In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”
That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.
2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.
Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.
The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.
The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.
Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.
A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.
The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.
Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.
The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.
“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.
Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)
Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America
Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.
Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”
“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.
Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.
Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.
Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.
Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.
“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”
China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.
Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.
Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.
“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Russian court has ordered several of the Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian coast-guard forces during a confrontation at sea off Crimea to be held in custody for two months.
The Nov. 27, 2018, rulings by the court in Simferopol, the capital of Russian-controlled Crimea, signaled the Kremlin’s defiance of calls by Kyiv and the West to release two dozen crew members who were seized along with three Ukrainian Navy vessels following hours of hostility at sea two days earlier.
Raising the stakes after tensions spiked when Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on the Ukrainian boats on Nov. 25, 2018, the court was holding custody hearings for 12 of the crewmen. A Russian official said nine others would face hearings on Nov. 28, 2018.
So far, four have been ordered held in pretrial detention — which usually means custody behind bars in a jail — until Jan. 25, 2019. Under Russian law, detention terms can be extended by courts at the request of prosecutors, and it was not immediately clear when the sailors might face trial.
Officials identified the Ukrainians as Volodymyr Varemez, the captain of a navy tugboat that was rammed by a Russian vessel, and sailors Serhiy Tsybizov, Andriy Oprysko, and Viktor Bespalchenko.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Ukrainians were charged with “illegal border crossing by a group of individuals acting in collusion, or by an organized group, or with the use of or the threat to use violence.”
The court hearings came hours after Western leaders, speaking on Nov. 26, 2018, condemned what they called Russia’s “outrageous” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as international maritime treaties, and called on Moscow to immediately release the detainees.
Conflicting reports have put the number of Ukrainians detained at 23 and 24. The court rulings put them in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.
In the running confrontation off Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018, a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian tugboat in an initial encounter, and a few hours later the Russian vessels opened fire before special forces stormed the three Ukrainian boats. Six Ukrainians were injured.
The hostilities injected yet more animus into the badly damaged relationship between Kyiv and Moscow, which seized Crimea in March 2014 and backs armed separatists in a simmering war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since that April.
Those Russian actions, a response to the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by the pro-European protest movement known as the Euromaidan, have also severely damaged its ties with the West.
The confrontation came days before Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump ion the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018.
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea, that is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.
On Nov. 26, 2018, Ukraine declared martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — following what it called a Russian “act of aggression.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned “this aggressive Russian action,” and called on Moscow to return the vessels and crews, and abide by Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.”
Pompeo said both sides should “exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments” and said Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, should “engage directly to resolve this situation.”
Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Nov. 26, 2018, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and a “reckless Russian escalation” of its conflict with Ukraine.
Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen said Russia “wants to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea and annex the Sea of Azov.”
The international community will not accept this, he said, insisting that Russia “must not be allowed to rewrite history by establishing new realities on the ground.”
Martial law will come into force on Nov. 28, 2018, in 10 Ukrainian regions that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia,” and will be in place for 30 days.
The measure includes a partial mobilization of forces, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and other unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime.”
Putin expressed “serious concern” over the Ukrainian decision in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said on Nov. 27, 2018.
The Russian leader also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” a statement said.
“The imposition of martial law in various regions potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region, in the southeast” of Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later told reporters.
Hours before the court hearings, Russian state-run TV channel Rossia-24 showed images of several of the detained Ukrainians that were apparently recorded during interrogations by Russia’s security services.
One of them parroted the version of events put forward by Russian authorities, saying, “The actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocative character.”
One of the detained appeared to be reading his statement. Russian law enforcement agencies frequently provide state media with footage of suspects being questioned under duress.
In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) confirmed that a number of its officers were among those captured.
One of them was seriously wounded after a Russian aircraft fired two missiles at the Ukrainian boats, SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak said in a statement.
Calling Russia’s capture of Ukrainian crews “unacceptable,” the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged Russia to “immediately release” those detained and provide them with medical aid.
She also called on both sides to use “utmost restraint” to prevent the only live war in Europe from escalating.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia “has to understand that its actions have consequences. We will remain in contact with the Ukrainian government to underline our support.”
Unlike other U.S. officials, who vocally backed Ukraine and criticized Russia, President Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation.
“Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it, too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Russia’s acting UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, accused the Ukrainian Navy of “staging an aggressive provocation,” which he claimed was aimed at drumming up public support for Poroshenko ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election in March.
