would have caused a vibration in the water, and that too would attract sharks. It’s also possible that smaller fish were holding position under the shade of the raft, and the sharks came in to investigate this potential prey, and then became inquisitive about the humans.
Whatever kind of sharks were circling the Heredia survivors, they were curious and gradually moved in closer to the life raft, making their lazy half-loops just a couple of feet off the side of the raft before they submerged and swam directly under it. One shark, when passing under the raft, rolled on its back, and an anxious Sonny could see its half-opened mouth. The boy almost let out a scream, but his dad, who had seen the same thing, reached over and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, they are just checking us out. We are something new to them.”
Ray had no idea if what he was saying was true or not, but the last thing he needed was for his son to go into a panic. He also hoped his words calmed the captain and George Conyea, because they were as wide-eyed as Sonny, watching every move their new visitors made.
Ray felt despair like he had never known. Sundown was just three and a half hours away, and the thought of the sharks gliding beneath them at night was too terrible to contemplate. He felt absolutely helpless.
Minutes crawled by and the four survivors kept still, eyes glued on the fins lazily cutting through the water on all sides of the raft. The behavior of the sharks stayed the same; they came within a foot or two of the castaways but there was no direct contact with either the raft or the group’s legs or feet.
“How long will they stay?” asked Sonny, looking at his father.
“Don’t know, Sonny; but like I said, they are just curious.” Ray paused and continued his calming words: “If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.”
An hour went by and the group tried to ignore the sharks, but with little success. There was nothing else to look at, nothing else to take their mind off the seven fins circling them.
About two hours after the sharks first arrived, more fins appeared in the water not far from the raft. Sonny was terrified, thinking, not more sharks. . . .
Captain Colburn spoke up. “Hey, those are dolphins.”
Like the U-boat that had caused their ordeal, the sharks submerged and were not seen again.
Sonny experienced an incredible sense of relief and joy with the dolphins’ arrival and the sharks’ departure. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for the past two hours, afraid to move a muscle. There was no doubt in his mind that the dolphins had driven the sharks off to help him.
The dolphins’ presence not only relieved Sonny’s concern over the sharks, they also gave him something new to watch. Unlike the sharks, the dolphins swam quickly around the raft, their entire backs almost coming out of the water, and then briefly submerge and repeat the process. Up and down came their fins. But after just three or four minutes, they moved on and were gone from sight.
The group didn’t speak. Without the fear of sharks, their minds went back to the predicament of time running out for a rescue. It would be dark within the hour. Their thirst was unbearable and all felt extremely weak. Sonny was in the worst shape because of his small body. Now that the sun was low in the sky, he was shivering again. His father noticed and had him move back on his lap where he wrapped his big arms around the boy, trying to stop his shaking.
Sonny looked up at his father. “Shouldn’t a boat be here by now?” he asked.
Ray needed to keep his son’s mind occupied. So instead of discussing the lack of a rescue boat, he said “Let’s play a game. See those seagulls way up there? You choose one and I’ll choose one and we’ll count how long they go without flapping their wings. Whoever’s bird flies the longest without using its wings wins.”
Sonny perked up a bit. He didn’t really want to play the game because he was so chilled and his mouth so parched that he’d rather not talk. But he thought maybe this game was what his father needed to do.
“Okay, I’m picking the one over there,” Sonny said as he lethargically pointed at a shape off to the west.
“And I’ve got the one straight up,” answered Ray.
With heads tilted back, father and son watched the birds they had chosen. It was easy to look up because the sun was almost touching the ocean.
“Mine just flapped,” said Ray. “You win.”
Sonny gave a half-hearted nod.
“Well, let’s play another round,” said Ray.
Again they chose birds. Sonny chose one high in the sky and way off on the eastern horizon. This time the captain and George Conyea also looked up to see which birds the father and son chose. Anything to take their minds off their body’s demands for water.
Again Ray’s bird flapped its wings quickly. “You win again,” he said.
Sonny kept his eyes on his own bird. “Wow, Dad, mine is still going along without flapping.”
