4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

If someone were to ask me what the best advice is for someone buying a home, I would have to say “educate yourself.” I realize that sounds vague, but there is SO MUCH information, more importantly, incorrect information, out there and every family situation is unique. I’m hard-pressed to say what is most important, but breaking barriers to getting started would be first. Unfortunately, I see a lot of myths repeated on a daily basis, sometimes from fellow mortgage professionals! I will continue to share digestible pieces of information, but first, need to get these common myths out of the way, so no military family is deterred from getting started:


4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

There is no debt-to-income ratio cap.

The VA’s deciding factor on whether or not you can afford a loan is based on “residual income” (p.57), meaning how much money is left over every month after your debt obligations are met. This is a formula based on loan amount, geographic location and family size; it’s not always a one-size-fits-all answer. Some lenders have “overlays,” which are additional requirements that reach beyond what the VA themselves require, which is why the DTI myth is still floating around. The big takeaway here is that if you’re told by one lender your DTI is too high, they might have extra requirements on top of what the VA states, and you should SHOP AROUND! Not all lenders are created equal.

Residency requirements.

The VA has one residency requirement (pp.12-13), that you intend to make the home your primary residence and occupy “within a reasonable period of time” – usually deemed as 60 days. A spouse or dependent child can fulfill this residency requirement, but no other family member. I continuously see the myth of “one year,” circulated, but it is simply a myth. Last-minute moves and orders happen; the VA knows that, and according to their guidelines, you are not tied to live in any home for any period of time that doesn’t work for your family – period.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

County loan limits still apply for multiples.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Sec.6(a)(1)(C)(ii) that went into effect January 2020 lifted the VA county loan cap for how much money you can borrow with down, but that’s only if you have full entitlement available. A borrower can have multiple VA loans out at once, but if any entitlement is currently used, the county loan limits DO apply for bonus entitlements. You may be subject to a downpayment requirement if you exceed your remaining entitlement available.

Work history – what counts?

I repeatedly see posts in social media about a service member transitioning, receiving a new job (or job offer), and they don’t think they can qualify for a loan until two years into the job. This is totally false! Military active duty counts towards work history. The VA allows future employment income to be counted if the lender can verify a non-contingent job offer, including start date and salary. Documented retirement and disability pay also count towards qualifying income, but GI bill benefits do not.

Social media can give instant access to other people’s experiences, but some of the answers to your VA loan questions can only be found in a licensed professional. Make sure you’re talking to a lender that is passionate about educating you and your family, allowing you to make smart financial decisions. Not all financial institutions lend “by-the-book,” so ask more than one lender if something doesn’t feel right, or you’re not satisfied with the answer. An ounce of prevention, in this case, is certainly worth well more than a pound of cure!

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This is how a trial by combat actually worked

So, you got caught up in some legal action and you think you’re a tough enough fighter. You just saw that episode of Game of Thrones and decided, screw it — you want a trial by combat. While it’s still kind of technically legal in New York, it hasn’t ever been done. But if you want to be the first in a couple hundred years to have your fate decided in such a way, here’s how it works.


According to Medieval European law, a judicially sanctioned duel could take place to settle a disagreement in the absence of adequate evidence, a confession, or witnesses. It was mostly used to settle civil disputes and minor infringements. In Great Britain and Ireland, for example, you couldn’t use a trial by combat to appeal a murder charge.

 

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go
I mean technically, if you killed someone and got a trial by combat, all you’d have to do is kill another person in front of a judge and then you’re free to go. Seems unproductive.

The logic behind a trial by combat is best explained by looking at a similar, not-really-fair-and-impartial system, trial by ordeal. This is, essentially, just like the witch-hunt scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (but with a much deeper religious connection). In brief, the accused are subjected to “an ordeal,” like having a hot iron pressed against their skin. If God was on their side, he’d send divine intervention to save the accused. In that specific scenario, if your skin burnt, you’re guilty. If not, you’re free.

The “ordeals” spanned the gamut of ridiculousness at the discretion of the judge. Another infamous example was the trial by water that was used on accused witches (sound familiar?). All an accused witch would have to do to earn freedom is sink and not have their skin burnt by the water.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go
Which isn’t that difficult if you exhale, stay calm, and not be thrown in acid.