“They have no hope to remain in power otherwise,” he said, while condemning Western leaders for condoning what he called their “puppets” in Kyiv.
“I want to warn you that the policy run by Kyiv in coordination with the EU and the U.S. of provoking conflict with Russia is fraught with most serious consequences,” Polyansky said.
At the outset of the UN Security Council meeting on the incident, Russia suffered a setback after it sought to discuss the clash under an agenda item that described the incident as a violation of Russia’s borders.
This was rejected in a procedural vote, with only China, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan siding with Russia. The Security Council then discussed the clash under terms laid out by Ukraine.
The naval confrontation took place as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
“I have to emphasize that, according to the international law, Crimea and respective territorial waters are the Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the Security Council.
“Hence, there are no Russian borders in the area where the incident happened. I repeat — there are no Russian state borders around the Crimean Peninsula,” he said.
A female Marine officer was dropped from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course when she failed to complete a ruck march for the second time. The unidentified Marine was the 30th woman to attempt the course. Two male officers dropped out during the same ruck march.
While this is the 30th female Marine to drop out of training, she will be the first to be allowed to re-attempt the course. Only officers seeking an infantry MOS are allowed to restart the course. Previous female candidates were destined for non-infantry jobs and so were not allowed to repeat.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus maintains that the standards will not be dropped so that women can make it through the course.
“I will never lower standards,” Mabus said. “Let me repeat that: Standards will not be lowered for any group! Standards may be changed as circumstances in the world change, but they’ll be changed for everybody.”
The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.
There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”
In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)
While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.
Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.
Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.
But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.
Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.
So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?
Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”
Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.
Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?
Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.
We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.
Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.
How can we do better?
First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.
Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.
Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.
This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.
These unprecedented times are contributing to a higher level of anxiety, particularly among our Veteran population. The constant flow of often discouraging news, along with a reduced ability to mingle with others to keep spirits up, makes it difficult for some to maintain their morale. TogetherWeServed, a military heritage community website and home to over 1.9 million U.S. Military Veterans, wants to help.
A secure virtual base for Veterans
During a Veteran’s military service, their base, ship or shore station is place to call home – a safe haven to share in the company of some of the finest men and women with a mission in common. Together We Served (TWS) aims to replicate that same spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in its own “Virtual Base” website.
With its membership containing only active serving and Veterans, TWS provides a secure platform for all Veterans to engage with other Veterans on a level that is simply not possible in most social networking environments.
Together We Served’s forums encourage informal discussion, reminiscent of barrack-room banter on a wide range of interests – from local community discussion, uplifting military humor and interesting hobbies, to lively debate on current political issues.
With a number of members suffering from combat-related and other health issues, TWS’s Support Forums provide a safe environment where Veterans can discuss the situations they face each day.
Create your own military service page on the Together We Served site.
The joy of locating a long-lost buddy cannot be underestimated and TWS has proven to be an accomplished Veteran locator. You can easily find other Veterans you served with, without having to enter names, by way of TWS’s ability to automatically match the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the pages of all other TWS members. The list of matching members is particularly useful as names are often forgotten.
More free time can provide an additional opportunity. TWS’s Military Service Page is designed to honor the military service of each and every Veteran. Each Veteran’s Page displays: their photo in uniform, rank insignia, medals and awards (displayed exactly as worn), all badges and unit patches; and names, dates and locations of their boot camp, training schools, unit assignments, as well as any combat or non-combat operations participated in. Unlimited photographs from military service can be scanned and added to the TWS Photo Album. A step by step self-interview called “Service Reflections” captures the memories of key people and events that made an important impact on a Veterans life. The result is a rich, visual presentation of a Veteran’s entire military service which, once shared, becomes a lasting legacy for their children and grandchildren.
In support of the Veteran community at this difficult time, Veterans are invited to join Together We Served, via the link below, to receive a FREE 12-months Premium Membership.
A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.
The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.
The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.
The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.
Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)
At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.
While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.
A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.
The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.
Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.
In theater, improvisation — or simply “improv” — is the art of spontaneously performing an unscripted scene. Performers might have props and/or prompts to work from, but the point is for an actor or comedian to build confidence and courage on the stage by figuring it out as they go.
We do the same thing in everyday life, reacting to and overcoming unexpected or unforeseen circumstances using the tools we have at our disposal. And the more we improvise in small ways, the more confident and comfortable we become in our ability to make quick decisions and problem solve when the situation turns serious.
