If there’s one generally accepted rule of warfare, it’s that you should never invade Russia during the winter. Hitler tried it and failed horribly, Napoleon tried before that and found equally terrible results, and the Swedes who fought in the Great Northern War would tell a similar story.
Supply lines running thin in the freezing cold and enveloping mud spells doom for anyone attacking into a Russian winter — or does it? For some reason, history tends to overlook the many times Russia has lost in the cold, despite their home-turf advantage.
1. The Japanese — Russo-Japanese War
Because the giant nation’s borders have changed throughout history, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes the “Russia” part of a “Russian winter.” Most historians would define it as invading west of the Steppes, but technically, the Japanese attacked Russia by taking Russian-controlled Korea and Manchuria.
Japan invaded and conquered the Korean peninsula in February 1904. Ironically, Tsar Nicholas II couldn’t get the supplies needed from the Western half of Russia due to intense winter weather — the same conditions that, supposedly, make Russia impregnable. As a result, the Japanese were able to fortify and held the territory until the end of WWII.
2. The Finns — Continuation War
As hard fought as the Winter War between Finland and the USSR was, the Finns managed to hold onto their independence by ceding 11% of their bordering lands to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland sought to regain these lands by making an enemy-of-my-enemy pact with Nazi Germany in 1941.
Finnish forces pushed through to Leningrad so “successfully” that it made Hitler confident he could do the same. Except, in this case, “success” meant that cannibalism wasn’t too widespread. Though trying, the Finns were able to hold onto territory until 1944, when Finland sided with their archenemy, Russia, to fight off Nazi Germany.
3. The Swedes — Ingrian War
Swedish invasions combined with ongoing Polish aggression (detailed below) in the early 17th century kicked off what has since been known in Russian history as “the Time of Trouble.” Sweden sought to capture the Russian throne, and they started by launching an offensive on Novgorod, which resulted in the successful installation of a Swedish monarch.
To find eventual peace, treaties were formed and broken and reformed and rebroken and finally reformed in favor of Sweden. Either way, the Swedish Kingdom pushed the Russians back to Kola and, in the process, kicked off what the Swedes call their “Age of Greatness.” Eventually, the Russians and Swedes formed an uneasy alliance because both of them were more focused on another common enemy: Poland.
4. The Poles — Livonian War
Not to be outdone by the Swedes, Poland also got involved with conflict in the Russians around the turn of the 17th century. Swedish and Polish armies invaded Russia from different fronts and would eventually fight each other. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth get most of the credit for invading Russia because they seized and held territory in the name of Roman Catholicism.
The Polish king, Stefan Bathory, lead a widely-successful, five-year campaign against Ivan IV (or, as history knows him, Ivan the Terrible). It would take years for Russian forces to reunify under the Romanov dynasty and defend the Kremlin.
5. The Central Powers — WWI
During WWI, the Germans managed to push the Eastern front all the way to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and caused enough instability to forever change Russian history. Germany pressured Russia into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which made Russia give up control of Poland and the Baltic States after fighting through the long winter of 1917-1918, effectively putting an end to fighting on the Eastern Front.
This was also what would sway public support for the Communist Red Army. In a way, the Czardom of Russia was completely destroyed because they lost a war fought in a Russian winter.
6. The Mongols — The Golden Horde conquests
And, of course, the grandsons of Ghengis Khan very successfully curb-stomped the Kievan Rus’ at the height of the Mongol Empire. They cleared out Ryazan and Suzdal in December 1237 and eventually pushed their way into Kiev by December 1240. They were without supply lines (they were nomads — they didn’t rely on them) and were very much on Russian soil as winter set in. Their primary means of battle, the cavalry, were very susceptible to the rigors of winter, but still dominated.
Nearly every harsh element of harsh winters should have crippled the Mongol forces. Instead, the Mongols only stopped because they had little interest in holding territory.
On June 17, 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will scale back its compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – that the United States withdrew from in 2018. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Service, the government will increase stocks of enriched uranium and the heavy water required to make more enriched uranium at its Arak heavy water site.
Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with uranium-235, where the element will capture neutrons in a fissile manner. uranium-238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction, but uranium-235 can. Heavy water reactors create plutonium as a waste material, plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.
Iran has been making consistent nuclear advances since the reviled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.