(Courtesy Photo)

A trial by combat was seen in the same way and generally used for things like land disputes in England. The two parties could settle on the location of a border between their lands in front of a judge and could either do the fighting themselves or request a champion. Each participant entered a sixty-foot-large square with a war hammer, a cudgel, a spear, and a shield. Knights could bring their own stuff, of course, which was much nicer.

Once the battle began, there was no stopping until one fighter was dead, disabled, or cried “Craven.” If the fight was stopped because of someone’s cowardice, they would immediately lose the trial and also be charged with outlawry. The winner of the combat got their way — after all, if God hadn’t wanted them to win, they wouldn’t have, right?

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go
The trials were also said to have drawn in large crowds. Who wouldn’t want to see two farmers fight to the death over who owned a tree?

(Courtesy Photo)

Historians can’t verify the last known trial by combat but the last certain judicial battle was in Scotland in 1597, when Adam Burntfield avenged his brother’s death.

MIGHTY MOVIES

VET Tv’s ‘A Grunt’s Life’ will be a cult-classic among troops and vets

It’s hard to find a good military film that truly encapsulates the spirit of the military. There’s a huge pile of duds. You know the ones I’m referring to. Then you have your epics like Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Bridge over the River Kwai. They’re expertly crafted, but they still lack that personal flair. Platoon comes close, and it earned all four of its Oscars because director Oliver Stone served in Vietnam – but it’s toned down for a wider audience.

Then you have VET Tv’s Kickstarter-funded film A Grunt’s Life. What it lacks in not having a widespread cinema release, it easily makes up in authenticity. And holy f*ck… It’s really f*cking good.


With that authenticity, it paints a more accurate picture of the post 9/11 wars than any other film. Warts and all. That being said…

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

There’s also plenty of fantasies about killing the buddy-f*cking commanding officer. You’ll learn to empathize with the platoon leader throughout the film.

(VetTV)

First thing’s first. A Grunt’s Life is not intended for family-friendly movie night. In fact, it’s a film that you kind of have to explain to your civilian friends/family before it shatters any previously held misconceptions about the military. Keep very much in mind that this film is basically what would happen if all of the deployment smoke pit conversations came to life and played out like we joked they would.

The film opens on the protagonist, Lt. Vince Murphy jacking off in the middle of a firefight and debating whether to join in or finish. A feeling anyone who’s ever been stuck on a Patrol Base could tell you is all too real. Even keeping an eye out on the background extras throughout the film, you’ll also almost always see them jerking it on guard duty. You’ll see plenty of dicks, but that’s kind of how deployments are…

There are also plenty of moments in the film that would be war crimes if committed in real life. Obviously, the filmmakers are not advocating them and even address them as being horrific with the characters entertaining the idea being called out as being horrific pieces of sh*t. But, well, that comes with the dark comedy that troops in the same grueling conditions adapt to.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

This film was done so well that you can’t even tell A Grunt’s Life was actually 185 times cheaper to make than Jarhead 2.

(VetTV)

One thing that I can’t stress enough about this film is the level of effort and quality that went into it. And it shows!

The production design is just as sh*tty as I remembered Afghanistan, and the little details in the costuming are spot on. The script is solid for a satisfying arc. The acting perfectly portrays real grunts (probably because much of the cast are vets.) The camera work is gorgeous, even if what’s on camera is absolutely disgusting. You can tell that everyone involved in the project poured their hearts into this film.

The film is crude. It’s so f*cking dark at times. I feel like a monster for laughing at moments that would make my family terrified. I f*cking love this film. It’s not going to see much play with a wider audience. Amazon banned it, the Department of Defense isn’t affiliated with it, and the only way to view it is on Vimeo at this link here.

And that’s alright. This film isn’t made for everyone. It’s made by vets, for vets. Time will tell that this film is going to endure and be a beloved classic among troops and veterans for years to come.

I give it 5.56 Stars.

