How China's special forces stack up against the US's special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Over the last two decades, special-operations forces have become the go-to choice for policymakers and military leaders around the world.

The successes of US and coalition special-operations units in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in Syria against ISIS have showcased the importance and utility of small teams of highly trained troops.

While the US and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to US special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces.

So with everyone gearing up for great power competition, how do Chinese special operations measure up against the US’s and what are the biggest difference between the two?

US special operators

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
US Army Special Forces members perform an airborne operation near Mont Saint Michel in France, May 18, 2019.

US special-operations units can be divided into unofficial tiers.

Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 would be at the top (Tier 1), followed by the 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers, MARSOC, and SEAL and Boat Teams (Tier 2), and then the Special Forces Groups (Tier 3). Air Commandos are harder to categorize since they most often augment other units rather than deploy as teams.

It’s important to note that these tiers have more to do with mission sets and funding than with the quality of the troops.

For example, SEAL Team 6 is part of the National Mission Force (the Pentagon’s first responders, in layman’s terms) and has far more money to spend and resources to use than a “vanilla” SEAL team, but both are manned by SEALs.

Chinese special operators

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
China navy Jiaolong, or “Sea Dragon” commandos during an exercise.

Irregular warfare and special operations have been part of Chinese military culture since the time of Sun Tzu, whose writings highlighted the value of specialized individuals and units in warfare.

However, modern Chinese special operations are fairly new. The first unit, the Special Reconnaissance Group, was established in 1988. In the late 1990s, as part of PLA’s modernization, seven Special Operations Groups of between 1,000 to 2,000 men were created.

Now there is one special-operations brigade-size unit in each of the five theater commands, which are a rough equivalent of the US’s combatant commands.

In addition, there are numerous smaller special-operations units of varying size in the other branches. The Chinese Navy, Air Force, and Rocket Force (the branch responsible for China’s nuclear and conventional missiles) each have a dedicated special-operations unit.

The Navy’s Jiaolong (Sea Dragons) is probably the most famous Chinese special-operations unit after it successfully recaptured a ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden and assisted the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Yemen, which became the subject of a Chinese propaganda movie.

All in all, China has between 20,000 and 40,000 special-operations troops of varying quality.

Crucially, Chinese special-operations units have more than doubled in number in the last two decades, showing that Chinese leaders are paying close attention to the high-reward, low-cost characteristics of special-operations units.

Both special but not the same

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
Chinese Navy Special Forces, or “Jiaolong Commando,” repel onto a ship during an exercise.

Since the early 2000s, the PLA has undergone a drastic modernization and professionalization process, transitioning from a mainly conscript force to a smaller, mostly volunteer military, though conscription remains as a policy.

The new force’s main aim is to fight short wars against regional adversaries while having a technological advantage.

Chinese special-operations units, and the PLA as a whole, have gained from that modernization and learned from the example provided by Western special-operations units over the past 60 years, but Chinese forces are still untested in combat.

On the other hand, US special-operations units have amassed an astounding level of combat experience in the last two decades. It’s not uncommon to have operators with double-digit combat deployments and hundreds of real-world operations under their belts.

Chinese special-operations units are also regionally focused and lack a centralized command like the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This could limit their effectiveness and hurt interoperability.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
A member of the “Jiaolong Commando.”

Moreover, Chinese special-operations units lack the dedicated aviation and maritime assets that American commandos have, namely the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Special Boat Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and the Air Force’s Special Operations Squadrons.

Without specialized insertion platforms, the utility of Chinese commandos is limited and their geographic scope localized. However, according to the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), the PLA is establishing aviation brigades that might resolve some of these asset shortcomings.

Additionally, there is a difference in mission sets.

Chinese special-operations units focus on direct action, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism. Unlike US commandos, they don’t conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue, civil affairs, and psychological operations.

In a nutshell, in terms of mission sets, Chinese commandos are closer to World War II special-operations units than to modern US special operations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, but their scope is more limited, a reflection of the PLA’s strategic priorities.

People first

But perhaps the biggest and most important difference is the people.

“Humans are more important than hardware,” is one of the five US special-operations “Truths.” Western special operators take pride in their independence and out-of-the-box thinking, which is encouraged if not expected by their leaders.

