We have all been there as boots. You just graduated boot camp. You are motivated, fit, look good in that uniform and are king/queen of the world. Everyone back home is looking at you like you are the bee’s knees, and you are ready for the next phase of your military career.
Next thing you know, you are being handed a broom and sweeping the rain off a parade deck or trying to finally locate those damn Humvee keys. You want to get more information on what your journey is like, but there is no recruiter to ask, the Lance Corporal Underground is giving you all types of scuttlebutt, and your NCO is more about giving you a hard time instead of telling you what is next.
Your spouse, parents and family are going through a similar journey. They just watched you complete training. You are now an elite warrior in their eyes (even if you will be doing admin work the next four years). They spoil you on your leave and stuff your face with all the food you can eat.
As they watch you leave for school and then your permanent duty station, they do what spouses and parents do. They worry, fret and turn to any news to learn about what your journey will be like. Yeah, you tell them that you are filing papers or doing maintenance on a 7-ton, but they turn on the news or log into Facebook and are convinced you are being sent to Iran or North Korea soon or are in dire danger at all times because that’s all they see in the media.
Well, thanks to Sandboxx, that will soon change. The company that gave us the app that changed the way you get letters at boot camp is working on building a new resource for everyone from salt dogs who are nearing their 20 to boots that blouse their jeans and military families.
But first, what is Sandboxx? If you went to boot camp recently, you probably remember them.
The Sandboxx app is one that a lot of people have used and part of one of the coolest morale boosters in the history of boot camp.
Sandboxx got its start when Marine veterans Sam Meek and Gen. Ray Smith teamed up with follow co-founder Padmanabhan Ramaswamy to offer a better way to keep in touch with your family when you were at recruit training.
The idea was simple. When you showed up at bootcamp, you filled out a card with your loved one’s information. A group of military spouses would then enter that information in a database, and your mom, dad, spouse, grandparents or girl back home would get your address so they can write to you.
They could then login to the Sandboxx app or on the website and then start sending letters right away. The letters are printed out, put into envelopes and sorted by platoon. Most letters are delivered the next day.
So now, instead of languishing on Parris Island wondering if your girl ran off with Jody for three weeks before you got a huge stack of letters at once, you can get letters daily and keep up to date with family and loved ones. Loved ones can also upload pictures (no, they can’t send alcohol or smokes).
You might pull the whole, ‘boot camp is getting soft now’ routine, but the military doesn’t care. Sandboxx letters were shown to dramatically improve morale and cut down on recruits quitting or dropping out of training. This was especially true among female recruits.
Sandboxx also helps family travel to graduations with an amazing travel vertical on their page. As soon as you know Johnny or Suzy will be walking across that parade deck, you can use their user-friendly travel page and get yourself to South Carolina to see them!
There is also a second app called iCorps. This is an easy to use, one-stop shop, resource for all things Marines. You can use PFT calculators, learn how your ribbons should be set up and get your Marine Corps history all in one spot without having to surf through Google and a myriad of MARADMINS.
What is next for Sandboxx?
We Are the Mighty talked to Alex Hollings, who will be heading up this effort by Sandboxx to educate and alleviate fears of military members and their families. Alex himself is a former Marine who served from 2006 to 2012. After getting out and going to school, Alex and his wife endured a big loss in their family. That spurred him to live for the moment and follow his dreams as a writer. After moving to Georgia and working for SOFREP and Popular Mechanics, Alex caught the eye of Sandboxx. He is now their editor and dedicated to providing educating and entertaining news to young service members and their families. When asked about Sandboxx News, he said, “We want to be the website for junior service members that are looking to advance in their career or just understand how what they’re doing plays a role in America’s broader defense apparatus. We want to be the place you can learn, and where you can send your mom or your boyfriend to help them understand what you’re doing and why it’s so important.”
Look, we all know nowadays the news we read is all doom and gloom and meant to scare us. We need to be frightened of viruses, cruise ships, Iranians, viruses on cruise ships, and Iranians sneaking viruses on cruise ships. Sandboxx is moving around that.
