Have you found yourself with extra time during the social distancing measures in place for the foreseeable future? Why not grab one or all of these great military books and learn some history, be inspired and connect with the military community. You won’t even need to leave the house.
8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor by Florent Groberg
If you don’t know the story of Florent Groberg you need to and now you have an opportunity through his new book. He grew up in France and became a naturalized citizen in 2001 and joined the Army in 2008. On his second tour to Afghanistan, his quick actions saved lives and led him to become a Medal of Honor Recipient.
The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a Seal Team Warrior by Robert O’Neil
An instant New York Times bestseller is a “jaw dropping, fast-paced account,” (New York Post) telling the biographical account of SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neil’s, including an incredible 400 mission career. Highlights of his career include the attempt to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell, and his pursuits culminate in the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist – Osama bin Laden. This book has been given rave reviews and was signed for a movie deal in 2019.
Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success by Deborah James
What does it take to become the Secretary of the Air Force? A lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and taking a risk to try something new. Those were key aspects to her success. She started her career in government then transferred to the private sector only to come back to government as the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force. She shares her story through a three-part strategy that guided her through her career sharing her experience through both personal and professional challenges.
Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis
Call Sign Chaos is a #1 New York Times Bestseller by everyone’s favorite general. Mattis is the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time. This book is an account of his career which included leadership roles in three wars, including commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. With a three-part approach focused on direct, executive and strategic leadership you will walk away learning how to be an effective leader.
Women of the Military by Amanda Huffman
Women of the Military is a compilation of 28 stories of women who have started their path to military life, are currently serving, separated or retired. It is the real-life stories of military women shared through an interview format that shows the challenges, the high points and how history was changed through each woman’s commitment to the U.S. military.
Sacred Spaces by Corie Weathers
What started as a trip for a military spouse to visit the troops overseas opened her eyes to what it meant to be a soldier and created a story to share. It not only allowed her to understand her husband’s deployments experience, but also allowed her husband to see the challenges military spouses face as he was left to help with the kids and manage the home front. Through this experience they learned from each other by walking in the other’s shoes and gaining an understanding.
A Knock at the Door by Ryan Manion, Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan
What happens when your family member or spouse dies overseas? A military service member knocks on the door and your whole life changes in an instant. Hear the real stories from three women who lost those closest to them. The book will put a story with the number of men and women we have lost at war. The hurt and pain, but also the courage to keep moving forward and make a positive impact in the world.
You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For by Kyle Carpenter
Kyle sacrificed himself when he jumped on a grenade in Helmand Province. And although he survived, he lost his right eye and had to battle for his life. He uses this book to share that life is worth everything we’ve got. Kyle shares what led him to the point in Helmand Province and how he came back from the gravest of challenges to live a joyful life full of purpose.
Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson
Written from a collection of stories collected from women who attended West Point, Claire captures the true challenges of attending, graduating and heading off to war as a military woman. This novel inspired by real events will open your eyes to a detailed, in-depth look of the life of being a woman at West Point and beyond.
Final Flight Final Fight by Erin Miller
Do you know about the Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP) that took up the call of a nation looking for women to fill billets home station so men could serve overseas during World War II? Hear their stories and what one family did after their matriarchal leader died and Arlington refused to bury her on their hallowed grounds.
These are just a handful of the great military books that are worth diving into. What is your favorite military themed book?
The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”
Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.
One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.
In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.
Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.
“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”
What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.
Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.
“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.
However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.
In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.
Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”
Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.
“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.
Service members are trusted to defend the nation, surely they can be trusted when boarding a plane.
This is the thinking of the Transportation Security Administration, which is pushing to ensure that service members and DOD civilians know they can use the TSA Precheck program.
“Service members are already enrolled in TSA Precheck, but many do not know they are,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a recent interview. Pekoske, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral, wants all those eligible to use this free program.
All service members of all components of the armed forces and students at the armed forces’ service academies are automatically enrolled in TSA Precheck. Their DOD ID numbers — a 10-digit number that should be on the back of your Common Access Card — serve as their Known Traveler Numbers.
Again, there is no cost for military members or civilians. For the general public that enrolls in the program, the cost is .
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes remarks during a Veterans Day ceremony at Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Arlington, Va., Nov. 10, 2014. The event highlighted TSA’s new initiatives which include efforts to hire more veterans and to make travel easier for service members and veterans.
“This is a real benefit for being a member of the armed forces, and it is good for us from a security perspective,” Petoske said.
To obtain their positions, service members and DOD civilians undergo background checks, and most have security clearances. They are trusted to carry weapons in defense of the United States or to safeguard America’s secrets. So the TSA decided that there was no need for them to take off their shoes and belts at a checkpoint to get on an aircraft.
