This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.

In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.

“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”


Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.

“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”

While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.

Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.

“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.

It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.

“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”

Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.

“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”

Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”

After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”

Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.

On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.

Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.

At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.

“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.

“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “

In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.

“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”

Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.

Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”

According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.

“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”

At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.

Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.

“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.

“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in
Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Green Beret wants to help you find your personal A-Team

In Army Special Forces parlance, an A-Team is not a fictional squad featuring Mr. T – it’s a real thing. An Operation Detachment-A Team is made of 12 operators, each with a different specialty (but is of course cross-trained to another), to form the core team that makes up the Green Berets.

Greg Stube, a former Green Beret, believes anyone is capable of operating at the Green Berets’ level. His new book shows you how to build an A-Team in your own life to achieve your goals.


Stube enlisted in the Army infantry in 1988. Just four years later, he was reclassing as a Special Force Medical Sergeant. As a Green Beret, his training went much, much further. He learned surgery, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. He also went to dive school and SERE school, and became a master parachutist. Like every Green Beret, he became fluent in a foreign language – his language was Russian.

He was ready to conquer anything. He would have to be in the coming years.

Listen to our interview with Greg Stube on the Mandatory Fun podcast:

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify


His career spanned 23 years and included the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the start of the Global War on Terror. During Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006, Stube and his Green Beret team were outnumbered in the Battle of Sperwan Ghar – a week-long battle against the Taliban. Stube took a hit from a powerful IED, was shot numerous times, and was even on fire. He suffered wounds to his lower body and even nearly lost a leg. But after 17 surgeries in 18 months, Greg Stube miraculously recovered.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

In that time, he learned that applying the way Green Berets are taught to accomplish a mission by any means necessary to his personal life he really could overcome any obstacle and any situation. His new book, Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team, is a leadership book designed to help anyone use that mentality to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Stube’s newest mission is to share what he’s learned and to help make other people’s life a little better through his experiences.

“This is my attempt, from my life and career, to sum up the things I’ve done and witnessed in peace, conflict, and healing,” Stube says. “I just want people to know it’s not reserved for the military or a special forces team. Everything we learn and refine in those desperate situations can be used without all the pressure – without the life and death risk.”

Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team is available on Amazon and will soon be available as an audiobook download on Audible, read by the author himself.

Resources Mentioned

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MIGHTY SPORTS

A Super Bowl ad honors first responders with true rescue stories

There are at least 11 NFL players that would be dead now had it not been for the lifesavers that came to their rescue. An ad set to air during Super Bowl LIII pays tribute to them and the many, many like them who risk their lives to save others.


“The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here” is comprised of 11 players and a coach who share their rescue stories as they came close to death in natural disasters, car accidents, and more. One iteration of the campaign aired during the NFC and AFC Championship games, but an all-new one is set to air during the big game.

included in the campaign is a microsite, AllOurThanks.com, that houses a dozen stories, told by the NFL players who were rescued, as they offer their thanks to the first responded who saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The stories were directed by Peter Berg, the Emmy-nominated director of Friday Night Lights and 2013’s Lone Survivor.

“The idea of acknowledging first responders is something I believe in,” Berg told USA Today. “It’s something that I don’t think ever gets old.”

Raiders Quarterback A.J. McCarron would be dead now after a jetski accident as a child. The Packers’ Clay Matthews wouldn’t be here because of a bicycle accident. For the Texans’ Carlos Watkins, it was a car accident. The videos also feature the players family and other loved ones – as well as some of the first responders who actually rescued these players.

The website, launched by Verizon, allows anyone to give thanks to a first responder by uploading a photo along with your first name and last initial. The beautiful, heartfelt thank-yous play on a rotating ticker at the bottom of the page as the ad reads “First responders answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 things the movies get wrong about war

The first war film ever, D.W. Griffith’s silent picture, “The Fugitive” was made over a century ago. The intensity and drama of war films caught on quickly, and the best ones have been huge hits at the box office. As thrilling as they are, even movies portrayed as historically accurate rarely get the details of war just right. We can’t blame them entirely; war movies would be a lot less thrilling and suspenseful if they skipped all the theatrics. Here’s the scoop about what movie directors get wrong, and what war is really like.

The sound effects

In the movies, battles start with the sound of gunfire, before bullets come flying past. That’s not a thing. Rifles are actually supersonic, so the bullets arrive before the sound does. Soldiers do hear a whistling sound as the bullets pass by, but the actual sound of the gun firing arrives after the fact.

The actual sounds are pretty far off, too. The sound of mortars firing is something like the sound of a tennis ball launcher in most war films, but it’s infinitely louder in real life. The blast is so powerful it can be felt, shaking the ground and causing intense vibrations. That’s one reason veterans are prone to tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. It’s THAT loud.

