Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the world, the list of negatives grows and grows. People are out of work and stuck at home, many businesses have closed, and schools have shut their doors, many for the remainder of the school year. Everything has stopped…everything except the growing number of ill people and the medical professionals and supplies needed to care for them.

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic is staggering, but fortunately, many have stepped up to help mitigate this problem in a variety of ways, including a growing list of companies in the defense industry.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” and that’s exactly what these companies are doing.


Strike Industries

Strike Industries is making surgical mask covers that extend the useful life of surgical masks for front line medical personnel. The cover is a sleeve that holds a standard surgical mask and is made from 50/50 nylon cotton. It includes its own ear (or head) loops that are more durable than those found on standard, disposable surgical masks. SI is selling the masks at their cost, about .

Strike Industry’s Danny Chang explains that disposable surgical masks have three layers; two moisture-repellant exterior layers sandwiching an electrostatically-charged inner layer. He says any fluids or moisture that seep into the mask reduces the electrostatic charge in the middle layer and the loss of the static charge over time reduces the masks ability to filter particles.

Strike’s cover adds another, water-resistant layer to the front and back of surgical masks that extends the life of the mask by reducing the amount of moisture that reaches it from the interior (the wearer’s breath, coughs, and sneezing) and the exterior (spray, splash, and airborne droplets.)

“At a time when supplies for N95 masks and even disposable surgical masks are super low,” says Chang, “this is just another barrier/layer to help. I found out from medical professionals that they are supposed to replace disposable surgical masks if it gets wet or every 2-3 hours, normally.”

Strike Industries Public Service Announcement

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Chang warns, “We aren’t saying this mask sleeve/cover is for medical use, but when times are tough, something is better than nothing.” Since masks of all types are in short supply and people are being asked to wear them longer than they are normally meant to be worn, covers that extend the life of a mask seem like a good idea. He says he’s heard some hospitals are even spraying disposable surgical masks with aerosol cleaners to be reused.

KelTec

KelTec is 3D printing N99 capable masks to supply local hospitals. One of the company’s engineer’s, Toby Obermeit, is working with the Medical University of South Carolina to make improvements to their S.A.F.E. mask design, as well as creating a variety of additional cartridge options. These designs will be publicly available to help fill the immediate needs of healthcare and first responders everywhere. The masks, when used with the correct filters, can be of N99 quality, are reusable, and currently feature replaceable Roomba Filters.

“After Toby studied the original S.A.F.E. filter cartridge design, he then optimized it by making it faster and easier to print” said Marketing Manager, Matt Stanek. “He submitted this improved design to MUSC, and officials at the University were so impressed that they asked for help with the next generation mask design.”

The Original S.A.F.E. Mask design required cutting and gluing a HEPA filter, however the new designs utilize various Roomba Filters, making them much easier to assemble.

“We’ve accomplished a lot.” said Obermeit. “We’ve made improvements to the mask itself, as well as created multiple cartridges which take different types of filters. There is even a mask design that has an integrated filter cartridge.”

KelTec, meanwhile, quickly repurposed their 3D printers for the N99 quality masks to supply local hospitals.

“Caring about each other, our families and neighbors is in our DNA,” concluded Marketing Director Derek Kellgren. “These are difficult times and we have friends, family members, neighbors and customers on the front lines. We’re just glad we can be of some help, given how much they’re helping us and our communities.”

KelTec, known for innovation and performance, is one of the top firearms manufacturers in the world, employing nearly 300 American citizens, many of whom are Veterans.

Links to 3D printer files: Optimization of Filter for Original Design, Next Generation Mask Design, New Designs for Roomba HEPA Filters, Mask Built-in

Mustang Survival

Mustang Survival is a Canadian company known for its technical apparel solutions for maritime public safety professionals, maritime military, and marine recreational users. They design, engineer, and manufacture life vests, survival suits, and dry suits that are built to withstand even the most rugged marine environments. On April 1st, Mustang Survival launched production of the first 500 isolation gowns. The gowns are a Level 3 certified PPE, fully waterproof, and designed and engineered to bring new levels of safety to frontline healthcare workers.

