These 'Pin-Up' girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars - We Are The Mighty
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These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

 


“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”

Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars.  Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.

“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.

“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world.  So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.

“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”

“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”

The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.

The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue.  It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.

“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”

The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.

“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”

 

Learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets and purchase the calendar at PinUpsForVets.com.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why China is ready to become the new influencer in Pakistan

China may be looking to cozy up to its Middle East ally, Pakistan, now that the U.S. has vowed to cut security aid and other assistance to the country.


Historically, China and Pakistan have maintained close ties. Pakistan first recognized the People’s Republic of China fewer than two years after it was established. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has hailed China as his country’s “best and most trusted friend,” and the two nations remain close strategic trade partners.

But recent moves by China suggest the country may be looking to exploit Washington’s decision to slash Pakistani aid in order to gain geopolitical advantage over the U.S. in the region.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman was quick to defend Pakistan on January 2, just hours after Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, first announced it would continue to hold back $255 million in aid to the country. “Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifice for the fight against terrorism and has made very outstanding contributions to the global cause of counter-terrorism.”

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
Nikki Haley. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“China and Pakistan are all-weather partners. We stand ready to promote and deepen our all-round cooperation so as to bring benefits to the two sides,” the spokesman added.

On Wednesday, the central bank of Pakistan announced it would begin using Chinese yuan (CNY) for bilateral trade and investment activities, saying that it “foresees that CNY denominated trade with China will increase significantly going forward; and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.”

China’s Ambassador to Pakistan announced during his visit to the country on January 3rd that China will expedite its multibillion dollar infrastructure project in Pakistan, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative to expand its trade influence across the globe.

But China’s decision comes not out of humanitarian goodness, but political and economic strategy.

China sees its opening

According to Terry McCarthy, President CEO of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, China will be quick to exploit any potential openings with Pakistan.

“China has a rivalry with both the U.S. and India, and mainly China is using Pakistan as an anchor for its One Belt One Road policy,” McCarthy told Business Insider.

Also Read: This is why Pakistan drives its nukes around in delivery vans

McCarthy explained that Pakistan is strategic to China expanding its own power, and serves as a crucial entry-point for the southern end of China’s One Belt One Road development initiative, which cuts through Pakistan. Moreover, Chinese developments continue the flow of Chinese labor and supply into Pakistan, which provides China with an economic boost.

Pakistan also plans to reap the benefits from closer ties to China.

McCarthy said Pakistan uses its alliance with China as a “counterbalance” to the U.S. and its main foe, India. And while China doesn’t provide huge amounts of aid to Pakistan, it does provide “solid economic assistance” in the form of projects and infrastructure.

More importantly, China has Pakistan’s back, according to McCarthy: “Unlike the U.S., China doesn’t comment on human rights, and has no particular stance on Pakistan’s human rights issues.”

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson, flanked by his delegation participate in a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Pakistani Government of Representatives at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 24, 2017. (Photo from U.S. State Department.)

The U.S. has strongly condemned Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani militants, who are aligned with the Afghan Taliban.

Still, McCarthy believes that while Pakistan and China’s relationship will grow stronger as a byproduct of cuts in U.S. aid, the U.S. still plays an important role to Pakistan, despite major strains.

“There’s no doubt that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not that healthy at the moment. At the end of the day, Pakistan still needs some relationship with the U.S. because they’re not going to get everything they need from China.”

Articles

The French military is ditching its rifle for an American design

Chalk up yet another win for Yankee rifle designs.


It turns out the culturally protective French military is set to ditch its iconic FAMAS rifle for a German-made M4 variant that’s a favorite among U.S. special operations forces and is based on the popular Stoner design American troops have used since the Vietnam War.

It’s easy to ID French troops using their unique, French-made FAMAS rifle. With its distinctive carry handguard, top-mounted charging handle, integral bipod, and bullpup action the FAMAS has become as Gallic as the Citroen automobile. But that’s about to change as its military is set to outfit troops with the Heckler Koch 416.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
A Marine with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and French Army soldiers with 92nd Infantry Regiment practice close quarters battles during a French Armed Forces Nautical Commando Course at Quartier Gribeauval, New Caledonia, August 15, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

The FAMAS came in two versions: The original version, the FAMAS F1, fired the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Its proprietary 25-round magazine was mounted to the rear of the bolt, which allowed the rifle to be more compact but still have the ballistic advantage of a rifle-length barrel.

