If December is the season for consumerist gluttony, and full-fat eggnog, then January is the time for carrot sticks, running on the treadmill, and staring blankly at a scale that says you’ve only lost two pounds since the new year. If you, like me, found yourself in that happy place between despondency and full-on despair, you may need a smart scale to ever so gently nudge you along.
We’ve all felt that intense, cloying sense of dread when stepping on the scale. They’re generally the square, bulky things you willfully sidestep when you walk in to take a leak. Enter the Qardio’s QardioBase2. It makes getting into shape … intriguing. It’s a WiFi- or Bluetooth-connected circular scale that hooks up with the corresponding app and works on any surface, and it’s designed to be your kinder and gentler weight loss and fitness coach.
Fitness resolutions may center on pounds and ounces, but Qardio’s QardioBase2 smart scale focuses its feedback on direction rather than specific, hard-core goals. If you’re looking for something that offers its readout in more general, encouraging terms rather than the bark of a drill instructor, this is the bathroom scale for you.
Rather than spitting out a single weight, the QardioBase2 provides feedback on your body mass index, tracking it over time and rewarding you with one of three faces: smiling for weight loss, a neutral face for negligible results, and a frown when you’ve indulged a little too much.
Granted, for some its smiley-centric feedback is a bit too twee, and for those who need black-and-white reports, it also reads weight, along with muscle mass, fat percentage, bone, and water composition, allowing you to drill down as far as you want. All stats are recorded via its app to you can track progress over time. It weights just under seven pounds, is 13 inches in diameter, and works with iOS 10.0 or later, Kindle, Android 5 or later, and the Apple Watch.
Beyond the emoji feedback, which may be a tad precious, there’s a lot more to love. Its sleek design and tempered glass top in either black or white is less than an inch thick and adds class to even the most humble bathroom.
For those who want options for the whole family, it automatically detects individual users, recording data separately as such. It also has a pregnancy mode to track weight gain and progress as your partner gets further and further along in her pregnancy. Plus, she can add pictures to her numbers, so she can look back and remember what she looked like when the baby was the size of a walnut.
With the QardioBase2, I had a healthy alternative to the dreaded decimal point. Its feedback is less judgy that others in its class, but the various functions and multi-user ease makes this a scale I’m happy to use all year. Instead of dreading weighing myself, I was actually … well, excited is too strong a word. But heavily invested.
The British position at Stony Point, New York was really just an attempt to force George Washington out of the mountains and into a pitched battle – one the British could win. The American War of Independence had been going on for years, and by 1778, the British were languishing in New York City. To get things moving, General Sir Henry Clinton sent 8,000 men north to keep the Americans from using King’s Ferry to cross the Hudson.
But the Americans weren’t stupid. Assaulting a fortified position against overwhelming numbers was a bad call no matter how you try to justify it. So when the British Army left Stony Point with just a fraction of its troops as a garrison, that’s when Washington saw his opportunity.
If there’s anything Washington excelled at, it was picking his battles.
The setup was so grand and well-made, the British began to refer to their Stony Point position as the “Gibraltar of the West.” The fort used two lines of abatements, manned by roughly a third of the total force in each position. To top it all off, an armed sloop, the HMS Vulture, also roamed the Hudson to add to the artillery guns already defending Stony Point. It seemed like a suicide mission.
But when the bulk of the troops left to return to New York, Washington knew his odds were never going to get better than this. The British left only 600-700 troops at Stony Point. The defenses were intimidating, but Washington wasn’t fielding militia; he had battle-hardened Continental Soldiers, and a General they called “Mad Anthony” to lead them.
This is not some tiny stream.
The American plan seemed as Mad as Gen. Anthony Wayne. The Americans discovered that the British abatements didn’t extend into the river during low tide, so they could just go around the defenses if they timed their attack right. They created a three-pronged plan. Major Hardy Murfree would lead a very loud diversionary attack against the British center and create alarm in the enemy camp. Meanwhile, Gen. Wayne and Col. Richard Butler would assault either side of the defenses and flank the British. But they had to do it in total silence.
They unloaded their muskets and fixed bayonets to surprise the British.
They don’t call him “Mad” Anthony Wayne for nothing.
And the British were surprised. They were completely flanked on the sides of their abatements. As Murfree attacked the center, the other Americans completely rolled up the British defenses and cut off the regiments fighting Murfree in the center. They stormed the slopes of Stony Point and completely routed the British positions. They captured almost 500 enemy troops, and stores of food and weapons.
In a dispatch to Washington, Anthony wrote that the fort and its garrison were now theirs and that “Our officers men behaved like men who are determined to be free.”
The holiday season can bring out the best…and worst in people. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Gunn, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Loss Prevention Manager for the Kaiserslautern Military Community sees the bad decisions made by some people up close.
