Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts - We Are The Mighty
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Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts

The Okinawa government is building shelters to protect schoolchildren from falling aircraft parts near an American military base

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Here’s what it looks like when paratroopers seize an airfield

Every once in a while, America finds they desperately need an airfield in someone else’s territory. When there are no forces nearby to seize said airfield, U.S. paratroopers climb into cargo aircraft by the hundreds and get ready to beat down some defending forces. Here’s how that happens:


1. The units grab their gear and rush to waiting planes.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

Units on different missions will have different minimum timelines, but airborne response forces pride themselves on attacking anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less.

2. Most missions are “heavy drops” where vehicles, artillery, and other large equipment are dropped with the soldiers.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

3. The heavy equipment will generally be deployed first.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

4. Once the equipment is out, the paratroopers will begin raining from the sky.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

5. The soldiers maneuver their chutes to avoid hazards on the drop zone and then execute “parachute landing falls” when they reach the ground.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army

6. Once they reach the drop zone, troops mass as quickly as possible so they can begin maneuvering on the enemy. Chem lights, reflective panels, and other markers are used by leaders to show troops where to congregate.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

7. These points have to be defended from the enemy forces near the drop zone.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

8. Artillery units will try to mass on their howitzers so crews can prepare them to fire.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

9. Soldiers with radios must immediately get them up and running so leaders can coordinate the assault before an enemy counterattack materializes.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

10. Units check in with the ground commander on the radio or by signaling. The commanders will map out where their forces are in relation to the objectives, sometimes changing the attack plan if forces landed in the wrong spots.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

11. As the infantry begins their attack, artillery soldiers hurriedly prepare their ammunition to fire.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

12. The artillery will fire in support of the infantry, striking enemies on the airfield and any enemy reinforcements approaching the objective. Typically, they will try to avoid striking the airstrip itself to prevent damage to it.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

13. If the howitzers find they landed too close to an enemy position or an enemy counterattack is drawing close, they’ll begin firing “high-angle” shots. These will land nearby, killing enemies in close proximity to the guns.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

14. When helicopters are in range to support, they and other aircraft will destroy troop concentrations and heavy vehicles that are a threat to the infantry.

15. Of course, the infantry units also rain steel on the enemy. Mortarmen are part of the maneuver force, moving up to the enemy forces and striking them with high explosives.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army

16. Some of the infantrymen on the ground will also have grenade launchers. M230 and M320 grenade launchers can be attached to the infantryman’s rifle. The M320 can also be carried as a separate weapon.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army

17. The infantry will clear the buildings and the area surrounding the airfield to ensure no defenders are left.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

18. Once the airstrip is secure, the ground forces will call for reinforcements to begin landing. This could consist of anything from additional airborne infantry to heavy armored units with M1 Abrams.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: flickr/Josh Beasley

19. If the main airstrip is damaged or cannot accommodate all the aircraft needed for the mission, engineers will cut out dirt “forward landing strips” for the C-130s so reinforcements can continue pouring in.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen

NOW: Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

OR: These 7 photos show how Marines take a beach

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Here’s how US Air Force pilots learn to fly French Mirage fighters

The pilots in the U.S. Air Force fly a bunch of planes. The F-15 Eagle, the C-17 Globemaster, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the Mirage 2000D… Wait, that can’t be right. The Mirage 2000D is a French plane, and not in service with the Air Force.


Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Four 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions are released from an F-15E during a developmental test at Edwards Air Force Base in 2002. Photo courtesy of USAF.

Yet, that list is accurate. Right now, Maj. Raymond “Banzai” Rounds of the U.S. Air Force is based out of Ochey Air Base in France, flying with the Armee de l’Air. The French have three squadrons of Mirage 2000Ds.

In one sense, the Mirage 2000D is like the F-15E. Both are multi-role fighters that are based on air-superiority planes (the Mirage 2000C and the F-15).

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
A Mirage 2000D at Kandahar air base. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Military-Today.com, the Mirage 2000D is capable of carrying a wide variety of air-to-surface weapons, including dumb bombs, laser-guided bombs, Exocet anti-ship missiles, APACHE and SCALP missiles, the AS-30L missile, and rocket pods. It can also carry Magic 2 air-to-air missiles.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
This is just one possible loadout the Mirage 2000D can carry. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Air Force has a program that enables pilots like Rounds to do exchange tours with other countries’ militaries. But that’s not the only exchange.

