MIGHTY TACTICAL

Questions to ask yourself before buying a new knife

Purchasing new gear can be a daunting challenge thanks to an internet ripe with strong opinions and the tribal mentality we sometimes develop around the brands we’ve come to love. Somebody on the internet thinks you have to spend a fortune to get anything worth having, someone else thinks that guy is an idiot, and everyone thinks they know what’s best for you.


When it comes to knives, the waters get even muddier thanks to a mind-boggling variety of manufacturers, styles, purposes, and production materials. Whether you’re a budget minded-fisherman in need of a decent pocket knife or you’re the fanciest of knife snobs with very particular tastes regarding the amount of carbon in the steel of your blade, there’s a laundry list of options awash in the sea of internet retailers–begging the question, just where in the hell is a guy supposed to start?

The biggest difference between a knife I made and a knife I bought is knowing exactly who to be mad at if it under performs.

Over the years, my hobbies, passions and professional pursuits have helped me develop a powerful respect for good quality knives, eventually leading me to put together a workshop to start making knives of my own. But don’t let my knife-snob credentials fool you; my favorite knife is still the one that does the job without prompting an angry “how much did you spend?” phone call from my wife. That balance of function and budget has led me to develop a simple three-question system to help anyone pick the right knife for their pocket, bank account, and needs.

What do you need the knife to do?

A good knife serves a specific purpose, a decent knife can get you out of a jam, and a bad knife tries to do everything.

Is your knife primarily going to be for self-defense or for opening Amazon packages at the office? Do you plan to rely on it for survival or as a general utility knife? Before you even open your browser and start perusing knives, knowing what you need the knife for will go far in narrowing down your options.

Survival knives, for instance, should almost always be “full-tang” fixed blades. That means the metal of the blade extends all the way through the handle in one solid piece, offering the greatest strength you can get out of the sharpened piece of steel on your hip. If you’re looking for a bit of easily concealable utility, on the other hand, a good quality folding pocket knife would do just fine.

You’ll be tempted to look for a knife that can do it all, but beware: any tool designed to do everything tends not to do anything particularly well.

How and where do you expect to carry the knife?

Crocodile Dundee may have been happy to carry a short sword around L.A., but for most of us, the knives we carry need to fit in with our lifestyles. Corporate environments would likely frown on you walking into HR with a machete strapped to your belt, and a keychain Swiss Army Knife probably won’t cut it if you’re planning to spend a weekend in the woods with that group of angry old Vets that used to be your fire team. The frequency and way you plan to carry the blade will help inform your shopping.

No matter what Batman says, I’ve yet to find a way to carry batarangs around inconspicuously.

If you plan to carry the knife in your pocket as a part of your EDC, consider the space in your pocket and how it’ll feel when you stand, sit, and go about your normal daily duties. If it’s heavy, bulky, or pokes at you… chances are it’ll get left on the kitchen table instead of in your pocket.

If, however, you plan to keep the blade in a day pack or your glove box, you have more options regarding size and weight. If you’ve got to cover a lot of miles on foot, every ounce counts; if you’re stowing the blade in your trunk, you can get liberal with the tonnage.

How much do you want to spend?

You may know what you want the knife to do and how you intend to carry it, but the final purchase will always be determined by budget.

These knives range in price from under (to make) to name brand special editions that never hit the market. They’re also all just sharp pieces of metal. It helps to remember that.

If you’re an enthusiast that loves a carbon-heavy blade that’ll hold an edge you can shave with until the cows come home, you can find some knives that cost as much as the used cars high school kids take to class. If you’re an everyday Joe looking for a blade made out of 1095 stainless (and you don’t mind hitting it with a sharpener from time to time), you’ll have options in the checkout line at Walmart.

A good knife does cost more than a bad one, but don’t let that mentality guide you into the poor house. I’ve seen some pretty crappy blades go for a premium just because of the names associated with them.

Read reviews, shop around, but above all, trust your gut. A knife you like carrying will always be more useful than one you leave at home.

Articles

That day a lone Gurkha took out 30 Taliban using every weapon within reach

To say that Gurkhas are simply soldiers from Nepal would be a massive, massive understatement. If there’s a single reason no one goes to war with Nepal, it is because of the Gurkhas’ reputation. They are elite, fearless warriors who serve in not only the Nepalese Army but also in the British and Indian armies as well, a tradition since the end of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816. They are known for their exceptional bravery, ability, and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. Faithful to their traditions, one Gurkha in Afghanistan, Dipprasad Pun, singlehandedly held his post against more than 30 Taliban fighters.


It was a September evening in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. It was 2010, and Sergeant Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was on duty at a two-story outpost. He heard some noises and found two insurgents attempting to lay an IED in a nearby road. He realized he was surrounded. The night sky filled up with bullets and RPG fire.Taliban fighters sprang into a well-planned assault on Pun’s outpost.

Pun responded by pulling his machine gun off its tripod and handholding it as he returned fire toward the oncoming fighters. He went through every round he had available before tossing 17 grenades at the attackers. When he was out of grenades, he picked up his SA80 service rifle and started using that. He even threw a land mine at the enemy.