Units like Delta Force, the SEAL Teams, the Special Forces Groups, and allied units like the Special Air Service (SAS) excel because of their noncommissioned officers. When planning operations, it’s these NCOs who come up with the ideas and approach. Ironically, the British SAS have titled this enlisted-driven process “the Chinese Parliament.”

Conversely, elements of Chinese military culture, in particular the use of conscripts as well as differing views on unit cohesion, pose a significant barrier to small-team independence.

Allegiance to and scrutiny by the Communist Party complicates things further and adds another level of bureaucracy.

China is used to stealing and copying military technology and concepts, which is believed to be behind Beijing’s advances in fighter jets and other weapons. But when it comes to special-operations units, these cultural aspects aren’t easy to mimic.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 signs that you’re a military parent

Military parents: we’re one great big, loving, dysfunctional family. We may have a lot of differences, but we also have a lot in common. Find out the answers we received when we asked a group of military parents to complete the statement “you know you’re a military parent when…”


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Pixabay)

1. You stalk the mailman.

You can especially relate to this when your military member is a recruit or trainee. There are no phone calls, text messages, emails coming through. If you’re waiting to hear from them, all you can do is wait until the mailman comes rolling down the street and stops at your mailbox with your fingers crossed.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

2.  Whenever you hear the National Anthem your heart fills with pride.

You’re at a stadium sports arena for a game or concert, and you hear the national anthem. You stand a little taller, sing a little louder and you see that veteran in the audience still standing at attention all these years later and a tear trickles down your face, and can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

3. You can bring any conversation back to the fact your child is in the military.

Parents are the best at this, aren’t we? You often sit and listen to your friends talking about their kids at college or high school, you wait for the perfect moment to tell them all about your child in the military. “Did I tell you Johnny is getting ready to deploy right now?”

4. You wear RED on Fridays

Remember Everyone Deployed means you wear red on Fridays to let all those serving overseas on deployment know they’re not forgotten; that a nation they’re fighting for is praying for them, is thinking of them constantly, and is proud of them.

5. Your new favorite vacation destination is the Permanent Duty Station of your military member.

A non-military parent may schedule their vacations to a sunny beach destination, or maybe even an amusement park. Not military parents! Our vacations are now to wherever our child is stationed, whether it’s in the desert, the cold, overseas, or wherever else our military member is living at that time. “Woo hoo, it’s time to go to 29 Palms!”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(USAF)

6. You now understand and use military time and the phonetic alphabet.

You tell your co-worker you’ll be getting off work at 1630. They look at you with a confused expression on their face and you say, “Oh, I mean 4:30 p.m. I’m sorry, I’m so used to using military time with my son/daughter in the military now.” (As an aside, this a great way to start that conversation about your child in the military – see #3 above.)

7. You have a military t-shirt for every day of the week, along with pins and hats.

You can’t get enough of military swag! Whether it represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, you have t-shirts, hats, socks, earrings, necklaces, pins, stickers for your car. You name it, military parents have something for every occasion, and they wear or display it loud and proud.

8. You see the proud parent of a “insert college university name here” and you laugh.

You can’t help but giggle. Their child might have went to a top college or university, but your child is a part of the finest fighting military in the world. Go USA!

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)

9. You’ve become an expert at mailing out care packages where the items inside aren’t as much as the postage to send it.

You do this especially when your military member is deployed overseas. Baking cookies, brownies, sending wipes, toiletries, etc., are all great ways to stay connected with your loved one, and often gives them something that they truly need. A lot of the time, the cost of sending the package outweighs the monetary value of what’s inside!

10. You know that things can and will change.

If there’s one thing a military family, including military parents, has to be, it’s flexible. Your loved one’s plans can change at the drop of a hat, so you have to learn to go with the flow and be supportive.

There were over 250 comments from parents around the country when I asked for feedback. I could only choose 10. Which of these was your favorite? Share your comments below – we would love to read them!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Kim Jong Un dead? TV senior executive in China says YES.

After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un’s health, Reuters reported a medical team was dispatched to North Korea to care for Kim. And yesterday, a senior executive of a Beijing-backed satellite tv station in China said Kim is dead.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
(KCNA)

The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing have been circulating for weeks.

When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 is another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. As night falls in North Korea, the leader again failed to appear, bringing more people to believe that there may be some truth to the rumors that Kim is dead.

As of this writing, the White House and senior officials in the United States government remain tight-lipped about his health and are giving no credence to the rumors.