There are also inter-service exchanges, where members of American military services fly with a unit in another American service. Perhaps the most famous of those pilots is Marine John Glenn, who scored three MiG kills while flying with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing.

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The F-86F flown by John Glenn during his exchange tour with the 51st Tactical Fighter Wing. (USAF photo)

Rounds’s exchange tour will last for two years. After that, he will return the Air Force and bring over lessons he’s learned from the French.

You can see a video from the Joint Forces Channel that not only discusses Rounds’s exchange tour, but also what it takes to support the airmen who taken on these tours, below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqxUtiCyQHI
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Going bald? Here are the 5 best military haircuts for you

As you progress in your military career, you find yourself struggling to maintain the era of your youth. The bones creak, the muscles ache, the skin sags and for some of us… the hair starts to go.

It is not easy going bald (trust me, I know) but for many men, it is a part of life that we have to come to terms with at some point… or maybe not.

For me, the loss was sudden. I joined the Marines late at the ripe old age of 24. At this point, I knew my hair was thinning, although it wasn’t that bad. I figured I had a good six years or so before it was gone and didn’t think much of it heading to boot camp. At boot camp, like everyone else, I had my head shaved every week.

But my journey at Parris Island took slightly longer than 13 weeks. I got dropped twice (once was because my arms got infected from so many sand flea bites). As soon as I got back into training, I got pneumonia in both lungs at the Crucible and was dropped again. By the time I graduated, I had been on the Island for five months. My last haircut was supposed to be the first “Marine” cut — when you get the high and tight and start looking like a Marine and not a recruit.

But for me, that didn’t quite work out. I sat in the chair and the barber buzzed the sides of my head, took a step back and started laughing. I was confused until I turned around. In the span of just five months, my hair … was… gone! Yup, it happened that fast.

Instead of a high and tight, I had what my Drill Instructors called a “low and loose,” two strips on either side of my head. It was embarrassing and I asked if I could just shave my head. I was told that because I was bald, I could… but only after I left the Island. (To this day, I am convinced that they made up the last part because they wanted to mess with me).

When my mom saw me, she asked if my haircut was some type of crazy hazing the military did.

Needless to say, the minute I left Parris Island, I “Bic’d” my head.

In the end, it worked out. While I didn’t have access to any hair loss products that worked, I learned rapidly that there was a benefit to being bald in the Marines.

Every Sunday, when all my buddies had to pull themselves out of bed and stumble into town to get haircuts, I slept in. While they waited in line for hours with everyone else, I went to the beach, downtown San Diego, bars and drove around enjoying my Sunday. On Monday morning, I grabbed my clippers, did a quick shave and headed to PT.

That being said, while hair loss is hair loss is preventable, there are options for when you lose your hair in the military. Some are good, some are… options.

Here are the 5 best haircuts you can get if you are going bald:

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Horseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, & LCpl Wilson sp… | FlickrHorseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, LCpl Wilson sp… | Flickr

1.  Horseshoe (and reverse shoe)

Other than the stripes on your collar, nothing says you are salty than breaking out the old horseshoe cut.

If you are suffering from male pattern baldness, this is the cut to go with (assuming it is allowed). Just shave the sides and allow the bald spot to turn into the “landing strip” that a B-52 can land on. The cut isn’t for everyone, but if you are a senior enlisted that has been around the block and is saltier than the Dead Sea, this is the cut for you.

If you are a boot, this is not the way to go.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Imitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | FlickrImitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | Flickr

2. Low and loose

Yup, you can have my travesty of a haircut and just go with it provided you aren’t actually bald yet like I was. For some of us, balding is just your hair slowly thinning away. While you can take steps to prevent baldness, you can also still rock your high and tight but with a little less on the top. The only issue you have to be aware of is the PONR (Point of No Return). If you have gone bald, there is a point where you just can’t fake the funk anymore. The low and loose works until you get to that point. Then you just have to move on.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts

Dvids

3. Low reg with a combover

The Recon or low reg works great if you are starting to thin from the front. What was usually the haircut of choice for the high-speed guys or the guys who couldn’t wait to get out, the low reg is your path to still having a great head of hair. Just grow it out and comb it forward. It’s easy, leaves you with a full head of hair (for now), and helps cover up the receding hairline. The only downside: You might incur the wrath of a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major who may not like the hippie-style haircut you are sporting.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Bruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | FlickrBruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | Flickr

4. Bruce Willis hold out

If you followed the career of Bruce Willis, you saw the gradual and dignified way he slowly went bald. No combover, no toupees, no hair plugs, no headbands (looking at you LeBron). He just slowly went bald and over the course of his career aged well. Now, the caveat to this is that he had a nice, even, slow receding hairline which for many of us, doesn’t happen. But if you are a John McClane type, you can just go gracefully without having to do much. But eventually Bruce had to resort to Plan B, which was…..