(Nicole Utt, Shane McCarthy, and Alex Hollings of Sandboxx News)
In this time of fake news, doom and gloom, and scare tactics, it is great that a company is taking the time to alleviate the fears a spouse and parents might have and guide young service members on their new adventure/career.
NATO, as we know it today, is a de facto bulwark against Russian (née Soviet) expansionism into Western Europe and potentially elsewhere. It must have come as a complete surprise when France, Great Britain, and the United States all received letters of intent from the Soviet Foreign Ministry about joining the alliance.
Originally a political alliance in Western Europe when it was formed in 1949, NATO became a solid military alliance as well when the Korean War made the idea of Communist expansion by force all too real. The same year the Soviets detonated their first nuclear weapon, the West formed an alliance to neutralize that threat. But before the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe formed the Eastern Bloc in 1955, Russia made an attempt to join NATO.
Guess who’s coming to dinner.
Longtime Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin finally died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev was the new communist sheriff in town. So in 1954, when Soviets sent the letters of intent to NATO members, there was a renewed spirit of easing tensions. The Soviets reasoned that the aggressive nature of the NATO alliance would be much less dangerous to world peace if their former anti-Hitler ally were allowed to be a member.
Forgot about An-dre.
But in order to join the alliance, the Soviet Union would have to allow NATO to dictate its military planning and allow the basic tenets of democratic freedoms to bloom in all areas under its control. The debate about potentially allowing Russia to join reminded the member states that the alliance was formed to address threats to world peace when the UN couldn’t — usually because of Russia’s veto power on the Security Council.
Allowing the Russians to have a say in NATO affairs would neutralize NATO the way they neutralized the UN Security Council.
Can’t blame them for trying.
NATO told the Russians exactly that when the alliance rejected Russia’s application for membership, urging it and other Soviet satellites to allow the UN to do its job in keeping the world secure. It was not an unexpected response for the USSR.
“Most likely, the organizers of the North Atlantic bloc will react negatively to this step of the Soviet government and will advance many different objections. In that event the governments of the three powers will have exposed themselves, once again, as the organizers of a military bloc against other states and it would strengthen the position of social forces conducting a struggle against the formation of the European Defense Community,” Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov wrote.
Nine days later, Russia and those satellites formed the Warsaw Pact, its Eastern Bloc counter-alliance. Europe was officially split for the next 40-plus years.
Russia has been investing heavily in its submarine fleet over the past decade and a half, restocking its fleet with more sophisticated and more capable boats that are more active than at any time since the Cold War.
That activity has worried Western officials, who have particular concern for what those subs might be doing around the undersea cables that link the US, Europe, and countries around the world, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.
Now the US government is targeting that undersea capability by putting sanctions on Russian firms and individuals that work with the country’s powerful FSB, the security and intelligence agency sanctioned in 2016 for interfering in the US election that year.
The US is pursuing “an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a release. “The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB.”
The Treasury said the sanctions were in response to “malign and destabilizing cyber activities,” like 2017’s NotPetya cyberattack and cyber intrusions of the US energy grid, which could allow future attacks.
Among the firms sanctioned on June 11, 2018, was Divetechnoservices, which, since 2007, “has procured a variety of underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, to include the FSB,” the Treasury Department said.
“Further, in 2011, Divetechnoservices was awarded a contract to procure a submersible craft valued at $1.5 million for the FSB,” according to the release.
‘The 21st-century, underwater equivalent’
Undersea espionage is not new. In 1972, specially equipped US submarines tapped a Soviet communications line off Russia’s Pacific coast as part of Operation Ivy Bells, which remained secret until information about it was leaked to the Soviets in the early 1980s.
One of the subs that took part, the now retired USS Parche, is the most decorated ship in the Navy, though most of its missions remain secret. The Navy currently operates the USS Jimmy Carter, an advanced Seawolf-class sub that’s believed to be modified to tap undersea cables.
“Just as the Russians have specialized submarines for this, we do too,” Magnus Nordenman, the director the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in an interview earlier this year, citing the Carter specifically. “And it’s certainly something that we did during the Cold War too.”
