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The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

This is the first in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The branches of the U.S. Military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.

The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.

“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.”  – Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force

Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.

Here’s how the other branches hate on the Air Force, how they should actually be hating on the Air Force, how the Air Force hates on the Air Force, and why to really love the Air Force.

The easiest ways make fun of the Air Force

The quickest way is to talk about how nerdy or weak airmen are. Until a few years back, Air Force basic training was only six and half weeks long. Airmen will always emphasize the six and a half. During that same time, once in the active Air Force, the physical fitness test was taken on a stationary bike which resulted in so many invalid scores, the Air Force had to replace it.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

This is also why the Air Force keeps getting the blame for the Stress Card myth, despite having nothing to do with what really happened at all. By 2010, most airmen’s responses to the waist tape portion of the new PT test was to “hope Air Force leaders would ditch the tape test altogether” because 1/5 of the Air Force couldn’t pass the new test. Still, the main form of exercise for airmen is probably playing basketball at the base gym.

Many, many Air Force career fields are office jobs, hence the name “Chair Force.” Many, many more aren’t office jobs, which rubs aircraft maintainers and other flightline personnel the wrong way for some reason. Airmen will hate on each other for this, with those who work in shifts on the flightline calling those who don’t by the derogatory term nonners, or Non-Sortie Producing Motherf–kers (a sortie is an air mission with one take off and one landing). Nonners hate that and no one cares. One more thing to argue about.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

The new Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) was the Air Force answer to the Marines’ MARPAT uniforms and the Army’s ACUs, without the effectiveness, purpose, or realistic uses of either. Washing ABUs with brightening detergent actually makes the uniform MORE VISIBLE, especially to night vision equipment. All the other branches ever see is green boots and the regular morale shirt Friday mantra of “Are airmen allowed to wear red shirts?”

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
We learned nothing from the red shirts.

The Air Force is also the youngest branch, formed after WWII, and with the most opposition possible. Politicians and the other branches were so dead set against an Air Force, one general was court-martialed for being a pest about it and airmen have been whiny and annoying ever since, which pretty much proved everyone right. Every other branch says the Air Force has no history and no one argues with them, because airmen don’t care to. They remember William Pitsenbarger, John Levitow, maybe Robin Olds, and WWII when WAPS testing time comes around.

Also, Air Force Band members start at E-6 and their music videos cost more than a Marine Corps barracks.

Why to actually hate the Air Force

The U.S. Air Force as an organization is a lot of things: expensive, cynical, and sociopathic. It’s more like a uniformed, evil corporation at times. The biggest concern of the Air Force is the most expensive weapons system ever conceived by man, which doesn’t work, and if it did, would only help the Air Force get more money to maintain it while it could be spending that money replacing nuclear missile launch computers made in the 1960s. Our jet costs so much, the Marines can’t get up-armored Humvees but the beds in Air Force billeting are too soft for the USAF brass to lose sleep over it. The Air Force doesn’t even know how much its new long range bomber will cost, but it promised to let us know soon.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Airmen can be the most condescending a–holes this side of the wild blue yonder. They will turn on each other faster than a hungry bear. If you don’t believe me, go read a forum thread where airmen are talking about Spencer Stone’s STEP promotion.

Though USAF basic training is much more difficult now and the Air Force acquired a real fitness test, it’s still not as difficult as training to join the Coast Guard but Airmen will make fun of the Coast Guard anyway. They will still talk sh-t and when you throw the Chair Force thing in their face, they immediately throw Air Force pararescue jumpers back at you, even though most of them have never even seen a PJ. Also, the Air Force has a lot of fighter pilots, but everyone talks sh-t about them behind their backs, even airmen who’ve never met any pilot ever, which is 100 percent possible.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

The Air Force has a lot of jobs which require higher ASVAB scores and a baseline education. They will never let you forget that even though a lot of airmen are as dumb and as smart as any soldier or sailor. This is why its ICBM teams are cheating on their proficiency tests and no one noticed until they started texting each other answers.

The only regulation most Air Force people know by heart is AFI 36-2903, the dress and appearance regulation. When anyone in the Air Force wants to appear as if they have things memorized, they will “quote” from this Air Force Instruction, because they all like to pretend they know it by heart, but its the only numbered AFI most of them know, whether they’re 100 percent sure what the standard actually says or not.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Airmen generally deploy the least of any branch. At the height of the Global War on Terror in 2009, the Air Force Specialty Code  (AFSC — Air Force job function) with the longest average enlisted deployment was Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) at 119 days, just over 3 months. The longest officer deployment (for electronic warfare specialists) was 214 days, or 7 months, or par with the Marine Corps, but shorter than the Army. Yet, Airmen deploying to al-Udeid would complain just as much as Airmen going to Bagram.