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
File:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia CommonsFile:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

5. Shave

Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Vin Diesel, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Gandhi, Common, Britney Spears (jk), and many others have shown us that bald is beautiful. Shaving your head is easy, saves you money, and might make you look more badass than you were before.

When I lost mine, I realized that I actually looked better bald than with hair. Luckily, I have a nice shaped head. If you don’t, then shaving might not be the best course of action and you need to find something else. But shaving your head saves you money on haircuts and shampoo, saves you time in the morning, makes you look hardcore and shows that you are ok with being who you are. If you got it, flaunt it.

Losing your hair isn’t easy regardless if you have time like Bruce Willis or lose it pretty fast like me. You can always find a great solution to hair loss like Xcellerate35, and you can also find confidence in rocking out a great style that makes you feel great both in and out of uniform.

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Don’t forget to visit the Base*FEST site for more info on the NAS Penscola Base*FEST, October 7th, 2017.

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Romania’s navy is getting a complete overhaul

Romania has been a bit of an odd duck historically. It has the dubious honor of being home to Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) and, under the Ceausescu regime, went its own way at times while nominally a member of the Warsaw Pact, even going as far as buying French equipment during the Cold War (which it refused to let the Soviets examine).


Now a NATO ally, Romania has been making do with a lot of ships that use old Soviet technology. Their most modern vessels are two heavily-modified British Type 22 Batch 2 frigates that have had their Sea Wolf surface-to-air missiles removed. Their most powerful ship is the 33-year-old destroyer Marasesti, armed with eight SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles, two triple 533mm torpedo tube mounts, four AK-630 Gatling guns, and two twin 76.2mm AK-726 dual-purpose guns.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Regele Ferdinand, one of two modified Type 22 frigates acquired by Romania. (Wikimedia Commons photo by MAPN)

That could be changing soon, however, according to a report by DefenseNews.com. Romania is now seeking to buy three submarines to replace its lone Kilo-class vessel, the Delfinul, and four new surface ships. While Romania has made no decision on which submarine design it will buy, it did, at one point, plan to buy four Sigma-class corvettes from the Netherlands.

The previous purchases indicate that the Romanian Navy may be looking to replace their Tetal-class corvettes. The corvettes, three of which were built in the 1980s, are armed with one or two twin AK-726 mounts, two twin 533mm torpedo tube mounts, and 30mm cannon, among other systems. Two of the Tetal-class corvettes can operate helicopters off decks.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
One of four Tetal-class corvettes in the Romanian Navy. The aft AK-726 mount marks this as a Tetal I variant. (Wikimedia Commons photo by MAPN)

Romania has also ordered 227 Piranha V infantry fighting vehicles. These eight-wheeled vehicles are comparable to the M1126 Stryker, with a crew of three and the ability to haul eight infantrymen.

Though it’s impossible to say exactly which upgrades Romania is to acquire, modernization seems to be an inevitability.

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Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen

Standing in front of a projector that displays the remains of a deceased man, an Army Reserve instructor is not explaining to his 11 students the gruesomeness of what happened to the man, but the proper way to effectively serve in a unique and honorable job as a mortuary affairs specialist.

“Being in mortuary affairs isn’t easy because I know everybody can’t deal with remains,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Garcia, the lead instructor for the Mortuary Affairs Specialist Course held at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, May 12-28, 2018.


“The thing about our job is take those heroes and do all the preparation and help with the valuable effects,” said Garcia, who is assigned to the 5th Multifunctional Battalion, 94th Training Division – Force Sustainment, 80th Training Command (Total Army School System).

The mortuary affairs course falls under the command and control of the 94th Training Division, and the 94th Training Division supports the 80th Training Command’s mission of more than 2,700 instructors providing essential training to Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers.

“When you are dealing with the remains, you are thinking of the families and focused on treating the fallen hero with the utmost respect and dignity,” said Garcia. “It’s an honor to be here and to instruct because this job is like no other.”