“While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek yesterday. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”

Earlier in the week, President Trump sent Kim Jong Un his well wishes. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said on Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “But I wish him well.”

But on Thursday, when asked about Kim Jong Un’s condition, the president said, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added, without providing further details.

Although the US remains somewhat quiet about Kim’s health, a Hong Kong Satellite TV executive told her 15 million followers on Weibo that she had a source saying Kim was dead. While we’re not sure if she named her source, her uncle is a Chinese foreign minister.

Photos of Kim appearing to lie in state have also been circulating social media, but they look suspiciously a lot like Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il’s final resting photos. We’re guessing photoshop is far more likely than a leaked photograph.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

What happens if Kim dies? Likely, another Kim would take over. The possibility of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, being named leader is “more than 90%,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press. He noted she has “royal blood,” and “North Korea is like a dynasty.” Kim’s sister has accompanied him on various high-profile meetings in recent years, prompting many to speculate she’s next in line.

Is Kim Jong Un dead? We’re not sure. But as soon as we know more, we’ll tell you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army enlists Nine Inch Nails member for new coronavirus-themed recruiting video

The U.S. Army recently released a new advertising video targeting young people living in a society crippled by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The short video, titled “Unbelievable,” is the latest addition to the “What’s Your Warrior” ad campaign, which is designed to show members of Generation Z how their service is needed.

The video first aired Friday on YouTube and is making its way around social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It features stark images that hint at post-apocalyptic life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shows soldiers with medical and research specialties responding to the crisis.


When the unbelievable happens, we get to work. Learn more at https://go.usa.gov/xv9wN . #GoArmypic.twitter.com/HkKQqAftD4

twitter.com

The Army launched the “What’s Your Warrior” campaign Nov. 11, focused on trying to get young people to think about what type of warrior is inside them.

“We don’t want to sound opportunistic at all but, at the same time, we are very involved in the fight. The Army has a role in this,” said Laura DeFrancisco, spokeswoman for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office.

The video flashes the message, “When the unbelievable happens … the unbelievable rise to meet it.”

“There is the one shot of the soldier looking at a microscope; that is real world,” DeFrancisco said. “But just in general being a part of an organization that is involved in something that supports your community right here at home, which is an unusual role, especially for the active Army.”

The Army has deployed thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers in communities across the country, as well as hundreds of active-duty troops to provide medical support to hospitals trying to cope with the virus.

The video’s eerie background music, which builds in intensity, “was actually done for us by [Atticus Ross from] Nine Inch Nails,” DeFrancisco said. Ross, an English musician from the alternative rock band, wrote and performed the music for the ad.

“He created it for us just in the last two to three weeks,” she said.

The Army tested out the concept for the video last week by running 15-second, picture-to-picture stories on Instagram with the same “call to service” theme, DeFrancisco said.

“We were getting really good response from that, so that’s why we went forward with this video,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a quote and clarify who wrote and performed the music for the ad.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Julie Golob: Army veteran, professional shooter, NRA board member

When she was 8 years old, Julie Golob got an unexpected Christmas present from her grandfather — he had bought all his grandchildren life memberships to the National Rifle Association.

“He was an all-around Rush Limbaugh guy, World War II veteran, the guy back in the ’80s wearing the NRA cap when it wasn’t so popular. We weren’t exactly thrilled,” Golob said, laughing, “but I knew how much it meant to him, something he so believed in.”

Decades later, Golob is thankful for a gift that ended up reflecting so much of where life would take her.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Julie Golob is a decorated professional shooter for Team Smith Wesson.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob is now not only a recently seated member of the NRA’s Board of Directors, she is also a successful author and one of the most decorated female competitive shooters in America. She is the only woman to have won all seven divisions of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) National Championships, as well as a multiple International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) Ladies Classic title winner. In 2017, she won the gold in the Lady Classic division at the IPSC Handgun World Shoot.

Her career in competitive shooting began as a teenager in Seneca Falls, New York, where her dad taught her to shoot for fun and competition. She was recruited by the U.S. Army to join their shooting team after high school by enlisting to serve in the military police.

“The Army marksmanship unit was the cream of the crop,” Golob said, “so having a dedicated unit for shooters was definitely exciting. It was one of those things that I really needed to make the commitment for, signing up for five years to be a soldier in the Army.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

An AMU poster of Golob from 1999.