From around the Air Force:

“Merry Christmas to all those who didn’t get axed in 2014… last year’s force shaping message initially advertising massive cuts scheduled for 2014 was made public on Christmas Eve.”

“Most of you joined the USAF because it was more laid back, had better facilities and treated people better than the USA or the USMC. Admit it. You didn’t become an Air Force pilot because the other services wouldn’t take you.”

“I absolutely hate it every time I see a MSgt lecturing a junior enlisted about how “hard” the civilian world is.. this coming from a loser lifer who joined right out of high school and decided to spend the next 20 years of his life kissing ass and dedicating his life to the Air Force (and losing a few marriages along the way usually) Dude has no idea what the civilian world is even like and clung to the one way he knew for dear life and never let go.”
“I knew I was getting out the instant I joined.”
“A friend of mine was overworked in an mxs unit after 9/11 turning jets on an insane, unhealthy schedule. He wanted to get out because he didn’t want to be a jet mechanic all his life. But he didn’t want to let his shop down. Thing is, is after he ended up leaving, they replaced him. Just like he replaced someone before him. The AF doesn’t care. They will recall you after you separate if they need you. They will RIF you if they don’t. They will reclass you if they want. The AF takes care of the AF #1.”
“My CDCs do not make me a better technician”
“Two sacred USAF rules: 1) You do not embarrass your chain of command 2) You do not ‘give a sh*t’ when it’s not your day to ‘give a sh*t’, especially about stuff way above your pay-grade… When junior officers insist on running head-first into well-marked closed doors, they will be made to disappear.”
“From a recent Commander’s Call, what many NCO’s took away from that mass discussion is learn to back stab a fellow airman to get on top.”
“Don’t rush to finish your degree either associated, bachelor, master, once you become a MSgt and above you need to have a Doctorate.”
“Take care of your people but remember when they get promoted they are going to be competing against you.”
“Make sure that you get a lot of LOA, coins and documentation for everything you do to prove that you’re a 5 or 4. Don’t just let your supervisor write your EPR, QC his/her work before they route it up the chain.”
“Having left the military with two of these [CCAF] “degrees” I can say that literally no one outside of the USAF gives two squirrel poops about it. I happened to get both in the course of completing my bachelors, so I’m not even sure what the “degree” is even for. I never went to anything other than tech school and ALS, yet somehow this counts as an associate’s degree?”
“The USAF isn’t the Third Reich, but sometimes you really just want to shout Uber Alles to these crotchedy two-faced generals.”
“Would we as individuals have been cut the same amount of slack if we spent SIX years trying to figure out force shaping initiatives? How about the idiocy with uniforms? Reflective belts? What about one of the most expensive airframes ever being grounded for five months?”
“Calling the AF corporate is a HUGE part of the problem. We don’t even call them Airmen anymore. Our newest “development” tool refers to us as “employees”. (Ref the AF Portal).”
“I’ve seen how they decide who promotes, who gets BTZ, who gets retained. I’ve seen how people climb that ladder to Chief. I’m glad I’m not a part of it any more.”
“With the help of our squadron intel officer, I presented a CONOP for improved AC-130 operations to my deployed mission commander, a USAF Lt. Col. and well-respected gunship pilot.  He tried to critique the new CONOP but quickly became frustrated with my counter-arguments and finally told me to ‘Stop worrying about the conventional guys… only the stupid ones are being killed.'”
“Honestly, what difference does it make if a Security Forces SSgt can tell you who the first pilot was? (It doesn’t.) It [the PDG] is useful as a guidebook, in case you have a quick question about discipline, uniforms, benefits. Other than that, it makes a nice paperweight.”
“Get rid of 90% of the bands the AF has. This isn’t the 40’s, I get more entertainment from my Ipod. Use that money to book a half way decent band to perform”
“When my wife had our twins…it really would have been nice if she had a little more time to get closer to being in reg. Not sure what the magic number is but it would have been nice. Her unit didn’t even say hello to her when she came off of leave, just walked her into the scale and failed her.”
“I mean the guy who was appointed as the head of the sexual assault program sexually assaulted a woman and that guy just got reassigned.”
“Apparently the USAF doesn’t trust anyone to determine on a personal basis the suitability for promotion. At least the army has boards, even if they are convoluted and focused on the wrong things.”
“the Air Force awarded a foreign military sales contract worth more than $100 million to a company that submitted a past performance record of about $150,000, doing unrelated work.”
“Current culture states petting puppies at the animal shelter, holding bake sales and holding meetings where you discuss with your peers where and when these things can be done is held in higher esteem and considered more important than doing the best you can at your job.”
“they’re bribing me to stay, because they’ve failed at replacing me.”
From a 27-year CMSgt:

