The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

On Oct. 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter wrapped the Space Medal of Honor around the neck of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon. It was the first-ever of such medals awarded, even though the medal was authorized by Congress in 1969 — the year Armstrong actually landed on the moon.

Better late than never.


The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson. Armstrong, one of six astronauts to be presented the medal, was awarded for his performance during the Gemini 8 mission and the Apollo 11 mission.

(NASA)

The list of men also receiving the Space Medal of Honor that day was a veritable “who’s who” of NASA and Space Race history: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and — posthumously — Virgil “Gus” Grissom. They received the medal from the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and on the recommendation of the NASA administrator.

Today, as the list of Space Medal of Honor recipients grows, it continues to have such esteemed names joining their ranks, as earning it requires an extraordinary feat of heroism or some other accomplishment in the name of space flight while under NASA’s administration. Just going to the moon doesn’t cut it anymore — Buzz Aldrin still does not have one.

Read: Watch Buzz Aldrin punch a moon landing denier in the face

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

President Clinton presented the Congressional Space Medal of Honor to Captain James Lovell for his command of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission. Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13 the same year he received the medal.

(Clinton Presidential Library)

Recipients can also receive the award for conducting scientific research or experiments that benefit all of mankind in the course of their duties. In practice, however, most of the recipients of the Space Medal of Honor died in the course of their duties. The crew of the ill-fated Challenger disaster who died during liftoff and the crew of the Columbia shuttle, who died during reentry are all recipients. To date, only 28 astronauts have earned the Space Medal of Honor, and 17 of those were awarded it posthumously.

Though the award is a civilian award, it is allowed for wear on military uniforms, but the ribbon comes after all other decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This awesome anti-tank missile is getting mounted on drones

You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.


The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

(Raytheon)

Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.

Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.

Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.

And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 stress resources vets can use right now

As a veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. We’re here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be. VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.


Seven mental health resources veterans can use right now:

1. Just show up to any VA Medical Center.

Did you know that VA offers same day services in Primary Care and Mental Health at 172 VA Medical Centers across the country? VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a veteran is in crisis or has need for immediate mental health care, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional. To find VA locations near you, explore the facility locator tool.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

(Photo by Tim Evanson)

​2. Make the Connection.

Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.

​3. Veterans Crisis Line.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

4. Vet Centers​.

Vet Centers provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

SFC William Petit hugs his children at a deployment ceremony for the HHD 210th Military Police Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard.

( MIARNG photo by Staff Sgt Helen Miller)

5. ​Coaching Into Care.

Coaching Into Care provides guidance to veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.

6. ​Veteran Training online self-help portal.

The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with veterans and their families.

7. AboutFace.

AboutFace features stories of veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former NASA scientist explains why there is no dark side of the moon

Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no mysterious dark side of the moon.

Yes, there is a side of the moon that we never see from Earth, but it’s not dark all the time.

James O’Donoghue, a former NASA scientist who now works at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), made a new animation to explain how that works.

“Remember not to say ‘dark side of the moon’ when referring to the ‘far side of the moon,'” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “This graphic shows the dark side is always in motion.”


The video shows how sunlight falls across the moon as it orbits Earth. In one orbit of about 29.5 days, all sides of the moon are bathed in sunlight at some point.

Sun-Earth-Moon interaction: NORTHERN hemisphere view

www.youtube.com

We always see the same side of the moon from Earth

The moon is tidally locked with Earth, which means that we are always looking at the same side of it. The other side — the far side — isn’t visible to us, but it’s not in permanent darkness.

The video shows our view from Earth as the moon passes through its month-by-month phases, from full moon to new moon. At the bottom right corner, the animation also tracks the boundary of sunlight falling across the moon as it rotates.

So, half of the moon is in darkness at any given time. It’s just that the darkness is always moving. There is no permanently dark side.

“You can still say dark side of the moon, it’s still a real thing,” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “A better phrase and one we use in astronomy is the Night Side: It’s unambiguous and informative of the situation being discussed.”

Here’s what it looks like from Earth’s southern hemisphere:

Sun-Earth-Moon interaction: SOUTHERN hemisphere view

www.youtube.com

In the last year, O’Donoghue has created a slew of scientific animations like this. His first were for a NASA news release about Saturn’s vanishing rings. After that, he moved on to animating other difficult-to-grasp space concepts, like the torturously slow speed of light.

“My animations were made to show as instantly as possible the whole context of what I’m trying to convey,” O’Donoghue previously told Business Insider, referring to those earlier videos. “When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that’s what I’m doing here.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a teenager tried to assassinate the Queen

The Queen is likely one of the single best protected people on the entire planet. But on June 13, 1981, a 17 year old young man who held a marksman’s badge from the Air Training Corps somehow managed to circumvent the endless layers of security put in place to protect the Queen and fired a revolver at her from about 10 feet or 3 meters away. In the process, he managed to get not just one shot off, but a half a dozen, completely emptying his gun. So how is the queen still alive today? Well, thanks to strict gun laws in the UK, the young man, one Marcus Sarjeant, could only get his hands on a gun that shot blanks…

So why did he do it? According to Sarjeant, he was inspired to try and kill the Queen thanks to the deaths of John Lennon, JFK, and the attempts on the life of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. In particular, Sarjeant was intrigued by the subsequent notoriety and fame Mark David Chapman achieved after shooting Lennon and endeavoured to do something similarly shocking so that he’d be remembered as well. Not unique in this, humans have been doing this sort of thing seemingly since humans have been humaning, with perhaps the most notable ancient example being about two thousand years ago when Herostratus destroyed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World just so history would remember him.


The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

A modern model of the Temple of Artemis.

Going back to Sarjeant, prior to trying to shoot the Queen, he had received military training, reportedly joining and then quickly quitting both the Royal Marines and Army after 3 months and 2 days respectively. In the former case, he claims he couldn’t take the bullying from his superiors. It’s not clear why he left the Army. After this, Sarjeant tried and failed to become both a police officer and firefighter before working briefly at a zoo — a job he quit after just a few months reportedly because, as with seemingly all teens, he didn’t like being told what to do.

