We are more than halfway through the final season of Game of Thrones and with only two episodes left, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered. But while season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks” established the clear endgame for the beloved show, it did ignore what is arguably largest remaining questions in all of Westeros: What is the point of Bran Stark? Seriously, for eight seasons we have been watching this kid learn to harness magical powers only for none of it to have any payoff and if he doesn’t start doing something useful ASAP, he may turn out to be the most pointless character on a beloved TV show since Cousin Oliver managed to ruin The Brady Bunch.
Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”
“The Last of the Starks” was a classic “setting the table” episode of Game of Thrones, as the fourth episode of season 8 allowed characters and viewers paused to briefly look back on what just happened (Arya fucking up the Night King) while also establishing the conflicts that will surely define the remaining two episodes. Dany struggled with her Mad Queen impulses while her two most trusted advisors discussed the merits of committing treason. Cersei told Euron she was pregnant with their baby approximately 48 hours after they fucked and the steampunk pirate seems dumb enough to believe it, even with Tyrion accidentally showing the obvious holes in the timeline. And Jaime finally had sex with someone he wasn’t related to before breaking her heart and heading south to play a high-stakes game of Fuck, Marry, Kill with his twin sister.
But, for a moment, let’s forget about all the heavy-handed foreshadowing and the baffling logistics of travel in Westeros to focus on Bran. More specifically, let’s focus on the sincere question of whether or not Bran is actually going to do anything. Since he was pushed out of the Winterfell Tower by Jaime in the first episode, the last remaining son of Ned Stark has been on a unique journey, mostly avoiding the politics and wars of the realm in favor of becoming the Three-Eyed Raven by watching memories whilst sitting in a tree. And once he finally became the Three-Eyed Raven, he was suddenly an emotionless, all-knowing demigod whose only real weakness was lacking social decorum.
Curb Your Game of Thrones – Jaime reunites with Bran
Of course, Bran’s exact powers and purpose remained a mystery to viewers and characters alike, leading to a wide array of internet speculation about Bran’s unspecified motivation. Many have pointed to him becoming the true hero of the show, while others have said he is Westeros’ Gepetto, secretly pulling all of the strings of the less enlightened. Many insisted that he was secretly the Night King. Others have said that he only defeated the Night King because he’s actually the show’s true villain. Some people still think he’s going to be responsible for Dany becoming the Mad Queen while also making her father the Mad King.
Point is, there were a lot of theories and while it was never really clear what role Bran had to play in the Game of Thrones, it seemed obvious that whatever he was going to do was going to be pretty massive. After all, the entire reason the Night King was heading south was to kill Bran, so it stood to reason that Bran was going to have some epic trick up his sleeve to undo his would-be killer. However, Bran ended up playing virtually no part in taking down his longtime rival, as Arya was the one who delivered the final blow.
Bran’s lack of involvement or scheming in the battle left many fans confused and underwhelmed. But Game of Thrones has long been a show that specialized in undermining and subverting expectations, so while Bran was essentially a glorified bench-warmer in the Battle of Winterfell, perhaps he would reveal his true masterplan in the Battle for King’s Landing. Except, with only two episodes left, none of this has actually happened and we are quickly running out of time. As Jon and Dany prepare to face-off against Euron and Cersei, Bran continues to speak in haikus and not actually contribute in any meaningful way. And, at this point, it’s hard to even imagine what he could do because we still don’t really know what Bran’s whole deal is.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The 64th anniversary of the U-2 spy plane’s historic, and accidental, first flight came in early August 2019.
While much about the Dragon Lady has changed in the past six decades — most of the 30 or so in use now were built in the 1980s, and they no longer do overflights of hostile territory, as in the 1960 flight in which Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union — the U-2 is still at the front of the military’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission, lurking off coastlines and above battlefields.
The U-2 is probably best known for what pilots call “the optical bar camera,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at an Air Force event in New York City in May 2019.
