Purchasing your first car is a minefield filled with predatory lenders and scams. Young troops, unfortunately, fall victim to these bloodsuckers every year because they do not know of the special offers and protections available to them. It’s exciting to be on the lot, test driving your potential steed, but knowing the pitfalls that lurk in those lots will save you and your wallet a lot of grief.
It’s your first car and having your finances accounted for will make it easier when the additional expenses of maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration come into play. You wouldn’t go into battle without ammunition and you should equally not venture onto a lot without knowing your credit score, pre-approval amount, and potential financial threats.
Here are 4 tips for identifying and preventing scams targeting you, a junior troop, as you shop for your first car.
The “refusing pre-approved checks” scam
You found it. It’s the perfect car to take you from base to places where knife hands and regulation haircuts do not exist, but there is one problem: the dealer doesn’t want to accept your pre-approved check from your lender (bank). They may try to spin something along the lines of, “I don’t trust those, I’ve been scammed before.” They’re playing the victim; don’t believe them. Their next move will be to convince you to sign a financing agreement with them instead, effectively scamming you into a higher APR loan.
Walk off that lot and never look back. You don’t need that evil put on you, Ricky Bobby.
The “you have bad credit” scam
As a young troop, you probably don’t have a credit history at all, which is a double-edged sword. The positive is that lenders will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Well, because of your service, you’re easy to find and collect from if you become delinquent on payments. So, if a dealer says you have bad credit when you know, for a fact, that you don’t, it’s another scam waiting to happen.
We’re willing to bet that the dealer will tell you your only option for approval is to finance through them at a ridiculously high rate. The solution here is the same as before — walk.
The “buy here, pay here” financing scam
In this scam, the dealer will promise that you’re going to get a sweet APR if you finance through him, but the application process takes a few weeks. He’s a nice guy, though, so he’ll let you take the car home while everything finalizes. He’s trusting you, but then, once those weeks pass, he calls you with bad news: the loan was denied, and you’re forced to pay a much higher APR or lose that car.
The best defense against this scam is shop around for different lenders, get pre-approved, and don’t accept any unknowns. Do not let dealers talk you into something you’ll regret later. Not all “buy here, pay here” offers are scams, but why take the risk when the alternative is clear as day?
The “price is too good to be true” scam
There are advantages to buying directly from a person instead of a dealer, like a faster turnaround or a better deal. But keep your head on a swivel because you’ll also leave yourself open to other risks and scam artists. As always, if in doubt, bring a friend. With some information and a properly calibrated BS meter, a troop can venture into the unknown unafraid.
The ‘price is too good to be true’ is when a victim sees a car they want to purchase online and it’s priced well below market value. Usually, it’s a classic or an exotic car — something to entice the victim to overlook a few details. The scam artist states that they’re out of the country with the vehicle (for one reason or another), but they’ll ship the car to you — but only after they receive your payment. The scam artist will make it seem like they’re the one at risk.
Once the scammer receives your money, they will cease speaking to you and disappear. Surprise!
The lesson here? Always make purchases in person and be wary of wire transfers and money orders. And, as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
If you feel like you have fallen victim or see a scam targeting your brothers-in-arms, you can report the car-buying scam at Fraud.org
Six years ago, Austin, Texas, dad Eric Scott had a good job in fundraising and arts event production. He loved the work, but it was a stressful, demanding job that regularly required him to put in 15- to 18-hour days. One day, Scott came home to his then six-year-old daughter. She looked at him very matter-of-factly and said, “Some days it’s like you’re not my Daddy.”
“She didn’t mean to be cruel,” says Scott. “She was just sharing her observation, as children sometimes so brutally do.” But Scott was devastated; the next day, he started looking for a new job.
Working long, demanding hours can affect a parent’s ability to, well, parent. But getting an accurate picture of how a parent’s work life affects kids’ health might be more complex — and the effects could be physical in addition to emotional, new research suggests.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, parents in high-stress jobs in which they had “low autonomy” – meaning they didn’t have freedom to make decisions about how they do their jobs – tended to have children who felt less healthy.