After deciding that shooting the Queen was his ticket into the history books, Sarjeant wrote in his journal, “I am going to stun and mystify the world with nothing more than a gun… I will become the most famous teenager in the world.”

Decision made, Sarjeant set about trying to get a hold of a gun with which to accomplish the task. Fortunately for the Queen, he was unable to do this thanks to strict UK laws related to gun ownership and the sale of live ammunition. Thus, he was both unable to acquire bullets for his father’s revolver and unable to acquire one of his own, even after successfully joining a gun club. Eventually, he did manage to purchase a Colt Python replica, which was modified to fire only blanks.

Despite the unmistakable handicap of not having a working gun, Sarjeant charged ahead with his plan to assassinate the Queen anyway, posing for pictures with his newly acquired firearm, as well as his father’s that he had no bullets for. He then sent these to a couple magazines along with a letter about what he was going to do. He also reportedly sent a letter to the Queen stating, “Your Majesty. Don’t go to the trooping of the color today because there is an assassin waiting outside to kill you”. This is a letter we should note didn’t arrive until 3 days after Sarjeant tried to shoot the Queen.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II riding to trooping the colour in July 1986.

As for the day of the Trooping the Colour ceremony, Sarjeant waited patiently for the Queen who he knew would be vulnerable due to the fact that she would be riding a horse in the open, and not in her usual well-guarded carriage. As soon as Sarjeant spotted her Majesty, he rushed forward and fired all 6 blanks his gun held at her, something that understandable startled the Queen’s 19-year-old horse, Burmese.

The Queen, showing why she is often considered an ambassador for British stoicism, didn’t really react much other than calming her horse and then continuing on all smiles as if nothing had happened.

If you watch the live news reporting of the event, the BBC broadcaster likewise exhibits this same stereotypical British reaction, directly after the shots were fired calming saying, “Hello, some little disturbance in the approach road… Burmese receiving a reassuring pat from her Majesty Queen, but he’s a very experienced, wise old fellow…” And then, much as the Queen had done, continuing on as if nothing significant had just happened.

Prince Charles reflects on Trooping The Colour in 1981 – Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute – BBC

www.youtube.com

Of course, seconds after the shots were fired, the Queen’s personal guard tackled Sarjeant and began treating him as you might expect her guard would a man who had just seemingly tried to kill their charge. Sarjeant reportedly later told the guards his reasoning for the assassination attempt: “I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a somebody.”

Sarjeant was ultimately taken to jail where he had to be held in solitary confinement for his own protection, as apparently even British prisoners don’t take kindly to someone taking pot shots at the queen.

When it came to the trial, because Sarjeant’s gun only held blanks, he couldn’t technically be tried for attempted assassination. As a result, Sarjeant was instead tried under Section 2 of the Treason Act of 1842, for “wilfully discharging at the person of Her Majesty the Queen a cartridge pistol, with intent to alarm her”.

Funny enough, this act came about in the first place because of people taking pot shots at Queen Victoria, most notably when one John Francis on May 29, 1842 chose to point a gun at the Queen, but not fire. The next day, he did the same thing, but this time discharging his weapon, but without apparent attempt to actually hit her, at which point he was arrested and tried for treason. A mere two days later, another individual, John William Bean, did the same thing, except, again, there was no risk to the queen. In this case, Bean had loaded the weapon with paper and tobacco.

The problem here was that, while neither of these instances were individuals actually trying to kill the queen, they nonetheless were being charged with treason, a conviction of which meant death. This was something Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, thought was too harsh, which ultimately led to the passage of the Treason Act of 1842. This had lesser penalties for discharging a fire arm near the monarch with intent to startle said monarch, rather than kill. As for the sentence if convicted, this included a flogging and a maximum prison sentence of 7 years.

Going back to Sarjeant, said Lord Chief Justice Geoffrey Lane to Sarjeant during the trial,

I have little doubt that if you had been able to obtain a live gun or live ammunition for your father’s gun you would have tried to murder her majesty. You tried to get a license. You tried to get a gun. You were not able to obtain either. Therefore, for reasons which are not easy to understand, you chose to indulge in what was a fantasy assassination…. You must be punished for the wicked thing you did.

Or to put it another way, Sarjeant won’t be remembered by history as the guy who tried to kill the Queen, but the guy who tried (and utterly failed) to mildly startle her.

In the end, while Sarjeant did apologize for what he’d done in court and would later write a letter to the queen apologizing directly, he was nonetheless sentenced to five years in prison, though at least got out of the flogging part of the possible punishment. Sarjeant ultimately only had to serve three years, the majority of which was spent at Grendon Psychiatric Prison in Buckinghamshire.

After he got out of prison in October of 1984, he changed his name and very deliberately disappeared from the public eye, his desire for fame evidently having been quashed during his time being held at Her Majesty’s leisure

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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How Delta Airlines went above and beyond to reunite a military family

The airport is a busy space. We’ve all experienced those long security lines, the annoyance of shoe removal and the not so fun physical pat down. All of that is just to get to your plane, never mind the things that come with the flight. All of this stress combined with traveling with small children, the thought of flying strikes feelings of absolute dread in the hearts of most parents.

The other side of travel is also stressful; those that work in the industry are responsible for a lot. One study reported that almost 40% of pilots experience burnout. Despite the demands and high responsibility associated with their jobs, one airline and their employees took the time to bring kindness to a military family with a unique need.


Arielle Britton was reportedly traveling with her toddler, Kenley, when her daughter lost her doll at some point between two airports. This wasn’t just any doll but a daddy doll with a picture of her deployed father and a specially recorded message inside the doll from him. Her daddy is away, serving in the United States Marine Corps. Britton said that her daughter would listen to her father’s “goodnight” message every evening and slept with it always.

