For most civilians, No-Shave November is the month of the year where we allow ourselves to grow what we think is the mustache that would make Tom Selleck weep. For Airmen of the U.S. Air Force, that month is March, or more commonly known as “Mustache March.”
Mustache March is the mostly-unofficial mustache growing season in the USAF, which used to be a protest of the regulation against mustaches but became an act of defiance against dogmatic leadership. During the Vietnam War, Air Force triple ace Robin Olds decided to grow a distinctive, out-of-regs, handlebar mustache, which was later dubbed “bulletproof.”
Robin Olds is one of the United States Air Force’s most legendary Airmen. He earned his Ace status with 16 victories in World War II and Vietnam. He grew the mustache just to annoy his superior officers, referring to it as “the middle finger I couldn’t raise in PR photographs.” Once his mustache reached its peak, the popularity of growing mustaches caught on with his Airmen. They loved it and began to grow their own. Even though he came to hate the ‘stache, he kept it while he was in Vietnam, because it kept morale high.
Dismissing the irony of an officially accepted act of defiance, in 2014 Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh challenged the entire Air Force to an officially sanctioned Mustache March to honor General Olds, who died in 2007. General Welsh did not participate in 2015, due to the controversy the inherently all-male contest caused among some female Airmen; the tradition lives on among other Airmen, in the same spirit of honor and defiance of Air Force facial hair regs.
You can be sure to see a lot of Air Force personnel as they come to work on April 1 cleared of their bulletproofing. So until then, celebrate with these photos of the legendary Robin Olds in all of his middle-fingered glory.
Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”
Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?
Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.
The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.
But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.
According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.
Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.
But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.
That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This op/ed by We Are The Mighty co-founder and CEO David Gale originally appeared on the Hollywood Reporter website on May 22, 2017.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, I decided to re-watch William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, which follows three WWII servicemen facing the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, and proves that a well-told, honest and authentic story is still the most powerful way to instill empathy and provide some understanding of even the most complex emotions and human experiences.
While our military is still a quintessential part of American culture, today’s Hollywood rarely gets it right, often resorting to stereotypes and common tropes to portray veterans as either dysfunctional misfits or larger-than-life heroes. Perhaps this misconception is an expected result when less than 1 percent of our population is currently in uniform. Those who come home to work in the entertainment industry, are more likely to be offered jobs making coffee and copying scripts, than to encounter an employer who authentically appreciates and values the leadership, skills and responsibilities of military service.
While there is a handful of successful vets in this business, most notably Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCU, in my 30 years in entertainment, I never met an executive who served in the military and who has responsibility for making important creative decisions. This, even though we have been at war for 16 years and millions of veterans have returned home. While some studios and networks have helpful veteran hiring programs, and nonprofits such as Veterans in Film and Television are there to support veterans who work in this industry, there are few clear paths for vets to move into the creative and executive ranks of the business.
On the contrary, the cast and crew of The Best Years of Our Lives had veterans in nearly every major creative position. Wyler, the director, served in the Army National Guard; actor Fredric March served in the Army; the author of the book on which the film was based, MacKinlay Kantor, was a war correspondent who flew on bombing missions over Europe; Robert Sherwood, the screenwriter, fought with the Royal Highlanders of Canada; and Daniel Mandell, the film’s Academy Award winning editor, served in the Marines. Gregg Toland, the film’s acclaimed cinematographer, was a lieutenant in the Navy’s camera department; he also co-directed with John Ford a documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. And, of course, Harold Russell, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, was a WWII veteran and double hand amputee.
War and homecoming are undoubtedly part of the American experience, yet according to a study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe that the American public has no understanding of the difficulties facing this current generation of veterans and military families. While we cannot expect the average person to comprehend what it is like to serve in the military, we can expect the media to do more to find and empower the storytellers who have served. Making sure veterans have more opportunities to play meaningful roles in entertainment and media is the best way for us all to begin to have some understanding of our military community and the challenges they face. This will allow us to discover the kind of extraordinary talent this next great generation has to offer. Not only is this good for our veterans, it is good for business; The Best Years of Our Lives was a huge financial success. In a time of perpetual conflict, in which so few are asked to do so much for so many, getting veterans right is also good for our country.
If your idea of self-care is eating paleo and running ultra marathons, I’ve got news for you – you’re missing out.
