In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

There are a number of potential vulnerabilities in NATO territory if the Cold War ever goes live, but three countries are especially scared of an attack to close the Suwalki Gap, a spot where NATO territory is only 60 miles wide with Belarus on one side, Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave on the other, and relatively flat ground with little forest or natural defenses in the middle.


In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
A German Army Soldier directs military vehicles onto land during one of the largest combined exercises in Lithuania, the Suwalki Gap River Crossing, as media observe the event, June 20, 2017.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If Russian tanks and other forces quickly span the gap and dig in, they could cut Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia off from the rest of Europe and NATO for easy digestion, leaving the rest of NATO to decide whether its worth it to risk their own troops re-securing them.

These sorts of geographic and political choke points aren’t new. Cold War weapons development was heavily influenced by the Fulda Gap, one of Soviet Russia’s most likely routes of advance if they invaded western Europe. And in World War II, France fell so quickly partially because it had counted on holding Germany at the Albert Canal and River Meuse in Belgium, but Germany had gotten Belgium to rescind its alliances with France before the invasion.

But the Suwalki Gap is a particularly vulnerable and important point. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea, and Belarus is a historic ally of Russia. Russia could easily muster troops in both areas for a mad dash across the line, and it could do so quickly and with little warning.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
Battle Group Poland U.S. Soldiers locate their sector of fire for their weapons as part of the Bull Run training exercise near Suwalki, Poland, July 16, 2017.
(U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Wang)

On paper, NATO would be required to respond, but NATO’s joint defense clause has only been invoked one time, and that was when America was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s part of why deploying to Afghanistan usually results in a service member receiving a NATO medal. The whole alliance was party to the invasion because one member of the alliance had been attacked.

But that was NATO allies backing up their most powerful member while invading a relatively weak, authoritarian state. The Taliban had little air force or proper army assets, and it quickly fell. Getting NATO allies to muster in Poland for an attack into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be much more challenging, especially since many countries would be interested in holding back at least some of their military forces to defend their own borders as the situation developed.

Poland might be especially reluctant. The gap shares its name with a Polish city and a Polish County, and Poland shares a much larger border with Kaliningrad and with Belarus. It might legitimately need its troops to hold the line against further Russian attacks.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
The Iskander-M is likely a violation of the INF Treaty, and it gives Russia the ability to cover the entire Suwalki Gap and most of Eastern Europe with a few missile launchers
(Boevaya mashina, CC BY-SA4.0)

Meanwhile, remember how Russia is under a lot of pressure to get back in line with that INF Treaty that bans missiles of certain ranges, especially ones that can carry nuclear warheads? Well, a lot of the Iskander and Iskander-M systems that are likely in violation of that treaty are kept in Kaliningrad, where they could threaten U.S. and NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and army formations approaching Suwalki from the south.

An Iskander launcher could likely cover the entire Suwalki Gap from any point in Kaliningrad. Multiple launchers could take turns shooting and then scooting before they could be hunted down. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion force would be north of the gap, conquering the NATO countries and setting up defenses ahead of the NATO counterattack.

The Suwalki Gap is something Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges talked about when he was the commanding general of NATO, saying that an invasion of NATO countries wouldn’t make any sense to him, but then neither had the seizure of Crimea or the Russian deployment to Syria.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
Battle Group Poland tested its readiness and interoperability as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence during Bull Run, a simulated training exercise, July 16, 2017, near Suwalki, Poland.
(U.S. Army)

For comparison, while the Suwalki Gap is 60 miles long, the annexation of Crimea created an approximately 85-mile-long front between Russia and Ukraine, though NATO wasn’t obligated to take part in that fight and much of that border is covered in water, making a Ukrainian counterattack much more risky and challenging.

Of course, all of this only matters if Putin is ready to do something even crazier than kidnapping an Estonian intelligence officer, annexing Crimea, or invading Georgia or the Donbas. While all of those actions were baffling for international observers, the annexed territory, at least, did have populations sympathetic to Russian rule.

