Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high. But many of the people seriously engaged in this weighty discussion often get it wrong.

When it comes to estimating military capability, the Western media is principally concerned with the weapons capabilities of weaker states – and it rarely pays much attention to the colossal capability of the US, which still accounts for most of the world’s defense spending.

Any sensible discussion of what a hypothetical World War III might look like needs to begin with the sheer size and force of America’s military assets. For all that China and Russia are arming up on various measures, US commanders have the power to dominate escalating crises and counter opposing forces before they can be used.


Take missile warfare alone. The US Navy already has 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the Navy and Air Force are currently taking delivery of 5,000 JASSM conventional cruise missiles with ranges from 200-600 miles. Barely visible to radar, these are designed to destroy “hardened” targets such as nuclear missile silos. Russia and China, by contrast, have nothing of equivalent quantity or quality with which to threaten the US mainland.

The same holds true when it comes to maritime forces. While much is made of Russia’s two frigates and smaller vessels stationed off the Syrian coast, France alone has 20 warships and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean – and US standing forces in the area include six destroyers equipped with scores of cruise missiles and anti-missile systems. At the other end of Europe, the Russian military is threatening the small Baltic states, but it is rarely noted that the Russian Baltic fleet is the same size as Denmark’s and half the size of Germany’s.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber.

(DARPA photo)

Meanwhile, China’s aggressively expansionist behaviour in the South China Sea is reported alongside stories of its first aircraft carrier and long-range ballistic missiles. But for all that the Chinese navy is large and growing, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it’s still only numerically equivalent to the combined fleets of Japan and Taiwan, while the US boasts 19 aircraft carriers worldwide if its marine assault ships are included.

But overhanging all this, of course, is the nuclear factor.

Out of the sky

The US, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed; Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a new fleet of nuclear-capable missiles which he described as “invincible in the face of all existing and future systems”, and some have suggested that China may be moving away from its no-first-use policy. This is all undeniably disturbing. While it has long been assumed that the threat of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent to any war between the major powers, it’s also possible that the world may simply have been riding its luck. But once again, the US’s non-nuclear capabilities are all too often overlooked.

US leaders may in fact believe they can remove Russia’s nuclear deterrent with an overwhelming conventional attack backed up by missile defences. This ability was cultivated under the Prompt Global Strike programme, which was initiated before 9/11 and continued during the Obama years. Organised through the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, it is to use conventional weapons to attack anywhere on Earth in under 60 minutes.

This is not to say the task would be small. In order to destroy Russia’s nuclear missiles before they can be launched, the US military would need to first blind Russian radar and command and communications to incoming attack, probably using both physical and cyber attacks. It would then have to destroy some 200 fixed and 200 mobile missiles on land, a dozen Russian missile submarines, and Russian bombers. It would then need to shoot down any missiles that could still be fired.

Russia is not well positioned to survive such an attack. Its early warning radars, both satellite and land-based, are decaying and will be hard to replace. At the same time, the US has and is developing a range of technologies to carry out anti-satellite and radar missions, and it has been using them for years. (All the way back in 1985, it shot down a satellite with an F15 jet fighter.) That said, the West is very dependent on satellites too, and Russia and China continue to develop their own anti-satellite systems.

The air war

Russia’s bomber aircraft date back to the Soviet era, so despite the alarm they provoke when they nudge at Western countries’ airspace, they pose no major threat in themselves. Were the Russian and US planes to face each other, the Russians would find themselves under attack from planes they couldn’t see and that are any way out of their range.

US and British submarine crews claim a perfect record in constantly shadowing Soviet submarines as they left their bases throughout the Cold War. Since then, Russian forces have declined and US anti-submarine warfare has been revived, raising the prospect that Russian submarines could be taken out before they could even launch their missiles.

