The reasons and risks behind Russia's big oil bet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

For years now, Russia has been laser-focused on insulating itself from an external economic shock.


It may have just sparked one.

In an unexpected move on March 6, Russia rejected a call by OPEC countries to further cut oil production in order to help prop up prices amid sagging global demand for energy due to the coronavirus.

The decision broke three years of cooperation under an arrangement called OPEC+ and stunned participants at a meeting in Vienna, not to mention some of Russia’s own oil executives — one suggested the move was “irrational” — and governments from the Middle East to the West.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia swiftly responded to the snub by announcing it is no longer obliged to hold back production, causing the largest single-day drop in the price of oil in nearly three decades and sending global stock markets and the ruble tumbling. Why?

One potential answer: President Vladimir Putin wanted to punish the United States by putting severe pressure on the U.S. shale-oil industry, which has sold millions of barrels of oil while Russian companies kept production down under the existing OPEC+ agreement.

“The Kremlin had decided that propping up prices as the coronavirus ravaged energy demand would be a gift to the U.S. shale industry,” Bloomberg News reported. The acerbic spokesman for Russian state oil giant Rosneft, Mikhail Leontyev, suggested that was at least one of the motives, telling the agency: “Let’s see how American shale exploration feels under these conditions.”

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, an old and close Putin ally, has long been said to be chafing under the existing OPEC+ production limits, and was widely seen as playing a role in the decision to reject further cuts.

Some analysts played down the idea that the Kremlin was out to get U.S. shale, however, saying that Russia’s coordination with OPEC+ was fragile to begin with and that Moscow and Riyadh had different views of the current volatility on the global oil market.

Whatever the reasons, it’s a risky move for Moscow at an uncertain time.

The oil price collapse stoked by Moscow’s move and concerns about the effects of the coronavirus on a slew of industrieswill hurt Russia’s economy in the short-term, and there is no guarantee that it can knock out U.S. shale in the long run, analysts said.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

U.S. Benefits

The United States has been a beneficiary of the high prices maintained by the OPEC+ output cuts over the past few years, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia — now Number 3 — as the world’s largest oil producer.

As the coronavirus ravaged the Chinese economy and hit others around the world, slashing oil demand, Saudi Arabia lobbied for OPEC+ to cut another 1.5 million barrels at the March 6 meeting in Vienna. Russia recommended maintaining the existing cuts. OPEC+ — a 24-member group consisting of OPEC nations plus non-cartel members like Russia — first agreed to oil production cuts in 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would hike production sent the price of U.S. crude oil tumbling by 25 percent on March 9 to a low of a barrel. Prices gained back some of the losses on March 10 but were well under for U.S. and the global benchmark, Brent Crude.

Some U.S. shale producers have a break-even price of a barrel or above, putting them in a vulnerable position, said Chris Weafer, an energy specialist and founder of Moscow-based consultancy firm Macro-Advisory.

Oil producers in Saudi Arabia and Russia have lower production costs, enabling them to weather the price.

“There are three parties facing off against each other — Russia, Saudi, and U.S. shale — and it really is a case of who blinks first,” Weafer told RFE/RL.

Several analysts said that in the short-term, Russia is in the strongest position among those three players.

“The impact of this price crash on U.S. shale companies is going to be pretty devastating” in the short term and could result in a U.S. production decline in 2020, said Gregory Brew, a historian at Southern Methodist University in Texas focusing on energy politics and the Middle East.

Diamondback Energy, a Texas-based shale producer, announced March 9 it would immediately reduce investment following the price drop.

Russian oil companies have some insulation. They are profitable at a oil price, helped by a free-floating currency, and the budget is protected for years to come.

The Kremlin’s conservative fiscal policy over the past few years boosted foreign currency reserves to about 0 billion and driven down the price of a barrel of oil necessary to balance the budget from above 0 to below .

At the current ruble rate of nearly 75 to the dollar, the budget can balance at per barrel, said Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington.

Saudi Arabia’s budget break-even oil price is closer to and its foreign currency reserves have been declining amid a massive state spending program.

Risky Bet

Riyadh not only faces budget pressure, but potentially investor pressure to cut production to keep the market stable, Sarah Ladislaw, a senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a March 9 note.

Riyadh recently sold shares in state oil company Saudi Aramco, raising .6 billion in the world’s largest initial public offering. The shares are now below the price the investors paid for them.

But the U.S. shale industry has shown resilience in the past and is likely to do so again, analysts said. Low oil prices lead to consolidation, which should make companies more competitive in the longer term, Brew said — the opposite of what Moscow may be angling for.

Saudi Arabia failed to achieve the goal of shuttering the U.S. shale industry several years ago: The producers improved their efficiency in response to price pressure, driving down their own production costs.

Unlike large onshore or offshore oil fields that can take years to develop, shale fields can start producing in weeks, said Rauf Mammadov, an energy analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington. And the biggest U.S. oil companies, which are less vulnerable than smaller outfits, are investing more into shale.

“It will not impact the shale industry in the long run,” Mammadov told RFE/RL.

Meanwhile, the impact of the oil price drop is being felt globally, including in Moscow.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

‘Very Unexpected, Irrational’

Russia’s already slow-growing economy could potentially contract this year if oil prices stay low for the rest of the year, said Ribakova. She previously forecast growth of more than 2 percent in 2020.

Russia is losing 0 million to 0 million a day at an oil price of rather than , said Leonid Fedun, the billionaire vice president for strategic development at Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, which is not state-owned.