You can watch the trailer below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

7 of the best hand-to-hand fight scenes, ranked

Audiences across the globe love to grab their popcorn, sit down in front of the big screen and watch an intense action film that is so vivid they forget they’re spectators in a narrative story. With all the explosions and epic dialogue film directors pride themselves on recording, taking the story to the next level with a hand-to-hand fight scene just might be what an action-packed movie needs to become legendary.


Although great hand-to-hand fight scenes are complicated to produce, a few films managed to pull the epic close-quarter battles off.

Here are a few that happen to get them right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhqRjQBxEqo

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Black Mamba vs Cobra Head in ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’

When moviegoers showed up to the theaters to watch one of Tarantino’s first films, they knew they were going to get clever dialogue and a whole bunch of “f” bombs. Little did they know, two non-martial artists (Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox) were about to treat the audience to a badass hand-to-hand fight scene that would get temporarily interrupted by a young girl.

Since both women are warriors, they continued to battle it out, even with a little girl in the house.

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Bringing a knife to a pen fight in ‘The Bourne Identity’

Before this film, Matt Damon wasn’t known for doing many action films, unless you count the third act of Steven Spielberg’s war epic Saving Private Ryan, which he had done four years prior.

However, once Damon stepped in the role of a government spy who had lost his memory, audiences were pleasantly surprised by the Good Will Hunting star as he got down-and-dirty for his dope fight scene.

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Neo vs Agent Smith in ‘The Matrix’

We don’t think we have to setup how f*cking cool this movie is, so we won’t, but whoever the hell thought Keanu Reeves could scrap it out like a Kung Fu master was beyond everyone.

If you thought you could predict that, well, then you’re a liar.

The scenes where Neo took on Agent Smith were over-the-top outstanding and proved that Johnny Utah from Point Break could save the world as the chosen one.

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The hammer beating in ‘Old Boy’

In 2003, Chan-wook Park directed a gritty film about a man who was kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years before being let go, only to learn that he must find his captor within the next five days.

If you haven’t seen this film, watch it this weekend. You’re missing out. But if you don’t have time, at least watch this single shot fight scene where the protagonist beats the sh*t out of everyone with a hammer.

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Tony Jaa breaks everyone’s bones in ‘The Protector’

The Protector stars Maui Thai legend Tony Jaa, whose character has his childhood elephant stolen from him and he embarks on a violent mission to retrieve his best friend.

This brutal action flick pulls no punches as Jaa honestly kicks the sh*t out of everyone he encounters, especially a room full of bad guys — who he eliminates in a matter of minutes.

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Jackie Chan fights a warehouse full of thugs in ‘Rumble in the Bronx’

If we need to introduce how badass Jackie Chan is, then you need to get out more. The Kung Fu legend has choreographed some of the coolest looking fight scenes ever. His unique personality and fighting ability look like poetry in motion.

In 1995’s Rumble in the Bronx, Chan takes on a warehouse full of New York thugs and uses his environment as a weapon to defeat his troubled aggressors.

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Bruce Lee goes up against Chuck Norris ‘Way of the Dragon’

What else can we say besides legend vs. legend? It’s cinematic hand-to-hand combat at its very best. We’re done talking about it. Watch it for yourself.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This radar could make it very hard to hide – even on land

Radars have long been used to track targets in the air or at sea but, traditionally, radar isn’t known for its ability to track targets on land. Despite its reputation, radar has been used for exactly that purpose as far back as Operation Desert Storm.


Electronics have advanced rapidly since then, however. In the last 25 years, we’ve gone from clunky desktop computers that ran up to 16 megabytes of RAM and a 250 megabyte hard drive to using laptops that hold 32 gigabytes of RAM and have terabytes of storage space. Today, the cell phone you hold in your hand is arguably more powerful than a top-of-the-line gaming PC of 25 years ago.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

The E-8C JSTARS had to be based on the Boeing 707.

(USAF photo)

Well, that electronics revolution has helped radars, too. Previously, you needed a jumbo jet, like the 707, to carry a radar system around. Modern radars, however, are a lot smaller. One such radar is the APS-134G from Telephonics. According to an official handout, the radar weighs just under 450 pounds!