As Pun defended his position, one Taliban fighter climbed the side of the tower adjacent to the guard house, hopped on to the roof and rushed him. Pun turned to take the fighter out, but his weapon misfired. Pun grabbed the tripod of his machine gun and tossed it at the Taliban’s face, which knocked the enemy fighter off of the roof of the building.

Pun continued to fight off the assault until reinforcements arrived. When it was all said and done, 30 Taliban lay dead.

He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

“At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone,” he told the crowd gathered at the ceremony. “I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”

In all, he fired off 250 machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, threw six phosphorous grenades and six normal grenades, and one Claymore mine.

Pun comes from a long line of Gurkhas. His father served in the Gurkha Rifles, as did his grandfather, who received the Victoria Cross for an action in the World War II Burma theater.

Check the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss how the Gurkhas became feared warriors.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

How America’s most troubled aircraft will define the future

The V-22 Osprey has a spotty safety record, costs twice as much as originally advertised, and has a cost-per-flight-hour higher than a B-1B Lancer or F-22 Raptor when including acquisition, modification, and maintenance costs. So, why are all four Department of Defense branches of the military looking to fly the V-22 or something similar?


U.S. Marine Corps parachutists free fall from an MV-22 Osprey at 10,000 feet above the drop zone at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. on Jan. 17, 2000.

(U.S. Navy photo by Vernon Pugh)

First, let’s take a look at the Osprey’s weaknesses, because they are plentiful. The tilt-rotor aircraft is heavy, and keeping it aloft with two rotors requires a lot of lift, producing a lot of rotorwash. The rotorwash is so strong, in fact, that it’s injured personnel before, and it forces troops attempting to fast rope from the bird must do so at higher altitudes amid greater turbulence.

Which, yes, is scary and legitimately dangerous.

Meanwhile, the Osprey causes more wear and tear on the ships and air fields from which it operates. The large amount and high temperatures of its exhaust tears apart launch surfaces. And its own acquisition and maintenance costs are high.

They’re 0 million a pop, twice what they were initially expected to cost. And, after accounting for all costs, the Air Force estimates it pays almost ,000 for every hour one of the planes is aloft. The maligned F-35A only costs an additional ,000.

So, if the aircraft is dangerous and expensive, how could it possibly be the future of military aviation?

First, it’s actually a fairly safe aircraft. While 2017 was a bad year for the Osprey, accounting for three Class A accidents, mishaps that cost the government million or more, that only raised the Osprey’s accident rate to 3.27 per 100,000 hours flown, only a little above the 2.72 average for aircraft across the Corps. Go to the start of 2017, before its worst period, and the rate is 1.93 (2017 was actually a bad year for Navy, Air Force, and Marine aviation as a whole).

So, not great, but worth bearing if the aircraft fills a particular role that you really need to fill.

U.S. Marines with India Company 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command conduct a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise August 19, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Teagan Fredericks)

And the V-22 does indeed fill a unique role. Its ability to fly like a plane most of the time but then hover like a helicopter when needed is changing everything from combat search and rescue to special operations insertions to replenishment at sea.

See, fixed-wing aircraft, planes, can typically fly farther and faster while carrying heavier loads than their rotary-wing brethren. But, rotary-wing aircraft, helicopters, can land on nearly any patch of flat, firm ground or ship deck. Tilt-rotor aircraft like the V-22 can do both, even though it can’t do either quite as well.

It’s a jack-of-all-trades sort of deal. Except, in this case, “Jack of All Trades” is master of a few, too. Take combat search and rescue. It’s typically done with a helicopter because you need to be able to quickly land, grab the isolated personnel, and take off again, usually while far from a friendly airstrip. But the Osprey can do it at greater ranges and speeds than any helicopter.

Or take forward arming and refueling points, where the military sends personnel, fuel, and ammunition forward to allow helicopters to refuel and rearm closer to the fight. Setting these up requires that the military quickly moves thousands of pounds of fuel and ammo quickly, either by truck or aircraft.

Doing it with aircraft is faster, but requires a heavy lift aircraft that can land vertically or nearly so. Again, the V-22 can carry similar weight at much greater ranges than most other vertical lift aircraft. The Army’s CH-47F has a “useful load” of 24,000 pounds and a range of 200 nautical miles. The Osprey boasts a 428 nautical mile range while still carrying 20,000 pounds. And, it can ferry back and forth faster, cruising at 306 mph ground speed compared to the Chinook’s 180.

Air Force CV-22 in flight.

(U.S. Air Force)

Or look at Navy replenishment at sea, a job currently done by 27 C-2A Greyhounds, but the Navy is hoping to use 38 CMV-22Bs instead. When the CMV-22B uses rolling takeoffs and landings, it can carry over 57,000 pounds compared to the C-2A’s 49,000. And it can carry heavy loads further, lifting 6,000 pounds on a 1,100-nautical mile trip while the C-2A carries 800 pounds for 1,000-nautical miles.