(Flickr photo by mrhayata)
The researchers solicited self-reported data from Nigerian kids, mostly 13 to 15 years old, and their parents. It didn’t matter whether the parents made a lot of money or very little, the authors wrote. The strongest correlation was between parents who had demanding jobs with little freedom and kids who most identified with statements such as “My health is worse now than it was last year” and “Sometimes I feel like my health keeps me from doing something I want to do.”
It takes more resources to regulate behavior in demanding, low-autonomy jobs, says co-lead author Christiane Spitzmueller, Ph.D., professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston. If someone’s job depletes those resources, Spitzmueller says, they’re less able to engage in behavior that requires “sustained effort,” such as parenting.
“Generally, there’s a relationship where the more work stressthere is, the more likely there is to be work-family conflict, where you feel like work is negatively impacting your family,” Spitzmueller says. “Parents who feel depleted tend to want to plop on the couch after work and not do anything active or try to steward kids to engage in positive behaviors.”
Positive behaviors include cooking a meal together, going for a walk, or working on a game or puzzle, she says. Problems can arise, on the other hand, with “passive parenting”: Bringing home take-out or staring at a phone while the kid is entertained by the TV or an iPad doesn’t allow for the kind of engagement that tends to enrich kids.
Psychologists have been studying the effects of parental stress on kids’ mental health for several decades. Studies have linked fathers’ behavior with emotional problems in their children; another study published in 2007 found that marital stress affected teens’ emotional development; and a study of low-income families published the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychologyin 2008 concluded that boys with depressed mothers were more prone to antisocial behavior such as aggression.
(Flickr photo by Vincent Albanese)
But researchers are just starting to explore how parental stress might affect kids’ physical health, too. In another new study, German researchers concluded that stressed mothers were more likely to have infants that were obese. Work demands more of people than it ever did before. The majority of modern workers pull longer hours than ever before and the boundaries between the office and home become more blurry by the day, making it harder to disconnect from the demands of a job. As stress from work bleeds into home life, it’s no wonder a correlation is forming.
At this point, however, it’s probably too soon for parents to begin worrying that their stressful job might make kids sick.
“Could I imagine that, depending on how a child’s treated by a parent on a regular basis, it could have an impact on the child’s health? Sure,” says Matt Traube, MFT, a psychotherapist in San Luis Obispo, California. “But it’s a tricky thing to measure because there are so many factors mitigating how people deal with stress. At this point I would just say, ‘It’s a neat idea — how do we further study it?'”
Although there’s been a trove of published research about stress, the effects of autonomy are less understood, Traube says. “When people feel they don’t have control, that has historically been tied to dissatisfaction at work.”
Feeling as though someone doesn’t have a sense of agency at work can be draining and emotionally exhausting, he continues. “It can affect your self-esteem and start to shape how you view yourself as a parent.”
Another, perhaps simpler, way to look at it is in terms of value rather than autonomy, says Tom Kearns, LMSW, a counselor in New York City and the mental health advisor for the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Flickr photo by whereugotthat)
“If he’s in a workplace where he feels valued, that has a positive impact on his ability to connect and relate to and have patience with his child,” Kearns says. “But if he’s overlooked at meetings, or not included in a meeting or lunch with co-workers, it can make him feel not a part of something, and that can make him feel isolated.”
A father might compensate for the frustration he feels at his job ruling his kids with a heavier hand at home, putting strict and less healthy demands on them to create a sort of “value” for himself, Kearns adds. Feeling isolated also can make dads withdraw at home.
“Even if he’s present, he might not engage with the child if he’s not feeling valued himself,” Kearns says. “The child picks up on this, and it has the effect of the kid longing for something that’s not there. Or the kid might think he or she is to blame for the father not being more attentive.”
So, it might sound, at this point, like an impossibility to hold down a challenging, stimulating job without screwing up your child for life. It’s not. It does, however, require that people take stock of how their career might be affecting their kids and that they make sure to take care of themselves, too.