More than 20 screens fill a small room where Gunn and his loss prevention employees watch for shoplifters in the AAFES stores across the KMC.
“Just like off-base retailers, we definitely see an increase in shoplifting during the holiday season,” Gunn said. “Our stats bear that out. Besides actually detaining shoplifters, we find more empty packages on the sales floor this time of year.”
Shoplifters made off with ,200 worth of stolen merchandise all of last year, which Gunn attributes to his staff and other loss prevention methods. They detained 59 people for the crimes.
A loss prevention employee at the Army Air Force Exchange Service in the Kaiserslautern, Germany Military Community zooms in for a closer look as he watches for shoplifters during the holiday season.
(Photo by Keith Pannell)
Gunn said people shoplift for various reasons such as lack of funds, on a dare, to impress someone or just for the thrill of it.
“Whatever their reason, it’s a bad choice,” he said. “At the AAFES facilities here in the KMC, most of our shoplifting incidents are family members across the age range.”
Law enforcement turns military members caught shoplifting over to the unit.
“When a person is detained for shoplifting, law enforcement is called. They’re handcuffed and taken to the law enforcement center. A report is filed and they will have a criminal record that usually lasts five years or longer,” according to Rickey Anderson, United States Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Civilian Misconduct Officer.
If an Army civilian or family member, no matter what age, is caught shoplifting, their case will go to Anderson.
“I work closely with AAFES, especially this time of year,” Anderson said. “I get the report from law enforcement and then I’m on the phone with loss prevention to fill in details.”
Gunn and his staff use a combination of decades of experience in loss prevention, cameras with powerful zoom lenses and walking the sales floor to catch shoplifters.
“Whether it’s a parent or a first sergeant or commander of a military member caught shoplifting, they all want to see the recording,” Gunn said. “We have no problem showing them.”
Military members and civilians who shoplift from the Army Air Force Exchange Service are detained by AAFES loss prevention personnel and then handed over to the military police.
(Photo by Mary Davis)
Regardless of the price tag on the stolen item, one thing the sponsor of a shoplifter, or the shoplifter themselves if they’re military, will be hit with is an automatic 0 Civil Recovery fee.
The Civil Recovery Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2002. It allows AAFES to recover the “costs related to shoplifting, theft detection and theft prevention.”
“If we’re unable to recover the shoplifted item or items and resell them as new, the cost of the items will be added to the Civil Recovery fee,” Gunn said.
Regardless of why people shoplift, it’s an issue Anderson takes seriously.
Under the USAG RP Civilian Misconduct Action Authority Program, and in accordance with Army in Europe Regulation 27-9, those caught shoplifting at AAFES facilities will have their AAFES privileges temporarily suspended for a period of one year (this happens at the time of the offense) or until adjudicated by the CMAA.
“We’re not talking just about the PX,” Anderson said. “We’re talking about every facility with the AAFES name on it including the food court, the movie theater, the shoppettes, everything at every AAFES facility in the world.”
He added the shoplifter will have to get a new temporary ID card with the Exchange privileges removed and will most likely have to do community service.
To help curtail much of the stealing-on-a-dare shoplifting from school-aged children, Anderson and law enforcement personnel go to KMC area schools to talk about the perils of shoplifting.
“Because AAFES money funds many MWR services, people who shoplift are literally taking money away from service members and military families,” Anderson said with finality.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
China reportedly sent an uninvited surveillance ship to spy on the recent joint military exercises with Russia, a move highlighting how lingering distrust and competitiveness weaken the so-called “strategic partnership” emerging between Moscow and Beijing.
Beijing sent thousands of People’s Liberation Army troops accompanied by tanks, helicopters, and artillery to eastern Russia for joint drills in September 2018. China also deployed a PLA Navy Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel to shadow Russian naval assets training at sea while Chinese ground troops trained on land, USNI News reported, citing a US official. The latter was apparently not invited, but the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence on a competitor was presumably too good to pass up.
While consistent with past Chinese practices — the Chinese navy has sent spy ships to the Rim of the Pacific exercises — it is unusual to surveil an ally while training alongside them, even if it is technically legal under international law.
Given rising tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing, some observers suggested that increasing US pressure was driving Russia and China together, laying the groundwork for a possible alliance. A strategic military partnership between the two powers is alarming given each country’s interest in challenging America’s leadership and unilateral power and authority in the international system.
“It sends a signal to Washington that if the U.S. continues on its current course by pressuring Russia and imposing more sanctions, Russia will fall even more into the firm embrace of China,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Institute in Moscow recently told the Associated Press.
The Military Band of the Eastern Military District during the opening parade of Vostok 2018.