Both mom and daughter were devastated.

Britton reached out on Facebook and created a public post pleading for help in finding her daughter’s special doll. She also contacted both airports they’d traveled through to report the loss. Her post garnered nearly 4,000 shares and then the story spread to Twitter. Delta saw her message and personally called her, sharing that all of their employees would be on the hunt for her daughter’s special doll.

A few days after Britton’s initial post, she made another one, this time sharing that the doll was found safe found on a plane and Delta was sending it back home to be with her daughter. She also went live on Facebook in a video, saying that she never dreamed that her plea for help would gain so much traction. A story that started with a parent helpless to console her heartbroken daughter was completely turned around thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Arielle Saige Britton

www.facebook.com

It may seem like a simple thing, seeing people jump in to search for this special doll, but it so much more. It was a ripple that spread far and wide, touching the lives of thousands involved.

This military spouse wasn’t just dealing with a lost toy. She was walking through a season of fear and stress due to having a deployed husband while also having to be strong for her young daughter. The loss of something that gave her little girl a connection to her father was immeasurable. The Marine serving his country made that special doll for his daughter to be consoled when she was missing him but also so that he could feel closer to her while he was deployed. Watching people come together to help bring this doll home is something this military family will remember for the rest of their lives.

The lesson and purpose to be found in this story is easy: kindness can change the lives of everyone it touches.

The airline employees and travelers were for once united. They had a shared commitment to making a little girl smile. Gone for a time was the stress of endless complaints about security lines, legroom or lack of favorite snacks on board. Kindness took over for those few days; improving work environments, travel experiences and hearts. Can you imagine what it would be like if it was like that always? The dread of work or traveling would disappear; kindness is that powerful.

Did you know witnessing an act of kindness sparks oxytocin which is considered the love hormone? Or that it can change your entire brain when you perform an act of kindness? It has been scientifically proven to light you up with positive energy, reducing depression, and help make you feel calmer. Guess what? All that feel goodness is contagious, which was clearly seen with the daddy doll search for a military child.

So, go out and be kind. You won’t just be making yourself feel happier but sparking a ripple that will travel far and wide, changing the lives of everyone it touches. In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private doctors are now a longer wait than for VA care

The Veterans Choice Program for private health care is in such bad shape that the bill backed by President Donald Trump to fix it will be difficult to implement even if done right, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

The Choice program was aimed at reducing wait times through increased access to private health care, but the GAO’s performance audit conducted from April 2016 through May 2018 found that, in many cases, veterans would have been better off making appointments at VA facilities.


“Timeliness of appointments is an essential component of quality health care,” the report released June 4, 2018, said, but poor management and bookkeeping under the Choice program can result in veterans waiting up to 70 days to see a private doctor.

In 2016, the average wait for a private appointment was 51 days, the GAO said, although the VA eligibility rules made private care an option when the veteran had to wait 30 days to see a VA doctor.

“Delays in care have been shown to negatively affect patients’ morbidity, mortality, and quality of life,” the report said, and the “VA lacks assurance that veterans are receiving care from community providers in a timely manner.”

At a White House ceremony June 6, 2018, Trump is expected to sign the VA Mission Act, which provides $4.2 billion to overhaul and expand the Choice program for private care while consolidating its seven existing care options into one.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The GAO report warned that staff shortages, bureaucratic roadblocks and poor communication between the VA and private doctors under the existing Choice program make a quick fix unlikely.

“To the extent that these factors persist under the consolidated community care program that VA plans to establish, they will continue to adversely affect veterans’ access to care,” the GAO said.

Citing the problems with Choice detailed in the report, the GAO said, “Ignoring these lessons learned and the challenges that have arisen under the Choice Program as [VA officials] design the future consolidated program would only increase VA’s risk for not being able to ensure that all veterans will receive timely access to care in the community.”

VA pledges action to correct problems

The blizzard of acronyms used by the GAO in its report, and by the VA in its response, illustrates the difficulty the individual veteran has in navigating the system.

The GAO called for better coordination among the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the VA medical centers (VACMs), the VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC), third-party administrators (TPAs), the Computerized Patient Record Systems (CPRS), the Community Care Network (CCN) and private doctors themselves, who often complain of late payments.

In its response to the GAO report, the VA concurred with four of the five recommendations for improving the transition from the Choice program to the VA Mission Act but disagreed with the GAO on urgent care.

The GAO found that “VAMCs and TPAs do not always categorize Choice Program referrals and authorizations in accordance with the contractual definition for urgent care.”

The GAO said that a referral to private care is to be marked “urgent” when a VHA doctor determined that it was essential and “if delayed would likely result in unacceptable morbidity or pain.” However, the GAO found that some referrals originally marked as routine were changed to urgent to speed up the slow appointment process.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Even that conclusion was difficult to reach because of the VA’s lack of reliable records and data, the GAO said. “Without complete, reliable data, VHA cannot determine whether the Choice Program has helped to achieve the goal of alleviating veterans’ wait times for care,” the GAO said.

In its response to the report, the VA said that the GAO’s recommendation on urgent care “is no longer needed because VHA has resolved the issue with the new CCN (Community Care Network) contract.”

Under the new contract, VHA staff will have responsibility for scheduling community care appointments with providers, as opposed to the old system in which administrators routed referrals to the TPAs (third-party administrators), the VA said.

In the transition from Choice to the VA Mission Act, the VA will also set up a new referral and authorizations system that will be called “Health Share Referral Manager (HSRM).”

The VA said that HSRM will “measure the time it takes to review and accept consults, prepare referrals and schedule veterans community appointments.”

The VA in flux

The VA Mission Act has been estimated to cost as much as $55 billion over five years. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has said that funding sources have yet to be identified, but he was confident they would be found.

When Trump signs the bill June 6, 2018, as one of the major achievements of his administration, he will not have a VA secretary looking over his shoulder.