“Knowing when to focus on your job or your family, and how to deal with the rejected party gracefully, may be the essence of being a working parent,” says Scott, who still works in the nonprofit sector but now as a marketing director with less intense hours. “And it’s easy to place the blame for this on your job or your employer, but I think parents have to take ownership of our part in this.”
Scott points out that sometimes it’s just easier to deal with work than to deal with your kids, although parents might tell themselves that they “have to” answer that email, for example, or put in another hour of work after dinner.
“Your work is straightforward: You have defined responsibilities and expectations, and, usually, you can evaluate your success easily,” says Scott. “You have a level of control that you simply do not have with parenting. Parenting can be a total mind scramble, where success can look like failure and vice-versa, and I think some people retreat into their work as an escape.”
If a parent’s job is unfulfilling for whatever reason, they might want to move on like Scott did. But if they’re stuck for the moment and feeling undervalued at their job, they do have to check that before they walk through the door to make sure that when they’re home, they’re in a good space for their child, Kearns says.
(Flickr photo by J E Theriot)
Self-awareness, per Kearns, is key. “Also ask yourself, How does this connect historically into my family? and Am I doing the kinds of things I saw my father do when he came home from work?” he suggests. Without some reflection and awareness, people tend to repeat negative patterns of behavior even when they don’t want to.
Of course, most parents want to be engaged as much as they’re able. But it’s impossible to be the perfect “on” parent all the time.
Although he overhauled his career to make sure he was more present for his daughter, Scott says he still carves out some me-time. “I cut myself some slack. I’d rather my kids have a father who is overall happy than one who is terrified to let them watch TV for an hour while daddy drinks a beer on the porch to decompress.”
Traube, who is a father of one with another on the way, agrees that creating a support system and figuring out what a parents can do to take care of themselves — whether it’s calling a friend and talking during their commute, meditating, negotiating an earlier work start time so they can leave earlier or letting their family know that taking a breather to walk the dog is the first thing they do when they get home — is essential for parents.
“It’s like putting on your oxygen mask first on an airplane before putting one on your child,” Traube says. “You do need to do self-care to be a good parent.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email email@example.com
Childhood is complicated in its own right. You’re starting to glimpse the way the world works but it doesn’t really make sense. You try on different personalities to find the right fit like jeans at the department store. You’re pretty sure if you sit too close to the TV, you won’t go cross-eyed, despite what the adults say. There’s a winged fairy that slips in your room in the middle of the night to discreetly buy old teeth that have fallen out of your mouth.
Now let’s throw into the chaos a parent who is often absent because of their job, to uphold the values and safety of the nation. This parent or parents have been the reason your life’s uprooted every two to three years, and you’ve had to roll with it. It’s never been up to you, but somehow you’ve found pride in the path you are on.
Few know what it takes to be a “military brat,” and there are times it can feel more like a burden than a privilege. These children are collectors of experiences, good and bad, and richer for it. Military brats have a level or vocabulary and self-awareness beyond their age. How can I describe these kids who sacrifice precious time with their active duty parent, while enduring move after move? Resilient. Astute. Optimistic.
It’s no surprise that some of the most famous and successful people in our society are military brats… Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and even… SHAQ?
From an outsider perspective, it may seem as though the life of the military brat is full of contradictions. I hate moving but I love having lived in different countries. I am proud of my parent but I’m frustrated when they work so much. Learning how to say goodbye gets easier, but not really. Yet despite all these challenges, there are certain advantages military children can take with them for life, long after their parents have separated from military service.
So, to shed a little light on the oft-misunderstood life of the so-called “military brat,” I did some interviewing of my own. Here are the advantages brats say they’ve gained that help them even after their parents have become veterans:
Being bilingual is not exclusive to military kids, but when I polled my friends’ children, the love of learning and speaking different languages was so strong that it deserves a place. They met new friends in other countries when kids at their new school would come over and ask about their English. They found excitement and acceptance in the phrase, “¡Hola! ¿Como te llamas?” As the kids got older, they had a harder time retaining a language not taught in American curriculum, like Italian, but they said when they visited the country, it came right back to them.