Despite being lightweight, this radar can do a lot. Among its capabilities is a ground moving target indicator, synthetic aperture radar imaging, wide-area surveillance, coastline mapping, weather mapping, and an aircraft detection and location mode that can simultaneously process over 300 targets!

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

The HU-25 Guardian used an earlier version of the APS-143.

(USCG photo)

The small size of this system means that you no longer need a jumbo jet to get a powerful eye in the sky. Among the planes capable of carrying this radar are Beech King Air planes, Bombardier Global business jets, and the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

In short, this radar will make it very hard for bad guys to hide.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This train thief earned the first Medal of Honor

Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott was only 19 when a civilian spy and contraband smuggler proposed a daring plan, asking for volunteers: A small group of men was to sneak across Confederate lines, steal a train, and then use it as a mobile base to destroy Confederate supply and communications lines while the Union Army advanced on Chattanooga.


4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

It was for this raid that the Army would first award a newly authorized medal, the Medal of Honor. Jacob Parrott received the very first one.

The military and political situation in April, 1862, was bad for the Union. European capitals were considering recognizing the Confederacy as its own state, and the Democrats were putting together a campaign platform for the 1862 mid-terms that would turn them into a referendum on the war.

Meanwhile, many in the country thought that the Army was losing too many troops for too little ground.

It was against this backdrop that Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel heard James J. Andrews’ proposal to ease Mitchel’s campaign against Chattanooga with a train raid. Mitchel approved the mission and Andrews slipped through Confederate lines with his volunteers on April 7, 1862.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

An illustration for The Penn publishing company depicting the theft of the “General” locomotive by Andrews’ Raiders.

(Illustration by William Pittenger, Library of Congress)

The men made their way to the rail station at Chattanooga and rode from there to Marietta, Georgia, a city in the northern part of the state. En route, two men were arrested. Another two overslept on the morning of April 12 and missed the move from Marietta to Big Shanty, a small depot.

Big Shanty was chosen for the site of the train hijacking because it lacked a telegraph station with which to relay news of the theft. The theory was that, as long as the raiders stayed ahead of anyone from Big Shanty, they could continue cutting wires and destroying track all the way to Chattanooga without being caught.

At Big Shanty, the crew and passengers of the train pulled by the locomotive “The General” got off to eat, and Andrews’ Raiders, as they would later be known, took over the train and drove it north as fast as they could. Three men from the railroad gave chase, led by either Anthony Murphy or William Fuller. Both men would later claim credit for the pursuit. Either way, “The Great Locomotive Chase” was on.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

An illustration for The Penn publishing company shows Andrews’ Raiders conducting sabotage.

(Illustration by William Pittenger, Library of Congress)

For the next seven hours and 87 miles, the Raiders destroyed short sections of track and cut telegraph wires while racing to stay ahead of Fuller, Murphy, and the men who helped them along the way. The Raiders were never able to open a significant lead on the Confederates and were forced to cut short their acquisition of water and wood at Tilton, Georgia.

This led to “The General” running out of steam just a little later. The Raiders had achieved some success, but had failed to properly destroy any bridges, and the damage to the telegraph wires and tracks proved relatively quick to repair.

Mitchel, meanwhile, had decided to move only on Huntsville that day and delayed his advance on Chattanooga. All damage from the raid would be repaired before it could make a strategic difference.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

An illustration for The Penn publishing company depicting the Ohio tribute to Andrews’ Raiders.

(Illustration by William Pittenger, Library of Congress)

The Raiders, though, attempted to flee the stopped train but were quickly rounded up. Eight of them, including Andrews, were executed as spies in Atlanta. Many of the others, including Parrott, were subjected to some level of physical mistreatment, but were left alive.

Parrott and some of the other soldiers were returned in a prisoner exchange in March, 1863. Despite its small impact on the war, the raid was big news in the North and the men were received as heroes. Parrott was awarded the Medal of Honor that month, the first man to receive it. Five other Raiders would later receive the medal as well.

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“The General” went on an odd tour after the war, serving as a rallying symbol for both Union and Confederate sympathizers. “The General” was displayed at the Ohio Monument to the Andrews’ Raiders in 1891. The following year, it was sent to Chattanooga for the reunion of the Army of the Cumberland.

