Where did you grow up? This is a complicated question for children from a military family. My answer: everywhere and nowhere.
Because of this unique childhood I’ve always felt at home in the world and understood why I love to travel. Later in life, it dawned on me it also influenced how I travel.
As the daughter of a Marine, and the wife of a soldier, I’ve been exposed to a lifestyle that carries with it a certain mindset and way of moving through the world. I’ve adopted a few of these valuable tools for myself and found they inspired a sense of confidence and self-reliance. Whether I’m miles away in a foreign country or just down the road, they are always there as a reference.
In addition to a sense of humor and infinite patience, these 5 lessons have served me well on my travels.
Situational awareness. I can’t talk enough about this one. It’s first on the list because it’s so important, especially in this age of attention-detracting smartphones. In a crowd or on your own, it’s a simple concept worth practicing. Keep your eyes and ears open, pay attention to your surroundings, and trust your instincts if something feels amiss.
Find the courage
As someone who often travels solo, I get asked about fear all the time. It’s healthy to be afraid but more often than not, we imagine scenarios and dangers that will likely never happen. It helps to break the situation down into manageable pieces. Try to pinpoint exactly where the issue lies and look for ways to solve that particular problem. As the saying goes, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
Situation Reports (aka sit-reps) are a vital means of communication in the military. By checking in occasionally to say what you’re doing or where you are, you’re ensuring an extra level of personal safety. Hiking alone in the desert can be exhilarating but a quick message to let someone know your general direction is always a good idea.
Spontaneity is exciting, but preparation and organization leaves you with even more room to sit back and relax stress-free. At the simplest level, it could mean arriving at the airport with ample time or packing a complete carry-on for an unexpected delay. On the serious end of the scale (i.e. having emergency supplies or extra fuel in a remote area) it could be the difference between life and death.
Don’t Forget The Bennies
The scope of recreation-related benefits available to service members and their families has changed and grown tremendously. Taking advantage of these free or discounted perks can make for interesting and cost-effective travel. A simple web search will produce an exhaustive list but here are a few ways to enjoy military-friendly travel: USO airport lounges, Space-A flights, RV rentals from Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) or an Armed Forces Vacation Club membership.
Every person who has ever worn the uniform has had to, one day, step away from the uniform. The uncertainty that often accompanies that day is something that no explanation can truly capture, you’ll have to have your own experience. Once you’re on the other side, finding a proper fit can be one of the more substantial challenges that you’ll face.
Being a veteran, you are equipped to do and handle certain things. One of those veteran superpowers, adaptability, can make it hard to find a place that you actually fit in with. We have grown and developed that superpower so much that we can easily find ourselves in a job that we hate and not even realize it until we’ve been there for a year or more. Below you’ll find a handful of jobs that are not only good fits but are also financially and otherwise satisfying.
There are some specializations in the military that train you for a very lucrative life, post-service. What happens when you don’t have one of those jobs, or you don’t want to continue the career path you’ve been on?
*Actual footage of a veteran’s first day on the job as a customer service representative
(Image from Working Title Films’ The Big Lebowski)
Customer Service Representative
This job/career probably doesn’t pop out at you at first thought but dig a little deeper, and it makes a lot of sense. Weren’t so in love with your job? That’s completely fine and normal.
Regardless of your actual job in the military, we all have one thing in common service-wide: military customs and courtesies. This is beat into you as soon as you step foot off the bus, often before then. That makes you an excellent candidate to work in customer service. Doesn’t pay super well at entry level, but it does give you a foot in the door and a paycheck.
This is more of a placeholder job than anything else for many of us. Typically, we bide our time in these positions until we promote out or find something we actually like.
Average growth expected through 2026, with very low requirements for employment.
If you had any question, this is absolutely a transferable skill.
(Image by Army Sgt. Stephanie van Greete)
Obviously, some of us leave the service better equipped for this type of work than others. However, if you want to get into the field, there is opportunity. There may be some school or on the job training required, depending on your personal experience heading into the field.
Outside of that, you can find work with the right combination of a high school diploma, a good attitude, and experience. As an added bonus, there will always be a need for a good mechanic.
