MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

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Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 30th

Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.

So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.


(Meme via Uniform Humor)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Shammers United)

(Meme via United Status Marin Crops)

(Meme by CONUS Battle Drills)

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

(Meme via Private News Network)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme by Pop Smoke)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s why your feet hurt all the damn time!

I’m on a foot fetish these days. Don’t tell my family.

Today’s foot based installment is about perception vs. reality. It’s about how your mind is constantly playing tricks on you even when you’re doing your best to be truthful. It’s about how your brain is letting your feet lie to you, and your boots are in on the whole conspiracy.

I have a pretty astounding study that I want to talk about.

Let’s start with runners way back in the 1980s.


You might want to throw those things in the trash

Mo’ padding mo’ problems

Remember that rickshaw driver I was talking about here?

Well, that dude had no feet problems, and he was slapping his feet onto hard and hot concrete and rocks every day of his life.

It seems according to two researchers back in 1991:

“The increased injury incidence with modern running shoes can be attributed to greater impact when runners use footwear more of the current design when compared with footwear in use a decade earlier. Furthermore, when runners unaccustomed to barefoot running run barefoot, mean impact is no higher than when shod and in some cases is lower.”

In normal people terms:

Comfy shoes = foot problems.

No shoes = Highly profitable career as a rickshaw driver.

Why?

These feet look all too familiar.

Padding makes you treat your feet like sh!t

Comfy shoe padding makes us blissfully unaware of the damage we are causing. Kind of like how we thought trans fats were a great idea. It turns out they are causally linked to heart disease.

We aren’t always right. Our prior assumptions need to be evaluated, not blindly accepted for millennia.

Robbins and Gouw, those two guys from the above quote, came to the conclusion that: “…a perceptual illusion is created whereby perceived impact is lower than actual impact, which results in inadequate impact moderating behavior and consequent injury.”

Let’s get into a pretty eye-opening study they did that proves the above point.

Yeah, gymnasts know how to stick a landing.

(Photo by Eugene Lim on Unsplash)

Comfort based decisions

When was the last time you made a comfort-based decision? Hit that snooze button this morning? Had a hot shower? Chose to drive to work rather than walk/run/bike?

Those are some decisions you can control. What about this trippy one you aren’t even aware of?

Robbins and Gouw took some force plates and had well-trained gymnasts jump onto them from a platform about 2 feet off the ground.

The plates measured the impact force of the athletes landing.

The gymnasts, who are great at sticking landings, were told to just land however they would naturally land after a jump from that height.

There were two surfaces they jumped onto for the force plates to measure; a hard surface, and a comfy padded surface.

In ALL 15 athletes, the landing force on the padded surface was higher than the landing force on the hard surface. The athletes clearly choose a safer and more appropriate landing strategy for the hard surface than the padded surface.

The real kicker is that that they all assumed that they were landing with more force on the hard surface than the padded surface.

Yep…the padding of the padded surface completely tricked all the athletes into being more careless with their bodies.

The perception of comfort and its damaging effects were studied using experienced athletes and force plate technology.

The difference in impacts was upwards of 25%. That the difference between you jumping by yourself and then jumping with your overweight nephew strapped to your chest in a papoose. Go ahead and give that experiment a try to see the real difference between the two.

Even a 5% increase in weight makes some people crumble, 25% is nothing to shrug at.

(Photo by Steven Cleghorn on Unsplash)

What we should tolerate VS what we tolerate

We are able to handle nearly twice our body weight in running impact. That seems like a lot. So we should have zero problem running right?

Nope.

When we run with standard running shoes or boots on, impacts of well past eight times our body weight have been measured. Combine this high level of impact with the design of the modern combat boot like we talked about here, and you get a whole host of foot and other structural issues that are commonly seen in service members, veterans, and high mileage athletes. I’m talking about hip, knee, ankle, and back issues, not to even mention that fact that your feet are taking the brunt of the abuse.

Is this the future military boot or should we just go barefoot?

Take ’em off and walk around

Lucky for Marines, it seems that the Generals in charge are making strides (pun intended) to remedy this issue to save the Marine Corps money and you a life of constant chronic pain.

The solution seems to be minimalist footwear. The less padding your footwear has, the easier it will be for you to regulate the impact you are causing on your feet.