Self-care goes way beyond the way you feed or train your body: It’s about health at multiple levels. At its core it requires attention to regulating your nervous system – to regularly giving your brain and endocrine system (your body’s network of hormone-producing glands) the chance to calm down and return to normal levels.
This type of self-regulation is important for your physical and mental performance whether you’re an elite athlete or an everyday person of any age.
Pain isn’t always weakness leaving the body
As a veteran, you know that the military does a great job attaching metrics to physical fitness. Service members are required to pay attention to their physicality, and intensity is emphasized. These are good things in many ways. After all, you can’t see improvement without testing your body’s limits.
However, the military often falls short on the topic of balanced wellness. Many veterans leave their time in service physically broken, with muscular imbalances, and hold fast to the belief that if training is hurting, it’s helping. We might even think that only malingerers, failures, and dirtbags take time to care for themselves.
I’m not here to suggest that you give up your high intensity training. But I am here to say that the whole point of intensity should be about using it to increase your performance in a smart and productive way.
Whether your goal is muscle growth or cardiovascular improvement, attaining your specific training objectives will be easier when you lower your blood cortisol levels (the stress hormones your body produces).
You can do this by practicing self care and something called “mindful movement.”
But isn’t mindful movement for hippies?
Mindful movement is as useful for grunts as it is for POGs as it is for civilians. Here’s what career infantry officer Maj. Gen. Thomas Jones, USMC (Ret.), has to say about it:
“For many years as an infantry officer, I worked feverishly to build resiliency in combat Marines. However, and unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was a civilian that I learned that I was missing the central, necessary ingredient…to crafting resiliency: a thorough understanding of the physiology of stress within the body…I learned that mindfulness enabled me to personally address stressors with positive outcomes.”
Mindfulness is a form of self-care, and what it really means is that you’re paying close attention to your breath and body so you can discover how to care for yourself. For example, if you notice that you have really tight hips, you should work to correct the problem instead of ignoring it. This type of awareness is a very calming thing – we can use breath as a vehicle to connect our (sometimes very) disconnected mental and physical selves, and it can let us know how we need to adjust our training or lives to perform more effectively.
When we’re busy and stressed, paying attention to the needs of the physical body is one of the first things to go. However, we can benefit tremendously from figuring out when we’re not in a rested state and then working to provide our bodies and minds with opportunities to relax.
Why are mindfulness and self-care so good for me?
When we effectively manage stressed out bodies and minds, our levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are lowered. Lowering cortisol is helpful because it improves our brain’s ability to function and our body’s ability to perform.
Alternately, high levels of cortisol encourage your body to seek out and crave simple carbs and store them as fat. Too much cortisol also impairs upper-level cognition in our brains – making it harder to think clearly, experience empathy, and communicate effectively. It can also degrade our physical performance.
Finding ways to lower our stress – even if only for a few moments – has the opposite effect and is incredibly beneficial to us.
So what does a drop in stress hormones feel like? Think about the last time you enjoyed an activity or training – when you took a deep breath in and you just felt that “Ahhh!” feeling – even if you were working hard and running up and down trails. You may find it while running, skiing, doing yoga, getting a deep tissue massage, or even lifting weights. Some people call it a “click,” or a “shift.”
That moment will look different for everyone, but when you find it, take note.
If I want to practice self-care – where should I start?
The first and most important step to practicing self-care is to commit to managing your time so you can structure a plan for success.
Next look at how what you’re doing on a daily basis makes you feel. Tune into that and take notes for a few days. Do you feel depleted at the end of a day? Energized? Hopeless? Keyed up?
Once you have a read on how you’re doing, begin to expand your skills. If you only know one or two tools to make yourself feel better, the good news is that you have lots of room to grow. Continue to do what you already know you like and benefit from, then learn and add in a couple of new options to your wellness program and nutritional choices.
Pay attention to how you’re treating your body with food. Consider taking fast food and soda out of the options column for yourself. If you don’t want to take them out, then look to add items that taste amazing and are healthy. Instead of restricting, add in.
If you feel overwhelmed as you think about all the training and wellness options out there, consider plugging into an organization or non-profit that can teach you helpful skills. As a veteran, if you can imagine a self-care or mindful movement option, a non-profit probably exists that supplies it.