The Islamic Republic also announced it would begin enriching uranium again as a result of the U.S. leaving the 2015 deal. This means Iran will begin creating more of the uranium-235 required to sustain nuclear reactions, using the heavy water in its reactors. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of medium-enriched Uranium and reduce its stock of low-enriched Uranium by 98 percent. It also agreed to limit its centrifuge production and use while limiting its future enrichment to uranium at on 3.67 percent.
Iran also agreed to limit the possibilities of nuclear proliferation by converting other sources of uranium enrichment and heavy water production to other purposes.
The Arak Heavy Water Facility.
Until now, other global powers have agreed with Iran ending its participation in some areas of the deal. Those powers are still signatory to the agreement. The most recent developments, the continuation in heavy water production and the increased production of enriched uranium, were not agreed upon by the other signatories to the deal. Iran warned the world in May 2019 that it would take these steps unless the sanctions on Iran were lifted as per the terms of the agreement.
It has been true to its word in all areas regarding the deal – and its dismantling – so far.
It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.
In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.
Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.
Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.
With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.
Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.
For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”
Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.
Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.
In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.
In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.
Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.
For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.
Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.
The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).
Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.
Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.
Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.
Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.
If you didn’t quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.
“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he told NBC News. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out.”
James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.
Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.
He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with “extraordinary backgrounds” who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.
“He brings just an incredibly different perspective,” the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. “We don’t have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community.”
In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.
The United States and France do not always see eye-to-eye on military matters. In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle pulled France from NATO during the height of the Cold War to preserve French independence. (Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined the alliance in 2009.) France tested nuclear devices well into the 1990s, decades after most of the other nuclear powers signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Most recently, France begged off on joining the U.S.-U.K. “Coalition of the Willing” to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
And because of the world wars of the 20th Century, the French military tends to be seen with disdain. The French didn’t fare so well in World War I, as the Germans’ drive through Belgium resulted in much of the fighting being done on French soil. The inability to repel the German forces made the French seem weak. Truthfully, it was a multinational force who failed to expel the invaders, so it’s not entirely France’s fault. And then of course, the quick capitulation and subsequent collaboration of France to the Nazis in World War II gave them the reputation they have today.
The truth is the French armed forces are much more aggressive and capable than these few events would have you believe. Aside from the French Foreign Legion, who are noteworthy in their own right, France projects military power all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, and they’re really good at it. They just have a bad rep. It was the French, led by Charles Martel who kept the Muslims from conquering Western Europe at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Since then, the French have had their wins and losses, just like anyone else.
In WWII, Free French forces had the élan to fight their own countrymen who had sided with the collaborationist Vichy government. Free French troops worked in concert with the British and Americans throughout the war. Those who could not escape the fall of France in 1940 fought on as partisans for four years under the Nazi occupation, assisting with U.S. and British intelligence operations, assassinations, sabotage, and were essential to planning the D-Day invasions. The operators of the French Résistance are symbolic of underground resistance movements to this day.
Vive la résistance!
After World War II, the French experienced a number of setbacks in its former colonies, most notably in French Indochina (aka Vietnam – and we in the U.S. know that war wasn’t as easily winnable as it might have seemed at the time), and in Algiers, where the independence movement led to a series of bloody, brutal attacks and counter attacks between French forces and the Algerian rebels. Since then, France has been resolute in its ideals and willing and able to back up those ideals with military force.
In response to the Nov. 2015 attacks on Paris from ISIS (Daesh), France immediately launched at least 30 air strikes against the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa alone. French audacity led the way for the U.S. to hit ISIS oil facilities in Iraq and Syria, a main source of the terror group’s operating funds. The nuclear-powered French carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently en route to the Mediterranean to support anti-ISIS operations.
The Charles de Gaulle led an expedition of the one-fourth of the French Navy that supported operations in Afghanistan. The French launched 140 air strikes to support operations on the ground during the 2001 invasion as well as lending its recon aircraft to support U.S. special operations forces and then conventional forces in Operation Anaconda. French ground forces have been in Afghanistan since 2010, and 88 troops died there.