In 1962, it reprised its most famous moments in a reenactment of the raid to commemorate the centennial of the Medal of Honor. It now sits in the Southern Museum of Civil War Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia, the same spot from which it was stolen and the chase began.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat alleges new evidence that Russian suspects are spies

The independent Bellingcat research organization claims to have more information that the two men suspected in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.

Bellingcat said on Sept. 20, 2018, that a joint investigation with Business Insider “can confirm definitively” that the two suspects, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, have links to the GRU, “based on objective data and on discussions with confidential Russian sources familiar with the identity of at least one of the two persons.”

On Sept. 14, 2018, Bellingcat said it had reviewed Russian documents that indicated the two men had no records in the Russian resident database prior to 2009, a sign they may be working as operatives for the government.


“Crucially,” Bellingcat added at the time, “at least one man’s passport files contain various ‘top-secret’ markings which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives.”

In its latest report, Bellingcat said it and Business Insider obtained Petrov’s and Boshirov’s border-crossing data for several European and Asian countries. It said the men’s names are believed to be aliases.

“Their globe-trotting, unpredictably meandering itinerary is at times reminiscent of characters out of [film series and television program] Mission Impossible, yet a focus on the countries of Western Europe is clearly visible,” it said.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

A handout picture taken in Salisbury of two Russian men who have been identified as Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.

Bellingcat said a source in a Western European law enforcement agency informed it that the suspects had been previously arrested in the Netherlands, but “no information has been provided as to the time and context” of the arrests.

Passport numbers

Bellingcat said it discovered there were just 26 intervening passport numbers between Petrov’s document and the cover passport issued for Eduard Shishmakov, aka Shirokov, a former Russian military attache in Warsaw expelled by Poland in 2014 for espionage.

Shishmakov’s passport was issued in August 2016, the report said.

The finding suggests that the special authority that issued the passports had only granted 26 passports between April and August 2016, Bellingcat said.

It has been previously reported that the passport numbers of Boshirov and Petrov differed only three digits and that they held “Top Secret” and “Do Not Provide Information” markings.

The documents were allegedly issued by an authority normally reserved for intelligence officers and important government officials, it said.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but later 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 Russian President Vladimir 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.

Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 weirdest names for military operations in history

While researching another story, I came across a recent exercise designed to steel NATO for battling Russian subs. The war game was named for a ferret-like creature that subsists on insects and worms.

Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Nothing like a small mammal to drive terror into an adversary’s heart.

How do military leaders come up with these? In the case of the US, military commands are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two word names. Such as Agile Diver. The rules forbid “commercial trademarks,” “anything offensive to good taste,” or that are similar in spelling to a code word.

They also set aside words for certain commands. “Cheese,” for example, is only to be used by the chief of naval operation’s office. Ditto “rabbit.”

(Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically warned about “frivolous” words, saying no one would want to tell a grieving mother her son died in an operation named “Bunnyhug.”)

Here’s a totally objective guide to the worst-named military operations and exercises of all time.


4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Bold Alligator is a large-scale amphibious exercise that showcases naval forces like the US Marines.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

1. Exercise Bold Alligator

Alligators are cold-blooded and pretty low energy most of the time.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Ferrets make great pets.

(Photo by Alfredo Gutiérrez)

2. Operation Black Ferret

Ferrets are small, furry mammals that have been domesticated. The wild ones are known to dance a gig to hypnotize their prey, according to Mental Floss.

Operation Black Ferret was a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Mermaid performer Paisley Easton.

(Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)

3. Operation Mermaid Dawn

In addition to not finding ferrets frightening — setting aside “The Big Lebowski” scene where a ferret scares the Dude in a bathtub — I don’t especially find the prospect of mermaids at dawn threatening.

Rebels named their 2011 assault on Tripoli, according to this excellent overview of military naming by Mental Floss.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

This was the name for a 2005 mission to seize weapons and propaganda before a referendum on the Iraqi constitution.

(US Army)

4. Operation Flea Flicker

Got an itch?

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

(Photo by Ricky Kharawala)

5. Operation Cajun Mousetrap III

What about the mousetrap makes it Cajun? And did this mousetrap work better the 3rd time around?