Garcia’s students will graduate and move on to serve as combat-ready leaders in their units, but a few received first-hand experience shortly after switching to this military occupational specialty in 2017, and helped when Hurricane Maria hit land.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton)

“One day I’m learning at the morgue. Then I graduate from the mortuary affairs reclass course, and one day later I’m at the morgue again. This time I’m helping them because of the hurricane,” said Sgt. Pedro Cruz, assigned to the 311th Quartermaster Company. “We were working over there every day. I’m doing things I won’t do on deployment because as I hear, ‘you don’t work with remains every day on deployments.'”

Sgt. Adrian Roman-Perez, also assigned 311th Quartermaster Company, was another student who stepped out of the classroom and put what he learned to use shortly after the class ended.

“I worked alongside our instructor because we had to provide support to the morgue,” Roman-Perez said. “It wasn’t that the hurricane happened; it was about the aftermath after it happened.”

“In the Army, we train as we fight but you can’t do that in this job,” said Roman. “Most of the time, you are dealing with a mannequin and never have the opportunity to experience remains or have your body have that kind of stress.”

“For me it was kind of useful and it will be useful on my deployment because it helped prepare me for what is coming up,” Roman-Perez said. “That type of stressful situation helped me and taught me how to cope with it.”

According to Staff Sgt. Izander Estrada, a soldier assigned to 5th Battalion and helping Garcia with the mortuary affairs course, said that Hurricane Maria left a lasting impression not only on the students, but the instructors and staff at the organization.

“There were no trees, and it was so quiet,” he said. “You didn’t hear cars or birds or anything. It was completely quiet. It was a surreal experience.”

“It was a lot of stuff that if you’re not here, living there it’s impossible to understand or to explain,” he added. “Seeing people not having water and electricity, you start think about how important things are and that you take them for granted. Like when the air conditioning is always on, that’s electricity that you’re using.”

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Sgt. Axel Ayala and Sgt. Carolina Ortega, both students attending the Mortuary Affairs Specialist Course, work together to set up one side of the Mobile Integrated Remains Collection Systems.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Emily Anderson)

Despite dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Estrada was one of several individuals tasked with ensuring the future courses at the schoolhouse could still happen.

“This area had buildings actually demolished because of Maria,” he said. “This was September and we had to demonstrate that we could conduct the next class in February.”

The staff at the 5th Battalion worked with the 94th Training Division, the 80th Training Command and Fort Buchanan to secure a building, equipment, power and so on to ensure the next course could take place.

Eight months later classes are still steadily scheduled through the rest of the year, and staff and students are working hard to show why mortuary affairs is a crucial piece of the Army Reserve.

“One of the things I’m grateful for in the class is that I’ve been able to know the instructors and know how they work aside from them instructing,” said Roman. “I can ensure you, they are people that know their job. They know what they are doing, and they know their material and are experienced instructors.”

Both Cruz and Roman-Perez agreed that this job specialty is one that many may not consider, but is worth doing and instructing, if given the opportunity.

“I’ve thought about being an instructor. It is not an easy task but it’s a rewarding one you’ve got the ability to mold soldiers and help them, tell them the proper way of doing stuff, prevent them from slacking and taking up bad habits,” said Roman Perez.

“Mortuary affairs is not for everyone. I will say if new soldiers decide to join mortuary affairs, they will not regret it, ever,” said Cruz. “Maybe they’ll stay there forever because I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really love this MOS. It makes me feel like I’m really doing something for my nation.”

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

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The US just clobbered a bunch of ISIS militants in Libya

Six US air strikes on an ISIL desert camp in Libya killed 17 fighters and destroyed three vehicles, the first American attack in Libya since President Donald Trump took office in January.


US Africa Command said in a statement on Sept. 24 that strikes on Sept. 22 targeted a camp 240km southeast of Sirte, a city that was once the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stronghold in Libya.

The camp was used to move fighters in and out of Libya, plot attacks, and store weapons, the statement said.

“ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks,” it said, using another acronym for ISIL.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
USAF Senior Airman Cory D. Payne

The strikes were carried out in coordination with Libya’s Government of National Accord, it added.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the air raids were carried out by armed drones.

The last-known US strike in Libya was on Jan. 19, a day before Trump’s inauguration, when more than 80 ISIL fighters, some believed to be plotting attacks in Europe, died in US air strikes on camps outside Sirte.

That attack was led by two B-2 bombers, which dropped about 100 precision-guided munitions on the camps.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez

Jonathan Cristol of the World Policy Institute told Al Jazeera it is somewhat surprising that it took the Trump administration this long to act militarily in Libya compared to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who ramped up air strikes in his final few months as president.