“The real, honest core values, that a person needs to live by to succeed in the Air Force in 2015 are:

1. Self before Service 2. Excellence in all our PT 3. Integrity third”

“The General should be held to the same or higher standard than the A1C when it comes to punishment. They aren’t.”
“I will never forget after taking questions from a bunch of angry, know-it-all Captains for the better part of an hour, the Colonel simply told us “YOU have to allow YOUR Air Force to make mistakes.”
“Stop with the re-branding of the AF every year. I don’t feel like a “warrior” so stop trying to convince me that I am one by reciting the Airmans Creed at every event!”
“5 things I hate the most about the Air Force:

1- Closed for training on (insert day here).

2- Sexual assault training.

3- The 10 different offices that you can complain to: ig, chaplain, meo, sarc, afrc what do these people do all day?

4- The term “standby to standby”.

5- Senior Ncos, they usually have bad haircuts and no real purpose in life.”

“You seriously are telling me that people TESTED the PT uniform? With the cardboard tshirts that don’t breath and shorts that would look home in a certain brightly colored San Francisco parade? Or the ABU with it’s billion pockets and winter weight fabric (and that’s overlooking the abortion that is it’s camo pattern).
Or blues mondays? As a flier that can be tasked at any minute why am I not showing up to work prepared to fly at any minute? Oh to “support the war fighter” I am wearing the least war like uniform. That makes sense.”

Why to love the Air Force

Airmen may not be able to capture and occupy an enemy area on their own but they will make damn sure those who can will be able to do so with the least possible resistance. Nuclear arsenals aside, no one is better at killing the enemy en masse as the Air Force is and airmen will stay awake and working for days on end to make sure passengers, wounded, supplies, and bombs keep going where they need to be. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, airmen on the ground worked tens of thousands of sorties in 38 days.

Almost everything in a war zone, from water to helicopters, is shipped via USAF, loaded and flown by airmen who are running on Rip-Its and Burger King.

Airmen, despite their cynicism, can be really, really funny. They know their reputation among other branches and are usually game to play along and give all the sh-t thrown at them right back to the soldiers, sailors, and Marines giving it. Aircrews are also generous with their flight pay when buying drinks.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is beloved by everyone (except Air Force generals).

The Air Force has a great quality of life. An Air Force Base makes the average Army post look like a very large homeless shelter. Most of the time in joint communities, any military member has access to Air Force Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services, which can even put similar civilian services to shame. This is especially true when deployed.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

When you’re deploying to the Middle East, having to stop at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar for any reason is a great day. Swimming pools, A/C, ice cream, Western restaurants and fast food joints, a legit fitness center and base exchange along with three beers a day make for a great visit before reality sets in and you have to go back to a real deployment.

Also, all that money the Air Force spends on tech really does pay off. The Air Force is developing tech to automate weapons systems, put lasers on fighter planes, and allow troops to control drones with their minds. Historically, much of the tech developed by the Air Force end up with civilian uses.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

The flip side of the Air Force being like a corporation is airmen tend to focus on their Air Force specialty, rather than just the particulars of being in the military (like being a rifleman, for example). This means when any one from any branch has to deal with an airman, they will more often than not be meeting with someone who is confident, knowledgable, and professional in their work center. Airmen are (traditionally) so good at their jobs, Army officers who have needs they can get from the Air Force instead of the Army will go to the Air Force for those needs.

Airmen are also incredibly generous with their time and money. Aside from making volunteer work a de facto criteria for annual Enlisted Performance Reports (EPR), Airmen will volunteer their time for causes beyond what’s expected by the Air Force’s “total Airman concept” and squadron burger burns. Airmen also donate millions from their paychecks to the Combined Federal Campaign and Air Force Aid Society charities.