Fedun called the collapse of the Russia and OPEC+ agreement “very unexpected, irrational.”

That’s not the view at Rosneft, though. Sechin was the driver behind the Kremlin’s decision not to agree to additional cuts, Weafer said.

In June, Sechin accused the United States of using sanctions against energy-producing nations to make room for U.S. domestic production.

The United States has angered the Kremlin by imposing sanctions on Russian Baltic Sea export gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, delaying its completion indefinitely, and by slapping penalties last month sanctioned a trading arm of Rosneft for doing business in Venezuela.

In 2019, the United States supplied oil to Russia’s western neighbor Ukraine for the first time — as Kyiv seeks to reduce reliance on Moscow amid a continuing war with Russia-backed separatists in its east — while Belarus has inquired about purchasing U.S. oil as it seeks alternatives to Russian crude.

Rosneft will increase production by 300,000 barrels a day following the exit from the agreement with OPEC+, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified company officials.

Mammadov questioned the notion that Russia is targeting the U.S. shale industry.

The abundance of global supply, while largely driven by the United States, is also due to greater output from Canada, Brazil, and other non-OPEC countries, some of which have high-cost production and will be impacted, he said.

“This is more the outcome of the failure of the negotiation rather than a premeditated strategy or tactic” to crush U.S. production, Mammadov said. “There are too many global unknowns at the moment and that is the reason why Saudi Arabia and Russia could not agree on cuts.”

If the spread of the coronavirus retreats globally, leading to a pickup in economic activity and oil demand, the tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia will ease as the question of greater cuts subsides, Mammadov said.

Another factor potentially limiting the depth of the price war is the Kremlin’s determination to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East in recent years, Weafer said.

That greater influence was on display in October 2017 when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman traveled to Moscow, the first-ever visit by the nation’s leader to Russia.

“The Kremlin will want to try to get back to the negotiating table because the political relations” with Saudi Arabia are “very important,” Weafer said.

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

MIGHTY FIT

7 best NBA servicemen of all time

The NBA playoffs are heating up, and you know what that means…

Every on-base basketball court in the country now has some dude who: screams for the ball, dives at your knees, and calls a foul whenever anyone gets near him. He wears brand new Jordans, knee-high socks, and probably has some (also new) sweatbands on. He constantly wipes the bottom of his shoes with his hands. His only passes are conveniently missed shots. He calls you “chief.”

These dudes are not that guy.

They served their country—and they balled out at the highest level.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Mike Silliman

Mike Silliman was a beast for West Pointe. He took them to the NIT semifinals in 1954, 1955, and 1956. That was the equivalent of taking a team to the “Final Four” three consecutive times. He then won a gold medal with the USA Olympic basketball team in 1968. He also, perhaps, more importantly, became a captain while serving with the adjutant general corps in Korea.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Bernard James

The most intriguing player on our list, Bernard James, didn’t play professional OR collegiate basketball until after serving in the military. In fact, James didn’t even play high school ball.

James dropped out of high school, earned his GED, and then enlisted in the Air Force at 17. He served six years in the Air Force as a security forces specialist, and became a Staff Sergeant. He was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom to Iraq, Qatar, and Afghanistan.

It wasn’t until he played on his intramural Air Force team (and had a surprise 5-inch growth spurt—seriously) that he realized he had a knack on the hardwood. He then played in community college before transferring to FSU, where he was eventually drafted by the Dallas Mavericks where he would spend most of his 3 year NBA career.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Tim James

Tim James is a Miami hero. He played at Northwestern High School in Miami, then “the U” (The University of Miami), and was later drafted by the Miami Heat in the first round of the 1999 NBA draft. He played for 3 years in the league, and then joined the military after 9/11.

After enlistment, he served in Iraq and, according to an article by Dan Le Batard, even decided not to tell any of his fellow soldiers about his time in the NBA. Like Shakespeare said, “discretion is the greater part of valor.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Bill Bradley

To say Bill Bradley was a renaissance man is an understatement. Bill Bradley’s achievements included: attending Princeton, attending Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, winning an Olympic gold medal in basketball, playing for the New York Knicks, winning two NBA championships, serving in the United States Air Force Reserve, becoming an NBA Hall of Famer, becoming a senator, and running for president… I pray he doesn’t DM my girl.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

George Yardley

Don’t let the milkman look fool you– George Yardley is an NBA Hall of Famer and two-time All-American. After being drafted (to the NBA, that is) in 1950, he served in the Korean War for two years. When he got back, he played for the Fort Wayne Pistons and became the first player to score 2,000 points in a season.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Elgin Baylor

Rightfully credited as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, Elgin Baylor turned around a struggling Minnesota Lakers franchise (and set the pace for what would become one of the winningest franchises in all of sports) by leading them to the NBA finals his rookie season. During his fourth year in the purple and gold, he served as a U.S. Army Reservist, living at Fort Lewis. His duties as an army reservist prevented him from practicing or participating in weekday games—and he still posted up 38 points per game.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

David Robinson

David “The Admiral” Robinson never achieved the rank of Admiral—but he was a Lieutenant for the Navy. His time in the Navy almost never happened as he was almost not accepted on account of “being too tall” (the Navy limit at the time, 6’8″, was two inches shorter than Robinson). In spite of this, he was accepted and balled out at the Naval Academy where he won the coveted Naismith and Wooden awards. He was a 10 time all star, 2 time NBA champion, a member of the legendary 1992 Olympic gold medal “Dream Team,” and had perhaps the most defined shoulder muscles of the 1990’s.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Chuck Yeager is an air combat ace, daredevil pilot, and hilarious on Twitter

He shoots down all these Germans, THEN became the fastest human being alive? And he’s this witty, rugged mountain guy? No way, re-write this.” If Chuck Yeager’s life story were a fictional screenplay, it might be rejected as too unbelievable. Just to put his accomplishments in perspective: he was the first human to travel faster than the speed of sound, and that arguably isn’t even the coolest thing he accomplished.