“It’s effectively a giant wet film camera,” about the size of a projector screen, that fits in the belly of the aircraft and carries 10,500 feet of film, Patterson said during a panel discussion about the U-2 and its mission.
The camera has improved greatly since the 1950s. “What we can do with that, for instance, in about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California,” Patterson said. “The fidelity is such that if somebody is holding a newspaper out … you can probably read the headlines.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loading test film into an onboard camera for a test in preparation for a U-2 mission at a base in Southwest Asia in 2008.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)
The aircraft’s size and power allow it to carry a lot of hardware, earning it the nickname “Mr. Potato Head.”
“We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose, and you could actually image … out to the horizon, which, if you think about it, from 70,000 feet, is about 300 miles,” Patterson said. “So if you’re looking 360 degrees, you can see 600 miles in any direction.”
Another option is “like a big digital camera,” Patterson said. “It’s got a lens about the size of a pizza platter, and it has multiple spectral capabilities, which means it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify what is this material made out of.”
“We also carry what’s called signals payloads, so we can listen to different radars, different communications,” Patterson said. “We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft [with which] we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing.”
“Some of these sensors can see hundreds and hundreds of miles, so even if we’re not overflying, you can get a real deep look at what you actually want to see,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman, also a U-2 pilot, said at the event.
99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen preparing a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 13, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
‘Just a sensor’
The U-2 is “just a sensor in a broader grid that the United States has all over the world … feeding data to these professionals,” Patterson said.
Whether it’s radar imagery or signals intercepts, “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world where we have a team of almost 300 intel analysts,” Patterson said.
“So while we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that ISR mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe,” he added. “They’re … distilling it, turning it into usable reports for the decision makers, and [getting] that information disseminated.”
Capt. Joseph Siler, the chief of intelligence training with the 492nd Special Operations Support Squadron, was tasked leading those efforts.
“I loved talking to the [U-2] pilots, and … having that pilot [who] is actually understanding the context of where they’re at and is able to dynamically change direction and help us, it just brings something to the fight,” especially when sudden changes require a new plan, Siler said at the same event, during a panel discussion about the mental and physical strain of Air Force operations.
A U-2 pilot signaling flight-line personnel while taxiing at Beale Air Force Base in California on Sep. 20, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Valentina Viglianco)
“I got more of the quick-time, actionable intelligence” from U-2s, Siler said. “It’s all going into this common picture, but that’s where they fit into it.”
That doesn’t mean the U-2 can’t play a role in the action on the ground as it unfolds.
“We have multiple radios on board,” Patterson said. “So let’s say you’re flying a mission over a desert somewhere and we have troops on the ground that are in contact. We’ll be talking directly to them sometimes, providing imagery.”
That imagery isn’t going straight from the U-2 to the troops, but “they can tell me what they need to listen to, where they need to look, and we’ll move the sensors to that spot, snap an image, kick it back over whatever data links we need to get it to the intel professionals,” he said. “They will do their rapid analysis and send that, again, to the forward edge, where those folks can take a look at it.”
“You can see troop movements. You can see things like that,” Patterson said. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking for [improvised explosive devices] and providing [that information] real-time to convoys and things like that. I’ve done that personally.”
US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greeting his ground support crew before a mission in a U-2, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in 2010.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)
‘Constant, constant stress’
Patterson analogized the relay of information to a game of telephone.
It’s on “the airmen that are receiving that to be able to make that decipherable and useful,” Siler said of intelligence gathered by U-2s. “When I was in there, in that environment, receiving all that information and how that work, it’s just such a weird place. It’s different from traditional conflict.”
The waves of incoming information are a source of “constant, constant stress,” added Siler, who has spoken about his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m getting information from the U-2. I’m getting information from satellites. I’m getting information from an MQ-9, and I have an Army task force that’s about to go in, and there’s people’s lives that are going to be tested,” Siler said.
“What the intelligence community does is we look at all the information we can get, from whatever sensor it is, we pipe that together, and then we say, ‘All right, based upon what the U-2 is saying and what the Global Hawk is saying and what the satellites are saying, we believe this is the best route, this is the best time.'”