(US Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith)
Russia’s navy is smaller in numbers than its Cold War predecessor, but its subs have grown more sophisticated, departing from the previous approach of lots of ships of varying quality. “They are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead,” Nordenman said.
US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s subs forces, said in December 2017, that Russian underwater activity around those cables appeared to be unprecedented and that Moscow “is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”
“Intercepting and disrupting the opponent’s communications has sort of been part of warfare since the beginning of time,” Nordenman said earlier this year. “And this is the 21st-century, underwater equivalent.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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.
Three Silver Stars were earned during a hard fight in Afghanistan last year. Two Army Special Forces soldiers and one Air Force Pararescueman received the nation’s third-highest award for extreme valor while under fire in Afghanistan.
The 7th Special Forces Group team fought against what Army officials described as an elite Taliban unit, which they encountered by accident in a small Afghan village. During the ensuing eight-hour engagement, the American team lost its contact with its supporting element, which operated the vehicles, and had to walk for almost a mile while under constant enemy fire before reaching relative safety. The three commandos who received the Silver Stars were pivotal in saving the lives of their teammates during the firefight.
The three Silver Stars weren’t the only medals awarded. Troops from the 7th SFG’s 1st Battalion also received six Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices, and four Purple Hearts. The Battalion itself received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contribution in the fight against the Taliban during that six-month deployment (July 2019-January 2020).
Command Sergeant Major Brock Buddies, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, said that “the event is humbling. Every year we remember the men and women of this formation, their legacy and acts of heroism.”
Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pins a medal on an unnamed member of 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a memorial and awards ceremony at 7th Group’s compound on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (US Army).
Congress established the Silver Star in the closing months of the First World War.
Don’t be surprised that and Air Force Pararescueman was on an Army Special Forces team. After Pararescuemen finish their selection and training pipeline – a more than two-years affair – they get assigned to either a Guardian Angel or Special Tactics/Warfare squadron. Guardian Angel squadrons primarily focus on combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery (PR). Indeed, PJs are the only unit in the Department of Defense to be specifically trained and equipped for those mission sets. On the other hand, Pararescuemen who get assigned to a Special Tactics/Warfare squadron are often individually attached to other Special Operations units. PJs, being world-class combat medics, often fill out or complement the combat medic spot on Navy SEAL platoon, Ranger platoon, or, as in the case of this action, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).
A Special Forces ODA getting ready to go outside the wire in Afghanistan (US Army).
The past year had been quite tough on the 7th SFG. In February, an ODA from the 7th SFG was ambushed, suffering two killed in action and several wounded. The action took place a few weeks before the signing of the peace treaty with the Taliban.
Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commanding officer of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presented the awards.
“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals,” he said during the ceremony. “They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” he was quoted saying during the closed event. “Even if they cannot be here physically — thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”
The 7th SFG operates mainly in Central and South America. Green Berets assigned to the “Red Legion,” the nickname of the unit, become experts in the cultures and countries of their area of operations. This is key to mission success since Special Forces soldiers work with and through their partner forces.
Each Special Forces group, there are seven, is focused on a region. 1st SFG is responsible for East Asia; 3rd SFG is focused mainly on Africa; 5th SFG on the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Central Asia; 7th SFG is dedicated on Latin America; 10th SFG is concentrated primarily on Europe; and the 19th SFG and 20th SFG, which are National Guard units, complement their active-duty counterparts around the world.
The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.
The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.
Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.
“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”
The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.
The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.
“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”
The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.
“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.
“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”
MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.
“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”
In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.
“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.
When preparing to travel, we typically think of how to artfully pack our suitcase to make it past TSA regulations. We’re often annoyed by the inconvenience of security measures, while trying to navigate busy and sometimes unfamiliar airports. Unfortunately, most don’t see the bigger picture. In the wake of September 11, stricter screening procedures were put in place to help deter violence in airports and on aircrafts. Although this has arguably increased safety while in transit, it has left some people feeling helpless once they arrive at their final destination.
