Israel is locked into an insane repetitive cycle with the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-led government allows missiles to be fired from somewhere in Gaza in an attempt to hit something in Israel. It doesn’t matter if the missiles hit anything, Israel doesn’t play around. They hit back – hard.
Hamas has done it again. Just in time for the latest Israeli election, one that will see if embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can survive the latest corruption allegation levied against him. A long-range rocket fired from Gaza hit a neighborhood north of Tel Aviv. The attack wounded seven Israelis and forced Netanyahu to cut his visit to the United States short.
A factory burns in Sderot, Israel in 2014 during the last Hamas-Israeli War.
The timing is not random. Netanyahu was in the United States visiting President Donald Trump, a celebration of his recognition of the disputed Golan Heights as Israeli territory. In the hours following the rocket attack, Israeli warplanes already struck targets in Gaza, hitting military posts run by Hamas in the middle of the night. Israeli civilians are preparing for the worst in retaliation as bomb shelters open across the country.
Hamas-fired rockets can cause severe damage to whatever they hit, and the random targeting of civilians can be terrifying to the populace. As of Mar. 26, Hamas had fired some 30 or more rockets into Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome defense network intercepted a few of them, but most fell harmlessly in open fields.
A factory in Sderot, Israel burns after taking a direct hit from a Hamas-fired rocket from Gaza in 2014.
Egyptian authorities have tried to broker an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the various factions inside Gaza, but the Israel Defense Forces have already struck back. Aside from a few military posts, IDF planes and artillery have hit the offices of Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ public security offices, and Hamas training and military outposts in the largest and most expansive military response since the Israeli army entered Gaza in 2014.
If you love military movies, then it’s safe to say you’d recognize Max Martini. While his film career doesn’t only include military-centric roles, he’s built a reputation among the military community as both a proud supporter of service members and one of the most badass actors ever to portray them on screen.
I first remember recognizing Max Martini as a mil-actor way back during his days filming “The Unit,” a popular CBS TV series about elite special operators assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D), commonly known by those of us outside their elite fraternity as Delta Force. Since then, Max has played war fighters of all sorts in fan favorite movies like Saving Private Ryan,13 Hours, Spectral, Captain Phillips, and one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Pacific Rim.
Max Martini in “Pacific Rim”
His most recent foray into the military genre was Sgt. Will Gardner. The film depicts a Marine veteran who has struggled since separating from service and is now trying to reestablish a relationship with his young son. The movie was a passion project for Max, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in the titular role.
Importantly, however, making the movie wasn’t just about telling a powerful story about service and redemption, it was also about helping veterans in the real world. He’s pledged 30% of the film’s profits to veteran charities.
Sgt. Will Gardner
(Mona Vista Productions)
I was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Max (digitally) during this coronavirus quarantine, and ask him some questions about his career, his work on behalf of the military and veteran communities, and just what it takes to play some of the most badass characters ever put on screen.
Max has played both real and fictional special operators, and has made a name for himself among veterans for it. I asked Max what keeps him coming back to these sorts of challenging roles.
“My dad was an artist living in New York City, so I sorta grew up in the Arts. But that said, my mother was a cop. I grew up in the arts, went to art school, got my degree in fine arts and came out owing, ya know, a hundred and fifty gazillion dollars without a way to pay it off,” Max explained.
Max Martini in “Saving Private Ryan”
“I got asked to audition for a movie because I’d dabbled in acting, and then the second movie I got was Saving Private Ryan. That was transformational for me. I had just just graduated from art school and I didn’t have much of a sense of politics or appreciation for the military. Then I did this movie, and I really started to understand more about our service members, and I really loved the community because there was obviously a lot of former military involved in making that movie.”
It wasn’t just that he developed an appreciation for service through filming Saving Private Ryan, he also quickly established himself as a solid actor capable of playing military roles.