The FAMAS weighs just under 8 pounds, and had options for safe, single-shots, three-round burst, or full-auto (“Rock and roll”). It also came with an integral bipod. In the 1990s, the FAMAS was upgraded to the G2 standard. The biggest improvement was replacing the proprietary 25-round magazine with a NATO standard 30-round one. This made the French rifle interoperable with other NATO allies. The G2 was about eight ounces heavier than the F1.

The FAMAS had some export success, notably to the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti, but it also has seen service with the Tunisian Presidential Guard, Indonesian special operations forces, and the Philippine National Police. Over 700,000 FAMAS rifles were built.

But few militaries use the so-called “bullpup” design, most notably the U.K. and Australia with their L85 and Styer AUG rifles and the Israeli Defence Force with its Tavor.

The rifle replacing the FAMAS in French service will be the HK 416. This firearm is best known for being what members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), formerly known as SEAL Team Six, carried on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The Army’s Delta Force (now known as the Combat Applications Group, or CAG) also is said to prefer this rifle for most of its operations.

The HK-416 is a conventional M4-style rifle design, featuring an adjustable stock with a standard rifle action in front of the grip and trigger. The rifle fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round, has a 30-shot mag, and weighs about 7 pounds. The advantage of the HK 416 as compared to the M4, for example, is that it uses a piston operating system, making it less susceptible to fouling and cooler running.

The HK-416 has been more widely exported. American units aside from DEVGRU and CAG that use versions of this rifle include the U.S. Border Patrol and the Marine Corps, which replaced some M249 Squad Automatic Weapons with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles.

The German rifle is also used by French Air Force commandos, the Norwegian military, and many special operations units across the globe, including Germany’s GSG9 and KSK, the Army Ranger Wing of the Irish Defense Forces, and the Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei of the Italian Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.


The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)

During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”

When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”

Also read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.

“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.

“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.

During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.

Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.

That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.

Further reading: The Air Force seems to have persuaded Congress to pay up for the A-10

Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
An A-10 Thunderbolt II returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.

“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.

With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.

How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.

Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.

“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.

On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”

Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.

Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”

Related: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.

But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.

“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.

More BRRRRRT: Here’s what’s next for the A-10

— Editor’s note: This story was updated to add comments from the Boeing spokeswoman beginning in the sixth paragraph.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at Oriana0214.

Articles

How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Two Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters headlined China’s Airshow China in Zhuhai on Tuesday, flying for just a few minutes, Reuters reports.


But Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, said the display left many questions unanswered.

Also read: Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

On paper, the J-20 represents a “big leap forward in terms of the capabilities of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have on scene,” Bronk said.

Compared with the US’s fifth-generation fighter jets, the F-22 and the F-35, the J-20 has “longer range, more internal fuel capacity, and larger internal weapons capability,” Bronk said.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

This combination of factors presents a real risk to US forces in the Pacific. Long-range, capable strike fighters like the J-20 put the US AWACS, or airborne warning and control system, as well as “refueling tankers, and forward bases at risk much more than current types if flying in relatively large numbers” should any kind of kinetic conflict flare up in the Pacific, Bronk said.

David Goldfein, the chief of staff for the US Air Force, told Breaking Defense he was not overly troubled by the new Chinese jet.

“When I hear about F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” Goldfein said in August.

Indeed, nothing indicates that the Chinese have built in the type of hyper connectivity and sensor fusions that make the US’s fifth-generation fighters so groundbreaking. Of the F-35 in particular, Bronk said: “Pilots are not spending a huge amount of time managing inputs — the machine does it for him. It produces one unified picture, which he can then interrogate as required.”

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
F-35 pilots have unprecedented 360-degree visibility, can even see through the airframe with cameras, and can fire missiles at targets they aren’t even facing. | Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

This gives F-35 pilots a situational awareness the Chinese most likely leverage in combat.