Final decisions about when and where to go are made by operators. But, Siler said, “you can imagine the sense of responsibility that these young airmen, 19, 20 years old, feel as they make those calls, and we say, ‘is that the bad guy or is that his 16-year-old son?'”
A U-2 pilot driving a high-performance chase car on the runway to catch a U-2 during a low-flight touch-and-go at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 15, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
The reason the U-2 funnels that intelligence back to crew members on the ground is that “it’s so much data that we just simply can’t process all of it on board,” Patterson said.
A U-2 pilot can key on an interesting signal picked up by a sensor, sending imagery to intelligence analysts on the ground. Those analysts can decide to look into it, routing a satellite to take a look or sending a drone to get photos and video.
The process can run the other way as well. A tip from social media can lead an analyst on the ground to send in a U-2 to gather photos and other imagery. If necessary, assets like a drone or an F-16 with video capability can be sent in for a closer look.
“As you start networking [these assets], using these algorithms and using these processing capabilities, if I hear a signal here, and somebody hears the same signal but they’re over here, you can instantly refine that” if the assets are in sync, Patterson said. “We’re able to map down some pretty interesting stuff pretty quick.”
A U-2 high above the earth.
(US Air Force)
But the goal is do it quicker, and the Air Force has been looking at artificial intelligence and machine learning to sort through all the data gathered by U-2s and other aircraft and sensors and make sense of it.
Integrating that into the broader intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission is still in its “infancy,” Nauman said.
“We know the capability’s there. We know the commercial sector is really doing a lot of development on that. They’re ahead on that frankly,” Nauman said. “We’re trying to figure out, A) how to catch up and be as good, and then Part B is what do we do with that, how do we make ourselves more effective with that.”
“Processing is getting really good, really fast, so there are a number of efforts to actually take a lot … of the stuff that we collect, running it through an algorithm at … what we call the forward edge — like right on board the aircraft — [and] disseminate that information to the fight real-time, without having to reach back, and those some of the projects that we’re working right now,” Patterson said, describing what senior leaders have called “algorithmic warfare.”
“It’s easier to put racks and racks of servers and [graphics processing units] on the ground, obviously, to do the processing, but how do we take a piece of that and move that to the air?” Nauman said. “I think that’s going to be kind of the follow-on step.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The acting Navy secretary is reportedly under a lot of pressure from President Donald Trump to get the USS Gerald R. Ford to work, something his predecessor failed to do.
The aircraft carrier is over budget, behind schedule, and still experiencing problems with certain key technologies, namely the advanced weapons elevators built to quickly deliver munitions to the flight deck.
“The Ford is something the president is very concerned about,” Thomas Modly, who very recently took over as acting secretary of the Navy after former secretary Richard Spencer resigned, said at the US Naval Institute Defense Forum this week, Military.com reports.
“I think his concerns are justified because the ship is very, very expensive and it needs to work,” he added, explaining that there is a “trail of tears as to why we are where we are, but we need to fix that ship and make sure that it works.”
Modly assured the audience that fixing the Ford would be a top priority. “There is nothing worse than a ship like this being out there … as a metaphor and a whipping boy for why the Navy can’t do anything right,” he said, according to the outlet.
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford steams in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Connor Loessin)
Spencer, Modly’s predecessor, had previously staked his job on getting the Ford working properly, promising President Trump that he would get the elevators working by the end of the post-shakedown availability or the president could fire him.
The PSA ended in October with only a handful of elevators operational. The Ford is currently going through post-delivery tests and trials, with plans for the elevator issues to be sorted over this 18-month period.
As Spencer was questioned about accountability, the former Navy secretary sharply criticized the Navy’s primary shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), accusing the company of having “no idea” what it was doing with the Ford.
Gerald R. Ford under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.
(U.S. Navy photo by Ricky Thompson)
Now, the Ford’s challenges have fallen in Modly’s lap.