“I don’t know, it’s like Steven Spielberg gives you this stamp of approval that says, ‘okay, he makes a good soldier,’ and everybody jumps on board,” Max joked.
Of course, because Max has played a member of Delta Force before, I felt the need to speak to one of my friends that actually served in that elite unit to see what he’d be interested to learn about acting in such a role. So I gave legendary Delta Force operator George E. Hand IV a call–and he wanted to know how actors like Max go about playing military roles in a realistic way on screen.
“Well, I think it’s a combination of things. Like, for instance, when I did Captain Phillips, we had a technical advisor from the Navy but it wasn’t somebody showing you how to soldier, it was somebody showing you the functionality of the ship,” he recalled. “But the guys around me were all former [special operations] team guys and they’d be like, ‘Dude, you should say this.’ One of the guys was about to relieve the team that was on the ship that took the shot, so he was familiar with the operation.”
He went on to talk about his time specifically playing a Delta Force operator in The Unit.
“The Unit was adapted from a book that Eric Haney wrote. He was one of the original Delta guys. So Eric was a producer on the show and he put us through a lot of training, and then he was there every day to watch over us technically.”
Max Martini on “The Unit”
Max points out that his resume isn’t all that helps him win military roles. Now, he’s close friends with a number of veterans and does a lot of firearm training on his own. He might do it because it’s fun, but the technical capability he develops by shooting with special operations veterans tend to translate into his realistic handling of weapons on screen.
“I think that’s also a consideration when people hire me. People go, ‘we’re not going to have to do much with him to get him ready for the show.’
Max’s appreciation for service members isn’t just born out of his real life friendships with veterans. He’s also made a number of trips overseas to visit deployed service members. Max’s decision to donate 30% of the profits from Sgt. Will Gardner speaks to his passion for supporting the military, which is something he says is a responsibility American’s share.
“I feel very strongly that if somebody enlists in the military, that we as Americans share a responsibility to ensure that when they return from combat, they have red carpet healthcare treatment and every resource available to them that’s need to reintegrate properly back into civilian life.”
Max Martini’s latest movie, Sgt. Will Gardner, is now streaming on a number of platforms, but Max points out that paying to see the movie on Amazon Prime helps support not only his endeavor to make more movies in that vein, but also supports the three veteran charities he’s splitting the profits with.
North Korea warned the US in a recent letter that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart,” adding that it may resume “nuclear and missile activities” if its demands are not met.
President Donald Trump unexpectedly canceled what was expected to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang due to insufficient progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The decision was preceded by a “belligerent” letter that criticized his administration for failing “to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported Aug. 28, 2018, citing people familiar with the matter.
The receipt of the letter, which was sent by the former head of North Korea’s spy agency, Kim Yong Chol, occurred just hours after Pompeo’s trip was first announced in August 2018, The Washington Post reported Aug. 27, 2018. “The exact contents of the message are unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off Pompeo’s journey,” The Post’s Josh Rogin reported.
Pompeo’s last trip to North Korea ended with a message from the foreign ministry characterizing meetings with the US as “regrettable.” Those negotiations came amid troubling reports from multiple outlets indicating that North Korea had yet to suspend its weapons programs in keeping with its commitment to denuclearize.
In recent months, media reports have indicated that North Korea is making infrastructure improvements at nuclear reactors, research facilities, and missile development sites and increasing the production of fuel for nuclear weapons. The North has also reportedly halted the dismantlement of a key facility Kim promised to destroy as a concession to Trump in Singapore.
Over the past few weeks, North Korean media has railed against US attitudes and actions, especially the sanctions that continue to hobble North Korea’s limited economy.
Speaking to the press at the Pentagon Aug. 28, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to suggest that North Korea is acting in bad faith, but he left the door open to the possibility of restarting war games should North Korea’s behavior warrant such a step.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
“As you know, we took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said at the briefing. Emphasizing that his team will work closely with the secretary of state, he explained that “at this time, there has been no discussion of further suspensions.”