Self Care Resources
Outdoor Odyssey – Funded weeklong retreats for wounded, ill and injured active-duty and veteran warriors, designed to craft a definitive plan for the future with the support of a team. Designed and operated by those who have been there!
Outward Bound – OIF/OEF veterans can enjoy all-expenses paid week-long trips rock climbing, dog sledding, sailing, and more, as they learn the value of compassionate leadership.
Sierra Club Military Outdoors – Power ski, ice climb, whitewater raft and more alongside fellow veterans in some of America’s most stunning backcountry.
Just Roll With It Wellness Retreat – This free three-day retreat teaches self-care and mindfulness practices, gives you the opportunity to connect with other veterans interested in physical and mental health, and includes a travel stipend.
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
America’s newest warship, the USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) was just commissioned the last week of July — it’s the 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to have been built for the US Navy.
Brimming with the latest in naval warfare technology, DDG-115 is named after Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a US Marine whose story continues to inspire long after his passing in Iraq in 2004.
Born in Mexico City, Rafael Peralta immigrated with his family to the United States where he would attend high school in San Diego in 1993, and be awarded a green card in 2000. Upon receiving his green card, the young Peralta immediately walked into a recruiting station, enlisting with the Marine Corps.
According to family and friends, it was no surprise that Peralta would join up — the 21-year old was fiercely patriotic, just as his father was before him. Peralta received his citizenship after finishing basic training, placing his boot camp graduation certificate on the walls of his childhood bedroom next to a copy of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
In 2004, Peralta would be deployed with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment to Iraq, seeing combat during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah. It was during Phantom Fury that the young Marine would give his life for his comrades in arms, etching his name in Marine Corps and Navy history forever.
After clearing three houses during a patrol, Peralta was hit multiple times with enemy fire in a fourth house. Alive, though critically injured, Peralta dropped to the floor in order to clear the way for other Marines to engage hostiles inside the building.
Shortly after, a grenade bounced near Peralta and the Marines returning fire, about to detonate in just a matter of seconds. Without hesitation, Peralta yanked the grenade underneath him, allowing his body and gear to absorb the brunt of the grenade’s deadly detonation.
Though Peralta was killed immediately, the lives of the other Marines in that house were spared.
Then-commander of 1st Marine Division Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski recommended the fallen Marine for a Medal of Honor, basing his request in no small part on the accounts of Marines who were there when Peralta sacrificed his life by falling on the grenade. However, it was announced that Peralta would instead receive the Navy Cross, second to in precedence to the Medal of Honor.
An upgrade for Peralta’s award was not considered between 2008 and the present day due to conflicting perspectives on whether or not Peralta was already clinically deceased when the grenade was thrown, or was fully conscious and deliberate in his actions. New evidence recently brought to light might be what finally proves Peralta worthy of the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
Fellow Marine and current congressman Duncan Hunter has been championing Peralta’s Medal of Honor cause for years, having introduced legislation to have Peralta’s award upgraded in 2012, and filing a petition with Secretary of Defense James Mattis in February of this year for the same.
Hunter was, however, successful in helping cement Peralta’s legacy of service with the naming of a destroyer, officially announced in 2012 by then-SecNav Ray Mabus. The destroyer will carry his Navy Cross in a display case.
Peralta is the second Marine killed in action during the Iraq War to have a ship named after him. Corporal Jason Dunham, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, was killed after shielding his comrades from a grenade blast by smothering it with his helmet and body. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor, and in 2010, the USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) was commissioned and remains in active service today.
In keeping with his elevation of military leaders to roles in policymaking, President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to set US troop levels in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary James Mattis, though that power reportedly comes with limits.
But the administration has yet to settle on an overarching strategy for the US’ nearly 16-year-long campaign in the war-torn country.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, called in Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater private-security firm, and Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp, to create proposals to use contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops.
According to the Times, Bannon was able to track down Mattis at the Pentagon on July 8 and brought in Prince and Feinberg to describe their proposal to the defense secretary.
Mattis, whom the Times said “listened politely,” ultimately declined to include their ideas in his review of the war in Afghanistan, which he and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster are set to deliver to Trump this month.
Prince’s proposal reportedly adhered to what he outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year. In that editorial, he said the war in Afghanistan was “an expensive disaster” and called for “an American viceroy” in whom authority for the war would be consolidated. He also said the effort should take an “East India Company approach” using private military units working with local partners.