“If you go on any airline website, when you are making flight reservations, there is a box for the KTN and that is where they put their DOD number in,” he said. “Once you put the number in — especially if you are a regular flier on that airline — every time you make a reservation, or a reservation is made by the DOD travel service for you, they will automatically pick up that number.”
“The effort makes sense from an agency perspective and it is also a way to say thanks to members of the military and the civilian members of DOD and the Department of Homeland Security who sacrifice so much,” the administrator said. “It’s a really good program and it provides a direct benefit to those who keep us free.”
It’s a bitter-sweet day when troops leave the service. It’s fantastic because one book closes and another opens. Yet saying goodbye to the gang you served with is hard. Vets always keep in contact with their guys, but it’s not the same when they’re half way around the country.
Instead, vets have to make new friends in the civilian world. Sure, we make friends with people who’ve never met a veteran before, but we will almost always spot another vet and spark some sort of friendship.
There’s also years of inside jokes that are service wide that civilians just wouldn’t get.
They can relate to our pain
No one leaves the service without having their body aged rapidly. Your “fresh out the dealership” body now has a few dings in it before heading to college.
Civilian classmates just don’t get how lucky they are to have pristine knees and lower back.
They side-eye weakness with us
Military service has taught us to depend on one another in a life or death situation. If you can’t lift something like a sandbag on your own, your weakness will endanger others. If you can’t run a minimum of two miles without tiring, your weakness will endanger others.
The people we meet in the civilian world never got that memo. Together, we’ll cull the herd the best way we know how as veterans — through ridicule. Something only other vets appreciate.
They can keep partying at our level
If there is one constant across all branches, it’s that we all know how to spend our weekends doing crazy, over-the-top things with little to no repercussion.
Civilians just can’t hang with us after we’ve downed a bottle of Jack and they’re sipping shots.
They share our “ride or die” mentality
Veterans don’t really care about pesky things like “norms” if one of our own gets slighted in any way. Some civilian starts talking trash at a bar? Vets are the first to thrown down. Some piece of garbage lays a hand on one of our own? Vets’ fists will be bloodier.
All jokes aside about scuffing up some tool, this doesn’t just lend itself as an outlet for unbridled rage. Back in the service, we all swore to watch each other’s backs on an emotional level too. Your vet friend will always answer the call at three AM if you just can’t sleep.
China is trying to transform its first aircraft carrier, currently a training vessel, into a combat ship ready to wage war, a senior officer has revealed.
Lu Qianqiang, the Liaoning’s executive officer, told state-run broadcaster CCTV that ship is currently being upgraded to serve in a combat role, making it more than just a training tool as China strives to become a world-class naval power with a modern carrier force, the Global Times reported.
The Liaoning, China’s only operational carrier, is a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that China purchased and refitted. It was officially commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012. Beijing is believed to be close to commissioning its first domestically produced carrier, and a third flat top is apparently in the works.
The first Chinese carrier was used to design the country’s second carrier — which resembles the Liaoning and is designated Type 001A, though it has no official name — and was expected to serve as a training vessel for carrier operations.
Liaoning during refurbishment in Dalian Shipyard
(Photo by CEphoto)
Now China wants to turn the Liaoning, which was technically declared “combat ready” in 2016, into a combat vessel.
Lu Qiangqiang, an executive officer aboard the Liaoning, told Chinese media that the PLAN had upgraded the arresting cables and arresting nets, improved the anti-jamming capabilities of the superstructure, enlarged the flight control tower, optimized the propulsion and power systems, and made changes to the flight deck.
“These changes will definitely help us make the best of the ship, improve our training protocols and boost our combat capability even further,” Lu explained. “The Liaoning is shifting from a training and test ship to a combat ship. I believe this process is going faster and faster, and we will achieve our goal very soon.”
This would be a big change for the Liaoning. Here is how the Chinese ship compares with US carriers.
The Liaoning, originally known as the Varyag, is about 1,000 feet long and displaces about 60,000 tons fully loaded. It is the sister ship of Russia’s disappointing Admiral Kuznetsov carrier.
The US Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers are over 1,000 feet long and displace roughly 100,000 tons.
The Liaoning is diesel-powered, and the diesel-fueled steam turbine power plants are inefficient and reduce the speed and service life of the carrier. Its top speed is believed to be somewhere between 20 knots and 30 knots. The range is apparently limited to a few thousand miles.
The US Navy’s aircraft carriers are powered by onboard nuclear reactors. These ships have speeds in excess of 30 knots and an unlimited range.
The USS Enterprise underway with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Liaoning uses ski jump-assisted short takeoff but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are harder on the aircraft and can only launch planes running at about 60,000 pounds. That means increased strain on the aircraft, reduced sorties, less fuel, reduced operational range, fewer armaments, and reduced combat capability.
US carriers use more effective steam or electromagnetic catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch systems designed to launch much heavier aircraft.