Moving is tough. It’s a constant hustle of unpacking and repacking. It means making new friends and then saying goodbye. It also means playing baseball with the Alps as your outfield, and being personally invited to a gaucho’s (Argentinian cowboy) ranch to pet their goats and eat homemade empanadas. They understand the chance to travel comes with moving often, but there is a trace of exhaustion to hear them talk about it.
When I asked two sisters what their favorite thing is about being a military kid, one said, “Moving all over the world.” When I asked what their least favorite thing was, the other said, “Moving all the time.” It’s complicated.
Possessions are easy come, easy go. After all, the smaller amount of “stuff” you have, the less you have to pack up and move. One girl even said she likes to leave some things behind for her friends to remember her. Yet despite all the moves, you learn to be flexible. Life’s an adventure.
“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.” – St. Augustine
It’s a big sentiment, and these kids get it. Every single one said they get to see cool things no one else gets to see, or that they’ve probably been to more countries than most adults. While the moving is exhausting, the flip side is that it has afforded them some beautiful sights that sets them apart from non-military kids. Traveling gives you a whole other perspective on the world and this is a skill that brats can take with them in any profession.
It’s easy to vilify the effects of social media, but we forget that for those who move around a lot it is a means to keep in touch. The sisters who lived in Argentina practice their Spanish by talking to their old friends on the phone. Through email and messaging on Instagram, this generation of military brats is able to continue friendships and gain perspectives of old acquaintances across the globe using the latest technology…even Snapchat. Impressive.
Like playing the piano, if you practice social skills you will get better at it. One teen said because he’s met so many people, social skills come easy to him now, and that includes speaking in public. He learned from his dad how to greet people, and attributes it with enthusiasm to being a military kid. Oh, and he was just given the Principal’s Award out of his entire class this year, by the way.
It can make a kid nervous at first — that’s understandable, but the overwhelming consensus is: “worth it.”
Department of Defense
While this may not be the most fun advantage for military kids growing up there is definitely a sense of discipline that is learned from an early age. Whether it’s keeping your room “inspection ready” or just learning so say “sir or ma’am,” the values military children learn often translate into success in college, careers and even in their own families.
Sense of Service
No, not all brats are going to follow their parents footsteps and join the military. While some do, most military children choose their own path in life but they never truly give up the sense of service. This can often translate into roles in their community or in some cases even elected offices. It’s this commitment to others that truly distinguishes brats from their peers.
A special thanks to the kids who let me pry into the wonders and difficulties of their unique lives. Garrison, Lily, Veronica, and to the countless other “military brats,” we all say thank you!
Now, please excuse me while I cry and watch videos on Youtube of parents coming home early from deployments to surprise their kids.
A curious and credible Tweet from the Director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen, on August 1, 2018, at 5:14 PM Washington D.C. time claimed that a, “Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base.”
The Tweet apparently originated from Twitter user “Rocket Ron”, a “Space Explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory”. The original Tweet read, “A fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 km. The energy from the explosion is estimated to be 2.1 kilotons.” Rocket Ron’s Tweet hit in the afternoon on Jul. 31.
The incident is fascinating for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is how the Air Force integrates the use of social media reporting (and non-reporting) into their official flow of information. As of this writing, no reporting about any such event appears on the public news website of the 12th Space Warning Squadron based at Thule, the 21st Space Wing, or the Wing’s 821st Air Base Group that operates and maintains Thule Air Base in support of missile warning, space surveillance and satellite command and control operations missions.
An early warning radar installation in Thule, Greenland
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory did provide a Tweet with a screenshot of data showing record of an object of unspecified size traveling at (!) 24.4 Kilometers per second (about 54,000 MPH or Mach 74) at 76.9 degrees’ north latitude, 69.0 degrees’ west longitude on July 25, 2018 at 11:55 PM. That latitude and longitude does check out as almost directly over Thule, Greenland.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the object’s reentry on their database.
When you look at NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program database for objects entering the atmosphere you see that, “The data indicate that small asteroids struck Earth’s atmosphere – resulting in what astronomers call a bolide (a fireball, or bright meteor) – on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period. Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are usually harmless.” That is a rate of one asteroid, or “bolide”, every 13 days over the 20-year study according to a 2014 article by Deborah Byrd for Science Wire as published on EarthSky.org.