The uniforms 

Some movies do a better job of this than others, but more often than not, a detail or two of the dress code is missed. Military dress uniforms are incredibly precise, so anyone other than a veteran would be hard-pressed to get every nuance right. Untucked lapels on a Marine service alpha uniform is a small one, but some movies dress actors in the wrong uniforms entirely. Come on, directors. You can do better.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

media.defense.gov

How crowded battlefields are

Ever seen a movie with soldiers all in one place, hashing it out in close combat? That’s rarely how it works. No one arranges a battle on a conveniently located open field where everyone meets up to shoot each other, with helicopters and planes joining in at random. In a real war, dispersing troops is critical. Distance is kept between military personnel to prevent the enemy from wiping out a massive chunk of your forces all at once.

How aerial attacks work

Most movies make it seem like planes swoop down nearly to the ground before attacking. It’s dramatic for sure, but it’s not realistic. Low-level flying is only used in specific scenarios. For the most part, planes fly as high as possible to maximize safety and ensure adequate maneuverability. More space, more chances to get out of there if necessary. Low-level flying does happen, but generally, pilots try to drop to low altitudes as briefly as possible.

Camouflage

While movie soldiers do wear camo, they rarely use it well. When used correctly, camouflage can make soldiers and even vehicles seemingly vanish. The movies just skip that part because it’s a lot less fun to watch a battlefield with nothing but sand and a few tumbleweeds on it.

Confusion

In movies, the characters always know what’s going on. The details of the battle are clear. The enemy starts shooting, and the hero instantly knows where the gunfire is coming from, how large the enemy forces are, and how to retaliate. In a real battle, it’s much more confusing. No one is familiar with the area, so someone is studying a map while someone else is trying to figure out what’s happening and what to do next. It’s confusing! Radios aren’t usually as clear as they are in the movies, either. It might take four tries to hear the order coming in.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

How much shooting actually occurs

A shot rings out in the night. There’s a moment of stillness, and then utter chaos breaks loose. Shots fly everywhere. It’s a gunfire free for all. There’s a cut and dry good side and a bad side, and they shoot at each other with abandon until one (usually the good side) reigns victorious.

Real battles are much more calculated. There’s rarely indiscriminate shooting. Most soldiers never fire their weapons, and if they do it’s usually under the direction of a senior ranking officer. Everyone’s heard the phrase “all is fair in love and war”, but that’s not quite the case. War has rules. You can’t just shoot whomever you want.

Endless ammo

Ammo doesn’t last forever, so automatic fire doesn’t happen nearly as often as the movies would lead you to believe. Military rifles are more than capable of the task, but automatic fire is rarely used in real battles. That would be both expensive and unnecessary.

How bad it really gets

Movies hype up the drama but tone down the horror. They do show some blood, injuries and casualties, but they keep the gore in check to avoid completely scarring the audience. People go to the movies to be entertained, not legitimately traumatized. Real war can be much more horrific. The gore, suffering, and emotional trauma exceeds what the movie industry dares to sell.

The darkly peaceful aftermath

It’s a classic scene. The battle is over. The field is quiet and still, and dead men lie silently amongst weapons and shredded, muddied flags. That would be a more peaceful end than what really happens. The chaos isn’t over after the battle is won. The wounded are in severe pain as medics rush to treat them. Soldiers scramble to collect weapons and usable ammunition. The scattered flags? Not a thing. The victorious would never leave their own flags behind, and enemy flags are often kept as trophies.

That said, while the reality of war is pretty dark, let’s remember that many members of our armed forces never fight in combat, never fire their weapon and return home safely. To end on a lighter, helpful note, here’s a quick pro-tip: You know all those overpriced phone cases that claim to offer “military-grade protection?” Much like the glamourous battle scenes from Hollywood, it’s not real. There’s no official military-grade certification. It’s just a well-disguised excuse to jack up the price. But you won’t fall for it, because you know the real story.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This advanced camo netting could change warfare forever

Whenever the military takes in a new technology, the troops find ways to train and fight with it. If it’s an effective piece of tech, the military will change its entire war-fighting strategy to fully incorporate it.

Sure, it might seem like stating the obvious to say that a new type or version of a vehicle calls for a change in strategy, but even something as small as an updated camo netting can drastically alter the way leaders approach the battlefield.


This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

It’s see-through from the inside while being virtually invisible from the outside. Sound like something that might come in handy for troops?

(Fibrotex USA, Inc.)