Mattis added that there are smaller exercises ongoing on the peninsula at all times. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is [so] North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” he told the media.
Pentagon officials told Business Insider that there are numerous exercises happening all the time as South Koreans and US personnel train together to enhance their interoperability.
During the briefing, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said they would let diplomacy lead, stressing that they did not want their comments to influence negotiations. “We stay in a supporting role,” Mattis noted.
Mattis said this would be a “long and challenging effort.”
The recent moves and comments from both sides indicate that there is growing frustration between Pyongyang and Washington. For the time being, it appears that North Korea is resistant to denuclearization and the US is hesitant to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War without those disarmament steps.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For three years, RED HORSE airmen have been rotating every six months to Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, to participate in the largest troop labor construction project in Air Force history. RED HORSE stands for Air Force Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.
The Air Force built the base and its 6000-foot runway from the ground up. A similar mission had not been undertaken since Vietnam.
Airmen had to persevere and innovate through the lack of an asphalt production facility in the country, thunderstorms that caused flash floods, dust storms that made it impossible to work safely, high-sulfur diesel fuel that fouled construction equipment and even a plague of locusts.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Waters, a vehicle maintance NCOIC with the 823 Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron, maintains the squadron’s construction equipment. Sgt Waters and his team battle the harsh environment and poor quality fuel that frequently breaks their equipment.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Perry Aston)
Despite working in one of the harshest environments in the Sahel region of Africa, RED HORSE finished a project that will allow aircraft as large as the C-17 Globemaster III to operate in western Africa, expanding the Air Force’s ability to bring air power to combat increasing extremist activity.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The year was 1968 when Mike Vining was a senior in high school. According to his answers on his TogetherWeServed Page, Vining heard about the Tet Offensive and wanted to join the military with the expressed purpose of going to Vietnam.
His service afforded him the opportunity to do two things he likes to do, “work with explosives and climb mountains.” He probably never dreamed he would become Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining: the epitome of the modern American soldier…
1. He’s also the internet’s most casually badass meme.
Maybe it’s the kind eyes. Or the nice smile. Maybe it’s his age the large glasses of a bygone era that make him a grandpa-like figure. But the rank on his sleeve, fruit salad on his chest, the EOD and CIB pinned on his jacket, and Army Special Operations Command shoulder patch give all that away.
There’s much more to the story, and now we all know it.
2. He wasn’t just Delta, he was a founding member.
Then-Sgt. 1st Class Mike Vining joined the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta) at Fort Bragg in 1978. His first commander was Col. Charlie Beckwith, who started putting together Delta Force the previous year.
According to Vining, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist who was looking for something “more challenging,” he joined because Delta was looking for people with an EOD background. He spent almost 21 years in Special Forces.
3. His military résumé reads like a history book.
He spent two years in Vietnam as an EOD specialist with the 99th Ordnance Detachment, much of that time spent in combat.
Vining was also in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran. He was aboard EC-130E Bladder Bird #4 when one of the RH-53D helicopters crashed into it.
He was also in the invasion of Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Uphold/Restore Democracy in Haiti.
4. It took 15 years to earn his Combat Infantryman Badge.
Though Vining saw plenty of combat in Cambodia and Vietnam, as an EOD Specialist, he wasn’t eligible for a CIB. Delta never got a chance to engage the Iranians at Desert One. So, despite Delta Force’s rigorous training and autonomy, his first combat action came in 1983 during the Richmond Hill Prison assault during Urgent Fury’s invasion of Grenada.
5. He became infantry twenty years into his service.
“In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.”
6. His most significant action came just two years into his career.
His tour in Vietnam with the 99th Ordnance Detachment was one of the stand out moments of his time in the Army.