And yes, Pararescue Jumpers are awesome human beings.

NOW: 32 terms only Airmen will understand

OR: 17 things you didn’t know about the U.S. Air Force

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part nine

Sapa Valley, Northern Vietnam

The final stop in Rich’s journey through Vietnam. Sapa is a frontier township along the Chinese border, home to the northern highlanders and hundreds of miles of trails. It’s the perfect place to field test MACV-1 prototypes.


The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Sapa is considered the trekking capitol of Vietnam and we all know trekking is just rucking in the mountains.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

The secret to the best bowl of pho in Vietnam? Serve it with plenty of Tiger beer halfway through a 15-hour ruck.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

And of course you need to pack a few Tigers for when you get to the top.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

“First impressions?” asked Paul.

“They’re comfortable, they’re lightweight, they’re versatile… and you can drink in them” said Rich.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

The new Army Combat Fitness Test is scheduled to replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test by October of 2020, but units across the Army are preparing for it now. Out of all formations the Army has across the world, only one can claim an enlisted soldier who has maxed the test: 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), the “Frozen Chosin.”


All Army units have that “one” soldier. The PT-master. Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-32IN takes physical fitness very seriously. He regularly maxes out the APFT (a score of 300), and recently maxed out the ACFT (a score of 600), making him the second soldier in the Army to achieve such a goal.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), poses for a photo at the 1-32IN 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It all started in high school where I wrestled and weight-lifted. Then I got into power lifting for a few years and cross-fit where I competed a lot.” Gonzalez said. “Then I drifted off into solely Olympic lifting and went to Nationals where I placed in the top 20. After that I joined the Army.”

Like many soldiers who joined the Army later in life, Gonzalez has seen his share of life outside of a military career, and saw joining as a way to straighten out and get on track.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a kettle bell lap at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It’s been the story of my life. I never felt like I had a career. I’m very athletic and competitive, but a little old to be trying out for the Olympic team at 29. I went to college a few times, but the structure the Army offered has helped me stick to things and get them done.”

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), prepares to perform T-pushups at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

Like his Army career, Gonzalez has a habit of finding a path to success and running it to ground with tenacity. When he found out just how much the ACFT incorporated into what he already knew about cross-fit, he made it his mission be on top and help others get there with him.

“I’m looking at getting to Ranger school soon, and going Special Forces would be awesome. I want to be the best I can be. Me and a lot of other soldiers are in the gym countless nights, working on strength and speed. It feels good,” Gonzalez said.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a ball toss at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

When the ACFT hits Army Ranks in 2020, it will be the first time all soldiers, male and female, will be held to the same standard of fitness and accomplishment. It levels the playing field dramatically by introducing events specifically designed to test fitness levels and push soldiers to the edge of burnout.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a leg tuck at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

It will be difficult. It will be stressful. But it’s meant to be. Thankfully, with soldiers like Spc. Gonzalez in our formations, motivating and supporting the troops, we can all aspire to be the tip of the spear.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis wants more data on women in combat arms

With so few women in combat arms right now, the services and Defense Department officials really can’t judge how successful the effort has been, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, Sept. 25, 2018.

“It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of what kind of society do we want,” the secretary said. “In the event of trouble, you’re sleeping at night in your family home and you are the dad, mom, whatever. And you hear glass break downstairs. Who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 911? In other words, it goes to the most almost primitive needs of a society to look out for its most vulnerable.”


At heart, this is the issue DoD faces, Mattis told the cadet who asked him what results he had seen. The question for the department comes down to whether it is a strength or a weakness to have women in the close-quarter infantry fight, Mattis said.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened the door by removing the ban on women in combat jobs in 2013. In 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the services to open all military occupational specialties to women. Currently, 356 women are combat arms soldiers, and 17 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School. The Marine Corps has 113 enlisted women and 29 officers in previously restricted specialties. Specifically in infantry, the Marine Corps has 26 enlisted Marines and one officer who are women.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The secretary said he cannot make a determination about the situation because “so few women have signed up along these lines.”

“We don’t even have data at this time that I can answer your question,” he added.