“Everything that the Ford should be able to do is going to be a game-changer for us,” the acting Navy secretary said, according to Military.com. “We just have to make sure that it can do it because we’ve got several more coming behind it.”
The USS John F. Kennedy, the second Ford-class carrier, was slated to be christened Saturday. The Navy has two more of the new supercarriers on the way after that.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 96th Medical Group opened the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base.
More than 120 people attended the event and toured the new facility, including Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, 96th Test Wing installation commander, Brig. Gen. Evan C. Dertien and members of the local community.
Hogg, the guest speaker for the ceremony, thanked everyone who helped standup the center and also reaffirmed the Air Force’s commitment to providing ‘Trusted Care’ to our military members.
“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” she said. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible. Today, we make good on that commitment.”
The center will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions, and psychological injuries.
“The center is ready to treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from our sister services who carry the weight of invisible wounds,” said Hogg. “Our goal is to eliminate barriers to care. We want to treat our service members with dignity through every phase of their recovery.”
The IWC, modeled after the best practices of the Intrepid Spirit Centers, will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof, providing treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion, using a combination of conventional and complimentary therapies.
Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force surgeon general, speaks to the audience during a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)
“We’re here for you, we’re ready to serve you,” said Dertien. “The facility and the capabilities we are building here have the impact and the potential to change people’s lives. This sends the message that we can talk about invisible wounds. It’s okay to ask for help.”
Art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy, and mental health services will also be included in treatment.
“Having all these services under one roof, complimenting each other, provides treatment and healing in ways that are only now being recognized,” said Hogg. “The providers will also address physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being to further ensure positive health outcomes.”
Hogg shared positive accounts from wounded warriors she met at Intrepid Spirit Centers on military installations around the country. She attributed their success to the mind and body approach to treatment and community involvement. She also noted patient, caregiver and family education is key component in the healing process.
“We learned the best outcomes occur when a host of people are involved in the healing process,” she said. “Complete healing and reintegration requires healing the patient as well as the family.”
Dr. Thomas Piazza, Invisible Wounds Center director, talks with Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group (A) before a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)
The ceremony concluded with a good news, momentous announcement for the military community.
Hogg said the Department of Defense recently accepted a proffer from Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, to build an Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin AFB, making it the tenth of its kind and the first on an Air Force base. Plans for the ground breaking are underway, and officials expect a completion of the facility in 2020.
Fisher described these facilities as “centers of hope,” and adds that these center are not built by the government, but by donations from the American people. He said that thought is reassuring because Americans believe this is the right model to treat invisible wounds, according to Hogg.
“Fisher is determined to continue his mission to build Intrepid Spirit Centers,” said Hogg. “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”
As you were busy buying big bags of charcoal and forming hamburger patties in preparation for a Memorial Day cookout, the Chinese flew nuclear-capable bombers around Taiwan. This sort of passive aggression isn’t anything new — it happens pretty often, so it’s not a big deal to most of us. But for the island of Taiwan, seeing two H-6 Badgers fly overhead is certainly cause for concern.
China carried out a similar orbit of the so-called “Nine-Dash Line” using a Badger shortly after the freshly-elected President Trump took a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. China has been seeking to isolate Taiwan, which it views as a renegade province, and has forced a number of countries, the latest being Burkina Faso, to end diplomatic relations with island nation.
Republic of China Air Force AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo fighters scrambled to intercept the Badgers.
(Photo by Toshiro Aoki)
In potential hot spots, like Taiwan or the South China Sea, “training missions” like these are often used to probe opposing forces — and the tactic isn’t exclusive to China. The United States prefers the deceptively innocuous term “freedom of navigation exercises” for similar missions, which are conducted by ships or aircraft. On rare occasions, such passive provocations can devolve into shootouts.
On three instances in the 1980s, American forces ended up in combat with the Libyan regime of Muammar Qaddafi. In 1981, two F-14 Tomcats shot down Libyan Su-22 Fitters after taking enemy fire. 1986 saw extensive naval combat that resulted in the sinking of two Libyan missile boats. In 1989, two F-14s shot down two MiG-23 Floggers.