Ray looked closer at the bird in the distance.
“Captain, let me use your binoculars,” Ray said.
The captain removed the strap from around his neck and handed them to Ray, who hurriedly put the binoculars to his eyes. He adjusted the focus and stared intently at the bird far in the distance.
“That’s no seagull, it’s a plane!” he shouted.
“Yes, yes!” shouted the captain.
The survivors still could not hear its engines or tell what kind of plane it was, but there was no doubt it was a plane and that it was heading toward the raft.
“Quick, Sonny, take off the captain’s coat! I’ve got to get it on the board.”
Within seconds, Ray was waving the board with the white coat on it, and the others were waving their arms.
Ray couldn’t tell if the pilot had spotted the white coat, and the tension was unbearable. Please, please, he said to himself. His son’s very life was at stake. The boy could not make it through another cold night. He waved the white coat wildly.
As the plane drew closer, its metal skin briefly glittered when the sun’s rays hit it. Now they could hear the dull drone of the engine, and Sonny shouted “Help!”
“Keep waving the flag!” shouted the captain, his excitement growing. “It’s got to see us. It’s our last chance. I think it’s coming our way.”
Ray could make out the outline of the plane and, because of its unique construction, realized it was a Navy PBY. The single wing was elevated on a pylon above the fuselage rather than coming straight out from the sides. This allowed unobstructed visibility for its aviators to scan the ocean during either patrols for U-boats or search-and-rescue missions. Two engines with propellers were mounted on the wing, one on each side of the aircraft.
The plane came ever closer but it did not descend. Ray thought maybe it was going too fast to see them.
But Sonny’s heart soared. He was certain the plane was coming for them. And he was right. In one swift motion, the PBY started descending and adjusting its course slightly so it was just fifteen feet off the ocean and heading right toward the raft, banking hard so that Sonny could actually see the pilot, who was giving a thumbs-up. The boy let out a croak of joy along with the cheers of his father, the captain, and George Conyea.
The four raft passengers watched with awe as the plane circled back toward them. Its 104-foot wingspan and 63-foot length made it appear enormous so close to the water. Just as the plane was barreling over their location, they saw the pilot drop a package out the window, landing just ten feet from the raft. Using the board and their hands, all four survivors paddled furiously toward what they hoped was their salvation floating in the water.
The captain grabbed the package and ripped it open. Inside were two flares, a large container of water, and a note. The captain read the note out loud: “We will send shrimp boats to come and get you. If anyone is seriously hurt, wave me in and I’ll pick them up.”
Ray thought for a minute. He knew the plane was going to search for other survivors in the few minutes of daylight left and he didn’t want to slow it down. Someone, maybe Lucille or Ina, might be hurt and the plane could rescue them. He thought Sonny could make it the half hour or hour that he expected the shrimp boat to take to arrive.
The plane made a broad circle above the raft and then moved off.
“We made it, son,” said Ray; “we’ll be on the boat in no time.”
Then the captain passed the water container to Ray, saying, “Let’s all take a drink. We may want to let our bodies adjust to the water before we take a second drink.”
When Sonny took his gulp of water, he thought he had never tasted anything so good, so sweet. It was as if the water had magical powers, because he felt better immediately. He couldn’t wait for the container to come around again for his second drink of the life-giving fluid. But the captain said again that they shouldn’t drink too much all at once, and the other adults agreed.
A few minutes later the plane reappeared, then moved off. The survivors had no way of knowing that the pilot had dropped a note to shrimp boats a few miles off that said: “Watch my direction. Follow me. Pick up survivors in water.”
A half hour went by and the survivors bobbed on their little raft in the darkening shadows. They all had another drink of water, and the captain said that he thought a shrimp boat could reach them within the next half hour.
Sonny shivered in his father’s arms. The hydrating water had eased his thirst but did nothing for his growing hypothermia.
“That plane can land on water, right, Dad?”
“Then why didn’t they just do that and pick us up?”
“They needed more time in the air to find others. But the boat will be here soon.”
“What if the boat can’t find us?”