Prince and Feinberg’s inclusion in the administration’s Afghanistan policy-proposal process is of a piece with Trump’s advisers’ efforts to bring a wider array of options to the president’s attention. While their proposal looks unlikely to be included in the final plan, their inclusion by Trump aides raised alarm among observers — and not only because of Blackwater’s sordid record in Iraq.
Deborah Avant, a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, pointed out a number of shortcomings in the plan Prince outlined in The Journal.
Contractors would still be required to work with the Afghan government, just like US and NATO forces, she writes, who may not be receptive to their expanded presence.
Contractors also don’t integrate well with local political goals and forces, which is essential in counterinsurgency operations.
Avant also noted that empowering local partners in environments like Afghanistan had been shown to facilitate the rise of warlords — as generally happened under the East India Company when it worked in there in the 19th century.
Privatizing the war effort in Afghanistan would likely reduce some of the costs, however — a point that White House assistant Sebastian Gorka emphasized when he defended consultations with Prince in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper.
“If you look at Erik Prince’s track record, it’s not about bilking the government. It’s about the opposite,” Gorka said. “It’s about saving the US taxpayer money. It’s about creating indigenous capacity … This is a cost-cutting venture.”
Despite that fact that Prince and Blackwater secured extensive and lucrative contracts under both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama, Gorka described consultations with the Blackwater founder as a break with the tired, uninformed thinking inculcated by Beltway insularity.
“We open the door here at the White House to outside ideas. Why?” Gorka said, adding, “Because the last eight years, in fact the last 16 years, Jake, to be honest, disastrous. The policies that were born in the beltway by people who’ve never worn a uniform, the people that were in the White House like Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl, they helped create the firestorm that is the Middle East, that is ISIS today. So we are open to new ideas, because the last 16 years have failed American national interest and the American taxpayer.”
When Tapper defended the qualifications of the people advising Obama, Gorka objected, calling Rhodes’ master’s degree in creative writing — “fictional writing,” he said — “disastrous.”
“I think Gorka spends more time following Twitter and prepping his media appearances than he does thinking seriously about critical national-security issues,” Kahl, who was deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice president from October 2014 to January 2017, told Business Insider.
“No US administration has had all the answers to the Middle East,” continued Kahl, who is now a professor in the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.
“But the two biggest sources of the ‘firestorm’ Gorka refers to were the invasion of Iraq, which gave birth to the forerunner of ISIS and created a vacuum filled by Iran, and the 2011 Arab Spring that upended the state system across the Middle East and set in motion a series of bloody proxy wars,” he added. “Neither of these key events were a consequence of Obama’s policies.”
Kahl also cited specific accomplishments of the Obama administration, among them eroding Al Qaeda leadership, securing the Iran nuclear deal, and setting the stage for the destruction of ISIS.
Blaming Obama for the rise of ISIS has become prominent Republican talking point since the US withdrew from Iraq at the end 2011.
Trump himself has attributed the group’s emergence to both Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s secretary of state and Trump’s opponent in the presidential election.
The withdrawal date had been set by the Bush administration, but conservatives have criticized Obama for not making a deal with Baghdad to keep US troops on the ground there, which they say could’ve kept ISIS from gaining traction with Iraq’s Sunni minority.
Defenders have pointed to the US’ inability to quell insurgency in the country prior to its withdrawal, as well as Iraqi officials’ refusal to let US troops stay, as evidence that a protracted deployment was impossible and would have changed little. (Others attribute ISIS’ appearance to Bush’s dissolution of the Iraqi military.)
Since taking office, Trump appears to have embraced a more aggressive policy in the Middle East, underscored by several military engagements with pro-Syrian government forces in that country and by his hearty embrace of Saudi Arabia to the apparent detriment of unity among Gulf countries.
Kahl invoked these developments as reason for concern going forward.
“It is difficult to see how Trump’s approach, which combines a shoot-first mentality and an instinct to give regional autocrats a blank check to drag us into their sectarian conflicts, will make the region more secure or America safer,” he told Business Insider in an email.
“And the fact that Gorka and others in the White House are seriously contemplating turning America’s longest war in Afghanistan over to private military contractors who prioritize profit over the national interest is very troubling.”
Although the F-35 Lightning II regularly makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, Air Force pilots at Edwards Air Force Base in California have begun weighing in on the jet’s capabilities, and it’s good news.
US Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, director of the F-35 integrated test force and commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron, said that the F-35’s automated systems free up the pilot to focus on mission planning in an interview with Defense News.
“Each plane is its own command and control platform,” said Chari, who also has experience flying a legacy platform, the F-15.
“You don’t have to do as much stick and rudder, just getting to and from, because there are so many automated modes to use on the F-35 … [It] is almost as easy as breathing.”
US Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, also of the 461st flight test squadron, raved about another unique aspect of the Joint Strike Fighter, the “glass” or dual touch-screen display which is highly customizable by individual pilots.
“It’s the Burger King jet,” Chari said of the F-35’s versatile setups. “You can have it however you want, your way.”
Combined with the F-35’s helmet, which employs six infrared cameras positioned around the plane to allow pilots to see through the jets’ airframe, F-35 pilots have an unprecedented awareness of the entire battle space.
“In this plane it’s 360 degrees and a much larger range of stuff that you are looking at so that you are not just thinking about what your particular jets doing, but now you are looking at other elements in a national strike package,” said Chari.
“So whether that’s looking at ground targets or emitters or air targets, you are building a much bigger picture than the traditional planes.”
Chari also spoke highly of the F-35’s ability to fly at a high angle of attack, or with its nose pointed up, saying that pilots are learning to use this quality to perform close-in flight maneuvers.
Not only are pilots touting the F-35’s next-gen capacities, maintainers are big on the plane’s internal diagnostic system.
Though critics have claimed that the Joint Strike Fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), a system that internally tracks and diagnoses problems with each part of each plane worldwide, could be wiped out by a single server failure, maintainers told Defense News that the claim is ludicrous.
“We’ve had that happen multiple times, and we can still use ALIS,” said RJ Vernon, supervisor of the Third Air Force about server failures affecting the F-35. In the event of a long-term server failure, the worst-case scenario would be that maintainers have to track the parts manually, which they already do with legacy fighters.
On the whole, Lockheed Martin contractors and Air Force technicians agree, the ALIS is a big help.
“It tells you everything you need to know instantly,” Vernon said. “ALIS reduces our troubleshooting drastically, it makes my job very easy.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Patters, who as worked on the A-10 and F-16s, said the F-35 was far easier to work on. His only complaint was waiting on the computer to load new tasks.
“We could teach you in 15 minutes,” Patters said of the user-friendly interface.
Additionally, the F-35 was built with maintainers in mind. The time they save working on the plane will translate to millions of dollars in savings over the life of the program.
For example, the panels of the plane allow easy access to maintainers, like the nose that comes off in a single piece. Also, the weapons bay doesn’t require cleaning, because the missiles are launched with air pressure instead of explosives that leave behind residue.
“Our jobs are drastically easier because of the way the jet takes care of itself,” concluded Patters.
A flotilla led by China’s first aircraft carrier has set out from the port city of Qingdao for what the military called “a routine training mission,” the country’s Defense Ministry said after a report emerged that the vessel would also make an unprecedented port call to Hong Kong early next month.
On June 25, the ministry said that the flotilla, led by the Liaoning carrier, includes the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, the frigate Yantai, and a squadron of J-15 fighter jets and helicopters.
It said the training mission, “like previous ones, is expected to strengthen coordination among the vessels and improve the skills of crews and pilots.”
On June 23rd, the South China Morning Post, citing unidentified sources, said the Liaoning — a refitted former Soviet-era vessel that China acquired from Ukraine in 1998 — will visit Hong Kong early next month for the 20th anniversary of its handover to Chinese rule from Britain.
“The People’s Liberation Army is to make its most visible appearance in Hong Kong in 20 years, marking the handover anniversary with an unprecedented port call by its first aircraft carrier,” the report said.
It said the port call will follow President Xi Jinping’s first trip to the former British colony since he became leader in 2013. Xi is scheduled to visit Hong Kong between June 29th and July 1st, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daly reported that upon its arrival, the Liaoning may be open to the city’s residents for the first time.
While US warships, including aircraft carriers, have been known to make port calls in Hong Kong, such symbolic displays of military might by the Chinese Navy are a rarity.