Unit culture

Part of what drives the question is the culture of close-combat units, the retired Marine Corps general said. “I was never under any illusions at what level of respect my Marines would have for me if I couldn’t run with the fastest of them and look like it didn’t bother me [or] if I couldn’t do as many pullups as the strongest of them,” Mattis said. “It was the unfairness of the infantry. How did the infantry get its name? Infant soldier. Young soldier. Very young soldier. They’re cocky, they’re rambunctious, they’re necessarily macho, and it’s the most primitive — I would say even evil — environment. You can’t even explain it.”

The close-combat fight is war at its most basic, and Mattis cited an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote when talking to his fellow Civil War veterans: “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war.”

The nation needs to discuss this issue, the secretary said. “The military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all,” he said. “But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense.”

The Army chief of staff and Marine Corps commandant are looking at the issue. “This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small we have no data on it,” he said. “We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few. Clearly the jury is out on it, but what we’re trying to do is give it every opportunity to succeed if it can.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Germany wants a new nuclear-capable fighter

Germany wants to replace its fleet of 89 Tornado combat jets with a new aircraft that retains the plane’s nuclear capability, but doing so may mean the US gets a say about which aircraft the Luftwaffe ultimately picks, according to Defense News.

As part of a Cold War-era NATO deal, Germany’s Tornados were equipped to carry nuclear weapons in case of a major clash between the alliance and the Soviet Union. That threat waned after the Cold War, as did the number of US nuclear weapons in Germany, but about 20 of the weapons are still there.


Germany is deciding between three US planes — the F-35 and variants of the F-15 and F/A-18 — and a version of the Eurofighter Typhoon being developed by a European consortium.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

A German air force Eurofighter Typhoon taxis to the runway at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska before a combat-training mission, June 11, 2012.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Michael Holzworth)

Berlin wants to replace the Tornado — which has been plagued by technical issues— by the mid-2020s. (Germany’s Typhoons have also had problems.) It is leaning toward the European-made Typhoon, but its desire to maintain that nuclear capability could mean the Trump administration will try to play politics with the purchase.

This spring, Berlin asked Washington whether it would certify the Typhoon to carry nuclear weapons, how long it would take to do so, and how much it would cost.

The certification process can take years. European officials working on the Typhoon have said they were confident it could be nuclear-certified by 2025, but US officials have said the process could take seven to 10 years, according to Reuters.

US officials have said that the F-35 and other aircraft must be certified for nuclear weapons first, and a Pentagon spokesman told Defense News that while Germany’s Tornado replacement was “a sovereign national decision,” the US believes “that a U.S. platform provides the most advanced, operationally capable aircraft to conduct their mission.”

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning, Aug. 22, 2016

(Photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

The Trump administration has pushed European countries to spend more on their own defense, and Trump’s broadsides against NATO have helped inspire European officials to do so. But the Trump administration has also sought to boost exports of US-made weaponry, and US officials have grown concerned about European defense initiatives reducing US defense firms’ access to that market.

Those latter concerns mean the Trump administration could try to nudge Germany toward a US-made aircraft.

But Trump’s contentious dealings with Germany have reinvigorated debate in that country about acquiring its nuclear weapons or developing them with other European countries — ideas that are still anathema for many in Germany, where memories of the destruction and division of World War II and the Cold War linger.

That aversion to nuclear weapons and wariness of Trump may mean Germany will continue doing what it has been doing — paying the financial and political price to keep the nuclear-capable Tornadoes in the air.

“That’s why they will keep flying the Tornados, despite the price tag and despite having asked about a Eurofighter nuclear certification in Washington,” Karl-Heinz Kamp, president of government think tank the Federal Academy for Security Policy, told Defense News.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 steps to avoid becoming an easy target for hackers

It’s impossible to predict whether you’ll be the victim of a cyberattack, but you can drastically reduce the odds of one in a few simple steps.

The vast majority of people whose accounts are hacked don’t take basic precautions to protect them, making them “low-hanging fruit,” according to Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at cybersecurity firm SecurityScorecard.

“If you’re not thinking about these things, you have a nice car and you’re leaving it unlocked in a bad neighborhood. And the internet is the worst neighborhood there is, in my opinion,” Heid told Business Insider.

Follow these expert-recommended steps to avoid the pitfalls that can expose your accounts and sensitive information to hackers.