The core of the Russia’s nuclear forces consists of land-based missiles, some fixed in silos, others mobile on rail and road. The silo-based missiles can now be targeted by several types of missiles, carried by US planes almost invisible to radar; all are designed to destroy targets protected by deep concrete and steel bunkers. But a problem for US war planners is that it might take hours too long for their missile-carrying planes to reach these targets – hence the need to act in minutes.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

One apparently simple solution to attacking targets very quickly is to fit quick nuclear ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. In 2010, Robert Gates, then serving as secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said that the US had this capability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles take just 30 minutes to fly between the continental US’s Midwest and Siberia; if launched from well-positioned submarines, the Navy’s Tridents can be even quicker, with a launch-to-target time of under ten minutes.

From 2001, the US Navy prepared to fit its Trident missiles with either inert solid warheads – accurate to within ten metres – or vast splinter/shrapnel weapons. Critics have argued that this would leave a potential enemy unable to tell whether they were under nuclear or conventional attack, meaning they would have to assume the worst. According to US Congressional researchers, the development work came close to completion, but apparently ceased in 2013.

Nonetheless, the US has continued to develop other technologies across its armed services to attack targets around the world in under an hour – foremost among them hypersonic missiles, which could return to Earth at up to ten times the speed of sound, with China and Russia trying to keep up.

Missile envy

The remainder of Russia’s nuclear force consists of missiles transported by rail. An article on Kremlin-sponsored news outlet Sputnik described how these missile rail cars would be so hard to find that Prompt Global Strike might not be as effective as the US would like – but taken at face value, the article implies that the rest of the Russian nuclear arsenal is in fact relatively vulnerable.

Starting with the “Scud hunt” of the First Gulf War, the US military has spent years improving its proficiency at targeting mobile ground-based missiles. Those skills now use remote sensors to attack small ground targets at short notice in the myriad counter-insurgency operations it’s pursued since 2001.

If the “sword” of Prompt Global Strike doesn’t stop the launch of all Russian missiles, then the US could use the “shield” of its own missile defences. These it deployed after it walked out of a treaty with Russiabanning such weapons in 2002.

While some of these post-2002 missile defence systems have been called ineffective, the US Navy has a more effective system called Aegis, which one former head of the Pentagon’s missile defence programs claims can shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 300 Aegis anti-ballistic missiles now equip 40 US warships; in 2008, one destroyed a satellite as it fell out of orbit.

War mentality

In advance of the Iraq war, various governments and onlookers cautioned the US and UK about the potential for unforeseen consequences, but the two governments were driven by a mindset impervious to criticism and misgivings. And despite all the lessons that can be learned from the Iraq disaster, there’s an ample risk today that a similarly gung-ho attitude could take hold.

Foreign casualties generally have little impact on domestic US politics. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died under first sanctions and then war did not negatively impact presidents Clinton or George W. Bush. Neither might the prospect of similar casualties in Iran or North Korea or other states, especially if “humanitarian” precision weapons are used.

But more than that, an opinion poll run by Stanford University’s Scott Sagan found that the US public would not oppose the preemptive use of even nuclear weapons provided that the US itself was not affected. And nuclear Trident offers that temptation.

The control of major conventional weapons as well as WMD needs urgent attention from international civil society, media and political parties. There is still time to galvanise behind the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear ban treaty, and to revive and globalise the decaying arms control agenda of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which played a vital part in bringing the Cold War to a largely peaceful end.

Like the Kaiser in 1914, perhaps Trump or one of his successors will express dismay when faced with the reality a major US offensive unleashes. But unlike the Kaiser, who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered, perhaps a 21st-century US president might get away with it.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Linguists can get paid $53 an hour to teach High Valyrian from ‘Game of Thrones’

Calling all “Game of Thrones” linguists.

You could be turning your passion into profit by teaching like-minded Thrones fans the language of Essos.

That’s according to leading local services marketplace Bark.com who say that tutors can earn upwards of £40 ($53) per hour teaching High Valyrian, the language spoken by Daenerys Targaryen and Lord Varys.

The tuition service is available for fans across the US and UK, who can either sign up to be a tutor here or to hire tutors here.


Bark.com says those who sign up to be High Valyrian tutor will be required to provide proof of their knowledge of the language.

The role will involve creating a variety of reading, writing and speaking exercises for students, alongside role-playing scenarios to enhance the learning experience.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Daenerys Targaryen is a High Valyrian speaker.

