Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

With just over 5,000 employees, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is one of the smaller federal law enforcement agencies.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t deal with their share of vicious individuals, groups, and threats. In fact, the ATF goes after some of the most violent criminals: those who want to shoot others or blow something or someone up. Naturally, being an ATF field agent requires a great deal of mental toughness.


Carlos Baixauli, or “Box” as his friends call him, joined the ATF in 1986. He was recruited after doing undercover work for Florida’s state version of the ATF and for the Miami-Dade Police Department; his 30-year career included working on the Medellín Cartel, headed by the infamous Pablo Escobar.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Baixauli in the field as an ATF agent.

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)

His first experience as a new agent was witnessing an atrocity on New Year’s Eve at the Du Pont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The plaza was set on fire by angry union workers,” Baixauli recalled. “They wanted to send a message, and in doing so, killed 98 people and injured over 100 others.”

Baixauli was tasked with walking through the crime scene to investigate.

“People were burned into place,” he said. The scene was like something out of a nightmare. “One thing that’s always stuck with me — they were busting out of a window, and this lady was getting ready to jump. Then a burst of air came out, feeding the fire, and a giant fireball came across, and it was like everyone had been turned into the ruins of Pompeii. They were all ash.”

It didn’t take long for Baixauli to be assigned more undercover operations that put him in harm’s way, dealing with armed home invaders. With home invasions, the crime often goes unreported.

“We started coming up on homes and there would be five or six dead Colombians, Venezuelans, or some other South American nationality in the house,” Baixauli said. “The house was empty. I’m talking big homes, five, six bedrooms. But there was no furniture or accessories. These are homes that the drug cartels would set up in Florida. They are guarded by their thugs, and they are stash houses. They would start delivering drugs from these locations to other locations. The reason they would find the people dead inside is that home invaders would go rip off the dope dealers.”

His undercover role was that of a disgruntled employee of the drug cartel. Baixauli would tell the criminals that he wasn’t making enough money, that there were millions of dollars worth of drugs in these houses, and that he needed his fair share.

“They would talk to me about how they can come and rip the place off,” Baixauli said. “They would take the drugs and the money.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

An ATF Special Response Teams searches an exterior of a building in Baltimore, Md.

According to Baixauli, they were usually either a stash house or a drug house. He would meet with them four to five times before taking them to a house the ATF was in control of already.

“The violent nature of these guys,” he said, “they knew they were going into a gunfight. We were just lucky that we won.”

Sometimes his meetings as an undercover agent resulted in a brush with death.

Later in his career, Baixauli found himself amongst a rough crowd at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant in South Beach.

“I’m sitting there, and a guy puts a gun into my side. My team is wired up and they’re outside. I had to let them know I’m at gunpoint but they needed to wait for the code word because I needed to talk my way out of the situation I was in,” Baixauli said. “The guy with the gun says, ‘Tell me where the stash house is.'”

Baixauli refused.

Undercover and Hired to Kill

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Instead, he made a comment about the gun. “Why do you have that .45 in my side? Somebody is going to see it outside or from the bar. We have a good deal going here, and now we aren’t going to make any money.”

Baixauli kept his cool and didn’t even signal that the gun concerned him.

“If you’re going to keep the gun on me, put it in my back,” he said. “Nobody can see it then.”

He recalled the event as if reliving it. “We are moving. My team is listening. They are making a move towards the front door. ‘The cashier is going to see the gun,’ I tell the guy. The whole time I’m giving a play by play to my crew outside. Walking towards the front door, I see the cover team. Soon as I go through the door, this guy comes behind him, and he’s taken down easily.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Baixauli with .7 million in recovered cash.

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)

One way the ATF differentiates from other law enforcement agencies is that they try not use confidential or criminal informants (CIs).

“ATF doesn’t deal with CIs. CI always brings baggage. The best hand-to-hand is between a good guy and a bad guy. If I need a CI to introduce me to a bad guy, and we do a deal with the CI, we throw that deal away. We don’t want to deal with the baggage from the CI. As soon as we could cut the CI out, we would,” Baixauli said.

While he’s been out of the ATF since 2016, Baixauli is still concerned about current threats; he sees groups like MS-13 as a bigger threat to the U.S than even Pablo Escobar’s cartel.

“MS-13 is 10 times worse. Drugs, extortion, brutal murders, prostitution, terrorizing people — and as far as law enforcement is concerned, they are animals who have no feeling for life.” In 2017, it was reported that the group stabbed a victim 100 times, beheaded him, and ripped out his heart.

Despite the danger, Baixauli loved his job with the ATF so much that he can’t remember a day he didn’t look forward to work. “I loved it,” he said. “I just loved it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Over 400 US Navy sailors are desperately fighting the 1,000-degree fire raging on a warship for more than a day

A devastating fire continues to spread throughout the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy official revealed in an update Monday, over 24 hours after the ship burst into flames.