Still a fan of isolation and seeing what most others never will? Try this!
(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)
For the veteran community, the choice to become a truck driver can be a surprisingly comfortable one. It requires learning a skill, a period of time spent in on-the-job training working closely with a mentor, and finally entering a state of constant polishing.
Eventually, you may want to move from driver to owner and begin buying and manning your own fleet.
Like working with your hands?
(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)
Another option for those drawn to working with their hands. In other words, this is a job many veterans can gravitate towards and thrive. On-the-job training is the most common way in, but you could also earn a degree in the subject and likely enter with a much higher ceiling and amount of pay.
Regardless, there will be some type of ladder climbing involved, literally and figuratively.
Job growth in this area is above average through 2026.
They are more competitive and harder to find but they are there.
(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)
Human Resources/Operations Manager
These are two very different career fields that require some different skills and experience. You find them together because of their similarities and how those similarities can benefit you.
By the time many of us leave the service, we have compiled many years of experience as some type of leader/manager. That experience is valuable, especially when coupled with a degree or two. If you have at least a bachelor’s degree and experience you can find yourself in one of these positions.
Both of these areas expect an average to above average job growth through 2026.
(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)
Anything with computers
Literally. Anything dealing with computers is looking great going forward.
If you’re into computers at all, it’s highly recommended that you bet on yourself, put some type of education behind whatever experience you have and go get paid. Most of the jobs in this area require a degree or certificate, but if you can stomach it, you won’t regret it.
Many jobs in this area pay near or about 100K and job growth is well above average in many, many different specific jobs through 2026.
In World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States had a big problem: the operating area was humongous. In one sense, it’s no surprise — the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and they needed to get across that ocean in order to defeat Japan. But Japan had also occupied a lot of bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands during the inter-war period (and illegally fortified them). Finally, the Allies needed a way to deal with the fierce Japanese force, but they needed to do so without endangering the “Germany first” grand strategy for defeating the Axis.
This problem proved extremely difficult. The Japanese, at Guadalcanal, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, had proven to be fierce fighters on the ground. It was painfully obvious that fighting island to island on a campaign across the Pacific would take a lot of time and cost many lives. But at the same time, the Japanese bases had to be neutralized.
In 1943, after Guadalcanal had been cleared, Admiral William F. Halsey and General Douglas MacArthur began planning the next phase of the offensive in the massive ocean, with the ultimate objective of taking out Rabaul, Japan’s major base in the south Pacific.
The first plan they came up with would have required additional forces drawn from efforts in Europe. That, of course, didn’t fly with politicians.
Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fly over an atoll in the Pacific during the island-hopping campaign.
Instead, the answer to the Pacific question was to grab a few key bases and then use air power and submarines to cut off the other Japanese installations from resupply and reinforcement. The term for this was “island hopping” or “leapfrogging.”
There were two primary benefits to this strategy: First, it could be accomplished with fewer troops. Second, it meant the cut-off enemy forces couldn’t be pulled back to reinforce important objectives, like the Philippines.
Bases seized by the Allies were used to launch strikes that targeted enemy supply lines. One of the most famous actions was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.
The targeted bases in the island-happen campaign were selected for two purposes: First, they were the jumping-off points for the next “hops” towards Japan. Second, they served as bases for forces that had the job of plastering the now-isolated garrisons left behind. This was what John Glenn did while serving in World War II.
While plans originally called for capturing Rabaul, the decision was made to bypass it after successfully seizing some other locations where Allied forces could build airfields.
John Glenn’s World War II service included a combat tour striking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the F4U Corsair.
The island-hopping strategy worked. In less than four years, the United States had forced Japan’s surrender. While much of history focuses on the hotly-debated use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ability for America to deliver those weapons hinged on some very strategic leapfrogging.
Surprisingly, for a service so steeped in culture and tradition, the U.S. Navy doesn’t actually have an official song. In the “Armed Forces Medley,” the Navy is represented with “Anchors Aweigh.” Although the tune is undoubtedly naval, it’s actually the service’s unofficial march song. In fact, “Anchors Aweigh” is the official fight song of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Conversely, the Army is represented with its official song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along” also known simply as “The Army Song”. Similarly, the Marine Corps is represented with the historic and official “Marine’s Hymn.”