But what exactly goes on under the hood of the J-20 remains a mystery. What is known is that the Chinese have managed to steal a considerable amount of info from US defense aviation projects.

“We don’t know how much F-35 technology the Chinese have managed to steal,” Bronk said, adding that while it was “impossible to say for sure” what the J-20 is capable of, common sense dictates that the “the sensor fusion and network integration is significantly behind what the US has managed with the F-35 and F-22.

“This is purely based on the fact that sensor fusion has taken the most effort, time, and money,” he continued.

But one-on-one combat scenarios or feature-for-feature comparisons don’t capture the real threat of the J-20.

Long-range stealth fighters, if fielded in large numbers along with older Chinese aircraft, surface-to-air missile batteries, radar outposts, missiles, and electronic-warfare units, present another wrinkle in an already complicated and fraught operating envelope for US and allied forces in the Pacific.

But is it real?

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
Not really a J-20, but a rendering of it. | Alexandr Chechin photo via Wiki Commons

Whether the Chinese will actually be able to field this plane by 2018, as Beijing has projected, remains the real question.

Bronk pointed out that it took a decade between US developers building a flying model of the F-22 and getting real, capable F-22s in the air. Even if the Chinese have accelerated the process through espionage, Bronk says, “We know how much money and time it takes to make a lethal and effective fighter like the F-22,” and it’s “very unlikely that China is that far along.”

Additionally, the J-20s in Zhuhai flew for only about one minute. They didn’t do low passes. They didn’t open up the weapons bay. They didn’t do much except fly around a single time.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We learned very little,” Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor of FlightGlobal, told Reuters. “We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility.”

Bronk speculates that the models on display at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Bronk points out that the aircraft most likely flew with underpowered engines and not the engines that would fly on the final version. “Engine performance is a key function of any aircraft,” he said, adding, “China and Russia continue to lag behind because of the really top-end manufacturing processes you need” to create and tune high-quality aircraft engines.

So while China’s new “impressive low-observable heavy strike” fighters could change the balance of power in the Pacific, whether they can field the planes in significantly large numbers at any time in the near future remains an open question.

Watch footage of the J-20’s flight below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This self-driving ship might be a game-changer for Marines

Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.

The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.

“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.


Sea Hunter recently traveled from California to Hawaii and back again with hardly anyone operating aboard the vessel.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.

(US Navy photo)

Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during a massive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.

“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”

Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.

(US Navy photo)

“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”

The Navy Department is planning big investments for unmanned technology. Its billion shipbuilding budget request for 2020 included funds for two large unmanned surface ships.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US military should focus on the Taliban and not ISIS

A number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan towards the end of January 2018 were claimed by competing terrorist groups ISIS and the Taliban — putting the spotlight back on a country that has been at war for over a decade.


An attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 20 that killed at least 40 people and an ambulance bombing in Kabul on Jan. 27 that killed 103 were claimed by the Taliban.

An attack on Save the Children’s Jalalabad office on Jan. 24 that killed six people and an attack on Kabul’s military academy on Jan. 29 that killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers were claimed by ISIS’ Afghan branch — known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS has pushed to have a bigger presence in Afghanistan. The recent attacks, and the fact that ISIS-K has proven to be stubbornly resilient, have made some in the West more worried about the group.

Seth G. Jones, an expert on Afghanistan and a senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the Taliban and ISIS have been “at each other’s throats” since day one — but there is no question who the more threatening group is.

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Michael “Doc” McNeely with the Georgian Liaison Team – a joint Coalition Patrol Team – carries one of the children whose life he helped save after a Taliban suicide bombing attack Nov. 22, 2017.  (DVIDS Image from Master Sgt. Sheryl Lawry)

“The Taliban is a much larger organization, controls roughly 10-12% of the population of Afghanistan, has conducted a lot more attacks, and has some support among Afghanistan’s conservative rural population,” Jones said.

“ISIS-K, on the other hand, is shrinking in size, controls virtually no territory, has conducted far fewer attacks, and has virtually no support among Afghanistan’s population.”