This was the name of a nighttime raid on Samarra, Iraq in 2004.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

The saxophones of the US Air Force’s jazz ensemble.

(Airman 1st Class Jalene Brooks/US Air Force)

6. Exercise Steadfast Jazz

This is one jazz set that just doesn’t quit!

Fully 6,000 troops in NATO’s ready-response force participated in this ludicrously named 2013 exercise.

Hat tip to Business Insider’s Pentagon Correspondent Ryan Pickrell for the suggestion.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

The mongoose’s connection with this massive NATO naval exercise remains unclear to the author.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

7. Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Notably, NATO also has an Exercise Dynamic Manta.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

(Photo by Jan Kahánek)

8. Operation Therapist


How does it make you feel?

The was the name of a 2005 Army mission in Tikrit, Iraq.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

A US war game had a name pretty similar to a Nirvana hit.

Notable mentions.

These operations and exercises almost made the cut.

Gringo-Goucho: Aircraft carrier exercises involving the US and Argentine navies. The term “gringo” occasionally has a pejorative meaning for English-speaking Americans.

Team Spirit: A joint US-South Korea training that ended in 1993, and that keeps reminding me of Nirvana’s 1991 hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Operation Desert Snowplough: Reportedly a name for a Danish operation during the Iraq War.

Operation Frequent Wind: The evacuation of civilians from Saigon in 1975.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Star Wars game puts you in the cockpit for immersive space dogfights

Ever since the release of Star Wars back in 1977, fans have dreamed of journeying to a galaxy far, far away to hop in the cockpit and take the controls of a starfighter. With the release of Star Wars: Squadrons, that dream is closer than it has ever been. Harnessing the power of virtual reality, Squadrons allows players to take part in epic space battles piloting eight different starships. The entire game can also be played using a VR headset and joystick for increased immersion.


4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Squadrons puts you in the cockpit (EA Games)

Squadrons features a single-player campaign that takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi and tells the story of two rival squadrons. The player follows both Vanguard Squadron of the New Republic and Titan Squadron of the Imperial Remnant. In the wake of the Battle of Endor, the New Republic is building a new class of starship that will help them defeat the Empire once and for all. With the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, the Imperial Remnant gains wind of this new starship and seeks to stop its creation. The player will fly on both sides of the conflict, meeting both new and familiar characters along the way.

Throughout the campaign, the player will be introduced to the four different classes of ships available in Squadrons—the Fighter Class, Interceptor Class, Bomber Class, and Support Class. For the New Republic, players can fly the T-65B X-Wing Fighter, RZ-1 A-Wing Interceptor, BTL-A4 Y-Wing Bomber, and the UT-60D U-Wing Starfighter/Support Craft. With the Imperial Remnant, players can pilot the Sienar Systems TIE/In Space Superiority Starfighter, TIE/IN Interceptor, TIE/sa Bomber, and TIE/rp Reaper Attack Lander. Each ship class offers unique strengths and weaknesses and must be flown accordingly to achieve maximum combat effectiveness. For example, while interceptors are quick and agile, they are not as effective at attacking capital ships as bombers.

Highlighting the detail put into the game’s development, the starships of each faction fly as differently as the different classes as a result of differing starfighter doctrine between the New Republic and Imperial Remnant. The Rebel Alliance and subsequent New Republic placed an emphasis on pilot survivability. As a result, all of their ships carry shield generators. The Imperial Navy, however, was originally designed to maintain order, not fight a war. As a result, the TIE Fighter is unshielded, a cost-saving measure implemented by the Empire in its design. Additionally, Imperial TIE Fighter doctrine emphasized offensive operations against small uprisings. To fit this role, the TIE Fighter offers excellent forward visibility thanks to its large front window, but offers little in the way of upward and rearward visibility. Side visibility is nonexistent due to the TIE fighter’s large vertical wings.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Battles take place over a multitude of new and familiar locations (EA Games)

Each starship offers players a different experience, since they can only be flown in first-person view. Ship customization, both internally and externally, is available. Though, because players will only see the inside of their ships during combat, external modifications like paint schemes will serve more to differentiate the player to other pilots.