It’s called the Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (or ULCANS) and, according to the manufacturer, Fibrotex USA, Inc., it will act as concealment from ultraviolet, near-infrared, short-wave infrared, thermal, and radar detection while providing a near-perfect visual match to most environments.

With a container that is small by size, compact and very light-weight, the new kit “Sophia” holds within the next generation of 2D, Reversible, ultralight, multispectral, multipurpose net.

Provided with more than 30 running meters of our new “crushed” 2D reversible ultralight net and built-in cutting system, our operators will be able to decide for the first time in the field what size shape of system they need.The United States Army awarded Fibrotex USA, Inc. a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at 0 million in 2018. Results so far, have been fantastic.

The product is as good as advertised.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

As awesome as that looks, I can almost assure you that some private is going to mess up the application when they get stuck on a working party to do so.

(Fibrotex USA, Inc.)

The implementations of this netting are limitless. Nearly every unit in the Army could use this technology in one variation or another. The single netting could be made into a shelter-half for snipers and forward observers. Larger netting could be used to conceal vehicles or Tactical Operation Centers.

The netting also comes in a Mobile Camouflage Solution, or MCS, variant that can be applied to the surface of vehicles and remain on them while they’re in motion. This sort of technology offers an unprecedented amount of protection for retrans vehicles that would otherwise need to remain motionless and obvious on tops of mountains.

With the looming possibility of war with a near-peer nation that’s reliant on sophisticated detection technologies, this netting could realistically be used by every soldier in one way or another.

To see Fibrotex’s ULCANS in action, check out the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The real reason top mobsters didn’t fight World War II

The United States began registering men for the draft well before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (it’s like they knew something was coming on the horizon). After all, you don’t want to go to the mattresses without the men and material necessary to win a war. The U.S. needed men and guns, but somehow, the heads of New York’s Five Families managed to avoid it.


While there were a lot of men associated with the mafia who fought in World War II, the guys at the top (many of which who were still the prime age for selective service) did not. It wasn’t about their connections; they had a legitimate reason to stay stateside.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Maybe the draft letters got lost in the mail. I dunno. Probably.

It has nothing to do with patriotism. If you consider the idea of pure capitalism, no one could possibly be more pro-America than the wiseguys who played the system to their advantage. Besides, the mafia was no fan of Mussolini. In Italy, the dictator was going to war with mafioso families in Sicily, men he considered a direct threat to his regime.

Back in the United States, members of New York’s crime families did join the military to fight in the looming World War. Matty “The Horse” Ianniello, who would one day be the acting boss of the Genovese family, served in the Army. The Genovese’s George Barone was one of the family’s most feared hitmen, but before that, he was in the Navy fighting on Guam, Saipan, Leyte, Luzon, and Iwo Jima. The Bonnano family’s “Johnny Green” Faraci landed at Normandy on D-Day.

But their bosses were absent.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

“In this suit? Fuggedaboudit.”

But there was a reason, and that reason didn’t include intimidating selective service officials or beating the unholy crap out of draft boards. Some of the wiseguys at the top of New York’s five families were still (mostly) of draft age. Though many of the fathers at the top were just a hair older, even Bonanno family father, Joe Bonanno, was eligible for the draft. But these guys weren’t just running numbers, prostitution, and carjacking rings; they also ran legitimate businesses. Basically, they still needed a legitimate income, they just had the best marketing and growth plans every business owner dreams about.

In his autobiography, Joseph Bonanno talked about what happened to the mafia during the war, albeit very briefly. He mentioned for his part, he managed to avoid being drafted because one of his legitimate businesses was a large dairy operation in upstate New York – which was considered an industry vital to the war effort, and thus kept his name off the draft rolls.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

“Whatsa matter? You don’t like farming?”

Mafiosos famously controlled labor unions across the United States and, as a result, were considered essential members of key war production industries, including concrete construction, harbors, and the Teamsters unions. What would become the Genovese family got its start laundering money through extensive fishing operations. This became an especially powerful way to avoid the draft in the 1970s, where the Mafia reached the peak of its power in the United States.

This work was known as a “reserved occupation” and included dock workers, farmers, scientists, railway workers, and utility workers. Joseph Bonanno was just your average crime family father, and a simple dairy farmer.

popular

The actual process of naming military vehicles isn’t what most people think

Recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got a tank named after him. The actor/wrestler/producer took joy in being given the honors and posted the image onto his social media. Because you can’t go two days on the internet without some sort of backlash from people with nothing better to do than argue over some mundane thing that has absolutely no bearing on their life… people argued.