Even the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Forces set up for crisis response in Central Command and Africa use the V-22 because, again, the range and lifting capability. In this case, it allowed them to base the Marines at fewer places while still responding quickly across their area of operations to everything from embassy reinforcements and evacuations to supporting combat missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations.

Meanwhile, the Marines are looking to turn some V-22s into gunships, either by bolting the weapons onto aircraft that could still operate as troop transports or creating a combat-focused variant of the V-22, like a tilt-rotor AC-130. And the Marines also tapped the tilt-rotors to carry the President’s staff and security when he travels in Marine 1.

So, why all the haters at places like War Is Boring? Well, the V-22 is very expensive. That ,000-per-flight-hour price tag makes the Air Force version that branch’s eighth most expensive plane. And getting the V-22 operationally superior to the C-2A required lots of expensive modifications and still doesn’t allow it to deliver supplies in a hover on most warships because of the hot exhaust mentioned above.

So, the Navy had to make expensive modifications to an expensive tilt-rotor aircraft so that it could do the job of a cheaper fixed-wing aircraft. But if the original, fixed-wing aircraft had gotten the upgrades instead, there’s a potential argument that it would’ve been made just as capable for much less.

Meanwhile, the V-22’s safety problems are often over-hyped, but there are issues. The C-2A has had only one major operational incident since 1973. The V-22 had three last year. This problem of cost vs. added capability comes up every time the V-22 is suggested for a new mission. It’s an expensive solution in every slot.

The Bell V-280 Valor is a proposed successor to the V-22.

(Manufacturer graphic, Bell Helicopters)

But when people on the opposite side make grand claims like, “Versatile V-22 Osprey Is The Most Successful New Combat System Since 9-11,” they aren’t exactly wrong. Despite all of the V-22’s problems, the Army is considering tilt-rotors for its next generation of vertical lift aircraft and the rest of the Department of Defense is already flying the V-22s. That’s because tilt-rotors offer capabilities that just can’t currently be achieved with other designs.

An important note, though, is that the Army may not opt for the V-22, or a tilt-rotor at all. The two aircraft seemingly at the top of the Army’s list for the Future Vertical Lift Program are the V-280—a Bell aircraft descended from the V-22, and the SB-1 Defiant—a compound helicopter design with two stacked rotor blades and a rear propeller. Boeing is part of the V-22 project, but actually backed Sikorsky and the SB-1 Defiant when it came time to look at the Army’s future.

A manufacturer graphic showing the SB-1 Defiant, a proposed compound helicopter to replace the UH-60, picking up troops. The SB-1 Defiant is in competition with the V-280, a tilt-rotor successor to the V-22.

(Dylan Malysov, CC BY-SA 4.0)

So, while the troubled tilt-rotor has won over at least a few proponents in three of the DoD branches, it may fall short of garnering all four, especially if the Army decides that tilt-rotor acquisition and maintenance is too expensive.

Whichever way the Army goes, it will decide the face of military aviation for a decade. A few dozen V-22s have been sold to American allies, and the U.S. has bought a few hundred, but the Army wants its next generation of vertical lift assets to all be part of the same family, and it needs to replace 2,000 UH-60 Blackhawks and 3,000 other helicopters in coming decades.

Whatever America’s largest military branch chooses will likely set the tone for follow-on American purchases as well as the fleets of dozens of allies. So, Bell has to prove that one of the military’s most troubled and expensive aircraft is still the face of the future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions

The US seized a North Korean ship and sailed it thousands of miles to check whether it has been used to violate international sanctions.

The US alleges that the “Wise Honest,” North Korea’s second-largest cargo ship, was making illicit shipments of coal and heavy machinery — in violation of US and UN sanctions on North Korea.

The Department of Justice announced May 9, 2019, that it had seized the 17,000-ton ship, the first time a North Korean ship has been commandeered over sanctions violations.

The announcement came after North Korea appeared to launch two short-range missiles in a test, adding further tensions to its relations with the US.


The Wise Honest arrived in the port of Pago Pago in the US territory of American Samoa on May 11, 2019, after a three-week journey, The Associated Press reported.

Assistant Attorney General Demers called the “Wise Honest” a “sanctions-busting ship” and said the US would ensure that North Korea complies with the international sanctions.

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” Demers said on May 9, 2019.

US seizes massive North Korean cargo vessel for violating sanctions

www.youtube.com

“North Korea, and the companies that help it evade US and UN sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal — including a civil forfeiture action such as this one, or criminal charges — to enforce the sanctions enacted by the U.S. and the global community.”

“We are deeply committed to the role the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.”

The UN Security Council has banned North Korea from exporting commodities like coal, lead, and iron, in a bid to prevent it from funding its nuclear and weapons programs.

The Department of Justice accused North Korea of “concealing the origin of their ship” and accused Korea Songi Shipping Company, which was using the ship, of violating US law by paying US dollars for improvements and purchases for the ship through oblivious US financial institutions.