F/A-18 Hornets over the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
The Liaoning has an air wing consisting of 24 Sheyang J-15 fighter jets. There is the possibility that China may replace the fourth-generation J-15s with fifth-generation J-31s in the future.
The US Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers can carry a larger air wing consisting of as many as 55 fixed-wing aircraft. The primary fighter is the F/A-18, but the US is in the process of arming carriers with the new fifth-generation F-35Cs.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147, launches off the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lauren K. Jennings)
The Liaoning is armed with a 3D air/surface search radar over the main mast, four multifunctional active-phased array radar panels, a FL-3000 naval missile system, a Type 1030 close-in weapons system, and anti-submarine warfare rocket launchers.
US carriers have a number of advanced radar systems, RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Missiles, Phalanx close-in weapons systems, and Rolling Airframe Missiles.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln launches a Rolling Airframe Missile during combat system ship qualification trials.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Liaoning does not appear to have any special armor or protective covering, although it is difficult to know for sure.
US carriers have Kevlar covering vital spaces, like critical machinery and weapons-storage areas. In addition to extra armoring, US carriers are compartmentalized and have redundant systems to ensure they can take a hit.
The US Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean during a routine patrol.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ricardo R. Guzman)
“If you put the two side by side, obviously the US has huge advantages,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. But Chinese carriers are rapidly improving with each new ship.
Aircraft on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marines are about to face far-less predictable training that will challenge young leaders to outsmart sophisticated enemies with high-tech weapons and tools.
More force-on-force freestyle training will replace scripted scenarios in the years ahead, Lt. Gen. David Berger, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told Military.com.
“We need to teach Marine leaders how to think on their feet,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot more of that graduate- or varsity-level thinking leader, and I need them figuring out how they can outthink me.”
The move follows a new national defense strategy that warns of long-term threats from strategic competitors like Russia and China. To be ready, the Marine Corps “must move beyond ‘scripted’ live-fire maneuvers and incorporate more force-on-force training in a free-play environment,” Commandant Gen. Robert Neller wrote in a Sept. 26, 2018 white letter to senior leaders.
“To meet the challenges of a peer-to-peer fight, we must incorporate independent actions and opposing will in our training at all levels,” Neller wrote. “Just as iron sharpens iron, an aggressive [force-on-force] training regime will test the limits of our capabilities, refine our actions, and prepare us for the fight to come.”
Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, dart across a danger area to clear remaining compounds in their area of operation at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Sept. 30, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan)
Much of that will take shape at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California, Berger said, where units complete the Integrated-Training Exercises that prepare them for combat.
The live-fire maneuver training Marines have practiced for decades and the simulations that ramped up during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t go away. That training will just be balanced with peer-to-peer fights during which one group of Marines is tasked with playing the good guys and the others, the foe.
And there are benefits to being on either side of those mock fights, Berger said.
“We’ll get better, but the training will also be more dynamic,” he said. “We need to fight as the foe would fight, so think about how they would be organized, trained and equipped. We also must better understand how they would use rockets, drones, planes and more.”
Marine leaders are still working on guidance that will better shape the plans for force-on-force training. In the meantime, Neller said the entire service must develop the mindset and skills necessary to prevail in the coming fight.
“We must ruthlessly test ourselves, conduct honest after-action reviews, make refinements and test ourselves again,” he wrote.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Longtime readers of WATM know that the U.S. Navy had flying carriers in the 1930s that eventually failed as zeppelins began crashing and fighters increased in size and weight. But the Air Force wanted their own aircraft carriers in the 1970s, and they thought the new Boeing 747s were just the ticket.
The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept
So the Air Force figured, “What if we made jet fighters small enough to fit in the fuselage?”
The Air Force had already experimented with different methods of pairing bombers and fighters through the late 1940s to 1960s. But the only flying carrier was tested on the B-36 Convair. The Gremlin fighters that could fit in the bomber were too tiny and susceptible to turbulence, and pilots couldn’t make the linkups work.
A mock-up of how planes could fit inside the 747 on a conveyor belt along the plane’s spine.
So when the Air Force asked Boeing to take a look at an airborne-carrier variant of the 747, Boeing imagined its own tiny “microfighters.” Ten of these could be teamed with a single 747 equipped with a conveyor belt that could hold them in the plane and shift them to the open bays for launching.
The concept even called for a crew that could re-arm microfighters while the carrier was in flight. And the fighters could be refueled without fully re-entering the plane.
But the Air Force never pursued the idea beyond the 60-page proposal from Boeing, which might be best since a lot of important questions were left unanswered. Could the 747s really carry enough fuel to keep themselves and the microfighters going in a battle? Would the microfighters struggle with the same turbulence problems as the B-36s Gremlins?
What would be the combat radius for a microfighter after leaving its 747? Would it be large enough for the 747 to stay out of range of air defenses while remaining on station to pick up the fighters after the mission?