(Courtesy of Julie Golob)

But commitment is one thing Golob has never lacked when it comes to shooting. “Even as a kid,” Golob remembered, “I always wanted to be the best at something, and I was always frustrated that I couldn’t find out what that ‘best’ was. But when I found shooting, I realized that if I worked hard at it, I could set goals and I could meet them. And it’s that constant goal setting and achieving those goals that makes me feel very fulfilled. It gives me an empowered confidence.”

After her time in the Army, Golob took a break from shooting with the intention of becoming an English teacher — but she missed it.

“I missed the people in the sport the most,” Golob said. “I rediscovered all the reasons I enjoyed shooting from when I was a kid instead of doing it as a JOB job. I just did it for fun … and then it became a job again.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Golob is the only 7 Division USPSA Ladies National Champion; she also has over 140 major wins in state, regional, and international competitions and more than 50 national and world titles.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob also parlayed her shooting success into a second career as an author. Her first book, “Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition,” is a primer for anyone interested in learning more about the shooting sports.

Her second book grew out of the other most important role she plays: the mother of two young daughters. So she wrote “Toys, Tools, Guns, and Rules.”

“I was always finding resources that were for boys, dads and sons specifically,” Golob said. “And firearm safety is universal. It should be something every child learns. My husband is in law enforcement, so it’s a part of our lives. We always stop and answer the questions, they always know the rules, and it’s not anything that’s taboo.”

Her older daughter was 9 years old when they competed together in their first Empire Championship. “I love being a mom,” Golob said enthusiastically. “So being able to bring my daughter with me to a few competitions here and there is really icing on the cake.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

When not shooting, Golob participates in NRATV and posts tips and tricks to her own JulieG.TV YouTube channel. Golob also advocates for the Second Amendment as a guest on podcasts and TV shows.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

As another platform to further the understanding of and support for the shooting sports, Golob ran for and was elected to the NRA’s Board of Directors. She hopes the position will allow her to advocate to increase participation in shooting sports.

“I never even realized how many wonderful programs we have until I became a director, but we really need to connect the dots between those programs and the people who might be interested in them,” Golob said. “It’s not an ad on social media and that sort of thing — we really need to get back to that grassroots level, help the local clubs connect and reach the people in their communities.”

Although approximately only 10 percent of gun owners belong to the NRA, Golob is bullish on their role as “the lead organization, fighting the fight at the highest levels.” When asked why some gun owners might be skeptical about joining, she mused, “I think it comes down to identifying with a specific group. I do understand — I don’t agree with absolutely every message we put out. But we have 5 million members. That’s a huge number of voices. As a collective group, we are very, very powerful.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

“I love the thrill of competing and testing my skills on a challenging course of fire,” Golob wrote on her website’s blog at the end of the 2018 shooting season.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob also is sympathetic to people who do not view the Second Amendment in the same way that she and the rest of the NRA’s membership do. “At the end of the day we all want the same things,” Golob said. “We want people to be safe, we want people to feel the world is a good place to live in, and we don’t want horrible things to happen. It’s just the direction of how we get there. We need to maybe not head in the opposite direction but maybe just take a whole new direction.”

To Golob, that new direction involves open communication between dissenting groups. While she is uncompromising on her wholesale support for the Second Amendment, she recognizes that the NRA may need to work harder to spread their message to skeptics. “We need to do a better job of connecting with people who have that emotional reaction and let them know that we are all on the same side,” she sad. “But the challenge is getting in the room. We’ve got to get in the room.”

At an age where many professional athletes hit “the mark of the slow decline,” as Golob laughingly described it, she somehow finds a way to balance her responsibilities as a shooter, a mom, an author, and now an NRA board member.

“When I was in the military,” she said, “I went to 24 matches in a year. And I don’t know if I want to live that life right now.”

SHOT Show 2019!!! | JulieG.TV

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how far Mario ran and swam to save the Princess

Now you can do the Mario saves Princess Peach workout on a daily basis, thanks to Boston-based computer programmer Ian Albert and Mental Floss magazine. After a reader asked the magazine how many miles the Italian duo had to run, jump, and swim to get to the Princess, they were actually able to calculate it using some simple standard measurements.

There are some ground pounders out there who probably do harder workouts for fun.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Not to take anything away from your childhood or anything.