Increased demand for PPE, there was a need to get ahead of the problem and look to local sources to solve it,” says Mark Anderson, Chair of the BC Apparel Gear Association and Director of Engineering at Burnaby-based Mustang Survival; who, through years of experience in outfitting frontline defenders and public safety teams, is in a unique position to help.

“Our 50 year history of developing innovative solutions for both Military and public safety professionals combined with the unique advantage of being part of a cutting edge design community here in Vancouver provides us with the ability to adjust and pivot our focus on developing a solution,” said Anderson.

Nielsen-Kellerman Company

Nielsen-Kellerman Company designs, manufactures and distributes rugged, waterproof environmental and sports performance instruments for active lifestyles and technical applications, including Kestrel Weather Environmental Meters, Kestrel Ballistics Meters for long range shooting accuracy, NK Electronics for Rowing and Paddling, and Blue Ocean Rugged Megaphones PA Systems. Nielsen-Kellerman has begun using its facilities and employees to produce face shields for the medical professionals helping to combat COVID-19.

On the first day of its effort, over 250 face shields were produced, with plans to further ramp up production and maximize their donations. When asked about their participation, Alix James, President and CEO of Nielsen-Kellerman talked about how impressed she is with the way American sporting goods and outdoor manufacturers have jumped in immediately to help where they could.

The company’s initial effort was to buy the materials and have volunteers from its staff build them. That resulted in around 500 face shields being built and donated to Temple University Hospital and St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital. But after talking with the hospitals James discovered the need for PPE was much larger than she’d realized. That led the company to source materials for another 10,000 shields in an effort to build and supply shields for as long as they can.

James says that the PPE shortage will eventually ease as large companies with automated manufacturing systems switch gears, but it takes time for these big producers to shift production. So, in the short term, companies with domestic manufacturing are filling the gap.

“And that is the value of investing in preserving our industrial manufacturing base,” says James. “I hope to see us adjust some of our policies in the future to better support American manufacturing – particularly for critical supply chains like medical equipment, drugs and food. We’ve always emphasized keeping defense production on our shores, but this pandemic has really shown us that other areas are important from a strategic standpoint as well.”

Mystery Ranch

Mystery Ranch makes some of the finest packs and load carriage systems on the market, with designs for military applications, wildland fire, mountaineering, and hunting. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Mystery Ranch has stepped up to provide over 250 masks to their local hospital in Bozeman, MT.

Mystery Masks

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Using the materials they already have on hand, and halting all other production, Mystery Ranch is providing Bozeman Health Deaconess staff with masks that are soft, antimicrobial, and breathable. Mystery Ranch has also donated elastic to the Gallatin Quilt Guild who has been spearheading the project.

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research makes a lot of different outdoor gear and apparel, including tactical gloves built to withstand rugged environments. During the pandemic, OR has converted their Seattle factory in order to make personal protective medical equipment. OR has committed to producing upwards of 200,000 masks per day. Outdoor Research will be manufacturing ASTM level 3 masks in April/May, N95 masks by May/June, and will immediately begin producing ASTM Level 1 face masks.

“Our 39-year history of rapidly developing cutting-edge Outdoor, Military and Tactical products provides Outdoor Research the ability to quickly shift to supporting the personal protective needs of the medical community,” said CEO Dan Nordstrom. “Our entire company is fully committed to ensuring that doctors, nurses, health-care workers and first responders have the personal protective equipment they require to effectively care for their patients. We are working with state and local officials to better protect our employees in this environment as we ramp up production in the following days and weeks.”

Versacarry

Versacarry, based out of Texas, is known for its premium leather holsters and other accessories ranging from belts to mag pouches. Effective immediately, Versacarry has chosen to use part of its manufacturing capacity to produce face masks and shields instead of firearms accessories. Versacarry expects to be able to produce in excess of 20,000 units of each product weekly. Versacarry has even placed a contact form on their website so people can request supplies for the organization they work for.