Boeing experimented with different microfighter designs, but none of them ever went into a prototype phase.
Most importantly, Boeing believed that microfighters could go toe-to-toe with many full-sized fighters at the time, but was there any real chance that Boeing could keep iterating new microfighters that could out-fly and fight full-sized fighters from Russia as the years ticked by?
It seems like it would’ve been a big lift for the aircraft designers and military planners to make the whole program militarily useful.
A new concept that uses drones instead of piloted fighters has popped up multiple times in recent years, and it features a number of key improvements over the 1970s 747 concept. Most importantly, drones don’t have pilots that need to be recovered. So if they face a range shortfall, have to fight Russian fighters on disadvantaged terms, or need to be left behind to save the carrier crew, it’s no big deal.
It can be hard to take a precision shot on the ground. It can be even harder to do in the air. Helo-borne snipers are elite sharpshooters who have what it takes to do both.
“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” veteran US Army sniper First Sgt. Kevin Sipes previously told Business Insider. When you put a sniper in a helicopter, that list can get even longer.
“Shooting from an aircraft, it is very difficult,” US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a native Texan who oversees an advanced sniper training program focused on urban warfare, told BI.
“Getting into the aircraft is a big culture shock because there are more things to consider,” he added. “But, it’s just one of those things, you get used to it and learn to love it.”
A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, provides aerial sniper coverage during a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)
“Eyes in the sky”
Helo-borne snipers are called on to carry out a variety of missions. They serve as aerial sentinels for convoys and raid teams and provide aerial support for interdiction missions.
“As far as taking the shot, it is not often that we do that,” Bernius explained to BI. “Our primary mission is reconnaissance and surveillance, just being eyes in the sky for the battlefield commander.” But every aerial sniper is prepared to take the shot if necessary.
A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, tests his Opposing V sniper support system on a UH-1Y Huey aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) prior to a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of a ship, underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)
‘It can throw you off’
Helo-borne snipers typically operate at ranges within 200 meters, closer ranges than some ground-based sharpshooters, and they’re not, as Bernius put it, “shooting quarters off fence posts.” That doesn’t make hitting a target from a helicopter any less of a challenge.
Either sitting or kneeling, aerial snipers rest their weapon, a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) in the case of the Marines, on a prefabricated setup consisting of several straps the sniper can load into to reduce vibration. “We’re constantly fighting vibration,” Bernius said.
Like resting your gun on the hood of a big diesel truck while it’s running, the helicopter vibrates quite a bit, Bernius explained. “If you’re talking about a precision rifle, it’s substantial when you are looking through a small scope at a hundred meters. It can throw you off a few inches or even more.”
The vibration of the aircraft isn’t the only concern. Aerial snipers also have to take into consideration rotor wash (the downward pressure from the rotating blades impacting the bullet as it leaves the barrel), wind direction and speed, altitude, and distance to target, among other things.
Communication with the pilots, who often act as spotters for these elite troops, is critical. “Going in without communicating is almost like going in blind,” Bernius explained.
Before a sniper takes his shot, he loads into the rig to take any remaining slack out of the straps and dials in the shot, adjusting the scope for elevation and wind. Breathing out, he fires during a brief respiratory pause. If the sniper misses, he quickly follows with another round, which is one reason why the semi-automatic rifle is preferred to slower bolt-action rifles.
Helo-borne snipers can put precision fire down range regardless of whether or not the helicopter is in a stationary hover or moving. In cases where the aircraft is moving, the aerial snipers will sometimes use a lagging lead, counterintuitively placing the reticle behind the target, to get an accurate shot.
Scout Snipers – Aerial Sniper Training On Helicotper
The urban sniper training that Bernius oversees is an advanced course for school-trained snipers, Marine Corps sharpshooters who have gone through the preliminary basic sniper training at Camp Pendleton in California, Camp Geiger in North Carolina, or Quantico in Virginia.
In the advanced sniper program, Marine Corps snipers go through four weeks of ground-based sniper training before transitioning to the air. “It’s primarily 600-meters-in combat-style shooting from tripods, barricades, and improvised positions,” Bernius told BI.
“The first three days is laying down in the prone, and then after that, they will never shoot from the prone again,” he explained. “These guys get pretty good at putting themselves in awkward situations. They get very familiar with being uncomfortable,” which is something that helps when the sniper moves into a cramped helicopter.
Nonetheless, moving from the ground to a helicopter is tough, and a lot of snipers get humbled, Bernius said. Fighting the vibrations inside the helicopter is difficult. “Some guys can really fight through it and make it happen, and some guys really struggle and they just can’t get over it and can’t make accurate shots,” he explained.
In many cases, Bernius told BI, aerial snipers have to rely more heavily on instinct than the guys on the ground. That takes repetition. That takes practice.
But once a sniper has mastered these skills, they can use them not only in the air, which is the most challenging, but also in any other vehicle. The skills are transferable.