Mental Floss’ Nick Green took the maps created through Ian Alberts screenshots of the game, calculated how large Mario and Luigi would be as normal human beings – that is, using their pre-mushroom growth hormone size – a human with their feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, an average of 26 inches.

Then, using no bonus areas or warp tunnels, Green calculated the distance from Mario’s starting point to saving the princess, relative to that 26 inches between his feet. The final tally comes to 17,835 feet – 3.4 miles. Barely more than running a 5K fun run, though this number increases to 3.7 miles if you also calculate running all the bonus areas.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Super Mario PT will not be coming to your console anytime soon.

If we were going to make this a partial triathlon, then calculating the swimming distance would be 371 feet, roughly eight laps in an Olympic-sized pool, and another 344 feet with the bonus areas, so around 15 laps.

Keep in mind this is just running and swimming straight through, without calculating the physical toll of jumping, climbing stairs, crawling in tubes, and murdering birds and turtles or of running in a lava-filled enclosed castle. There’s no doubt that rescuing the princess would be a little more difficult than we’re making it out to be, but the Princess Rescue Workout would still be short work for many military members.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 7th

The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.

All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.

So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme by Ranger Up)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme by WATM)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

MIGHTY CULTURE

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.


The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.

Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”

The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.

Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.

Duterte has expressed affinity for President Donald Trump, but he still seeks closer relations with Beijing. Duterte has also been criticized at home as Chinese investments have been slow to arrive and as China acts assertively in the region, pursuing its claims in the South China Sea and drawing allies away from Taiwan.

“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.

“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”

“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”

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A US Marine guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill in the Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

‘A US loss is China’s gain’

The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.

That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.

Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.

But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.

“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”

The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.

Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.

“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.

Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.

“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.

Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.

Once termination is final, however, the Philippines would “cease to have exercises” with the US, Lorenzana said.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=578&h=578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8&size=980x&c=3144695644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D578%26h%3D578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3144695644%22%7D” expand=1]

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members after an amphibious exercise in the Philippines, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani

Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.

But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.

The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.

In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.

“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.

“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The DoD has its own brownie recipe and it’s 26 pages long

Looking for a dessert that won’t just impress your houseguests but could impress them years from now? Look no further than the first name in cakes, pies, and other fine desserts: The Pentagon. The Department of Defense has a brownie recipe that is sure to end the clear and present danger to your sweet tooth.


Just imagine being able to whip up some sweet treats for your unborn children, whether you’re currently pregnant or not.

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Kinda like this but without all that green sh*t.

The Pentagon’s brownie recipe is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the only recipe that tells you exactly how things are gonna be and does it in the vaguely threatening manner that only the United States military is capable of. The consequences of diverging from the recipe aren’t listed, but you definitely get the feeling there might be consequences:

Shortening shall be a refined, hydrogenated vegetable oil or combination of refined vegetable oils which are in common use by the baking industry. Coconut and palm kernel oils may be used only in the coating. The shortening shall have a stability of not less than 100 hours as determined by the Active Oxygen Method (AOM) in Method Cd 12-57 of the Commercial Fats and Oils chapter in the Official and Tentative Methods of the American Oil Chemists Society. The shortening may contain alpha monoglycerides and an antioxidant or combination of antioxidants, as permitted by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

“And parties found to have added walnuts to said brownies shall pay a 00 fine and serve no less than three years in a federal correctional facility because that sh*t is gross.” That’s not in the recipe, but it should be in every brownie recipe.

But the brownie regulations don’t stop at shortening. Each ingredient has more specific sourcing instructions than a vegan hipster with Celiac Disease. Even adding the eggs is enough to make any baker wonder what a legal chicken is.

“Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59).”

The strict regs came about in part because the military needs their baked goods to be edible for much longer than the average baker needs them. The U.S. military’s brownies are said to last up to three years, just in time to bake brownies for the kids currently in high school that will be deploying to Afghanistan by then.

Make the brownies yourself with this recipe.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Humans in the military rely on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to take care of them while they’re on the job. Military working dogs need someone to look after them, too. That job falls to military veterinarians. Military veterinarians provide medical and surgical care to all kinds of military working animals, but their responsibilities go far beyond that of a normal veterinarian. 

What the job entails

The primary role of Army veterinarians is to provide care for animals- both for working animals and for military family pets. While on active duty, however, their responsibilities vary from mission to mission. They are highly involved in supporting public health and humanitarian projects, like creating vaccines and developing strategies to prevent the spread of animal-borne diseases. 