Born the son of a gas driller in West Virginia, Yeager enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during WWII intending to become a mechanic. Turning wrenches presumably didn’t offer enough mortal danger, so he earned his wings as a fighter pilot. On his eighth combat mission, Yeager was forced to bail out over occupied France when his P-51 fighter was hit by German fire. He was injured and alone in enemy territory, so naturally, this was very bad news…for the Germans.

Yeager, thoroughly pissed off by anything that didn’t involve tormenting the Third Reich from the skies- linked up with the French Resistance and taught them bomb-making skills. He also saved the life of another downed U.S. pilot by amputating the man’s leg with a penknife and carrying him over the mountains to neutral Spain.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Upon returning to England, Yeager headed back to the States to take it easy for the rest of the war. Just kidding: General Eisenhower approved his request to return to combat duty, and Yeager promptly shot down five enemy planes in a single day, earning the rare “ace-in-a-day” status.

He also downed one of the Germans’ infamous Me-262 jet fighters by ambushing the much faster jet when it slowed down for landing, later reflecting “not very sportsmanlike, but what the hell?”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Yeager’s P-51D fighter in Europe.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The war might have been over, but Chuck Yeager’s appetite for death-defying aerial feats remained unquenched. He remained on active duty and became a test pilot for the first generation of jet aircraft.

Piloting the experimental X-1 jet in 1947, Yeager became the first human being to travel faster than the speed of sound despite having broken several ribs horseback riding a few days before. He quipped over the radio mid-flight to a colleague, “I’m still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off either.”

Oh, Chuck.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Chuck Yeager next to his experimental jet aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Yeager’s legendary skill as a pilot was apparently surpassed only by the ice water in his veins that enabled him to repeatedly survive disaster. While setting yet another airspeed record in 1953, his jet began spinning out of control. Despite his head smashing against the canopy, Yeager regained control of the jet and landed safely, because of course he did. By this point, even physics itself had learned not to mess with Chuck Yeager. Yeager went on to multiple command billets within the Air Force.

Despite commanding the Air Force’s astronaut training program, Yeager himself was ineligible for NASA because he lacked any formal education beyond high school (admittedly though, if anyone on earth could be justifiably declared “too cool for school,” it was Chuck Yeager). He also logged 127 combat missions in Vietnam as a bomber pilot because if there’re flying and danger involved, then no way is Chuck Yeager missing out. Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 as a brigadier general.

He continued to work as a test pilot after retirement and broke the sound barrier again during his final Air Force flight in 1997. Yeager was portrayed by Sam Shepard in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff” in which he made a cameo as a bartender.

Oh yeah, and then he broke the sound barrier again at age 89 as a passenger in an F-15. Chuck Yeager has broken the sound barrier so many times that one might wonder if it personally wronged him at some point.

Yeager’s legacy lives on in an unexpected way, too. Think about the last time you heard an airline pilot on the intercom. You know that familiar relaxed, deliberate cadence that every pilot seems to speak with? That “pilot voice” began during the early era of jet aircraft when Yeager’s contemporaries began imitating his distinctive West Virginia drawl on the radio.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Photo by Olivier Blaise)

This is the point in the story at which one might expect to hear that General Yeager passed away in such-and-such year.

Wrong.

As of the time of this writing in 2019, Yeager is alive. He is very active on social media where his insights and trademark sense of humor (seriously, he’s hysterical) continue to entertain and inform fans across the world.

Check him out on Twitter at: @GenChuckYeager

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Risk ranking of everyday activities for COVID-19, according to an infectious-disease expert


Risk ranking of everyday activities for COVID-19, according to an infectious-disease expert

www.businessinsider.com

Following is a transcript of the video.

Susan Hassig: I basically try to remind people that this virus isn’t just out in the environment waiting to jump down your respiratory tract. It’s captured, it’s acquired from interacting with people.

Narrator: This is Dr. Susan Hassig. Hassig: I’m an associate professor of epidemiology. I was not one of those that rushed to a restaurant the first weekend they opened up. Given the opportunity, it will spread.

Narrator: Staying safe from COVID-19 doesn’t require isolating in a bunker, but it does mean weighing different risks based on the situation. You can think about everyday activities in terms of the three D’s: diversity, distance, and duration. Diversity is the number of households mixing. So risk is higher if you’re meeting with people you don’t live with, particularly if you don’t know everywhere they’ve been in the past two weeks. It’s also higher if your area has had lots of recent cases or if testing is too limited to know how many active carriers are around. Distance is an issue whenever you’re less than six feet from other people, especially if you’re indoors or people aren’t wearing masks. Lastly, it comes down to duration. Are you running past people in the park, or are you having an extended conversation or encounter?