Experts said the visit was likely part of moves by Beijing to help bolster patriotism in the Chinese enclave, especially among younger Hong Kongers who experienced the pro-democracy “Umbrella Revolution” in 2014 and ensuing battle between activists and members of the pro- China establishment.
Zhang Baohui, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said Xi’s decision to visit “shows that he will not be deterred by the prospects of protests.”
“He is a very seasoned political leader and is not so easily intimidated,” Zhang said.
As for the Liaoning’s expected visit, Zhang said he believed this would mainly be used to boost patriotism in Hong Kong.
“Beijing is aware that some Hong Kongers do not want to embrace their Chinese identity,” Zhang said. “Many surveys have shown that this is particularly a problem among the younger people … such as the 20-30 age group.
Zhang said that Beijing has employed a number of measures in recent years “to try to shape the identities of Hong Kong people.”
“In that context,” he added, the visit by the “Liaoning could offer many ordinary Hong Kong people a chance to witness China’s achievements, thereby enhancing their (sense of) Chinese identity.”
The Liaoning carried out its first training drills in the Western Pacific last December, when it cruised into the waterway between Okinawa and Miyakojima Island.
The new carrier and exercises are seen as part of the Chinese Navy’s effort to expand its operational reach as it punches further into the Pacific Ocean.
China’s growing military presence in the region, especially in the disputed South and East China seas, has fueled concern in the United States and Japan.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, where it has built up and militarized a string of man-made islands. In the East China Sea, Beijing is involved in a territorial dispute over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are known in China as the Diaoyus.
On Wednesday, two Communist Party members who are deputies in the Russian Duma called on the Kremlin to deploy missiles to Cuba, a request they say is in retaliation to U.S. plans to deploy a rocket system to southeastern to Turkey as part of the battle to counter ISIS in nearby Syria.
There’s no word on the class of missiles that they want placed on the Caribbean island or whether the Kremlin will comply, but the deputies aren’t shy about comparisons between their request and the 1962 Soviet decision to place nuclear-tipped intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba.
“It is worth noting that according to available data the (American) weapons system uses missiles with a range of up to five hundred kilometers, a potential threat to Russian allies in the CSTO, primarily Armenia,” they said in the memo.
Furthermore, “we are talking about the deployment of Russian launchers similar to or of even greater range in Cuba,” the deputies continued.
On Tuesday, the Department of Defense announced that it will deploy a single truck-mounted M-142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) in Turkey to stop cross-border attacks by ISIS in Syria. Another HIMARS system is on its way to northern Iraq to assist in the battle to retake Mosul from the radical Islamist group.
The CSTO or Collective Security Treaty Organization is a six-member mutual defense pact comprised of Russia and several post-Soviet states, including Armenia. Other members include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Armenia is a country landlocked in the South Caucasus that shares a 165-mile border with Turkey and has cordial relations with Russia – so cordial that some observers believe Russia is taking advantage of the situation to expand its military presence right next to Turkey, a NATO ally.
Concerned parties point out recent developments: in March, a snap drill in cooperation with the Armenian military that involved 8,500 Russian troops, 900 ground weapons, 200 warplanes and about 50 warships; in December, the two nations signed a cooperative air defense agreement; even a recent basing arrangement agreement between the two governments for more than 5,000 Russian troops.
In addition, the deputies are calling for the reopening of the Lourdes signals-intelligence station located outside Havana, which the U.S.S.R. built in 1962. The Cuban government closed the station in 2002, although there is speculation that the Cubans and the Russians have recently discussed reactivation of the base.
Rashkin and Obukhov also wrote: “At a time when Russia is once again positioning itself in the international arena as a great power, our country should be more active to restore the destroyed military and economic ties with our allies, primarily with the fraternal Cuban Republic.”
The request by the two deputies echoes the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis – the 13-day standoff between United States and the Soviet Union in 1962 that brought both nations to the brink of a nuclear war.
Eventually, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles based in Cuba because of a secret agreement forged between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy that led to removal of American Jupiter IRBMs from Turkey.
The following year, both superpowers agreed to install a direct “hot line” communication link between Washington and Moscow to manage any future confrontations, and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. signed treaties limiting atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
Are the Russians serious about basing missiles in Cuba today? The chances of that happening are remote at best.
What is probably happening is part of an on-going effort by Putin’s allies to remind the world that Russia is still a nation to be reckoned with – and feared.