ISIS declares the ‘Khorasan Province’

ISIS first came to South Asia in 2014, using the group’s substantial funds and weak local governments to co-opt high-ranking members of the Pakistani Taliban and disaffected members of the Afghan Taliban.

But almost as soon as it was founded, ISIS-K began suffering losses, as they found themselves fighting the Pakistani and Afghani governments, the NATO Coalition, and the Taliban all at the same time.

Angry that ISIS had taken some of their members in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban hit back and essentially wiped out ISIS-K in Helmand and Farah provinces.

ISIS has also suffered major losses in its fight against the Afghan government in NATO. All three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) have been killed since the group was founded, and, according to Jones, their numbers have almost been halved since their founding.

ISIS-K is now more of a deadly nuisance than a strategic threat to Afghanistan.

“ISIS-K controls virtually nothing other than a small segment of territory. They’re not competing in any meaningful way,” Jones said. “It’s in a bad situation. It has got everybody against it.”

Jones said ISIS-K has been so surprisingly resilient because it mostly operates in parts of Nangarhar Province, particularly the Achin District, where neither the Taliban or the Afghan government have much control. Instead, the region is mostly controlled by local tribes and clans.

Jones believes, however, that ISIS-K will eventually become a transnational movement — forced to move into Pakistan or Bangladesh as operations against them continue.

Also Read: ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

“They’re down in numbers, it looks like they are down in recruitment, they’ve stuck around but it looks like under most accounts they are probably weakening,” he said.

Taliban remains the dominant jihadist force

All of this is in stark contrast to the Taliban,  where “there is absolutely no comparison,” according to Jones.

Recent reports suggest that the Taliban has tripled in size since 2014 to up to 60,000. This is compared to ISIS-K’s 1,000-2,000.

The Taliban have complete control of some areas in Afghanistan’s countryside, have their own court systems and governmental structures in place, a military structure based in Pakistan, and, according to a recent BBC report, threaten 70% of the country.

They also, as Jones points out, have support from state actors; most notably Pakistan and possibly even Russia.

ISIS-K and the Taliban are likely to continue attacks like the ones that plagued Afghanistan in January 2018. Those high-profile attacks are important because even though neither ISIS or the Taliban control any urban territory, they gain international media attention and put them in the spotlight.

Jones said the attacks “may give an impression that groups like the Taliban are omnipresent,” even though they are not. “That’s really a psychological impact.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to lose a leg, pass a PT test, and stay in the Air Force

Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder put on his physical training uniform and fought the tension inside his chest. It was the day of his annual PT test. Like all his tests before, he had been preparing for months. But this time, he was a lot more nervous.

He bent down and tied his single black shoe, mentally preparing himself to push himself harder than he ever had before.

He drove himself to the site. He did as many push-ups and sit-ups as he could in 60 seconds, he ran a mile and a half, and he got his waist measured. In the end, he easily passed the test with a score of 84.4 – with a prosthetic where one of his legs used to be.

Five months prior, Snyder had lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.


A Story of Recovery: SMSgt David Snyder

www.youtube.com

“It’s a series of unfortunate events that led to it,” he said, recalling a change to his planned route. “I have an Apple iPhone, and of course it want[ed] to save me 7 minutes.”

Riding his sleek black Harley Davidson on an empty back road in Alabama, Snyder was heading back from a weekend trip to Florida with his uncle. The California native was on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was attending Senior NCO Academy.

He said the morning ride was going well as they passed a lake.

“I have cruise control set on 55,” said Snyder, currently the Air Combat Command command propulsion program manager on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “I’m doing everything right, and here comes this silver Malibu.”

The oncoming car quickly caught his attention and he became defensive.

“I saw his wheel start to point out, and I knew it was too late,” he said. “I tried as smoothly as possible to veer around him. I get all the way to the edge, as far as I can, and he catches me.”

Snyder had his legs propped on the crash pegs, a cylindrical spoke that normally extends four to five inches to protect the bike from falling over. The car caught the peg and drove it into the bike. The bike tipped sideways, but didn’t go down. Shaken but steady, Snyder kept going until he found a house about a 100 yards down the road and pulled over.

Finally off the road, he assessed the damage.
“[I] looked down and my foot was facing the wrong way,” he said. “I could see a huge bulge in my sock.”