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters that the fire, which is believed to have originated in the lower vehicle storage area, has damaged the superstructure, collapsed the masts, and spread to the bow.


Sobeck said at the moment it is believed that there are two decks standing between a fire as hot as 1,000 degrees in some places and about 1 million gallons of fuel, but he said that while the risk of the fire reaching the fuel was “absolutely a concern,” the response team would “make sure” the fire does not reach the fuel.

With all the water that has been dumped onto the ship, the Bonhomme Richard is listing on its side. Navy helicopters alone have dumped 415 buckets of water on the ship.

And a total of 57 people, including 34 sailors and 23 civilians, have suffered injuries, such as smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Five remain in the hospital.

Sobeck told reporters Sunday evening that “we’re absolutely going to make sure it sails again.”

He added: “We’re just going to get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out.”

On Monday, he reiterated that he remained hopeful.

There are more than 400 sailors battling the blaze aboard the Bonhomme Richard. “We’re doing everything we can,” the admiral said, adding that the Navy responders would “make every effort to save the ship.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)

‘Hell in a very small space’

The ongoing fight aboard the ship is intense. “Shipboard fires are enormously hard to fight,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander, wrote on Twitter Monday.

“Having been through a couple, I can tell you they are hell in a very small space,” he said. With temperatures as high as they are in some places on the ship, sailors are rotating in and out on 15-minute firefighting shifts.

The specific cause of the fire is unknown and will likely remain unknown until the fire can be extinguished.

The ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego when the fire ignited.

“At least some, if not all of, the major firefighting systems are tagged out for maintenance,” retired US Navy Capt. Earle Yerger, the former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, told Insider. Sobeck confirmed that the Halon fire-suppression system was not active.

Furthermore, “in the yards, you have multiple cables, wires, and hoses running straight through passageways,” he said. “As a result, you can’t close the fire doors. Once [the fire] got seeded and got going, there is no way to contain it. It was like a chimney all the way up to the island.”

Yerger added that limited manning may have also hindered the crew’s early ability to fight the fire, saying that had the ship been at sea with a full crew, they would have likely had it under control in less than an hour. At the time of the fire, there were only 160 people on the ship.

While Sobeck has expressed optimism the ship could be saved, Yerger said the ship was likely too far gone.

“You’re not going to fix it,” he told Insider, adding that the ship’s future probably involved being towed out and sunk to a “deep point in the ocean.”

“Build a new America-class and call it a day. This ship is 23 years old. You’d be better off to start fresh,” he said, referring to the newer amphibs replacing the Wasp-class vessels. “Just let it go.”

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

Humor

6 more Share-a-Coke cans they could also use

Coca-Cola, the USO, and Dollar General have teamed up to run a special “Share a Coke” campaign this summer in support of the military community. It was designed with the best of intentions, but it’s caught a bit of backlash for not including a few branches.

You can find 16-oz cans of Coke labeled with ‘Sailor,’ ‘Airman,’ and “Coast Guardsman,” which accounts for three of the five branches, but you’ll notice that both ‘Solider’ and ‘Marine’ are missing. Instead, you’ll find cans marked ‘hero’ and ‘veteran’ respectively.

So, if they’re going to swap out two branch-specific terms in favor of something more widely applicable, that opens the door for plenty of other possibilities! Try these on for size:


Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

For that no-drag specialist in your squad.

High Speed

With all due respect, they’ve kinda missed the mark by using “Hero” as the label for soldiers — this isn’t exactly a compliment in some contexts. In the Army, the term ‘Hero’ is a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Basically, it’s another term for ‘idiot.’

Why not go all the way and label one “High Speed?”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Boot

Every Marine was, at one point in their career, a dumb boot. It’s only after a young boot has made enough mistakes and has had the stupid smoked out of them enough times that they’re finally accepted by their fellow Marines. It’s a rite of passage.

Since boots are also the most likely to remind everyone in the outside world of their service, they should have their own can.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Caw caw, mother f*cker.

Blue Falcon

No one likes the blue falcon — it’s no coincidence that the first letter of each word in this term is shared with another, less polite label: Buddy F*cker.

Blue falcons work hard to keep up their game and getting your buddies in trouble is thirsty work. Why not celebrate them with a nice, cold middle finger?

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Perfectly mixes well with whiskey.

C.O.B

The C.O.B. (or the Crabby Ol’ Bastard) is the Chief of the Boat and is more often than not the oldest person on the ship.

You’ll never know how these salty sailors made it so long without being forced into retirement, but you have to respect their amazing ability to hold a ship together using only pure hatred.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

They can get a Coke and a Bronze Star as an End of Tour award.

Powerpoint Ranger

Rangers are some of the hardest badasses in the Army. The Powerpoint Ranger, however, is on the very opposite side of the coolness spectrum.