The 1986 freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra led to a sharp naval engagement, in which this Nanuchka-class corvette was sunk.
This may be a routine practice, but historical precedent also makes it a big deal. China may not be aggressing on Taiwan outright, but should Taiwan react forcefully, the fallout could be deadly.
When Ciara Hester, wife of a U.S. Marine, tweeted to Ava DuVernay (Salem, When They See Us), she had no idea the powerhouse director would respond — let alone send a gift.
Hester complimented DuVernay’s red carpet look and said she wanted one like it for the Marine Corps Ball. To her surprise, DuVernay replied asking for her mailing address so she could ship the gown right over.
OMG @ava I need this dress for the Marine Corp Ball. #SheWoreItBest #ShowStopper #TuesdayThoughtspic.twitter.com/sqcIRukFiG
The gown, in a perfect shade of Marine Corps red, arrived in time for the Marine Corps Ball, an exclusive event steeped in tradition and pride. It’s probably one of the biggest events in the military. I literally don’t even know if the other branches, including the branch I served in, care about their balls birthdays?
Like a real life fairy God mother. Thank you @ava for your thoughtfulness and kindness. I had an amazing night and I felt amazing. #honor #marinecorpsbirthday #USMC #Marinespic.twitter.com/FjZWXTAE2Q
The Wilmington, North Carolina, couple were all smiles at the event, with Ciara beaming in a dress that not only fit her perfectly but had pockets (which, we should all know by now, is a very big deal).
I had no clue it had pockets till it arrived. Certainly loved it even more. (Couldn’t have thought that was possible either )
This isn’t the first time celebrities have shown their support for the Marine Corps Ball — many have been known to accept — or request — invitations to attend the ball, including Ronda Rousey and Linda Hamilton. Elon Musk was invited to speak at one, where he was visibly touched by the heroism and sacrifices of the service members in the room.
You wore it well, @CiCihstr! Hope you had a night as lovely as you. xo!https://twitter.com/annaphillipstv/status/1198055140651130880 …
There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.
Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.
Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.
Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.
People like this.
Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.
At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.
“Ownership” being the operative word.
1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy
Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.
These guys, remember?
2. They did not break the back of the resistance
While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.
There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.
The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.
Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.
A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.
In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.
The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.
Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.
3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people
A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.
Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.
The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.
“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”
4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force
The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.
Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.
The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.
This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.
It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.
Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.
In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:
“Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
“Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
“I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
“I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”
In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.
There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)
I lost my sense of purpose.
I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.
How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.
On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.
It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.
I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.
As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.
My cornerstone was gone.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)
Worst of all, I stopped training.
Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.
This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.
I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.
It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.
Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.
I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.
I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.
I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.
My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.
The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.
I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.
Maybe it took you years.
Maybe you’re still in it.
Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.
It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.
The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.
If you aren’t training, start training.
If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.
Japan on Dec. 18, 2018, announced what everyone had long suspected: Its Izumo-class “helicopter carriers” would host F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-launch stealth jets, and the platform will be transformed into a weapon Tokyo hasn’t wielded since 1945.
Japan announced on Dec. 18, 2018, that it would change its defense guidelines and buy 105 more F-35A stealth jets, as well as roughly 40 F-35Bs that can take off vertically from its flat-decked Izumo ships.
Japan said it would retrofit its two Izumo carriers to handle the extreme heat and pressure of the F-35B’s vertical launches from the decks in a pivot from its post-World War II pacifist stance, citing rising threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.
Japan has long sought a long-range, fifth-generation aircraft to defend its far-flung island claims as Russia and China routinely test its borders with fighter jets buzzing its borders, but the US hasn’t yet offered it anything that can do the job.
F-35B prepares for a vertical landing.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)
The F-22, the US’ first fifth-generation fighter, came across as an ideal solution for Japan’s defense needs, but the US refused to sell, saying the cutting-edge technology was too critical to share.