Snyder asked his uncle to help him off of his bike. He looked down and noticed blood was pooling next to him as he sat in a stranger’s driveway.

Remembering his emergency response training, he quickly took action.

“I’m looking at my leg and I think a tourniquet is my only option,” he said. “I don’t know when anyone is going to get here. So I take my shirt off and I start making a tourniquet.”

It took about 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. After they saw the severity of his injuries, they air evacuated Snyder to Baptist Medical Center South Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, where they did an external fix on his leg. They told Snyder he had a Pilon fracture, which meant that his tibia and fibula had exploded on impact.

“There were pieces missing, probably out on the Alabama highway somewhere,” he recalled.
“Bones were turned and facing the wrong way. [The surgeons] took everything in there and ground it all up, put it back in there and hoped it took. They gave me four plates and about 20 screws that day.”

After working on his leg, doctors laid out his recovery options. They could opt for limb salvage or amputation. Snyder pursued one round of limb salvage, but said he didn’t put much hope into it after hearing about failed recoveries that ended in amputation.

At the first checkup three months after surgery, the hardware in his leg looked good and the prognosis on his leg was promising. However, things started to turn at the six month mark. The hardware started collapsing and everything shifting down in his leg. Things weren’t improving and amputation started to seem like the right choice for Snyder and his family.

“I was just ready to get on with the next step,” said Melissa Snyder, David’s wife and high school sweetheart. “He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. He could deal with the pain, but he didn’t like not being able to live his life.”

Snyder and Melissa both decided that amputation was the best option and set a date for May 8, 2018. “Before going into it, I told my wife I didn’t know how long it would take for me to look [at my foot],” he said. “I was like [screw] it. I pull the sheet back and I’m like, ‘Yup, it’s gone.'”

In the aftermath of his events, Snyder’s character was given a true chance to shine.

“From the get go, he had a very positive attitude,” Melissa said. “We have always kind of lived that way. In the end it is going to work out somehow.”

After the surgery, Snyder spent five months at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for physical rehabilitation, under Air Force District of Washington’s Airman Medical Transition Unit.

Snyder decided how he wanted to handle those five months right from the gurney, when he first needed to use the bathroom.

“It starts now,” he said. “Can I get up? Yeah, I can get up if I want. I got up, and took a walker to the bathroom.”

He spent the next five months pushing the limits in his recovery, so that he could make it back home sooner.

Snyder worked out almost every day, doing varying exercises to improve mobility and muscle control in his leg. He would run on the track at Walter Reed, swim, and bike along with other basic function exercises.

After all the hard work – and with the PT test in the rearview mirror — Snyder said he is thankful he can still serve in the Air Force. He said he knows active-duty service members with amputations have barriers while serving. His goal is to break through those barriers and continue to grow.

“I want to prove that I’m better,” he said. “I don’t care how severe my injury is, I want to be worldwide qualified as soon as I possibly can. It’s my job. I signed up for it.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA searches for signs of life near ‘Goldilocks’ stars

Scientists looking for signs of life beyond our solar system face major challenges, one of which is that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone to consider. To narrow the search, they must figure out: What kinds of stars are most likely to host habitable planets?

A new study finds a particular class of stars called K stars, which are dimmer than the Sun but brighter than the faintest stars, may be particularly promising targets for searching for signs of life.


Why? First, K stars live a very long time — 17 billion to 70 billion years, compared to 10 billion years for the Sun — giving plenty of time for life to evolve. Also, K stars have less extreme activity in their youth than the universe’s dimmest stars, called M stars or “red dwarfs.”

M stars do offer some advantages for in the search for habitable planets. They are the most common star type in the galaxy, comprising about 75 percent of all the stars in the universe. They are also frugal with their fuel, and could shine on for over a trillion years. One example of an M star, TRAPPIST-1, is known to host seven Earth-size rocky planets.

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This artist’s concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the host star, as of February 2018.

But the turbulent youth of M stars presents problems for potential life. Stellar flares – explosive releases of magnetic energy – are much more frequent and energetic from young M stars than young Sun-like stars. M stars are also much brighter when they are young, for up to a billion years after they form, with energy that could boil off oceans on any planets that might someday be in the habitable zone.