On one side, some people are upset that he felt honored for it because, you know, that has to mean he is advocating war or whatever. Counter-arguers are also quick to jump at the chance to point out that it is a high honor for such a beloved figure because he’s always been a friend and supporter to the military and veteran community.

In reality, the process of naming tanks, artillery guns, and rocket launcher systems isn’t as grandiose as the people arguing are making it out to be.


This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee
Naming your HIMARS doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. But it doesn’t hurt to at least enjoy your time cramped in with your crew. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Christopher A. Hernandez)

When it’s time for a crew to take command of a new vehicle, they need to give it a name.

With some exception, you name it entirely for the purpose of easily identifying it. When you’re walking through the motor pool, reading the name stenciled on the gun or rocket pod is going to be a lot easier to read from a distance than its serial number.

Unlike with Humvees or other troop carrying vehicles often forgotten until it’s time to use them, artillerymen and tankers take pride in what is theirs. The name has to be something that the crew could proudly sit in for hours until the FDC finally gets around to approving a fire mission.

The name itself is generally something that invokes strength, humor, or holds sentimental value to one member of the crew – like a loved one. The command staff usually doesn’t bother as long as it isn’t (too) profane and it typically follows the guideline of the first letter being the same as your company/battery/squadron for uniformity.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee
I keep using “typically” and “usually” because there are plenty of exceptions. The name, the naming convention, and even the ability to name it are ultimately up to the chain of command’s discretion. (United States Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Corey Dabney)

So an MLRS in Alpha Battery could be named “Alexander the Great” or “Ass Blaster.” Bravo Battery gets something along the lines of “Betty White” or “Boomstick.” Charlie gets names along the lines of “Come Get Some” or “Cat Scratch Fever.” And so on.

As for the tank named “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” well, just happens to be in a Delta Squadron, the crew were probably fans of his work, and his name invokes strength. I can attest, entirely anecdotally of course, that Dwayne Johnson isn’t that uncommon of a name within Delta Batteries/Squadrons.

The crew comes up with the name, submits it to the chain of command, and if it gets approved, they spray paint the name prominently on the gun. If the commander wants it to be all people’s names, then they’re all people’s names. If they give the troops free rein, then that’s their prerogative.

It should also be noted that some commanders may forgo the entire process of naming their vehicles and guns altogether. It is what it is, but some tankers and artillerymen may see it as bad luck to not give their baby a name and troops can be particularly superstitious. That, or they may just be saying it so they can spray-paint “Ass Blaster” on their tank’s gun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

The three Russian journalists who were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) had arrived in the war-torn country to investigate the reported presence there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary force whose units are said to have fought in Ukraine and Syria.

Colleagues of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko say the trio were making a documentary about the private Russian military company Vagner, which French and Russian media reports had previously reported to be operating in the CAR.

CAR officials say the journalists were ambushed and killed by unidentified assailants.


The Russian government has never officially confirmed the presence of Vagner employees in the African country and denies that the firm’s contractors act on Moscow’s orders. The private military firm is reportedly controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Prigozhin has previously denied that he is linked to the company.

Here are five things you need to know about Russian military contractors working in the CAR.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Anti-Balaka militia in Gbaguili.

1. Why are Russian contractors there?

The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been subjected to a UN Security Council arms embargo since 2013, when an armed, mainly Muslim coalition known as Seleka seized power. Christian armed formations fought back, and the violence saw thousands killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

In 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president of the CAR, but much of the country remains controlled by various armed formations, primarily ex-Seleka fighters and the Christian alliance known as Anti-balaka. The UN established a peacekeeping mission in the CAR in 2014.

In December 2017, Russia secured an exemption to the Security Council arms embargo, allowing Moscow to deliver arms and training for what a UN panel of experts describes as part of a multinational effort — including the European Union Military Training Mission — to boost the capabilities of the CAR’s military and security forces.

“Our only request was that the Russian delegation submit additional information on the serial numbers of the weapons…so that we can track weapons going into CAR,” AFP cited an unidentified U.S. official as saying at the time.

2. How many are there, and what are they doing?

In December 2017, Russia notified the Security Council committee overseeing the CAR arms embargo of the involvement of 175 Russian “instructors” in a training mission, according to a report by a UN panel of experts issued in July 2018. Of those personnel, 170 were identified as civilian instructors, while the remaining five were from the Russian military, the report says.

According to the panel, Russian instructors have been involved in a range of tasks, including: escorting convoys of building materials for hospitals; providing security for hospitals donated by Russia; and training police officers as a requirement for equipping them with Russian weapons.

The panel also said that a Russian national had been appointed as a national security adviser to Touadera and that the Russian is “engaging with armed groups” to discuss issues including “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, national reconciliation,” and the sharing of revenue derived from the exploitation of natural resources.