“They will. And remember, we’ve got flares to use if we see a boat.”
Sonny had forgotten about the flares. But he also wondered how his dad would see a boat in the distance in the pitch black of night.
More time went by. The sun had set, but the survivors could still differentiate between the horizon and the ocean in the twilight. Sonny had forgotten all about the sharks, but Ray hadn’t. Ray still scanned the dark ocean around the raft for any sign of a fin. He wondered what to do if a shark appeared and thought that should one come, he could use the strong light from a flare to scare it off. But with only two flares. . . .
The prospect of another night in the water scared Ray to the core—not for himself but his concern over Sonny, who he could feel shivering in his arms. He second-guessed himself about not waving in the plane. Now there was nothing he could do to change that decision.
Editor’s note: Michael Tougias is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of 25 books including “The Finest Hours,” “A Storm Too Soon,” “Rescue of the Bounty,” “Overboard,” “Fatal Forecast,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse.”
His latest work is an inspiring historical narrative titled “So Close to Home” that tells the story of all four members of the Downs family as they struggle for survival. Their story is contrasted against that of the daring U-boat commander, Erich Wurdemann, who pushed his crew to the limit of endurance as he laid waste to ships throughout the Gulf.
The number of countries with military drones has skyrocketed over the past decade, a new report revealed, showing that nearly 100 countries have this kind of technology incorporated into their armed forces.
In 2010, only about 60 countries had military drones, but that number has since jumped to 95, a new report from Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone revealed.
Dan Gettinger, the report’s author, identified 171 different types of unmanned aerial vehicles in active inventories. Around the world, there are at least 21,000 drones in service, but the number may actually be significantly higher.
“The one thing that is clear is drone proliferation is accelerating,” Michael Horowitz, a Center for New American Security (CNAS) adjunct senior fellow for technology and national security, told Insider, adding that it is particularly noteworthy that among the countries that have access to military drone technology, around 20 have armed drones, higher-end systems that are becoming more prolific.
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.
(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt(
And the proliferation of drone technology is expected to continue as countries like China, which has emerged as a major exporter of unmanned systems, to include armed drones, and others export drones around the world. “Drone proliferation is inevitable,” Horowitz said, explaining that “current-generation drones are the tip of the spear for the emergence of robotics in militaries around the world.”
Newer systems are appearing at a rapid rate. “I think drones will be a ubiquitous presence on future battlefields,” Gettinger told Insider Sept. 26, 2019, explaining that drone technology is contributing to an evolution in warfare. “They represent an increase in combat capacity, an increase in the ability of a nation to wage war.”
“We are likely to see drones featuring more prominently in global events, particularly in areas that are considered to be zones of geopolitical tension,” he added, noting that “we see this playing out in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, the Ukraine, and other conflicts.”
Drones come in all shapes and sizes and levels of sophistication, and they have become important tools for both countries and non-state actors such as the Islamic State in several different countries, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
In recent months, militarized drones have made headlines globally, highlighting the importance of unmanned systems.
Over the past few weeks, for instance, the American MQ-25 Stingray, an unmanned refueling asset expected to serve aboard US carriers, completed its first flight. Russia showed off its new Okhotnik (Hunter) drone flying alongside and working together with the fifth-generation Su-57, an important first step toward manned/unmanned teaming. And, China unveiled a suspected supersonic spy drone and a stealth attack drone during preparations for its National Day celebration.
But, the incident likely the freshest in everyone’s mind is the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil sites earlier this month, when Saudi oil production was temporarily crippled by systems most air defense systems are not designed to effectively counter.
Arthur Holland Michel, who co-directs the Center for the Study of the Drone with Gettinger, previously explained to Insider that the attacks confirmed “some of the worst fears among militaries and law enforcement as to just how much damage one can do” with this kind of technology.
He called the attack a “wake-up call,” one of many in recent years.
The strikes on Saudi Arabia, which the US believes were carried out by Iran, marked the second time in just a few months the US has had to figure out how to respond to a drone-related incident involving Iran, as Iranian forces shot down an expensive US surveillance drone, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, in June 2019.