To further increase the game’s immersion, Squadrons gives players the option to completely remove the traditional floating HUD. Instead, players can opt to have all relevant information displayed natively on the cockpit’s dash readouts. With this option, weapon systems, engine performance, shield status (if applicable), and even radar must be read on individual screens while the player simultaneously scans the battlefield. Players must also manage these systems, transferring power between them as the situation dictates. Getting blasted from your 6 o’clock? Allocate all power to your shields to keep from getting turned into space scrap. No shields on your TIE Fighter? Overcharge those engines and get the heck out of there. Maybe you have an unsuspecting enemy fighter lined up for the kill. Send all power to your laser cannons and vaporize them.

All of these Starfighter characteristics carry over into the game’s multiplayer mode as well. Players can fly in the traditional 5v5 Dogfight mode where victory is determined by kill count, but the premiere multiplayer mode in Squadrons is Fleet Battles. These multistage conflicts start in a social hub where each team devises a strategy. Players then launch from their respective hangars and attempt to push the frontline to the enemy’s side. Depending on which way the frontline moves, teams will have to defend or attack two capital ships accordingly. The final stage will have players attacking or defending a flagship with a shield generator, power, and targeting subsystems. Crossplay is also enabled, allowing players across gaming platforms to play together.
4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Maintain your situational awareness (EA Games)

The game’s developer, Motive Studios, has said that the game is not a live service. While the game could be augmented with future downloadable content, Motive insisted that the game be 100% complete for release. Another oddity for a game published by EA, Squadrons does not have any type of microtransaction system. All customization options are purchased with in-game currency earned by playing the game.

Thus far, reception has been mixed. While some players embrace the challenge and immersion of such a detailed game, others find the near-simulator game style too difficult. As a result, used copies can already be found at a slight discount. With its attention to detail and level of immersion, Squadrons carries on the legacy of Star Wars dogfighting classics like Starfighter and Rogue Squadron as a huge technological evolutionary leap forward. Just be sure to loosen up and stay on target.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finds a fix for safety failures in M4 and M4A1 rifles

U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.

In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.

After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.


“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”

During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”

“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”

“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.

(U.S. Army photo)

Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.

Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.

About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.

The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.

The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.

“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”

It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”

TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.

“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China celebrates 70 years of Communist rule with a military flex

In 1949, Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong finally managed to chase the Chinese Nationalists off the mainland and to Taiwan, where they remain to this day. After 70 years of communism and varying degrees of personal and economic freedom for the Chinese people, the Chinese are finally able to call Chinese Communism something of a success – and China doubled down on the formula, celebrating its platinum jubilee with a military parade, unlike anything it threw before.


Communists love a parade. Dictators do too. Few events are more associated with Communist dictatorships than a good ol’ fashioned parade of ground troops, tanks, and maybe some nuclear missiles. This trait was on full display in China on Oct. 1, 2019, as Chinese President Xi Jinping watched the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China goose step their way into the world headlines on China’s 70th birthday.

The Chinese President was dressed for the occasion, wearing the distinctive “Mao Suit,” popularized by the Chairman and founder of the PRC, a simple button-down tunic with baggy pants. The suit is a functional form of dress, encouraged by Mao for citizens of all social strata to wear. It soon became a symbol of Chinese communism. He spent part of the parade in a limousine, shouting encouragement at Chinese soldiers, who shouted catchphrases back at the leader.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

A float featuring China’s national emblem travels past Tian’anmen Gate during a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China Oct. 1, 2019.

(China Daily)

The parade itself was a showcase of Chinese capabilities, engineered to remind the world just what China’s capabilities are. Along with the standard presence of Chinese-built tanks, missiles, and even drones, the parade included China’s homebuilt DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, a first for any Chinese parade. The ICBM is the world’s longest-range nuclear missile, capable of reaching the United States in 30 minutes with six to ten warheads per missile.

Also on display for the first time was China’s JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which is not capable of reaching the United States from Chinese waters, but provides China with its own complete nuclear triad. The two missiles are the most powerful weapons in the PRC’s arsenal. Also marching in the parade were 15,000 Chinese communist troops and 70 floats describing the history of China and the different cultural parts of the country.

