Every time the Olympics roll around, we’re proud to cheer for the American veterans who make the team. Not only have they made their country proud with their service; as world-class athletes, they’ll represent the United States and try to bring home the gold.
For the 2018 Winter Olympics, three of the current 102 American competitors are U.S. Army soldiers, part of Army’s World Class Athlete Program. They are Sgt. Emily Sweeny, Sgt. Taylor Morris, and Sgt. Matt Mortensen.
Sgt. Emily Sweeny — Women’s Singles Luge
Sweeny was the first soldier to secure a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. She is a military police officer in the New York National Guard. After joining the Guard in 2011, she took on more of a leadership role within the USA Luge team where she not only competes, but helps identify and recruit talented youth to the sport.
She won the Gold Medal at the 2017 Winterberg Germany World Cup sprint race. Currently, she is ranked 8th in the world for women’s luge.
Sgt. Taylor Morris — Men’s Singles Luge
Morris secured his place at the Olympics when he earned the Bronze medal at the Lake Placid World Cup sprint race. He solidified his position on the USA Luge team after his career-best run. He joined the U.S. Army in 2011 as a Human Resource Specialist in the New York National Guard.
Sgt. Matthew Mortensen — Doubles Luge
Mortensen is an Engineer out of the New York Army National Guard, joining in February 2010. He is a two-time Olympian who missed the bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by a mere 0.005 seconds with his luge teammate, Sgt. Preston Griffall. For PyeonChang, Griffall chose to focus on his studies and Jayson Terdiman stepped into his role.
Mortensen and his new teammate finished the 2016-2017 seasons ranked 3rd internationally and together have won three straight Norton National Championships.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin Feb. 9, 2018 and end on Feb. 25, 2018.
The services of private security companies have expanded so much over the last 20 years that they are now referred to as private military companies (PMCs) in some circles. PMCs have assumed all the different roles of war, from backend logistics, to training, to consulting, to battlefield operations, and more. The private military industry was a $218 billion industry in 2014 and business is growing, according to the Vice video below.
There are many reasons why hiring a PMC is more attractive than maintaining a military, and companies like ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater), Aegis, and others are redefining what war might look like in the future.
This VICE video explores the origins of the PMC industry and how the war on terror has fueled its growth.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the largest amphibious military assault in history known as D-Day. More than 150,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion involved nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. Some of the first men to hit the beach on D-Day were the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Unit. Jerry Markham and John Talton were members of this elite group. In this episode, these courageous veterans tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
Turkey finalized its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system earlier this month.
The acquisition has stirred concern in other NATO countries since it was first reported several months ago, and the sale comes at time of increased tensions between Ankara and the West, the US in particular, over the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the US-led campaign against ISIS in Syria.
Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu appeared to make pointed references to the S-400’s potential use against NATO and US planes on Sept. 20, when it tweeted out an infographic displaying the specifications of the S-400 and which US planes it could shoot down.
The graphic, as noted by Military Times, says the S-400 can react to targets in less than 10 seconds and can hit targets at a range up to 250 miles while traveling at about 10,000 mph. It also says the system can eliminate such US aircraft as the B-52 and B-1 bombers; F-15, F-16, and F-22 fighters; as well as surveillance aircraft and Tomahawk missiles.
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 raised alarm among other NATO countries for the consequences it would have for military cooperation as well as the signals it appeared to send about the contentious diplomatic relationships within the defense alliance.
Militarily, the missile system would not be interoperable with NATO defense systems and would not be subject to the same restrictions on deployments, meaning Turkey could put it in places like the Armenian border or Aegean coast.
The S-400 is Russia’s most sophisticated missile-defense system (though Turkey is unlikely to get the most advanced version). It can detect and target manned and unmanned aircraft and missiles, and hit targets up to 250 miles away.
A Turkish official said this summer that the S-400 would not come with friend-or-foe-identification system, meaning it could be used against any target. Turkey has said that a domestic firm would install software so it could distinguish between friend and foe aircraft, but there are doubts that process is technically feasible.
Diplomatically, the sale seemed to be the culmination of a period of frosty relations between Turkey and its partners in Europe and the US.
Ankara has clashed with Germany in the wake of a failed coup against Erdogan, after Berlin criticized the Turkish government for a crackdown on people accused of involvement.