But there are exceptions.
You may recall the sensational YouTube and social media videos of the very large Chelyabinsk meteor that struck the earth on Feb. 15, 2013. Luckily it entered the earth’s atmosphere at a shallow trajectory and largely disintegrated. Had it entered at a more perpendicular angle, it would have struck the earth with significantly greater force. Scientists report that Chelyabinsk was the largest meteor to hit the earth in the modern recording period, over 60-feet (20 meters) in diameter. Over 7,000 buildings were damaged and 1,500 people injured from the incident.
What is perhaps most haunting about the Chelyabinsk Meteor and, perhaps we may learn, this most recent Thule, Greenland incident, is that there was no warning (at least, not publicly). No satellites in orbit detected the Chelyabinsk Meteor, no early warning system knew it was coming according to scientists. Because the radiant or origin of the Chelyabinsk Meteor was out of the sun, it was difficult to detect in advance. It arrived with total surprise.
Northern Russia seems to be a magnet for titanic meteor strikes. The fabled Tunguska Event of 1908 was a meteor that struck in the Kraznoyarsk Krai region of Siberia. It flattened over 770 square miles of Siberian taiga forest but, curiously, seems to have left no crater, suggesting it likely disintegrated entirely about 6 miles above the earth. The massive damage done to the taiga forest was from the shockwave of the object entering the atmosphere prior to disintegration. While this recent Thule, Greenland event is very large at 2.1 kilotons (2,100 tons of TNT) of force for the explosion, the Tunguska Event is estimated to have been as large as 15 megatons (15 million tons of TNT).
It will be interesting to see how (and if) popular news media and the official defense news outlets process this recent Thule, Greenland incident. But while we wait to see how the media responds as the Twitter dust settles from the incident, it’s worth at least a minor exhale knowing this is another big object that missed hitting the earth in a different location at a different angle and potentially with a different outcome.
As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.
While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.
Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.
One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.
The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.
One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.
Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.
(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)
That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.
As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.
This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.
While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.
If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.
It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.
A top U.S. Army Futures Command leader told Congress recently that the service will field its new, binocular-style night-vision goggles, one year after the previously announced fielding date.
“In six months, we will be putting in the hands of soldiers a night-vision goggle that is 5X,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, describing the improvement of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-B over the night-vision gear soldiers currently carry.
The new ENVG-B — which features a dual-tube technology that equips soldiers with infrared and thermal capability — is scheduled to go to an armored brigade combat team in October before the unit leaves for a rotation to South Korea, Army modernization officials told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee on April 16, 2019.
The Army first announced in February 2018 that it had funded the ENVG effort in the fiscal 2019 budget to give infantry and other close-combat soldiers greater depth perception than the current monocular-styled ENVGs and AN/PVS-14s.
Richardson did not mention that the proposed ENVG-B fielding had been delayed by a year.
Military.com reached out to Army Futures Command for an explanation of the delay but did not receive a response by press time.
Richardson praised the new ENVG-B’s ability to project the soldier’s sight reticle in front of the firing eye, day or night — a feature that has vastly improved marksmanship, he said.
“I have used the goggle. I have shot with the goggle, and it is better than anything I have experienced in my Army career,” he said.
Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said most civilians think that the Army’s night-vision goggles are the “size and probably the weight of a quarter, maybe a silver dollar.”
“Could you explain to us the difference of weight and shape of this next generation of night-vision goggles versus what our troops have been using?” he asked.
Richardson said the new ENVG-B is “lighter than the goggles that we have today, even though it is dual-tubed versus monocular.”
(U.S. Army photo)
Currently, most soldiers still use the AN/PVS-14. The Army began fielding the first generation of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle in 2009. The ENVG technology consists of a traditional infrared image intensifier, similar to the PVS-14, and a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display.
IVAS is meant to replace the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a high-tech digital system designed to let soldiers view their weapon sight reticle and other key tactical information through a pair of protective glasses, rather than goggles.