The “main political significance” of the Vostok 2018 drills “comes from the signaling by both Russia and China about the possible emergence of a strategic partnership, aimed at countering the threat that both countries feel from continued U.S. dominance of the international system,” Dmitry Gorenburg argued in The Washington Post.
The massive war games, touted as “unprecedented” and expected to be held every five years going forward, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to stand together against unilateralism. In June 2018, Xi called Putin his “best friend,” a sentiment seemingly shared by the latter.
But despite the budding bromance between Chinese and Russian leadership, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is undermined by decades of distrust dating back to the Cold War, when Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished along the border and tensions rose to the point that Russia was considering a nuclear strike on China.
Chinese state-affiliated media downplayed talk of a Chinese-Russian alliance, suggesting that the concept was being overhyped. “China and Russia are not allies, and they are firm in not forging an alliance,” the nationalist Global Times explained in a recent editorial. “But the outside world shouldn’t make China and Russia feel an urgent need to strengthen their military cooperation.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said recently that he sees “little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”
Exactly what the Chinese intelligence vessel was doing remains unclear, but experts suspect that it was gathering information on Russia’s more technologically-sophisticated navy given China’s interest in advancing its radar and electronic warfare capabilities, USNI News reported. Assuming the ship was indeed uninvited, China may have been trying to learn more about Russian warfighting than Russia was willing to teach.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.
Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)
Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.
This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.
Memorial Day brings visions of outdoor family barbeques, filled beaches and the unofficial kickoff to summertime. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the one day a year we set aside to honor those who willingly died to defend our freedoms in service to this nation.
Families of the fallen don’t expect America to approach this day with sadness, however. They truly welcome the celebration of all things red, white and blue. But they hope that while the country enjoys the day, those enjoying the festivities remember the why behind it. It’s because of their loved one’s sacrifice that we can celebrate it at all.
Krista Simpson Anderson knows all about the loss and also joy that comes with Memorial Day. Her husband, Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson, was a Green Beret. He was so proud to serve and be a part of the 1st Special Forces Group where he was lovingly nicknamed “The Unquiet Professional.” On April 27, 2013, on his 20th day of deployment in Afghanistan, nearly a decade to the day from his enlistment in the Army, Simpson sustained critical injuries from an improvised explosive device. He fought to stay alive, saying, “Wife, kids, I love,” while being evacuated to the hospital.
His medical team did everything they could to keep him alive; bringing him back each time he coded. Simpson underwent multiple surgeries as they battled to treat his severe injuries. He was medevaced to Germany four days after the blast and his wife and family arrived on May 1, 2013 and he was declared deceased not long after they arrived. He then gave all his viable organs, serving others until his heart stopped beating.
He was only 30 years old.
On the original day set aside as Memorial Day, May 30, 2013, Mike’s family said their final goodbye at Arlington National Cemetery. It was in that moment that Krista and a close friend decided to create a nonprofit organization to give back to all of those who had supported the family through their loss.
They called it The Unquiet Professional.
Since its inception, The Unquiet Professional has evolved from a fundraiser to an organization that provides resources and education to those actively serving, veterans, surviving families and Gold Star families. They also do a memorial run, every Memorial Day. The purpose is to spend that mile remembering the lives of the fallen. This year they are honoring Simpson as always but also SFC James Grissom, SSG Timothy McGill, SFC Liam Nevins and Sgt. Joshua Strickland, all who lost their lives within months of each other in 2013 defending their country.
But they were more than just soldiers.
Simpson was a deeply faithful man with an amazing sense of humor who loved his family. Grissom’s family shared that he had such a kind spirit and was always finding ways to help others. McGill’s sister Megan shared that he never told her he was a Green Beret because he was so humble and such a “gentle giant.” Nevins was known for his dimples, blue eyes and his love of pranks. Strickland was remembered by his family for living life passionately and always laughing.
It is the hope of all families of the fallen that the world will remember them this Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We honor Mike every day, but everyone honors him on Memorial Day. How could you not love that? I want people to celebrate, have barbecues and make fancy cocktails. Celebrate your freedom; that’s what he died for,” shared Anderson.
You can join in on TUP’s virtual memorial run here. Share pictures on social media during your memorial mile and use the hashtags #MotivatedByTheirLives and #TupMile. For those able to participate in a longer run, Project 33 Memorial Foundation is also hosting a virtual 10k to honor MSG Nicholas Sheperty who was killed during military freefall operations on April 17, 2019. All proceeds raised from their run will go to a memorial stone in his honor.
This Memorial Day, run for the fallen. Enjoy the day to live as they would want us to, but don’t forget to pause and remember.
At a family reunion several years ago, my uncle asked, “What unspoken vows do you have in your marriage?”