Although it isn’t used in the “Armed Forces Medley,” the Navy does have its own hymn. However, like “Anchors Aweigh,” it isn’t technically an official song for the service either. “The Navy Hymn” is a derivative of the 19th century British hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” It was written by Anglican churchman William Whiting in 1860. Having grown up on the English coast, Whiting was familiar with the perils of the sea.
When Whiting worked as headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers’ School, a student approached him about an upcoming voyage to the United States. The student expressed his fear for ocean travel. Whiting shared his own experiences of seafaring to calm the student and wrote “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” to give him strength and confidence for the journey through faith.
By the next year, the hymn saw widespread circulation throughout England. Various publications revised the text, as did Whiting himself. The hymn was also set to music which increased its popularity and accelerated its adoption both in England and overseas.
The first recorded use of “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” by the U.S. Navy was in 1879. Lt. Cdr. Charles Jackson Train served as a navigation instructor and the master of the Midshipman Choir at the United States Naval Academy. That year, Train began the practice of concluding Sunday Divine Services at Annapolis with the first verse of “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” The hymn eventually became a tradition, not only for the Academy, but for the Navy as a whole. Its unofficial adoption has since led to its renaming as “The Navy Hymn” and rewording to match modern naval culture and technologies.
During or just after WWII, a new verse was added to recognize the unique dangers that face naval aviators. Similarly, rewordings for other specific naval communities have been created. They include verses for SEALs, Seabees, submariners, Marines, and even the Coast Guard.
Given the hymn’s British origin, it’s no surprise that the song has also seen widespread adoption by the British Royal Navy. Although it was likely used before Lt. Cdr. Train’s adoption in 1879, the hymn was not in common Royal Navy usage until the 1890s. Since then, the Royal Navy version has seen its own share of rewordings for both modernization and service specifics.
Although “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is still not an official Navy song, it is commonly used in formal naval ceremonies. Most notably, the song’s reverent nature lends itself well to funerals. It was played during the funerals of U.S. Presidents with naval service including John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush. The song was also sung at the funerals of Senator John McCain and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Across the pond, the hymn was sung for the funeral of Prince Philip, himself a WWII Royal Navy veteran.
Over a hundred years after it was written, the hymn remains popular across the naval service as a source of strength and courage against the dangers of the sea.
The Navy is now strengthening and extending conceptual design deals with shipbuilders tasked with refining structures and presenting options for a new Navy multi-mission Guided Missile Frigate — slated to be ready for open warfare on the world’s oceans by the mid 2020s.
Navy envisions the Frigate, FFG(X), able to sense enemy targets from great distances, fire next-generation precision weaponry, utilize new networking and ISR technologies, operate unmanned systems and succeed against technically advanced enemies in open or “blue” water combat, according to service statements.
In early 2018, Naval Sea Systems Command chose five shipbuilders to advance designs and technologies for the ship, awarding development deals to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls, Marinette Marine Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.
The service has now modified these existing deals, first announced in February 2018, to enable the shipbuilders to continue their conceptual design work and “mature their proposed ship design to meet the FFG(X) System Specification,” according to the deal modifications.
The Navy expects that new weapons and sensors will better enable the ship to destroy swarming small boat attacks, support carrier strike groups, conduct dis-aggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile, and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare, service statements specify.
Lockeheed Martin’s conceptual design for the FFG(X).
“These Conceptual Design awards will reduce FFG(X) risk by enabling industry to mature their designs to meet the approved FFG(X) capability requirements. The Navy has not changed its FFG(X) capability requirements,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Service Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Navy hopes to expedite development to award a production contract in 2020 and ultimately deploy the new ship in the early to mid-2020s. For this reason, bidders were required to submit designs that have been “demonstrated at sea” and already paired with a shipyard for rapid production, according to the previous service solicitation.
“The Conceptual Design effort will inform the final specifications that will be used for the Detail Design and Construction Request for Proposal that will deliver the required capability for FFG(X),” the Navy’s contract announcement said.