All these guys do is sit on the FOB and craft the perfect Powerpoint presentation on the complexities of connex cleaning. These guys probably haven’t seen the range in years, but they do have a direct line to the Colonel.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

The one and only universal truth that every service member can agree on is: “F*ck Jodie.”

Jodie

A Coke isn’t the only thing Jodie wants to share with you.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘South Park’ banned in China after most recent episode

The most recent episode of “South Park,” called “Band in China,” mocked Hollywood’s submission to the country. Now the long-running Comedy Central animated series has seemingly been banned in China itself.

Episodes, clips, and online discussions of the show have been removed from the Chinese internet, according to The Hollywood Reporter. THR reviewed the Chinese social network Weibo and found zero mention of the series; clips and episodes on Chinese streamer Youku didn’t work; and “South Park” discussion forums on Tieba had been closed.

“According to the relevant law and regulation, this section is temporarily not open,” a note on the platform says when you search for a “South Park” discussion thread, according to THR.


In the episode, Hollywood wants to make a biopic of Stan Marsh’s band, but must alter the movie to fit China’s regulations. Meanwhile, Stan’s dad, Randy, attempts to sell marijuana in the country after people in South Park stop buying his and start growing their own.

The Return of Fingerbang – “Band in China” – s23e02 – South Park

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China is currently the second-largest theatrical market in the world and Hollywood has increasingly relied on the country’s box office to give potential blockbusters a boost. A report from Ampere Analysis last year predicted that China would surpass the US as the world’s box office leader by 2022.

The “South Park” episode is heavily critical of China’s censorship and references the country’s crackdown on Winnie the Pooh imagery. After China’s ruling Communist Party announced it wanted to eliminate presidential term limits last year, photos comparing its leader Xi Jinping to Pooh popped up online.

Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” a live-action take on the Winnie the Pooh characters, was not released in China last year because the character was such a symbol of resistance, according to THR.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Master Sergeant gives hated Air Force tiger stripe uniform a memorable sendoff

It’s almost time to say goodbye to the tiger stripe.

The U.S. Air Force is approaching its sunset date for the Airman Battle Uniform, known as the ABU, in favor of the Army‘s Operational Camouflage Uniform. The service approved the OCP to be worn full time beginning Oct. 1, 2018, with the expectation that all airmen and Space Force guardians would make the changeover by April 1, 2021.

The service asked airmen at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee whether they had any final words on the ABU, which has been their standard service duty uniform for more than a decade. Some said they aren’t sad to see it go, while others saw its potential, according to a release.

Read Next: Army OKs Long Ponytails, Buzz Cuts for Women in Grooming Standards Overhaul

Master Sgt. Mike Smith at the base’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center asked airmen their opinions and received a variety of responses.Advertisement

“Not since leisure suit wearers were cool has an outfit been so disliked and oppositely loved,” he said in the release. “One opponent compared its camouflage design to an over-patterned couch; another advocate hailed its unique ability to channel the wind down her sleeves, from one arm to the other while driving down the road — she will miss that.”

In 2013, The Washington Post reported that there were 10 different types of military camouflage uniforms floating around, dependent on where a service member was stationed.

The ABU’s “tiger stripe” pattern was supposed to pay homage to camouflage used during the Vietnam War, according to the Post. But early iterations “looked slightly off” from one uniform to the next, with multiple shades making up the pattern, Smith said.

The ABU didn’t really help airmen blend in in Afghanistan. As a precaution, airmen were issued the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, the same as their soldier brethren, when deploying outside the wire — unless they were in the mountains.

“Turned out, the ABU pattern blended into the mountains extremely well,” an airman who had once stationed at Bagram Airfield told Smith.

“ABUs came in handy when I wanted to blend in with concrete,” another airman told him.

Respondents also panned the ABU’s matching footwear. Airmen knew to keep a pair of shoes handy when changing after work because “there were no doubts that the sage-green boots weren’t hip with a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt,” Smith said in the release. “It looked about as stylish as a fat collar and polyester bell-bottoms.”

If airmen accidentally forgot spare shoes during a TDY, they “had to own it,” one airman told Smith. “Or you stayed in the dorm.”

Still, the ABU has its perks. Troops can wash and wear the uniform without having to iron or press it, and the oversized apron-style front pockets help airmen pack extra items like “a handful of cookies and a banana to stash on your way out,” Smith wrote.

Airmen also have liked having their rank prominently displayed on the sleeve.

While the OCP uniform was designed with fit and function in mind for both men and women, ranks and name tape will be velcroed on instead of sewn like it is on the ABU. The service is working to manufacture new OCP name and service tape that is less busy to make it easier to identify air and space personnel.

“History will show that the U.S. Air Force once had a unique utility uniform that, no matter our opinions of it, airmen wore with absolute pride all over the world,” Smith wrote.