While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do have some Russian-speaking populations, the countries as a whole strongly support NATO membership and have even inked agreements to move more U.S. and other NATO troops into the countries or allow more forces to transit through them. So, Russia would likely find it challenging to actually hold the countries permanently.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.


In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

SOFREP Radio

This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

War College

War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

American Military History Podcast

For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

Mind of the Warrior

In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

This Past Weekend with Theo Von

Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

War on the Rocks

Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how active and former military members can get Amazon discounts

Amazon is giving massive discounts on Prime memberships to current and former military members in recognition of Veterans Day, the company said Nov. 5, 2019.

The offer cuts the cost of Amazon’s yearlong Prime membership by more than 30%, to $79 from $119.

Amazon is offering the promotion to US veterans, as well as active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard members. Both new and existing Prime members can take advantage of the offer, the company said.


To receive the discount, military members must visit this landing page on Amazon’s site between Nov. 6 and Nov. 11, 2019, to verify their eligibility.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

(Photo by Bryan Angelo)

Once eligibility is verified, the discounted Prime membership will be added to the customer’s cart, and the customer will be directed to complete the process by checking out.

People interested in the promotion should also know:

  • The discounted rate applies to only one year of Prime membership.
  • The promotion will extend the memberships of current Prime members by one year.
  • Customers can attempt eligibility verification only three times online. Amazon instructs anyone having trouble with verification to contact its customer-support team by email after the first failed attempt.
  • Prime Student and other discounted Prime members are not eligible to receive the discount.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

We’re baaaaaaack.

There are so many dumb questions, but don’t worry, we’re here for you with the answers. We Are The Mighty regulars are joined by special guests U.S. Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke and Green Beret Terry Schappert in the third installment of this riveting series.

RIVETING.


Do soldiers fall in love while in war zones? | Dumb Military Questions 103

www.youtube.com

Do soldiers fall in love while in war zones?

“Have you ever seen someone cry at the U.S. Army basic training?”

The video opens strong with the cold human truth: oh yes — everyone cries at the U.S. Army basic training (phrasing kept intact here because it’s hilarious; can we make adding ‘the’ to basic training a universal thing?).

Next up:

“Why are the U.S. Navy’s and the U.S. Army’s special forces considered elite even though their training period before joining is only a few months long compared to civilian skills like guitar that take years to learn?”

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

Schappert ain’t got time for that.

Dear twenty-something rich kid sitting in your mom’s basement playing ‘Wonderwall’ again on your six-string: we don’t know how to convey to you that pushing yourself beyond your physical limitations consistently for months on end while sleep deprived in order to learn tactics and skills that will keep you and your friends alive in the face of lethal force is harder than finally nailing your first F chord on the guitar. But please trust us: it is.

“Could a Green Beret break out of a supermax prison?”

Lucky for us, we had not one but two Green Berets on hand to answer this question.

“Why don’t we make our soldiers look scary or creepy? Wouldn’t that be good psychological warfare?”

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

Trust me. Our soldiers are creepy. Just look through the We Are The Mighty comments sometime.

Watch the video above to see the full line-up of questions and their answers!

Then make sure you check out more videos right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

How to get posted at Area 51 other dumb military questions answered

What happens if you refuse to shower other dumb questions

What do snipers think when they miss other dumb military questions

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Navy just threw a birthday cruise for its 222-year-old warship

A 222nd birthday is quite a milestone, and the USS Constitution celebrated in style on Oct. 18, 2019. A cruise through Boston Harbor showed off Old Ironsides, the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, according to the National Parks Service.

Although the ship isn’t engaged in warfighting anymore, it hosts visitors as an historic site, along with the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Read on to learn more about the USS Constitution’s history.


In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

The Constitution started construction in 1794, and first set sail Oct. 21, 1797.

She was built in Boston as one of the US Navy’s first six warfighting ships after the United States gained independence. The Constitution was first engaged during a dispute between the US and France called the Quasi-War, which took place between 1798 and 1800, according to the US Historian.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

It wasn’t until the War of 1812 that she earned her nickname.