The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

(Photo by Ilya Pavlov)

1. Change your passwords frequently.

According to Heid, hackers accumulate millions of login credentials and passwords in online databases garnered from previous data breaches. Even with just one set of login credentials, hackers commonly try to log into other sites using the same email and password, assuming that users will have the same password across platforms. Using different passwords from site to site will thwart this strategy.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

(Photo by Courtney Clayton)

2. Don’t use the same security questions across different sites.

Following the same principle, if one site you use is compromised in a data breach, hackers might gain access to the security question and answer you set up in order to reset your password. If you use the same question across sites, it’s incredibly easy for hackers to subsequently reset your password on every one of your accounts.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

(Photo by Tyler Franta)

3. Use bogus information for security questions to throw hackers off.

Password-reset questions typically ask for personal information like your mother’s maiden name or the street you grew up on. Rather than filling this out truthfully, use false information or an inside joke that hackers wouldn’t be able to guess. This tactic may seem counterintuitive, but can be effective, according to Heid.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

(Photo by William Iven)

4. Start using a password manager.

“I always recommend using a password manager solution like Keypass or something like that to handle all the different passwords,” Heid said.

Password managers can generate long, difficult-to-guess passwords and automatically save them across websites, making it easy to keep your passwords diverse and hard to crack.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

5. Don’t leave a public trail of personal information via social media.

Be mindful of information that hackers could glean from your public social media accounts — especially if you’re using that information for a password reset question.

“Pets’ names, kids birthdays, spots you went to for your honeymoon, all of those are common password reset answers that can be obtained from social media. Even stuff like the street you grew up on, that can be found in public records,” Heid said.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

(Photo by Marvin Meyer)

6. Use multifactor authentication whenever possible.

One of the most surefire ways to thwart hackers is to use multifactor authentication, or logins that verify your identity by sending an SMS code to your phone or an app notification.

“It’s an easy way for people to make sure they aren’t easy targets,” Heid said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

One of NATO’s most deployed anti-air missiles is getting a major upgrade

The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.


The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is shot from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.

Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.

The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.

Articles

The US wants this new defense for its tanks, but a weapon to defeat it is already out there

The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.


But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.

The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)

“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”

The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.

Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.

Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.

The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.

A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.

“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.

The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.

The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.

Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.

In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.

“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.

During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.

UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.

Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)

During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.

RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.

The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.

Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.

 

Articles

Taiwan is arming up as China flexes its muscles in the region

Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.


Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.

Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.

Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.

Also Read: China’s trying to push around American bombers flying in international airspace

Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.

The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.

“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”

Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.

“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.

“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”

Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.

The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.

“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.

“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.

Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.

China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.

People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.

This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.

“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.

Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.

Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.

Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.

“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran gets his diploma 76 years after missing graduation to fight in WWII

A Chicago veteran missed his graduation day in 1944 serving in World War II. But on June 13, 2019, he walked across the stage, officially graduating with the Class of 2019.

William Wagner, 94, was drafted during the last half of his senior year at Tilden High School on Chicago’s South Side, ABC7 reported.

“They told me to take history and civics to get my diploma,” Wagner told ABC7. “I went to the draft board and they said, ‘Punk you got a number, you got to go.'”


WWII veteran graduates from Tilden High School at age 94

www.youtube.com

On June 12, 1943, a date he said he can easily recall, he joined the Navy, serving as a cook onboard the USS Yosemite, whose company repaired ships destroyed in the war, according to ABC7.

Forrest Wagner, the WWII vet’s son, arranged for the school to send him the diploma, which came a day before William Wagner’s birthday on March 7, ABC7 reported. The diploma then became his birthday present, complete with balloons and a graduation cap.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

USS Yosemite.

“How awesome is that for a young teenager to sit back and put his country before his own wants and needs,” Forrest told ABC7. “What he scarified for me and my brothers and sisters, and then also for his country, I believe I will never be able to repay.”

William told ABC7 that walking across the stage at this year’s graduation ceremony came at a close second as the best moment in his life, with the first being his marriage.

“Seventy-six years,” William said. “It took me that long to get my diploma, instead of going through four years.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the rifle Confederates used to snipe Union officers

Many a Union officer fell victim to a .451-caliber bullet designed for this English-built rifle. A muzzle-loaded, single-shot rifle, the Whitworth was the first of its kind and changed warfare for the next century and more. It was the world’s first sniper rifle, and Confederate sharpshooters loved it.


Two of the highest-ranking Federal officers killed during the war were taken down by the polygon-barreled, scoped musket. It was built to make shots at impossibly long distances, sometimes up to 2,000 yards or more – four times as far as the standard musket of the day.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Look out, artillery crews, here come the sharpshooters.