(HBO)

Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, said: “Game of Thrones is more than another hit show — it’s become a worldwide sensation! And with the highly anticipated final season fast approaching, the show is more popular than it has ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our latest service — High Valyrian tuition.

“At Bark.com, we love giving people different ways to earn and this is the latest service we’ve launched to do that. High Valyrian is a complex language and this is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has worked hard to become fluent to share their knowledge — not to mention it would be a fantastic string to any fan’s bow!”

Though the High Valyrian dialect appears occasionally in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of fantasy novels, the author did not develop it beyond a few words and phrases. The actual language, which now comprises of around 2,000 words, was created for the HBO TV adaption by linguist David J. Peterson, who also fleshed out the language of the Dothraki.

Tyrion Speaking Valyrian and Banter with Jorah, Grey Worm

www.youtube.com

The Economist called Peterson’s take on Dothraki and Valyrian “the most convincing fictional tongues since Elvish,” which was created by J.R.R. Tolkien himself for Middle Earth.

New learners of the language will have to deal with verb conjugation and possessives but, fortunately, not a different writing system, which Peterson said might look something like “Egyptian’s system of hieroglyphs — not in style, necessarily, but in their functionality.”

Those wishing to get a head start on the competition can start learning High Valyrian in bite-sized lessons on Duolingo, taking courses which Peterson himself contributed to.

Those taking on the challenge of learning the fictional language will have to try harder than Tyrion Lannister, whose Valyrian was “a bit nostril” by his own admission.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

Gold Star Mother’s Day is a day to recognize and honor the mothers of service members who have died in the line of duty. Each year, there are events and meetings for Gold Star Mothers and their families.


Service Flags

The Gold Star has long been a symbol of a loved one lost in combat. During WWI, flags became a way for families to let others in their communities know about the status of their loved ones in the military. Blue Stars displayed on flags meant that a household had someone in the military who was deployed. Additional stars indicated additional family members.

If a family received news that their loved one had been killed in action, the star’s color was changed from blue to gold.

A Grieving Mother starts an organization 

In 1928, Grace Darling took the informal practice of flag display and formalized it into a non-profit organization, American Gold Star Mothers.

After her son, George Vaughn Seibold, volunteered for military service during WWI, Grace looked for ways to help her local community of veterans. She started visiting veterans in the greater Washington area, hoping that her presence might help them. When letters from her son stopped arriving in the mail, Grace feared the worst.

George’s remains were never found. Grace quickly realized that self-contained grief would eat her alive. So, she and 25 other grieving mothers met to create a formal organization that would help them collectively deal with their grief.

American Gold Star Mothers is formed

On June 4, 1928, Grace Darling and twenty-five other mothers formed the American Gold Star Mothers non-profit organization. Six months later, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. Within 90 days, the organization had almost tripled in size. Currently, the organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36-211 of the United States Code.

American Gold Star Mothers Inc. works on behalf of Gold Star families to educate the public on the unique challenges that Gold Star Mothers face. Their aim to inspire “true allegiance to the United States of America.” To advance this mission, the Gold Star Mothers hold an annual convention and have events centered around Gold Star Mother’s Day and Veteran’s Day. They also partner with Wreaths Across America to coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Criteria for membership 

Membership into American Gold Star Mothers is open to any woman who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident who has lost a son or daughter in active service in the military, regardless of the place or time of military service and regardless of whether the circumstances of death involved hostile conflict or not. Membership is open to mothers of service members missing in action as well.

The current charter was ratified in 1984 and also includes mothers who are from U.S. territories or insular possessions. Membership is not contingent on whether the service member was killed in action or in the theater of action.

Non-adoptive stepmothers are also eligible for membership if they assume responsibility for the service member before the age of fifteen. Husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers are eligible to join as Associate Members. Honorary membership is provided to mothers who were not citizens or legal residents when their service member child was inducted.