In June 2018, two government soldiers and one Russian instructor were wounded in an attack by militia fighters while traveling to the south of the country, the panel said.

3. Why is Vagner said to be operating in the CAR?

Several media reports over the past year have indicated that Vagner contractors may be working in the CAR. In March 2018, a reporter for the Russian news site Znak.com visited a facility reportedly operated by Vagner outside the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. The reporter cited a military veteran who lives in the town where the facility is located as saying that Vagner mercenaries were set to be sent “to Africa” for a “training” mission.

Two weeks later, the Russian Foreign Ministry publicly discussed the 175 Russian “instructors,” saying they had been sent to the CAR in “late January-early February,” but without indicating whether the civilian personnel were employees of Vagner or another military contractor.

The Russian investigative journalism news site The Bell in June 2018 cited an unidentified source as saying that Vagner employees were training CAR forces. And in July 2018, Yevgeny Shabayev, a leader of a Cossack organization who says he visited Vagner fighters injured in a deadly February 2018 clash with U.S. forces in Syria, published a letter stating that private Russian military contractors have operated in the CAR and “an array of other African and Arab countries.”*

An editor at the Investigation Control Center, the outlet funded by billionaire Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky that financed the investigation conducted by the three journalists killed in the CAR, said on August 1, 2018 that the team had reached the facility where they believed Vagner operatives were stationed but were told they needed accreditation from the country’s Defense Ministry.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

The president of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera.

4. What is Russia’s interest?

Russia says it is seeking to restore peace in the CAR with the provision of arms and training to government forces.

“Russia’s assistance is carried out as part of the common efforts of the international community to strengthen the national security units of CAR,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said in a March 22, 2018 statement.

But Moscow has also made no secret of its economic interests in the country’s natural resources.

“Russia is exploring the possibilities of the mutually beneficial development of Central African natural resources,” Kozhin said. “The prospecting-mining exploration concessions began in 2018. We believe these projects will help stabilize the economic situation in CAR, promote the construction of the infrastructure, and serve as a basis for drawing additional investment to the country’s economy.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Touadera in the Russian city of Sochi in October 2017, with the ministry saying that the officials “reaffirmed their countries’ resolve” to bolster bilateral ties “and pointed to the considerable potential for partnership in mineral resources exploration” and energy.

Putin met Touadera in St. Petersburg in May 2018, with the Russian leader saying that Moscow “will be happy to consider various plans to boost our relations, first of all in the economic and humanitarian fields.”

5. What impact is Russian presence having?

While Russia touts its weapons shipments and training efforts in the CAR as an effort to stabilize the country, the report by the UN panel of experts released in July 2018 said that new weapons obtained by government forces have motivated rebel militias to boost their own stockpiles.

“The recent acquisition of weaponry by the Government has created an incentive for the active rearmament of ex-Selaka factions,” the report said.

The panel added that armed militia representatives had told them that “since the government had opted for the military option (training, rearming, and attacking) instead of the political process, armed groups needed to be prepared.”

The experts’ report noted a worsening of the security situation in Bangui and Bambari, citing “serious outbreaks of violence, including in areas where the situation had previously improved.”

*Correction: This article has been amended to clarify that Yevgeny Shabayev’s letter stated that private Russian military contractors, not necessarily Vagner, have operated in the Central African Republic.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 Hobbies that turns your MOS experience into money

Veterans that have made the transition into the civilian workforce can sometimes find themselves jaded by the repetitiveness of it all. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and repeat. There’s not too much variety in the daily routine.

The good news is that the experiences and skills gained through military service can be used in finding a new hobby — one that’ll break up the monotony. If you’re looking to pick up something new — and make a little cash doing it — use this list to kickstart your brainstorming.


Life changing moments metal detecting beach nuggets rings tips

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Metal detecting for lost jewelry

When I was in the Marine Corps, I deployed to Afghanistan and used a CMD nearly everyday on deployment. When my platoon was operating in a sketchy area, Marines would walk in my foot steps — literally. Using the discipline and techniques required for successful operations translates directly into treasure hunting.

The gear is a little expensive, but it’s a hobby that eventually pays for itself.

I Found 4 Apple Watches, 5 Phones and a GoPro Underwater in the River! (Scuba Diving)

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Scuba diving for treasure

People lose phones, watches, entire fishing poles, and a plethora of other things in rivers and man-made waterways. If you’ve earned your dive bubble, this is another way to monetize your training.