He was referring to the vows that respect each other’s pet peeves, and we all laughed as people shared their promises of keeping the cap on the toothpaste or using separate knives for the peanut butter and jelly.
At the time, I’d been married for only a couple of years, and I added that I’d promised not to meddle in my husband’s tools. But over the years, my uncle’s question echoed in my mind. As deployments came and went, I discovered that my unspoken vow was more complex, and in fact, I had more than one.
Deployment adds a unique dynamic to military marriages. As Army spouse and 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Corie Weathers writes in her memoir, Sacred Spaces, “Deployment, by its very nature, creates highly significant yet separate experiences for military couples.”
Deployment ushers us into a strange space, asking us to exist without each other and to accept that we can’t share each other’s experiences or even fully understand them.
I’ve often thought of it as living parallel lives.
Others have thought of it this way, too. Air Force wife Alane Pearce writes of parallel lives in her piece “Committed,” which appears in Faith Deployed… Again, and Weathers addresses “gaps” that separate couples in Sacred Spaces. Surely, more wrestle with this notion in their hearts.
However we might term it, the awareness of separateness is a reality in deployment, presenting us with a veritable mountain to climb. Although we’ll encounter tough passes of doubt and aloneness, I believe we have the ability to make it through these obstacles with sure footing. In my own experience, the first step is simple but powerful: I give voice to my unspoken vows.
1. I promise I will let you go.
We all know that prior to deployment, our service members become laser-focused on pre-deployment trainings, preparations and briefings. Like kids on Christmas morning, they sit amidst their gear, organizing, packing, unpacking, and repacking.
Meanwhile, we file powers of attorney, wills and crisis notification forms. We make arrangements with friends to be the ones we can call in case of an emergency.
Suddenly, we realize that we are preparing to be alone. That awareness is grim. It can induce fear, crank our grip tighter and make us ask why. It’s a force manipulative enough to make us feel left behind.
But, the power is within us to pause, take stock and refocus our lens.
As I reflected, read and spoke to other spouses, it struck me that by focusing on the aloneness ahead of us, we can set ourselves up for a long, lonely climb. Some spouses recalled that simple expressions of compassion have eased the road toward deployment.
Air Force wife Katie Spain, who has been married for four years and faced two deployments, reflects on the difficulty service members must feel being so far removed from their families: “While the military may be their first responsibility, it is not the first priority in their hearts,” she says, “and I can’t imagine the internal conflict being easy to remedy.”
As she finds herself mirroring her husband’s pre-deployment motions, she realizes that she is also experiencing guilt in leaving her family.
Having been in her shoes, her husband empathizes with her position. Weathers describes this interesting role-reversal as an example of the value that spouses’ compassion can have in releasing service members to their mission.
“We play an awesome role to love them that way,” Weathers said in a recent interview. “We do have the ability to release the anxiety that they have not chosen deployment over their family.”
It seems to me that this compassion releases the military spouse, too, as it eases tension and draws us closer to our service members in a shared experience. It helps us understand that we are not alone in our feelings, it reaffirms our love with our service members and it allows us to approach deployment with clearer sight and firmer footing.
2. I promise I will be my best for you.
As military spouses, we know that once our service members leave, our role suddenly changes. We go from being part of a pair to being a “Class-B bachelorette” or a “pseudo-single parent.” Whether we dub it “flying solo” or “geo-baching,” no cute new title fills the emptiness left by our service members. The impact of their sudden absence can knock us off balance, making us struggle to find our grip without them.
All home front responsibilities immediately fall to us, and it seems that the same mystical force visits every household immediately following a service member’s departure, breaking every appliance and infecting every child with the stomach flu. Suddenly, we are swamped trying to work a two-person job, to nurture, discipline, organize, clean, counsel, and perform damage control. The sheer magnitude of this responsibility can be overwhelming.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)
This is the time when the feeling of living parallel lives is perhaps the most acute. The sense of separateness is seemingly insurmountable. Personally, I find myself angry with it. Angry with the feeling of separateness. It’s a strange, unwanted feeling to have in a marriage.
But it doesn’t have to be so bleak. I believe we have the power to overcome the feeling of separateness, to find an intersection, even when that seems impossible.
Reflecting on her experience as a licensed counselor working with military couples, Weathers describes many military spouses as “resilient, positive and resourceful” when going through a deployment.
“They push through and make things happen, and grow in their independence,” she says. “And the service members can trust that. It makes for a trusting relationship. They can focus on their mission.”
Although deployment changes my role temporarily, I am still married to my husband. Whenever I am overwhelmed, I owe it to him to push forward, because the obstacle he is facing doesn’t let him stop to dwell on his aloneness.
A friend once told me that her priest described marriage not as 50-50, but as 100-100. Each spouse must give 100 percent. Never is there a time when this is truer than during deployment. By actively choosing to give 100 percent, I am enabling my husband to do the same.