“This seizure should serve as a clear signal that we will not allow foreign adversaries to use our financial systems to fund weapons programs which will be used to threaten our nation,” Demers said.

US Coast Guard public affairs officer Amanda Wyrick told the AP that the US would investigate the ship in American Samoa. She did not say where the ship would be brought after the investigation was complete.

The ship was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018, because it was not broadcasting a signal required to give information to other ships and authorities, the Department of Justice said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Two Red Army veterans on freedom and why it’s always worth fighting for

They call it the “Island of Death.”

At this spot on the western side of the Dnieper River in central Ukraine, some 30,000 Soviet soldiers died under Nazi artillery during World War II. Yet, on this hot June day, there’s nothing to suggest that this particular place was once on the deadliest front of the deadliest war in human history.


“What horrors happened here,” says my 55-year-old Ukrainian father-in-law, Valeriy Deriy, who is a Red Army veteran of the Cold War. “Can you imagine?”

I cannot.

We’ve hired a zodiac boat for the day, embarking from a yacht club in the riverside town of Horishni Plavni. To get to the so-called Island of Death, our captain weaves through narrow, overgrown channels that branch off the main course of the Dnieper River.

Tucked away in a dense forest on the island, there’s an old Soviet war memorial. You’d hardly notice it from the water, unless you knew what to look for. Valeriy explains that one can still find evidence of war in the surrounding woods. Old artillery pieces, bullets, rifles, and boots. That sort of stuff.

“Some people want to forget the past. But it’s impossible,” he tells me. “It’s always there.”

Between August and December 1943, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fought the battle for the Dnieper River. It was one of World War II’s largest battles, comprising some 4 million soldiers stretched along a nearly 900-mile-long front.

After Nazi Germany’s defeat at the Battle of Kursk, the Soviets pressed their advantage and pushed the Nazis back across Ukraine. The third longest river in Europe, the Dnieper — which runs roughly north to south down the middle of Ukraine to the Black Sea — was a natural physical obstacle for the advancing Red Army.

The Nazis took to the heights on the western bank to set up their artillery, which they used to devastating effect. The Red Army crossed the river under heavy fire, improvising makeshift means to get across. Soviet losses were staggering — accounts vary, but roughly 400,000 Red Army soldiers died in the Dnieper River battle of 1943.

The Other Side

Earlier, Valeriy and I stand at a spot on the opposite, eastern bank of the Dnieper River.

“My great-grandfather said the water ran red with blood in the war,” Valeriy says as we stand on the riverbank, looking to the other side.

Valeriy explains that his great-grandfather fought in that Dnieper River battle, and he crossed the river at this very spot. Right where we’re standing. I’m left a bit speechless.

His great-grandfather couldn’t swim, Valeriy continues, but Soviet commanders would have him shot if he’d refused the crossing. So he held on to a log for flotation and kicked his way across. Somehow, he survived.

“It was October, and the water was already very cold,” Valeriy says, shaking his head. “What a nightmare.”

Today, at this spot where so many died in World War II, there’s a simple old Soviet memorial crumbling, halfway reclaimed by the forest. A dilapidated Soviet tank and artillery piece sit in the foliage, too. But that’s it. You have to rely on your imagination to appreciate what happened here.

There’s not a cloud in the sky and the hot breeze feels good on my face. On a day like this, it’s hard to appreciate what happened here about 77 years ago. I can hardly imagine the fear felt by Soviet soldiers as they stood at that same spot on the river shore, looking to the far side like lost souls about to cross the River Styx.

And then I remember what it was like to stare across no man’s land in eastern Ukraine. I remember the fear I felt under the Russian artillery and sniper shots. And I imagine, at least a little, what those Soviet soldiers must have felt.

The trench lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — where Ukrainian troops have fought a war since 2014 to keep a Russian invasion force at bay — are only about five hours away by car. We could be there by dinner, if we wanted to.

True, we’re much too far from the trenches to hear the daily rumble of battle, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The war is always there.

Standing on the riverbank, Valeriy says to me: “History has been hard on Ukraine. But things will get better. We’re fighting for our democracy, just like your country did. And we’ll win it, too. Just like you did. I still have hope that my daughter and my grandchildren will see an amazing, free Ukraine.”

Still looking across the river, facing the same divide his great-grandfather once faced, Valeriy adds: “We’ll get there.”

The Past

Valeriy never served in Afghanistan. He was posted instead to East Germany and worked in signals intelligence, a specialty that paved the way for his future civilian career as a German language interpreter.

“It was an unwritten rule in the Soviet army that only one brother would have to be in Afghanistan at a time,” Valeriy explains. “And my brother went in my place.”

Valeriy’s older brother, Sergiy, was drafted into the Red Army and served in the war in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1984.

In fact, both brothers had volunteered for the war. But their mother had secretly gone to military officials and asked that only one son be allowed to go. Sergiy ultimately volunteered without Valeriy’s knowledge. It wasn’t until their mother died in December 2012 that Valeriy learned the truth.