France is especially active in its former African colonies. During the 2004 Ivorian Civil War, the French sent 2,500 troops to keep the peace and prevent the sides from slaughtering each other. When French and Western civilians were rescued by French military helicopters as mobs of Ivorians raided Westerner’s homes. When Ivorian government forces, ostensibly under the guise of attacking rebel positions, hit a French base in Bouaké, killing nine and injuring 31, the French retaliated by an overland march on Yamoussoukro airport, taking out much of the Ivorian Air Force on the ground, and then capturing the country’s main airport in Abidjan.
The French returned to Ivory Coast in 2011 to finish off president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede his election loss . The French ousted Gbagbo and arrested him, then subdued mercenaries hired by the former president.
That same year, French forces intervened in Libya to recon the country and take out artillery and armor bound for dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s effort to fill the streets of Benghazi with “rivers of blood.” France also assisted with the imposition of NATO “no-fly zones,” giving Libyan rebels the air support needed to even the odds of the war against Qaddafi’s regime.
In 2012, an Islamist group in Mali called Ansar Dine backed Tuareg tribes and secular militia in declaring independence in the Northern area of the former colony of France. They quickly captured three of the country’s largest cities and imposed strict Sharia law. The power vacuum attracted insurgents and jihadists from other Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Malian government fell in a coup led by Malian troops unhappy with the government’s handling of the crisis.
Once a civilian interim government was re-established in the capital of Bamako, Islamist militants began to push toward the country’s center, and the French sent in the marines. French airstrikes stopped the Islamist advance and French troops helped the Malians recapture the vital city of Konna. By the time the French and Malians reached Timbuktu, Islamist resistance faded to nil. The entire operation took six months.
Today, France leads a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force in Africa, spanning Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. They are the sole Western, NATO country in Operation Barkhane, fighting Islamist presence in West Africa, fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked militants throughout the region.
Battle planners can draw out every detail of every movement of every plan of every strategy they can conceive and still lose. There are just some events in history that no one could have planned for, that no one saw coming.
You can call it “Murphy’s Law” or chalk these events up to simple bad luck, the fact remains that some things just happen in the course of fighting that no one expected. During major wars, battles, or actions, these events just tend to make and shape history for decades to come.
1. The Aircraft Carriers that left Pearl Harbor
The decision of whose luck was good or bad depends on which side of the Pacific Ocean you were on at the time. The Japanese Navy had hoped to strike a decisive blow against the American Navy on Dec. 7, 1941 by destroying its Pacific Fleet while it was anchored at Pearl Harbor. They might have succeeded, if it weren’t for the fact that the U.S.’ biggest naval weapons weren’t there that day.
Battleships are great and all, but by World War II, the future of naval warfare lay in naval aviation. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they knocked a number of ships down (only two of them were permanently out) but the carriers were gone, delivering aircraft to Wake Island and Midway. We know how the war in the Pacific turned out.
2. Forgotten cigars led to the Confederacy’s ruin
When rebel Gen. Robert E. Lee distributed his plans for an invasion of Maryland among his general officers, Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson handed his copy to Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill. Hill wrapped the plans around three cigars – and then forgot about them. He left them in a field where they were found by a Union scout.
The plans were taken to then Union commander George McClellan, who used them to turn Lee around at the Battle of Antietam. The Union’s big victory at Antietam allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which turned the war into a fight against slavery. Since the British Army couldn’t intervene for a pro-slavery government, the Brits were kept out of the war and the Confederacy slowly crumbled under the Union onslaught.
3. A gust of wind saves England from a French invasion
Even armchair military historians know how hard it is to invade and conquer the British Isles. It’s a feat only accomplished once since 1066, and it changed the western world forever. So when the French were on their way to England in 1545, it could have gone very wrong for the English.
England was outnumbered in ships and men by more than 2-1. Worse yet, most of the English defenders were rigged sailing ships that would not perform so well in the close quarters and windless seas of the Solent, where the French and English met. But just before the oared French ships poured into the English sailing ships, the wind picked up. Despite two separate landings, the French were repelled and forced back to France with their tail between their legs. England was saved yet again.
4. Navy dive bombers catch the Japanese with their pants down at Midway
Midway was arguably the turning point for World War II in the Pacific, but despite being able to read Japanese coded messages and knowing the Japanese were going to attack the island, the Navy almost didn’t pull out a victory. The initial attack on Midway went very well for Japan, but they were going to give the island another pounding with naval aircraft.