National Gold Star Family Registry

National Gold Star Family Registry is a program that honors those who have died while defending our freedom. This non-profit is the first comprehensive database of fallen heroes that’s ever been developed. It allows family members a space to publicly remember their loved ones and serves as a historical log of those who have died in combat. Educational resources and personal accounts are also provided, which might help future generations better understand our nation’s heroes. Information for the registry is compiled from public sources, including the Department of Defense and the National Archives. Launched in 2010, the registry recognizes the need for families to be able to share the stories of their heroes with the world.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Dunford discusses military deployments to the border

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.

The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.

The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.


Capabilities

Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.

“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.

DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”

The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.

Clear guidance

From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”

The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.

“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”

The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This video shows the 200-year-old Gurkha selection process

The Gurkha rifles in the British, Indian, and Nepali armies are accomplished and elite units made up almost entirely of men from a small area in Nepal.


For candidates hopeful to get a slot in one of these outfits, there is a grueling selection process that dates back two centuries.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?
Defense Imagery photo by Cpl. Michael Strachan

The Ghurkas are named after the 8th-century Hindu warrior named Guru Gorakhnath, and the Ghurka people built a small empire in the Himalayan mountains in the 1700s. When the British tried to break into the Ghurka nation from 1814 to 1816, the Ghurkas eventually lost but resisted so fiercely that the Dutch East Indian Company asked if the Himalayan soldiers would like to become paid warriors for the larger, richer British Empire.

Enough Ghurkas accepted the offer and the British set up the Gurkha Brigade. Over 200 years later, Gurkhas continue to serve in the Brigade of Ghurkas, and British officers are still sent to Nepal each year to grade potential recruits and decide which young Himalayan men will be allowed to join the brigade.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British army, Brigade of Gurkhas stands Sanger duty at Patrolling Base Chili, Lashkar Gah district, Helmand province, Sept. 23. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

The selection process includes interviews and exams, but it focuses on endurance, drive, and physical health. According to the documentary below, thousands of men will come out to compete for positions in the Gurkha units — most of them aiming for the about 230 slots open in the British Army each year.

To get a slot, they have to pass physical tests, math and English exams, and outcompete their peers in races — sometimes with heavy loads on long paths up the Himalayan mountains.

This award-winning documentary from Kesang Tseten follows a group of potential Gurkha warriors through the selection process, showing how they deal with the stress as well as what they must do to even enter training. Check it out below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The military’s ‘war for talent’ is affecting what the Navy’s future ships will look like

More than one senior military leader has said the services are facing a “war for talent,” as a stronger economy and two decades of war, among other factors, make military service less appealing to young Americans.


The Army, striving to reach 500,000 active-duty soldiers by the end of this decade, has rolled out an esports team to attract recruits. The Air Force, facing a protracted pilot shortage, capitalized on the recent blockbuster “Captain Marvel” with a recruiting drive.

For the Navy, which wants more ships to do more operations across a greater area, the effort to attract more people — and the right people — and to retain them is influencing ship design, the service’s top civilian official said this week.

“What we have to think about — and we’re sort of a platform-centric service, both us and the Marine Corps — is how do we reduce the number of people we have and that distributed maritime force that we have? How do we get lethality out there without having to have 300 people on a ship to deliver it?” Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in response to a question about personnel costs, which rise faster than inflation.

“It also requires, I think, an increase in the level of capability and skill that we have in the force, and that’s why we’re investing so much in education, because you’re going to ask these people to do a lot more and to be a lot more adaptable in the jobs that … we’re asking them to do,” Modly said.

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Guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 20, 2011.

US Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Barker

That thinking was “sort of the philosophy” behind the Navy’s future guided-missile frigate, Modly added.

Frigates do many of the same missions as destroyers and cruisers but are smaller and less equipped and therefore generally do those missions in lower-threat areas.

The Navy wants the new frigate to be able to operate in open-ocean and near-shore environments and to conduct air, anti-submarine, surface, and electronic warfare and information operations.

“That’s going to be a fairly lightly-manned ship with a lot of capability on it,” Modly said.

“I had a great example of a ship, and I won’t mention which manufacturer it was, but I went into the ship and they showed me a stateroom with four bunks and its own shower and bathroom facility,” Modly said.