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius, a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Lufkin, Texas native, shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
‘I’m doing this for the love of my country’
Not everyone can be a Marine Corps sniper, and each person has their own motivations for serving. “I grew up in a small town in East Texas hunting, playing in the dirt, hiding in the woods. It was a lot of fun. I could do that all day, day in and day out,” Bernius explained to INSIDER.
That’s not why he joined up, though.
Bernius had the opportunity to play baseball in college, but in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he decided to join the Marines instead. “I don’t regret it one bit.”
“I’m very patriotic,” he said. “I’m doing this for the love of my country. I’ve been in 13 years. There’s been a lot of ups and a hell of a lot of downs. But, I would say love of the country is what’s keeping me around.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Meathead generals just can’t understand what the brilliant scientist is trying to explain. Soldiers can’t get the job done without the help of the brilliant criminal. The only strategy the military knows how to use is a carpet-bombing campaign.
Seriously, we know that movie and TV writing is complicated, and that movie makers have to take some liberties in order to get their plots jump started, but these seven tropes that rely on military stupidity should really be used less often — if at all.
In Battlestar Galactica, the military got behind a plan to deploy thousands of immortal robot warriors over which they had little control. But, in their defense, the Cylons came back sexy. So… win?
1. Military leaders use dangerous technology because science is hard
The Terminator movies are awesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger is swole, explosions are fun, and robots fighting robots is exhilarating. But does it really make sense that the U.S. military gives control of nearly all of its weapons, from nukes to stealth bombers to cyber defenses, to Skynet, a single computer program that they don’t understand? No human pilots? No man in the loop? No kill switch? Great idea.
The same issues exist within the Cylons of 2004’s Battlestar Galactica, the zombies in Return of the Living Dead 3, and the indominus rex from Jurassic World (yeah, supposedly, the military was secretly buying the data from that research in order to create dinosaur units).
Plots like these rely on the military looking at lethal weapons, over which they have no direct control, and going, “huh? Yeah, sure. We should deploy these things. Preferably, within easy range of our own troops and citizens with little or no real safeguards.”
Seriously, in Terminator Salvation, terminators physically touch John Connor, like, four times and don’t manage to kill him. I don’t think terminators need to eliminate John Connor to win. They need to figure out how to kill in the first place.
Remember when your entire battalion, squadron, or fleet’s mission revolved around one guy, and if he didn’t succeed then the entire battle would be lost? No? Maybe because that’s a horrible way to form a strategy. Nearly all military units spend a lot of time and energy ensuring that everyone can be replaced in case of battlefield loss.
And yet, only one Hobbit can deliver the ring to Mordor even though there are multiple armies standing by to do whatever needs done. John Connor is the only one who can stop Skynet, so much so that the factions fight to protect or destroy Sarah Connor’s womb rather than just promoting a new leader. Surely there’s some other small-unit leader that can fail to detect Terminators until they throw him across the room.
Snake Plissken is the only one who can get people out of dangerous, crime-ridden cities. Maybe because he’s the only one who is this calm while his helicopter is on fire.
In the trope above, at least it’s a soldier that the military is relying on. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo is freed from prison to complete missions. Snake Plissken, a notorious outlaw, is the only person who can save the president in Escape from New York. Dirty Dozen sees an entire special operations unit constructed out of the Army’s hardest criminals.
It’s weird that the military doesn’t have any other special operators with, you know, more training — and discipline. And impulse control.
“Literally anything has happened. It’s time to bomb people.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Xiomara Martinez)
4. The military just wants to bomb everyone
The only way to defeat an enemy force is to bomb it into oblivion — at least according to some movie military leaders. General Brigham, leader of the United Defense Front in Edge of Tomorrow, is asked about what he would do if it turned out one of his soldiers could time travel and knows where the time-controlling hivemind of the enemy is. His reply? Bomb it.
That’s also the military’s response to a quarantine breach in 28 Weeks Later. In just a couple of minutes, they’re firebombing apartment buildings filled with civilians. “Well, about 20 sniper shots failed to solve the problem… I guess we should turn to firebombing civilians.”
Speaking of which …
Soldiers in zombie movies are just so bad. So very bad.
5. The military completely fails to enforce basic security measures
Why is it that the military can’t enforce a quarantine or lockdown in nearly any movie ever? The aforementioned 28 Weeks Later catastrophe occurs when the military decides to study the single human carrier of the dormant strain of the rage virus. They leave her locked behind doors that her husband, a glorified janitor at the facility, has the ability to unlock. Then, the now-zombified janitor is able to access the shelter where all the civilians have been sequestered, causing an outbreak.