“For those last holdouts: It’s time to fold it up,” he added. “Now Airmen share their cloth with the U.S. Army’s Soldiers and the U.S. Space Force’s Guardians, and that’s ‘Dynomite.’”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Her last goodbye: The text that ended one life and changed another

“The worst part of it all was just thinking about what she was thinking in those final moments as she was standing in the bathroom all alone, and I can’t imagine just how lonely she must’ve felt,” said Senior Airman Brianna Bowen, 1st Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller.

According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, suicide in the military has risen across the Department of Defense since 2017. Bowen knows first-hand about the impact suicide can have on victims and their loved ones.


Although the computer based training’s and annual military suicide prevention classes help members understand warning signs for someone thinking of committing suicide, Bowen believes a more personal stance is needed in order to really understand the topic.

March 16, 2009: The day that changed Bowen’s life

When Bowen was just 13, her older sister Chelsea Bowen, took her own life.

Bowen sat on a nearly empty school bus, awaiting the final stop on the route. As they approached the dirt road that leads to her house, she said it was obvious something was wrong.

“We were passing about five police cars and an ambulance that didn’t have its lights on,” Bowen said.

Bowen was picked up from the bus stop by a police officer, and when she saw her father sitting outside of their house, back against the door, hugging his knees, she knew that it was big.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Chelsea Rae Bowen.

“Chelsea’s gone.” Mr. Bowen said.

In her final moments Chelsea sent one last text “Goodbye, I will love you forever.”

Although Chelsea’s final text was only sent to her boyfriend, Brianna believes it was a blanket text for all those she loved.

An irrevocable decision

As soon as 15-year old Chelsea and her twin sister, Miranda, got home from high school, Bowen believes Chelsea had already decided what she was going to do.

“It was a Monday, right before finals week, so I guess she planned it out that way on purpose,” Bowen said.

According to her father, Chelsea’s last verbal words to anyone in the family were “Don’t touch my backpack,” after he jokingly said he was going to take it. Their father went outside to check on their chickens, while Miranda sat down on the couch to watch TV.

One decision can have an everlasting impact, and in that moment Chelsea’s decision would change the Bowen family’s life forever.

“Every single detail of that day sticks with me,” Bowen said. “The bloody footprints throughout the house when Miranda was running to get help, to seeing her body bag being pushed out the door into the driveway.”

Making a change

Although a tragedy, Bowen refuses to see her sister’s suicide as just that. She has taken every opportunity to raise awareness about suicide, including starting a scholarship foundation in her sister’s name in her hometown of Gilmanton, New Hampshire.

“It is going to take strong airmen, like Senior Airman Bowen, to stand up and tell their stories to reach people,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Miller, 1st OSS assistant chief controller. “Senior Airman Bowen’s sister chose to take her own life and that crushed (Brianna). However instead of that being the last story written about her sister, Senior Airman Bowen chose to let her sister’s name live on by providing awareness.”

Bowen hopes for military members to come forward with their own stories to tell and help prevent more suicides from happening with hopes that one day military members can seek more mental health help at off-base providers.

The ideal way to get awareness out for those in need of help is by connecting peoples’ emotions to the topic, according to Bowen. It’s one thing to stare at a screen or listen to a scripted lesson, it’s a whole different experience to listen to a real person with a real story.

“Everyone is just skimming the surface because nobody wants to get into how uncomfortable it can be,” Bowen said. “It’s a battle that every single one of us fights every single day; it’s something we need to feel okay talking to each other about.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

popular

5 messed-up ways troops welcome the new guy

The military is a close-knit family, built upon multiple generations of camaraderie and inside jokes. Whenever a new person is introduced into that family, they have decades of knowledge to catch up on.

Troops will always rib the new guy — it’s their way of welcoming a new brother and sister.


Of course, just because it’s time to share a life lesson or two doesn’t mean troops will pass up the opportunity to have some fun at someone else’s expense. The following techniques apply to anyone new to a unit — not just the boots.

For maximum effect, mess with the butterbars.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent
“Hurrying up and waiting” is the most valuable skill in the military
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Teach them the unit’s pace

The moment you meet a new guy is the perfect time to show them how things are done — first impressions and whatnot. Chances are, they’ve still got a lot of in-processing that needs to get done and they’ll need a sponsor.

Now’s your chance. You can make this go one of two ways: Move things along at a blistering pace and watch as the new guy tries to keep up or grind things down to a screeching, maddening halt. Choose whichever way more accurately describes your unit.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent
Everyone will find it funny. Totally.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

 

Introduce them to their new unit

Your unit has been strengthened by years of bonding. Any dumb fights or petty squabbles have been lost to time. The new guy, however, is fresh meat. You get to relive all of those old jokes without letting them know you’re joking.