He continued: “I was in the Navy back in the Cold War, and I said, ‘Wow, this is a really nice stateroom for officers.’ They said, ‘No, this where our enlisted people live.’ And I said, ‘Well, why did you design the ship like that?’ And they said, ‘We designed the ship like this for the type of people we want to recruit to man it.'”

“That’s really what we have to think about,” Modly added. “They’re going to be more lightly manned but with probably more highly-skilled people who have lots of opportunities to do things in other places, so we have to be able to attract those people. That is a big, big part of our challenge.”

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Guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James in the Pacific, March 23, 2012.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Sean Furey

10 frigates in four years

The Navy’s most recent frigates were the Oliver Hazard Perry class, or FFG-7 — 51 of which entered service between 1977 and 1989 and were decommissioned between 1994 and 2015.

While the design for the future frigate, designated FFG(X), has not yet been selected, the Navy plans to award the design and construction contract in July, according to budget documents released this month.

The Navy is only considering designs already in use, and the firms in the running are Fincantieri with its FREMM frigate design, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Navantia with the latter’s F-100 variant, Austal USA with a frigate version of its Independence-class littoral combat ship, and Huntington Ingalls with what many believe may be a variation of the National Security Cutter it’s building for the Coast Guard, according to Defense News.

The Navy plans for design and construction of the first ship to take until 2026 but expects construction to increase rapidly thereafter, with the 10th arriving by 2030, eventually producing 20 of the new frigates.

Without an exact design, cost is hard to estimate, but the Navy wants to keep the price below a billion dollars per ship for the second through 20th ships and hit a total program cost of .81 billion.

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Guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts returns to Naval Station Mayport, October 23, 2013.

US Navy/Cmdr. Corey Barker

The Navy also wants to use dual-crewing to maximize the time its future frigates spend at sea.

Switching between a “blue crew” and a “gold crew” extends the amount of time the ship can operate — allowing frigates to take on missions that larger combatants, like destroyers, have been saddled with — without increasing the burden on the crew and their families; it’s already in use on ballistic-missile submarines and littoral combat ships.

Dual-crewing “should double” the new frigate’s operational availability, Vice Adm. Ronald Boxall, then the surface-warfare director for the chief of naval operations, told Defense News at the end of 2018.

In the blue-gold crew model, the crew of the ship would still be working to improve their skills in what Boxall described as “higher-fidelity training environments.”

“In an increasingly complex environment, it’s just intuitive that you have to have time to train,” Boxall told Defense News. “We think Blue-Gold makes sense for those reasons on the frigate.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran surprises world with completed combat jet

Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.

Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.


It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”

State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.

The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.

The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”

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

MIGHTY STORIES

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.

I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.

I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.

I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.


It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.

In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.

In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’

I was blown away.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.

The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.

A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.

Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.

I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.

I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.

As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.

When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.

On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’

On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.

He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.

He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’

You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.

‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’

I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.

I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.

I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’

I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’

I can still hear his scream.

Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.

1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.

I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.

The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.

As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.

Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)

I never lost hope.

‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.

Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.

There he was.

My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.

All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’

On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.

I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.

I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.

The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.

I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.

One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’

Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.

This was it.

I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.

But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’

They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’

We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.

It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.

As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.

I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.

‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.

‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.

‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’

‘Yes,’ he answered.

I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’

‘But I will miss him,’ he said.

‘Me too.’

It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.

My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.

On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.

There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.

I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.

There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.

Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.

Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’

I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.

When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.

In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.

I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.

Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.

One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.

So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.

I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?

Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.

I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.

I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.

I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.

We were worth it.

He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.

Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.

I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.

Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.

Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.

Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.

Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.

We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.

Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.

Honor Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson and other heroes this Memorial Day by participating in The Unquiet Professional’s Virtual Memorial Day Mile. Join their Facebook group here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Canada must prosecute returning ISIS fighters

Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.

She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:

“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”


Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.

ISIS remains a force in the Middle East

Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.

At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.

The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.

Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.

Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.

Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.

Soft on terror or Islamophobic

The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.

The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.

But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.

ISIS and other jihadi groups have engaged in systematic mass atrocities against minorities in Iraq and Syria, including Christians and Shiites. ISIS has demonstrated a particular disdain for the Yazidi minority in Iraq. The Canadian government recognized the group’s crimes against the Yazidis as genocide.