Robert Wilkie, who had been the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness, was named acting secretary after Trump ousted former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts
Robert Wilkie, acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
(United States Department of Veterans Affairs photo)

However, Wilkie stepped down as acting secretary to get around a law that made it questionable whether an acting secretary could succeed to the permanent post.

Trump has said that he intends to nominate Wilkie to the permanent job, but the Senate has yet to set a date for his confirmation hearing. In the meantime, Peter O’Rourke, who had been the VA chief of staff, has become acting secretary temporarily.

Its major proponents have acknowledged that the VA Mission Act and the overhaul of Choice will be difficult to implement.

At a panel discussion last month sponsored by the Concerned Veterans for America, which lobbied hard for the expansion of private care, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that putting the VA Mission Act into effect will sorely test the VA.

“Let me tell you, it is a painful thing to do,” Roe said. “This is a massive undertaking. It could be very disruptive to the VA. It’s humongous.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The tiny mountainous country of Switzerland has been in a state of “perpetual neutrality” since the major European powers of the time declared it as such during the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.

Why did they do this?

The French conquered Switzerland in 1798, establishing the Helvetic Republic in attempt to make Switzerland something of a strategically positioned French satellite state. Not long after, Austrian and Russian forces invaded the country in their war against France. The Swiss, rather than fighting alongside their French overlords, largely refused. This ultimately led to the Act of Mediation, giving the Swiss back much of their former independence. Twelve years later, they got the rest thanks to the aforementioned Congress of Vienna in which their neutrality in the wars of their neighbors was officially recognised.


Beyond the Swiss themselves having long tried to stay out of the conflicts of Europe (since the early 16th century after a devastating loss at the Battle of Marignano), part of the reason Switzerland was granted neutrality in perpetuity in 1815 is because the European powers of the time deemed that the country was ideally located to function as a “a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria.” Thus, granting their neutrality in wars, so long as they continued to stay out of them, would “contribute to stability in the region.”

Since that time, with a few minor exceptions, Switzerland has steadfastly refused to compromise its neutrality for any reason, though on the war-front they did suffer an exceptionally brief civil war in the mid-19th century resulting in only a handful of casualties. While minor in its scale, this civil war drastically changed the political landscape of the Swiss government, including the establishment of a constitution partially borrowing from the then less than a century old United States constitution.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Swiss officer barracks in the Umbrail Pass during World War I.

In any event, as for those aforementioned “minor exceptions”, Switzerland has occasionally taken part in some global peacekeeping missions and prior to 1860 Swiss troops did sometimes take part in various skirmishes, despite their neutrality.

In more modern times, Switzerland needed to defend its borders from both Allied and Axis (see: How Did the Axis and Allies Get Their Names) air incursions during WW2. For instance, they shot down nearly a dozen German planes in the spring of 1940 alone, as well as shot down some American bombers and forced down countless others on both sides. This included grounding and detaining the crews of over a hundred Allied bombers that tried to fly over the country. When Hitler tried to counter Swiss measures at keeping the Luftwaffe from their skies by sending a sabotage team to destroy Swiss airfields, the Swiss successfully captured the saboteurs before they could carry out any bombings.

You might think it a bit silly for the Swiss to risk war with both sides by shooting or forcing down foreign aircraft from their skies, but on several occasions Allied bombers accidentally attacked Swiss cities, mistaking them for German ones. For instance, on April 1, 1944, American bombers, thinking they were bombing Ludwigshafen am Rhein, bombed Schaffhausen, killing 40 Swiss citizens and destroying over fifty buildings. This was not an isolated incident.

So how exactly did Switzerland, surrounded on all sides by Axis (or Central in WW1) and Allied powers during the wars to end all wars, manage to keep enemy troops at bay without much in the way of any fighting?

Officially Switzerland maintains a policy of “Aggressive Neutrality” meaning that although it actively avoids taking part in conflicts, as evidenced by their air-force activities during WW2, it will defend its own interests with vigour. How vigorous? To ensure other countries respect its neutral stance, Switzerland has long put itself into a terrifyingly over prepared position to fight, and made sure every country around them was, and is, well aware of this fact.

As for specifics, to begin with, a common misconception about Switzerland is that because it doesn’t actively take part in global military conflicts, that it doesn’t have a strong or well prepared military. In reality the Swiss military is a highly trained and competent fighting force, and due to the country’s policy of compulsory conscription of males (today women may volunteer for any position in the military, but are not required to serve) is surprisingly large for a country of only around eight million people.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Swiss border patrol in the Alps during World War II.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of all males are ultimately deemed mentally and physically fit enough to serve in the Swiss military, meaning a huge percentage of their population is ultimately military trained. (Those who are not, and aren’t exempt because of a disability, are required to pay additional taxes until they are 30 to make up for not serving.)

As for what fighting force is actively maintained, the Swiss military today is only around 140,000 men strong and just this year it has been voted to reduce that to 100,000. This is a major downsize from just two decades ago when it was estimated the Swiss military had some 750,000 soldiers. For reference, this latter total is about half the size of the United States military today, despite Switzerland having only about eight million people vs. the United States’ three hundred million.

In addition to this, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and many Swiss people are highly competent in handling said firearms due to both compulsory military service and a strong culture of recreational shooting (half a million Swiss children are said to be part of a gun club of some kind).

This said, in recent years the rate of gun ownership has declined somewhat after a series of gun related incidents, such as one where a man shot his estranged wife with his old military issued rifle. Prior to the shooting, military conscripts would take their rifle home with them after their service ended and were expected to keep it ready for use in defending the country should the need arise.

After these incidents, the military curbed this and implemented a new policy stating that any conscript wishing to keep their gun after service must buy it and apply for a permit. As part of this new policy, the Swiss military also no longer provides ammunition with the guns, instead keeping it in secure locations that citizens must get to in the event of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, generally speaking, Switzerland is prepared for near any global catastrophe from nuclear fallout to a surprise invasion from an enemy force thanks to a defensive plan it has been implementing since 1880, but which was doubled-down upon during WW2 and later during the Cold War.