The War of 1812 involved the US in a trade dispute between Britain and France, which later spiraled into a conflict over national sovereignty, territorial control, and westward expansion by the US.

But during the conflict, the Constitution’s hull was apparently so strong — like iron — that enemy fire couldn’t penetrate, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The Constitution got underway to celebrate the ship’s 222nd birthday and the Navy’s 244th Birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The Constitution still has a full crew, which maintains the ship.

The ship maintains an active-duty commander and crew, who keep the vessel and its gear ship-shape and give tours to members of the public.

Source: US Navy

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The Constitution attempted to launch into Boston Harbor twice — and failed — before it succeeded on October 21, 1797.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

After her lengthy service and legendary survivability in the War of 1812, rumors began to circulate in the 1830s that Old Ironsides would be retired.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the poem “Old Ironsides” to stir public sentiment to save her, according to the USS Constitution Museum. She remained in service until 1853, and was converted into a naval school ship between 1857 and 1860.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

In 1925, US school children raised 4,000 to restore the Constitution.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The Constitution cruised around Boston Harbor on October 18, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Samoluk)

She was designated the US’s Ship of State in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Our Forgotten Heroes: Why don’t we talk about World War I?

During the “Great War”, the United States of America lost over 116,000 of her troops in a span of only 19 months. While initially remaining neutral and refusing to enter into World War I when it began in 1914, that changed after repeated attacks on America’s ships. In 1917 the U.S. entered into the fray, declaring war against Germany.

It can be argued that without American’s force beside the allies, the war wouldn’t have ended in victory, but a stalemate. History has documented this impressive and vital piece of our story. So why don’t we talk about it and those incredible heroes that turned the tide for an entire world in the name of democracy?


Why don’t we discuss how more Marines were killed or wounded in the battle of Belleau Wood than their service’s entire history at that point? That battle alone claimed over 10,000 American casualties in just three weeks. It should also be known that France refused to enter into this particular battle because they felt it was too dangerous. Instead, they insisted that the Americans do it.

We did, but it came at an extremely heavy cost.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

upload.wikimedia.org

In September of 1918, 1.2 million American troops entered into the deadliest battle in its history. Many were undertrained and not yet battle-tested – but their sheer numbers and grit did what other armies could not in four years. It was an incredible offensive effort as the Expeditionary Forces of the United States actually caught Germany completely by surprise with their attack.

America’s troops took an area that had been held for four years in just two short days. This battle ended the war, but America lost 26,277 of their own to win it. We also had 192,000 casualties. It was this specific battle at Meuse-Argonne, or The Battle of Argonne Forest, that pushed Germany into literally pleading for an end of World War I. America brought Germany to its knees.

This war was pivotal for so many things that have occurred in the last hundred years. We need to remember those lost their lives in the name of democracy. Let us also not forget the ones that died slowly years following World War I due to the effects of the lingering bullets, “shell shock” (now called post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of poison gas exposure.

Those who survived through all of that though? Their personal war at home was just beginning.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

upload.wikimedia.org

When service members returned home following the end of World War I, they were celebrated with parades – if they were white. The African American men who returned home after fighting alongside their brothers’ in arms were treated with open hostility and disdain. Some were killed.

The years following the “Great War” were not kind or easy to digest but need to be remembered. They matter.

Following the war, the Great Depression and race riots wreaked havoc on the United States, leading many to question what they fought for. Not only did they question their sacrifice – but they were deeply suffering after their service for their country.

Veterans received just with an honorable discharge. Although they received monetary allotments if they had a disability through the War Risk Insurance Act, it wasn’t enough. They were also required to maintain insurance for care and paid a premium that came out of that allotment, reducing their income even more. Many were too severely disabled to work to make any extra income and the money they received from the government didn’t cover living any kind of quality life.
In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

media.defense.gov

High unemployment, lack of quality medical care and poor housing was the “thanks for your service” that these veterans received – if they were white.

The African American veterans were often denied housing or any kind of equality – leaving them homeless and destitute. This terrible choice for America to treat these brave men in such an abominable way would go on to pave the way for the next seventy years of struggle, advocacy, and racial tension that the country had ever seen.