3. I promise I will seek you out.
When our service members return, many of us might feel out of sync as we try to walk in the rhythm of each other’s footsteps again. While we might expect this after so much time apart, we don’t have to accept our separate rhythms as the new normal; it can be our chance to recommit.
In these times, Weathers says, “Pursue your spouse.”
Army spouse of 16 years and 2015 Fort Huachuca Spouse of the Year Cynthia Giesecke agrees, saying that when couples seek out an “intentional period of reconnection,” they are better able to move forward honestly and lovingly.
Just as showing compassion and pushing forward through struggles can draw us closer despite our separateness, purposeful engagement with each other during reintegration can soon align our footsteps.
Looking back, I don’t know why I never thought of deployment this way before. This mindset allows me to reach past the anxiety of separateness. It empowers me to pick up the parallel lines and lay them back down across each other. It enables me to stand at the intersection with my husband, give voice to my vows and know that we’re a team that no battle – ever – can separate.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.
So what gives? What is really happening?
To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.
Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?
Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.
The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.
This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.
Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.
There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.
This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.
The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.
Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.
I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.
Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.
In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.
Think about that.
Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowlydeveloping its future capability as a secondary effort.
For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.
Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.
To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:
1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.
2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.
2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.
3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.
4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.
5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.
6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.
7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.
The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.
A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.
Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft is still going strong after nearly 14 years of being at the top of the video game world. One of the ways that Blizzard has maintained such success is by releasing a constant stream of new content for subscribers to enjoy. This trend continues with next week’s release of the game’s seventh expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
This time around, instead of focusing on fighting some giant, world-ending bad guy, the developers are taking a different approach and are returning to what made the game so beloved: the faction-based conflict between the Alliance of humans, dwarves, and night elves and the Horde of orcs, trolls, and undead.
Players had little idea that a simple choice between left side or right side would mean so much fourteen years down the road.
The game has always drawn players in by carefully scaling a character’s level of badassery with the amount of time spent playing. Couple this enrapturing, eventual rise to power with the ever-looming threat of attack by the opposing faction and you’ve got a recipe for player investment. When players are invested in the game, they start to care about the world — and its well-being.
The last expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion, saw players putting an end to the series’ primary antagonist, Sargeras. The fight against such a massive threat required that the Horde and Alliance mend bad blood and work together (mostly) to fend off a universal danger.
With the major threats quelled, players are rejoicing as opposing factions can finally go back to killing each other — and things have started off with a bang. As a lead-up to the expansion’s release, the Horde burnt down the capital city of the night elves, Darnassus. In return, the Alliance laid siege to the undead capital, The Undercity.
Right now, players are taking part in said attacks, storming the battlefield as either the defenders or the attackers, depending on which faction you chose when making your character — an event that, for some, happened nearly 14 years ago.
The Alliance-versus-Horde aspect of the game has long been a fan favorite. A huge section of player base has always taken their faction identity to heart. In the older days of World of Warcraft, if you made an Alliance character on a server, that was it. If you wanted to try life on the Horde, you had to pick a new server and start all over.
Back in 2004, it wasn’t uncommon for a group of friends to be split over something as simple as deciding to play as a dwarf or a troll because it meant they couldn’t play together. These restrictions have since been loosened and many players have characters on both factions — but they’ll remain fiercely loyal to their first, arbitrary choice.
This is actually the heart of what makes the advertisements for the new expansion so funny. Moments like the one in the video below really do happen between World of Warcraft players.
My excuse is going to be “massive diarrhea to the point that I’d rather not risk seeing a doc.”
It kind of goes without saying that the next expansion is heavily based on player-versus-player interactions. Players are highly encouraged to fight with their faction against their enemy and are given some pretty sweet in-game rewards for doing so. Ambush unsuspecting foes while they’re out exploring or take part in skirmishes in designated battlegrounds in the pursuit of honor — ‘honor’ here means both for the love of your faction and for literal ‘honor points.’
New to the expansion is the introduction of Warfronts, massive battlefields for which players fight to control. Victory means capturing a city that their faction retains until the next battle. There are also plenty of new zones filled brim with quests tailored specifically for your faction to help you reach the new max level, getting you ready to join the fight.
So, get ready to fight for your faction’s pride on Tuesday. Or, if you don’t play, get ready for some of your nerdy friends to sick call for a “totally valid” reason early next week.
In ‘Weekend At Bernie’s,’ a corpse becomes the life of the party. But, in World War II, a corpse saved the lives of thousands of American and Allied soldiers.
On April 30, 1943, the British submarine HMS Seraph surfaced a mile from the southwest coast of Spain. A canister was brought on deck and the officers of the sub opened it. Inside was the body of an alcoholic, homeless man who had died from ingesting rat poison, now dressed in the clothes of a British Royal Marine major.