They’re also in charge of inspecting food sold to service members to make sure it’s safe for consumption. They may even perform audits of major manufacturing plants to confirm that they’re following food safety protocols; think Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry’s. 

Things to know before you try it

  1. After education, it’s basically an eight-year commitment.
    Most military veterinarians go through the Health Professionals Scholarship Program. The HPSP contract stipulates a minimum three year commitment to active duty, plus five years of reserve duty. While vets are rarely called upon during the five years on “inactive” duty, it’s always a possibility. 
  1. Veterinarians typically enlist as officers, not soldiers.
    When you become an Army veterinarian, you’re not signing up to fight. Instead of Basic Training, you attend a Basic Officer Leadership Course for a few months. It’s not as physically tough as the boot camp designed for soldiers, but you still have to be in decent shape. New veterinarian officers also attend a one-year internship program which doesn’t count toward your active-duty requirement.
  2. Being involved in combat is always a possibility. 
    While your job description is to care for animals and assist with humanitarian efforts, danger isn’t off the table. Most Army vets never see combat, but it has happened. If you’re sent to a combat zone, you will carry a weapon and should be prepared to fire it. Most missions are fairly low-risk, but veterinarians HAVE been wounded or killed on the job. Veterinarians are never assigned combat-related tasks, but if you’re in the vicinity of an unexpected attack, anything can happen. In other words, if you want a risk-free gig, this isn’t it. 
  1. Travel is part of the job description.
    Military veterinarians can be assigned to missions anywhere in the world. This is a pro and con in one. You get the opportunity to see amazing places. If you become a Special Forces vet, you can work on serious international animal health projects. The Navy’s marine mammal program is another option.

Regardless, you’re going to be moving around while on active duty. Family members and pets may be able to join you on some missions, but that’s not always an option. If you do have pets or children with you, you’ll need to make arrangements for their care while you’re working long shifts or overnight. If you’re on a combat mission, it’s important to have a network of friends and family to care for your pets while you’re away. 

  1. The options for advancement are appealing.
    If you’re considering a long-term career in the military, there’s a program for that. The Long-Term Health Education & Training program will cover the cost of veterinarians to continue their education in a number of specialties, like pathology, emergency/critical care, radiology, and surgery. After retiring from the military, veterinarians often start their own private practice or transition into teaching- all while receiving a hefty pension!
  2. The pay is nothing to laugh at.
    The pay and benefits are very good compared to our civilian veterinary colleagues. When I started out four years ago at an assignment in the U.S., I was making about $75,000 a year. Now while assigned in Europe I am making about $100,000 a year. It can be kind of tough to calculate the exact salary because of all the different types of special pay, housing/living allowances, etc, and that stuff changes depending on where you are located.
  3. You’re a veterinarian, but you’re also a military professional.
    This one bears repeating. While military veterinarians are there to care for animals, they’re also committing to serving the US Army. During your years of service, the army will decide where you work, when you work, and what your job entails. That might mean getting deployed to a combat zone even though you’d prefer to work on the home front. If you’re a leader who likes to carve your own path, you’ll probably be disappointed.

    If you’re passionate about animals and interested in serving your country, becoming an Army veterinarian is probably a great fit. The benefits don’t hurt, either! 

Steps to becoming a military vet

The U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program is usually the first step to becoming a military veterinarian. You’ll have to convince the military that you’re worth the investment, but if you get the scholarship, the program covers your tuition while you earn your D.V.M. Alternatively, the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program can help those who have already completed school. 
Your military committment doesn’t begin until you’re done with school. At that point, you complete Basic Officer Training and an internship before beginning active duty. After three years of service, you can join the Army Reserve. There, you’re welcome to run your own practice. To get started, learn more about the process here or contact a recruiter. If you want to hear a first account of what it’s like becoming an Army Veterinarian, Elliot Garber can tell you all about it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 real life consequences that movie fights totally miss

Although we’re not always keen to admit it, the way we see the world and how we function in it tends to be largely informed by the pop-culture we consume along the way. The movies and TV shows we watch as kids not only help us to perceive a world beyond our views out the window, they have a habit of planting the seeds of foolish thought in our brains Inception-style; leaving us with a skewed idea of things like what really goes on in a fight, thanks to how often we see them depicted inaccurately on screen.