Service developers seem to be heavily emphasizing sensor networking, weapons integration and targeting technology as it navigates this next phase of development.
“The FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Tracking (ISRT) efforts,” Naval Sea Systems Command FFG(X) documents said.
The “blue force sensor” language is explained by Navy developers as integral to the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept which, as evidenced by its name, seeks to enable a more dispersed and networked attack fleet suited for dis-aggregated operations as needed.
Also, by extension, longer range sensors will be needed to identify enemy attackers now equipped with long-range precision strike weapons and enable command and control across vast distances of open water and coastal patrol areas.
The Navy vision for the ship further specifies this, saying the “FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.”
Along these lines, the Navy’s FFG(X) Request for Proposal identifies a need for a netted sensor technology called Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).
CEC is an integral aspect of key emerging ship-defense technologies aimed at “netting” sensors and radar technologies in order to better identify and destroy approaching threats such as anti-ship missiles, drones and enemy aircraft.
“CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force anti-air warfare capability by extracting and distributing sensor-derived information such that the superset of this data is available to all participating CEC units,” a Raytheon statement said.
Current analysis is no longer restricted to the idea of loosely basing the “hull design” upon the LCS, as was previously the case, Navy officials say.
Designs for the ship no longer merely envision a more “survivable” variant of an LCS. Previous FFG(X) requirements analyses conducted by a Navy Frigate Requirements Evaluation Team examined the feasibility of making the ship even more lethal and survivable than what previous plans had called for, Navy officials said.
Existing plans for the Frigate have considered “space armor” configurations, a method of segmenting and strengthening ship armor in specified segments to enable the ship to continue operations in the event that one area is damaged by enemy attack. Discussions for Frigate technologies have included plans for an MH-60R helicopter, Fire Scout drone and ship defense technologies such as SeaRAM.
The Navy already plans for the new Frigate to be integrated with anti-submarine surface warfare technologies including sonar, an over-the-horizon missile and surface-to-surface weapons, which could include a 30mm gun and closer-in missiles such as the HELLFIRE. An over-the-horizon missile chosen by the Navy for the LCS is the Naval Strike Missile by Kongsberg-Raytheon.
Navy plans for the FFG(X) also call for advanced electronic warfare tech along with both variable depth and lightweight sonar systems.
The new ship may also have seven 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats for short combat or expeditionary missions such as visiting, searching and boarding other ships.
The Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.
In addition, Navy developers explain that the ship will be configured in what’s called a “modular” fashion, meaning it will be engineered to accept and integrate new technologies and weapons as they emerge. It certainly seems realistic that a new, even more survivable Frigate might be engineered with an additional capacity for on-board electrical power such that it can accommodate stronger laser weapons as they become available.
The Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. This strategic approach, in development for several years now, emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed to respond to fast-emerging near-peer threats.
Part of the rationale is to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increases its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against emerging high-tech adversaries.
Having longer-range or over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons is also quite relevant to the “distributed” portion of the strategy which calls for the fleet to have an ability to disperse as needed. Having an ability to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations makes Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower while. At the same time, have long-range precision-strike capability will enable the Navy to hold potential enemies at risk or attack if needed while retaining safer stand-off distance from incoming enemy fire.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The holidays are near and while it’s one of the most exciting times of the year, for military parents, it’s also one of the most dreaded. For service members, of course, it often means holidays spent away from loved ones. And, for parents on the homefront, it means explaining to kids why Dad is away, why Mom can’t be there on Christmas morning, why other kids have BOTH parents for the holidays, and other virtually unexplainable questions.
Yes, military kids are resilient. But they’re resilient for a reason — they’ve had to deal with tough things that most kids never experience.
But, dreaded or not, the holidays will soon be here. And for military families everywhere, that means having tough conversations with kids.
However, being gone doesn’t mean that a deployed or stationed parent can’t experience the holidays with their families.
Making the most of holiday traditions
Video calls and mailed care packages are some of the most obvious ways to stay connected through the holiday season … but they aren’t the only options. Consider what’s special for your family and how you can incorporate current holiday traditions, even when apart.