Dubbed the Swiss National Redoubt, in a nutshell Switzerland has taken advantage of it unique natural geography, which includes mountains that surround it on nearly all sides, to build countless bunkers, fortifications and warehouses across the country that can be accessed at a moment’s notice. The full scale of the fortifications is a closely guarded secret, but some of them are kept in plain view as part of a comprehensive campaign of deterrence.

Initially the National Redoubt consisted of tunnels bored into the many mountains of Switzerland in key strategic positions for retreating troops and citizens to take shelter in, but over the years these have evolved to encompass a host of ingenious defensive and offensive structures. Along with tunnels and bunkers (which are fully stocked and contain everything from bakeries and hospitals to dormitories), the mountains of Switzerland also hide countless tanks, aircraft, and hidden artillery guns (some of which are pointed directly at Switzerland’s own roads to destroy them in the event of invasion).

Oddly for a landlocked country, Switzerland does maintain an active navy of sorts, though they don’t store any boats in its mountains as far as we could find. The naval branch of the Swiss forces’ primary role is in patrolling the country’s lakes on the border and providing aid in search and rescue operations.

As for more specifically how they kept themselves out of the world wars, during WW1, the Swiss military, under freshly appointed General Ulrich Wille, mobilised well over 200,000 Swiss soldiers and deployed them across its major entry points to deter any outside forces from considering waging war on the country. After it became apparent that Switzerland’s neutrality would be recognised by all powers in the first Great War, the vast majority of the Swiss troops were sent home. (In fact, in the final year of the war, the Swiss military had shrunk its numbers to just 12,000.) Nothing further was required to keep the Swiss out of WW1.

WW2 was a different beast altogether with Switzerland not banking on Hitler respecting their long-held neutral stance in European conflicts. Thus, newly appointed Swiss General Henri Guisan was given the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to defend the small country from their neighbors, Hitler and his allies, despite that said powers drastically outmatched the Swiss army in a variety of ways.

Towards this end, leading up to the war, the Swiss withdrew from the League of Nations to help ensure their neutrality, began to re-build their military (bringing the number up to 430,000 combat troops within three days of the start of the war), and strongly encouraged its citizens to keep at minimum two months’ worth of supplies on hand at any given time. On top of that, they also began secret negotiations with France to join forces against Germany, should Germany attack Switzerland (a risky move that was discovered by the Germans after France fell to them).

But even with all that, knowing the Swiss couldn’t win if Hitler really wanted to invade, Guisan and co. made the decision to drastically ramp up their WW1 era strategy of making invading Switzerland as unsavory an option as possible. Guisan noted that by utilizing Switzerland’s harsh terrain, a comparatively small amount of Swiss soldiers in a secure defensive position could fight off a massive fighting force if the need ever arose. So the plan was essentially to perpetually defend and retreat to some fortified position over and over again, ultimately conceding the less defensible populated areas of the country once the government and citizens had managed a retreat into secret fortified positions in the Alps. They’d then use the Alps as a base from which to both launch guerrilla attacks to make life miserable for any successful invasion force and to use highly defensible positions there to keep crucial supply lines from the invaders.

More controversially, Switzerland continued to trade with Nazi Germany during the war in order to further de-incentivise Hitler from invading. (There is some speculation that some of the Allies’ “accidental” attacks on Switzerland were really not accidents at all, given that some of the buildings that were blown up were factories supplying the Axis powers.)

The multi-pronged plan worked and, while Hitler did have a detailed plan in place to invade Switzerland eventually, the cost of doing so was always too high given the Axis power’s troubles both on the Eastern and Western fronts. Thus, Switzerland was largely ignored by both Allies and the Axis throughout WW2, despite its amazingly well placed location right next to Germany, Italy, France, and Austria.

Switzerland stepped up their level of defence during the Cold War, again mostly out of a desire to deter any potential invaders. This time, however, the focus was on “aggressively” defending Switzerland’s borders instead of defending them only long enough to cover a retreat into the well fortified mountains.

Towards this end, Switzerland’s roads, bridges and train lines were rigged with explosives that could be detonated at any time. In many cases, the engineers who designed the bridges were required to come up with the most efficient way, using explosives, to ensure the complete destruction of those same bridges. Once the destruction plan was developed, hidden explosives were installed at the appropriate locations in the bridges. On top of that, the military also lined hundreds of mountains flanking major roads with explosives to create artificial rockslides. All total, over three thousand points of demolition are publicly known to have been implemented throughout the small country.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Large-scale construction of hangers were conducted by the Swiss military in the 1950s.

With ground attacks covered, the Swiss looked to the skies. Unfortunately for them, attack by air is much harder to defend against for a country so small that enemy air forces could penetrate anywhere within its borders before an adequate defence could be mustered to defend its cities. To protect against this, the Swiss government constructed thousands of bomb shelters in homes, towns and cities to such a degree that it’s estimated that anywhere between 80 to 120 percent of the country’s population could hide in them for extended periods. Many of these shelters also included small hospitals and the necessary equipment to set up independent command centers. In fact, homes built after WW2 were often made with over 40 cm (16 in.) thick concrete ceilings to help them survive aerial bombings. If your home didn’t accommodate such a shelter, you had to pay a tax to support places that did.

It’s also rumoured that much of Switzerland’s gold supply as well as vast supplies of food stores have been similarly squirreled away somewhere in the Alps, which comprise just over half of the country’s total land area.

As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.

Since the end of the Cold War (see How Did the Cold War Start and End), similar to how the Swiss government has been slowly disarming its population and reducing its standing army, decommissioning some of these fortifications has begun in order to reduce government spending. The Swiss government is somewhat coy about the extent of this disarming, but it has been reported that many of the more extreme defenses, such as the explosives that used to be hidden inside the country’s bridges and along its road and railways, have been removed. As for the bunkers, unfortunately, simply abandoning many of these facilities is not an option, and it’s fairly expensive to decommission them.