Believe it or not, most Americans rely on others for their personal safety. Whether it’s the TSA, military, law enforcement, or private security, in the wake of an emergency, people commonly look to them as the sole providers of protection and safety. But we can’t count on others for an instant, effective response. This is even more of a concern when traveling in an unknown area, state, or country that prevents you from carrying a firearm or a handheld weapon.
Former federal air marshal Richard A. St. Pierre suggests that personal safety and accountability is always having an entrance and exit plan whether it’s at home, the airport, a restaurant, or a foreign country. There are measures you can take to maintain your personal safety in spite of restrictions imposed by your travel. But first, we’ll review some statistics and events that’ll hopefully help you understand why it’s important to be more prepared when traveling.
In January 2013, Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old Staten Island mother and wife, was killed while traveling in Turkey. During an interview, her killer stated that after drinking alcohol and sniffing paint thinner he stumbled upon Sierra, who was walking alone. He told authorities that he attempted to kiss her and she resisted, striking him with her cell phone. Then, he dragged her into an alcove, where she attempted to fight him off for approximately 30 minutes. Some would conclude that traveling alone in Istanbul, Turkey, simply isn’t safe. But what about the incidents that happen in our backyard? On Oct. 1, 2017, at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival held in Las Vegas, Nevada, a gunman opened fire on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 and injuring more than 400. Our goal isn’t to talk about what the victims might’ve done, but to acknowledge that evil exists and prepare ourselves to combat it as best we can.
Studies show that, as of 2013, the average response time for law enforcement nationwide is 11 to 18 minutes. Conversely, a commonly cited statistic is that the average gunfight lasts three seconds, while a shooting incident lasts approximately 12.5 minutes. These statistics suggest that, on average, we may not be able to rely on others for help when we most need it, and we’re ultimately responsible for our own safety. With these numbers at our disposal it may be hard to understand why daily habits of preparedness aren’t more common compared to other “universal” safety rituals, like installing smoke detectors in our homes in case of a fire, wearing seatbelts while driving in case of an accident, and locking our doors to deter theft. Still, the average American neglects daily practices focusing on personal protection.
Here are some recommended steps that you can take to increase your awareness and safety before, during, and after traveling.
The first step in protecting ourselves, or loved ones at home or on the road is having a plan. Whether it includes carrying a firearm or an edged weapon, being proficient in hand-to-hand combat, or simply being able to remain calm, think, react, and communicate appropriately. It’s important to identify a survival resource and train it consistently, helping to develop an ingrained mental pathway for our safety habits.
If you’re traveling domestically, carrying a firearm once you arrive at your destination may be an option, but first you must research the firearms and carry laws of that locality. Does it have reciprocity with your home state? If not, what are the local licensing laws? If flying with a firearm or handheld weapon, you should check with both TSA and the airline to ensure you follow proper procedures to do so. For international travel, you don’t have this option.
Prior to travel, research your destination. If flying into an airport or arriving in a train station, look into the various modes of transportation within the area and how to access them. For example, is public transportation a practical option and known to be safe? To get an idea about crime trends throughout the transiting area, check out the free crime reporting website Spotcrime.com. It’s light on details, but it’ll give you an idea of what areas have high instances of crime.
If you’re using taxi or car services, identify reputable companies and pick-up locations ahead of time and know whether or not they’re regulated in that area. In the U.S., taxi services are regulated and have set prices in each state; they generally offer two to three different price brackets for daytime, nighttime, and peak hours. Furthermore, most taxis are outfitted with security cameras and GPS locators. If traveling internationally, not all cabs are regulated. If using a cab, you’re better off calling for one rather than hailing one. When the cab arrives, look for numbers and labeling on the outside. On the inside, look for a meter, radio, and badge. Know where you’re going and be aware of local currency conversions.
Other popular transportation options are ride-sharing services, such as Uber, UberX, or Lyft. Most ride-share services have come under regulation — the respective state and territory governments have set varying requirements on drivers before they’re eligible for work. Uber drivers are generally required to hold a state-based driver authority (much like a taxi driver), which usually involves a criminal history and medical check as well as providing proof of insurance. Aside from regulations most ride-share services have a number of different parameters in place to ensure passengers safety to include:
No Anonymity: Passengers are given a driver’s name, photo, vehicle information, and contact number. The trip is also kept on record.