Sergiy was a sergeant in a signals unit deployed near the Salang Tunnel in the Hindu Kush Mountains. The combat he experienced was terrible, Sergiy tells me, but he doesn’t go into much detail about the war very often. And when he does, his eyes adopt a distinctly distant look, as if he’s looking past me, in an attempt to articulate memories that no words could ever really recreate.

Today, both Deriy brothers live in the town of Horishni Plavi — it’s where my wife, Lilya, grew up.

On a warm June afternoon, our family gathers at a park by the Dnieper River to grill shashlik — Ukraine’s version of a barbecue. Both Sergiy and Valeriy are wearing NASA baseball caps, gifts from me and my wife.

It’s the first time we’ve all been together since the coronavirus lockdown was lifted on June 5, and we’re in good spirits. We make toast after toast until our legs are a little wobbly. We’ve brought along an iPhone speaker and grill the meat while we cycle through a playlist of staple rock hits — songs by bands like the Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Metallica. That’s my in-laws’ favorite kind of music. Mine too.

We end up cooking more meat than we could ever hope to eat in a day. And we maintain a steady pace with the cognac toasts. And, as it’s prone to do, the conversation between Valeriy, Sergiy, and myself returns to the ongoing war in Ukraine’s east.

“The Russians were never our friends. Stalin invaded us, and now Putin has, too,” Sergiy says. “The only county that ever really cared about us was the United States.”

“We’ll never forget what your country has done for us,” he adds, speaking specifically about America’s delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Then Valeriy abruptly stands.

“Please,” he says, beckoning me to shake his hand, “I want to shake the hand of a citizen of the country that put a man on the moon.”

I stand and shake my father-in-law’s hand and feel proud of my country. And I’m particularly proud that he’s proud of my county, too.

A generation ago, we would have been enemies. Our countries were poised at opposite ends of the earth, ready to unleash nuclear Armageddon to destroy one another.

Today, we are a family.

No One Forgets

Located on the east bank of the Dnieper River, roughly 190 miles southeast of Kyiv, Horishni Plavni was founded by Soviet youth volunteers in 1960 as a place to live for workers in the nearby iron-ore mines.

Originally, the city’s name was “Komsomolsk,” a reference to the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, or “Komsomol.” The town was renamed Horishni Plavni in 2016 as part of Ukraine’s decommunization laws—a set of measures that went into effect in 2015 to curb Russia’s cultural influence.

Across the country, all Soviet-era names of settlements and roads have been changed to new Ukrainian ones. All reminders and relics of the Soviet Union have been removed or made illegal — including playing the Soviet national anthem and displays of the hammer and sickle flag.

Horishni Plavni’s main thoroughfare was once called Lenin Street. Now it’s named Heroes of the Dnieper River Street. The statue of Vladimir Lenin that once stood in the city center is gone. Only an empty pedestal remains — a common sight in Ukraine these days.

Yet you can’t totally erase the past. World War II is too deeply ingrained in Ukraine’s national psyche, and its physical environment, to ever be forgotten.

Soviet-era war memorials still stand around Horishni Plavni. At a riverside park, children play on the marble ramps of a towering, Soviet-era war memorial. In a nearby field, a row of Soviet tanks are on permanent display. Teenagers sit in the shade of the turrets and drink beer and listen to music.

Despite all their years living under Soviet propaganda, my father-in-law and uncle-in-law have a surprisingly pro-American perspective on the war.

“The Soviet Union could have never won without American help under lend-lease,” Valeriy tells me, referring to the American policy from 1941 to 1945 to provide materiel assistance to the Soviet Union’s war effort.

“And thank God the Allies landed in France,” Valeriy adds. “Otherwise Stalin would have taken over all of Europe.”

No War Ever Ends

After our shashlik picnic is over, Sergiy visits his brother’s apartment, where my wife and I are staying. He brings with him a photo album from his time in the Soviet army, including his deployment to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

I’m thrilled to have a look and listen to his stories from the war.

Sergiy recalls how his commander in Afghanistan justified the Soviet war by the need to defend the Soviet Union from U.S. nuclear missile strikes.

“We were told that America was evil, and that we were fighting in Afghanistan to defend the world from America,” Sergiy tells me. “It was all a lie, of course.”

Incredibly, Sergiy bears no ill will toward the country — my country — that was responsible for the death of many of his comrades.

“The Soviet Union did the same to America in Vietnam,” Sergiy says of America’s covert effort from 1979 to 1989 to arm and finance Afghanistan’s mujahideen fighters to fight against the Soviets. “It was the Cold War, and we were enemies. And that’s what enemies do to each other.”

Now, Sergiy has welcomed me — an American veteran of another war in Afghanistan — into his family with open arms. More than that, I’d even say that Sergiy and I share a special bond because we share a common battlefield. We remember the same places, and in some cases, the same enemies. Sometimes, as I’ve learned, former enemies actually have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens who know nothing about war.