That incident nearly ignited an armed conflict between the US and Iran. President Donald Trump had plans to attack Iranian missile and radar sites in retaliation, but he called off the attack at the last minute due to concerns about possible Iranian casualties.
The US reaction, especially the president’s stated concerns that killing Iranians in response to the downing of an unmanned air asset was disproportionate, highlights the challenges of responding to attacks involving military drones.
“The US and other countries,” Gettinger explained, “will have to develop a framework for thinking about and understanding enemy unmanned systems and how to deal with them and what their responses should be. Drones are becoming a more important feature of militaries, and the US and other countries will have to have a framework for dealing with that.”
Addressing these challenges will likely become more important as the technology evolves with advancements in capability to create drones with the ability to fight like unmanned fighter aircraft, manned/unmanned teaming, and progress on swarming.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Marine who fought off an Afghan insurgent assault despite painful shrapnel wounds to the leg said his bravery under fire was all in a day’s work.
Staff Sgt. Robert Van Hook, a critical skills operator attached to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, received the Silver Star on Jan. 15 during a ceremony at the headquarters of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or Marsoc, near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for heroism in battle during a 2013 deployment to Herat province, Afghanistan.
In an interview days after receiving the military’s third-highest award for bravery, Van Hook recalled the events of that day of action.
Van Hook, a 27-year-old native of Nokesville, Virginia, had been serving as the element leader for Marine Special Operations Team 8224, Special Operations Task Force West. A former reconnaissance Marine, Van Hook had been to Iraq once and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.
His team had begun its operation late at night Aug. 14. They planned to clear a village of insurgents in preparation for a visit by local Afghan National Army, or ANA, leaders to the region the following day. As they moved into the region around 2 or 3 a.m., Van Hook said, the team spotted two who appeared to be “walking with intent” and exhibiting other suspicious behaviors.
On Van Hook’s order, the Marine team took cover and maneuvered closer to observe the men, eventually watching them link up with eight others at the back of a building. All were armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons he said, and as they communicated in Pashto over their radios, Van Hook could make out words like “bomb.”
Taking advantage of the element of surprise, he “executed a hasty ambush” on the men, according to his medal citation, killing four and wounding two more. Then he and his team cleared the building from which the insurgents were operating, using their own guns and hand grenades. One more insurgent was taken hostage inside, and two more were detained.
Despite the intensity of this ambush under cover of darkness, Van Hook said he was able to keep a cool head as he aggressively charged into an enemy position.
“We train like we fight here,” Van Hook said. “Our training is as realistic as we can possibly get it. It’s almost second nature at this point.”
Daybreak found Van Hook and his team in a building providing over-watch defense for a sister Marine Special Operations Team as they brought in ANA officials for a key leader engagement with elders from the region.
“The area was highly destabilized. We wanted to get high-ranking leaders with the Afghan army to show their presence,” Van Hook explained. “We knew the area had a lot of insurgents in it and they had freedom of movement.”
The engagement went as planned, with little more than sporadic “pop shots” at the Marines while the leaders were present. But as the ANA detachment pulled away, all that changed.
“You could almost see their tail lights crossing the horizon when the attack started to kick off,” Van Hook said.
A sniper on the ground started targeting the two Marine teams. As Van Hook’s team began returning fire with recoilless rifles and machine guns, the insurgents directed the bulk of their fire at them. As the onslaught became overwhelming, Van Hook ordered a Marine who had been manning an MK-19 grenade launcher on the roof to take cover.
“If your head was just over the wall, you were getting shot in the Kevlar,” he said.
Later, though, when Van Hook got word from the other Marine element that it was being targeted on three sides, he grabbed another Marine and charged back out to take control of the MK-19 once more.
As he fired the big gun, Van Hook successfully drew the brunt of the enemy attack onto his position, taking the pressure off the other element and allowing them to regain their advantage. He fired on the insurgents until one of them shot an RPG into the rooftop position, knocking Van Hook and the other Marine unconscious and wounding them with shrapnel.