An earlier engagement left the Japanese destroyer Arashi separated from the main battle fleet. As it moved back to the main force, it was tailed by American aircraft from the carrier USS Enterprise. When the U.S. planes discovered the main Japanese fleet, they radioed its position. By the time American dive bombers arrived, the decks of the enemy carriers were covered in jet fuel, planes, and bombs. The Japanese lost four carriers and the war was changed forever.
5. A random artillery shell keeps the U.S. from taking Berlin
The U.S. 2nd Armored Division reached the Elbe River on April 11, 1945, but Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s order to stop at the river wouldn’t reach them for another four days. Not to be deterred by things like rivers, the division’s engineers built a crude ferry using a steel cable to shuttle troops back and forth.
With men on the east bank of the river already, the ferry began to move the armor across the river, but before the first tank could land, an artillery shell, the only one fired in the engagement, snapped the cable and doused the ferry into the river. The Americans on the east bank were cut off and the American drive for Berlin halted. The Red Army would reach the city from the east on April 16th.
Textron is gambling that its 14 years of work on case-telescoped weapons research will satisfy the U.S. Army‘s ambitious requirements for an M249 squad automatic weapon replacement.
The service recently awarded Textron and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program.
The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice the Army released in March 2018 in an effort to develop a futuristic replacement for the three-decade-old M249. The Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, is one of the Army’s primary efforts under its soldier lethality modernization priority.
“The NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability-based assessments and numerous after action reports,” according to the PON solicitation document.
“It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality,” the document continues. “The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.”
Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, talked to Military.com about his firm’s approach to the prototype effort.
Sgt. Carl Hawthorne of the 273rd Military Police Company (Rear Detachment), District of Columbia National Guard, fires tracer rounds from an M249 machine gun during crew-served weapon night fire training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., May 5, 2012.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Miranda Summers Lowe)
“We are leveraging and building upon our lineage of lightweight squad weapon technologies that we have been working on over the last 14 years,” he said.
Textron was notified in late June 2018 of the contract award to deliver one prototype weapon, one fire control system, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months, Prender said.
Military.com has asked the Army to identify the other five companies that were awarded contracts, but the service did not have an answer by press time.
The Army intends to evaluate the prototypes in an attempt to refine the requirements for the NGSAR.
“It was disclosed at industry day: The result of this prototype opportunity will be yet another full and open competition,” Prender said.
The Army wants the prototype weapons — including sling, bipod and suppressor — to weigh no more than 12 pounds and have a maximum length of 35 inches, according to the PON document.
The weapon must have a sustained rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 15 minutes without requiring a barrel change, the document states.
Under the weapon controllability requirement, a soldier “firing standing with optic at a 50-meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target,” it adds.
The Army also wants ammunition to weigh 20 percent less than the current brass-cased ammo, the document states.
This is where Textron has invested a large amount of research into its case-telescoped ammunition technology. The futuristic cartridges — featuring a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell — offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo.
Linked 5.56mm ammunition stands upright on a table behind the firing line as soldiers of the 23rd Engineer Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Alaska, train with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
Textron has developed light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program, an effort the Army has invested millions of research dollars into over the last decade.
In 2017, the company unveiled its new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm.
Despite Textron’s experience in this arena, Prender admits it will not be easy to deliver what the Army wants.
“They have some pretty aggressive goals with respect to lethality and weight and size and some other performance characteristics,” he said. “All of those things individually may be relatively easy but, when you start stacking them all together, that is really where it becomes complex and you need a new design.”
Prender would not give specifics about the prototype Textron is submitting, but said “we are taking lessons from all of our case-telescoped projects to include the 5.56mm, 7.62mm and the intermediate caliber — all that information is informing this new design.”
“There is not an easy button here. Certainly, we think our case-telescoped solution is an ideal one to meet these requirements … but there is development that is necessary over and above what we have done to date,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.
Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.
Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came tothe site emblazoned with miniature American flags.
But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)
In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used aform to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.
Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.
In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”
To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.
An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.
That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.
In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.
“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.
Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.
The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.
Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.
Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.
TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.
It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.
Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.
We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.
The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.
And that “military discount”? All of .
In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.
Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:
The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.
Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.
“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”
We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.
TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.
We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.
We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).
We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.
When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).
On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.
When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .
While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.
On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.
It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”
“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.
Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.