“I think [Trump] has been not as eager to get into a fight in Libya, but he will listen to what the military says. I think we will probably see more strikes,” said Cristol.

“It really represents a target of opportunity where it can be done with little risk to the US. But I certainly don’t anticipate boots on the ground or a broader escalation even if one might become warranted.”

ISIL took over Sirte in early 2015, turning it into its most important base outside the Middle East and attracting large numbers of foreign fighters to the city. The group imposed its hard-line rule on residents and extended its control along about 250km of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

But it struggled to keep a footing elsewhere in Libya and was forced out of Sirte by last December after a six-month campaign led by brigades from the western city of Misrata and backed by US air strikes.

ISIL has shifted to desert valleys and inland hills southeast of Tripoli as it seeks to exploit Libya’s political divisions after their defeat in Sirte.

The United Nations launched a roadmap on Sept. 20 for a renewed international effort to break a political stalemate in Libya and end the turmoil that followed the country’s 2011 uprising.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord established under a December 2015 deal never fully materialised in Tripoli, leaving Libya with three competing governments aligned with rival armed alliances.

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The dictator of Zimbabwe was ousted in a coup overnight and no one really knows what’s next

After nearly 40 years as Zimbabwe’s leader, President Robert Mugabe appears to have lost his grip on power.


Early Nov. 15, the country’s military drove tanks into the capital, Harare, and seized control of the state broadcaster, ZBC. A senior officer of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces denied that a coup was in progress and said Mugabe, 93, was “safe and sound.”

Later Nov. 15, South African President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had spoken to Mugabe and that Mugabe was unharmed and under house arrest. The Guardian’s Jason Burke reported that Mugabe would step down on Nov. 17.

Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, who was contending for leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF party, has fled to Namibia, The Guardian reported, citing opposition sources. The first lady has long been seen as Robert Mugabe’s chosen successor.

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Robert and Grace Mugabe, 2013, in Harare, Zimbabwe (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user DandjkRoberts)

Mugabe’s reported removal from power is surely welcome news to his critics in a country that saw its economy collapse into a hyperinflationary spell in 2008 as Mugabe implemented price controls and printed large amounts of money, leading to a multibillion-percent inflation rate.

The human-rights group Amnesty International has also accused Mugabe and his government of repressing political expression, arbitrarily arresting activists and others, carrying out “torture and extrajudicial executions,” and fomenting mass political violence.

So what’s next?

The military’s denying a coup implies Zimbabwe’s next leader won’t be a general.

Related: Turkish President Erdogan holds on to power as military coup fails

South Africa’s Independent Online reports that Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe dismissed as vice president last week, is en route to Harare to take control of the country’s government.

Mnangagwa has the support of both the military and the wider population, according to BMI Research.

The firm says there are three possible outcomes that could play out over the coming months:

  1. “Mugabe resigns and is replaced by Mnangagwa before year-end.”
  2. “Mnangagwa selected to run as ZANU-PF party leader in 2018 election.”
  3. “Mnangagwa established as constitutional successor in the event of Mugabe’s death.”

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Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe at a Politburo meeting. Grace was previously thought to be the successor to the Presidency. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Brainy263)

The economic impact

It is likely to take years to reverse the damage caused by Mugabe’s economic policies.

“It was the 10th-largest economy in the region in the late 1990s,” said William Jackson, the senior emerging-markets economist at Capital Economics. “But its performance has been significantly worse than many of its peers. For example, in 1998, Zimbabwe’s economy was roughly the same size as that of Angola, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Now, those economies are three to seven times larger than Zimbabwe.”

Additionally, Mugabe’s policies have caused public external debt — most of which is already in arrears — to balloon to more than 40% of gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund says.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Zimbabwean inflation ran rampant during the presidency of Robert Mugabe, leading to the printing of a one-hundred trillion ZWD note. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

It’s unclear what would happen if Zimbabweans fled to other parts of the region.

“There is already a large Zimbabwean diaspora in South Africa — the UN estimates there are around 500,000 Zimbabweans living there, although unofficial estimates suggest that it could be closer to 3 million,” Jackson wrote. “If refugee inflows did pick up again, there would be a fiscal cost to the South African government, and it could lead to social strains in an economy already struggling with very high unemployment.”

Members of the ZANU-PF party and the opposition weren’t immediately available for comment.

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Combat Medics in Vietnam

Combat Medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded.  Max Cleland, a future US Senator from Georgia, lost three limbs when a grenade exploded in his hand. His life was saved by four beleaguered field medics. In this dramatic episode, Max Cleland recounts his story and we also hear from Clarence Sasser, who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Combat Medic in Vietnam.