“You are able to train and rehearse that mission with a set of glasses,” Richardson said. “The tubes have gone away; it’s embedded in the glasses, which will significantly reduce the weight of where we are going.
“We believe in the next two years we will put the IVAS system on soldiers, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
America has some of the world’s most elite special operators and they get a lot of press. But on most of the missions that Special Forces, SEALs, and other top operators conduct, they bring a very special airman.
The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.
The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.
In his book “Kill Bin Laden,” former Delta Force commander Dalton Fury writes:
The initial training “pipeline” for an Air Force Special Tactics Squadron Combat Controller costs twice as much time and sweat as does the journey to become a Navy SEAL or Delta operator. Before their training is complete someone brainwashes these guys into thinking they can climb like Spiderman, swim like Tarzan, and fly like Superman — and then they have to prove they can, if they plan to graduate.
Being a combat controller takes a lot of brainpower and muscle. Here’s how the U.S. Air Force takes a bunch of talented young men and turns them into elite warriors.
The Elite isn’t too good for Air Force Basic Military Training
You want to be elite? Take the the Combat Control Screening Course to see if you have what it takes.
This two-week course is also on Lackland, and it’s purpose is in the name. Students are physically screened and have to pass tests in seven events to move on. The events are: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, 1.5-mile run, 500-meter swim, 4-mile ruck march, and an obstacle course.
“We need this two weeks just to make sure they’re the right guys to be combat controllers and they’re going to be successful in the pipeline,” says an Combat Control selection instructor in the Air Force video above.
Two weeks may seems like a short time for airmen to be screened and prepared for the rest of the combat controller pipeline, but the class is so tough that the Air Force has published a 26-week guide to help recruits physically prepare. The students will be tested on the seven physical tasks throughout the training pipeline with the standards becoming more rigorous at each testing (Page 12).
Immediately after the screening course, students may find themselves waiting for an open slot at the combat control operator course. They are tested weekly to ensure their performance on the seven physical tasks mentioned above don’t slip.
Combat Control Operator Course
This course lasts for just over 15 weeks at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. It focuses on recognizing and understanding different aircraft, air navigation aids, weather, and air traffic control procedures. It is the same course all other air traffic controllers in the Air Force attend.
Photo: US Army Ashley Cross
At Fort Benning, Ga., elite airmen go through the U.S. Army Airborne School. Here, they are taught how to safely conduct static-line parachute jumps from an airplane and infiltrate an enemy-held objective area.
Basic Survival School is required for even elite controllers
To learn basic survival techniques for remote areas, future combat controllers spend more than two weeks at the Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. By graduation, the airmen should be able to survive on their own regardless of climatic conditions or enemy situation. Survival training is important for combat controllers since they’ll be deployed to a variety of austere environments.
Combat Control School
In 13 weeks at Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina, students are taught small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, demolitions, fire support, and field operations. It is at the end of this course that students become journeyman combat controllers and they are allowed to wear their iconic scarlet beret and combat controller team flash.
Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training
Though they are technically now combat controllers, airmen will then spend almost another year training in Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Fla. AST is broken down into four phases: water, ground, employment, and full mission profile. By full mission profile, combat controllers should be able to do their full job in simulated combat. The training at Hurlburt Field allows combat controllers to infiltrate enemy territory through a variety of means. A combat controller going to work “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot,” Air Force Maj. Charlie Hodges told CNN.
AST is challenging. “This is probably about the most realistic training you could get here back in the states to get you prepared for the real world,” Air Force 1st Lt. Charles Cunningham, a special operations weather officer said in an Air Force video. “They add a very serious element of realism and make it as intense as it can be.”
While in AST, combat controllers will depart Hurlburt Field to complete the following three schools.
Military Free Fall Parachutist School
Students will train at Fort Bragg, N.C., and then Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. Trainees learn free fall parachuting procedures over a five-week period by practicing in wind tunnels and in free fall. Students learn stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense, parachute opening procedures, and canopy control.
Students jump from up to 35,000 feet above sea level and may wait until below 6,000 feet above the ground to open their chute. One student in the video above calls it “the best school I’ve ever been to.” It’s fun, but incredibly difficult to prepare students for elite missions.