Hassig: So, the challenge that you have is kind of translating that into normal day-to-day behaviors. Pool-party kinds of situations. There’s food involved, and there’s more than likely, at an adult gathering, alcohol involved. I would be concerned about mask wearing in that context, which actually should be part of the mix. When you’re thinking about distance and density, those are two things that can be really problematic to maintain in that kind of an environment, and there may be social pressure not to maintain the distance.

Bars are really designed to attract people in in large numbers and to get up close and personal, so that’s one of the venues that I am most concerned about when they eventually are allowed to reopen.

Houses of worship, very frequently the population present there is generally older, potentially more vulnerable to consequences of coronavirus infection, but there are also lots of activities that can be potentially really problematic. We know singing results in tremendous projection of air and virus, potentially.

Group sports, when you’re physically working out, you’re gonna be breathing a lot harder. And forced exhalation, if you happen to be infected, is a great way to expel a lot of virus. In the gym context, what I’ve seen, they have broken up those banks of treadmills. They’ve removed some of the machines or spaced them out to provide distance between individuals on them. I think the real challenge is, I think, in some respect, is for the trainers. The indoor dinner party is also fairly high. You may have some reasonable distancing, but probably not enough. And then when you’re eating you’re obviously not wearing a mask. If it’s households comingling, that’s where, you know, the real issue does come in.

Mass-transit options, basically they’re relatively small, enclosed spaces with potentially lots of people in them for an extended period of time. Whether it’s a surface bus or a subway or an airplane, you’ve got lots of possibilities going on there. A date, one on one, making sure you know who it is that you’re having a date with before you actually get into a physical proximity with them is probably a really good idea. Troll their social media to see what they’re posting, and if they’ve been to a couple of bars or parties, I wouldn’t go on a physical date with them. I’d keep it virtual.

Dental visits are close proximity, certainly with a dental hygienist for an extended period of time, and as a patient your mouth is wide open, ready to accept virus. I’m assuming they would screen, physiologically, any of their patients. I think the other kinds of personal care and close-interaction services, I mean, we’ve seen the example of what happens when a hairstylist goes into work sick, and that’s really problematic.

Airbnbs, I think it really depends on the proprietor and what kind of interval they have between their guests. Because, I mean, we know the virus will not survive more than two or three days on any kind of surface without renewed contamination. And so I would be very concerned about an Airbnb that was flipping it the same day from one client to the next. In a hotel I have a little bit less concern, although I would like to think that they are leaving at least one day in between guests in individual rooms, preferably two days.

Shopping in general is relatively low, but in a mall, where there may be opportunities for people to gather, is what I would be concerned about. Public pools, the water itself is not a risk. But if that water is full of people, you know, shoulder to shoulder or whatever, it’s a risk. It’s a risk environment.

I think campsites are relatively safe, as long as you’re not, again, gathering around the campfire in close proximity with five other households. Walking in the park or whatever, where you’re not stopping and chatting for 10 minutes with an old friend, you know, I’m not sure that you really even need to wear a mask in that context, because you’re not spending any length of time in proximity to anyone, unless, of course, it’s the crowded boardwalk in New Jersey or North Carolina or wherever else.

Narrator: All of this varies from situation to situation and person to person. The three D’s may not be enough if you’re high risk or interact with people who are, as even moderate risk can lead to major consequences. Hassig: There are some people ready and willing to accept the consequences of engaging in certain kinds of activities. But here it’s more than just about an individual. It’s really about your collective sphere of friends, family, and those that you interact with.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New memo confirms: COVID-19 diagnosis a permanent disqualifier for military service

As the nation grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military community and those wishing to join are feeling the effects. A recent memo released by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) states that recruit candidates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 — even after a full recovery — will now be permanently disqualified from joining the military.

“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads.

Military Times reached out to a Pentagon spokesperson to verify the accuracy of the MEPCOM memo which began circulating on Twitter on May 4, 2020. The Times confirmed the memo was accurate. This disqualifier for serving impacts not just new potential recruits walking in but also those already in the processing phase. According to the memo, once a potential recruit tests positive they must wait 28 days to return to MEPS. Upon return, they will be labeled “permanently disqualified.”


twitter.com

The military does allow medical waivers in certain cases where there is a disqualifier, so initially the assumption was that this would be the case with COVID-19, as well. This appears to not be the case. With COVID-19 being a new virus and little known about the after-effects of surviving it, there is no current guidance in place to inform those who’d be reviewing potential waivers.

When Military Times asked the Pentagon spokesperson why COVID-19 was being labeled a permanently disqualifying diagnosis when other similar acute illnesses weren’t, they declined to answer the question.

Medical professionals are currently racing to research this virus and compile data to understand it. Research institutes all across the world are doing the same to develop a vaccine. But without reliable information on long-term effects or the potential to have a relapse with the virus, too much is unknown. It may be with this in mind that the DOD is implementing this disqualifier, with the potential for it to be lifted later.

In the meantime, survivors of COVID-19 will be turned away and disqualified from serving this country. The Pentagon has not issued any guidance for active duty service members who contract the virus and recover.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This carrier, a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, was just rediscovered after 76 years

In October of 1942, Charles Mason took one last look at the hulking gray warship the US Navy had entrusted to his command, ensuring that all other personnel had been accounted for and evacuated from its massive long decks. Seconds later, Mason jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by nearby American destroyers, leaving his now-empty and thoroughly damaged aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — to its fate.