GPS Tracking: Once your driver accepts you request, your trip is tracked via GPS on your phone and the driver’s phone. You also have the ability to share your ride with your friends or family so they can keep track of your ride.
Rating System: Drivers are anonymously reviewed by passengers on a scale of 1 to 5. Drivers may have their accounts deactivated if they consistently receive low ratings.
Make sure to note any neighborhoods or areas plagued with high crime and avoid them if possible. Crimereports.com is a great way to search crime data by region, address, zip code, or law enforcement agency.
Having a plan and knowing where you’re going will reduce any unnecessary loitering that could reveal to predators that you’re unfamiliar with the area.
If staying in a hotel, try to find a known, reputable brand. Most hotel chains have a rewards program and website to book reservations through, which often include a star rating system. When making your reservation, request a room off of the ground floor. Higher floors help prevent someone from walking in off the street and easily gaining access to your room. Once your reservation is made, record the hotel’s address and contact information, and store it somewhere that you can easily access once you arrive. Fumbling through your personal belongings creates distractions and opportunities for human predators.
If you’ve booked your travel accommodations through an online hospitality service that rents private residences like Airbnb or VRBO, knowing the area becomes even more important. Is the area of the rental safe? Is it accessible to public transportation? Will it be owner-occupied while you’re renting? Is there parking available at or near the rental, if renting a car or driving to your destination? Always know whom you’re renting from by reading previous renter reviews and renting from a verified source.
Don’t advertise solo travel or that you’re a tourist. Always move with confidence even if you feel unsure. Don’t be flashy with clothing or accessories. If traveling internationally, be sure to know local customs and dress accordingly. Be aware of cultural etiquette for the areas you’ll be visiting, whether in or out of the United States. Remember that anything you say or do in public can be overheard or observed. Like the World War II saying “loose lips sink ships,” gabbing openly about your plans, where you’re staying, or how excited you are to finally get out on your own could inadvertently put you at risk if you happen to be amongst the wrong crowd. Do your best to favor well-lit areas with lots of public traffic. If you plan to drink alcoholic beverages, know your limits, don’t leave drinks unattended, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. The importance of selecting a reputable car services applies doubly when you’re tipsy. We know of several people who’ve been mugged or worse because they had one too many and assumed that once they got in a cab everything would be fine.
The loose lips rule applies to hotel staff equally as anyone else. Have just one keycard made for your room, to help prevent misplacing or losing track of keys. When in your room, make sure to lock the door and utilize any additional security locks. Note that not all hotel doors have supplemental security features, so consider travelling with a rubber or tactical doorstop with which you can chock the door from the inside to make it harder for someone to force access. If there’s a safe in the room, always keep identification papers and high-dollar items locked up. If an in-room safe isn’t available, the front desk may have a safe deposit box. When leaving your room, place the do not disturb card on the outside of the door and leave the radio or TV on. This will make your room appear occupied, especially when traveling alone.
Prior to checking out of the hotel, double-check the safe for personal items. Do a full sweep of your hotel room to ensure you don’t leave any personal affects behind. Make sure not to leave anything in the trash that could be used to identify you, such as old boarding tickets, receipts, mail, or agendas. Although most hotels have stopped attaching personal information to room keys, turn in or take hotel keys with you.
Again, if you’re staying at a private residence that you booked through an online hospitality service, preparedness is paramount to your safety. Communicate through the site you book through, set expectations with your host for your visit ahead of time, and don’t leave personal items behind.
Try to remain especially alert at the airport or in any major transportation hub. Hundreds of thousands of people transit through these various networks on a daily basis from all over the world, making it a target-rich environment. As always, maintain accountability for your personal items and never leave them unattended. If you forget this last part, the incessant loudspeaker announcements in most major airports will no doubt remind you.
Even after travelling, safety is paramount. Once home, check your luggage to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. Also, run periodic checks of your bank accounts and credit card statements to make sure none of your accounts were compromised. It’s also a good practice to occasionally check your credit statement for fraudulent activity.