Smith Optics

An arm of Smith Optics, its Elite Eye Protection side of the house supplies eyewear and goggles to the U.S. Special Operations community. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the company is working with a crowdsourced donation program called Goggles for Docs to relieve personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages among front line medical personnel across the U.S.

The effort is supported by volunteers and donations to provide ski goggles to health care workers that lack eye protection while treating COVID-19 patients. Smith is currently sending new and used goggles to fulfill hospital requests, and encourages those with time or an older set of goggles to contribute by visiting gogglesfordocs.com.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

8 photos of Marines training during a gas attack that look eerily like World War I

Few things in battle are scarier than a gas attack during a ground assault. The air grows thick with toxic mist, and the world shrinks to the view from a hot, sterile mask.


It’s the attack most troops have dreaded since the tactic was first used on a large scale at the Second Battle of Ypres over 100 years ago. Chemical warfare was outlawed in the wake of World War I, but it’s something that American forces still prepare for.

During a recent mock battle with the Australia military dubbed Exercise Koolendong in Darwin, Australia, Leathernecks from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment trainers dropped CS gas into fighting positions to force the troops to deal with a chemical attack in the middle of a firefight.

Photos from the exercise show how difficult it is for troops to fight during a chemical attack and provide an eery reminder of the mustard gas-blanketed battlefields on the War to End All Wars.

1. The assault began with simulated artillery firing in on Marine and allied positions

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Marines with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, watch illumination from artillery fall to the ground during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. The range was the final training evolution of Exercise Koolendong 16, a trilateral exercise between the U.S. Marine Corps, Australian Defence Force and French Armed Forces New Caledonia. Marines held a defensive position while engaging targets and working through the CS gas, which simulated a chemical attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

2. Despite the gas drifting into their positions, the Marines had to stand their ground

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fire down range during a CS gas attack during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. The range was the final training evolution of Exercise Koolendong 16, a trilateral exercise between the U.S. Marine Corps, Australian Defence Force and French Armed Forces New Caledonia. Marines held a defensive position while engaging targets and working through the CS gas, which simulated a chemical attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

3. Range safety officers peer through the gas-filled haze to keep Marines injury free

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Range safety officers observe Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment hold a defensive position while surrounded by CS gas August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

4. Getting a gas mask on in time to stay alive in the middle of a fight can be a daunting task

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Maj. Christopher W. Simpson, commanding officer, Company C with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, dons a mask while surrounded by CS gas during a live fire range August 18, 2016 at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

5. Despite the restricted vision and discomfort, Marines still have to put rounds down range and keep the enemy at bay

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fire at enemy positions during a CS gas attack during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

6. Troops take precious minutes testing the air to determine how best to survive the attack

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
A Marine with Company C , 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, tests the air for safety after a gas attack August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

7. It’s just as important for medical personnel to practice treating and evacuating casualties during a chem-bio attack

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Marines and sailors with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, evacuate a simulated casualty during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

8. As America’s potential adversaries look for ways to defeat U.S. troops with unconventional weapons, it’s important that the services practice fighting during a chemical or biological attack — no matter how remote the possibility

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment pack up their gear after completing the final live fire range of Exercise Koolendong 16 at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia on August 18, 2016. The range was the final training evolution of Exercise Koolendong 16, a trilateral exercise between the U.S. Marine Corps, Australian Defence Force and French Armed Forces New Caledonia. Marines held a defensive position while engaging targets and working through the CS gas, which simulated a chemical attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These airmen re-skin lethal F-16 Falcons

Upon entering a room lined with panels and LED lights, described solely as something out of a science fiction movie, people in polar white suits are ready to re-skin a new beast.

The airmen working across two shifts in the work center, paint and renovate the aircraft and equipment assigned to the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 Fighting Falcon wing.