In fact, if you’ve never had the misfortune of suffering a nasty injury on one of your limbs, getting knocked out, or being in close proximity to an explosion, you might be harboring some pretty unrealistic ideas about just how deadly each can be. It might sound silly to suggest that people can’t tell the difference between something Wolverine can do and something your average Joe can… but many of these movie tropes have become such deep-rooted parts of our cultural lexicon that it starts to get difficult to discern truth from fiction. That is, unless you’ve been there first hand.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

This is actually how Chuck Norris babysits people’s kids.

Being knocked out is totally fine

It’s Batman’s bread and butter, it helped Marty McFly’s mom gets handsy with her time traveling son, and it’s the most common workplace hazard for henchman and thugs, but the truth is, getting knocked out could seriously mess you up.

Movies may make it seem like getting knocked out with a single blow is basically the same thing as racking out for an impromptu nap, but here in the real world, blunt force trauma to the head tends to come with some serious repercussions. The Riddler’s henchman may come to in a few hours and complain of feeling groggy, but if you’re ever knocked out for hours, you’ll almost certainly wake up in the ICU of your local hospital, surrounded by some very concerned family members (and hopefully you’ll still know your name).

Head trauma that’s sufficient to knock you unconscious actually creates a neurochemical reaction in the brain that causes cell death that can potentially affect you for the rest of your life.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Seems legit.

Fire is apparently the only dangerous part of explosions

Watching a protagonist walk toward the camera while a slow-motion explosion unfolds in the background might be one of the most overused (and somehow still rad) shots in cinematic history… but it’s also totally ridiculous. Movies treat explosions like it’s the fireball you have to be worried about, but the most dangerous part of an explosion is usually invisible to the naked eye: the shockwave.

Way back in the first “Mission Impossible” movie, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt actually managed to seemingly ride the shockwave of an exploding helicopter (that was foolishly made out of dynamite, apparently) onto a speeding train. The shot is incredible, and it actually makes the superhero-like sequels make a lot more sense, since Ethan Hunt must actually be dreaming in a coma from that point on, while surgeons try to do something about the soup that used to be his organs.

Anyone that’s ever thrown a grenade can tell you that explosions are far faster and more dangerous than they’re depicted in movies. Most happen so quickly that we perceive them as little more than a thunderous impact and sudden poof of smoke, but it’s the shockwave that will literally liquify your inside parts (like your brain). In the medical community, they call this internal mushification “total body disruption,” which may not sound as cool as “internal mushification” but is apparently just as deadly.

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I mean, the bleeding has already stopped. This guy might actually make it if he quits now.

Flesh wounds are no big deal

There’s no faster way to show us how badass a movie hero really is than to watch him dismiss a gunshot to the arm as “nothing but a flesh wound.” John Mcclane loses enough blood in the “Die Hard” movies to keep the Red Cross from chasing down donations for at least a year, but somehow those injuries never seem to slow him down at all.

These “flesh wounds” usually exist only so the female lead’s character arc can develop from annoyed at the hero to empathetic: “You’re hurt!” She exclaims as she runs to check the flap of skin hanging off of our hero’s tricep.

“It’s nothing,” he grimaces as he loads another seemingly infinite magazine into his weapon. As Jesse Ventura said in “Predator,” and probably at least once as Governor of Minnesota, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”

The problem is, you can absolutely die from a wound on your arm or leg. In fact, you can die pretty damn quickly if you rupture an artery. When it comes to unchecked bleeding, what you really don’t have time for is ignoring it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Yabba Dabba Doo: Did you know the Army owned dinosaurs?

It turns out a massive flood control project is an excellent way to unearth dinosaurs. At least, that’s what happened back in 1993 in Coralville, Iowa.

In 1993, Coralville, Iowa, experienced 28 days of rain. More than 17,000 cubic feet of water flowed over a spillway, wiping out the state’s yearly crop of soybeans and corn. Roads were obliterated, people’s lives were in jeopardy, and the city was literally drowning.


The Coralville Dam was built in the 1950s by the US Army Corps of Engineers to help provide flood protection for the Iowa River Valley to the south. It was named after the city, which had weirdly received its name from the ancient fossilized reefs that stud the river’s limestone.