Maintain awareness in all senses of the word. Just because you safely made it back to the comforts of your own home doesn’t mean that risks are no longer present. We often become complacent in our daily routines, and it’s just as important for us to maintain vigilance while conducting daily activities. Whether you’re traveling to and from work, to another state, across the country, or internationally, personal accountability and preparedness are the two most important factors to ensure that you and your loved ones don’t become victims.
Online research of crime reports in the area you intend to stay.
Lock sensitive items up in a hotel safe and copies of identification on your person.
Call for a taxi from an accredited company or ride-sharing service rather than hailing one.
Periodically check your bank and credit card statements to watch for any fraudulent activity.
Leave drinks unattended or accept any from strangers.
Travel alone, especially in unfamiliar areas.
Post information on social media regarding your whereabouts and status abroad until after you return home.
Leave receipts, boarding passes, and other information that can be used to identify you behind in hotel rooms.
Hana L. Bilodeau has over 15 years of law enforcement experience, serving both locally and federally. Most recently, she spent time with the Federal Air Marshal Service covering multiple domestic and international missions. Hana has a wealth of knowledge in a number of different defensive modalities to include her present role as a full-time firearms instructor for SIG SAUER Academy. Hana is also a per diem deputy with the Strafford County Sheriff’s Office, allowing her to stay current with the law enforcement culture.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
The Russian defense contractor Rostec just showed off a stealth camouflaged helmet that they claim can change colors quickly and even display moving images to better conceal Russian troops.
“The specialized electrically-operated material covering the helmet prototype is able to change color depending on the camouflaged surface and environment,” Rostec said in a press statement of the helmet displayed Aug. 21, 2018, at the Army-2018 Forum in Moscow. “The material can display dynamic changes of color intensity and simulate complex images, for example, the motion of leaves in the wind.”
Rostec said that the stealth camouflage coating can be “applied to the base, like ordinary paint, and does not require great accuracy in terms of thickness and uniformity.”
In this case, it was applied to a helmet designed for Russia’s third-generation Ratnik-3 combat suit, which Russia Today previously dubbed the “Star Wars-like” suit, but Rostec says it can be applied to practically anything, even armored vehicles.
The Ratnik-3 combat suit.
The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet, previously reported.
In total, the suit comes with 59 items, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
It should be noted, however, that there do not appear to be any video yet of the helmet changing color, but that doesn’t mean the stealth coating doesn’t work.
“I haven’t seen the system working myself of course, but I doubt they’d be displaying it if it didn’t at least do something resembling what they claim,” Sim Tack, chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
It’s “not something we expect to see on the battlefield too soon, but as armies move towards more advanced infantry systems including exoskeletons and that type of technology, [it] could be a part of that,” Tack added.
“Even if Russian industry was able to perfect stealth camo and exoskeletons, it would likely be too expensive to fit to ordinary Russian troops, with small numbers of Russian special forces — spetsnaz — the likely recipients,” Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami wrote on Aug. 20, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.
Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?
After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.
Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.
The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.
Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.
Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.
The invasion of Africa helped win the war
The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.
However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.
The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.
The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.
The Infamous Winter Line Attack
As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.
WWII to present
In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.
In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The Ghost Gunner 2 ecosystem receives an upgrade with April 20, 2019’s release of the company’s updated 1911 jig. The new jig replaces the original, 45 ACP caliber-only jig with an update that holds 9mm, 10mm, 40S&W, and 38 Super caliber 1911 80% frames.
The Ghost Gunner 2 is a desktop CNC mill that finishes user-supplied 80% lowers using the included DDCut software. Connect it to your Mac or PC and using the corresponding accessory jig and tooling, the microwave oven-sized machine finishes 80% AR-15, AR-10, and 1911 lowers and frames made of aluminum or polymer. The GG2 is a full-featured desktop CNC mill that accepts open-source milling code and cuts anything else, as long as it’s aluminum or softer. You just need to find (or write your own) g-code and supply a jig to hold the workpiece in the machine.