While Mason passed away in 1971, a retired Vice Admiral with numerous honors and service distinctions to his name, neither he nor the 2000-plus survivors of the Hornet would ever see their ship again, as they steamed away from an inbound Japanese flotilla on the destroyers and frigates which had picked them up.

Now, just over 76 years after its loss, a team of “ocean hunters” aboard the Research Vessel Petrel have rediscovered the Hornet relatively intact in its watery grave, deep in the shadows of the Pacific Ocean.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

An aircraft tug still chained to the flight deck of the Hornet (R/V Petrel photograph)


Last month, the Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicles (essentially underwater drones) found the lost ship — (the last American fleet carrier to have been sunk by enemy fire) — by triangulating its approximate location through researching and poring through old ships logs from the last Navy surface vessels to see her.

The R/V Petrel, owned by the estate of the deceased co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has led the way in rediscovering the wrecks of a number of warships once thought eternally lost to the depths of the world’s largest ocean. Among the many finds to its name are the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the Japanese battleship Musashi — sister ship of the infamous behemoth Yamato.

The Hornet, one of the most beloved boats in the Navy at the time of its sinking, was a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, having participated in delivering a joint forces comeback punch to Japan in the wake of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It would quickly rearm and resupply for the Battle of Midway in May 1942, where it helped turn the tide of the war against the juggernaut Imperial Japanese Navy.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

One of the Hornet’s anti-aircraft guns (R/V Petrel photograph)

Then, just over five months after Midway, Hornet was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Alongside the USS Enterprise, Hornet’s fighters and bombers dished out a heavy beating to nearby Japanese warships, including the Shōkaku, one of several aircraft carriers which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.

Japanese aircraft responded in kind, crippling the Hornet and preventing it from launching and recovering its aircraft. Attempts to repair the carrier and get it back in the fight proved to be futile against the Japanese onslaught, and the order was begrudgingly given to abandon ship. To prevent the carrier from falling into enemy hands, nearby American frigates and destroyers began shelling the Midway veteran after picking up its crew, but despite being considerably damaged, it refused to sink.

An advancing Japanese battle group engaged the Hornet, not knowing that it was emptied of its crew and aircraft, and sank it with a barrage of torpedoes. The ship would not to be seen again until early 2019 when the R/V Petrel rediscovered it not too far off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Of the 2200-strong crew aboard the Hornet, 140 were killed in action.

The Hornet currently sits at a depth of 17,000 feet in fairly decent condition. Pictures from the wreck site show barnacle-encrusted surfaces and hardware, rusting away in the salty and murky depths of the ocean.

Given that a number of the Hornet’s crew perished aboard the ship, it’s almost certain that the wreck is also their final resting site, making it a war grave. Thus, the Hornet will remain untouched and a protected site, as the Navy considers it hallowed ground. R/V Petrel is currently still operating in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands as it continues its search for other lost warships in the area, including the Japanese battleship Hiei.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first enlisted woman to graduate Sapper Leader Course

Sgt. Hailey Falk is the Army’s first enlisted female soldier to graduate from the rigorous Sapper Leader Course since the program’s inception in 1985.

Falk, 23, received her Sapper Tab, Dec. 7, 2018, after completing the “demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army.” She is assigned to B Company, 39th Engineer Battalion “Bull Strike,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Strike,” 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


“Sgt. Falk’s success as the first enlisted [female] graduate represents a step forward in the process of recognizing success in the combat arms field by performance, not by gender,” said Capt. John D. Baer, B Company commander, 39th BEB. “The combat engineer MOS [12 Bravo] opened to females in 2015, and Sgt. Falk’s graduation from the Sapper Leader Course reinforces the wisdom in that decision by proving that both genders can achieve success in the enlisted combat arms career field.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

According to the Army, the mission of the course is to “train and certify the next generation of Sapper leaders, to serve as members of Combined Arms team, through training in small unit tactics and combat engineer battle drills in a physically demanding, stressful and austere environment.”

Sapper Leader Course

Falk was promoted to sergeant in 2017. With a high Army Physical Fitness Test score and a dedication to physical fitness, Falk’s leadership saw her potential to succeed at the Sapper Leader Course.

“Sgt. Falk is an outstanding noncommissioned officer and embodies the be, know, do leadership model and esprit de corps. She accepts the most difficult task without hesitation. As an NCO she leads from the front and drives troops forward to accomplish all missions,” said Staff Sgt. William Frye, Falk’s squad leader.

Each platoon in B Company rallied to help Falk and her fellow soldiers succeed at Fort Leonard Wood.

Among the challenges Falk faced at the leader course was the Sapper physical fitness test. The test is graded by Army standards to the individual’s age and gender. The minimum passing criteria is 230 total score, with no less than 70 points in each event.

The Sapper Leader Course not only challenged Falk physically, but mentally. According to the Army, the Sapper Leader Course is designed “to build esprit de corps by training soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient) and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.”

At the end of the course, Falk’s instructor delivered the news that she had passed.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A Sapper Leader Course 06-17 squad detonates a silhouette charge to create an entrance through a wall during urban breaching exercises as part of the course.

(Photo by Stephen Standifird)

“At that moment, that’s when it hit me that I did all this. Now, it didn’t seem hard anymore,” she said. “During it seemed like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Then, after, I [thought] I could do this again, honestly.”

Baer said Falk’s success should be a challenge to all combat engineers of any gender.

“There are physiological differences between genders, and female combat engineers often have to work harder to meet the strenuous physical demands of combat relative to their male peers. Additionally, the unit’s operational demands prevent an extended preparation time for the school,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has humbly taken on these challenges, succeeding purely through hard work and mental toughness.”