Richard Dean Anderson as Macgyver.
(Photo courtesy of Paramount Television)
What would you do if your life — or the life of a loved one — was at stake and you didn’t have a weapon? The answer: channel your inner MacGyver and improvise. Utilizing an improvised weapon should never be the primary choice in self-defense; carrying a firearm along with appropriate defensive handgun training is a much more reliable option.
However, there are times when you may be without your primary defensive weapon and need to get creative. Traveling by air to a shady location and can’t take a gun or knife? Grab a cup of hot coffee from a gas station — it can be thrown in an attacker’s face should the need arise. The goal of an improvised weapon is to create distance or break contact and get away.
For some of us, the closest we’ll ever get to an improvised self-defense situation is using a shoe to squash a sinister and suspicious spider. But there are bad people in the world who are intent to do harm, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll never be a target. Confidence in utilizing improvised weapons requires the right mindset. Some would argue this is paranoia, but paranoia is a state of worry or fear — the opposite of a confident and prepared state of mind.
To gain a deeper perspective, we sought out the experts.
Clint Emerson is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and author of “100 Deadly Skills.”
(Photo courtesy of Clint Emerson)
In addition to being a retired U.S. Navy SEAL with over 20 years of experience, Clint Emerson is also the author of “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation.”
Emerson explained that self-defense is based on your environment and what you have access to. What you might be able to use to defend yourself at home, work, and other frequented locations should be thought about ahead of time, not mid-crisis.
“If you’re to the point that you’re reaching for anything around you to use as an improvised weapon while a threat is on you, it’s gone too far,” Emerson said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “They’re already too close, and that’s a bad day.
“You always want distance,” he continued. “If you have to pick up a baseball bat or you’re down to using your hands, things went wrong and you’re too close.”
If you don’t have a firearm in your home, Emerson suggests utilizing wasp spray or oven spray. Wasp spray can shoot a stream up to 30 feet and has the chemical strength to stop a threat long enough to allow you to escape. While oven cleaner is similar, it doesn’t provide the distance. Emerson said that the chemical agents are not natural and are therefore stronger than mace spray. He cautions, however, that this is for the home only. Carrying these as a form of self-defense outside the home could result in serious legal consequences.
In the case of close-quarter threats, Emerson recommends a pen made by Zebra, model F701, which can be found at most office supply stores. The stainless steel pen features a pointed tip and can be taken anywhere, even on an airplane. Its design and durability make it an ideal improvised weapon. Emerson said it’s important to practice your grip and defensive motions with it to better prepare yourself in case you’d ever need to use it. A solid grip combined with proper placement lend good puncture capability and can cause serious damage. Remember that the goal is to break contact and get away.
“It’s a mindset, a daily mindset that needs to become a natural part of us,” Emerson said. “We put our seatbelts on without even thinking about it — we just do it. Creating good habits now is better than being caught off guard in a bad situation or natural disaster. Staying prepared helps eliminate the element of surprise and that increases our chance of survival exponentially.”
Jeff Kirkham was a U.S. Army Green Beret who now runs ReadyMan, an organization focused on survival skills. Kirkham is also the inventor of the Rapid Application Tourniquet (RATS).
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Kirkham)
Jeff Kirkham served almost 29 years in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret. He’s also the leader of ReadyMan, an online resource for information, training, skills, and products to equip people for life, survival, emergency, and tactical situations. ReadyMan focuses on mindset, situational awareness, kidnap avoidance, escape restraints, and more.
Kirkham’s strongest piece of advice is to avoid — do everything in your power to be aware and not be a targeted victim — and the best way to do that is through training.
“The key to successful self-defense training is finding something that inspires you,” Kirkham said. “There are many great instructors out there and when it comes to training, something is better than nothing.”
In close-encounter situations, Kirkham said the best weapons are the ones we always have with us: hands, feet, knees, and elbows. Training to utilize the weapons we were born with will provide the confidence to engage the threat. Outside of that, anything in your hands can be a weapon — a pen, a book, a laptop case. It doesn’t have to be amazing, you just need to think and do whatever it takes to get away.