The new Delrin 1911 jig replaces the original aluminum jig and includes a few changes that allow the installation of 1911 frames in multiple calibers. The change from metal to Delrin eliminates the chance of a failed probing operation that could occur when the anodizing on the older aluminum jig was worn or damaged. Improvements to the 1911 milling code include soft probing and an extended probing for the commander size frame.
The new 1911 jig is available for pre-order as a kit including tooling and other accessories for 5. It’s also offered alone for those that already have the tooling and costs 0. This machine is commonly confused with the hot topic of 3D printing guns, but this is a desktop CNC milling machine, not a 3D printer; it cuts metal and polymer.
From Ghost Gunner:
The 1911 Starter Kit is now available for pre-order. It will include our improved 1911 jig and necessary collets, bits, end mills, and code needed to complete 1911 frames on the GG2. We are currently fulfilling the existing backorder and we’ll be shipping new orders out in 3-4 weeks.
With these improvements, the 1911 starter kit is now compatible with Stealth Arms entire 1911 frame line. Including their 9mm frame platform, allowing users to have 9mm, 10mm, 40SW, and 38 Super builds in both Government and Commander size frames.
Includes everything you need to get started milling an aluminum 1911 frame in the Ghost Gunner. Precision machined Delrin fixture for completing Stealth Arms aluminum M1911 80% government and commander frames with either un-ramped or ramped barrel seats, including those which feature tactical rails. Comes with 1/4 in slotting end mill, 1/4 in ball end mill, #34 drill, custom carbide 5/32 in drill, 1/8 in collet, 1/4 in collet, 4 mm collet, 3 M4x16 bolts, 2 M4x20 bolts, 1 M3x20 bolt, 1 M5x25 bolt, 5 M4 washers, 5 M4 nylon washers, 1 M5 washer, 1 M3 washer, and 4 t-slot nuts.
Compatible with all v2 spindle Ghost Gunner CNC mills. Contact us if you have questions about compatibility. Please allow 3-4 weeks for delivery.
Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.
The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.
It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.
Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.
A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.
The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.
The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.
The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.
DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.
Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.
“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.
“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”
Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.
That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.
Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.
Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.
Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.
“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.
With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.
Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.
“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.
It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.
Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.
No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.
Why hasn’t this problem been solved?
There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.
These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.
According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.
Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.
In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.
These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax
This is the call to action!
Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.
Ever since America figured out nuclear bombs, science fiction writers have flirted with all the different ways that nuclear weapons could work. But while lots of SciFi weapons have come to fruition, like drones and pain rays, the nuclear hand grenade will always be a weapon of fiction.
The military worked hard to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, making both large, high-yield weapons, like thermonuclear bombs, as well as smaller weapons, like nuclear cannons and recoilless rifles.
Nuclear weapons, explained in fiction with a bunch of mumbo jumbo and explained in the real-world with language that feels the same, follow specific physical rules. To trigger a nuclear explosion, material that can undergo fission—meaning that its atoms can be split apart and release energy—have to be brought from below a critical mass to above a critical mass.
Basically, you have to have a bunch of material that you’ve kept separated, and then you have to collapse it quickly. Once enough fissionable material is in a tight enough space, it’ll explode. Going from subcritical to critical will cause a nuclear explosion, usually within a millionth of a second. Fusion weapons work by allowing a fission reaction to trigger a hydrogen fusion process.
The Davy Crockett Bomb was a nuclear device delivered via recoilless rifle. While the warhead was about as small as it could be while reaching critical mass, the explosion was still large enough to give third-degree burns to everyone with 350 yards.
And that brings us to why you’ll never see a nuclear hand grenade. You have to, have to, reach critical mass for the weapons to work. The minimum amount of nuclear material needed for a plutonium reaction is 11 pounds of weapons-grade material. That’s a heavy hand grenade. Even then, it requires a “neutron reflector,” a layer wrapped around the material that reflects any escaping neutrons back into the sphere. Graphite, steel, and other materials work for this purpose.
But that adds on more weight. A uranium weapon would be even worse, weighing in at 33 pounds plus its reflector. And that’s without accounting for the weight of the parts needed to keep the nuclear material compartmentalized until it’s time to set it off.