For example, let the new guy know that the dude in supply isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed — so they’ll talk extremely slowly to them. Or inform them that the hard-ass First Sergeant really enjoys hugs if you go for one. The sky’s the limit.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent
Great way to get them up to speed on how PT is done in the unit as well.
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Introduce them to the unit after hours

Troops wear their hardcore alcoholism on their sleeve. If the new kid just graduated high school, the most they have to brag about is, likely, that one party where someone’s dad gave them a beer. What better way to give them a more interesting story than subjecting them to possible liver failure?

This is the point where I should throw out there that, legally speaking, consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 is against the law, UCMJ action could be taken, and the MPs will bring the hammer down on those who provide alcohol.

But, you know… Not all military traditions are technically “legal.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent
If they’re a lieutenant, everyone will just believe your story that they just “wandered” around post.
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Show them the local landscape

You’d be amazed at how quickly someone learns geographical landmarks when they’re lost. Even more so if they’re on foot. It’s like an impromptu land-nav lesson. Show them the company area and then swing by the Exchange for lunch. Then, out of the blue, you’ll just happen to get an important call the moment they’re out of sight.

It’s a win-win scenario. They learn the area like the back of their hand and you get a break from babysitting.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent
Either way, the FNG probably won’t get that you’re messing with them, so have at it.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

 

Scavenger hunts!

There is no time-honored tradition tradition quite sending the new guy to retrieve one of the many items in the endless treasure trove of “completely real” things. Recruiters and older vets may try and take away the fun by letting the younger kids know that “blinker fluid” isn’t real, but there are plenty more in the cache.

Get creative and reach for the obscure. Ask the radio guys for a “can of squelch” or the not-blatantly-obvious ID-10-T form. It may sound cruel at first, but on the “search,” they’ll be run around the company area, getting familiar with who does what and where things are kept.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan sends armored vehicles overseas for first time in decades

A small contingent of Japanese troops and armored vehicles engaged in military exercises with the US and the Philippines in the Philippines on Oct. 6, 2018, assisting in a humanitarian role during an amphibious exercise simulating recapturing territory from a terrorist group.

A total of about 150 troops took part in the landing on Oct. 6, 2018. Fifty Japanese troops, unarmed and in camouflage, followed four of their armored vehicles ashore, moving over beach and brushland while picking up Filipino and US troops playing wounded.


Japanese Maj. Koki Inoue stressed that Japanese personnel weren’t involved in the combat portion of the exercise but added that the drills were the first time the Japanese military’s armored vehicles had been used on foreign soil since World War II. After being defeated in that war, Japan adopted a pacifist constitution.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force prepares to embark on the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles during KAMANDAG 2 in Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

“Our purpose is to improve our operational capability, and this is a very good opportunity for us to improve our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training,” Inoue said, according to AFP.

The exercise, called Kamandag — an acronym for the Tagalog phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea” — started in 2017 and has focused on counterterrorism, disaster response, and interoperability.

2018’s iteration of the exercise runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, 2018, and the US has said it is not directed at any outside power.

“It has nothing to do with a foreign nation or any sort of foreign army. This is exclusively counter-terrorism within the Philippines,” 1st Lt. Zack Doherty, a Marine Corps communications officer, told AFP.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovanny Rios guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill during KAMANDAG 2, in the Naval Education Training Center, Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

But the drill’s timing and location put it in the middle of simmering tensions between China and its rivals in the region.

The landing took place at a Philippine navy base in the province of Zambales on the northern island of Luzon. The same base hosted an expanded annual US-Philippine military exercise in early 2018.

About 130 miles west in the South China Sea is Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocks long administered by Manila until China seized it after a stand-off in 2012.

China has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that rejected its expansive claims in the South China Sea and found that it violated the Philippines’ territorial rights.

China has built up other islands and reefs it claims in the South China Sea, adding military outposts and hardware. It has not done that on Scarborough, and doing so would have strategic implications for the US and the Philippines. Manila has said such activity would be a “red line.”

The exercise also kicked off after a series of shows of force by US and Chinese forces in the East and South China Seas, including numerous flyovers by US bombers and a close encounter between US and Chinese warships.

Japan’s presence was one of several recent firsts for that country’s military, which has looked to increase its capabilities and readiness.

Early October 2018, British troops became the first non-US military personnel to be hosted by Japan for military exercises, joining members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force for Exercise Vigilant Isles.

In spring 2018, Japan stood up an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II. Japan has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, and that force, which has carried out several exercises already, would likely be called on to defend those islands.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the most freedom packed fireworks for the 4th of July

Fireworks have been an American tradition since 1777 when they first lit up the skies of Philadelphia. It is an important time of reflection of everything American with the joy of pyrotechnics. The 4th of July is a time when Ol’ Glory is on everything from beer cans to bikinis, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Patriots buy around 247,550,000 pounds of Freedom every year for this special holiday.