As such, as the head of security policy for the federal Department of Defense, Christian Catrina, said “…in most cases we’d be glad if someone would take them off our hands for no price”.

In some cases, this has resulted in companies using the ridiculously well protected and secure mountain facilities as data repositories and server farms. In one such converted bunker, the servers inside are even completely protected from outside electromagnetic impulses that result from nuclear explosions.

In another, detailed instructions on how to build devices for reading all known data storage formats, even older formats like floppy disks, are kept, so that if that knowledge is otherwise lost, future generations can still decode our data storage devices to access the data within correctly. Essentially, the researchers involved in this particular project have attempted to create a “Rosetta Stone” of data formats and are using a ridiculously secure Swiss bunker as the storage point for that knowledge.

As a result of military downsizing, the fate of the rest of the fortifications is unclear and there are calls to decommission all of them, despite the estimated billion dollar price tag to do so. There is even a growing minority of the Swiss population who would like to see the entire military disbanded, including ceasing mandatory conscription.

But for now, at least, any country that wishes to ignore Switzerland’s long-held neutrality in military conflicts will find the tiny country an exceptionally difficult one to conquer and occupy. And presumably if war ever again threatens Swiss’ borders, regardless of how small they make their military today, they’ll likely keep themselves in a position to rapidly ramp back up their defences as they did for WW1 and WW2.

Bonus Facts:

  • Shortly before WW2, Switzerland passed the Swiss Banking Act, which allowed bank accounts to be created anonymously, in no small part to allow German Jews to squirrel their liquid assets away into accounts that the Third Reich would have difficulty finding out about or getting access to.
  • The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by United States soldiers after WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”. The company that makes Swiss Army Knives is Victorinox, named after the founder, Karl Elsener’s, deceased mother, Victoria. The “nox” part comes from the fact that stainless steel is also known as “inox”, which is short for the French term “inoxydable”.
  • Karl Elsener himself was originally the owner of a surgical equipment company. He later took over production of the original Modell 1890 knives, which were previously made in Germany. He moved the production to Switzerland and greatly improved the design of the original multi-tool. His big breakthrough came when he figured out a way to put blades on both sides of the handle using the same spring to hold both sides in place. This allowed him to put twice as many features into the multi-tool as was previously possible.
  • There has been a “fact” floating around that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per citizen and the lowest rate of people killed by firearms per year, but this isn’t correct. Switzerland is actually 4th in number of guns per 100 people (at 45.7 guns per 100), though does maintain a relatively low number of deaths per year due to firearms at just 3.84 per 100,000, which is good enough for 19th place overall. However, it should also be noted that 3.15 of those deaths per 100,000 are suicide. Their homicide rate (.52 per 100,000) is good enough for 31st place, with the rest of deaths from firearms (.17 per 100,000) being either accidental or undetermined.
  • While the United States has by far the most guns per capita at 94.3 guns per 100 residents, it is only 12th in firearm related deaths per capita at 10.3 per 100,000 people. 6.3 of those 10.3 firearm related deaths are suicides. This equates to the U.S. being in 14th place on the number of firearm related homicides per 100,000 and overall 103rd as far as total murders per 100,000 at 4.8. For reference, that’s four times the murders per 100,000 than the United Kingdom, which sits in 169th place in murders per 100,000.
  • Number 1 by far in firearm related deaths per 100,000 is Honduras with 64.8 deaths per 100,000 from firearms. Surprisingly, Honduras only has 6.2 guns for every 100 people in the country. Honduras also has the highest rate of murders per 100,000 overall at 91.6.
  • On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants specifically from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 songs for your pandemic playlist

Who knew the word to be used most often in 2020 would be quarantine? With travel being restricted, social isolation being encouraged – plus states closing down schools and offices; it’s leaving many feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the days ahead. Freud suggested that humor is one of the highest forms of defense and he knows a thing or two about the human mind.


So, without further ado – let’s dive into the 10 most epic songs to make you laugh through your quarantine.

Destiny’s Child – Survivor (Official Music Video) ft. Da Brat

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Survivor by Destiny’s Child

As the world is increasingly self-quarantining or “socially isolating” to prevent community spread; the lyrics to this one are epically funny: “Now that you’re outta my life, I’m so much better, You thought that I’d be weak without ya, but I’m stronger.” This one is sure to be a fun anthem for your whole family. Especially with words like: “Long as I’m still breathin’, not leavin’ for no reason.”

Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Official Audio)

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Are you lonesome tonight by Elvis Presley

Let the king serenade you with this ultimate classic.

Are you lonesome tonight,
Do you miss me tonight?

Are you sorry we drifted apart?

I Will Survive

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I will survive by Gloria Gaynor

This amazing classic is the perfect anthem as you continue to stress over the increasingly chaotic world. “I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive,” let these lyrics calm your nervousness, you got this. Pandemic-smandemic.

Locked Up

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Locked up by Akon

Slightly dramatic, but still epic just the same. “I’m locked up; they won’t let me out. No, they won’t let me out” should give you a chuckle. No, none of us are really locked up in our homes, but it’s sure going to feel that way over the coming weeks. Take a breath, fire this one up, and know it could be worse. You could literally be in jail. Their food is terrible, and I bet they actually run out of toilet paper.

Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) [Official Video]

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Stronger by Kelly Clarkson

Press play on this powerhouse of a song and feel that endorphin rush! Lyrics like: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger; Just me, myself and I” should empower you! Embrace the suck of social isolating with this one.