The sailors put a life jacket on the corpse, strapped a brief case to its belt, read Psalm 39 over it, and then pushed the body into the ocean.
This was the fruition of Operation Mincemeat, one of the most important actions to the success of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Fortress Europe.
‘The underbelly of the Axis’
After the success of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of German North Africa, was assured, Allied planners were fully focused on how to break into fortress Europe. It was widely agreed that the first attack should be into Italy, attempting to knock it out of the war, thus weakening the Axis Powers. The problem was, though Italy was described by Winston Churchill as, “the underbelly of the Axis,” it was heavily fortified.
Allied planners knew Sicily, the island off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot,” was the logical place to attack in order to take the fight to the Axis. Unfortunately, logical places to attack are generally well-defended. Since Hitler was known to be afraid of an attack through Greece and the Balkans, the Allies decided to play up the possibility of an invasion there while claiming they would bypass Sicily entirely.
Operation Barclay, a deception operation, was launched to sell this lie to the Third Reich. One of the key elements of Barclay was Operation Mincemeat, possibly history’s most daring Haversack Ruse.
The Haversack Ruse and the Trout Memo
The Haversack Ruse was invented in World War I when the British Army needed to deceive the Ottoman Military. Though there are conflicting accounts on who planned and who executed the ruse, someone rode a horse into contested territory, waited until they were shot at by the Ottomans, slumped over in their horse like they’d been hit and rode as quickly as possible back to British lines.
During the escape, the rider “accidentally” dropped a haversack with fake battle plans in it. The British faked a search for the documents. The Ottomans recovered them, assumed they were real, and redeployed their forces. This lead to the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Beersheba.
Early in World War II, Naval Intelligence released a document called the “Trout Memo.” Though it was credited to the British Director of Naval Intelligence, it is thought to have actually been the work of his assistant, Sir Ian Fleming. Fleming would go on to write the Bond novels which were partially based on actual operations in the war.
The memo, released in 1939, listed 51 ways to deceive enemy intelligence. Number 28 was a plan for an updated Haversack Ruse. Intelligence operatives would fake an airplane crash in such a way that the body would wash up on the shore where the enemy would find it. Hidden on its person would be documents that the enemy would find credible. This idea would form the core of Operation Mincemeat.
Planning Operation Mincemeat
Planning for Operation Mincemeat was conducted by British Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu and Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley.
They knew that Spain, though neutral, regularly allowed Nazi military officials access to Allied documents that fell into their hands.
Ocean currents were studied and a timeline was established. The goal was a set up where a body, recently deceased, could be floated to the coast where it would be appear to have arrived after a plane crash. To make it work, they needed a false identity and a real body.
A coroner and former colleague of Montagu’s, Bentley Purchase, was contacted to quietly look for suitable bodies. On January 28, 1943, a homeless Welsh man, Glyndwr Michael, died of phosphorous poisoning and was sent to Purchase. Purchase contacted Montagu and Cholmondeley who agreed the body was fit for the task. Michael was placed in cold storage, giving the British 3 months to perfect the fake documents and execute the mission before the body would be too decayed to use.
Montagu and Cholmendeley worked together to create a false identity for their corpse. Their final creation was Maj. William Martin, a Royal Marine. Martin was recently engaged to a woman named Pam. A photo of a Military Intelligence Section 5, MI5, staffer, was included in Martin’s effects.
The conspirators thought it would be suspicious if a major was shabbily dressed. So, Martin was given a pair of nice underwear, taken from the possessions of a recently deceased official at New College, Oxford. A series of documents were forged and placed on Martin including sale receipts, a collection letter from a bank, and the photo of “Pam,” in order to sell the “Martin” identity.
In addition, military documents were put into an official briefcase that would later be chained to the deceased man’s belt. These documents were specially crafted to make it sound like Operation Husky was the invasion of Greece instead of Sicily. They also referenced a fictional operation, Operation Brimstone, as the invasion of Sardinia while implying that the Allies would feint to Sicily. This would convince the Germans that the real invasion of Sicily, when it began, was just a smokescreen for the fictional invasions in Sardinia and Greece.
Conducting the operation
With the body, the documents, and the story in place, it was time to execute the mission.
The body was placed in a steel canister filled with dry ice and driven to the HMS Seraph by a legally-blind racecar driver. The Seraph‘s crew was told that the capsule contained meteorological equipment. Only the officers knew the real mission.
When they arrived at their destination, the officers secured the documents and a lifejacket to the body, performed their own small ceremony, and pushed the body into the ocean. The HMS Seraph sailed away from Spain into the early morning Atlantic.