Once the rains stopped and the citizens of the city could step outside without being swept away, the Corps returned to the site to assess the damage and explore the choices for reconstructing the dam. What they discovered shocked everyone.

The Corps discovered that the floods eroded five feet of limestone from the edge of the spillway. This created a gorge and unearthed several fossil beds, most of which were about 375 million years old. The fossils were mainly marine creatures that had once lived in the sea that used to cover Iowa. Because the Corps discovered them, all the sea creatures immediately became the property of the US Army.

That’s not to say that the Army will be opening a theme park filled with these fossils any time soon, but it’s pretty exciting to think that the Army has done its part to help advance the field of paleontology.

The survey archaeologist for the Corps, Nancy Brighton, said that the collection spans the entire paleontological record. So anything relating to animals and the natural world that existed before humans are included in that.

Because the Corps of Engineers manages more than 8 million acres of land across the United States, finds like the one in Iowa aren’t super uncommon. In fact, the Corps asl owns one of the most intact T. rex skeletons ever found. More on that later.

All thanks in part to the Flood Control Act, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 that decreed the need for dams, levees, and dikes all across the country. But before construction could begin on those early-iteration dams, the Corps had to complete a thorough survey. Those surveys almost always exposed ancient fossil beds.

In fact, it’s assumed that most of what American archeologists have discovered are thanks in part to the efforts of the Corps. All of the hydropower and flood control projects that started back in the 1950s certainly paved the way for new discoveries.

The greatest of all of these discoveries didn’t happen way back, though. It was just a few decades ago, in 1988, on Labor Day. That morning, Kathy Wankel, a hiker, and amateur fossil collector, was trekking through Montana’s Fort Peck Reservoir when something caught her eye.

At first, she thought it was a shoulder blade pushing up through the rocky soil. The lighting was perfect, according to Wankel, which allowed her to see the webby pattern of bone marrow, and that’s when she knew she’d discovered something big.

And by big, of course, we mean enormous. Wankel and her husband had stumbled on the remains of a T. rex thought to have roamed the Montana area some 66 million years ago. The discovery that Wankel and her husband made was one of just eight at the time. Since then, about 50 other skeletons have been discovered.

It took nearly a year to figure out who owned the land where the skeleton was found. At long last, the Corps began to dig. It took several years and a large team to unearth the 38-foot skeleton weighing in at nearly six tons. The most astonishing part? It was almost one hundred percent complete, making it the first specimen to be discovered with small lower arm bones fully intact.

Since 2017, the T. rex has called the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History home. The Corps of Engineers has agreed to a 50-year loan to ensure that all Americans have a chance to see it – when the world’s not locked down with COVID, at least.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Veteran James Petersen noticed five unused planting beds on the grounds of the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Clinic in Colorado Springs. He realized they would be perfect for a butterfly garden.

Petersen is a social worker for the VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System (VAECHS). He and his “Butterfly Brigade” filled the planters with soil and flowers. The brigade includes VAECHS volunteers and patients.

“The beds hadn’t been touched in years,” said Peterson. But he welcomed the challenge. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to engage our veterans, as well as create a place for them to socialize between appointments.”


The garden features perennial and annual flowers. It also contains milkweed, the only food eaten by the monarch caterpillar.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

The garden is an official monarch waystation.

A painted lady butterfly stops at the garden.

“The monarch butterfly is endangered, declining almost 90% over the past 20 years,” Petersen noted. Because of their efforts, the garden now is an official monarch butterfly migration pathway station.

Petersen has planted flowers to attract butterflies before. When he returned from five years in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he “found a lot of therapeutic value in gardening.” As a result, Petersen went through the master gardener program at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“When I worked at the St. Louis VA last summer, I planted a monarch butterfly garden,” he said. “Several of the veterans on my caseload worked with me in planting the garden. They loved it.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

A painted lady butterfly stops at the garden.

Place of change for butterflies and veterans

“This is a place to meditate, minimize stress, socialize and observe the many changes butterflies encounter, much like our own lives,” said clinic director Kim Hoge. She further called the garden a “spiritual refuge” and thanked clinic employees for donating their time, money and resources to build it.

Peterson said just as caterpillars become butterflies, veterans change when they transition to civilian life.

“This garden will do our part for conservation. It will also create a therapeutic place for veterans to hang out,” he said. “They will appreciate the symbolism of transformation and metamorphosis. Especially those who are dealing with traumatic histories.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.