Hand-written notes are a sentimental way to add value for all. There’s something about seeing a loved one’s handwriting — about waiting for it to arrive — that makes a message extra special. Teach kids the value of writing notes to their parents early on. (And the excitement of receiving mail that isn’t bills!)
Printed pictures can also do much for enthusiasm. Print pictures for your service member and drop them in the mail. Take the kids to the photo doc and let them help choose and print. While it’s not as good as spending time with the entire family, this process helps them feel involved. Cash in on that excitement!
Consider making new family traditions
Together, decide new traditions that the family can explore. Volunteering? Baking cookies? Small homemade trinkets? Hot chocolate and holiday movies — whatever it is, talk about it together. The tradition doesn’t necessarily have to be for the holidays, but something that everyone can do once your loved one has returned. Make a list and vote as a family for your new tradition.
Then, it’s time to plan. Making lists, shopping, and of course, the date itself. Kids might find that the actual planning stages are more fun than the actual event. The excitement involved with doing something for a loved one can be magical for kids, and this is a great way to let that magic shine.
Having the hard conversation
When age appropriate, you will have to have a tough conversation with your kids: Mom or Dad won’t be home this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the holidays. Yes, it’s ok to be sad about it, and here’s what we will do instead. Just addressing this subject might sound scary, but once laid out and on the table, everyone can move forward and find ways to still enjoy the holidays.
Incorporate your service member whenever possible
Though your service member is far away, it doesn’t mean kids can’t engage with them regularly. Whether it be through video calls, sending gifts, or “cooking together,” albeit from a distance, including Mom or Dad into kids’ everyday lives will help them remember the time as being special.
Show kids that there’s still family fun to be had, even when the entire family can’t be together. Involve them in planning, shopping, and mailing whenever possible to help them process this tough time, and to find joy, even in the distance.
How do you celebrate with your service member while they’re deployed? Tell us in the comments.
Fireworks have been an American tradition since 1777 when they first lit up the skies of Philadelphia. It is an important time of reflection of everything American with the joy of pyrotechnics. The 4th of July is a time when Ol’ Glory is on everything from beer cans to bikinis, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Patriots buy around 247,550,000 pounds of Freedom every year for this special holiday.
As long as you don’t live in Delaware and Massachusetts, the only two U.S. states that ban the sale and use of any and all consumer fireworks, you’ll be fine. Remember to check if your county has any restrictions on specific types as well.
A night of fireworks should be served like a five-course meal. Sparklers, the appetizer of fireworks, are safe with adult supervision and are great to get everyone in the mood to see some color. If you’re able to find the neon kind, pick those up because they’ll show up the best on phone cameras. Sparklers are great for kids or those scared of the boom-boom variety.
The advantage to these is that they’re cheap relative to the exploding kind and a few packs will entertain for a while. A sleeve will cost around .50 with 5 pieces and a box with 40 pieces should be around .
Firecrackers are a staple of every fourth of July BBQ, but there are so many brands and sizes that it’s easy to get overwhelmed deciding which kind to buy. The following video is a power test of some brands that can be purchased at fireworks tents. As always, exercise caution when using these and don’t do what this guy is doing at home.
The prices range from id=”listicle-2638777067″.99 for 100 pieces to .99 for 4,000 pieces and up.
Snowcones are my personal favorite because they’re great to get people excited for the main course while getting a good amount of fire for your money. Snowcones cost .50 give or take depending on taxes and availability. Some wholesalers are already sold out of these so if you see them definitely buy at least one.
Alright, time to set the little stuff aside and put some serious rounds down range. Get yourself a fireworks box, and I’m not talking about the variety pack from Walmart. I’m talking about the kind you buy from the fireworks tent from some guy named Bubba, and you’re unsure if this was smuggled into the country somehow. They run around 0 and are worth every penny. Blackcat is the most trusted brand in this category if you want to invest in quality. You’re going to want to outgun every neighbor as you all duke it out like the founding fathers wanted.
Seriously, John Adams wanted you to blow up as many fireworks as you can.
It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams
Detonating the biggest firework ever launched in North America. HOLY COW!