As a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada has a responsibility to uphold these international legal conventions when formulating carefully crafted policy responses that deal with returning foreign fighters.

Trials can serve as deterrents

Canada has the option to prosecute its nationals in domestic courts using the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.

They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.

If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy’s next ship will be named for this Korean War hero

On December 1, the Navy will commission a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named for Capt. Thomas Hudner, a pilot who landed his plane in contested territory to save his wingman who was shot down during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.


Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

A Corsair fires rockets at Okinawa in World War II.

(U.S. Navy Lt. David D. Duncan)

Hudner would later receive the Medal of Honor for his actions, and now an entire destroyer crew will serve on a ship named for him.

Hudner’s wingman was Ens. Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator. They were piloting F4U Corsairs in support of Marines on the ground during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Chinese forces had joined the war after the U.S. and democratic Koreans had nearly won it. And so, previously victorious U.S. forces were conducting a fighting withdrawal south.

Aviators had to fight tooth and nail to buy time for the withdrawing ground forces. Corsairs and other planes were sent to drop bombs and fire rockets at enemy armor and formations, then strafe for as long as they could, then re-arm, re-fuel, and re-attack.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, died after being shot down in December, 1950.

(U.S. Navy)

On December 4, 1950, Hudner, Brown, and four other pilots were searching for camouflaged Chinese troops in the snowy mountains. They finally found them when the snow started blinking with the muzzle flashes of Chinese riflemen firing at them.

With the Corsairs flying so low, the rifles were actually an effective anti-aircraft weapon, and Brown’s Corsair started streaming vapor. It was oil from the damaged engine, and Brown’s plane wasn’t going to make it. The ensign was going down 17 miles behind enemy lines.

The crash was rough, and the pilots in the air were worried that Brown died on impact. That was, until they saw him move. Still, Hudner was worried about Brown on the ground, exposed to the elements, especially when Brown didn’t emerge from the cockpit.

So, Hudner crash-landed his own plane.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for his attempted rescue of Ens. Jesse Brown.

(U.S. Navy)

Hudner rushed to Brown’s Corsair, only to find him trapped inside. He attempted to get him out while taking breaks to pack snow around the engine and prevent a fire. When he was unable to get Brown out, he radioed for a rescue, but even then, they couldn’t save him.

Brown died in the cockpit, and Hudner was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which he would later receive for his efforts.

The new destroyer which will bear his name is of the Arleigh Burke Class. These guided-missile destroyers use the Aegis Combat System, which can fire all sorts of missiles and rockets to target enemies on land, on the sea, under the water, and in the air. They often pop up in the news during ballistic missile tests because they can shoot down missiles in flight and even hit satellites in space.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

Members of the 1804 Concord Independent Battery render honors as the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) arrives in Boston, Massachusetts on November 26, 2018..

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond)

But they’re also often used in Tomahawk missile strikes. The USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fired 23 missiles from the North Arabian Gulf into Syria during that large strike in April.

While the destroyers cost over four times as much as littoral combat ships, smaller vessels with a similar mission set and armament, the destroyers’ eye-watering billion cost per ship is generally considered well worth the price. That’s partially because the Aegis system on the destroyer is so much more capable, but also because the Arleigh Burkes are thought to be much more survivable than the LCS variants.

The USS Thomas Hudner will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

UN wants to know who supplied that massive rifle shipment

UN inspectors are examining more than 2,500 AK-47 rifles and other guns seized by the crew of a U.S. destroyer off the coast of Yemen to determine whether the weapons originated in Iran or Somalia.

U.S. authorities said they invited the UN inspectors on board on Oct. 25, 2018, to determine whether the weapons provide proof that Iran is smuggling arms to allied Shi’ite Huthi rebels that are battling the Yemeni government in a four-year civil war. Iran has denied providing weapons to the Huthis.

The United States — in debates at the United Nations — has repeatedly charged Iran with illegally smuggling weapons to the Huthis, in violation of UN resolutions against arming the Huthis.