As long as you don’t live in Delaware and Massachusetts, the only two U.S. states that ban the sale and use of any and all consumer fireworks, you’ll be fine. Remember to check if your county has any restrictions on specific types as well.


Neon green and blue sparklers

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First course – sparklers

A night of fireworks should be served like a five-course meal. Sparklers, the appetizer of fireworks, are safe with adult supervision and are great to get everyone in the mood to see some color. If you’re able to find the neon kind, pick those up because they’ll show up the best on phone cameras. Sparklers are great for kids or those scared of the boom-boom variety.

The advantage to these is that they’re cheap relative to the exploding kind and a few packs will entertain for a while. A sleeve will cost around .50 with 5 pieces and a box with 40 pieces should be around .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY8APSFIdBE
Firecrackers power test

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Second course – firecrackers

Firecrackers are a staple of every fourth of July BBQ, but there are so many brands and sizes that it’s easy to get overwhelmed deciding which kind to buy. The following video is a power test of some brands that can be purchased at fireworks tents. As always, exercise caution when using these and don’t do what this guy is doing at home.

The prices range from id=”listicle-2638777067″.99 for 100 pieces to .99 for 4,000 pieces and up.

Snow Cone – Winda Fireworks

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Third course – cones

Snowcones are my personal favorite because they’re great to get people excited for the main course while getting a good amount of fire for your money. Snowcones cost .50 give or take depending on taxes and availability. Some wholesalers are already sold out of these so if you see them definitely buy at least one.

206 Shot CE Compound Firework Box #EpicFireworks

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The main course – box fireworks

Alright, time to set the little stuff aside and put some serious rounds down range. Get yourself a fireworks box, and I’m not talking about the variety pack from Walmart. I’m talking about the kind you buy from the fireworks tent from some guy named Bubba, and you’re unsure if this was smuggled into the country somehow. They run around 0 and are worth every penny. Blackcat is the most trusted brand in this category if you want to invest in quality. You’re going to want to outgun every neighbor as you all duke it out like the founding fathers wanted.

Seriously, John Adams wanted you to blow up as many fireworks as you can.

It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams
Detonating the biggest firework ever launched in North America. HOLY COW!

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Dessert – custom builds

Usually, after four courses, people are full but there is always room for dessert. In the case of fireworks, this means your custom builds, the kind that you needed to get permission from the federal government to fire off. The kind of explosions that make ISIS say “F*ck that was loud.” In all seriousness, though, don’t make custom builds unless you have the proper license and training. 5 seconds of ‘wow’ is not worth your life.

Obligatory advisory:

Consumer fireworks in the United States are limited to 500 grams of composition and firecrackers may have up to 50 milligrams of flash powder. Reloadable shells are limited to 1.75″ in diameter, and shells in pre-fused tubes are limited to 2″. Any fireworks that exceed these limits are not considered consumer fireworks and need an ATF license. – The Consumer Product Safety Commission
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Operation Deep Freeze: How the US military supplies Antarctica

Operation Deep Freeze is one the largest but lesser-known peacetime operations that the U.S. military conducts.

Every year, from August to March, the Air Force, Navy, AND Coast Guard conduct hundreds of sorties to Antarctica and the South Pole, transporting materiel, supplies, and people to the U.S. bases there.

During the 2020-2021 season, C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft shouldered the majority of the load for Operation Deep Freeze.

More specifically, C-17 IIIs from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings delivered more than three million pounds of supplies and materiel, conducted two emergency aeromedical evacuations, and transported more than 1,000 people. Impressively, there was not even a single accident despite the hundreds of sorties. Indeed, Operation Deep Freeze is traditionally accident-free, with an ongoing 21-year streak without any major mishaps.   

“I’ll certainly miss working with the staff and crew, and the Kiwi folks that work so hard in support of the Antarctic mission. Of course, flying over the continent of Antarctica never gets old. I won’t miss the cold though,” Chief Master Sergeant Ty Brooks, a loadmaster from the 313th Airlift Squadron, said in a press release.

“With all the changes and difficulties that had to be endured for COVID-19 operations this last ODF season, everyone involved was ready and willing to do what was asked of them for total mission success.”

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An Air National Guard LC-130 with a special take-off configuration in Antarctica during a previous iteration of Operation Deep Freeze (National Guard).

Chief Master Sergeant Brooks knows a thing or two about Operation Deep Freeze. An Air Force Reserve troop, he has been participating in the exercise for almost 18 years.

The 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings are based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Operation Deep Freeze is an annual, recurrent operation that supports U.S. forces stationed in Antarctica and South Pole. Besides the US military footprint there, the National Science Foundation (NSF) also has a significant presence and is supported by Operation Deep Freeze.