Usually, after four courses, people are full but there is always room for dessert. In the case of fireworks, this means your custom builds, the kind that you needed to get permission from the federal government to fire off. The kind of explosions that make ISIS say “F*ck that was loud.” In all seriousness, though, don’t make custom builds unless you have the proper license and training. 5 seconds of ‘wow’ is not worth your life.
Consumer fireworks in the United States are limited to 500 grams of composition and firecrackers may have up to 50 milligrams of flash powder. Reloadable shells are limited to 1.75″ in diameter, and shells in pre-fused tubes are limited to 2″. Any fireworks that exceed these limits are not considered consumer fireworks and need an ATF license. – The Consumer Product Safety Commission
A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged.
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February.
The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.
It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays.
Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.
‘Early Stages Of Forming’
Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizeable Afghan population.
“It’s still in the early stages of forming,” said Giustozzi, adding that the military strength and the leadership of the faction is unknown.
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the new splinter group has not been “officially announced.” The official said members of the group included radical Taliban commanders and members of small Taliban offshoots.
A new report by a United Nations monitoring team made public on June 1 said that “at least one group of senior Taliban” had “formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement.”
The breakaway faction was “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” said the report, which was based on information provided by Afghan and foreign intelligence and security services, think tanks, experts, and interlocutors.
Iran Building Taliban ‘Combat Capabilities’
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami joins a growing list of Taliban factions that support continued fighting against Afghan and international troops.
“There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran,” said Giustozzi.
Among them, he added, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
That is despite Haqqani’s op-ed in February in The New York Times, in which he voiced support for the peace deal with the United States.
Haqqani, who is the Taliban’s operational chief, has a million U.S. bounty on his head. He is the son of the late radical Islamist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.
The Haqqani network has strong ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But Giustozzi said the network is “getting closer” to Iran as Islamabad and Riyadh cut funding to it.
Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. A former inmate in the infamous U.S. prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.
Mullah Zakir leads a conservative Taliban faction along with Ibrahim Sadr, the Taliban’s former military commission chief. In October 2018, Sadr was among eight Taliban members designated global terrorists by the U.S. Treasury Department.
“Iranian officials agreed to provide Ibrahim with monetary support and individualized training in order to prevent a possible tracing back to Iran,” the Treasury Department said, adding that “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities.”
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new splinter group included the followers of Sadr.
The officials said the new group also includes members of the Feday-e Mahaz (Suicide Brigade) a small, hard-core offshoot of the mainstream Taliban.
The group is believed to be led by Haji Najibullah, a loyalist to radical Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led attack in Helmand Province in 2007.
Iran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Tehran also provided help to U.S. forces as they toppled the Taliban regime. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
Tehran has confirmed it has contacts with the Taliban but insists that it is aimed at ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join peace talks.
But U.S. officials have accused Tehran of providing material support to the Taliban, an allegation it denies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January accused Tehran of “actively working” to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that Iran was supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
In a report released in November, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said Iran provides financial, political, training, and material support to the Taliban.
“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said, adding that Iran’s support enabled it to advance its interests in Afghanistan and attain “strategic depth” in the country.
Taliban Divided Over Peace
The emergence of the Taliban splinter group has exposed serious divisions within the militant group.
The Taliban is believed to be divided over a peace settlement.
Its political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to a peace deal but hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan demand the restoration of the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001.
Internal Taliban divisions have intensified after the death of founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Some Taliban commanders accused his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and assuming leadership of the extremist group without proper approval.
Mullah Mansur struggled to quell the internal dissent and reconcile feuding factions, with some commanders splitting from the group and challenging his leadership.
Mullah Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The succession of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a low-key Islamic scholar who was Mullah Mansur’s deputy, was also opposed.
But experts said the Taliban has overcome the succession crises, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite a deadly war against foreign and Afghan forces.
Borhan Osman, an independent analyst and a leading expert on Islamic extremism and the militant networks operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said divisions within the Taliban are not yet visible.
“So far the Taliban has been successful in spinning the agreement with the United States as an outright victory,” he said.