Notably missing from the parade were any of the billion-plus average Chinese citizens who were shut out of the parade. Despite the celebrations, China isn’t the unified bastion of communism it appears to be, as it faces opposition in areas nominally under its control, including the Muslim Xinjiang Province, as well as Tibet and Hong Kong, where the Communist leadership is facing a mountain of protests to Beijing’s rule.

Taiwan, which China claims as an inseparable part of China, condemned the parade and the Chinese “dictatorship.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US carriers are mythical juggernauts that might die in a new war

The US Navy’s 11 aircraft super carriers represent the envy of the world in terms of naval might and power projection, but the cult status they’ve achieved and the rise of Russia and China’s missile fleets could lose the US its next war.

The myth of aircraft carrier goes that in times of crisis, the first question a president asks is: Where are the aircraft carriers?

The US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers tower above most buildings at 130 feet above the waterline. More than 1,000 feet in length displacing 100,000 tons of water, they transcend the idea of ships and become floating cities, or mobile airfields.


Around 80 aircraft and 7,000 sailors, marines, and pilots live aboard the craft as its nuclear reactor steams it across the world’s oceans at a remarkable clip. One of these carriers costs about billion. The aircraft on board likely cost another billion or so.

The lives of the crew and the significance of the carrier to the US’s understanding of its national power are priceless.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

Mythical creatures

Jerry Hendrix, a former captain in the US Navy who worked with the chief of naval operation’s executive panel on naval aviation and missile defense cautioned at a Heritage Foundation talk on Dec. 11, 2018, that the carriers may have become too mythological to fight.

“Carriers have gone beyond mere naval platforms to become near mystical symbols of American national power,” said Hendrix. “They are the symbol of the nation, its greatness, in the way they are perceived as asset of national prestige.”

If the US purchased all of one carrier in a single year, it would eat 80% of the total shipbuilding budget, Hendrix said.

But with the proliferation of carrier-killer missiles from China and Russia, meaning missiles purpose-built to sink carriers at sea from ranges far beyond the furthest missile from the furthest-flying jet off a carrier’s deck, it’s not immediately clear how these massive ships can bring their impressive power to bear.

Carriers sail with a strike group of dedicated warships that can take on submarines, missiles, aircraft, and other surface combatants.

Bryan Clarke, former special assistant to the chief of naval operations who also spoke at Heritage, said that in a best-case scenario, a carrier strike group could down 450 incoming missiles. China could likely muster 600 missiles in an attack about 1,000 miles off their coast.

So short of some revolution in strike group armaments or tactics, China looks to have a solid chance at sinking the mythical aircraft carrier.

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

The last time the US lost an aircraft carrier was in World War II.

(NETNebraska)

Too big to fail?

“Presidents may well be hesitant to introduce carriers inside dense portions of the enemy’s threat environment,” said Hendrix. “The military may make that advice based upon the mission they’ve been given,” he continued, “but the president might not feel comfortable risking it.”

The commander in chief of the US military owes his job to public opinion. Losing an aircraft carrier at sea would shock a nation that hasn’t seen such destruction in a single battle since the Vietnam war.

“For fear of loss of national prestige or even their political power,” US presidents might not even want to use carriers, said Hendrix. “For the loss of an aircraft carrier will have a significant impact on the national conversation.”

“We need to begin as a nation to have a conversation that prepares the American people for war,” said Hendrix. “There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential of conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers. We need to move these assets back in the realm of being weapons, and not being perceived as mystical unicorns.”

But Bryan McGrath, founding managing director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a naval consultancy, told Business Insider that the US’s enemies would think twice before targeting a carrier, and that a wartime US Navy and people can and have risen to the task of fighting on through sunk carriers in the past.

“The decision to go after an aircraft carrier, short of the deployment of nuclear weapons, is the decision that a foreign power would take with the most reticence,” said McGrath. “The other guy knows that if that is their target, the wrath of god will come down on them.”

For now, the expert community remains split around the utility of aircraft carriers going forward, but the US Navy continues to build them and set thousands to sea on them in a sure sign of confidence.

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

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