“[It] was the destruction of a cache found in Cambodia called ‘Rock Island East.’ The cache yielded 327 tons of ammunition and supplies, including 932 individual weapons, 85 crew-served weapons, 7,079,694 small arms and machine gun rounds. The cache contained 999 rounds of 85mm artillery shells which are used for the D-44 howitzer as well as the T-34 tank. I was part of a seven-man EOD team that destroyed the cache on 16 May 1970.”
7. Vining is still active in the veteran community.
Now fully retired, he travels with his wife much of the time. He writes about military and naval history, polar expeditions, and mountaineering postal history. He and his wife have a very active outdoor life of hiking, backpacking, rock and mountain climbing, biking, and skiing.
He is also a life member of the VFW, and a member of the National EOD Association and Vietnam EOD Veterans Chapter. He is also the historian for the National Army EOD Memorial at Eglin Air Force Base.
8. He would do it all over again. And recommends you do, too.
Vining calls his experience “rewarding” and recommends the military as a career to those who recently joined the Army.
“Military service has given me the opportunity to do all the things I like to do: Work with explosives and climb mountains. I have gotten a chance to work with some of the finest people in the military.”
Mike Vining’s awards and decorations are too numerous to list here. Check them out and read about his experiences in his own words on his public TogetherWeServed profile.
U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters early 2018, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.
The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April 2018, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said June 8, 2018, at the Potomac Institute.
“When Marines deploy, they want to get involved,” he said. “When there is a gunfight out there … they want to find that opportunity to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. We did exactly that.”
Gideons initially deployed a platoon-size element that linked up with ArmySpecial Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams.
“They were integrated with [special operations forces], absolutely integrated. We were providing Marine infantry, we were providing indirect fires, and we were providing anti-tank fires,” he said.
The SOF elements would push forward, advising Syrian Democratic Forces, “the ones that were primarily engaged in the direct firefights with ISIS,” Gideons said.
“You would have Marines integrated with those ODAs … providing fires down at that lower tactical level,” he said.
During its 243-day deployment, the unit had to conduct several “rapid planning processes” to deploy forces on short notice, he added.
Over time, more support was needed in Syria, so Gideons deployed more Marines to grow the platoon-size element to “two infantry [companies minus]” that were located in two separate locations in Northern Syria.
“We anticipated that that requirement would grow with a need for Marine Corps capabilities, and it did,” he said.
Soon the fighting intensified.
“On a number of different occasions, there would be various engagements, some direct, some indirect,” Gideons said. “As the SDF would close in sometimes, they would outstretch particularly what our mortar fires could provide.
“We would displace out of our small [forward operating bases] we were operating out of, move closer in behind the SDF and then provide fires — a lot of times mortar fire … and of course as you were getting into an engagement, there is the potential for stuff to come back at you,” he said.
Marines operated in both mounted and dismounted roles. F/A-18s coming out of Bahrain provided close-air support when needed, Gideons said.
Despite the action Marines saw, there were no casualties.
“I am very happy and proud to say that we brought everybody home,” Gideons said.
He described the deployment as “dynamic.”
“What was unique on our watch is over our 243 days in theater … from our perspective, we were more distributed than any other SPMAGTF up until that point,” he said. “We had Marines operating in 10 different countries and 24 separate locations. I had Marines from Egypt to Afghanistan.
“I didn’t own missions in Iraq or Syria, but I had capabilities that could augment and support that mission’s successful accomplishment.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Looking for a last minute gift for that whiskey lover on your list who also happens to love history? Why not buy a bottle of small-batch whiskey from George Washington‘s distillery?
Even though it’s not the original location, it’s a pretty close replica and it churns out recipe-exact whiskey. So you’re basically sipping on the same stuff that the big guy himself liked to sip on.
Who doesn’t love whiskey?
Just like now, alcohol played a significant role in the lives of people in the 1700s. In addition to social drinking, alcohol was used a lot for medicinal purposes, so having a distillery meant that Washington could sell his booze to many different markets. Distilleries were super common in early American life, just like now. Currently, America produces about 37 million cases of whiskey each year in 129 distilleries.