Osman said the Taliban’s unity will be tested during intra-Afghan talks, when Afghan and Taliban negotiators will discuss a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.
The negotiations were scheduled to start in March but were delayed by disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners by the government and escalating militant attacks.
“The Taliban will be forced to come up with specific positions on issues and present their vision for a future Afghanistan,” said Osman.
The Taliban has been ambiguous on key issues, including women’s rights, the future distribution of power, and changes to the Afghan Constitution, reflecting the divisions within the group.
Many expect intra-Afghan negotiations to be complex and protracted, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and the sharing of power between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Internal rifts and rivalries have led to the emergence of various Taliban offshoots over the years, although many lack the military strength and support to pose a threat to the mainstream group.
The High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul — has been engaged in deadly clashes with fighters from the mainstream Taliban in southern and western Afghanistan since 2015, leaving scores dead on both sides.
The clashes have left the offshoot severely weakened, experts said, with many considering the group to be militarily irrelevant.
Mullah Rasul is believed to receive arms and support from Afghan intelligence in an attempt to divide the militant group.
On Aug. 2, 1939, one month before the outbreak of World War II, Albert Einstein, the famous German-born physicist, signed a two-page letter to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt that would help bring the US into the nuclear arms race and change the course of history.
Einstein was already in the US, having fled Germany when the Nazis came to power, and learned that German scientists had discovered nuclear fission, the process of splitting an atom’s nucleus to release energy.
The letter warned Roosevelt that “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” could be created in light of this discovery — and that these bombs would be capable of destroying entire ports and their surrounding areas.
The letter — which Einstein would later call his “one great mistake” — urged Roosevelt to speed up uranium research in the US.
You can read it here, or read a full transcript at the bottom of this article:
Einstein’s letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt said, “Alex, what you are after is to see that the Nazis don’t blow us up.”
Sachs responded with a single word: “Precisely.”
Roosevelt then called in his secretary and told him that “this requires action.”
Einstein, who was Jewish, had been encouraged to write to Roosevelt by Leo Szilard, the Hungarian-born physicist who was convinced that Germany could use this newly discovered technology to create weapons.
Szilard and two other Hungarian physicists, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, who were both refugees, told Einstein of their grave concerns. Szilard wrote the letter, but Einstein signed it, as they believed he had the most authority with the president.
Cynthia Kelly, the president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, told National Geographic in 2017 that while Einstein’s famous discovery that energy and mass were different forms of the same thing had set the stage for this kind of creation, “he certainly was not thinking about this theory as a weapon.”
And Einstein never gave any details about how that energy could be harnessed, once saying: “I do not consider myself the father of the release of atomic energy. My part in it was quite indirect.”
Albert Einstein in his office at the University of Berlin.
Einstein’s letter had an effect; Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on Uranium in October 1939, the same month he received Einstein’s letter. By that point, World War II had broken out, though the US was not yet involved.
The committee later morphed into the Manhattan Project, the secret US committee that developed the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing an estimated 200,000 people.
Days after the bombings, Japan informally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.
Nazi Germany never succeeded in making nuclear weapons — and it seemed it never really tried.
Einstein was not involved in the bomb’s creation. He was not allowed to work on the Manhattan Project — he was deemed too big a security risk, as he was both German and had been known as a left-leaning political activist.
But when he heard that the bomb had been used in Japan, he said, “Woe is me.”
Einstein later said, “Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb, I would have done nothing for the bomb.”
He also warned that “we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
Photo of atomic bomb mushroom cloud in Japan, 1945.
(Photo by Charles Levy)
In letter published in 2005, he wrote to a Japanese friend: “I have always condemned the use of the atomic bomb against Japan but I could not do anything at all to prevent that fateful decision.”
And he wrote in a Japanese magazine in 1952 that he “was well aware of the dreadful danger for all mankind, if these experiments would succeed.”
“I did not see any other way out,” he wrote.
So crucial was Einstein’s letter that the investing legend Warren Buffett told students at Columbia University in 2017 that “if you think about it, we are sitting here, in part, because of two Jewish immigrants who in 1939 in August signed the most important letter perhaps in the history of the United States.”