Seems like they almost want the infection to spread. And then there’s that gum-chewing scene in 1998’s Godzilla, in which a gate guard lets a Humvee through because the occupants swear a sergeant called for them. He doesn’t check IDs, he doesn’t call the supposed sergeant — great job. I guess that barely matters when base walls in movies like The Hurt Locker are jumpable AF.
“Hey, this fight against these seemingly dead people is getting pretty serious. Think we should take off in any of our helicopters or drive any of our Humvees in either attack or retreat?” “Nah, that’ll screw up the ambiance for any unlikely survivors. Let’s leave them parked and get eaten.”
6. Military units are overrun by zombies and other slow monsters
Maybe that lax security is why zombies overrun mobile military units in shows like The Walking Dead and movies like 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Sure, you need to get rid of the military for your zombie survivor story to make sense and have high stakes, but how did a helicopter unit and tanks get overrun by zombies that shamble no faster than 5 miles per hour?
Please, at least claim they ran out of fuel or something. (Yes, yes. We know the 28 Days Later zombies are fast, but still.)
A rogue commando officer armed with a rifle, a knife, and years of experience fails to take down a lab-rate chemical weapons specialist in The Rock.
7. Trained killers can’t quite hit the hero or villain
In 28 Weeks Later (I love that movie, but, seriously, come on), an Apache chases a station wagon through the streets of London and is able to stick with it through some determined flying but, somehow, can’t make contact with a single round. An Apache attacks a station wagon and the station wagon survives — what?
It’s sort of like how Nicholas Cage’s character in The Rock, Stanley Goodspeed, survives numerous encounters with elite commandos who shoot at him with rifles and pistols in addition to attacking him with knives and grenades, but the worst damage he takes is self-inflicted when he uses a nerve gas capsule to poison one of the commandos.
Hollywood knows that Marines are really good at killing people, right?
Military commissaries worldwide will soon have plexiglass “sneeze shields” installed in checkout lanes as a barrier between commissary employees and shoppers, officials announced today.
The 24-30 inch-wide, 36 inch-high barriers, which will be installed in all commissary stores over the next several days, are designed to “add extra protection for customers and cashiers during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the release said.
The plexiglass barriers are the latest in ongoing efforts to keep commissaries open while reducing virus spread. March 18, stores stopped offering Early Bird shopping hours to give workers more time to stock shelves and clean. Officials also started 100% ID checks at commissary doors, restricting all non-authorized shoppers from entering.
Stores have also stepped up their cleaning routine, officials said in today’s release.
“At our commissaries we are wiping down checkout areas, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant, and practicing routine hand washing and other basic sanitation measures to avoid spreading germs,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Rear Admiral and the Pentagon’s special assistant for commissary operations said in the release.
The plexiglass barriers will be installed at all regular checkout lanes, the release said. They will not be installed at self-checkout.
The big news from Turkmenistan in the last few weeks has been that the country’s mercurial president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has been absent from the news for large periods of time.
That’s unusual because he normally dominates the state-run broadcasts.
And the few times Berdymukhammedov has been on television since going on vacation nearly one month ago, his appearances have raised more doubts than offered evidence of his well-being.
While officially on vacation, that has never stopped Turkmen state media from following Berdymukhammedov around in previous years.
But his absence from nightly Turkmen television newscasts and daily reports in state print media have some people seriously considering rumors that Berdymukhammedov is in poor health or possibly even dead.
Berdymukhammedov had already been officially on vacation for almost one week when Aslan Rubaev, identified as the director of the Center for Monitoring Eurasian Problems, told the Russian radio station and Internet news site Govoritmoskva.ru that Berdymukhammedov had died of acute renal failure on July 20, 2019.
There was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why the president chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.
The news spread like wildfire across Russian-language media and it was only after a few hours later that the Turkmen embassies in Russia and Kyrgyzstanissued statements rejecting stories that the Turkmen president had died.
Before the end of the day, Rubaev was making a public apology for his remarks, saying they were unfounded.
But Berdymukhammedov had still not been seen and the rumors persisted.
Finally, on July 24, 2019, there were reports Berdymukhammedov had spoken by telephone with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to wish him a happy birthday.
Later that evening, Turkmen television news aired footage of Berdymukhammedov inspecting plans for a new district in the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why the president had decided to break away from his vacation to look at drawings of new bus stops.
And then Berdymukhammedov vanished from local news again.
His next appearance in state media was not until Aug. 4, 2019, when state television showed a series of clips of Berdymukhammedov riding a bicycle, exercising, firing a rifle, bowling, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from an attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.
He also appeared on state television on Aug. 5, 2019, holding a video conference call with officials.
On Aug. 3, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s office released a statement about Medvedev’s impending trip to Turkmenistan to attend the Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza, adding that he planned to meet there with Berdymukhammedov.
That is the proof that has been offered to show Berdymukhammedov is alive and well.
But there are still many reasons to think that something is wrong with him.