Way back in 1799, Washington’s distillery produced something like 11,000 gallons of whiskey, making it one of the largest distilleries in all of America at the time. Admittedly, America’s size in 1799 wasn’t nearly what it is today, but still – 11,000 gallons is pretty impressive. For comparison’s sake, other distilleries in Virginia at the same time only made about 600 or so gallons of fine, fine whiskey.
Whiskey making was even one of the earliest “cottage industries” in America. Cottage industries are the kinds of businesses people can run out of their homes. In the digital age, that could be anything. Back in Washington’s day, running a successful shop out of a kitchen or farm, or in Washington’s case, a still, required a different kind of setup. And that’s exactly what Washington did.
First, the basics
So you already know Washington was our first president, and he did a lot for the future generations of whiskey loving Americans who would come after him. But one thing that lots of people don’t know is Washington was all about a good side hustle.
In fact, he was working on side jobs before that term even entered our lexicon.
Throughout his life, Washington was forever trying to reduce his expenses and make more money on the side. That’s how he got his start with the distillery in the first place! He just wanted to make some extra cash. It’s wild to think that the first president and former General of the Continental Army trying to keep up a side job is hilarious. But it also sort of embodies the whole American work ethic of always looking for opportunity. And, even though he had no previous experience with distilling, Washington decided to give it a go after realizing how much money he could make.
A diverse product line
At its height, Washington’s distillery produced more than just whiskey. His original recipe was a blend of 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley and it was distilled twice then sold under the label, “Common Whiskey.”
But his distillery also featured more expensive whiskeys flavored with cinnamon and persimmons. Brandies made with apple, peach, and persimmons were also sold along with kinds of vinegar.
One big difference between Washington’s Mount Vernon whiskey and the whiskey produced today is that Washington’s wasn’t aged, which meant that it never took on the color of the casks. Today, the distillery maintains that heritage – its whiskey remains unaged and clear.
During the Vietnam War, some Coast Guard pilots were given the chance to volunteer for service on the front lines, relieving the pressure on over-tasked Air Force pilots. Some of those Coast Guard pilots who volunteered would go on to dramatically rescue a downed Air Force pilot and were later awarded Silver Stars for their actions.
Pararescuemen leap out of a HH-3E during an exercise. The HH-3E, known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” was widely used in Vietnam.
In country, they were folded into flight crews, often with Air Force copilots, engineers, and pararescuemen. Their job was to pick up isolated personnel — usually downed aircrews — provide immediate medical care, and deliver them to field medical facilities.
A U.S. Air Force F-105G, similar to the one lost on July 1, 1968, leading to a dramatic rescue by U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel under fire.
(U.S. Air Force)
On July 1, 1968, an F-105 Thunderchief with the callsign “Scotch 3” was hit over the Vietnamese peninsula and made for the gulf, but fell too fast and the pilot was forced to eject into a jungle canyon. Lt. Col. Jack Modica was knocked out by the impact of his landing, and woke up two hours later.
He reported his condition to the forward air controller, and the HH-3Es attempted to get to him. The first attempts were unsuccessful due to ground fire, so the Air Force sent in another HH-3E with ground attack aircraft suppressing enemy air defenses.
A Douglas A-1 Skyraider like the one shot down July 2, 1968, while trying to suppress ground fire in Vietnam.
(Clemens Vasters, CC BY 2.0)
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon flew the helicopter during these attempts, taking fire that damaged his fuel tank, a hydraulic line, and the electrical system. Shockingly, even after all that damage, he made one more attempt, but was again forced to break off due to anti-aircraft fire. This forced the pilot to spend the night in the jungle. Mixon later received the Silver Star for his brave attempts.
So, the rescue birds came back again in the morning, but it went even worse than the night before. One of the ground-attack aircraft, an A-1 Skyraider, was shot down, and the rescue chopper was forced back home after suffering heavy damage, including having an unexploded rocket lodged inside of it.