The work being performed on the aircraft is intended to provide a protective finish that prevents damage to the structure and enhance the aircraft’s overall lifespan.

“Our mission here is to remove defective aircraft coatings,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Tinsley, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control noncommissioned officer in charge. “We also inspect for corrosion and reapply coats should the aircraft need it.”

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control paint barn, work on an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Nov. 13, 2018.

Tinsley went on to say the flight helps identify and troubleshoot paint fatigue that may be caused by consistent flights.

Within the facility, a locker room houses the protective gear of the airmen assigned to the 20th EMS aircraft structural maintenance flight.

“When we paint, no matter what we are working on that day, we keep safety in mind at all times,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harris, 20th EMS corrosion control shift lead.

Each job requires the airmen to gear up from top to bottom to prevent any damage or poisoning that could be caused by the exposure to paint fumes.

During the painting process, corrosion control airmen inspect the aircraft for any cracks or wear that may have been caused through various aerial missions.

“Our airmen are the ones out there doing the hard work,” said Tinsley. “They are either sanding or painting anything that may come into the paint barn … they’re the real work horses, they’re killing it.”

With the continued support of these technicians the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing can thrive and allow the pilots to accomplish the suppression of enemy air defenses mission anytime, anywhere.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This American ally is increasingly isolated in a pro-China world

Taiwan lost one of its largest diplomatic allies when the Dominican Republic cut ties to officially establish relations with China instead.

Within the communique to create diplomatic relations with China, which was signed by the Dominican foreign minister in Beijing on May 1, 2018, was the declaration that “the Government of the Dominican Republic severs ‘diplomatic relations’ with Taiwan as of this day.”


Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said his government is “deeply upset” about the two countries new ties.

Taiwan’s political situation is highly contentious as the democratic island is self-ruled, and a pro-independence party has been in power since 2016.

But Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu

As a result, China refuses to have diplomatic relations with nations that deal diplomatically with Taiwan, as that treats the island like an independent country. And if Taiwan’s global recognition increased, that could jeopardize China’s claim to the island.

A statement released by the Dominican Republic confirmed the nation’s changed allegiances.

“The Dominican Republic recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” the statement read.

Without the Dominican Republic, there are only 19 remaining countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, notably Guatemala, Burkino Faso, and Haiti.

Dollar diplomacy may have been a factor

The statement released by Taiwan’s foreign ministry hints at the nation’s growing frustration at China.

While being headlined and initially formatted the same as similar statements in the past, it’s roughly twice the normal length and overtly calls out China’s method of picking off Taiwan’s allies.

“We strongly condemn China’s objectionable decision to use dollar diplomacy to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies,” the statement read. “Developing nations should be aware of the danger of falling into a debt trap when engaging with China.”

China has a pattern of picking off Taiwan’s allies when a democratic party is in power, and using what’s commonly called “debt trap diplomacy” to offer aid and loans for infrastructure to poorer countries in an effort to build its global Belt and Road Initiative.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Belt and Road Initiative:u00a0China in Red, the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in orange, and the 6 proposed corridorsu00a0in black.

But it appears Beijing may be using the same techniques to now lure countries away from Taiwan, with what the island calls “false promises of investment and aid.”

“This was the result of China’s efforts in offering vast financial incentives for the Dominican Republic to end their 77 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It also follows China’s actions last year in establishing diplomatic relations with Panama.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry warned that former allies Costa Rica and Sao Tome and Principe have yet to receive more than $1 billion worth of assistance from China.

May 1, 2018, The Australian reported that the Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s six allies in the Pacific, is looking to China for investment for an airport, a move that could worry Taipei.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Mighty Milspouse Ashley Keller

Ashley Keller was frustrated. Why was every prenatal workout she found on YouTube too slow or beyond extreme and not safe for her baby?

The triathlete Army officer was no stranger to fitness. Upon her graduation from West Point, she was offered the opportunity to train for the Olympics, but turned it down to pursue serving her country in a traditional way.


Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

“My husband Luke got his mid-tour leave from a year long deployment and a government paid ticket to anywhere in the world,” Keller explained. “He sacrificed that ticket on a flight to West Point, New York to support my graduation from the Academy. We got married two days later, honeymooned to Costa Rica and he flew back to Iraq and I headed to Fort Leonardwood for Engineer Officer Basic Training. The Army then gave me a choice: go be a platoon leader like I had spent the last four years at West Point preparing to do or be sponsored by the Army to train at the World Class Athlete Center in Colorado for the next triathlon Olympics. [Training in Colorado] would mean not serving our country as I hoped to do, and it would post me across the country from Fort Bragg, where my new husband was stationed. I also knew one injury in triathlon [training] could foil all Olympic prospects and didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage for it.”

Keller had forfeited her Olympic dreams in favor of service, but never sacrificed her love of sport, representing the U.S. Army in NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and competing in the notoriously grueling Ironman races. When she became pregnant with her first baby, Keller longed for workouts that were challenging, yet effective.

“So I got certified and nerded out on scholarly articles about training,” Keller says. “I’d rush home over lunch breaks, change out of my Army uniform, and record ten to fifteen minute prenatal workouts with a cheap camera propped up on index cards on my countertop. I thought there might be some women out there who also wanted more challenging prenatal workouts.”

As it turns out, there were quite a few women. Keller quickly built a community of online followers and her passion for fitness and educating women online grew. After five and a half years of active duty service and a deployment to Afghanistan, she separated from the Army to pursue fitness full time and GlowBodyPT was born.

Today, Keller has an online following of more than 40,000 on social media and offers free workout videos on her Youtube channel, as well as customized plans through her website, featuring specialized workouts for prenatal and post-pregnancy.
Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

“A couple of months ago I launched my newest and favorite plan to date: The 10 Minute Plan,” Keller said. “It was a year in the making while my husband was deployed, raising a newborn and running GlowBodyPT.”

When asked why specifically targeting the mom community is so important, Keller smiled knowingly.

“Fitness does more than just make your body look good, it transforms how you feel about yourself,” she said. “Fitness empowers you to have patience, more energy and more drive, to pour into your marriage and your kids. Staged workout videos in white studios don’t resonate with me. When you follow my workout videos it’s like working out with a friend in your living room who says it how it is, teaches you how to train and makes the best use of every single minute of your time, because I know you don’t have time to waste.”

5 MIGHTY QUESTIONS

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

Put yourself out there to make a couple of good friends every time you move. I tell my friends, “You are my people!” Give them your number and let them know, sincerely, you are here for them day or night no matter what they need. Follow through. Having your tribe and fueling those relationships is what makes the military community what it is.

What is your life motto?

God, use me for your purpose.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

What inspires you about the military community?

Only military families know the sacrifices we make as service members and spouses. How it feels to wonder if your spouse got back safe from a mission. Wondering if everybody is okay when there is a communications blackout. Missed holidays and birthdays. Lonely nights. Phone calls as you try to make conversation without talking about sensitive information related to your spouse’s everyday life. Consoling crying children who miss Daddy. I love the military community because there is a shared sense of respect, reverence, family and sacrifice.

What has been your toughest professional challenge?

I got my front teeth knocked out, elbow broken, wrist casted, stitches across my lips, chin and both palms during a Half Ironman bike crash a couple of years ago. The top four athletes racing all got rushed to the ER. The injuries lasted for months and I didn’t get permanent teeth for over a year. My husband was away at a military school when the crash happened and I came home the next day to two kids, one of which I was potty training and the other who put on my socks for me the next morning because it hurt to move my hands.

What’s your superpower?

I actually care about every single woman who does my plans, and her progress. Bigger companies just don’t have the capacity to pour into others at this level.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon worries that China may have guts to use new weapons

China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment warns, but that’s not what has officials most concerned.