The body was quickly recovered by the Spanish who turned it over to the British Vice-Consul in the country. “Maj. Martin” was buried with full military honors on May 2. The British, keeping up the ruse, began a hasty search for the missing documents.
The Spanish recovered the documents and gave the Germans an hour to copy them. Once the Germans had copies, they sent the information to Berlin where it was trusted as genuine. The originals were returned to the British government.
As a result of the German High Command believing the documents, entire divisions of tanks were moved to defend Greece. Minesweepers were moved from Sicily to Greece where they laid mines off the coast. Rommel himself was sent to Greece to lead the defense.
That summer, on July 9, the true Operation Husky was kicked off and Sicily was invaded. The Germans, still believing Sicily was a feint, declined to reinforce the island. It wasn’t until July 12 that German paratroopers arrived to try and slow the Allied advance, but by then it was too late. Fighting on the island continued until August 17 when the last German unit pulled out. Sicily was captured with a fraction of the Allied casualties expected, though 5,837 were killed or missing, 15,683 were wounded, and 3,330 captured. Germany was thought to have taken about 20,000 casualties while Italy lost over 130,000 men, mostly captured during the Allied advance. Operation Husky led to the downfall of Mussolini and the surrender of Italy.
And much of its success was due to the British corpse, Glyndwr Michael, who served as Maj. William Martin.
The bulk of information known about Operation Mincemeat came from Montagu when he published his book, “The Man Who Never Was” in 1954. New information, including intentional errors in Montagu’s book, came from the research of Ben Macintyre. Macintyre was granted access to Montagu’s papers and published his own excellent book, “Operation Mincemeat,” in 2011.
The anti-tank rifle is largely absent from modern combat because today’s tanks have advanced armor that can shrug off many tank rounds, let alone rifle rounds. But that wasn’t always the case.
Anti-tank rifles wreaked havoc on World War I tanks, and most World War II tanks had at least a few weak spots where a good anti-tank rifle could end the fight.
YouTube channel FullMag decided to see what one of these awesome weapons would do to a series of 1/4-inch thick steel plates — and the result is pretty great.
The shooter was using a 20mm anti-tank rifle with its original tungsten ammo. One of the best things about the video is that you can see what made an anti-tank rifle so dangerous for the crew.
When the 20mm round punches past the first few plates, it doesn’t just pass harmlessly through. Instead, shards of metal split off and turn white-hot thanks to the kinetic energy in the round changing to heat.
For the crew inside the tank, the white-hot slivers of metal and larger chunks of steel would be lethal, potentially getting rid of the crew even if none of them were hit by the round itself.
These awesome weapons saved the day for the Allies in a few battles, including Pavlov’s House in the Battle of Stalingrad, where a platoon of Soviet troops held off a Nazi siege for approximately two months thanks to their skillful use of an anti-tank rifle.
See FullMag’s entire video in the embed below. You can skip to 4:15 to just watch the shot and the effect on the steel plates:
News about the civil unrest in Nicaragua has been under-reported in recent days as one of the last true Marxist-Leninist dictators is at the center of the killings of student protesters and journalists. And it could spark another Central American civil war.
The leader and chairman of Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista Party, Daniel Ortega, announced a tax increase on Apr. 18. Along with the tax increase, pension benefits are to be greatly reduced. What started as a peaceful demonstration against these changes turned deadly when authorities and pro-Sandinista groups used live ammunition on the protesting crowds.
Ortega first rose to power as a Communist revolutionary in 1978. His Soviet backing and strong anti-American views grabbed the attention of the Reagan Administration in 1985 which lead to America backing the Contras, an anti-communist counter-revolutionary group. After the details of the Iran-Contra Affair were made public, however, the U.S. backed out of the region — but the Nicaraguan Revolution had already claimed 30,000 lives.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, so, too, did Ortega’s control over Nicaragua. Still, he vowed that he would lead from the shadows. He ran for president in every election that followed. Herty Lewites, the more popular candidate in the 2006 election, was threatened, told that he “could end up hanged” if he continued to run. Lewites died of a sudden heart attack shortly before the election. Ortega became president again when he won with 36% of the vote that year.
The current death toll of protesters and journalists at the time of this writing is 63. Protesters who have been arrested allege the use of torture and report having their heads shaven and being left barefoot in the outskirts of Managua. There are calls for the United Nations Human Rights Office to investigate human rights abuses.
The country is dependent on outside trade and tourism and the people are still reeling from the effects of the last civil war almost 50 years ago, so nobody wants a violent answer to this problem. Currently, the tumult is contained within Managua, but there’s no denying that Nicaragua is at a turning point. Either Ortega will be removed from power peacefully or this will spark a bloody revolution. It’s a situation that echoes the economic unrest and political dissatisfaction that characterized the Arab Spring of 2011.