“I like to think that K stars are in a ‘sweet spot’ between Sun-analog stars and M stars,” said Giada Arney of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Arney wanted to find out what biosignatures, or signs of life, might look like on a hypothetical planet orbiting a K star. Her analysis is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Scientists consider the simultaneous presence of oxygen and methane in a planet’s atmosphere to be a strong biosignature because these gases like to react with each other, destroying each other. So, if you see them present in an atmosphere together, that implies something is producing them both quickly, quite possibly life, according to Arney.

However, because planets around other stars (exoplanets) are so remote, there needs to be significant amounts of oxygen and methane in an exoplanet’s atmosphere for it to be seen by observatories at Earth. Arney’s analysis found that the oxygen-methane biosignature is likely to be stronger around a K star than a Sun-like star.

Arney used a computer model that simulates the chemistry and temperature of a planetary atmosphere, and how that atmosphere responds to different host stars. These synthetic atmospheres were then run through a model that simulates the planet’s spectrum to show what it might look like to future telescopes.

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“When you put the planet around a K star, the oxygen does not destroy the methane as rapidly, so more of it can build up in the atmosphere,” said Arney. “This is because the K star’s ultraviolet light does not generate highly reactive oxygen gases that destroy methane as readily as a Sun-like star.”

This stronger oxygen-methane signal has also been predicted for planets around M stars, but their high activity levels might make M stars unable to host habitable worlds. K stars can offer the advantage of a higher probability of simultaneous oxygen-methane detection compared to Sun-like stars without the disadvantages that come along with an M star host.

Additionally, exoplanets around K stars will be easier to see than those around Sun-like stars simply because K stars are dimmer. “The Sun is 10 billion times brighter than an Earthlike planet around it, so that’s a lot of light you have to suppress if you want to see an orbiting planet. A K star might be ‘only’ a billion times brighter than an Earth around it,” said Arney.

Arney’s research also includes discussion of which of the nearby K stars may be the best targets for future observations. Since we don’t have the ability to travel to planets around other stars due to their enormous distances from us, we are limited to analyzing the light from these planets to search for a signal that life might be present. By separating this light into its component colors, or spectrum, scientists can identify the constituents of a planet’s atmosphere, since different compounds emit and absorb distinct colors of light.

“I find that certain nearby K stars like 61 Cyg A/B, Epsilon Indi, Groombridge 1618, and HD 156026 may be particularly good targets for future biosignature searches,” said Arney.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest gripes about night vision goggles

The military loves to boast that we “own the night.” That’s mostly because we don’t sleep, but it’s also because we have night vision goggles. If you weren’t a grunt, then your night vision was probably halfway decent. If you were a grunt, then your night vision was probably as effective as putting a green piece of plastic on the end of an empty paper towel roll.

So, if you ask one of us what it’s like to use NVGs, you’ll likely get an unexpected response: It sucks.


You might be asking yourself, “but aren’t you guys supposed to get awesome gear?” Yeah, sure. But no one wants to pay for it.

So, they give us what they are willing to pay for, and that’s why we get a set of AN/PVS-14s. A monocular (for the ASVAB waivers out there, that means it has one lens) device that, for one reason or another, doesn’t want to work how or when you’d like it to.

Marines will talk sh*t about them all day, but these complaints surface most often:

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Not the sun, though. The moon is the best.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

They work best with natural light

This may not seem like a big deal — until you realize that a triple canopy jungle or a cloudy night sky are going to ruin any chance at having functional night vision. If you’re a grunt, the night sky is always cloudy and if you have to break the tree line, which you probably should, your NVGs are going to lose most of their ability.

Un-even weight distribution

Strapping that bad boy to your helmet is like taking a big rock and taping it to the side. It feels awkward and can throw you slightly off balance, which can be especially sh*tty as you’re trying to leap over ditches in the middle of the night.

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They flood the hell out of your eye.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

Unnatural light sources suck

If you have both eyes open (which you should) while you’re wearing these bad boys and you come across a glow stick or flashlight, your eyes’ sensitivity to light will be vastly different.