GoPro: Helicopter Skydive

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Becoming a skydiving instructor

How would your childhood self react if you went back in time and told him about your badass job, getting paid to jump out of planes with beautiful women onto idyllic beaches? Skydiving is not as expensive as most people think. Check out rates in your area for certifications if you don’t have any jumps yet. If you have earned your wings and aren’t using them, you’re missing out.

2018 NXL Las Vegas Open Paintball Highlight

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Paintball leagues 

You’ll commonly find paintball fields near military bases, and for good reason — it’s a stress reliever and it’s fun to use tactics honed in the infantry community. If you can assemble a disciplined team of warriors, you can stomp on pro teams and possibly walk away with some prize money.

World’s Highest Commercially Rafted Waterfall – Play On in New Zealand! in 4K! | DEVINSUPERTRAMP

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White-water rafting instructor

This hobby is more location specific, but if there are rapids nearby, you should consider getting involved with tourism. During the right season, you can get paid to go have fun.

It should go without saying that one should work their way up the tiers before attempting the most adrenalin pumping currents.

Top 10 Biggest eSports Competitions

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Competitive gaming

There are a few perks to barracks life, but chief among them is the time to level up your hand eye coordination to pro level. Combine the competitive nature of the military with the proximity to a bunch of worth adversaries and you’ve got yourself an environment for improvement. But civilians take gaming very seriously, too, to the point that pro gamers live off their earnings independent of a a real job.

Odds are you won’t win international competitions anytime soon, but many local competitions offer free consoles as prizes that you can resell online.

SK/CZ Barber Battle 2018

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Barber battles

The platoon barber is a Marine’s best friend — especially an hour before formation on a Monday after a weekend of non-stop drinking. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that the platoon barber can be paid in booze, ‘acquired’ gear, energy drinks, and, yes, cash.

However, the skills the platoon barber learned that lead him to become a kingpin can also earn him prize money and reputation.

SURVIVAL INSTRUCTOR – MY OTHER JOB!!! – ANDYISYODA

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Survival instructor

You can always teach civilians how to survive in the wilderness. Just don’t go full Naked and Afraid on them; you’ll lose the opportunity for repeat business.

Army Vet Reacts to Marine Fails | Mandatory Fun Ep. 1

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Make funny videos

If you’ve got a phone, you can make funny videos. Use caution when filming for safety and legal reasons. Don’t be that guy who dressed up a Taliban and drove through the main gate with expired decals to mess with the MPs because he thought he was funny.

That’s a true story, by the way — and you’re not going to find that video on the internet.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The smart anti-drone grenade and bazooka that will save us from Skynet

Ok, so modern unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t nearly as much a threat as Skynet and these weapon systems really wouldn’t do anything to the T-1000. However, today’s remote-controlled drones can prove to be major security risks as surveillance or even explosive delivery platforms—it’s this threat that the 40mm net grenade and SkyWall 100 bazooka are designed to combat.

On February 5, 2019, the U.S. Army acquired a patent for a 40mm grenade designed to snare and defeat UAVs. I can already hear you typing, “Why not just shoot them out of the sky with air-burst rounds or regular bullets?” Well, the first problem is escalation of force. Depending on the ROE, live fire may not be approved as a reaction to unmanned surveillance. There’s also the fact that bullets fired into the air that don’t connect with their target will eventually fall to earth and potentially strike an unintended target. Additionally, shooting down a drone creates the danger of an uncontrolled airborne object falling from the sky, most likely over friendly forces. This danger is amplified if the drone is carrying explosives.


Enter the 40mm net grenade. Based on the standard 40mm grenade platform used in weapon systems like the Mk19 and M320 grenade launchers, the 40mm net grenade provides troops with a non-lethal standoff countermeasure to combat drones. The basic components of the grenade are the net and proximity detector. The operator aims at the drone and fires the grenade. At six to nine yards from the target, the proximity detector detonates a small charge that propels the petals and weights from the grenade and casts the net. The net ensnares the drone and neutralizes it. The Army has reported that initial tests of the grenade have been promising since it is easily operated and it is extremely effective against multiple targets—that’s right, drone swarms.
This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

An illustration of how the net grenade works (U.S. Patent 10,197,365 B1 Figure 2)

What if the drone bigger than a standard commercial drone? Get a bigger gun. In this case, a bazooka. Built by OpenWorks Engineering, the SkyWall is a smart anti-drone shoulder-fired bazooka that assists its operator in targeting and neutralizing unmanned aerial threats. The operator identifies the target using the intelligent scope. The targeting system then calculates a firing solution based on the target’s distance, speed, and direction. Once an optimal aim is acquired, the weapon fires its round at the target. The net-carrying canister round is capable of engaging drones up to 100m away. The net round can also be equipped with a parachute which helps to bring the drone safely to the ground. This can help with identification and intelligence gathering once the aircraft is recovered. The weapon system is designed to be operated by just one person and claims a fast reload time for dealing with multiple targets. That said, it’s hard to beat the rate of fire of a Mk19.