Berdymukhammedov’s appearances on state television on July 24 and Aug. 4-5, 2019, were not entirely convincing.
As mentioned, there was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why Berdymukhammedov chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.
And RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, noted that Berdymukhammedov was wearing exactly the same suit and tie as he wore in a May 10 broadcast on state television, which is strange because he never wears the same suit — or even the same clothes — twice in his television appearances.
Berdymukhammedov did not speak in the footage aired on July 24, 2019, for example, to say he had just spoken with the Uzbek president, as was reported.
The Turkmen president also did not speak in the Aug. 4, 2019 footage aired on Turkmen TV, and the clips seem to be a compilation of his usual bizarre antics that are regularly shown on the evening news, and of which there is almost certainly an abundance of archive material from the cutting-room floor.
His hair is gray in the recent appearances, but that only narrows down the time frame to anytime during the last year or so, when he stopped dying it black.
The headlines of the reports seemed aimed at quieting rumors of ill health or worse.
Turkmenistan Aug. 6, 2019’s headline said, “Turkmenistan’s President Dedicates His Vacation To A Creative And Active Life,” and the Golden Age website’s headline read “The Turkmen Leader’s Vacation: Active Leisure, Literary And Musical Creativity.”
The Aug. 5, 2019 footage showed Berdymukhammedov discussing the country’s economic performance, agriculture, preparations for the Aug. 11-12, 2019 Caspian Economic Forum and the Muslim holiday Kurban Bayramy.
Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
But again, Berdymukhammedov did not refer to any recent event that would have proven the footage was from sometime during the last two or three weeks. The conversations could have taken place several weeks or months ago.
Absent from the video conference was any criticism of officials’ work, or reprimands for shortcomings, which are typical of these video conferences. It was also unclear why he again interrupted his vacation to hold the video conference.
Similarly, state print media had an unusual gap in reports featuring Berdymukhammedov.
News about the Turkmen president has always dominated state media coverage, going back to the early days of first Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.
A July 25, 2019 report about Berdymukhammedov congratulating new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the last news about Berdymukhammedov for more than one week on the Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) state website until a report appeared on Aug. 4, 2019, about the footage shown on state television. The same was true on state website Turkmenistan Today.
The last reports featuring Berdymukhammedov on the Russian-based pro-government website Turkmenistan.ru are from July 25, 2019; one congratulating Johnson and another about birthday wishes for Mirziyoev.
Even stranger, Turkmenistan.ru on Aug. 1, 2019 reported about the CEO of the Malaysian company Petronas, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, visiting Avaza and meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and gas-and-oil-sector chief Yashigeldy Kakaev.
Berdymukhammedov’s name is not even mentioned in the report.
Petronas has been doing business in Turkmenistan since 1996. Petronas developed and is still working Block 1 in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea, “the first PSA to be awarded by the government of Turkmenistan.”
Petronas has invested more than billion in Turkmenistan and was a sponsor of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that Turkmenistan hosted. When Berdymukhammedov visited Malaysia in November 2016, he made a point of meeting with Ariffin, as he had met with previous Petronas head Dato Shamsul Azhar in Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. Berdymukhammedov also met with Azhar’s predecessor, Hassan Marican, in Ashgabat in May 2009.
Despite the history of close ties to the heads of Petronas, Berdymukhammedov could not find even a few minutes to meet with Ariffin at a resort area in Turkmenistan.
On July 25, 2019, Afghanistan completed the Aqina-Andkhoi segment of a railway line that is to link Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via northern Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan has been facing hard economic times since 2015 and this should have been good news for the country. Turkmenistan sent a delegation to a ceremony launching the new line that was reported on by Turkmen media. But there was not a word attributed to Berdymukhammedov about the accomplishment and what it could mean for Turkmenistan.
Where is he?
The immediate denials of Berdymukhammedov’s death came, as mentioned, from Turkmenistan’s embassies in Moscow and Bishkek.
But how would they know? Both embassies reacted rather quickly, almost automatically, rejecting reports of bad news about Turkmenistan as they usually do.
The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has not issued any statements denying the rumors Berdymukhammedov is ill or dead. In fact, while Berdymukhammedov has been on vacation it is not clear who exactly is running the country, though it does appear Foreign Minister Meredov is acting as the host to visitors.
And even Berdymukhammedov’s vacation is unusual this year.
Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov cut the ribbon to open an exhibition.
As the Hronika Turkmenistana website pointed out, he usually only takes two weeks of summer vacation. This year, his vacation is from July 15 to August 15.
Berdymukhammedov has in the past often taken his ministers, or many of them, along with him on vacation. Some of the ministers were at Avaza playing various sports at the end of July, but Berdymukhammedov was never shown among them, which is very unusual, as he customarily is on TV instructing his ministers how to exercise properly.
Again, the media is not following Berdymukhammedov around and showing footage of him frolicking on the Caspian shores or inspecting Turkmenistan’s naval vessels or merchant fleet.