As he goes through the old photos, Sergiy’s face flashes with various contradictory emotions. Pride and pain. Nostalgia and regret. For Sergiy, war was both the worst and the best experience of his life. Therein lies that great paradox that faces all soldiers who’ve home to live in peace.

If war was so terrible, why do we sometimes miss it?

Sergiy, for his part, remembers his friends from the army fondly. But there’s a dark cloud, too, that hangs over every good memory.

“The Soviet Union lied to me. They lied to all of us,” Sergiy says as he flips through the photo album’s pages.

He pinches his lips and slowly shakes his head.

“They wasted so many lives,” he adds.

Soldiers rarely fight for the reasons dictated to them by the governments that send them to battle. Rather, once the bullets start flying, a simple sense of duty to defend one’s friends, and to not disappoint their expectations, is what inspires one to act courageously.

Yet, once soldiers are separated from their wars for a while — either by time or by distance — the moral clarity of duty may erode, leading them to question the justice of their individual actions in combat. The simple kill-or-be-killed morality of combat no longer shields them from thoughtfully considering the consequences of the things they did in war.

In many ways, life in peace is much more complicated than life in war. That was certainly true for my uncle-in-law. Although Sergiy came through the war in Afghanistan physically unscathed, he was left irrevocably jaded about Soviet communism.

Hope

In 1985, just a year after his discharge from the Soviet Army, Sergiy began law studies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine’s premier university.

“I felt so at peace. Finally, no war, no suffering. Only a bright future,” Sergiy recalls of his arrival in Ukraine’s capital city to begin his studies.

But it didn’t last. In April 1986, an explosion ripped through reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The Chernobyl plant is located only about 60 miles north of Kyiv. And so, spooked by the threat of radiation, Sergiy was unsure whether he should stay in Kyiv to finish his law degree. The reborn optimism and happiness he’d felt just a year earlier, fresh from his wartime service, quickly gave way to feelings remembered from the war — dark feelings that he’d wanted to forget forever.

“When I was in Afghanistan, I always felt like death was chasing me,” Sergiy remembers. “And when I came back to Ukraine, I thought I could be free from that fixation on death. But Chernobyl happened, and here death finally caught me. A long and painful death. I remember I said to myself, ‘How ironic, death didn’t catch me in the war, but it did in civilian life.'”

Sergiy ultimately stayed in Kyiv to finish his law degree. After graduating from law school in 1991, he returned to his hometown of Horishni Plavni (then called Komsomolsk). The Soviet Union broke apart that year, further upending his world.

When Ukraine’s economy subsequently collapsed in the 1990s, Sergiy ultimately abandoned his law career and took up work as a hired hand. It was his only option to make a living. He never went back to practicing law.

My uncle-in-law, who is a devoutly religious man, has struggled with his demons from Afghanistan. And his family life has had its ups and downs. But he’s never given up hope for his country, even as Ukraine has gone through revolutions and an unfinished war to finally free itself from Russian overlordship.

“I try to stay positive, despite everything that’s happened to our country,” Sergiy says. “It would be so wrong not to believe in our future. I always have hope. It’s just a matter of time. Our future generations will be truly happy and free.”

Moral Courage

As young men, Soviet propaganda told Valeriy and Sergiy that America was their mortal enemy. Yet, as older men, they’ve both shown the remarkable moral courage to abandon their former worldviews and embrace the promise of democracy.

Above all else, Valeriy and Sergiy now believe in the justice of freedom and democracy rather than conformity and communism. And the two Red Army veterans wholeheartedly believe that the United States is a force for good and a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people around the world.

It’s true that history hasn’t been kind to Ukraine, and my in-laws have not led easy lives.

Yet in spite of everything, their faith in America remains unbroken. And, with America’s promise lighting the way, they still extoll the justice of their own country’s democratic path, no matter its attendant hardships.

In the end, they choose to reject their Soviet past but not forget it. When the work of building a democracy gets tough, as it so often does, they look to the past to remember what they’re working so hard to achieve.

“Democracy hasn’t been easy, but I’d rather live as a free man than go back to the way things were before,” my father-in-law says.

Freedom, after all, usually means more to people who’ve experienced the alternative.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How losing Vietnam was actually a victory for 5 other countries

On Jan. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, formally ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On Apr. 30, 1975, the country of South Vietnam formally came to an end as North Vietnamese tanks rolled across bases and airfields and into the southern capital of Saigon.

While many look back and see the war as a waste of money, manpower, and materiel given the outcome, there are more than 475 million people who would disagree.


The foundation of that figure of 475 million is the current population of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It doesn’t mention the relatives of those populations who are no longer alive and didn’t live under the constant threat of global Communism because of the line in the sand drawn by American forces in Vietnam.

World War II-era Navy veteran, Georgetown University professor, and former member of the National Security Council under four presidential administrations, William Lloyd Stearman, wrote about the accomplishments of the United States in the Vietnam War in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. In it, he argues that the Vietnam War was not only winnable, the North Vietnamese were constantly surprised that the Americans didn’t cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by invading Laos – a move the NVA thought was inevitable – and thus, win the war for the South.