The government failed all of its returning servicemen.

America failed its heroes by avoiding that chapter in its history.

Our World War I veterans did fight, suffer, and die for our freedom. Let us not forget it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.

Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.


In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment

(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

Day 1

The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.

Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.

Expect the unexpected.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick

The day you become a supervisor

This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.

The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.

It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214

Photo via Parade.com

The day you get out

There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.

Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This epic battle between 40,000 Jedi and Sith needs to be in Star Wars 9

Is the Dark Side stronger?” Luke Skywalker first asked the question as he trained with Master Yoda on Dagobah, wondering if all his hard work could ever make a difference against the full power of the Dark Side of the Force. Yoda insisted that while the Dark Side is “more seductive,” it is inferior to the Light Side of the Force. It’s a nice sentiment that reassures Luke (and viewers) that good will triumph over evil. But wise as he is, Yoda is also a Jedi and might be a little biased.


So to prove once and for all whether a Jedi or Sith Lord is the most powerful warrior in the galaxy, one YouTuber figured out an alternative to just taking Yoda’s word. He had 20,000 Jedi Knights face off against 20,000 Sith Lords in the ultimate Star Wars battle royal. Despite being amazing, the only tragedy of this fan-made simulation is that it likely won’t find it’s way in the next big Star Wars movie, Episode IX.

YouTuber SergiuHellDragoonHQ used the PC game Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator to initially pit one Sith (who is pretty clearly Darth Maul) against one Jedi. All fine and good, but he soon realized that things would get more interesting if the battle was considerably grander. He upped the simulation to 20,000 warriors per side. Not surprisingly, the battle quickly descended into total chaos and, well, never really stopped ⏤ at least not for 26 minutes. Still, the absolute beautiful insanity of the battle is worth checking out at least for a few of them.

www.youtube.com

So who ended up winning? Sadly, it looks like Yoda may have bet on the wrong side of the Force, as the Sith handily defeated the Jedi Knights. By the end, there were still nearly 14,000 Sith Lords standing, while only 5,000 Jedis remained alive.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The IAVA #SAVmarch will feature vets virtually marching over 2000 miles

This Veterans Day, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is launching a first-of-its-kind event, called a “virtual march,” to generate awareness surrounding veterans’ issues and raise funding for solutions. Veterans and their friends and families will march, virtually at home or in their neighborhoods, until they’ve logged a collective 2,093 miles — far enough to march clear across the nation.

Show your solidarity with the men and women responsible for #DefendtheGIBill, a movement that thwarted massive potential reductions to the GI Bill over five years, by getting involved in the Support America’s Veterans March, this Veterans Day — Nov. 11, 2020.

IAVA provides mental health and suicide prevention resources for veterans. In addition to that, their Quick Reaction Force program provides guidance for veterans that need help with housing, benefits, or GI Bill-related issues.

Quick Reaction Force is IAVA’s one-stop-shop solution. QRF provides free, confidential, 24/7 peer support, remote care management and connections to quality resources for all veterans and family members.

Membership is free to all veterans, family members and supporters. With over 425,000+ veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and public awareness. They get results. They use data and stories from our community to catalyze needed, positive change for America’s veterans. They also drive historic impacts for veterans and IAVA’s programs are second to none!

Last month, on Sept. 9, 2020, IAVA CEO, Jeremy Butler, led the charge in a battle for vets in a Senate hearing about veteran suicide. Donations to IAVA help support these critically important actions that keep veteran issues in the spotlight.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
IAVA.org

But you don’t need to offer testimony at a Senate hearing to make a difference. By marching virtually, we can show our leaders in Washington just how powerful the veteran community is when we band together. There’s no question that 2020 has been a strange year and, for obvious reasons, a physical march isn’t the best idea — but vets adapt and overcome. Via technology, no one is left behind.

Ready to get involved?

Sign up on IAVA.org and start finding sponsors — ask friends, family, or, hell, just sponsor yourself! For each mile you march, your sponsors will pledge an amount of money of their choosing. If, as a collective, we can raise just $100 per mile marched, IAVA will raise over $209,300 for the ongoing fight to honor and care for our nation’s veterans.