China has been investing billions of dollars, possibly as much as $200 billion in 2018, into its military, which Chinese leadership is putting through a massive overhaul in hopes of building a modern, world-class fighting force capable of waging and winning wars.


“Indeed, China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space, and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley asserted in the preface to the report, noting that Beijing will likely become more insistent as its confidence grows.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

It is China’s growing self-confidence that has US officials most alarmed, not the development of various weapons platforms, be it unmatched anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons. There is a serious concern that China is moving closer to the point where it might be willing to use military force to achieve its ambitions.

“The biggest concern is that they are going to get to a point where the [Chinese military] leadership may actually tell [Chinese President] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” a senior defense intelligence official said on Jan. 15, 2019, just before the release of the DIA assessment, according to Defense News.

“As these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, our concern is we’ll reach a point where internally, within their decision-making, they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior official said.

That’s bad news for Taiwan, an autonomous, democratic territory that Beijing views as a rogue province.

The island is a top priority for Chinese leadership, according to the report on Chinese military power, the first-ever unclassified DIA assessment of China’s military might.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Senior Chinese military leadership made that point very clear in a recent meeting with US military leaders. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gen. Li Zuocheng argued in a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, the South China Morning Post reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made clear that military action remains on the table as a possible reunification tool. Other potential flash points include the East and South China Seas.

Despite fears within the military intelligence community about the use of force by the Chinese military, it seems that there is also a consensus that China may not yet be there. “I think in a lot of ways, they have a lot that they need to do,” an official said Jan. 15, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.

“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official added, referring to an assault on Taiwan. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”

China called the DIA report “unprofessional,” criticizing its findings.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

The civilian and military leaders of the Air Force, Navy and Army attempted March 8, 2019, to convince skeptical senators that they are working aggressively — and effectively — to correct poorly maintained military housing that has left some homes coated in mold, infested with rodents and with other problems affecting health and safety.

“Our military families deserve good housing,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And when there’s a problem with a house, it should be fixed promptly and competently. Moreover, our airmen should be comfortable that they can identify problems without any fear of retaliation.”


Wilson was joined by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer as well as the military chiefs of each service — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson.

Each was alternately contrite and outraged, apologizing for the not attacking the problem sooner but promising swift and decisive action. The responses followed blunt assessments from a number of senators.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

James Inhofe, R-Okla. and committee chairman, said reports of substandard housing are “heart wrenching.” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who is the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the current state of housing on some bases is the result of “systemic failures on the part of contractors and Department of Defense.”

The service secretaries and chiefs each acknowledged the problem.

“In too many cases, it is clear the private housing companies failed to uphold their end of the bargain, a failure that was enabled by the Army’s insufficient oversight,” Esper said. “We are determined to investigate these problems and to hold our housing contractors and chains of command … accountable.”

To underscore their response, leaders of each service described their services’ review of base housing. Wilson told senators that the Air Force completed its review on March 1 and that she personally visited housing at MacDill, Tinker and Shaw Air Force Bases. Goldfein saw housing and met families at Keesler and Maxwell AFBs.

Each found problems and substandard maintenance that “were very consistent with the testimony that you heard from the families that came forward,” Goldfein said. “And I’ll second what the secretary said, that the most concerning to me that I found was the breakdown in trust that we’ve got to rebuild.”

A major part of the corrective effort, the officials told senators, is creation of a tenant bill of rights. An early version of the document has been released. It provides service personnel who live in military housing more authority and stronger tools to alert the chain of command to problems and force action.

Foremost is the ability of renters to withhold payment if problems are properly reported to the private companies that manage the homes but are not addressed or resolved.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

“Excitement in the near term based on hearings is interesting, not compelling,” Goldfein told senators. “We are going to have to keep our boot on the throat of the underperforming contractors and our command chain and leadership to make sure we get after this for the long term. And we’re committed to do so.”

How long it will take to enact the tenant bill of rights, however, is unclear. Spencer said it could take 90 days because it requires contacting each company that manages military housing to inform “and educate” them about new expectations and consequences for not complying.