The rifle was first engineered by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a Crimean War veteran who noticed that the British standard-issue rifle wasn’t really performing all that well, but the cannons used by the British in Crimea were much more accurate than previous field pieces. He believed those cannons and their hexagonal rifling could be scaled down to be used by a one-man long gun. Whitworth’s gun would get the chance to perform against the Enfield rifle he sought to replace – and it wasn’t even close. Whitworth’s rifle was superior by far.

Except the British didn’t buy into the rifle. It was far more expensive than the Enfield Rifle. But Whitworth was able to sell his weapons to both the French and the Confederate armies.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a Whitworth rifle while telling his men they couldn’t be killed at 1,000 yards.

The Whitworth was more lightweight than other long-range rifles of the time and used a more compact bullet, which contributed to the weapon’s accuracy. The Confederates put the rifle to good use, arming their best sharpshooters with it and deploying them with infantry units to target officers and Union artillery crews. The sharpshooters and their trademark weapon became so ubiquitous that southern sharpshooters soon took on the name of their rifle, becoming known as Whitworth Sharpshooters.

They quickly became feared among Union troops for their signature high-pitched whistle while in flight. Confederate snipers took out General-grade officers at Chickamauga, Spotsylvania, and Gettysburg.

popular

Researchers will tackle the most widespread disability in the military

Military service often requires duty in noisy environments that can cause hearing loss and it doesn’t just happen during combat operations at deployed locations far from home station.

From flight line operations to firearms qualification ranges, aircraft maintenance back shops, vehicle repair shops, civil engineering shops, or even Air Force Research laboratories where innovative and agile technologies are born, noise brings the potential of hearing loss if proper personal protective hearing equipment is not available or utilized.


“In fact, Veterans Administration records show that auditory conditions such as hearing loss and tinnitus are the number one and number two most prevalent disability claim in the VA,” said Dr. Tanisha Hammill, research coordination branch lead at the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence in San Antonio. “In terms of number of claims, this is the most prevalent injury among our veterans, so there is an obvious need to focus on reducing those injuries among our service members,” she said.

In 2009, the Congressionally-mandated HCE was stood up to combat hearing and balance disorders. As part of the HCE, the Collaborative Auditory & Vestibular Research Network, or CAVRN was formed to bring together researchers with an auditory research focus to discuss current research efforts across the DoD and VA enterprises, providing unique opportunities for collaboration, Hammill said.

Annual CAVRN meetings are held at federal facilities and are hosted by member organizations, and in 2018, the annual meeting was held April 24-26 and was hosted by the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, Warfighter Interface Division, Battlespace Acoustics Branch; the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, and the Naval Medical Research Unit – Dayton.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, 711th HPW commander, welcomed the CAVRN meeting attendees and cited numerous opportunities for collaboration with the 711 HPW.

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force
Approximately 100 members of the Collaborative Auditory Vestibular Research Network, or CAVRN, met at the 711th Human Performance Wing to collaborate on areas of hearing and balance issues that service members and veterans face as a result of their military service.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)

“As you go forward, the Human Performance Wing wants to be part of what you all do to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines maintain their hearing so that hopefully in the future, hearing loss ceases to be the number one disability.

“The Air Force Chief of Staff’s focus areas converge on a singular vision – to create healthy squadrons full of resilient and credible warfighters primed to excel in multi-domain warfare,” he told them. “Certainly, nobody can do their job, or at least they would have a very difficult time doing their job if they couldn’t hear well.”

Hearing is a critical sense and is required for all service members to effectively communicate within dynamic and often chaotic environments.

“The ability to hear and communicate is critical to the safety of each warrior and their unit, and is central to command and control, and mission accomplishment,” Hammill said.

The CAVRN aims to foster knowledge sharing and facilitate greater communication, coordination, awareness, and transparency between community members.

“The CAVRN promotes collaboration, translation, and best practices that influence auditory-vestibular readiness, care, and quality of life for warfighters and veterans,” added Hammill.

Hammill stated that as she toured the 711 HPW, she thought about all the tremendous crossover opportunities between auditory research and so many other disciplines within human performance. “We are a very interdisciplinary team and that’s a big part of our growth – to discover and reach out to these other teams who are somehow focused on auditory or balance disorders,” she said.

“When you bring these folks together, they end up having very meaningful conversations, they are able to incorporate perspectives of their colleagues, who are subject matter experts across the DoD and VA and incorporate their perspectives and really make smarter projects and make more multiservice projects.”