So, get ready to march and be sure to report your walk, run or even your ruck results on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or YouTube Channel (and be sure you’re wearing your IAVA gear). IAVA will feature pictures and videos shared on social media on their channels.

Also, be sure to hydrate. Veterans are an ambitious breed — we don’t do the bare minimum. If you’re planning a socially distant haze-fest for yourself and loved ones, just remember to hydrate.

Whether it’s jogging in place or taking a walk around the neighborhood with Ol’ Glory, get involved, post your route — and be sure to include the hashtag #SAVmarch to take part in the socially distant action.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military announces new hardship pay for troops in quarantine

New guidance from the Pentagon lays out a series of special pays and allowances for military members who are dealing with coronavirus response, quarantined after contracting the virus or separated from their families due to permanent change-of-station changes.


The guidance, issued Thursday evening, includes a new cash allowance for troops ordered to quarantine after exposure to the virus.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The new pay, known as Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM), helps troops who are ordered to self-isolate, but are unable to do so at home or in government-provided quarters, to cover the cost of lodging, according to the guidance. Service members can receive 0 a day for up to 15 days each month if they meet the requirements, the guidance states.

“HDP-ROM is a newly-authorized pay that compensates service members for the hardship associated with being ordered to self-monitor in isolation,” a fact sheet issued with the guidance states. “HDP-ROM may only be paid in the case where your commander (in conjunction with military or civilian health care providers) determines that you are required to self-monitor and orders you to do so away from your existing residence at a location not provided by or funded by the government.”

For example, if a single service member who otherwise lives in the barracks is ordered to self-isolate, but no other on-base housing is available, he or she could get a hotel room instead, and use the allowance to cover the cost, the policy says.

Service members will not be required to turn in receipts to receive the allowance, it adds, and commanders will be required to authorize it. The payment is given instead of per diem, according to the fact sheet.

The guidance also clarifies housing and separation allowances for families who are impacted by self-isolation rules or whose military move was halted by the stop-movement order issued early this month.

Service members who receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) but who are ordered into self-isolation in government-provided quarters will continue to receive BAH or overseas housing allowances (OHA) at their normal rates, it states.

Additionally, a Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) may be available for families whose military move was split by the stop-movement order, the guidance states. That payment allows the family to receive two BAH allotments — one at the “with dependents” rate and one at the “without dependents rate” — to cover the cost of multiple housing locations. Service members may also qualify for a 0 per-month family separation allowance if blocked from returning to the same duty station as their family due to self-isolation orders or the stop-movement, it states.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The guidance also instructs commanders to “apply leave and liberty policies liberally,” allowing non-chargeable convalescent leave for virus-related exposure, self-isolation or even caring for a sick family member, the guidance states. It also directs them to allow telework whenever possible.

“Commanders have broad authority to exercise sound judgment in all cases, and this guidance describes available authority and flexibility that can be applied to promote, rather than to restrict, possible solutions,” the policy states.

A separate policy issued March 18 allows extended per diem payments to service members or families in the process of moving who are without housing due to lease terminations or home sales.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Air Force addresses key areas to readiness recovery

After decades of readiness decline, the Air Force is working to accelerate its recovery, ensuring the service is prepared to combat rapidly evolving threats.

Today, more than 75% of the Air Force’s core fighting units are combat ready. The service’s goal is for 80% of those units to have the right number of properly trained and equipped airmen by the end of 2020 – six years faster than projected before the Air Force developed a recovery plan.

“Restoring the readiness of the force is our top priority,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “And the budget Congress recently passed will have a significant impact for airmen across our active, guard and reserve components.”

To do this, the Air Force is focusing on three key areas: people, training, and cost-effective maintenance and logistics.


Cost-effective maintenance and logistics

The third element of restoring the readiness of the force is weapons system sustainment — the parts, supply and equipment — to make sure our aircraft are ready to go when needed.