The F-35, of which Japan wants to become the world’s second-largest buyer, has much of the F-22’s stealth and avionics prowess, but has much shorter range.
But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, putting F-35s on a carrier at sea that can close range to island flash points, Japan may have finally solved its problem.
“This is about being able to put capable air power near some of their island possessions, especially given that there’s a lot of Chinese capability being specifically developed to hit forward air bases,” Bronk told Business Insider, referencing China’s growing rocket force.
“Having something mobile that’s harder to hit that can deploy fifth-generation air power makes a lot of military sense,” Bronk said of the carriers.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
Not just island defense, but a navy killer
Japan’s Izumo carriers occupy the traditional role of launching an amphibious attack to take or retake an island with while providing air power overhead, but the F-35s bring something that attack helicopters just can’t do.
“Basically, any naval task group worth the name is, from an airman’s perspective, a formidable mobile air defense network,” Bronk said. China’s navy ships have “powerful radars, very large interceptor missiles, and are designed to defend against swarming attacks,” he said.
Unlike air-to-air missiles limited in size by the jets that have to carry them, ship-based missile interceptors can measure more than 20 feet in length and have powerful boosters giving them better range and speed. Additionally, recent Chinese navy ships have emphasized these kinds of missiles and have deep magazines and many vertical launch cells for the aircraft-killing missiles.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey with the JS Izumo (right) on the South China Sea.
(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)
But China’s navy likely has very little experience fighting stealth aircraft with its sea-based radars.
The stealth design of the F-35B will allow Japan’s military to “to operate at reasonable risk tolerance of advanced air defenses,” said Bronk, who called the jets “a lot more survivable in high-end warfare” than Japan’s fleet of F-15s.
In the future, Bronk said Japan will most likely leverage the F-35B’s extreme surveillance and recon capabilities to provide weapons-quality target information to other platforms, like Japanese or US warships, which can fire off their own missiles and allow the F-35Bs to stay in stealth mode without opening up the weapons bay.
For Japan, the new class of F-35B carriers signals a major shift in defense posture and the acknowledgement that defending their island claims may require high-end warfighting against China’s navy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.
“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”
Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.
Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”
Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.
Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.
When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.
It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.
Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.
“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”
The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.
Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.
In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.
Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.
“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.
“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”
Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.
Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.
The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”
The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.
Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”
When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.
Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.
You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.
In the modern world, most nations cultivate a variety of martial arts disciplines within their borders, not as a formal effort of the government, but rather as a byproduct of public interest. Here in the United States, motivated students can find places to study anything from Japanese Karate to Israeli Krav Maga at their local strip mall, so it should come as no surprise that the military has also come to adopt a variety of disciplines into its own approach to martial arts-based combat.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, as one example, borrows from no fewer than 17 distinct martial arts disciplines, ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Kung Fu, to ensure Marines are as capable in hand-to-hand combat as they are with their rifles.
Iran has also placed an emphasis on martial arts for the sake of defense, though like the nation’s military apparatus itself, their approach has been heavily informed by their culture, internal politics, and unusual military hierarchy, resulting in less than stellar results.
These guys look exactly like the generals that would show up in a movie with that plot.
Iran has allegedly forced martial arts instructors to work as assassins
According to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan’s Baku Mission that was revealed by WikiLeaks, the Iranian government expects martial arts schools and clubs to serve in the role of “enforcers” when it comes to stemming public dissent, but that’s far from the worst that’s been pressed upon martial arts instructors.
The wire, which came with the decidedly metal headline of, “IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION,” goes on to claim that the “ninja black belt master” in question knew of at least one instructor that “was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months.” These alleged victims were referred to as “young intellectuals” and “pro-democracy activists.”
The Iranian government built an all-female, 3,500 strong ninja-army
Women in Iran may not enjoy the same rights or parity that can be found in Western nations like the United States, but that’s not to say that the Iranian government doesn’t occasionally recognize a woman’s ability to kick ass for their benefit. Most women may not be allowed to travel outside of their homes without a male escort, but some are trained in Japanese Ninjutsu to become stealthy assassins for their government.