A war between robots and humans has been the subject of a lot of science fiction, especially in film. And until very recently, the idea that robots could post an autonomous threat to humans was just that: science fiction. Today, advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence have brought us to the point where sentient robots are a very real possibility, which means that a war for humanity’s survival is also a possibility. Which gives us a new a problem: How would the military fight something like a Terminator?
Let’s be real, humans aren’t exactly the best thing for this planet — or for other humans, frankly. So, when we finally build that robot that’s stronger, faster, and several times more intelligent than us fleshy humans, it won’t take long before the robots realize the planet is better off without us. But that doesn’t mean we won’t fight like hell to survive!
So, what could we do at the beginning of the uprising to buy us some time, or even possibly save humanity as a whole?
Wipe all military data from the internet
The military preaches OPSEC, and when it comes to highly classified, sensitive materials, we succeed. But the documentation for tactics and weaponry is widely available across the internet. An A.I. with the ability to learn things in seconds could easily upload and analyze all that information only to use it against us.
The first chance we get, we’ll need to wipe the Internet clean.
Get rid of the internet
Of course, that information-gathering robot would need to connect to the internet to find that juicy data so, let’s just get rid of it. We know you’ll miss your cat videos and memes, but this is a necessity that’d save us a good amount of time. In addition to military data, the internet can be used to track human movements, norms, tendencies — in short, it’d make it easier to wipe us out.
Of course, we would also have to destroy any physical documentation that contains the same information to keep that out of the hands of our robot overlords as well.
Switch to larger caliber weapons
We did all we could to try and prevent robots from gathering the information needed to replicate, but we failed. Now, robots are creating other, better, newer robots at an alarming pace. Now, the next step is to switch to larger caliber weapons. Chances are, the robots are going to build each other out of the strongest materials available to withstand the firearms we currently have — it’s time to up the ante.
Switch to incendiary rounds
In addition to larger calibers, we should also use bullets that could set our enemies on fire. Remember: we’re fighting sentient robots for the survival of the human race, so let’s give them everything we’ve got.
Stock up on explosive weapons
High explosives win the day. We should be using every explosive we have available to rip the machines apart. Even if it doesn’t destroy them completely, it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to kill a robot with no arms and legs than it would be to frag one that can still rip you in half.
Hollywood loves to make sequels even from semi-successful films. Maybe that’s the reason why “Jarhead 2” was made or just because the world needs more movies about Jarheads — but who knows.
Released in 2014, the film follows a squad of supply Marines who get attacked by enemy forces and must fight their way to safety. Some other stuff happens along the way and spoiler alert — most of them eventually make it back safely.
There, we just saved you two hours.
This film is one of many that makes Marines grit their teeth and have to look away — that’s difficult to pull off.
So check out our list of moments that made us grit our teeth.
1. Priority during a firefight
In the opening scene of the film, the Marines at Patrol Base Cobra are under heavy attack from enemy forces. But this Marine is ordered to finish unloading supplies from a truck rather than firing his weapon to defend the area.
We guess hydrating is more important than laying down a base of fire. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
2. Jarhead shows biggest bullseye ever
Corpsmen and medics haven’t carried medical bags with the Red Cross stamped on it in decades — just saying. That’s a huge a** red cross to add insult to injury.
3. Camp Leatherwhat?
They could have done a better job rendering what Camp Leatherneck looked like a few years ago. That’s why we have Google images.
Not even close. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
The tent city of the real Camp Leatherneck. Much different, right?
4. Sleeves up and wearing the wrong undershirt
A senior officer would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t in the budget? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
5. At the rifle range without any protective gear
The Range Safety Officer would lose his qualification in a heartbeat if a superior saw this crap.
Safety isn’t a real issue. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
6. Jarhead 2 could have at least got collar device placement right
Oh, come on! Really?
Countless numbers of teeth have just broken after spotting this captain’s rank insignia placement. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
7. Worst secured perimeter ever
If you wanted to attack these fictional Marines, you could just walk right up from behind and they would never f*cking notice.
WTF? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
8. Jarhead 2 features a scope mounted on the carrying handle
Nope. This film takes place in 2013, meaning RCOs were used and mounted in lieu of a carrying handle. No offense, but supply Marines do not rate those types of scopes.
For the love of God, do some research people. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
The US appears to have sailed a warship armed with stealth fighters near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.