YouTube

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Right here waiting by Richard Marx

In the mood to sing moodily into your hairbrush? This is the perfect quarantine ballad for you. The lyrics will speak to your socially isolated heart:

Oceans apart day after day
And I slowly go insane
I hear your voice on the line
But it doesn’t stop the pain
If I see you next to never
How can we say forever
Wherever you go
Whatever you do
I will be right here waiting for you

Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive (Official Music Video)

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Staying alive by the Bee Gees

This awesome song should get you fired up and laughing at the ironic nature of the words to this song.

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Backstreet Boys – Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely

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Show me the meaning of being lonely by the Backstreet Boys

This one will have you remembering how amazing the ’90s were – and how terrible the fashion was.

Show me the meaning of being lonely
Is this the feeling I need to walk with?
Tell me why I can’t be there where you are

There’s something missing in my heart

Eric Carmen – All by Myself (Audio)

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All by myself Eric Carmen

Whether it’s day one or 7 of your socially isolating quarantine, this one will have you in all the feels and hopefully, the giggles. Pull out that hairbrush again and belt this one out!

All by myself
Don’t wanna be
All by myself
Anymore

And finally, our number one song to make you laugh about your quarantine:

MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This (Official Music Video)

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You can’t touch this by MC Hammer

If this one doesn’t make you almost spit your quarantini drink in laughter, you need a better sense of humor. With lyrics like: “I told you homeboy u can’t touch this, yeah that’s how we’re livin’,” how can you not laugh? Never mind that the chorus being epically perfect for this pandemic: “You can’t touch this”! Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Father and son strengthen bond while deployed together

Most fathers are happy to receive a tie or some other type of keepsake from their children for Father’s Day — especially once their children are grown.

For Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, he will have something far more valuable to see while he is forward deployed to Qatar this Father’s Day. He serves alongside his oldest son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, and both are members of Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.

“It’s a satisfying feeling with your children being in the military and seeing their accomplishments,” said Robert, who is the Base Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge for Area Support Group-Qatar. “If anybody has an opportunity to do it, do it. If you could, give it a shot because it’s nice to have somebody around.”


The Scott’s family history of military service extends back to World War II. Robert’s father, and John’s grandfather, was drafted into the 114th Infantry Regiment for World War II service. Robert first enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a military police officer. After serving for six years in assignments in Panama, Korea, California and Missouri, he returned to civilian life and eventually became a police officer.

John, who is now the headquarters platoon sergeant and operations noncommissioned officer for Centurion Company, first enlisted at 17, while still a senior in high school, in 2006. This led to a fateful question John asked his father.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment.

(SGT Zach Mott)

“He was active duty long before I even joined, then he decided to get out,” John said. “When I joined, I can only remember me looking at him and saying, ‘don’t you miss it?'”

With that simple question, the ball began rolling and shortly thereafter Robert again found himself at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, this time training to become a 74 Delta: chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist.

“He went in the Guard so I had him recruit me,” Robert said. “At the time, they had a little bonus program so it made him a little extra money.”

In addition to Robert and John’s military service, Robert’s second oldest daughter Jamie is a National Guard military intelligence officer and youngest son Robert is currently serving on active duty in Germany. Robert has four other children, one who manages a bar and restaurant in New Jersey, another who is a firefighter in New Jersey, one who recently finished high school and one more who is still in school. In total, their ages range from 32 to 15.

Robert, a Brick, New Jersey native, is proud of all of his children and happy to see that they’ve applied the discipline and structure that his military training instilled in him.

“He always had that military mentality that everything needs to be dress right dress, everything needs to be lined up perfectly. We grew up with it,” said John, a Toms River, New Jersey native. “Him being a cop didn’t help.”

This is the second time the Scott’s have been deployed at the same time. The first time, in 2008 to 2009, Robert was at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and John was at Camp Cropper, Iraq. While the two were separated by more than 300 miles then, they now have only about 300 feet between them.

“We would talk to home more than we were able to talk to each other,” Robert said of that 2008 to 2009 deployment. “This is kind of like we’re both at home. We’ll run into each other. The communication here is a lot better. It’s face-to-face. It’s good to see everything’s going good. I can tell by the way (he’s) looking at me that something’s up.”

John, who is also a police officer in New Jersey, likes to spend his off time, or “overtime” as he calls it, visiting with his dad in the BDOC, sharing a meal together at the dining facility, smoking cigars or doing typical father and son type games.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment

(SGT Zach Mott)

“The other day we were just talking and we just started tossing a roll of duct tape around, just catching back and forth,” Robert said. “If there was a ball there we probably would have picked it up and just started playing catch. We were both standing there throwing it back and forth to each other, he looks at me and he goes, ‘This turned out to be more fun than I thought.'”

Whether it’s the father-son relationship or the military rank structure, John remains deferential to his father when it comes to off duty activities.

“I don’t know, he outranks me so whatever he wants to do,” said John, who is on his fourth tour in the Central Command area of operations. Once to Iraq in 2008 to 2009, once to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2011, Qatar in 2014 to 2015 and again to Qatar now.

What the future holds for both remains open — and competitive. Robert said he wants to finish out his current contracted time of two years and see what options are available. John, who has 13 years of service, is looking for a broadening assignment as an instructor in the New Jersey Army National Guard next.

“He’s hoping I either die or retire because my brother was a retired sergeant first class,” Robert said. “I’m going to stay in. I’m going to drive him into the dirt. He’ll have to shoot for E-9 first.”

“He’ll retire, I’ll outrank him. Then I’ll rub it in his face,” John said.

The jokes continue and the smiles grow as father and son talk about the unique opportunity to serve together while deployed.

“How many other people get to go overseas with their father? I don’t hear much about it,” John said. “I’d say it’s a rare case. I get to have family support while deployed. I don’t have to reach back home to see what’s up.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Americas don’t like Russia’s nuclear bomber deployment

The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.

In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”


It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”

“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.

Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News

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Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.

The ministry did not say if they were carrying weapons.

The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.

Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.

The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.

“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.

Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS says it has a new leader less than a week after US raid

ISIS on Oct. 31, 2019, announced it has a new leader as it confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up amid a US-led raid on a compound in Syria’s Idlib province over the weekend.

Baghdadi’s successor is Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, according to Site Intel Group, which tracks the online activities of extremist groups like ISIS. This is a nom de guerre, according to top analysts, and signals that the new leader is indicating he’s descended from the Qurayshi tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.

Baghdadi also claimed to be descended from this tribe in order to establish his legitimacy as “caliph” or leader of the Islamic world. ISIS is referring to Baghdadi’s successor as the “caliph” as well.


ISIS also confirmed that its spokesperson, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed in a separate, subsequent US strike that was conducted after the Baghdadi raid. A man identified as Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi is ISIS’s new spokesperson, according to Oct. 31, 2019’s announcement.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raid video released by Pentagon

www.youtube.com

This announcement came several days after President Donald Trump on Oct. 27, 2019, spent nearly an hour speaking about the Baghdadi operation in a celebratory and self-congratulatory fashion.

Trump’s remarks on the Baghdadi raid have sparked criticism, as the vivid details he provided seemingly revealed classified information. The president also appeared to have made false claims about the operation, including that the ISIS leader was “whimpering,” that’s left US officials scratching their heads as to where he got such info.

Though ISIS no longer has a so-called caliphate, or the large swath of territory that was roughly the side of Maryland that it once held across Iraq and Syria, analysts have warned that it is far from defeated and still poses a threat.

ISIS’s announcement on Oct. 31, 2019, warned the US against rejoicing in Baghdadi’s death.

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

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse owned government consulting business leading the way

WWC Global is a leading women and military spouse owned small business that supports the management and operational needs of government agencies. WWC was also one of the first businesses to focus on military spouse employment, over a decade before it became a hot topic.

In 2004, Lauren Weiner found herself living in Italy and unemployable, despite an impressive resume. She left her position with the White House to follow her husband on his Department of Defense civilian assignment in Italy, when she quickly discovered spouses were not eligible for most government civilian positions. A few weeks after her arrival in Italy, she signed up for a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast. She had no clue that tour would change the trajectory of her entire life.


After overhearing Donna Huneycutt asking the tour guide if she could get coffee before the bus departed, she decided to follow her to get some too. “We started talking on the way over there and became fast friends within five minutes,” Weiner shared. She quickly discovered that Huneycutt had left her job in corporate law to follow her husband to Italy, who was a Naval officer. She too was struggling with the lack of opportunities.

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

The pizza place in Italy where many meetings took place.

“We jokingly say that the company was started over coffee,” Weiner shared with a laugh. Huneycutt echoed her sentiment and added that “we owe MWR for the founding of the company” since they provided the tour where the two met.

“The initial mission of the company was to provide employment for Lauren and enough employment for me so I could get some child care assistance. Shortly after that, the mission of the company was to find as many talented military spouses as possible and match them with the critical needs within the Department of Defense,” said Huneycutt. “Then it evolved to finding qualified and outstanding people in different, under-tapped labor pools such as veterans, retirees and State Department spouses, aligning them with critical needs of the government. That mission still hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been doing this.”

When Weiner was asked if they had ever anticipated their company growing as large as they have, she laughed and quickly said, “Definitely not!” Weiner explained that Huneycutt initially just planned to incorporate the company for her and then go on to write a novel, but they received their first contract and then another came along. They found themselves hiring their first military spouse, a Harvard trained lawyer, Jeanne McLaine. She was only being offered paralegal positions at the base, despite her background and extensive experience. McLaine still works for the company today.

“I was told I could be a secretary. There was actually a policy against anyone who was a dependent applying for a position above a GS-9 at the base at the time … I was told I could not have a GS-13 or GS-14 job because I was a trailing spouse,” shared Weiner. “It was eye-opening and it was rough.”

By the end of their first year in business, they had seven employees. Weiner shared that she actually never wanted to grow over 50 employees, thinking it could cause them to “lose who we are.” But after a few years, they were well over that number. “The military spouse community is what built us in the first place and what supported us and sustained us,” shared Weiner.

Currently, over 74% of their employees are military spouses and/or veterans.

With their continued success, they are often asked what their next big plan or idea is. “We never want to lose sight of the things that led to our success. Our commitment to honesty and credibility have continued to open doors for us. We measure our accomplishments by the success of our clients and our staff. We will continue to do this in the future,” said Huneycutt.

Their firm is dedicated to leverage their expertise to serve their customers in various stages of policy design, exercise training, financial management, IT support and strategic management. Some of their clients include the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Agency for International Development.

“Our mission is and has always been to help make government more effective and efficient, because it impacts our own lives,” explained Weiner.

Initially, the response to their firm successfully obtaining and running these large government contracts was one of disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that they were awarded the work and that they could do it. Weiner and Huneycutt were often asked if they were “doing this as a side business” until they became mothers to children. Or, it was assumed their husbands had established the company, although their husbands have absolutely no role in it. “We changed the dynamic and the conversation, very quickly,” Weiner shared.

When Weiner was asked what advice she would give military spouses who want to start their own businesses, she offered, “Put your head down and do it. People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t and give you every reason why it won’t work. Do not believe them. It is really hard work and you have to work harder than anyone else, but you can do it,” she said.

Their hard work has paid off. They now boast over 24 locations and their employees span four continents and 13 time zones. In the last two years alone, their operations have tripled. All of that growth led to their newly announced name change from WWC to WWC Global. They’ve also redesigned their logo to incorporate their history of its founding in Italy and their first client: the U.S. Navy.

“There have been many milestones that have made me pause and reflect. One of my favorites is the work we have done to provide meaningful employment to 170 military spouses,” said Huneycutt.

“We were able to build this and we are going to continue to build it further,” said Weiner. “Every once in a while, I stop and go… wow.”

To learn more about WWC Global and what they do, click here.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information