“There are a thousand fingerprints on every aircraft that takes off. From air traffic control to crew chiefs to weapons loaders to avionics technicians — it is a total team effort,” Goldfein said. “When the plane is twice the age of the team, it makes it harder. So we are looking at new methods across the board for how we are maintaining an older fleet with a younger workforce.”

Focused efforts in Conditions-Based Maintenance Plus, additive manufacturing and retention, are helping to create solutions to achieve a more combat ready force.

CBM+ represents a conscious effort to shift equipment maintenance from an unscheduled, reactive approach at the time of failure, to a more routine and predictive approach. The Condition-Based Maintenance Plus approach to maintenance is based on evidence of need before failure occurs. Evidence of a need forecasted by analyzing data collected automatically by sensors.

“We’re trying to take some of those lessons learned in technologies and capabilities that (commercial airlines) are using and apply it into our inventory, and we’re starting to see some benefits,” said Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., Air Force Materiel Command commander.

Airmen at Travis Air Force Base, California, are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man-hours and increase mission effectiveness with the procurement of a 3D hand scanner, capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.

The scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike. Since then it has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.

“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”

The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.

“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it and within four to eight hours we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.

That capability, Smithling said, will decrease the time Travis aircraft are out of service.

Solutions to maintenance readiness are also being sought with advances in Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing. Traditional manufacturing is a subtractive process, beginning with cutting a lump of material to create a needed part. Three dimensional printing, one type of a larger set of techniques labeled additive manufacturing, extrudes or prints a base material in layers to create 3D solids.

For the Air Force, readiness is first and foremost about people. In fiscal year 2018, Congress provided funding to allow the Air Force to address a serious shortage of maintainers by adding 4,000 active duty maintainers.

Airmen at aircraft maintenance squadrons around the service began innovating with new scheduling, accelerated hands-on training courses and virtual reality simulators to get new maintainers proficient quickly; keeping more aircraft ready to fly and improving operational readiness.

Col. William Maxwell, chief of aircraft maintenance division at the Pentagon, has been charged in his new role with assessing the maintenance enterprise for the director of logistics in order to develop the strength of the maintenance career field and to share the best practices and solutions developed by the airmen on the flight line.

Maxwell said there are a lot of changes ahead for the aircraft maintenance community in order to develop and retain their airmen to sustain an aging fleet.

“The (aircraft maintenance community) is a passionate group of people and it’s fun to be a part of that,” Maxwell said, “because I love that passion I see in the airmen taking care of these weapon systems out there.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

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6 times US troops killed their way out of enemy ambushes

Ambushes are a great tool in a commander’s toolbox. The attacker gets the element of surprise, usually has numerical superiority, and almost always has the good ground. With all of those advantages on one side, the fight usually plays out about the way you’d expect.

Sometimes, however, U.S. troops can use a mixture of technology, skill, and straight guts to turn the tables. Here are six times that happened:


In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
An Iraqi tank burns during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Navy photo)

1. Battle of 73 Easting

During the invasion of Iraq during Desert Storm, the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was sent to cut off Iraqi lines of retreat before they could be used. But on February 26, 1991, Eagle Troop crested a rise during a sandstorm and found an entire Iraqi armored division laying in wait. The ground between the formations was seeded with mines and the terrain would force Eagle Troop to descend onto the battlefield with their vulnerable turrets exposed.

But, Eagle Troop was in Abrams tanks and their commander ordered an advance through the enemy fire. Most of the Iraqi rounds bounced off and drivers avoided the bulk of the mines. The Americans cut a “five kilometer wide swath of destruction” through the Iraqi tanks, according to the troop commander. They destroyed 30 tanks and 14 armored vehicles with no American losses.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
An F-15E Strike Eagle flies over Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

2. F-15s stumble into Iraqi ambush during Desert Storm

A flight of eight F-15s guarding a larger strike package during the start of Desert Storm got word from an E-3 Sentry that there were Iraqi MiGs in the target area, so the flight leader went with three more of his F-15s to root them out and kill them. But it was a trap, and the planes were suddenly painted by multiple surface-to-air missile sites on the ground.