When Van Hook regained consciousness, he saw that the MK-19 had rolled over his leg, which had been pierced by shrapnel and had blood pooling under it. The other Marine had been apparently wounded in the back, and Van Hook moved to put pressure on the wound, and push the Marine to cover, despite the pain in his own leg.
Then, he manned the gun once more and continued to fire on the enemy fighters. When he looked down and saw that the pool of blood under his leg had grown larger, he applied a tourniquet to the leg and kept on fighting.
Finally, one of MARSOC’s special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen convinced Van Hook to leave the roof for a medical examination. At this point, the Marine was in intense pain and couldn’t feel anything below the ankle of his wounded leg due to a nerve injury.
But, Van Hook said, “I could still think, and I realized there were gaps in my security, so I wanted to support as much as possible.”
With two Marines wounded and an ANA soldier who was fighting with them in bad shape from being shot in the face, the decision was made to organize a casualty evacuation. Instead of laying back and resting, Van Hook teamed up with another Marine who had a recoilless rifle, identifying insurgent targets so he could shoot at them.
Then, with the medical evacuation, or medevac, chopper approaching, he began calling in “danger close” suppressive 120mm mortar fire around the landing zone to allow the bird to land safely. Once on board, Van Hook said he felt not relief, but frustration.
“The last thing a Marine wants to do is leave other Marines behind and I was pretty irritated at that point,” he said.
But the day wasn’t over; while aboard the aircraft, the Afghan soldier collapsed, and Van Hook and the other Marine provided triage care, taking advantage of their extensive medical training.
Looking back on the day, Van Hook was unassuming about his accomplishments.
“This is the job we signed up for,” he said. “Everybody understands the positions you’re going to be put in once you become a [Marine] Raider. Once I found out that the award went through, it was the biggest dose of humble pie I’ve ever experienced.”
The fake carrier being hit during the Great Prophet IX exercises in 2015. (Iranian state media)
Late last month, Iran once again put on a show using their fake U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier as a target for military drills and helicopter-fired missiles. The demonstration was intended to show America that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard were prepared to take on the mighty U.S. Navy in the strategically valuable Strait of Hormuz. Instead, however, it appears Iran’s plans may have backfired, with the fake aircraft carrier now sunk at the mouth of an economically important harbor–adding a dangerous hazard right in the middle of a shipping lane.
The United States has been at odds with Iran since the nation’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, wherein the ruling dynasty that was supported by the United States was deposed by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. Today, Iran and the United States remain locked in an idealogical battle of wills, with Iran directly funding terror organizations the world over through its Al Quds force, and the United States working to support its allies and interests in the Middle East.
The mock Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was first built by Iran in 2013 and completed in 2014. At the time, the large vessel was described as a movie prop. In February of 2015, however, the vessel, which isn’t as large as a real Nimitz-class carrier but was clearly modeled to resemble one, was then used as a target in a series of war games Iran called Great Prophet IX.
The barge-in-aircraft-carrier-clothing was then repaired once again in 2019 and just a few weeks ago, the newly refurbished vessel was towed out into the Strait of Hormuz for another bout of target practice. The Strait of Hormuz is the only route between the Persian Gulf and the open ocean, making it an extremely important waterway in the global oil supply chain. Experts estimate that something in the neighborhood of 20% of all the world’s oil passes over the Strait of Hormuz.
Because of the waterway’s immense importance and it’s proximity to Iran, the Strait of Hormuz is a common site of overt acts of aggression between the U.S. Navy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
And indeed, as we often see Iran threaten to do to America’s real aircraft carriers, Iran TV aired footage of commandos fast-roping onto the deck of the ship from helicopters, as well as fast attack boats swarming around the hulking structure. The spectacle was dubbed “Great Prophet 14,” and culminated with firing on the floating barge with a variety of missiles.
“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mockup, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or exercise scenario,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told The Associated Press. “We do not seek conflict, but remain ready to defend U.S. forces and interests from maritime threats in the region.”