Yet U.S. forces patrolling the waters around Yemen have managed to seize only a handful of weapons caches like the one seized by the USS Jason Dunham in late August 2018.

“It’s one big traffic corridor,” Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, told reporters on board the vessel on Oct. 25, 2018, speaking of the Gulf of Aden and other waterways around Yemen.

Stearney declined to say if he thought Iran was responsible for the weapons seized by the Dunham’s crew, but he said the UN inspectors were experts on illicit weapons from Iran, Yemen, and Somalia.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King)

The U.S. destroyer’s crew while on patrol in the region in August 2018 noticed large bags being transferred from a dhow about 70 miles off the coast of Yemen into a smaller skiff. A dhow is a traditional ship that commonly sails the waters of the Persian Gulf region.

The Navy ship intercepted the skiff and, after talking to the crew on board, determined they were smuggling weapons.

The rifles, in bundles of four or five, were wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in styrofoam and hidden in green burlap bags, according to Navy Commander John Hamilton, commander of the Dunham.

A small number of reporters on board the ship were allowed to see the assault rifles, which were heavily rusted after nearly two months at sea. The weapons had been unpacked and piled up, and were ready to be inspected by the UN team.

Hamilton said the crew on the dhow told them they were carrying flour and wheat, but he said none of the foodstuffs were found on board.

Navy Captain Adan Cruz, commodore of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the weapons could have been shipped from Somalia rather than Iran. The UN inspectors, he said, will determine the guns’ origin and “see first-hand the weapons flowing into the region.”

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in calling for a crackdown on Iran at the UN, has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying the Huthis. in 2017, she displayed the remnants of missiles that the Huthi rebels fired at Saudi Arabia, which is backing the Yemeni government in the civil war, saying they provided “undeniable evidence” that Iran was illegally supplying weapons to its Yemeni allies.

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

popular

This Marine vet went streaking for the most veteran reason possible

If you’re a fan of the Houston Astros, Friday, July 27, was a miserable night. The Astros suffered a humiliating 11-2 defeat on their home field, Minute Maid Park, at the hands of their same-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. But by the game’s end, nobody was talking about the 9-run deficit. Instead, they were talking about a Marine Corps veteran — and true American hero — dropped trow and ran across the field at the game’s conclusion, wearing only a pair of Ol’ Glory silkies and shoes.

Chris White, a Houston native and president of Freedom Hard, took to the field in front of 42,592 baseball fans in a display that would bring a tear of joy to any red, white, and blue-blooded American. He made it all the way across the outfield, dodging security guards who were no match for his skill. White eventually put his hands up, surrendering after earning the love and admiration of the country.


In case you’ve missed this beautiful display of patriotism, here’s the video:

All joking aside, Chris White’s Freedom Hard is a veteran owned and operated company that uses humor (like the now-infamous streak) to raise awareness of issues within the veteran community. When he was interviewed by Houston’s KPRC 2, he opened up about his motivations.

The streaking, as hilarious as it was, gave him a soap box to briefly stand on and speak to the world about a deadly serious issue that affects many veterans: suicide.

“If I can make you laugh for at least five minutes, then you’re not thinking about that dark space you could potentially be in,” he said. “If I can gear it toward patriotism, to me, I consider that the Holy Grail.”
Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

You bring credit upon the Corps, the military community, and the United States of America.

(Freedom Hard)

A GoFundMe campaign was started in his honor (to post his bail) and it quickly raised 0.00. Instead of using cash, he donated every last cent to Camp4Heroes, a North Carolina resort that provides a tranquil environment for struggling veterans to enjoy nature.

Every aspect of Freedom Hard is geared towards giving back to the veteran community. A dollar of every sale is directly donated to the buyer’s choice of a non-profit organization supporting veterans.

We salute you, Chris White.

MIGHTY GAMING

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.

In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.


World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.

When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?
(Blizzard Entertainment)

Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.

In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?
Just like what would happen with the swine flu, avian flu, and many others.
(Blizzard Entertainment)

Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.

This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?
But this was less about spreading terror and more about having fun with your virtual enemies.
(Blizzard Entertainment)

It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.

Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?
Contain and control is the key.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)

All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.

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