The U.S. didn’t want to widen the war, but if the NVA was already in Laos. It was already wider.

While the 96-year-old Stearman spends much of the article rehashing the causes for the outcome of the Vietnam War, the important aspects he adds to the discussion are what the United States and her allies actually achieved through their involvement there, rather than dwelling on what we lost. He argues that without the intervention of the U.S. in Vietnam, the West would have been forced into harder choices in more difficult areas as Communist insurgencies rocked other countries in the region. Quoting Singapore’s visionary leader Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote about this subject in his memoirs:

In 1965, when the U.S. military moved massively into South Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines faced internal threats from armed insurgencies and the communist underground was still active in Singapore. Indonesia [was] in the throes of a failed communist coup. America’s action enabled noncommunist Southeast Asia to put their own houses in order. By 1975, they were in better shape to stand up to the communists. Had there been no U.S. intervention, the will of these countries to resist them would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely gone communist.”

Lee Kuan Yew is famous for taking Singapore “from third world to first world” in a single generation.

The U.S. troop buildup in South Vietnam in 1965 spurred Britain to reinforce Malaysia. That same year, Indonesian forces were inspired by anti-Communist action and troop build-ups in the region and successfully fought off a Chinese-led Communist insurgency there. If the insurgency in Indonesia were successful, it would have spread to the Philippines and forced the U.S. to come to the Philippines to fight the Communists, rather than in North Vietnam.

That situation, Stearman argues, would have been far worse and far more costly than the fighting in Vietnam.

Articles

Allahu Quackbar: The internet is trolling ISIS by photoshopping them as rubber ducks

4Chan is very loosely defined as an image-pasteboard website, full of content of every imaginable category. Depending on whom you ask, 4Chan is either “the heart and soul of the Internet” or “where integrity goes to die” — a place for celebrity nude photo leaks, gamergate, and endless trolling.


No matter what anyone’s personal feelings about what goes on the site’s many boards, there’s no doubt about its contributions to internet culture. 4Chan brought us lolcats, Chocolate Rain, and RickRolling.

Now the site’s humor has a purpose, making fun of the Islamic State (a.k.a.: “Daesh”). This could be bad for an organization whose international recruitment strategy depends so much on the tone of its social media strategy (ISIS, not 4Chan, that is).

See the original 4Chan thread here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What you need to know about self-referral

The intent of a self-referral is to provide you with a means of intervening in the progression of alcohol abuse early enough for you to get help before a problem becomes more advanced and more difficult to resolve without the risk of disciplinary action.

Have you ever wondered what the self-referral process is like? This recently released video testimonial from the Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign (KWYE) shows the real-life story of one chief’s experience with seeking help. You can view the testimonial video, and more information is available on the NAAP website.


[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fmedia%2Faho%2F860%2F1904_KeepWhatYouveEarned_860_1.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.navy.mil&s=780&h=3f49fddc056e704f9f1a8780c68b57b62fc8e26ba72c2c1c2df6119cdac0d901&size=980x&c=2215348185 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fmedia%252Faho%252F860%252F1904_KeepWhatYouveEarned_860_1.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.navy.mil%26s%3D780%26h%3D3f49fddc056e704f9f1a8780c68b57b62fc8e26ba72c2c1c2df6119cdac0d901%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2215348185%22%7D” expand=1]

Do you still have questions about the self-referral process? The following list answers some frequently asked questions about self-referral.

1. What exactly constitutes a self-referral? 

A self-referral is an event that is personally initiated by the member. A member may initiate the process by disclosing the nature and extent of their problem to one of the following personnel who is actively employed in their capacity as a qualified self-referral agent:
  1. Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisor (DAPA)
  2. Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Officer- in-Charge, or Command Master Chief (CMDCM)/Chief of the Boat (COB)
  3. Navy Drug and Alcohol Counselor (or intern)
  4. Department of Defense medical personnel, including Licensed Independent Practitioner (LIP)
  5. Chaplain
  6. Fleet and Family Support Center Counselor

2. When should someone consider self-referring? 

A member should consider self-referring if they desire counseling and treatment to address potential, suspected, or actual alcohol abuse or misuse.

3. Is there anything that could make a self-referral invalid, in which case the member would not be shielded from disciplinary action?

To be valid, the self-referral must be made only to one of the qualified self-referral agents listed above; it must be made with the intent of acquiring treatment, should treatment be recommended as a result of the screening process; and there can be no credible evidence of the member’s involvement in an alcohol-related incident (ARI).

4. What do we mean by “non-disciplinary”?

This means that a member may not be disciplined merely for self-referring and participating in the resulting process of screening and treatment, if recommended. It does not mean that a member is necessarily shielded from the possible administrative consequences of treatment failure or the administrative or disciplinary consequences of refusing to participate in treatment recommended by the post-referral screening process.