As the first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the Sapper Leader Course, Falk said she encourages other soldiers to try it and plans to encourage those under her command to enroll in the school.

“I would say ‘go for it.’ Don’t be scared of failure. As long as you work hard for it and you don’t give up, you can push through it,” she said. “It’s not just you, there are other people who are working to help you get it. All of your battle buddies are earning your tab for you. You can’t just earn it yourself. Everyone has to work together.”

Her Army future

A week after graduation, Falk said she is catching up on her sleep and preparing for her next adventure — attending Pathfinder School in January.

“[I’m] hoping to get as many [Army] schools as I can,” she said. “I’m ready to do anything at this point. I just got through that, I guess I can do anything.”

Her squad leader and company commander agree Falk has a bright future.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A U.S. Marine climbs a rope while maneuvering through an obstacle course during a Sapper Leaders Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., October 20, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

“With Sgt. Falk graduating Sapper Leader Course, she now has no limits. She has faced and overcome the many challenges of one of the Army’s hardest schools,” Frye said. “Her unit now has one more lethal fighter among the ranks who is now an expert in mobility, counter mobility and survivability, ready to provide her task force with the tools to accomplish the most difficult missions.”

“Graduation from the course represents months of diligent preparation and an exceptional quantity of mental stamina,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has exhibited these qualities throughout her career in the 101st, and I suspect this is just the beginning of her success in the military.”

Falk remains humble about her accomplishment and credits her leadership and unit for her success.

“I still don’t think it’s a big deal, [but] I couldn’t have done it without everyone,” she said. “I’m just glad I have the support system back here. My first sergeant, my sergeant major came [to graduation]. A lot of people from the unit came to support. I owe it to all of them because without all the training — even though I didn’t want to do it at the time — the training that we do, that I dread, it ended up paying off.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America wanted to stop Earth’s rotation during Cold War

A book from a nuclear whistleblower has a stunning claim that the U.S. Air Force once had a plan to throw off Soviet missiles by stopping the rotation of the earth with a thousand rockets.

Yup, the Wile E. Coyote missile defense plan which, theoretically, could have worked.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Like this, but with fewer spectators and tires. And more rockets.

(NASA)

First, the qualifications: The allegation comes from Daniel Ellsberg who worked for RAND from 1960 to 1970 and says he saw the plans before he left the corporation. Basically, it called for 1,000 rocket engines laid horizontally on the Earth’s surface that would fire when missiles were in flight towards America. His claim is the only evidence that remains. He said he stole documents, but they were lost years later.

The plan was in early stages when Ellsberg saw it, and it seems to have gone nowhere. But, in the most limited sense, the science does kind of work. Before cruise missiles became all the rage, nearly all nuclear threats were limited to ballistic missiles and bombers. When it comes to ballistic missiles, they have no guidance after a certain point in the flight; some can’t be redirected after takeoff because they used solely inertial guidance.

So imagine if you shot an arrow at a moving target and then someone stopped the target from moving while the arrow was already in flight. You would likely miss since, you know, target moved. So far, so good.

But the rest of the science isn’t so great.

Can You Change Earth’s Rotation With Rockets – Project Retro

www.youtube.com

Can you change earth’s rotation with rockets – Project Retro

First of all, rockets laid against the ground would be pushing against the atmosphere, and the earth is much, much denser than the atmosphere. So most of the energy would accelerate the atmosphere rather than slow the rotation of the earth.

Even with a thousand of America’s most powerful rockets pushing at once, it’s likely that U.S. cities would be in basically the exact same spot. A YouTuber who plugged the numbers into some simulations found that the rotation would only slow enough to shift the target’s position so minutely that you couldn’t even measure it with conventional tools. Like, the missiles would only miss by the width of a couple of atoms. Not enough to save a single human life.

And then there’s the fact that, even if the rockets offset the cities’ positions by hundreds of yards or even a few miles, that would only shift the pain. The missiles would still impact on the east side of the city or just east of the city. For New York, the missile would explode over the ocean instead of the city. But east of Philadelphia is still New Jersey. East of Atlanta is still Georgia, east of Dallas is still Texas.

But the more success the rockets have in shifting the city’s position, the worse another problem is. Everything on earth experiences the earth’s inertia, we just can’t feel it because it’s always there. But if the earth’s inertia suddenly slowed or even stopped, we would experience it like the earth was suddenly moving.

Ballistic missiles coming from Russia would take something like 30 minutes from launch to impact, but the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily know the missile was in flight for the first few minutes. So, if we give the rockets 20 minutes of time to shift the planet’s rotation 11 miles, the distance needed to keep a missile aimed at western Washington D.C. from hitting the city, the rockets would have to slow the planet’s rotation by 33 mph for that entire 20 minutes. (But the nukes would still hit the suburbs.)

Imagine a model of a city sitting on top of a car, then imagine accelerating the car to 33 mph as fast as you could, driving it for 20 minutes, and then coasting to a stop. And the city isn’t built to withstand earthquakes.

And every human and structure and animal and droplet of water in the world would experience this slowdown at once, not just the ones targeted by the missiles. But not all tectonic plates would experience it exactly the same. Assuming the rockets would all have been placed in the U.S., the North American Plate would take all the stress.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

​Pictured: Still not as bad as worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

Where the plate borders other tectonic plates, this would certainly create earthquakes, potentially triggering tsunamis off the West Coast as well as deep within the Atlantic. Another fault line passes through the Caribbean south of Florida and it, too, would likely quake.