It seems likely that, although Iran’s fake aircraft carrier is smaller than a real Nimitz-class vessel, it’s used both for training and propaganda. Because Iran’s leaders see the United States as their clear opponent, the use of the the carrier offers a chance to rehearse a great war with the United States without having to suffer the consequences of such a conflict. However, Iran may now be facing a different kind of negative consequence, with the mock carrier taking on water and eventually sinking in an area of the waterway that is not deep enough to allow ships to pass over the sunken target.
After the carrier remained somewhat visible for a while, it has since submerged beneath the waters of the Bandar Abbas harbor — which is only 45 feet deep. That means large ships cannot pass over where the carrier came to rest without risking serious damage.
In other words, in Iran’s fervor to show America how effectively it the nation’s military could defend their territorial waters, they inadvertently made it significantly less safe for them to operate in those same waters.
Iran will almost certainly need to attempt to salvage the vessel; not just for the sake of another round of target practice, but because its presence will pose a significant risk to any large ships trying to travel into or out of the harbor it now rests beneath. It isn’t currently clear if Iran even has the means to mount such a salvage effort, however. So, for now, Iran’s fake American aircraft carrier may pose a more direct threat to Iranian interests than the real Nimitz carriers America often sails through the nearby Strait of Hormuz.
This is far from the first big blunder for Iran on the world’s stage this year. In May, the Iranian military unintentionally fired an anti-ship missile at one of their own vessels, killing 19, and in January, Iranian air defenses accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airline, killing all 176 on board.
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
The threat of the Zika virus has prompted many to suspend trips to hot zones like South America and the Caribbean because of fears of the mosquito-born pathogen.
But U.S. servicemembers don’t have that luxury, posted to bases and stations — and on exercises — in Zika-heavy regions where their orders force them to deal with the risk.
While the number of cases worldwide is less than 200,000 — with the vast majority in Brazil — of the roughly 7,000 cases reported in the U.S. and its territories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 are from U.S. servicemembers.
“We take any ailment that may impact the health and wellbeing of our military men and women or their families very seriously,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Robert Cabiness told WATM. “The DoD is proactive in protecting DoD military and civilian personnel and their dependents, especially pregnant women, from the threats of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.”
While not deadly alone, the Zika virus can cause severe birth defects in newborn children of infected mothers. The virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, but there have been cases where the virus was passed through sexual contact as well.
The Pentagon is taking special precautions to keep its troops and dependents safe, including eradicating mosquitos in high-risk areas, prepping medical facilities with Zika testing equipment and educating its troops on risk factors, prevention, and symptoms.
“Currently, testing of any individual is contingent on meeting the clinical symptomology and epidemiological criteria for exposure as outlined in the CDC guidance,” Cabiness said. “The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread.”
Bottom line, if you’re in an area that’s a Zika hot zone, you’re pretty much stuck there unless your commander says it’s too risky for you to stay. Pregnant servicemembers are probably the most at risk, and unit leaders are taking special precautions to keep them virus free.
“OSD Health Affairs has distributed Zika Guidance to DoD Medical Personnel, as well as reporting guidance on the disease, emphasizing the need to for pregnant individuals living in or planning to travel to the affected area to confer with their health professional on the potential risks associated with Zika,” Cabiness said.
More than prevention, however, the Pentagon is playing a key role in developing a Zika vaccine, teaming with the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and private research institutions to find a cure.
“The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread,” Cabiness said. “Our scientists are supporting a whole-of-government effort, led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.”
“DoD is actively involved with other federal and private partners in the development of a candidate Zika vaccine,” he added.
The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:
Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.
(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)
The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant
Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.
Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.
“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”
(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)
Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways
Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.
You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.
(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)
Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
All timelines get worse with time
The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.
Count on it.
If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.
(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)
Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in
All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.
Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.
Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)
Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)
This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.
And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.
Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit
Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)
First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.
The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.
(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)
Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it
This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.
But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.
President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.
Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”
“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.
In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”
But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.
‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’
In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.
At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.
“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”
Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.
Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.
China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.
But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.
The arms are already moving
The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.
According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.
Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.
A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.
For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.
Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.
With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.