“The difference this year was COVID-19. We had to send each rotation into New Zealand two-weeks early in order to do a two-week isolation. Once we were released from isolation and started flying the missions to Antarctica, we had to ensure anytime we were next to cargo or passengers that we had masks and gloves on. The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and NSF did not want to take any chances on letting the virus enter Antarctica,” Senior Master Sergeant Thomas Emmert, the superintendent for Operation Deep Freeze from the 446th Operations Group, said.

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A C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, sits at McMurdo Station in Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tyler Boyd).

Operation Deep Freeze has been going on since 1955. It is considered one of the toughest peacetime operations that the US military undertakes, mainly because of the treacherous environment.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

3 reasons Washington’s football team should be called the Redtails

The Washington Redskins are no more, and this Marine thinks it’s time for the Washington Redtails.


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Earlier this week, it was announced that the Washington Redskins will be getting a new name, in a decision that has proven a bit controversial in the political arena. From my vantage point, gleefully removed from the politics of it all and without a real stake in Washington’s football franchise, I welcome this change with open arms for a few important reasons.

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Recognizing the heroism of the brave Black Americans the “Redtails” name comes from

If you’re not already familiar with the story of the real Redtails (also sometimes called the Red Tails), it really is one worth honoring in the most American of sports. Back in World War II, the United States military was still segregated. Black Americans, while expected to serve, were not allowed in many combat roles.

You may not have heard the name “Redtails” before, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. These brave pilots were the U.S. Army Air Corps’ (the predecessor to the Air Force) first Black aviators, earning the Tuskegee name from the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama that they trained on.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

Many white bomber pilots didn’t know that the legendary Redtails were indeed Black pilots at the time, but thanks to their fighting prowess, it soon didn’t matter. Prejudice be damned, the Redtails were often requested for particularly daring missions, as they’d gained a reputation for their courage and technical skill. In all, the Redtails flew more than 15,000 individual sorties over Europe and North Africa during the war, and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Here at Sandboxx News, one of our contributors is actually the grandson of one of those Tuskegee Airmen. Harry Alford writes about entrepreneurship in the military sphere, and is the co-founder of Humble Ventures.

“I’m a lifelong Washingtonian and I’ve never felt comfortable supporting a team with such a disparaging, racial and offensive name for a mascot. I am very supportive of the name change,” Alford explains.
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Members of the first graduating class. Left to right: Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., second lieutenants Lemuel R. Custis, George Spencer Roberts , Charles H. DeBow, Mac Ross

“In particular, I’m especially excited at the potential of the new name, Redtails. As the grandson of one of the original five Tuskegee Airman, Charles DeBow, this would mean the world to me. The name change signifies a new path forward while honoring the past as well as those who currently serve our country today.”

In a very real way, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group, flying planes with bright red painted tails (hence the name Redtails), not only proved to be some of the most heroic aviators of the war, they also helped bring about an end to military segregation. If you ask me, that’s a pretty cool namesake for a football team playing out of America’s capital city.

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Maj. Shawna R. Kimbrell, 555th Fighter Squadron (USAF)

Paying respect to the military community

In America today, the fact that the Redtails were pioneering Black aviators really matters, but these brave pilots fall into another important socio-economic category that the former Washington Redskins can honor: military service personnel.

America’s Armed Forces truly do represent a vibrant cross sections of American cultures and backgrounds, but it has become increasingly apparent in recent studies that America’s military is largely made up of people from what you might call a “warrior class” of Americans. About 80% of those who choose to volunteer to serve in America’s military have a direct family member who served as well. In other words, for most of us, serving in the military could be seen as getting into the “family business.” I’m no exception–my father served in Vietnam as an Army medic and my grandfather was a Marine who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II.

By acknowledging a heroic World War II unit by naming the football franchise that plays in our nation’s capital the Redtails, the former Washington Redskins could send a message to America’s Black communities and service members of any color: We honor the service and sacrifice of our sons and daughters in service, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or heritage.

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(Piqsels)

It could attract new Americans to a great sport

In today’s social media-charged climate, everything is seen as a political statement; whether its watching football on a Sunday, buying beans at your local grocery store, or watching a musical on Disney+. As a guy that’s spent my entire adult life analyzing foreign policy and media manipulation, I find our love affair with waging war on one another troubling, so I try not to participate.

You may have political reasons you choose to skip football. You may have political reasons you choose to watch football. I just love football and prefer to leave the politics on Twitter.

I grew up in a fairly poor family, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do much of anything just because it was fun. Football, however, was always the exception. My dad and older brother both played football before me, and when it was my time to suit up, I reveled in the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. I loved playing football, complete with the broken bones and concussions I ended up with, for many of the same reasons I loved the Marine Corps. To me, my team was more important than I was, and playing well for my team was my chance at doing something that really mattered in my little slice of the world.