So, actual earthquakes and tsunamis would be triggered at the same time that every city in the world experiences a weird pseudo-quake as the rockets fire, and the oceans would slosh over continents, all so the missiles would land on the outskirts of a few dozen cities instead of the hearts of the cities.

The missiles are starting to not look so bad, huh? It seems likely that, if the Air Force ever did seriously consider this, it was like the nuclear moon bases. They wrote some papers, decided it was nonsense, and moved on. But then, they did make prototype nuclear-powered planes and rockets, so maybe not.

(Featured image by Kevin Gill CC BY 2.0)

MIGHTY HISTORY

An old Saxon poem depicts Jesus as a viking warrior chief

When Christianity was getting its start, the religion didn’t exactly spread like wildfire. In its early days, the world was a tough place to be spreading new ideas. To create converts, Christians had to appeal to many, many different kinds of people for centuries. Selling the “Prince of Peace” to the Germanic-Saxon tribes of Northern Europe was particularly hard, so Christians framed Jesus in a way the locals could better understand.


Saxons were pretty much forced to take on Christianity in the 8th and 9th Centuries after a guy named Charlemagne rolled across Northern Europe with a giant sword he named “Joyous” and forced everyone there to take Communion or take three feet of steel.

But that didn’t mean they were thrilled about it.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

“New Rule: Everyone who says anything about Valhalla gets sent there immediately.”

So, to make the idea of accepting the Christian god more amenable to the erstwhile pagan northerners, Jesus was recreated in a Saxon poem called Heliand, an epic poem that incorporated the Christian ideals with the Germanic warrior ethos – and that’s what caught on like wildfire. Not only did the Saxon warriors begin to accept the tenets of the new religion, the mix of cultures became the foundation of Medieval Europe and the culture of knighthood.

From there, the budding religion blossomed in the north and became widespread among the Saxons and beyond.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

“Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior?”

But it wasn’t just that the idea of God’s son being a warrior chieftain that appealed to the northerners. It was actually just a really rockin’ good poem for the time. It was so popular, in fact, that multiple copies of Heliand still survive. If we’re being honest with ourselves, no matter what we think of the Christian religion, the stories are pretty good. Of particular interest in the Heliand are the stories of Genesis, the Revolt of the Angels, the story of Cain and Abel, and the Destruction of Sodom.

Imagining the same characters from these Biblical stories in a different setting would changes the way we see Christianity, even today.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

All I’m saying is I would read more of the Bible if all the characters were vikings.

Another reason it caught on so fast was that it was written in a way familiar to the Saxons. It’s the largest known work ever written in the Old Saxon language and it was written in the epic poem style that was already popular with those people at the time. Jesus became a chieftain, prayers became runes, and the last supper became “the last mead hall feast with the warrior-companions.”

The poem still exists in many forms, with manuscripts being held by the British Museum, the Catholic Church in Vatican City, Germany’s Bavarian State Library, and more. You can buy an English-language copy of the Heliand on Amazon, which includes lines from the life and times of Jesus like:

The Chieftain of mankind is born in David’s hill-fort.
• The three foreign warriors present their gifts to the Ruler’s Child.
• John announces Christ’s coming to Middlegard.
• Christ the Chieftain is immersed in the Jordan by His loyal thane John.
• The Champion of mankind fights off the loathsome enemy.
• Christ, the might Chieftain, chooses His first warrior-companions.
• The mighty Rescuer calls twelve to be His men.

Now admit that Christmas and Easter just got a whole lot cooler.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How an illegal immigrant was drafted and earned the Medal of Honor

These days, it’s a common political debate. “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as infant children and grew up with full lives and roots in the U.S., are sometimes completely unaware they were undocumented until later in life. Back in the days of the Second World War, we didn’t call them “Dreamers,” but the phenomenon was the same: People like Silvestre Herrera didn’t know they were in the United States illegally until they received a draft notice from the Army.

But finding out he wasn’t technically a citizen wasn’t going to stop Herrera from serving the country that gave him so much.


Herrera was born in Chihuahua, Mexico to loving parents in 1917, but they succumbed to the worldwide Spanish Influenza epidemic that killed millions around the globe the very next year. When he was around one year old, his uncle brought him to the United States and raised him as a farmhand in Texas. Silvestre Herrera grew up believing his uncle was his father and that he was born in El Paso, Texas.

Even when he married an American, had American children, and moved to Arizona, Herrera believed he was living a typical Mexican-American life in the Southwest. It wasn’t until he got his draft notice for the Texas National Guard in 1944 did he find out the truth about his entire life.

“Son, you don’t have to go,” his uncle told him soberly. “They can’t draft you.” The reason for this is because the U.S. Army can’t draft a Mexican citizen. But Herrera wasn’t about to avoid serving in the military and was enthusiastic about giving back to the United States.

“I didn’t want anybody to die in my place,” he later said. “My adopted country had been so nice to me.”

Latinos fighting in American wars is nothing new, even by World War II standards. People of Hispanic descent have fought in every American conflict from the Revolution to the War in Afghanistan. Mexicans raised in the U.S. was also a common occurrence by 1944. People of Mexican descent in the U.S. were twice as likely to have been born and raised in the States than not. Those who served were fiercely dedicated to their adoptive homes and Silvestre Herrera was going to be one of those.