Over time, your issues should disappear just like the rickshaw driver disappeared into antiquity after Henry Ford created the modern assembly-line built automobile to subvert his father-in-law, a world-famous rickshaw driver. (Everyone has family issues)…

Looking for a solution to your family issues? How about your training issues? Here’s how to train super effectively three times a week in less than an hour.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Massive cats have invaded these photos. You’re welcome

Man, military photographers take some great photos sometimes. Sand tables, missile launches, rifle ranges. So many great images of American might and military readiness. But they’re always missing something, and the Twitter user Military Giant Cats has figured it out.


Icelandpic.twitter.com/A9KVSCoM7x

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Yeah, the pics were always missing giant cats. Giant, giant cats that welcome Marines home from long ruck marches. Or, maybe the Marines are marching there to attack the cat? Look, the context isn’t clear, but you would definitely buy a ticket if that was a movie, right?

BMD-2pic.twitter.com/zPFrfX9W0A

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Come on, you would follow this cat into battle. You would face the galloping hordes, a hundred bad guys with swords, and send those goons to their lords, if this cat was leading the charge. And he’s so intense about it.

#DSEIpic.twitter.com/gG3JBfFZHZ

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Not all cats take their duties so seriously. Some are plenty patriotic but don’t feel the need to pursue the enemy all the time. They take a little time to relax, to consider their past achievements. And more than likely, to bat around a few of the tiny humans walking around his armor.

HMS Astute (S119)pic.twitter.com/luQway607e

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This cat is willing to brave the perils of the deep for your freedom. He will do battle with the Nautilus, he will spend weeks submerged. And if duty calls, he will claw his way through entire Russian fleets and survive on nothing but kelp to secure the seas for democracy.

BGM-109 Tomahawkpic.twitter.com/CMOU9gNxt3

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These cats are willing to do whatever it takes. When they attacked Syria, they launched Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and didn’t bat a single one out of the sky before it hit regime forces.

T-64BM Bulatpic.twitter.com/3EJGMZoe4r

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And look at how happy they make the troops! Whether they’re chasing giant balls of yarn or drifting tanks during military exercises, the cats know how to put on a show.

SEPECAT Jaguarpic.twitter.com/h7uW37oIaX

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But this one is a horrible pilot.

To see more of these awesome creations, check out the Twitter stream here.

Humor

9 military photos that will make you do a double take

As service members, we get the opportunity to travel the world, see some amazing places, and witness some over-the-top events. We love to visually document the areas we visit and the unique people we encounter.


While we’re out seeing the world, some of those photos we snap are so well-timed that we end up creating unique, optical illusions within our compositions.

Related: The 14 funniest memes for the week of Jan. 26

Check out nine military photos that will make you do a double take.

9. A cargo plane looks like it’s about to enjoy a helicopter lunch.

Yum! Yum! (Image from The Indian Express)

8. A fighter pilot mistaking a rooftop for a personal runway?

Now, we want to see this pilot freakin’ parallel park.

7. This is either the lightest tank to ever hit the battlefield or these are the strongest men in history.

We hope they used their legs — not their backs — to lift this sucker.

Also Read: 6 times Gunny Hartman was guilty of hazing

6. Some of the tiniest men to ever attempt a swim qualification.

All were basketball players before joining the service.

5. The three-footed soldier. Nothing makes you more confused than seeing a man squatting down, washing his third foot.

Imagine how long it would take to trim all those toenails. (Image from Weird Optics)

4. We need an ad blocker for this military pop-up.

Oh, wait! Those are real troops marching. We were way off! (Image from Pakistan Defense)

3. A low-flying plane? Or has this sucker already landed? You be the judge.

This pilot had to have known that there wasn’t a runway here. He’s not going to make it in Top Gun now.

Now Read: 14 images that hilariously portray your first day on a field op

2. Two conjoined, Siamese Blue Angels

We bet that separation surgery is going to cost a sh*tton. Just sayin’.

1. One hungry, giant soldier during his feeding time.

This guy can’t be vegan after this snack.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: President orders Pentagon to create space command

U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the establishment of a space command that will oversee the country’s military operations in space.

Trump signed the one-page memorandum on Dec. 18, 2018, directing the Department of Defense to create the new command to oversee and organize space operations, accelerate technical advances, and find more effective ways to defend U.S. assets in space, including satellites.


The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable, or even destroy satellites on which U.S. forces rely for navigation, communications, and surveillance.