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I continued playing football all the way into the Marine Corps. (Sandboxx)

Yup, football is a violent sport and you can get hurt (Lord knows I did), but you also get to experience the grueling exhaustion of overtime, the thrill of a hard-fought victory and the stinging pain of failure. Football forced me to engage with and appreciate complex emotions at a young age, and made me a better man, and Marine, for it. Today, watching football spurs that part of my brain that remembers padding up to play ball from the peewee leagues to my back-to-back championship run in the Marine Corps… and I’m grateful for it.

For young Americans growing up in an increasingly chaotic world, a positive change like honoring the Tuskegee Airmen could be just the push they need to throw the game on one Sunday. For some small percentage of folks, that experience may mature into a love for the game that I hold so dear.

A new name that pays respect to a downtrodden American community, that honors military service and sacrifice, and can entice non-football watching Americans to give the sport I love a try? The Washington Redtails (or Red Tails) seems like a no-brainer to me.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened after Iran-backed militias attacked an oil tanker

Oil prices were driven higher for the third consecutive day on July 26, 2018, after Saudi Arabia closed a strategic shipping lane in the Red Sea following an attack on two of its large oil-tankers by Iranian backed Houthi fighters.

Brent crude oil futures rose 0.6% to $74.35 per barrel on July 26, 2018, at 6 48 GMT, after a gain of 0.7%, and US oil reserves fell to a three and a half year low, Reuters reported .

US West Texas Crude futures were also up 5 cents to $69.35 to the barrel.


“The announcement this morning that the Saudis have closed some shipping lanes in the Gulf because of rebel Houthi attacks also gives the bulls something to launch off,” Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, told Reuters.

On July 26, 2018, Saudi Arabia said it was “temporarily halting” all oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb shipping lane after the two tankers were attacked, closing off a vital export channel for the world’s largest oil producer.

Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister said in a statement that the two oil tankers, each carrying two million barrels of oil, had been attacked and one sustained minimal damage.

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Khalid al-Falih

“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” said the minister.

Much of the Crude oil that leaves Saudi Arabia to the North West via the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline is first shipped through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which passes close to Yemen.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, around 4.6 million barrels of crude and refined petroleum exports per day flowed through the Strait in 2016, headed towards Europe, Asia and the United States.

The Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and Djibouti is just 20km wide, making shipping vulnerable to attack from the Houthis in war-torn Yemen. The Iranian backed Houthis have been fighting a Saudi-Arabian led coalition in a bloody civil war in Yemen for around three years, with the Saudi’s exports presenting a strategic target.

The latest disruption is another impact of a conflict which has cost around 50,000 lives through famine and war, which the US and UK have fueled through arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.

Get the latest Oil WTI price here.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Crew members of a US Abrams tank were giving me a tour of their tank on the sandy training grounds of Fort Bliss when I asked them what they thought about Russia’s next-generation T-14 Armata tank.

At first, they were a little taken aback and looked at each other as if they weren’t sure whether they should answer. But they agreed to give their opinions when I said I wouldn’t publish their names.

“T-14’s got a three-man crew,” one specialist said, sitting behind the .50 caliber gun atop the Abrams. “All the crew’s in the hole, so it sounds pretty safe.”


Also read: Russia claims its T-14 Armata tank can run on Mars, because why the hell not

The T-14 is part of Russia’s new Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is based on a single chassis that can be used for other Armata vehicles, such as the T-15 (or Terminator 3) and Koalitsiya-SV.

It’s also reportedly equipped with an autoloader for its 125mm high-velocity cannon, compared to the Abrams’ 120mm gun.

And the specialist zeroed in on the autoloader.

“You looked around in here,” he said. “You see how sandy it is? You need something that’s going to work in all terrain.”

“Generally, I think the Russians like to build things that — like the AK, you can throw it through the mud and it’ll keep shooting,” the specialist said. “I feel like with the T-14, they got their eye off the ball, trying to be fancy.”

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The specialist also said that a crew member can load the cannon faster than current mechanical autoloaders.

“So, what’s the point of an autoloader?” I asked.

“If the ammunition is so heavy, and so long — it’s a small turret here,” the specialist said. “The T-14 has gotten around that by having an entirely automated turret. What happens though, if something goes wrong in the middle of battle, and somebody’s gonna have to get up in there, get out of their position? I don’t know.”

“Let’s say there’s a misfire,” another crewmember interjected. “How much work would it take to get that machine open, get that breach open, and get down in there?”

Related: This new, more deadly version of the M1 Abrams tank is on its way to the fight

I then asked what they thought about Moscow’s goal of eventually making the T-14 a completely unmanned tank.

“Maintenance-wise, an unmanned tank is going to be really difficult,” the specialist said. “All I do is maintain tanks … and these tanks still go down.”

Despite unveiling the tank in 2015, Russia has still not mass-produced the T-14 due to the high cost of the platform. Moscow initially said that it would produce 2,300 T-14s by 2020, but late last year said it would only produce 100 T-14s by 2020.

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