The F-15s immediately started conducting insane acrobatics to get out alive. After evading the missiles, though, they were still thirsty for blood, so they continued after the MiGs that had lured them in and slaughtered them both, protecting a lone F-14 that the MiGs were either hunting or preparing to lure into the trap.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
1st Infantry Division soldiers keep on eye on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan, April 21, 2011. (U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)

3. 1st ID troops come under well-planned ambush, get enemy to jump off cliff

On September 17, 2008, soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division caught wind on their signal intercept that revealed an ambush coming against them in Afghanistan. The patrol leader ordered his mounted element to proceed down the road to make sure his dismounts wouldn’t be caught in the fire and could provide support.

Just a few minutes down the road, the vehicles came under intense fire from “stacked” enemies. A lower element that had been concealed in a draw and opened up with RPGs, rifles, and machine guns, while another enemy element up a hill provided supporting fires. Two of the four vehicles were hit by RPGs, disabling one. That one took another three RPGs and the gunner was killed.

But the patrol leader killed one attacker trying to hit vehicle four and then charged the lower element with his weapon, driving some of them to jump down a nearby cliff in an attempt to escape. They died instead. American forces re-established comms and got 120mm and 60mm flying into the enemy’s faces as howitzers at the nearby combat outpost opened up. The gunner was the only American killed but the enemy lost about 20 personnel.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
Troops fight their way through rivers in Vietnam. (Naval War College Museum)

4. Coast Guard, Navy boats double back into ambush to rescue trapped UDT members

A Navy riverine force led by a Coast Guard officer came under a concentrated ambush in a Vietnamese river on April 12, 1969. The eight boats were hit with claymores detonated on the bank, machine gun fire, rockets, recoilless rifles, RPGs, and other weapons. The first two boats were engulfed in flames but were able to push out of the kill zone, but the trail boat was in need of maintenance and heavily loaded and got stuck after RPGs took out the pilot.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr Paul A. Yost, Jr. went back with his and another boat and the pair put down withering cover fire into the jungle. Yost split his boat off from the attack and began picking up survivors. One allied Vietnamese marine and two Americans were killed in the fight, but 15 American survivors were pulled out of harm’s way and an unknown number of enemy Vietnamese killed.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
U.S. Marines stand with weapons ready ready to advance if called, near Camp Al Qa’im, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2005. (U.S. Marine Corps)

5. First Lt. Brian Chontosh and his Marines during the invasion of Iraq

Marine First Lt. Brian Chontosh was leading a convoy on March 25, 2003, when Iraqi insurgents suddenly hit it with a complex ambush. Mortars, automatic weapons, and RPGs all began firing onto the beleaguered Marines. Chontosh ordered his vehicle, and its .50-cal, forward. The machine gun cut a path into the enemy ranks, and Chontosh leapt from the vehicle to press the attack.

He emptied his M16 and M9 into the trenches and then picked up two enemy AK-47s and an enemy RPG to keep the kill train going. He was credited with clearing 200 meters of trench and killing 20 enemy soldiers in his Navy Cross citation.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch
North Korean tanks destroyed by Air Force napalm sit in craters during the Korean War (Air and Space Museum)

6. An Army task force annihilates the armored ambush set against it

During a movement on July 5, 1951, Task Force 777 was ambushed by an armored force of ten tanks supported by infantry and artillery. The cavalry task force, which was the size of a regimental combat team, was likely outnumbered and definitely outgunned, but the commander, Lt. Col. William Harris, organized a counterattack.

The American cavalrymen slaughtered their way through the ambushing forces, knocking out all ten tanks and killing and dispersing the infantry. They destroyed five artillery pieces and twelve trucks before leaving the site.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.

Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.

Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.


In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.

Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)

That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.

These tensions have come with military buildup as well.

Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.

In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.

Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.

Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.

Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”

Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”

“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.

(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)

A new battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.

Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.

The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.

“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.

The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.

The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.

While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.

The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.

But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.

“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”

The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.

NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.

But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.

The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.

“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.

NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.

“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.

According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.

Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.

“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.

“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”

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

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