The new command is separate from Trump’s goal to create an independent space force, but could be a step in that direction.

Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said: “A new era of American national security in space begins today.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)

Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military, Pence said, adding that it will “develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era.”

It will be the Pentagon’s 11th combatant command, along with well-known commands such as Central Command and Europe Command.

Space Command will pull about 600 staff from existing military space offices, and then add at least another 1,000 over the coming years, the Associated Press quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying.

Its funding will be included in the budget for fiscal year 2020.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Snowflake’ recruiting ads in the UK are working like a charm

When it comes to advances in recruiting campaign marketing, the United Kingdom has retaken the crown. The innovative style that was once the backbone of the British Empire’s recruiting posters (which was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Army) experienced a resurgence in the past year, appealing to the finer qualities of the younger generation’s digital habits. It raised a lot of eyebrows, but it worked.

Applications to join the British Army have nearly doubled since the campaign began.


Every generation has its chosen medium. Some veterans may have been persuaded by the call to “Be All That You Can Be” via television ads. Others might have been swayed to join the Navy after watching a little movie called Top Gun.

At least one salty Marine out there was swayed with the promise of a muscle car. Enjoy that lease, Corporal.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the British Army launched a recruiting campaign that recalled the “Lord Kitchener Wants You” ads of the First World War. The 1914 poster featured the Empire’s Secretary of State for War, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, in a Field Marshal’s uniform, pointing to the viewer, calling on them to join the British Army to fight the Central Powers on the Continent.

Or wherever they were needed.

The ad was so successful and iconic it was later adopted in the United States, featuring J.M. Flagg’s Uncle Sam calling on Americans to do the same. Other countries also adopted the idea. And just over a century later, it’s back – and the passage of time hasn’t diluted its power one bit.

The original Kitchener poster along with its American and scary German imitations.

According to the Telegraph, the British Army has been struggling with retention and dwindling numbers. More people are leaving the service than joining. It stands to reason the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is (probably) happy to report that the ads still pack a wallop. In a “resounding success” the first month, applications to join nearly doubled. In January 2019, applications rose to a five-year high, double from the same timeframe the previous year and almost twice from the previous month. The day the ads debuted, more people applied to join in a single day than any other day in the previous year. Hits to the Army’s website also doubled in January.

With monikers dubbing millennials and Gen-Zers “selfie addicts,” “binge gamers,” and “phone zombies,” the MoD called on the new generation of Britons to service. Surprisingly, the advertisements didn’t go straight to Instagram or Facebook, they went to billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising.

“The premise of the campaign is that this is the generation with the skills, the attitude, the drive to succeed; an army that’s not in the army yet,” Command Corporal Major, Warrant Officer Class One Steve Parker told the Telegraph. “People are the army, not in the army.”

The campaign uses these perceived weaknesses to highlight their useful, untapped potential in a series of video ads aired on television and on the internet that followed the release of the billboards.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This command post flew 24 hours a day for 29 years

We’ve all seen the movie where a well-funded group of terrorists makes a threat against the U.S. government then all hell breaks loose until one man or woman steps up and saves the day by defeating the bad guys. These films often make our defensive capabilities appear powerless versus these fictional villains.

Although these storylines are entertaining, our government’s ability to protect us goes well beyond some smart computer hacker, especially in the event of a nuclear war.

The nuclear war strategy of the U.S. relies upon its capacity to communicate with and control its nuclear forces under the most hazardous of conditions. For close to 30 years, this vital defense plan was laid in the hands of 11 different converted EC-135Cs code-named “Looking Glass.”


Operation Looking Glass was introduced by the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Command on Feb. 3, 1961. It was prepared to take over all operational control of nuclear forces if the ground-based command centers were destroyed or rendered unusable.

If that devastating nuclear event occurred, the general officer serving as the Airborne Emergency Action Officer (AEAO) aboard the “Looking Glass” would be required by law to assume the authority of the National Command Authority and directly command execution during a nuclear attack.

To avoid any potential enemy threat from jamming the unique aircraft’s signal, the specialized planes came equipped with high-frequency antennas located on the wings. Along with the AEAO, a crew consisting of approximately 15-20 airmen would man their solitary post for several hours a day.

Since its maiden flight in 1961, there has always been a “Looking Glass” plane flying somewhere above the United States in case of an emergency, 24-hours a day.