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The mystery behind potential sonic weapons in Cuba is getting weirder

There must be an answer.


Whatever is harming US diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists, and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon, or flawed spying device.

Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.

The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.

Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen US officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds, and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.

Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches, and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.

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Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.

“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.

To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.

There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where, and how of the Havana whodunit.

While Cuba has been surprisingly cooperative, even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the US government in full control.

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Photo courtesy of the FBI.

“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”

Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.

Sonic Device

The first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?

Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.

But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.

Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.

And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.

Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous, or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.

The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.

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The anatomy of the inner ear. The vestibular system helps regulate balance. Diagram from Wikimedia Commons.

But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.

And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.

“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.

If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?

At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.

But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.

None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.

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“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.

Electromagnetic Weapon

It may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.

The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave, and light bulbs.

And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.

There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the US Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.

What about the sounds people heard?

Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old US Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.

But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.

Something Else

The stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.

After all, once symptoms emerged, the US Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.

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John Kerry delivers remarks at the flag-raising ceremony at the newly re-opened US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on August 14, 2015. Photo from US State Department.

At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .

Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.

The Cuba Theory

It was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.

The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.

Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.

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US Marines stand ready to raise the flag during ceremony at the Ambassador’s residence in Havana, Cuba. Photo from US State Department.

But what’s the motive?

When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the US to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.

Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.

Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But US officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.

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Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.

Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?

The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.

The Rogues

If not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several US officials said.

It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.

“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the US mission in Havana until 2008.

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Photo from Public Domain.

But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.

Cuba’s surveillance of US diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks US diplomats’ movements and conversations.

So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.

The Outsiders

Who else would dare?

US investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.

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Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.

Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.

None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.

Spying Gone Awry?

Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.

Several US officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the US diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.

You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.

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Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

During the Cold War, the US Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.

The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.

Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.

Asperiores odit

How stupid-looking minisubs could sink a US aircraft carrier

While there has been a pause in tensions with North Korea — to the point where the dictatorship, led by Kim Jong Un, is taking part in next month’s Winter Olympics — that regime has always been tricky. Remember, we’re talking about a rogue nation that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan with a minisub out of nowhere on March 26, 2010, killing 46 of her crew.


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Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, and Rear Adm. Park Sung-bae, commander of the Republic of Korea Navy Second Fleet, tour the ROKS Pohang-class corvette Cheonan that was sunk by a North Korean torpedo on March 26, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)

Now, you might think that an American carrier isn’t at the same risk as a South Korean corvette. After all, a North Korean minisub can’t carry that many torpedoes. A Yono-class minisub, the type suspected of sinking the Cheonan, packs two 21-inch torpedoes. The larger Sang-o-class sub carries four.

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A North Korean-designed Yono-class mini-sub in Iranian service. A similar sub is suspected to have sunk the Cheonan. (Wikimedia Commons photo by ThePulleySystem)

Could the United States Navy lose an aircraft carrier if attacked by one of these minisubs? It seems far-fetched at first. The United States Navy has lost only one fleet carrier, USS Wasp, to a submarine-only attack. Two escort carriers, USS Block Island and USS Liscome Bay were also sunk in submarine attacks, and USS Yorktown was finished off by a Japanese submarine after being rendered dead in the water by aircraft.

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USS Wasp was the last fleet carrier to be sunk by an enemy submarine. (U.S. Navy photo)

Wasp weighed in at 14,900 tons, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, today’s Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have a much larger displacement of over 90,000 tons. When the Soviet Union was considering how to kill a Nimitz, they designed the Oscar-class submarine for the job. That was a huge vessel, carrying 24 SS-N-19 anti-ship missiles as well as eight torpedo tubes for disabling and destroying the carrier.

Fortune plays a big role in war, however. For example, The Japanese carrier HIJMS Taiho was sunk by a single torpedo in 1944. Additionally, since the end of the Cold War, American expertise in anti-submarine warfare has declined. In 2006, a Chinese submarine surfaced near and surprised the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk.

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In 2006, a Chinese Communist submarine surfaced next to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, showing that American anti-submarine warfare skills had atrophied. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Lee McCaskill)

While two-to-four torpedos typically wouldn’t do the job against a U.S. carrier, North Korea could get lucky and sink one, but that luck would quickly turn into bad news for Kim Jong Un.

Learn more about North Korean submarine capabilities in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rYwDjIiVf8
(Warthog Defense | YouTube)
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