Hammill explained that the CAVRN is built on a translational model, including bench scientists, clinician scientists, funding program managers, and public health experts, adding, “The whole scope from idea to application to practice, all in the same room so they can plan everything out together right up front.”

“This is a complex issue. Losing your hearing is not a part of doing business in military service and there are a lot of smart people working diligently to come up with better solutions to protect their hearing, both from a personal protective equipment stance, but also efforts in noise reductions and efforts in communication enhancement while making sure they’re able to do their job and have a reasonable quality of life after service,” Hammill said.

This article originally appeared on Health.mil. Follow @MilitaryHealth on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Venezuela’s government has been in a state of constant unrest as opposition leaders, especially Juan Guaidó, have accused Nicolás Maduro of rigging elections, mismanaging the government, and causing the starvation of the Venezuelan people. Now, Guaidó has emerged from hiding and is attempting to rally military and civilian support in an apparent uprising.


There’s a lot at stake, and the result of this uprising will determine the state of great power competition in America’s backyard. People on both sides are already dying from gunfire and vehicle charges from government forces.

As most journalists take this time to report on the minute-by-minute developments (the AFP news agency has a lot of quick facts and quotes as the situation develops, CNN International is posting amazing photos, and the overall Twitter stream has a mix of everything), we thought we would take a moment to remind everyone what the stakes are, here.

Venezuela is a socialist country, but, more accurately, it’s a dictatorship with a socialist system. That means that the government has direct control of significant parts of the economy, and that the government is controlled by one person. Right now, that’s Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has used short-term strategies to hop from one crisis to another since taking power.

Maduro and Guaidó have clashed for more than a year about whether or not Maduro rigged elections in his own favor. And the clashes between their supporters have become increasingly violent, but Maduro has always held the advantage because the military was largely on his side. But today, Guaidó appeared in a video saying that he has military support and is using it to trigger an uprising.

This is tragic for the Venezuelan people. Regardless of who wins, the violence will likely result in the deaths of at least dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds more. But it will also decide the balance of power in Venezuela, and Maduro and Guaidó have very different international backers.

Guaidó has the support of the U.S., U.K., and other Western powers. But Maduro is one of Vladimir Putin’s most important allies in the Western hemisphere.

That’s not because Russia and Venezuela are especially close. They’re not. But Venezuela, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Maduro, has historically been a socialist thorn in America’s side. And Putin knows that he needs friends in this hemisphere if he ever wants to directly pressure Washington like Stalin was able to during the Cold War.

He has few natural allies in this hemisphere, especially as Fidel Castro has died and Raúl Castro has grown old in Cuba. Raúl has stepped down as president and is 87.

Putin showed his support for Maduro last year by deploying two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela and sending heavy investments of Russian money into the Venezuelan oil industry. That second action is larger than it sounds: Russia and Venezuela are both heavy oil exporters that need the money to fuel their economies. Russian money that supports Venezuelan oil sales necessarily cuts into Russian profits.

But the foreign policy stakes were too high in Venezuela for Putin to ignore. Russia wants influence in the west, and Venezuela is one of its few toeholds. As then-U.S. Southern Command Commanding General John Kelly said in 2015:

Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President [Vladimir] Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War-tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Those actions in Venezuela have not always produced great fruit, but Venezuela is a resource-rich country that’s leadership leans towards Putin.

Meanwhile, America has historically supported true democracies, preferably capitalist ones, in South America for obvious reasons. A capitalist democracy would necessarily share more values with the U.S. than Venezuela did under Chavez or Maduro. And the Trump administration has signaled its support for the April 30 uprising. Not a big surprise since Vice President Michael Pence also recorded a video in January supporting Venezuelan opposition and Guaidó.

And, for what it’s worth, those Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela have the range to bomb any point in the U.S. without refueling including Alaska and Hawaii. (But, if they’re landing in Venezuela on the same tank of gas, they would be unable to hit much of Idaho, Nevada, or California.)

So this coup in Venezuela will decide the balance of power in America’s backyard. Russia has already said that Putin has met with his top generals to discuss the situation, though there is no sign yet of the large military deployments they sent to Syria to prop up his boy there.

While all of us should care about the crisis because of the real human suffering under Maduro, who are now caught in the crossfire, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is strictly a foreign problem. The effects of the uprising attempt will be felt here.

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