Beyond the bill of rights and stronger commander involvement, the service secretaries and chiefs said they will work to ensure that base housing authorities are sufficiently staffed and trained. Wilson said she as part of her review, at bases where housing is well maintained and satisfaction ratings are high, the housing authority is strong.

“One of the bases that I went to was one that was rated as performing well and when you have a contract housing office where the contractor is performing well, we probably have enough people in that housing office,” Wilson said. “But when performance starts to slide that’s when it becomes overtaxed. So how we put the people back (to) give support to the base commanders where it’s really needed is … going to be the key decision point.”

Wilson, Goldfein and the other leaders also said that commanders must work harder to understand the state of housing on their bases and to respond aggressively and quickly. In addition, each secretary and service chief said there would be “zero tolerance” for retaliation when problems are reported.

“If people feel that if they act there will be retaliation, people will not act,” Wilson said.

When asked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to speak directly to active-duty service personnel who are living in substandard housing, Goldfein said the issue was a “mirror check” moment for him and other commanders.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

“We have a moral obligation,” he said. “We are not going to stop until we have the system right and we can take care of all of them.”

The Air Force and other services are also looking at the terms of leases to determine if universal language might be used. They also are examining building codes and how building inspectors from local governments are used to ensure that safe and most up-to-date standards are used.

While the hearing was for the most part cordial, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., focused on the role that commanders play to ensure that rules and standards are enforced. She also said they must be more assertive in rejecting bonus payments to contractors that fail to meet high standards.

A contract can have “perfect language,” she said, but “If leaders don’t enforce the rules, at the end of the day, we’re not going to be delivering for our military personnel.”

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., agreed. “This is ultimately a commander responsibility.”

McSally should know. A retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot, McSally said her experience is that the record of commanders is “very patchwork.”

By the end of the 3-hour hearing, senators said they believe the actions and plans of the services are well designed and will make a difference.

But they also warned that their attention will not wane and that each of the services is expected to show real and lasting improvement.

“We will have another oversight hearing with the chairman’s blessing to see where the progress is,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said. “And I’m not talking about next year. I’m talking on fairly short intervals because if you look at this, this is not rocket science. We can fix this. And it starts by doing what every branch has said they’re going to do.”

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This airman is one of only 9 to receive Air Force Cross since 9/11

Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.


It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.

And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”

On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.

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The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.

Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.

The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.

Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.

Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.

“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”

According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.

The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

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Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.

“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”

Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.

“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”

Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.

All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.

On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.

“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”

Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.

In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.

According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.

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Calling in close air support is a pretty baller move. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.

There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.

Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.

Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.

Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.

Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”

“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
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6 countries who are friends with North Korea

Under the rule of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been a real jerk on the international scene — like, even more than usual. In fact, not too many countries are willing to be friends with North Korea. But there are some countries who are willing to stand by them. Surprisingly, that total reaches six.


Here’s who they are:

1. Russia

This really comes as no surprise. After all, in 1948, the Soviet Union helped put Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, into power. During the Korean War, Soviet pilots flew missions in support of North Korea and helped with the country’s flight training. Russia also exported a lot of gear to Pyongyang, including MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters.

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Russian fighter. (Photo via Public Domain)

2. China

Again, no surprise, given that during the Korean War, Chinese troops intervened on the side of North Korea. China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and the two countries share a 900-mile long border.

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Photo: Xinhuanet

3. Iran

This relationship could be surprising, except for the fact that Iran wants to buy a lot of weapons. In fact, Iran has purchased mini-submarines and ballistic missiles from the Hermit Kingdom, and a “scientific” alliance (read: nuclear weapons development) is also going on.

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Iranian soldiers on parade. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Syria

If there is a dictator who would challenge Kim Jong Un for most hated, it is Syria’s Bashir Assad. Like Iran, Syria sees North Korea as a source of weapons.