“I am a Mexican-American and we have a tradition,” He once said. “We’re supposed to be men, not sissies.”

The 27-year-old Herrera eventually ended up in the 142nd Infantry Regiment and found himself in the Alsace region of France in March, 1945. Though the war in Europe would be over in a few short months, the fighting on the Western front was as fierce as ever. The 142nd was a critical part of Operation Undertone, a 75-kilometer front designed to push the Nazi back across the Rhine and secure bridgeheads to cross the river.

Herrera’s platoon was just five miles from their objective at the occupied city of Haguenau when they took coordinated machine gun fire – one from a nearby wood and another across a minefield. As the rest of the men in the platoon took cover, Herrera charged one machine gun nest, firing his M1 Garand rifle from the hip and chucking two grenades into the nest. Eight enemy soldiers surrendered to Herrera in that action.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Reenactors recreating the 142nd 36th Infantry Division’s push into Germany in 1945 during the 2018 Camp Mabry Open House in Austin, Texas.

His platoon still found itself pinned down by another machine gun nest, this time protected by a minefield. Knowing full well the grass in front of him was a minefield, Herrera grabbed a two by four, pushing it along in front of him as he crawled across the minefield. Frustrated with his slow progress toward the nest, he tossed it away, stood up, and dashed for the gun emplacement. As he approached, he stepped on two mines, one on each foot. The resulting explosions blew off both of his feet.

He continued forward toward the enemy, running on his knees. The bleeding Mexican-American GI fell to his stomach and laid down rifle fire, keeping the attention of the Nazi machine gun as his platoon flanked the position and knocked it out. Bleeding profusely, Herrera still somehow managed to stay conscious. The Army was able to save Herrera’s knees and were eventually able to fit him with prosthetic feet.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Herrera receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman, 1945.

When he was to be awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroism that cost him his feet, President Truman was unsure if the man, still bed-ridden from his wounds, would be able to be present for the award. Sure enough, when the time came, Herrera was in full uniform as he rolled his wheelchair to the President of the United States.

“He told me he would rather be awarded the Medal of Honor than be president of the United States,” Herrera told the Arizona Republic in 2005. “That made me even more proud.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Herrera wearing the Medal of Honor and Mexico’s Order of Military Merit.

Just one year after receiving the U.S. military’s highest award for valor in combat, the Mexican government decided to award him Mexico’s Order of Military Merit, its highest award for valor in combat. Herrera is the only soldier ever to wear both. Most importantly, as Arizona’s first World War II Medal of Honor recipient, citizens of Arizona started a campaign to get Silvestre Herrera U.S. citizenship and even raised ,000 to help him purchase his first home.

After the war, Herrera went back to work, prosthetic limbs and all, for much of the rest of his life. According to his surviving relatives, his war injuries never kept him from doing anything physical or raising his family. He died in 2007, sixteen years after his beloved wife, Ramona.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 28th

It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.

To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.

Let these memes help soothe the pain.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Lock Load)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Call for Fire)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Shammers United)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via PNN)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via WWII Pattonposting)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army and Navy deploy to support Tyndall rebuild

While Hurricane Michael created catastrophic devastation to most of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the relief efforts were a reminder of the symbiotic relationship between military branches.

In the days following the storm, the Air Force came in droves to provide support, with the Navy and Army not far behind. Engineers from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Gulfport, Mississippi, and the 46th Engineer Battalion, Fort Polk, Louisiana, hit the ground running.


They traveled in convoys bringing with them construction vehicles and equipment. Unable to bring everything they would need, they also arranged to have contracted vehicles meet them at Tyndall AFB.

In teams, totaling more than 130 personnel, they worked to clear trees and debris.

“We are going full force getting trees removed, so we can help people access their buildings,” said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Zachary Bunter, MNCB 133. “Our main focus is 30 feet around buildings and roads.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Navy Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Vance Winecke, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., cuts branches off of trees as they are cleared away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

His team was successful in clearing the area around the base clinic.

“We are hoping to clear up enough that when the permanent party are returning it may be less of a shock,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Klein, 46th Engineer Battalion commander. “We want to restore hope that the base is going to come alive again.”

The Army has also taken on clearing out Fam Camp, which will be used as a staging area for rebuild efforts.

“We are all here to take care of each other,” said Klein. “We take care of our brothers and sisters on our right and left and that is what this mission is. I told (the Soldiers) to remember that they are helping their own and that is what is most important.”

For many, it is also about putting their training to work.

“For some of them, this is their first time seeing a disaster like this and doing first response,” said Bunter. “These type of missions, humanitarian and disaster recovery, are what we really shine at – being able to go out and help people whether it is here in the U.S. or overseas.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Sailors from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., work clearing trees away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

Klein echoes his sentiment.

“We have stood up to do hurricane response three times in the past two years and this is the first time we have actually been called out to help,” he said. “The soldiers are getting to experience what the Army does, what the military does and what the Department of Defense does.”

At the end of the day, the Army and Navy have the same end goal – to return normalcy to the base and surrounding community.

“Contractors have thanked us for helping because the base is a huge source of revenue for the local community,” said Bunter. “Hopefully this base recovers and hopefully what we do is a big help to everything.”

Getting the mission up and running is also a priority.

“We have to get it right so they are able to go out continue what their mission is,” said Klein. “They run a very important mission out of this base, so it is important for the nation and DoD to get it up and running as quick as possible.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.