Everything is fair game when it comes to saving your life or avoiding injury. Kirkham classifies fingernails and teeth as secondary weapons and advised not to underestimate their power or be timid in their use. A dog can be another important asset, Kirkham said. Whether you obtain a trained protection dog or have one for a pet, man’s best friend can be a valuable protection source. Even a small dog can be enough of a distraction to buy time to escape.
To find out where you rate on the scale of preparedness, ReadyMan offers a Plan 2 Survive self-assessment. It encompasses everything from financial stability to survival situations and natural disasters and is a great way to evaluate yourself and become better prepared.
Fred Mastison is an international firearms instructor and expert in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, and executive protection.
(Photo courtesy of Fred Mastison)
Rounding out the expert panel is Fred Mastison of Force Options USA. Mastison is an Army veteran and professional instructor in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, executive protection, and close-quarter combatives. He also holds a seventh-degree black belt in Aikijitsu. Mastison trains law enforcement and civilians internationally.
Mastison echoed Emerson’s sentiment that when it comes down to being close enough to have to utilize an improvised weapon, things have gone too far. Situational awareness, avoidance, and distance are vital. However, when things get sideways, violence of action is key.
“If you can utilize a sharp object, like a pen, you would want to strike the face,” Mastison said. “The eyes and the bridge of the nose are very sensitive areas — if all you have are your hands, gouge the eyes or bite. The key is to do it with intent and force to break contact and escape.”
The common thread among this panel of experts is clear: situational awareness is vital. The proper mindset, training, and a clear understanding of your surroundings can help you avoid becoming a target. There are a variety of classes available for developing physical and mental self-defense tactics — seek them out. Being prepared and vigilant is crucial to our survival, whether it’s a human threat or natural disaster. It is up to each of us individually to be proactive and prepared, to be ready to protect ourselves instead of relying on someone else to save us.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
A lot gets said about “America’s porous borders,” especially in an election year. Forget for a moment, about the argument about whether or not a wall would be effective along the U.S.-Mexican border (and forget about who is going to pay for it). Right now, there is no wall and there are three borders, guarded by a thin green line called the U.S. Border Patrol.
The boats, horses, and men of the Border Patrol weren’t originally meant to be on guard against illegal Mexican immigrants, drugs, and guns from coming over the southern U.S. border, they were formed to keep the American southwest free of illegal Chinese immigrants.
The Border Patrol is no joke. The agency has a Congressionally-mandated 21,370 agents covering a staggering 19,000 miles across the U.S. northern and southern borders as well as the Caribbean. It has its own SWAT team, special operators, and search and rescue squads. They finish a 13- to 21-week long basic training course (depending on how well the trainee speaks Spanish) and then complete 12 to 16 weeks of field training at their first duty station – just to call themselves “agent.”
In 1904, the nascent Border Patrol was known as the Mounted Guards. Operating out of El Paso, Texas, 75 horsemen scanned as far west as California in an attempt to stem the tide of Chinese immigration.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting immigration from China. During the Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroads, Chinese laborers were welcomed to the U.S. in droves. After the economic booms of the post-Civil War years and the end of the Gold Rush, the once-welcomed source of cheap labor lost their appeal and public opinion quickly turned sour.
A mix of these Mounted Guards, U.S. troops, and Texas Rangers kept an eye out for the unwanted immigrants. In 1915, the Mounted Guards became Mounted Inspectors and had Congressional authority – but they had to bring their own horses.
In those days, catching customs violations were more important than cutting off illegal immigration. The Border Patrol as we know it was born in 1924, both as a response to Prohibition and to Congressional restrictions on the number of legal immigrants coming into the U.S.
With Prohibition, defending the northern border became as important as the south. Based in Detroit, the northern area had to cut illegal immigration as well as the illegal import of Canadian Whiskey. The American government authorized 450 agents to patrol all of America’s borders.
In 1925, Pancho Villa and his “Villistas” invaded American territory, sacking Columbus, New Mexico and killing it inhabitants. It was the largest American loss of life on American soil until the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
Columbus didn’t receive Border Patrol agents until 1927 – two men guarding 135 miles of border, a microcosm of the modern Border Patrol’s modern long-distance mission.
The Air Force announced the name of a service member who has been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster aircraft that was lost on Nov. 22, 1952.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Eugene R. Costley has been recovered and will be returned to his family in Elmira, New York, for burial with full military honors.
On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.
On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later another AKNG team landed at the site to photograph the area and they found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster. Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended it to be monitored for possible future recovery operations.