With this list of failures, dangers, and damage, the Air Force turned to Jolly 21 pilot U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Lance Eagan and asked him to fly in behind a B-52 bomber strike. Eagan and his Air Force crew accepted the mission and went to work.
An Air Force crew lowers a jungle penetrator from a HH-3E helicopter during an exercise.
(U.S. Air Force)
Again, ground fire opened up, striking the rescue bird, but Eagan was able to get through the flak intact and spotted smoke thrown by Modica. He found a nearby open patch to lower the PJ into the jungle to go grab Modica. The PJ found that Modica had a pelvic break.
Eagan was forced to lower the helicopter down into the trees, striking some of the high branches, to get the jungle penetrator as close to the pilot as possible, but the PJs still had to carry the injured man a short distance. As the crew began raising the men from the jungle floor, the Vietnamese sprang their trap.
Automatic weapons fire thundered into the helicopter, shattering the windscreen and penetrating the thin metal skin, but Eagan kept the bird steady until the hoist cleared the trees and the HH-3E was able to tear away low and fast.
The injured pilot was successfully delivered to a hospital, and the rescue crew was later decorated for their bravery. Eagan was awarded the Silver Star by the Air Force for his actions.
He and Mixon weren’t the only Coast Guard pilots to receive that award. Lt. Jack Rittichier had been shot down the month before during a rescue attempt, and he was awarded the Silver Star along with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
The Coast Guard’s involvement in combat air rescue continued for another four years, ending in 1972.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s work with the American military, saying “this is a great country and it does need to be defended” — an implicit rebuke of Google over its decision to ditch US military contracts.
Speaking at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco, California on Oct. 15, 2018, the online retail giant’s chief exec strongly spoke out in support of the technology industry’s work for the American military even as some companies reconsider their stance on the practice.
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said.
Amazon is also bidding for the JEDI contract — and unlike some of the other tech giants, it has no intention of backing out. When asked about the actions taken by Google and others, Bezos did not mention the rival company by name — but his remarks can be seen as a criticism of the company.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“We are going to continue to support the [Department of Defense]. And I think we should,” Bezos said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me… One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision even when it’s unpopular. If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble.”
He added: “I like this country … know everybody is very conflicted about the current politics in this country and so on — this country is a gem. And it’s amazing. It’s the best place in the world. It’s the place where people want to come. There aren’t other countries where everyone is trying to get in. I’d let them in if it were up to me. I like them. I want all of them in.
“This is a great country and it does need to be defended. “
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait Jan. Jan. 24, 2019, in an apparent challenge to Beijing.
The Areligh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted a Taiwan Strait transit, demonstrating “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman told CNN.
“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he added.
The rhetoric in his statement is consistent with that used for freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) and bomber overflights in the South China Sea, actions that tend to agitate the Chinese government.
After the USS McCampbell conducted a FONOP earlier this month, Chinese media responded with a warning that its military had deployed DF-26 missiles capable of sinking enemy ships in the South China Sea.
The USS McCampbell.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Bobbie G. Attaway)
While Taiwan Strait transits by US warships occurred infrequently in the past, the US has made these maneuvers routine in the past year, which has been characterized by rising tension between Washington and Beijing.
The US Navy sent the destroyer USS Stockdale and the replenishment oiler USNS Pecos through the strait in November 2018, just a few weeks after the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the cruiser USS Antietam did the same in October 2018.
The destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed the strait between mainland China and Taiwan for the first time in July 2018.
The Chinese government views Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory, as a renegade province, and is deeply concerned about foreign interference, particularly US military support.
Beijing feels it may embolden pro-independence forces. In a recent speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping made it clear that forceful reunification remains on the table.
A new Defense Intelligence Agency assessment of China’s military might explains: “Beijing’s longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China’s military modernization.”
“Beijing’s anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the [Chinese military] to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection.”