While the net grenade is still in its testing and evaluation phase, the SkyWall has already been deployed operationally. The SkyWall Patrol model was implemented as a kinetic component of the GUARDION air defense system by German police at the Berlin Air Show. In an environment where an unregistered drone could cause serious damage to sensitive and expensive aircraft, keeping the skies safe is a serious business. The GUARDION system detects, tracks, and neutralizes drones in built-up and public spaces. This is made possible by SkyWall’s accurate and non-lethal characteristics.

The U.S. Army is also implementing SkyWall Patrol in its anti-drone system. At a demonstration in Italy, the Army provided an overview of the system, performed two engagements against a drone, and held a discussion on the recovery and exploitation of an unmanned system once it is captured. The demonstration was a major event with 55 multinational observers in attendance. Additionally, Sgt. Kiara Perez became the first female U.S. service member to operate the SkyWall Patrol during the demonstration. Sarah Conner would be proud. “The SkyWall Patrol system aligns with the U.S. Army’s modernization strategy, which focuses on making soldiers and units more lethal,” the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command said in a press release.

As technology evolves, so too does the battlefield. The implementation of new technologies in warfare also prompts further technological research and development in the pursuit of countermeasures. While this means increased capabilities for our troops, it also means more mission essential tasks to train on and more sensitive items to keep track off.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President George H.W. Bush’s service dog ‘enlists’ at Walter Reed

Sully, the celebrated yellow Labrador retriever that was the service dog of former President George H.W. Bush, has joined the ranks of working dogs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Inducted by way of a paw shake and through an oath of office given Feb. 27, 2019, by Walter Reed’s director, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja, Sully enlisted in the medical center’s facility dogs program, in which he will work with disabled inpatients and outpatients.


During his enlistment ceremony at the center’s USO building, Sully was cited as “a true patriot” and was enlisted as a Navy hospital corpsman, 2nd class.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Sully, President George H.W. Bush’s service dog.

Pinning on Sully’s devices were Evan Sisley, personal aide and senior medic to President Bush and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samantha Murdock, the leading petty officer for Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.

Tremendous impact

The 2-year-old Labrador was by Bush’s side for six months, and it was the Bush family’s wish that after the former president’s death, Sully would join the service-dog program at Walter Reed. He joins a unit of six other dogs in Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.

“We appreciate the time he had with the president. Sully made a tremendous impact — not only for the president — but his caregivers and the entire [Bush] family,” said John Miller, president and chief executive officer for America’s VetDogs, where Sully was trained to be a service dog.

George H.W. Bush’s Service Dog Sully Gets A New Job Helping Veterans | NBC Nightly News

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“Sully’s going to do a great job here at Walter Reed. He’s going to see a patient on average every hour,” leaving patients in more cheerful moods, he said.

“He’ll do a lot of things here, but mostly bring smiles to faces,” as a dog with the right demeanor, Miller added.

Patient visits

Sully and the other service dogs at Walter Reed typically visit patients on wards and in behavioral health, the brain fitness clinic, and occupational and physical therapy clinics.

The facility dogs at Walter Reed average 2,500 contacts with people and more than 200 working hours per month collectively, according to a Walter Reed press release. Many of the dog handlers are active-duty service members who are trained in a 6-week program. The dogs live with a custodian of the program.

Sully, like his six battle buddies, is trained in situational awareness, sitting politely for petting, accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd, how to react to distractions, entering elevators, how to react to another dog, and various commands.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 US weapons that have been declared illegal by enemies

The U.S. has a legitimate claim as one of the more honorable warfighting nations on Earth. Sure, we get involved in a lot more wars than some others, but we also follow lots of rules about how to fight them and have even pushed for greater regulation of war and prevention of conflict from the League of Nations to the U.N. and dozens of treaties besides. But, oddly enough, we still use a few weapons that other nations have banned, like these four:


This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions during a test.

(U.S. Air Force)

Cluster munitions

Cluster munitions are weapons with a lot more weapons inside of them, usually bombs, rockets, or artillery shells filled with bomblets. They’re super effective, allowing a single bomb drop to disperse hundreds of what are essentially grenades. Each one releases shrapnel and shreds light vehicles, aircraft, and personnel.