On June 1, 1992, Operation Looking Glass was grounded from service and replaced.

Check out the video below to witness just how special this flying beast was to national security.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 reasons not to get that Crusader tattoo

Wars are violent, brutal, and bloody. The Crusades were no exception, just one more in a long line of useless, stupid wars that people now romanticize for some reason.


The least romantic war is the Nagorno-Karabakh War, but only because none of you know where that is.

The lasting legacy of the Crusades is used to support international terrorism against the West, to explain the relationship between the Christian and Muslim worlds in poorly-researched history papers, and is used as a meme on the internet by people who are “proud to be an infidel.”

Trigger warning: If this is your jam, you probably aren’t going to like the rest of this list.

With the Crusades, there was no good guy or bad guy. The truth is that European power was on the rise at the end of the first millennium. Christendom was finally able to respond to the Islamic wars of expansion that rose from the founding and spread of Islam in the Middle East.

But even with all that money and power, the Christian kings of Europe were still stupid, inbred products of the Middle Ages. The Islamic powers in the Middle East were struggling against each other for regional dominance.

The two were bound to butt heads.

Muslim armies and Christian armies could be equally brutal. I mean it when I say there is no good guy or bad guy. Between one and three million people died in the Crusades – one percent of the world’s population at the time. It doesn’t matter who started it, after nine crusades (only the first and sixth being anything close to a “success”), these wars were ridiculously destructive, even for medieval combat.

Eventually, the Crusaders were expelled from the Holy Land. And when you really read the history, it makes you wonder how they were able to stay so long.

1. Crusaders weren’t the best strategists.

In 1187, the Islamic leader, Saladin, tricked the Crusader Armies into leaving their fortified position (and their water source) in what is, today, the deserts of Israel by attacking an out-of-the-way fortress near Tiberias. After a brief war council, the Crusaders decided to march on Saladin’s army.

In an open field.

After crossing a desert.

Did I mention they left their water source to walk nine miles in full armor?

They were so thirsty, their lines broke as the knights made for the nearby springs. That’s where Saladin slaughtered them. He began his campaign to recapture Jerusalem the next day, which he did, three months later.

That’s why water discipline is important.

Arguably the greatest victory for the Crusaders came at Ascalon, after the fall of Jerusalem in 1099. The Crusaders caught the Muslims by surprise, but were still outflanked by an Egyptian army that was actually ready to fight. Luckily, the Crusaders had heavy cavalry the Muslims did not.

But due to petty bickering, they never captured Ascalon.

2. They murdered a lot of Jews.

By 20th century standards, murdering six million Jewish people makes you history’s greatest monster, and rightfully so. To this day, no one can seriously name their child “Adolf” without subjecting it to a lifetime of sideways glances.

Unless he’s a Kardashian, probably. I dare you, Kim.

But back at the turn of the millennium, no one seemed that concerned. Even though Jewish families both funded and supplied the Crusaders, they were still overly taxed and massacred by the thousands.

During the First Crusade, God supposedly sent German knights an “enchanted goose” to follow. That goose had a totally different agenda. It led them to a Jewish neighborhood, which the knights immediately slaughtered. There were anti-Jewish massacres at cities like Worms, Mainz, Metz, Prague, Ratisbon, and others. Confused about why these are still European cities? Me too. The Crusaders hadn’t even left Europe before they decided to murder Jews.

I have no idea why every failed state tries to kickstart a recovery by killing Jewish people.

The Crusaders eradicated roughly one-third of Europe’s Jewish population.

3. They also killed a lot of Christians.

The First Crusaders also killed Christians in Byzantium, Zara, Belgrade, and Nis. More than that, they actually had a Crusade against a vegetarian, pacifist sect of Christians in France, called Cathars.

The Crusade against the Cathars amounted to a genocide. The fun doesn’t stop there. During the Fourth Crusade, Crusaders hitched a ride to Palestine on Venetian ships but ended up not being able to pay Venice for the sealift. Instead of paying them, the Venetians used the Crusader armies to sack Zadar, a city in modern Croatia. They sacked the city and its Christian population fled to the countryside.

Then, they practically broke the seat of power held by Orthodox Christians in the Byzantine Empire, which brings me to…

4. Christianity lost a lot of power because of Crusaders.

When the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Christian Byzantine Empire, the empire never recovered. By 1453, Ottoman Muslim armies were banging away at the walls and gates of the city.