Here’s a full transcript of what Einstein sent Roosevelt:
Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable — through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America — that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable — though much less certain — that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.
In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an in official capacity. His task might comprise the following:
a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States;
b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories which have the necessary equipment.
I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.
Yours very truly,
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran says it is holding a U.S. Navy veteran, confirming media reports about a case that risks further escalating tensions with Washington.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 7, 2019, that Michael White, 46, was arrested while visiting Iran and had been held since July 2018 on unspecified charges.
On Jan. 9, 2019, Iranian state news agency IRNA carried a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi that confirmed the arrest, but did not specify when it had happened or what crime he was accused of.
Qasemi was quoted as saying that Iran had informed the U.S. government about White’s arrest within days of when he was taken into custody in the city of Mashhad “some time ago.”
The spokesman added that White’s case was going through the legal process and officials will make a statement at the appropriate time.
The U.S. State Department said it was “aware of reports” of the detention but did not provide further details, citing privacy considerations.
U.S. Navy veteran Michael White reportedly jailed in Iran
The New York Times has quoted White’s mother, Joanne, as saying she learned three weeks ago that her son was being held at an Iranian prison.
She said her son had visited Iran “five or six times” to see an Iranian woman she described as his girlfriend.
White’s incarceration was also reported on Jan. 7, 2019, by Iran Wire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates.
White’s imprisonment could further worsen relations between Washington and Tehran, longtime foes.
Tensions have been high since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran in 2018.
At least five Americans have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges.
Among them is Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University student, who was given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Both Wang and the university deny the claims.
Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government. The charges were denied by the family and dismissed by U.S. authorities.
Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, vanished on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while on an intelligence mission. Tehran has said it has no information about his fate.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
Monument to the Colombian veterans from the Korean War. Incheon, South Korea.
While the Korean War Battles of Old Baldy, Triangle Hill, and Geumseong may not be the first battles that come to mind when we think of the Korean Conflict, for Colombia, they were certainly important. Like their Brazilian neighbors in World War II, the Colombians saw the importance of stemming the advance of an aggressor as essential to the world’s collective security. Three Colombian frigates along with more than 5,000 troops saw action alongside their U.N. allies there.
A Colombian veteran returns home from the Korean War.
While the country’s then-President, Laureano Gomez, was also looking for economic support from the West, the Colombians were also eager to remove the pro-German brush that had painted them during the Second World War. By 1951, for the first time in 127 years, Colombia was fully engaged in the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, attached to the U.S. 7th and 24th Infantry Divisions.
Over the course of the rest of the war, Colombia would send battalion after battalion over to fight, numbering more than a thousand men each. They were eager to prove Colombia’s bravery to the rest of the world, like the Turkish and Ethiopians before them. They were unlike any Colombian soldiers who came before them, but when returning home, they found a cold indifferent world.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford meets a Colombian Korean War veteran at the Korean War Memorial, Headquarters of the Military Forces of Colombia.
Their service went largely unnoticed when they returned home. Colombians rejected many of the ideals the Korean War veterans held as they fought to earn their respect in the halls of the U.N.. They suffered the way many veterans the world over suffer after their wars end. While abroad and fighting, they found themselves honored and beloved by veterans from every nation they fought. When they came home, they found it was hard to win over their own nation.
They received no benefits, no pension. Many wounded veterans would come home and one day die without so much as a thank you from the nation for which they were willing to give their lives.
Colombian Army veterans.
Eventually, the Colombian government would relent and offer a pension to Korean War veterans who could prove they were indigent. By then, many of those fighting men were well into their 60s and 70s. Some of those veterans were never recovered and remain in Korea to this day. The unit also suffered 213 dead and 567 wounded. They were the last force to arrive but the 9th largest to join in the effort to keep the South free. Still, the men who fought there don’t hold regrets about going.
“It was a really extraordinary experience,” said General Álvaro Valencia Tovar. “I never regretted going, despite the hardships suffered during war, the bitter winter we lived through there…resisting subzero temperatures, but that was all part of a chapter in my life that I’ve always regarded with great sympathy and with pleasant memories.”