But many of those grenades fail to detonate when dropped, meaning that dozens or even hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordnance can be left behind. These have an unfortunate tendency to explode when civilians stumble across them, so most countries banned them by ratifying the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. America has not ratified that treaty and, in 2017, relaxed rules that limited the ability of the Department of Defense to buy cluster munitions.

But the military is trying to find new weapons that wouldn’t violate the treaty but would be effective.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

A Marine Corps gunnery sergeant shows how to load the M1014 shotgun.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz)

Shotguns

Yeah, it may sound crazy, but Germany tried to argue in World War I that shotguns were an illegal weapon. Don’t worry; you’re not a war criminal. Everyone else in the world agreed that Germany, who had rolled out chemical weapons during the same war, was full of crap.

But yes, America’s enemy Germany tried to get the shotgun banned on the basis that they were unnecessarily painful, but the U.S. used them to quickly clear German trenches. America had a suspicion that Germany was declaring them illegal because they were effective, not because they were cruel. So we just kept using them and won the war.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

U.S. Airman 1st Class Samuel Garr practices attacking an enemy with pepper spray in his eyes.

(U.S. Air Force Airman Nicole Sikorski)

Pepper spray and similar non-lethal gasses

Yeah, this one is actually illegal. Like, right now, it’s illegal to take pepper spray into combat and use it. America, of course, has plenty of pepper spray and other non-lethal weapons, but the military and police can only use it on their own citizens.

These weapons are illegal under Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Rifle fire is fine. Pepper spray is not. Yeah, it’s a weird rule.

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

U.S. Army Reserve engineers conduct mine clearance during training in 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sauret)

Landmines

Like cluster munitions, landmines are one of the weapons that were declared illegal for good reason (unlike shotguns and pepper spray because, I mean, come on). The Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 has 164 countries as members, over 80 percent of the world. But the U.S. is not a signatory.

But the U.S. does enforce its own limitations on mine use. While Claymore mines are used around the world, most of America’s mine stockpiles are restricted. America has actually banned the use of most mines everywhere except the Korean Peninsula, the place where the U.S. and its ally hold a 150-mile barrier against an angry communist regime with artillery and infantry positioned just 20 miles from Seoul, South Korea’s capital.

Weird that the U.S. wants to keep all of its options on the table for that fight. Weird.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the moment HIMARS strikes a massive weapons cache

Operation Resolute Support has released a video from September 9, 2018, when Afghan National Security Forces reported finding a massive weapons cache in Helmand Province, where security forces and Taliban fighters have been clashing as the government gains ground in the area.


The U.S. forces supporting the Afghans agreed to help “reduce” the stockpile, but they didn’t risk droves of explosive ordnance disposal specialists by sending them in to drag out all the explosives and destroy them one by one.

Nope, instead, they turned to rocket artillerymen, and had a high-mobility, artillery rocket system shoot at the cache. Then, they released the video with just the text:

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Sept. 9, 2018) – Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) conducted operations in Nad ‘Ali District and discovered a compound containing a large weapons and explosives cache. In support of ANDSF maneuver, Task Force Southwest conducted a strike on the compound with HIMARS to safely and completely eliminate the hazardous material from the battlespace, degrading the Taliban’s ability to conduct combat operations in central Helmand.
This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Soliders from Bravo Battery, 1-121st Field Artillery Regiment with the Wisconsin National Guard, fire M142 HIMARS Ripper rounds while training at Fort McCoy, WI.

(Fort McCoy Visual Information Branch Jamal Wilson)

The most common ordnance for HIMARS is either a pack of six unguided rockets or one guided missile. While the Department of Defense didn’t specify which munition was used, the guided missile makes more sense for the mission. It’s capable of high precision as long as it’s fed accurate GPS coordinates.

And, judging by the massive explosion in the video, the round found its mark. The shockwave radiates out for hundreds of meters, so the weapon cache must’ve been massive.

The Afghan National Security Forces have pressed hard against the Taliban in recent months, and some of their victories have been dramatic. In one case, government forces defended the Farah district center with their bare hands and blades after a siege went on so long that they ran out of ammo and other supplies.

But many Afghan citizens remain angry and worried about the performance of their security forces, especially the logisticians, intelligence officers, and other support forces crucial for modern combat. In Farah, they yelled at Afghan officials about the long and obvious Taliban buildup before the battle and asked why the government forces weren’t better supplied, reinforced, and prepared for the fight.

All of this comes amid new peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the U.S. The war turns 17-years-old today if you count it from the 9/11 attacks that precipitated the U.S. invasion. The youngest Afghan voters can’t remember a time without war between the U.S. and the Afghan national government and the Taliban and its allies.

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