Literally.

Crusaders toppled the Byzantine Emperor Alexius III and when his brother tried to submit to the Pope, he was killed in a coup. It caused the Crusaders to declare war and sack the city — during Easter — murdering a lot of Christian inhabitants and destroying much of the fabled city. Which might have been Venice’s 95-year-old, blind leader’s plan the whole time.

The blind literally leading the blind.

When the Muslim Ottoman Turks took Constantinople, the last Christian empire in the Middle East was gone. Good job, Crusaders.

Muslim armies offered to give control of Jerusalem back to the Crusaders during the Fifth Crusade in exchange for the city of Damietta in Egypt. But the Crusaders refused, so the Muslims took both cities.

5. They lost a lot of important relics.

Legend says that when the Fatimid Caliph wanted to destroy Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Christians hid the True Cross that held his body. The Crusaders, geniuses they were, carried it into battle.

And, of course, lost it to Saladin at the Battle of Hattin.

On top of that, Europeans, in general, were just obsessed with holy relics during the era. So, things like the buried remains of Catholic saints and items associated with those saints were stolen en masse, many never to be seen again.

6. A lot of them just gave up.

When Frederick Barbarossa died after marching his horse into a damn river (before he could even get to the Third Crusade), many of his knights committed suicide, believing God abandoned them. Others turned around and went home.

That’s not even the end of it.

When Mehmet II conquered Constantinople, Pope Pius II tried to buy him out instead of fighting him. In exchange for Mehmet converting to Christianity, the Pope offered to “appoint you the emperor of the Greeks and the Orient… All Christians will honor you and make you the arbiter of their quarrels… Many will submit to you voluntarily, appear before your judgment seat, and pay taxes to you. It will be given to you to quell tyrants, to support the good, and combat the wicked. And the Roman Church will not oppose you.”

Pius II also enjoyed writing romance novels. That’s not a joke.

7. They just weren’t that good at it.

The first Crusaders were led by two monks, Peter the Hermit (whose proof of leadership was a letter written by God and delivered by Jesus himself) and a guy called Walter the Penniless. The first thing they led the armies of Christendom against was, of course, Jews. And they were really good at that.

But these weren’t the knights and heavy infantry we’ve come to know. These were people inspired by the idea of taking up the cross — mostly conscripted, illiterate peasants. By the time they reached the Middle East, Peter already abandoned them and Turkish spies lured them out of their camp, into a valley, where the Turks just massacred them.

8. Crusaders literally ate babies.

Not only were they bad at strategy, Crusaders (like most armies of the time, to be honest) were also bad at logistics — you know, the getting of stuff to the fight. Stuff like food.

A contingent of French knights pillaged, raped, murdered, and tortured people across the Byzantine lands, a decidedly Christian empire. In the countryside near Nicea, they turned to eating the peasants as well, reportedly roasting babies on spikes. When German knights found out, they started doing the same thing.

But they did the same thing to the Muslims, too. After capturing Maara in 1098, they discovered the city they just laid siege to for a few weeks had no food. Big surprise.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran arrests editor, journalist over cartoon mocking Khamenei

The editor in chief and a social-media administrator of Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency were detained last week over a cartoon deemed insulting to the country’s leadership.

The cartoon, which appeared to mock Iran’s highest authority, was reportedly removed from ILNA’s Telegram channel shortly after being posted.

ILNA’s editor in chief, Masud Heydari, has been released on bail but the news agency’s Telegram administrator Hamid Haghjoo remains in detention. It is not clear if the two have been charged.


Tehran’s Prosecutor Ali Alghasi Mehr said on April 27 that an investigation has been launched into the affair.

“Immediately after the publishing of the insulting image, it was ordered to be removed from the channel,” Alghasi Mehr was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

“The [person in charge] of ILNA and the administrator of the Telegram channel were both arrested on the evening of [April 23],” he added.

ILNA has denied any affiliation with the “disrespectful” cartoon while accusing its opponents of having faked the news agency’s logo and falsely accused it of publishing the cartoon.

gdb.rferl.org

The cartoon mocks those promoting fake treatments to ward off the coronavirus, including drinking camel urine and inserting violet oil in the anus, under the guise of Islamic medicine.

It appeared to suggest that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is supportive of such measures, depicting him as a nurse who is calling for silence.