Your field of vision is severely reduced

If you’re peering into the night with both eyes open, you’ll see (hopefully) clearly with one eye, while the other is basically blind. Like we said before, it’s like looking through an empty paper towel tube — which doesn’t afford the best field of view.

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Also, your command will give you 0 batteries.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry)

They eat batteries

Not literally — not like that guy in your platoon from Nebraska (you know the one). But when you go out with the NVGs, you are required to carry spare batteries, which just means tacking on a few more, precious ounces to your load.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin says Russian Navy’s newest ship will carry hypersonic missile

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Oct. 31, 2019, that the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile will “certainly” be onboard the Russian Navy’s newest corvette, set to enter service next month, according to RT. The Zircon missile, while reportedly still under development, cannot be intercepted by any defense systems currently in use, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.

Putin toured the corvette Gremyashchi on a visit to the northwestern Russian city of Kaliningrad last Thursday. “It will certainly have Tsirkon,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoyu.

The Zircon missile reportedly travels at nine times the speed of sound; the term “hypersonic” is generally understood to mean an object travels at least five times the speed of sound. The missile was still under development as of February 2019, when Russia-1, the state television station, threatened five US positions including the Pentagon, saying that the Zircon missile could hit the targets in less than five minutes.


Also in February 2019, Putin claimed in his Address to the Federal Assembly that the missile’s development was progressing according to schedule.

Putin used the missile to threaten the US should it deploy any new nuclear missiles closer to Russia as the INF treaty began to unravel in February 2019.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2TTTi30ve4
Russia’s most lethal weapon hypersonic ZIRCON missile!

www.youtube.com

“You work it out: Mach nine, and over 1,000 km,” Putin told Russian media at the time, Reuters reported.

While the claims of Russian state media and Russian leadership are impossible to verify, Putin has said that the Zircon can destroy both sea and land targets.

The Zircon, or Tsirkon, is compatible with the Kalibr missile systems, which are already aboard the Gremyashchiy corvette, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ Missile Threat project. TASS reports that the Gremyashchiy is the first corvette in the Pacific Fleet to carry the Kalibr missiles.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the Zircon could potentially be deployed next year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban drug labs targeted by B-52 strikes overnight

American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding, the top U.S. general in the country said Nov. 20.


Gen. John Nicholson said the raids were carried out Nov. 19 in the southern Helmand province, as part of the strategy unveiled by President Donald Trump in August. Afghan and American aircraft — including B-52 bombers dropping 2,000-pound bombs and F-22 attack planes — took part in the raids.

Nicholson said the insurgents generate an estimated $200 million a year from poppy cultivation and opium production.

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Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, patrol through Musa Qaleh District, Afghanistan, April 17, 2012. During Operation Lariat, Marines engaged in multiple firefights with insurgents before searching suspicious compounds. (DOD Photo by Cpl. Kenneth Jasik)

In a news conference with the Afghan army chief of staff, Nicholson said the Taliban were becoming a criminal organization. “They fight so that they can keep profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities,” he said. He added that there are 13 major drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan, of which seven are in Helmand.

Afghanistan’s opium production has nearly doubled this year compared to 2016, while areas that are under poppy cultivation rose by 63 percent, according to a joint survey released last week by the United Nations and the Afghan government.

Read Also: Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Production stands at a record level of 9,000 metric tons (9,921 U.S. tons) so far in 2017, with some 328,000 hectares (810,488 acres) under cultivation, according to the survey, carried out by the Counter-Narcotics Ministry and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

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A field filled with opium poppy plants can be seen April 11, 2012, in Marjah, Afghanistan. Heroin is derived from raw opium gum, which comes from opium poppies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Michael P. Snody)

Afghanistan is the world’s top cultivator of the poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced.

The Taliban prohibited poppy cultivation when they governed the country in the late 1990s, but have since come to rely on it as they wage an increasingly potent insurgency against the government and its foreign backers.

The Taliban have seized several districts across the country and have carried out a series of major attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces, since U.S. and NATO forces officially shifted to a support and counterterrorism role at the end of 2014.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

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Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

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“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.