Combat Divers School
Elite airmen have to be prepared for everything. At the U.S. Air Force Combat Divers School in Panama City, Fla., combat controllers learn to use SCUBA and closed-circuit diving equipment to infiltrate enemy held areas. The course is four weeks long.
Underwater Egress Training
Only a day long, this course teaches the controllers how to escape from a sinking aircraft. It is taught by the Navy at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.
Graduation and assignment
Finally, after completion of the AST and the full mission profile, combat controllers are ready to head to a unit where they’ll receive continuous training from senior combat controllers and begin building combat experience on missions.
What? You thought they were done? To be able to augment Delta, Seal Team 6, and conduct missions on their own, combat controllers are never done training.
Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.
The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.
“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a reportpublished on its website.
Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.
It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.
“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.
British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.
“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.
Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.
Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.
The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.
British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.
In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.
Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.
The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.
When thinking of countries that have the strongest militaries in the world, giants like the US, Russia, China, and the UK come to mind. In Asia — and Southeast Asia in particular — China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand are usually mentioned.
But the country that boasts the best air force and navy in the region, and a military that is considered one of the most powerful in the world, is a tiny island city-state with a population of only 5 million — Singapore.
Strong since independence
The concept of a strong military has been ingrained in Singapore since it gained independence from Malaysia in 1965.
“Historically, Singapore had rather tumultuous relations with its immediate neighbors, namely Indonesia and Malaysia,” Collin Koh Sw ee Lean, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Maritime Security Programme, told Business Insider. “This was quite the case back in the early decades of Singapore’s independence.”
As a result, Singapore needed to invest in its security forces. “There was a sense in Singapore that they were extremely vulnerable to coercion being so small,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.
But with a small population and hardly any territory to train on let alone fight, it became clear that the only way they could secure their country was by out-competing their potential rivals through high-end technology.
‘A poisonous shrimp’
(Singapore Ministry of Defense photo)
Singapore’s air force boasts 60 US-made F-16C/D and 40 F-15SG that were designed specifically for the the Singapore Air Force. They also operate 20 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, one of the best gunships currently in service.
Singapore’s navy has six Formidable-class stealth frigates, licensed Singaporean-made versions of France’s La Fayette-class frigate, a number of high-end submarines both in service and in development, and five Endurance-class landing platform docks than can carry 18 tanks and hundreds of troops.
The army is small compared to some of its regional rivals, with only 72,000 active personnel. But it has some of the best equipment in service, and much of it was either entirely produced or improved on by domestic companies.
This includes the Leopard 2SG, Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle. The country also has compulsory military service, and can quickly mobilize its army for war at a moment’s notice.
All of this high-end equipment is, unsurprisingly expensive. But despite its small size, Singapore has managed to become a global economic and military powerhouse.
(Singapore Army / Facebook)
In 2017, Global Finance magazine ranked Singapore as the 4th richest country in the world in terms of GDP, and it has been able to stay high on that list for decades.
The city-state has historically had a high defense budget, usually hovering around three to four percent of its GDP, though it has gone as high as 5% in the past. The 2018 military budget, $14.76 billion, makes up 18% of Singapore’s annual budget.
But what really sets Singapore apart from its neighbors in the realm of technology and equipment, is the fact that it is all integrated into a single cohesive fighting force.
“Not only do they have high-end equipment, they know how to operate it in a very high level of capability. It’s integrated as opposed to all the other country in Southeast Asia,” Brian Harding, the deputy director the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Southeast Asia Program, told Business Insider.
“They focus on making sure their systems work together, they have interoperability between the services. They are highly professional military,” Harding said. “A poisonous shrimp is the analogy that is made.”
(154th Media Entertainment / YouTube)
But Singapore’s military does have a a big problem — geography. There simply isn’t enough room on the island to train its fighting forces.
“If you’re in a fighter jet that is taking off at three or four hundred miles an hour, you very quickly leave Singaporean airspace,” Harold said.