5. Does making a self-referral count as an alcohol-related incident (ARI)? 

No. Self-referral provides the means of early intervention in the progression of alcohol abuse by which members can obtain help before a problem becomes more advanced and more difficult to resolve without risk of disciplinary action.

A Sailor wave goodbye to loved ones on the pier while manning the rails as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans)

6. What happens after someone makes a self-referral?

  • Command will complete DAPA screening package and OPNAV 5350/7 Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report (DAR).
  • Self-referrals shall be directed to the appropriate Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP) for screening. Following screening, a medical officer or LIP will provide the member’s command with a written screening summary and treatment recommendation.
  • If treatment is recommend, the command will coordinate with the appropriate SARP facility based on availability, locality, and type of treatment needed.

7. Will other people know if I self-refer? 

Yes. The member’s chain of command, and others on a need-to-know basis, will be informed.

8. Will a self-referral mean that the Navy looks at other parts of my life/job performance? 

Alcohol use issues are complex, and evaluation and treatment require a holistic view. Relevant information on the member’s work and personal life may be required as part of the screening and treatment processes.

9. Can I re-enlist if I’ve self-referred? 

Yes.

10. What are the levels of alcohol treatment? 

  • Level 0.5 Early Intervention/Education Program
  • Level I Outpatient Treatment
  • Level II Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization (lOP)
  • Level III Inpatient Treatment

11. Will I lose my security clearance for self-referring? 

No. Your security clearance may be jeopardized if your post-referral screening recommends treatment and you subsequently refuse that treatment.

12. Where can I get further information on the self-referral policy? 

Refer to OPNAVINST 5350.4D for details and official policies. Questions may directed to the 21st Century Sailor Office, NAAP staff. Contact information is available at the NAAP website here.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s only carrier would fight an American carrier

It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.


Now, both carriers have had their problems. If you’re a loyal WATM reader, you have followed the Kuznetsov Follies. We are talking a first deployment that featured two splash landings, needing to operate planes from land bases, not to mention the fact that the new fighter is a possible dud and the carrier is a floating hell for the crew.

HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.

Related video:

But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.

By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.

Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.

Articles

ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”

Articles

6 things troops always buy after deployment

When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.


Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”

But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.

1. A new car or motorcycle

The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.

That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.

2. Booze

Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.

But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.

3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)

When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.

That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.

Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.

4. Engagement rings

Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…

5. Divorce lawyers

Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.

6. Tattoos

There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.

Just make sure you get it spell-checked.

What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force authorizes two piece flight suits for Active Duty

The U.S. Air Force has officially authorized the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty.

Starting immediately, the two-piece flight suit — otherwise known as the two-piece flight duty uniform, or “2PFDU” — is authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations, the service said in a news release April 22, 2019.

“The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment,” the release states. “Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.”


Last week, Military.com spoke with Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manage officer for the human systems program office within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, about upgrading current fighter pilot and aircrew flight suits, which are typically a one-piece garment for men and women.

U.S. Air Force demo pilots walk off the flightline during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jensen Stidham)

Advantages of a two-piece suit include greater ease in using the bathroom and improved overall comfort, Rodriguez said.

Along with meeting safety regulations, a two-piece flight suit, to be comprised of a standard top and bottom, would have to accommodate the needs of all aircrew members, she said.

The Air Force on April 23, 2019, said the traditional, one-piece flight duty uniform (FDU) will continue to be an option for aircrew.

A two-piece uniform has already been in use in the Air Force for those flying cargo airlift or helicopters.

The service in 2017 said that airmen flying these aircraft — anything aside from a fighter and without an ejection seat — had begun wearing the Army Aircrew Combat Uniform, known as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform in the Air Force, or the A2CU.

First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

The uniform looks very much like the Air Force’s Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. Commanders across the force had begun giving some airmen the option to wear the A2CU as a duty uniform during training or while deployed.

Giving airmen the option to wear the 2PFDU “aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports [Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen David Goldfein’s] intent to revitalize squadrons,” Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations, said in the release.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Areas of Fort Sill on lockdown in response to an unknown, “serious incident”

Editor’s Note: This page was last updated at 1:29p.m. PST.

Reports of a “serious incident” are surfacing from Fort Sill, located north of Lawton, Oklahoma. Currently, several buildings are on lockdown and official channels are advising people to “stay away from [these] areas at this time.”


As of 9:39 a.m. PST, according to the Fort Sill Provost Marshal’s Office and Directorate of Emergency Services Facebook page, locked down areas include:

  • McNair Hall
  • Taylor Hall
  • Knox Hall
  • Sheridan Hall

The locked-down buildings mentioned above are located within the encircled area.

[Update – 11:39 a.m. PST] According to Stars and Stripes, a public affairs officer has reported that the situation is “all clear.”

[Update – 1:29 p.m. PST] Official reports have surfaced that explain a former Fort Sill employee was detained and his vehicle was searched. The previously mentioned buildings were locked down as a security measure and the situation has been resolved.

At present, all we know is that it was not a bomb threat.

This page will be updated as the situation develops and details emerge.