Turkish-US relations have also suffered because of the war in Syria, where the US backs Kurdish fighters who Turkey sees as aligned with the Kurdish PKK, which both the US and Turkey have designated a terrorist group.
Turkey has threatened to target US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria several times.
The deal also underscores for many in the West who believe there is an increasingly cozy relationship between Russia and Turkey.
Some view the sale as another step by Moscow to undermine NATO — a sentiment Russian presidential adviser Vladimir Kozhin may have tried to nurture earlier this month by saying, “I can only guarantee that all decisions taken on this contract strictly comply with our strategic interests.”
John Nicely was a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps during the brutal Pacific island campaigns of WWII. He saw his first action in the battle for the island of Saipan on June 15th, 1944. From there he continued fighting from island to island and eventually prepared for the invasion of Japan. Nicely and his unit entered the devastated city of Nagasaki, just 25 days after the nuclear blast. We met up with him at a reunion of the 2nd Marine division in 1994 and he shared his vivid personal memories of front-line combat.
Russia is sending what NATO thinks is thousands of troops into Belarus – and the transatlantic alliance is worried the Russians may not leave. The move would pose a counter to the recent movement of NATO forces into the area, including former Soviet states Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Poland.
The Russian and Belorussian response, they claim, is purely defensive. The Russians say it emulates a terrorist threat with external support – that support comes from the West, which the Russian military will move to counter.
Just as Americans embrace the fictional countries the U.S. military uses to train its troops, fictional Twitter and Facebook accounts representing Veishnoriya’s various official ministries have popped up around the war games. There are even fictional seals, flags, and histories surrounding the fictional country. You can even apply for a Veishnoriyan passport.
One Facebook discussion boasted that Veishnoriya has never lost a war, while detractors say, “It’s not Vesbaria, it’s not Lubenia. Volodya, your soldiers will be torn to pieces!”
An estimated three thousand to 100,000 Russian troops are involved (depending on who you ask), along with the Russian 1st Guard Tank Army. It’s an exercise they’ve been running every four years since the 1970s, except for the decade or so after the fall of the Soviet Union.
NATO experts believe the game represents what Moscow thinks is a scenario most likely to come from Western efforts to undermine the Russian sphere of influence.
If the war game did have upwards of 100,000 troops and tanks, the Russians would be required to report the exercise and submit to having foreign observers monitor the exercise, according to the Vienna Document, a 2011 security agreement.
In this special episode of Warriors, in Their Own Words, we feature an interview with a German U-boat veteran from World War II. Rudi Toepfer was born in East Prussia, Germany on June 27, 1917. After graduating from the German Naval Academy, he served as the chief engineering office on submarines as they hunted for Allied convoys in the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, he moved to the United States. He worked for Hughes Aircraft for 30 years and became a leader in the Elks Lodge and Masons. This is Rudi’s compelling first hand account of his years in combat on board a U-Boat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Toward the end of December 1944 it was clear the Germans were losing WWII. Low on fuel, munitions and morale, the ability of the rogue nation was slipping by the hour. Still with 6,000,000 men under arms, Hitler burned with a passion for one more mad drive into the Allied lines. In December, 1944 with the Russians closing in from the east and the Allies chipping away at the western front, the Nazis made their move. 600,000 Germans in 29 divisions with 11 armored panzer divisions, surged into the Allied front. The stage was set for total Allied defeat, but Hitler had failed to calculate the most important element of all. He could count the thousands of guns, the tons of munitions and the hundreds of tanks, but he could never grasp the unfailing courage and valor of the American fighting man.
The unrelenting ferocity of the Pacific War was without a doubt the bloodiest and most savage of the two theaters of World War II. The memories of brutal battles like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Midway and Iwo Jima are forever seared into minds of the courageous men who fought there. The island of Guadalcanal represented one of the last chances for the Allies to turn back the Japanese advance in the Pacific. Marine veteran Victor Croizat experienced the “hell of earth” of the battle for Guadalcanal.
Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.
It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.
While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”
To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.
Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.
The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.
The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.
But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.
Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.
Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.
In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.
Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.
Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.
For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.
There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.
For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.
But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.
So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.
Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.
The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.
Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.
In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.
“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.
For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.
Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.
When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.
Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.
The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.