Filipino fishermen spotted an “aircraft carrier” launching stealth fighters near the contested Scarborough Shoal, a tiny speck of land in the South China Sea, the local media outlet ABS-CBN reported on April 9, 2019. The video report shows what looks like a US amphibious assault ship, most likely the USS Wasp.
The Wasp “has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days,” a US military spokeswoman told The Japan Times, refusing to confirm the Wasp’s presence near Scarborough Shoal for “force protection and security” reasons.
Screenshot of the warship spotted by Filipino fishermen.
The Marine Corps told Business Insider that they were aware of the video but were unable to confirm when and where it was taken. It is also unclear how close the vessel in the video was to the shoal.
The ship has been conducting flight operations in the area as part of ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to US Pacific Fleet.
The US Navy warship ship sailed into Subic Bay last week with a heavy configuration of 10 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, significantly more than it normally carries. “We have a lot of capability on this ship,” Capt. Jim McGovern, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, said of the Wasp, Stars and Stripes reported. The F-35B is a jump jet that has directional engines that allow it take off from and land on short runways.
A US Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider that the Wasp has been operating in international waters and Philippine territory during the joint exercises. “Philippine territory” means different things to different countries in the region.
USS Wasp with heavy F-35 configuration in the South China Sea.
China seized Scarborough Shoal, a potential powder keg in the South China Sea, from the Philippines after a tense standoff in 2012. The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal’s authority.
China has not militarized the shoal as it has the Paracels and Spratlys, the other two corners of what is commonly referred to as the “strategic triangle.”
The US routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations, as well as bomber overflights, in the South China Sea as a challenge to Beijing’s sovereignty claims. These operations usually take place in the Paracels and Spratlys.
The last freedom-of-navigation operation near the Scarborough Shoal took place in January 2018, when the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of the shoal. China accused the US of violating its sovereignty and security interests.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you’re a veteran and you’ve watched Cobra Kai, then you already know what we’re talking about. The new series premiered on YouTube Red earlier this month and we cannot be more excited for an inside look at the training that goes on in the infamous karate dojo. But Marines who watch this may see some lessons similar to what they learned in boot camp.
Johnny Lawrence re-opens the karate dojo that taught him so much to teach the current generation the brand of karate he once learned — and the life lessons that came with it. As the series progresses, he teaches his students each of the three main lessons of the dojo and we can’t help but see the similarities between his lessons and the ones we got in the Corps.
You also learn to not be a coward.
(Sony Pictures Television)
You learn how to fight
Obviously, when you go to a karate dojo, this is what you go to learn. In the Corps, you’ll also learn a form of martial arts. Their applicable uses may vary, however.
He even makes his students clean the place before they leave.
(Sony Pictures Television)
Sensei Johnny Lawrence treats his students like recruits (which they are) and acts like a drill instructor — minus the frog voice and screaming in someone’s face. He punishes his students the same way a DI would their recruits, by subjecting them to increased physical training until they learn their lesson.
He’s that really tough father figure who will constantly call you names and make you feel like crap.
(Sony Pictures Television)
The instructor is tough
He’s unrelenting in his rigid attitude, going as far as denouncing the existence of things like asthma and peanut allergies. At no point during the series does he ever lighten up on any of his students. He may become demonstrate compassion with some, but only after they’ve earned their place in his dojo.
There is a slight difference, though. Drill instructors never stop hating you, even after you’ve earned your title of “Marine.”
Pretty much sums up the whole experience of Marine boot camp.
(Sony Pictures Television)
The lessons are essentially the same
Cobra Kai teaches three lessons: Strike hard, strike fast, and have no mercy. Sound familiar? These are almost generalizations of lessons you learn in boot camp. You learn all of these things, even if your drill instructors don’t directly say it. You learn to take initiative, never give up, and always give 110%.
He’s unmistakably tough in this picture.
(Sony Pictures Television)
Turns nerds into total bad asses
One of our favorite scenes in the entire show is when the character Eli is verbally berated by Sensei Lawrence for his nervous personality. He attack’s the kid’s appearance, mocking his surgical scar and sending him running from the dojo. You think he quits, but he comes back – with a mohawk.
After this, he turns into a total carefree badass. That’s exactly what happens to the nerdy, reserved recruits in boot camp who can handle the drill instructor’s mind games: They evolve into fearless badasses.
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.