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Hmeymim airfield in Syria. (Photo via Russian Ministry of Defense)

5. Cuba

Cuba remains one of the few communist regimes in the world. North Korea, also a holdout communist regime, is reaching out to its fellow client of the Soviet Union.

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Fidel Castro became a close friend of the Soviet Union, something JFK tried to stop with the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Photo: Keizers)

6. Equatorial Guinea

According to many measures, Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights record. North Korea has reportedly been reaching out to its fellow pariah.

Check out this video rundown on the the countries that are North Korea’s only friends:

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Marine F-35 Lightning fighters arrive in Japan

The first permanent deployment of F-35B Lightning II fighters outside the U.S. took place last week, and the location is probably no surprise.


According to a Marine Corps release, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, or VMFA-121, has now become permanently based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

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A F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, lands at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)

According to F35.com, VMFA-121 consists of 16 F-35B fighters. In its previous iteration as VMFA(AW)-121, the squadron had 12 F/A-18D Hornet fighters, a number that was reduced to 10 as planes wore out, according to a BreakingDefense.com report from last April.

The deployment comes as tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China have increased over the South China Sea, a potentially volatile maritime flashpoint. China issued a warning after White House press secretary Shawn Spicer said, “So it’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”

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Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)

Spicer had echoed comments made by Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of State, during his Senate confirmation hearings. According to a FoxNews.com report, Tillerson said earlier this month, “You’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.”

In recent months, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out operations in the South China Sea. In December, China used a H-6 Badger to assert its claims as marked by the “nine-dash line.” There have also been close encounters between Chinese J-11 fighters and U.S. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes in recent years, according to a report by the Daily Caller.

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These are the Air Force medics trained for special ops

Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.


According to the U.S. Army, a MASH unit usually had about 113 people, while a 2006 Army release about the last MASH becoming a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, notes that the CSH has about 250 personnel.

According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.

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This is a typical Combat Support Hospital. (DOD photo)

The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.

In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks, and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.

Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.

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U.S. Air Force photo

At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready, and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley are all up for Bronze Stars for their actions.

It takes a lot to get into a SOST. You can download the application here. One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new approach to health is changing the lives of veterans

Here’s a question that could change your life: What matters most to you in your life? The answer can start you on the path to Whole Health.

Whole Health puts the focus of health care on the veteran rather than just the veteran’s illnesses and symptoms. It’s a patient-centered approach that considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence your health. Veterans examine these areas of their lives and set goals based on what matters most to them. In turn, those goals drive the health planning decisions they make with their VA care team.

All VA medical centers and clinics now offer training in Whole Health and personal health planning, as well as a range of well-being programs.


MIGHTY TRENDING

This anti-Putin journalist faked his own death to out Russian assassins

Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist who is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was reported to be assassinated on May 29, 2018, in Ukraine, but he showed up alive at a news conference on May 30, 2018, according to several reports.

Babchenko, 41, appeared at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, said the reported assassination was a sting operation.


Reports on May 29, 2018, indicated Babchenko was shot in the back in his apartment in Kiev, dying in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. His wife was said to have found him and called the ambulance.

“Special apologies to my wife,” Babchenko said at the press conference, according to the BBC.

“We prevented the attempted murder of Babchenko by conducting a special operation,” the head of the SBU, Vasily Hrytsak, said on May 30, 2018, before Babchenko appeared, adding that the attempt on his life had been planned by Russia for two months.

“According to information received by the Ukrainian Security Service, the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian security services themselves,” Hrytsak said, according to The Telegraph.

The SBU also said that a suspect accused of planning to carry out the assassination was apprehended and that Russian intelligence had paid the person ,000 thousand for the hit.

Babchenko, a prominent war correspondent, is extremely critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and fled Russia in February 2017, because of threats to him and his family.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the ministry was happy Babchenko was alive, calling the staged assassination a “propagandistic effect,” the BBC reported, citing the Russian news service RIA.

See Babchenko speak at the news conference below:

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

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