What would the United States do if Russian missiles were once again only 90 miles away from American shores? So far, the White House has not commented.
As written in the Constitution, the President of the United States is also the military’s Commander-in-Chief, and history would indicate that among the things that duty involves is wearing a flight jacket when in the company of American troops. So when heading to the polls in a few months, it might be wise to consider who among the candidates could pull it off the best.
For benchmarking, here are how some of the nation’s previous presidents looked while wearing a flight jacket:
1. John F. Kennedy
2. Ronald Reagan
3. George H.W. Bush
4. Bill Clinton
5. George W. Bush
6. Barack Obama
Obama with his A-1 flight jacket (USAF style) during a surprise visit to Afghanistan. (Photo: White House)
A small office in Los Angeles is responsible for determining whether the Department of Defense will support some of Hollywood’s biggest military blockbusters.
Overseen by former Navy videographer Phil Strub at the Pentagon, the Wilshire Blvd. office houses personnel from the Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marines. In Hollywood, it’s the first place filmmakers look if they need support from the military.
“Our criteria [for which films we support] are very broad and rather subjective,” Strub told the Army Times in 2013. “We’re looking for an opportunity to inform the American public … At the same time, we look at whether we can support it logistically. We’ve been pretty busy.”
Hollywood is usually willing to play ball with Strub because his blessing means a huge break for a film’s production budget.
[Last year’s] Oscar-nominated “Captain Phillips,” for example, used a U.S. military guided missile destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, several helicopters, and members of SEAL Team Six, who play themselves but are not on active duty — all courtesy of the U.S. Navy, who were able to work the shoot into their training.
Hollywood has enjoyed support from the U.S. military for almost as long as films have been made. Indeed, the first film to receive an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1927 was the silent film “Wings,” which had support from the Army Air Force to accurately portray training and combat during World War I, according to DoD Live.
In addition to films, the office also helps with television shows, music videos, and video games. Recent projects that were supported include “Iron Man 2,” “Army Wives,” and “Terminator Salvation.” But it has also offered support to other massive Hollywood blockbusters, such as “Top Gun,” “Act of Valor,” and “Black Hawk Down” — which received military technical advisors, weapons, vehicles, helicopters, and even a real-life Ranger regiment to ensure accuracy, according to About.com.
Not all military movies get the Pentagon green-light however. “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon,” and “The Deer Hunter” received no military support, according to About.com. The same goes for recent films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo,” according to Business Insider.
“Films are denied Pentagon support by Strub if they show the military in a negative light, such as scenes that include drug use, murder, or torture without subsequent punishment,” writes Aly Weisman at BI.
We all have a few things we need to work on. The U.S. military is no different. A new year is a new beginning, especially with a new Commander-in-Chief in control. It’s time to finally get around to doing all those things we said we were gonna do.
If sequestration is the household equivalent of cleaning out the garage, those old paint cans aren’t gonna move themselves. Here are some more of the military’s 2017 New Years resolutions.
1. Get in shape.
Ah fitness…the eternal struggle…as many of us veterans (whose old uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to) know.
In 2016, an Associated Press piece asked if U.S. troops were “too fat to fight,” thanks to a study by the Army research center. The VA is addressing the issue with a standardized weight management program going into place at VA centers across America.
First Boeing, then Lockheed received the brunt of the Donald’s ire. Someone apparently told him about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s price tag, because that was his next defense contractor target on Twitter.
Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!
The military is going to have to play with the toys they have or hope the military-industrial complex bows to the incoming President’s demands.
3. Work on our relationships.
Let’s be honest. In the last few years, we have not been as good to our allies as we could have.
Nor have we been all that upfront with our competition.
We can do better. We just have to be ourselves — the shining example to the rest of the world that we know we can be. That doesn’t mean we have to wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re the United States. Our military wears their heart on our sleeve.
From the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom, we need to be more upfront and less touchy-feely.
4. Finally finish our education.
We have one more history class before we can finally finish up that degree. Now…time to learn about this “graveyard of empires” we heard so much about…
It doesn’t need to be a literal graveyard, after all.
5. Spend more time with family.
Because together everyone achieves more!
Heavy deployment tempos, long tours, short tours, or just intense work schedules (especially at a less-than-ideal assignment) places a heavy burden on service members and their loved ones. Let’s focus on that in 2017 and keep in touch, even if it’s just via Skype.