There was some footage at the very start of his vacation of him playing with his grandchildren and some kittens.
Turkmenistan has always been a unique, some would say bizarre, place, but in the last few weeks there is a feeling that things are not right. Established patterns of behavior are being ruptured without any credible explanation as to why.
It seems Berdymukhammedov has suffered some sort of problem, otherwise it would have been easy enough for him to appear on state television and say something — anything — about current events. On the other hand, Turkmen media is now devoting a great deal of effort to convince people that their president of the last 12 years is alive and healthy.
Although the first Caspian Economic Forum should be the focus of attention when it opens in Avaza on August 11, everyone will now be concentrating on whether Berdymukhammedov will make an appearance and, if he does, if he shows any signs of having suffered some illness or physical setback.
Criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is widely seen as among Iran’s so-called red lines. Dozens of intellectuals, activists, and politicians have been sidelined, harassed, or jailed for challenging the man who holds the final political and religious say in the Islamic republic.
Yet in late May 2018, a female student rose in Khamenei’s presence to harshly criticize the state of affairs in the country, including actions by powerful bodies controlled by the Iranian leader that have been cited by critics as major barriers to reform.
Sahar Mehrabi called for “deepening democracy” in Iran in the May 28, 2018 speech, delivered at an annual Iftar gathering that Khamenei holds to celebrate the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.
She indirectly pointed the finger at the supreme leader, noting that the bodies under his watch are virtually untouchable. “The impossibility of conducting investigations into the work of some of the institutions under the supervision of Your Excellency, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the judiciary, the state broadcaster, and the Mostazafan Foundation” — a reference to one of Iran’s largest foundations — “is in itself problematic,” Mehrabi said.
Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.
At the meeting, Khamenei responded that while he appoints the heads of some of those powerful bodies, including the judiciary and the state broadcasters, he does not specifically manage their work. “For example, regarding the state broadcaster, I’ve always had and still have a critical position vis-a-vis both current and past managements,” he said.
Seemingly acknowledging other problems, Khamenei added that “taking all issues into consideration, I believe the Islamic establishment has made progress in the past 40 years in all its ideals.”
Mehrabi also echoed some of the positions espoused by relative moderate President Hassan Rohani, criticizing Iran’s aggressive Internet censorship, pressure on the press, the arrest of students, what she described as a crackdown on women “under the pretense of guiding them,” and the situation of opposition figures Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, along with reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, who have been under house arrest since 2011 for challenging the Iranian establishment.
“What answer does Your Excellency have in response to questions, criticisms, and protests?” Mehrabi asked.
She suggested that the only way forward is a return to law and the country’s constitution “with all its articles.” “The solution is to accept the right of the people to determine their fate and to be allowed to participate in their political, social, and economic life,” Mehrabi said.
Mehrabi added that no hope lies in the Iranian expat groups calling for regime change in Iran.
Regime Change Needed?
Monarchists and others have intensified their demand for an end to Islamic rule in Iran just as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed a tougher line toward Iran, including by abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers trading curbs on Iran’s atomic activities for an easing of international sanctions.
Some analysts interpreted a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he made 12 demands on Tehran, including ending all nuclear enrichment and ending its support for proxy groups, as a return to U.S. calls for regime change in Iran.
[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2Fe%2Fe1%2FMike_Pompeo_transition_portrait_full.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org&s=880&h=cab39cbaab86713f43cebe96a72aca20c792ca8c5fa31c3faf53c4b06a8f25ad&size=980x&c=3616767409 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo” photo_credit_src=”https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Mike_Pompeo_transition_portrait_full.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fwikipedia%252Fcommons%252Fe%252Fe1%252FMike_Pompeo_transition_portrait_full.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fupload.wikimedia.org%26s%3D880%26h%3Dcab39cbaab86713f43cebe96a72aca20c792ca8c5fa31c3faf53c4b06a8f25ad%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3616767409%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]
In her speech, Mehrabi said the answers to Iran’s problem lie “within the Islamic republic.” “In our view, the solution is the deepening of democracy — democracy based on all people, all minority, workers, teachers, students, the forgotten layers of society,… and the poor,” she said.
Khamenei later added via Twitter: “I [understand] the feelings of that young person who says the situation is very bad. But I don’t support her comments at all.”
Mehrabi’s speech was praised by an editor of the hard-line Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, as “the peak of democracy” in Iran.
Others challenged such a claim, complaining that so long as media outlets are being shuttered, students banned from studies, and state broadcasters made to reflect the views of hard-liners, there cannot be talk of genuine democracy in Iran.
Mehrabi’s criticisms came amid frustration over the state of the economy, which sparked nationwide protests in December 2017, and January 2018, that quickly turned into protests against the Iranian establishment and the 78-year-old Khamenei himself.