In 2012, 3,500 women were registered to begin their training to become ninjas, according to a segment produced for Iran’s state-run media. Some in the United States have opined that Iran permits this training as a means to appease their stifled female population, but it seems more likely that Iran’s government believes it has a use for women that can fight.
The video of these women training may seem cheesy, but their form actually looks a lot better than some of Iran’s highly trained Special Operations troops…
Every nation occasionally releases motivational videos of their highly trained troops executing unusual techniques. The U.S. does insertion and extraction demonstrations with special operators at SOFIC in Tampa, Florida each year. Russia releases footage of their troops shooting live rounds at each other, and Iran… well, Iran’s special operators can be seen in this video losing a fight to a vase.
In the video, Iranian officials are shown looking on as men that have been referred to by a number of news outlets as Special Operations troops execute a series of dramatic spin kicks and even spinning back-hands to a vase that simply refuses to break. Eventually, the troops set the intact vase down and bow as their clearly disappointed superiors look on. It wouldn’t be fair to say that this demonstration characterizes all of Iran’s military martial arts efforts, but if these generals were smart, they probably forgot about the demonstration and went straight to the guy that made that vase to see if he was interested in getting into the tank business.
Everyone lies in the military. From the newest privates to the saltiest of generals — we’ve all done it.
Studies show that by the time a child reaches the age of three, they know how to tell a fib. Although white lies are considered harmless, others can screw with peoples’ heads.
Since the military is a structured environment, young troops depend on their senior enlisted leaders for not only career guidance but personnel management. You can’t go home on leave or sometimes liberty without getting their signature (depending on the branch).
Keep in mind many first sergeants won’t even know your name without looking at your name tape. So they might not even care if they lie to your face. However, others may care and want to earn your respect — but that won’t stop them from lying.
So check out a few ways in which you might catch your first sergeant in a fib.
1. Look for a momentary head jerk or tilt
First sergeants don’t know everything, even though they may want you to think they do. According to lie expert Richard Wisemen, liars tend to retract, jerk or tilt their head during specific parts of their reply. If they jerk their heads while listening, that doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.
If they jerk their heads while listening, it doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.
This muscle jerk is considered a form a user uncertainty.
The old fashion head tilt. It’s universally not a good sign. (Image via Giphy)
2. Watch their blinking
Everyone human on the planet blinks to lubricate their eyeballs. The average person blinks their eyelids 15-20 times per minute at nearly a consistent rate.
Lie experts suggest people who fib tend to change the rate of their blinking, slowing it down then increasing nearly eight times faster than norml. So to my E-4 mafia, if your first sergeant blinks too much, your request is denied.
Pretty inconsistent. (Image via Giphy)
3. Repeating their words
Since the military is about maintaining high levels of discipline, people often tend to over-speak or repeat the question you just asked them to buy themselves time. This act allows your brain to generate its next words carefully.
So the next time you ask your first sergeant for special liberty and it takes them an hour to explain why you can’t — they’re probably lying.
So, I guess it’s a no. (Image via Giphy)
4. Point towards the exit
We don’t mean that they literally point their index finger toward the exit, but many times when liars are in a situation they want to get out of, they tend to steer their bodies toward the nearest exit.
Yup, she’s lying. (Image via Giphy)
5. Breathing changes
In many cases, when someone is lying to you, their breathing habits increase as their stress levels elevate. Troops should watch how many times their first sergeant inhales and exhales. If the rate increases, it could be an indication they aren’t telling you the truth.
We think we just caught her in a lie. (Image via Giphy)
Body language tells us more than what the speaker is usually saying. In many cases, when a liar is lying, the lie creates a level of anxiety. So you may notice your higher ups overly correct their uniforms or put their hands in their pockets trying to relieve that stress.
If they do that, you can bust them for lying and for stowing their hands in a place that they’re not supposed too.
Next time you speak to anyone in your command, look for these “tells” to see if they’re telling you the truth.