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and every summer since then, during a small window of opportunity, Alaskan Command, AKNG personnel and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations have been supporting the joint effort of Operation Colony Glacier.
Medical examiners from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System positively identified Costley’s remains, which were recovered in June 2018. The crash site continues to be monitored for future possible recovery.
For more information, please contact Air Force public affairs at 703-695-0640. For service record specific information, please contact the National Archives at 314-801-0816.
The Russian government and media are casting doubt on a new report claiming to reveal the true identity of a Russian man Britain accuses of the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in southern England.
The Sept. 26, 2018 report by the investigative website Bellingcat and its Russian partner, The Insider, claims to have conclusively demonstrated that the poisoning suspect known publicly as “Ruslan Boshirov” is, in fact, a decorated colonel in the Russian military whose real name is Anatoly Chepiga.
Russia has repeatedly denied and mocked British allegations that it is responsible for the March poisoning of Skripal and his daughter with the Soviet-developed toxin Novichok in the city of Salisbury.
Earlier September 2018, Britain announced charges against the man known as Boshirov and his associate, known as “Aleksandr Petrov.”
Both men publicly acknowledged being in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning but said they had arrived as tourists — a claim that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman called “an insult to the public’s intelligence.”
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson, meanwhile, said on Twitter following the report that the “true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian colonel” but subsequently deleted the tweet without explanation.
Here’s a look at how Moscow has dismissed the alleged revelation of the poisoning suspect’s true identity — and how Russian media outlets have cast doubt on the new report.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, suggested in a Facebook post late on Sept. 26, 2018, that the release of the report was deliberately timed to coincide with May’s address at the UN Security Council “during which she again aired accusations against Russia.”
During the address, May said Russia “recklessly deployed a nerve agent on our streets” and accused Moscow of seeking “to obfuscate through desperate fabrication” in connection with the poisoning.
“There is no proof, so an information campaign is continuing with the primary goal of diverting attention to the main question: WHAT HAPPENED IN SALISBURY?” Zakharova wrote.
She did not provide any substantive rebuttal of details reported by Bellingcat and The Insider.
‘Typical conspiracy theory’
A senior Russian lawmaker laughed off the report with a reference to Major Pronin, a fictional Soviet-era secret agent who successfully battled spies and generated scores of popular jokes revolving around the character’s incredible counterespionage abilities.
A handout picture taken in Salisbury of Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.
“It’s a typical conspiracy theory,” Frants Klintsevich of the defense committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. “You could just as easily say Ruslan Boshirov is named Major Pronin, if one recalls such a character from Soviet-era jokes.”
Klintsevich added: “What we warned about is continuing.”
“More and more details will accumulate so that the plot doesn’t get dull,” he was quoted as saying. “Interestingly, one gets the impression that the British media are working hand in glove with authorities. And that’s completely depressing.”
A Russian news outlet owned by Klintsevich’s fellow lawmaker, Vitaly Bogdanov, published interviews with a retired major-general in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) who claimed documents used in the investigation by Bellingcat and The Insider could not have made their way into the public domain.
Mikhailov said the British media “together with turncoats” will “spin tall tales” and suggested that the key piece of evidence in the report — a 15-year-old passport photo of Chepiga showing a man resembling Boshirov — could have been doctored.
NSN also published an interview with Andrei Vedyayev, a writer focusing on Russia’s security services, who said the poisoning suspects are unlikely to be officers for Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, as British authorities alleged.
The Bellingcat/Insider report said it had confirmed that Chepiga is actually a GRU colonel who was previously awarded Russia’s highest state medal: Hero of the Russian Federation.
“First of all, they don’t admit this,” Vedyayev said, referring to the interview with the two suspects on Russia’s state-funded network RT that May’s spokesman said was full of “lies and blatant fabrications.”
“Secondly, they don’t resemble [GRU officers] at all,” Vedyayev added. “From the perspective of security-service officers, if they carried out this task as has been told and described, then they acted completely unprofessionally: roaming around the city, being filmed by video cameras.”
Other Russian media outlets published reports focusing on the fact that searching for the name “Chepiga” yields no results on the publicly available portion of Interpol’s database of “red notices.”
This is, in fact, no surprise. Interpol itself notes that most red notices — which alert police worldwide of at-large suspected criminals wanted by a particular government — “are restricted to law enforcement use only.”