The ousted commander of a Marine Corps air station rearranged his pilots’ flight schedules to give himself more time in the cockpit and had a reputation of being a “big, angry colonel,” according to an investigation into complaints about him.
Col. Mark Coppess, the former commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, abused his staff and officers for months “so he could achieve his personal objectives to fly,” a 351-page report into his behavior states. A copy of the investigation was obtained by Military.com on Aug 6, 2018.
UC-35D in flight
Coppess was relieved of command June 5 by Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, head of Marine Corps Installations Pacific. Rock lost confidence in the colonel’s ability to lead, the service reported at the time.
Some believed Coppess, an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter pilot, was aggressively trying to earn flight time in a UC-35 Cessna Citation business jet. Coppess, who could not immediately be reached for comment, requested that he be scheduled to fly three times per week, according to the investigation.
“Colonel Coppess would remove pilots from the flight schedule and replace them with himself,” one witness said, according to the documents. “… This looked like Colonel Coppess was trying to receive more fixed-wing time to set himself up for a career post-Marine Corps.”
A Super cobra flies past USS Fort McHenry during a Search and Seizure (VBSS) drill
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson)
One witness said Coppess put his own time in the cockpit ahead of more junior pilots, adding that the colonel once said, “the captains can fly less. I’ve done my time.”
Others cited a poor command climate under Coppess and alleged abuse of authority and undue command influence. Five pilots interviewed during the investigation reported “personally being pressured to produce certain outcomes not in accordance with orders, [standard operating procedures] and directives” for Coppess’ benefit.
“He creates an atmosphere of fear and reprisal,” a witness told the investigating officer. “He is using his position, title, and rank to get what he wants for himself.”
Coppess denied using his position to unduly influence flight operations at Futenma, but acknowledged that he’d heard about the accusations from Rock.
A former operations officer at Futenma said scheduling staff had to route the weekly flight schedule through Coppess’ office before producing the daily schedules.
“He inserted himself into the schedule writing process,” the officer said. “… There is a perception of a ‘self hook-up’ concerning Col. Coppess’ flying.”
Coppess also told his Marines there was “no rank in the cockpit.” But those under his command didn’t always find that to be the case.
The colonel showed an unwillingness to accept constructive feedback from junior personnel, one witness said, adding they feared some might be unwilling to “correct procedural deviations and potential flight safety concerns due to apprehension about retribution from Col. Coppess.”
Pilots weren’t comfortable flying with Coppess, according to the investigation, and he was identified as a “high-risk aviator.” He had a reputation for being “difficult in the cockpit,” one witness said. Others said he was not experienced flying a fixed-wing aircraft.
Coppess once “rose his flaps at a non-standard time,” according to a witness, and on another occasion “warmed a burrito on the exhaust duct of the aircraft.”
While there aren’t any Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization [NATOPS] prohibiting pilots from doing either, the witness said the acts were considered “different enough” for the aircraft commanders to raise the issue to a party whose name was redacted in the report.
Coppess did not address those incidents in the investigating officer’s documents, but did say that he supports naval aviation’s constructs for safety and standardization.
In a memo for a May command meeting, he urged other aviators to be straight with him about his aviation skills, despite his rank and position. The memo was included in the investigation, though it’s not immediately clear whether the meeting was held.
“It will help me in knowing and owning my weaknesses and seeking improvement,” Coppess wrote in the meeting memo. “… I fully intend to know and own my shortcomings as an aviator.”
Despite the deficiencies some witnesses described, several people told the investigating officer that Coppess was pressuring people in the command to make him a Transport Aircraft Commander, or TAC. One in particular said he was under “constant pressure” to make Coppess a TAC in the UC-35D.
“[He] is not ready and is a below-average copilot,” the witness said. “I was specifically told by him a few months ago that he will be a TAC, will be dual [qualified to fly both our UC-35 and UC-12], and that he will be an instructor in at least one of the planes.”
Coppess addressed those issues in an April 27 letter that was included in the investigation. Writing to a redacted party, Coppess said he recognized the standardization board’s role in nominating pilots for additional designations and qualifications. He did “not intend to influence members of the Standardization Board in their responsibilities,” he wrote.
“I apologize for the unintentional perception of undue command influence on the [board’s] role of nominating pilots for designations and qualifications,” he said. “That won’t happen again. When the [board] determines I’ve progressed in proficiency and I’m nominated, I will be ready for the TAC syllabus.”
He also invited the person to bring any fears of reprisal to his attention.
While at Futenma, Coppess racked up more flight hours than any other air station commanding officer in the Marine Corps during the same period, according to the investigation. His command did not immediately respond to questions about his current assignment.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @Militarydotcom on Twitter.