As a result, Singapore has sent some of its soldiers and much of its equipment overseas. Its military has personnel and air squadrons in the US, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, and Taiwan to name a few.
While the main purpose for these deployments in for training, it does offer another advantage — the ability to stage an effective counter-strike.
“The idea of distributing manpower and assets abroad … also provide a recessed type of backup reinforcements, a form of insurance, in case forces deployed within Singapore got wiped out in an enemy onslaught,” Koh said.
“These assets could therefore be mobilized as a follow-on force, possibly reinforced by friendly partners,” he added.
Singapore’s relations with its immediate neighbors have actually improved remarkably. In Koh’s words, they “have never been as good as now.”
Singapore has also contributed to international operations like Afghanistan and disaster relief missions to affected nations.
But Singapore is still cautious. Chinese actions in the South China Sea have not been encouraging, and its continued support of a US military presence in the region is not popular with some.
“Singaporeans are the ultimate realists and understand that things can change quickly,” Harding said. “They know that they need to be prepared for the future and not just hope for the best.”
On Apr. 15, 1912, Charles Lightoller was the second officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic. After helping as many passengers and crew as he could into lifeboats, he refused an order to escape on one of the final boats to make it off the ship. As Titanic’s bridge began to sink, he attempted to dive into the water and to the safety of one of the crew’s collapsible boats.
Except the Titanic sucked him down with her.
Two lifeboats carry Titanic survivors toward safety. April 15, 1912
Lightoller was no landsman. He had been at sea for decades and, as a result, he’d seen and heard everything. Titanic wasn’t even his first shipwreck, but it was the first time a sinking ship tried to take the officer down with it. As a grating pulled him to the bottom, the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean finally reached the ship’s hot boilers, and they exploded. The force propelled Lightoller to the surface and to the safety of his fellow crew’s boat.
He was the last Titanic survivor rescued by the RMS Carpathia the next day. He was also the most senior officer to survive the shipwreck. Later, during World War I, Lt. Lightoller would take command of many ships in the Royal Navy, leaving the service at the war’s end. By the time World War II rolled around, Lightoller was just a civilian raising chickens. His seaborne days confined to a personal yacht.
The Titanic’s officers. Lightoller is in the back row, second from the left.
While he did survey the German coast in 1939 for the Royal Navy while disguised as an elderly couple on vacation, his fighting days were long gone. But the very next year, the British Army in France was on the brink of ruin, as 400,000 Allied troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Royal Navy could not reach them, and they were slowly being annihilated by the Nazi forces that surrounded them. Operation Dynamo was on.
The Royal Navy ordered Lightoller to take his ship to Ramsgate, where a Navy crew would take control and ship off to Dunkirk to rescue as many Tommies as possible. But Lightoller wasn’t having it. He would take his ship to Dunkirk himself. The 66-year-old and his son departed for France as soon as they could in a 52×12-foot ship with a carrying capacity of 21.
An unidentified veteran walked up to the Georgia State Capitol on the morning of June 26, 2018 and casually set himself on fire using a combination of gasoline and fireworks. He was protesting his treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
FOX’s Atlanta affiliate is reporting that the veteran was quickly extinguished by officers of the Georgia State Patrol and that no one else was injured in the protest or its aftermath. No, the man was not rushed to a VA medical center. Instead, an ambulance took the injured veteran to nearby Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
The explosion caused by the fireworks could be heard during press conferences happening elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, according to FOX 5 Atlanta, who was covering a discussion about Georgia’s new hands-free traffic safety law, taking effect on July 1st. State troopers at that conference made a beeline for the self-immolating veteran.
You can hear the explosions and the reactions of the Georgia Patrol starting around 4:10.
It’s a lucky thing a handful public safety officers from the Georgia State Patrol happened to be on hand for the hands-free law announcement.
Initially, the series of explosions was thought to be a series of actual bombs detonating around the Capitol area, and the Atlanta bomb squad was called on to the scene, according to FOX 5’s Aungelique Proctor.
Later, the bomb squad’s focus was on the white vehicle in which the still-unknown injured veteran arrived to the Georgia Capitol. The Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene as the story develops.