In a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng asserted, “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the South China Morning Post.
Richardson said in Japan that the Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, and left the door open for the US to send an aircraft carrier through if necessary.
China sent military aircraft, specifically a Sukhoi Su-30 and a Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane, flying past Taiwan Jan. 22, 2019, causing the Taiwanese military to scramble aircraft and surveillance ships in response. China regularly conducts encirclement drills around Taiwan.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.
Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.
And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.
“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”
Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.
Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.
The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.
“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”
Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.
Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”
John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.
Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.
She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”
She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.
In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.
Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.
“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”
Move to Missouri
John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.
“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”
He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.
Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?” The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.
John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.
“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”
Whiteman Air Force Base
Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”
Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.
Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.
Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.
So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.
“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”
After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.
By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.
Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.
For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”
For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”
It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”
The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.
Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.
There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.
From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.
“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.
The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.
The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.
“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.
At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”
Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.
“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”
“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”
Movies would have you believe that every unit has a guy nicknamed “Hawkeye” or “Snake” or some other generic, tough name. As fun as films and video games make those monikers seem, it just doesn’t work that way in real life.
In actuality, nicknames fall into one of four categories: Either the troop is a freakin’ legend, it’s the unit’s name plus a number or letter, it’s just a shortened version of their last name, or it’s an insult in disguise.
[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://assets.rbl.ms/17941332/980x.jpg image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”Unless you’re a BAMF, don’t expect an awesome one.” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/17941332/980x.jpg%22%7D” alt=”saint mattis of quantico” expand=1 photo_credit=”(OAF Nation)”]
Even with all of The Punisher swag that Chris Kyle wore, he never insisted that anyone call him “The Punisher” — even if he was one of the few people on Earth worthy of that title.
Let’s kick this list off with the freakin’ legends. Take Secretary of Defense James “Warrior Monk” Mattis for example. He’s a highly revered military mind within the U.S. Armed Forces and his nickname reflects that.
As is the case with most nicknames, they’re typically invented and popularized by others — not by the legends themselves. These nicknames are even more intimidating when they’re created by the enemy. Chris “the Legend” Kyle, for example, was known as “Al-Shaitan Ramad,” which translates into “the Devil of Ramadi.”
The reason why both Kyle and Mattis have such badass nicknames is because they earned them.
Why, yes. They do call me “Romeo” for a reason…
(Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria)
People often confuse nicknames with call signs, so let’s hash the difference right now. Call signs are official unit designations given to members of the chain of command. Sometimes, a call sign will become more familiar than your own name.
If you’re, let’s say, the company commander of the alpha company “Spartans,” you’ll get the designation of “Spartan 6.” The XO gets “Spartan 5,” Senior Enlisted gets “Spartan 7,” and so on. Drivers, gunners, and radio operators can swap out the number designation for D, G, and R, respectively.
“Hey, Ski!” “…which one?”
(Photo by Sgt. Lauren Harrah)
Butchered last name
The next nickname variation is especially terrible if your last name is anything outside of the standard, common English name. Unless you’re a “Smith” or a “Brown” or a “Johnson,” no one is going to try to pronounce what’s on your name tape — no matter how phonetically simple it may seem.
A whole nine letters broken into three syllables — you know, something simple like Milzarski (pronounced Mil-zar-ski) is too complicated. So, most will just shorten it to “Ski.” Good luck if there’s more than one Polish troop in the squad. Not that I’m ranting or anything…
If it’s dumb and it sounds like an insult, don’t take it personally. It’s meant with brotherly love.
Remember when you screwed up?
The most common way to get yourself a nickname of your very own is to f*ck up. Don’t worry if it’s not a record-shattering mistake — people will constantly remind you of what you did. It’s not pleasant and it’s usually a way to rib one another, but you don’t want to be known as “Fumbles” by everyone.
Don’t worry if you get one of these dumb names. It’ll pass as soon as you PCS or ETS.