Hard Hit By Coronavirus

Iran has been one of the hardest hit countries in the Middle East by the coronavirus pandemic. It has officially recorded more than 91,000 confirmed cases and just over 5,800 deaths, though critics believe those numbers may be far higher given the lack of transparency and media freedom in the country.

A man who had posted online a video of himself drinking a glass of camel urine was detained last week after the video went viral and many Iranians mocked him on social media.

The New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Iranian authorities should immediately drop their investigations into Heydari and Haghjoo and let them work freely.

“At a time when prisons are petri dishes for the COVID-19 virus, Iranian authorities should cease locking up journalists for trivial offenses like allegedly sharing a cartoon,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in an April 27 statement.

“Hamid Haghjoo should be released immediately, and authorities should drop any investigation into him, Masud Heydari, and all other journalists at the Iranian Labor News Agency [ILNA],” he added.

Criticism of Khamenei is a red line in the Islamic republic where the Iranian leader has the last say in all state matters.

Iranian leaders have called on citizens to follow health protocols and social-distancing measures aimed at containing the deadly outbreak that has killed over 5,800 and infected more than 91,000 Iranians, according to official figures. Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

Iran ranks 170th on Reporters Without Borders 2020 Press Freedom Index.

A number of journalists and cartoonists have been arrested in past years and charged with security crimes that are often brought against intellectuals and dissidents.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army to kill marksmanship shortcut that made soldiers less deadly

The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.

Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.

The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.


The stricter qualification standards will also do away with the practice of using the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, to satisfy the annual qualification requirement, Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, told Military.com.

Alt. C is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters. At that short range, however, the trajectory of the 5.56mm bullet is extremely flat and unaffected by wind, making it easier to score hits, experts say.

Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training at Fort Benning.

“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Rowland said. “That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case.”

Army training officials at Benning have been spent the last two years validating the training strategy and course of fire for a new marksmanship qualification standard that is designed to better prepare soldiers for the current operational environment, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.

“We have visited various units across the Army, and we have tested and validated parts of it as needed,” Venable said.

Soldiers who have shot the new course “are doing very well at it,” Venable said.

“They appreciate the training that the training strategy provides, and they enjoy the course of fire because it’s more realistic,” she said.

The new qualification course is designed to use the current marksmanship ranges across the Army.

“It’s still 40 targets; it’s still 40 bullets,” Rowland said. “It’s the same targets that people have been shooting at for years.”

But the new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning.

The next milestone in the effort will come when Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, signs the new manual that will guide the marksmanship effort so it can be published and sent out to the active force, National Guard and Reserve, Venable said.

Once that happens, leaders throughout the Army will have time to provide feedback on any challenges they might face in putting the new qualification strategy into action.

“Units have 12 months from the time of publication to provide the Infantry School and the MCOE with feedback on their issues with implementation of the training strategy or the course of fire,” Venable said, adding the many of the ranges across the Army are likely to require some updating.

“At this time, we are not there with a hardcore implementation date. … We don’t know all the second- and third-order effects that the changes are going to produce.”

But one of the clearest differences of the new qualification standards is that Alt. C is no longer a valid qualification, Rowland.

“That is going to be a huge change for the Army,” he said.

Army units can still use Alt. C to extend their annual qualification rating by six months if a deployment or high operational tempo prevents them from going to a range and qualifying with the new course of fire, Venable said.

“In areas where they don’t have range access — let’s just say they are downrange and they are 250 miles to a primary range — units can use Alt. C because they can’t get a range. However, they have to have a general officer approve the use of Alt. C,” Venable said. “They still have to come back and shoot the [new] course of fire to qualify.”

Using Alt. C extends a soldier’s current rating of marksman, sharpshooter or expert, but it cannot change it, Rowland said.

“If you are marksman and you conduct a validation event [with Alt. C] and you get a perfect score — you are still a marksman; you are not expert,” Rowland said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the West’s new plan to counter Chinese influence

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.

Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.


China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiu00a0with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.

Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.

After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)

People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)

More recently, Australian media reported that the governments of China and Vanuatu had discussed establishing a Chinese military presence in the latter country, an island nation northeast of Australia.

While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)

At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”

The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.

This effort has been called “debt-trap diplomacy.” US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has described it as “weaponizing capital.” IMF chief Christine Legarde has cautionedChina and countries doing business with it about the potential for mounting debts.

US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)

Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.

That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.

The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.

Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.

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