10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.


But in recent years, this power has been fading.

From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.

Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:

10. The South China Sea

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.

While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.

Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.

9. The Pacific

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57)  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)

The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.

In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.

“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”

U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.

“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.

8. The Philippines

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Marawi, Phillipines, sits on the northern bank of Lake Lanao. The tiny country is surrounded by the Phillipine, South China, Sulu, and Celebes Seas, and the Pacific Ocean to the east. (Image from Chrisgel Ryan Cruz)

America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.

But since his election last year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a hard-line against the U.S., and has vowed to kick U.S. troops out of the country “within the next two years.” He has also insulted the U.S. on numerous occasions, calling it “lousy,” and said the Philippines do not need the U.S.

Duterte has softened his anti-American stance in recent months, largely because of the joint Philippine-U.S. operations to oust Islamist fighters from the southern city of Marawi, and has said that he would honor existing military agreements the Philippines have with the U.S. and will upgrade bases as necessary.

Nevertheless, he has still criticized the quality of U.S. equipment being given to the Philippines to fight the extremists and has received arms shipments from Russia and China. And perhaps most importantly, support for the U.S. in the Philippines has dropped significantly, all while approval for China has grown.

7. Turkey

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
President Trump (left) and President Erdogan of Turkey (right). (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.

Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.

On natural gas imports, the war in Syria, and Kurdish independence, Turkey has turned to Russia and Iran for support as a direct result of friction with the U.S.

A scrapped weapons shipment to Turkey, a refusal to extradite anti-Erdoğan preacher Fethullah Gülen from the U.S., and Erdoğan’s own refusal to pander to American and European liberal norms have all contributed to a rapid decline in America’s influence in the country, which now sees its NATO membership as increasingly unnecessary.

6. Africa

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

As the African continent continues to emerge as a region ripe for investment, the U.S. has fallen behind its rivals, and its lack of influence over African politics has been painfully apparent in its failure to control the South Sudan crisis, provide security in east Africa, and tamp down on extremism across the continent.

China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.

Read Also: How US PsyOps lured an African warlord to defect using his mother’s voice

“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”

While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.

5. Latin America

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Equipment Operator 2nd Class Patrick Reiter, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, operates a rig during water well drilling operations in support of Southern Partnership Station 17, a U.S. Navy deployment executed by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces in Central and South America. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brittney Cannady)

The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.

As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.

Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.

Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.

“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.

All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.

4. Europe

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Prime Minister of Russia Medvedev and German Chancellor Merkel in 2008. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.

President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.

The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”

3. The Arab Middle East

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.

Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen,  instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.

After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”

However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.

As a result, many former U.S. allies in the region have fallen into Russia’s embrace.

2. Mainland southeast Asia

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Kem Sokha, Acting President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the country’s opposition leader, sits across from former Secretary of State John Kerry. (Photo from U.S. State Department)

The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.

This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.

China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.

Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.

1. Pakistan

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Local men assist U.S. Marines in offloading hundreds of bags of flour aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft at Gilgit Air Base, Pakistan, Sept. 8, 2010. (USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.

Already under pressure from the U.S. for its ties to the Taliban, the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence’s corruption and potential connections to terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s alleged dishonesty on late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, the relationship has been damaged further by the U.S. cozying up to India, which has accelerated in recent months.

Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.

“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force needs more ‘bird cannons’ to protect bombers

Four years ago, a US military helicopter crashed in the UK, killing all four crew members. The cause: a flock of geese.

Birds and wildlife pose a deadly threat to American military aircraft and their crew. Between 1985 and 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, destroyed 27 US Air Force aircraft and cost the service almost a billion dollars, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Defensive technology has improved, reducing the number of incidents, but destructive accidents continue to occur. Between 2011 and 2017, the USAF experienced 418 wildlife-related mishaps, resulting in $182 million in damages, according to Military Times.


Canadian Geese alone cost the USAF almost 0 million between fiscal year 1995 and fiscal year 2016.

To counter the threat posed by birds, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota installed an automated bird deterrent system — special cannons designed to keep the animals away.

The 0,000 bird abatement system consists of a rotating cannon and a propane tank. The cannon produces a loud sound similar to a shotgun blast to scare the birds away. Some units, the Associated Press reports, are equipped with speakers able to blare the distress calls of several different bird species.

“Birds are a huge problem for our aircraft operations,” James McCurdy, a 28th Bomb Wing flight safety officer, explained to the AP. “In the middle of our migration season (October, November, April and May), it’s not abnormal for us to hit and kill a bird at least once a week. They cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

The bird cannons only require around ,000 a year to maintain, which could mean significant savings for the base.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Bird strikes are problems the world over. This photo shows an Israeli Air Force UH-60 Blackhawk after a bird strike.

Some of the other tools, outside of manpower, that have been used to keep birds away from US aircraft in the past include the Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), a weather radar that can keep track of flocks of birds, and a bird detection radar for monitoring individual birds.

Not every Air Force base is equipped with these defense systems though. At Ellsworth, which is home to one of the two Air Force B-1 Lancer bomber wings, the previous approach to dealing with wildlife was to send someone out with a shotgun.

Ellsworth now has 24 bird cannons installed along the runway to protect the bombers, each of which reportedly costs around 0 million.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is injecting millions into WHO as the US cuts funds. Experts say Beijing is trying to boost its influence over the agency and its ‘deeply compromised’ chief.

China is pumping millions of dollars into the World Health Organization, an action one expert describes as a political move meant “to boost its superficial credentials” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the US pulls its own WHO funding.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a Thursday news briefing that the country would be injecting an extra $30 million into the agency “in support of global efforts to fight COVID-19 and the construction of public health systems in developing countries.”


China also lapped praise on WHO and its leadership, saying the agency “had actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position.”

Last month, China already pledged million to the organization, a move it said was meant to “help small and medium-sized countries with weak public health systems in particular to bolster their epidemic preparedness.”

China’s latest cash injection comes a week after the US announced plans to freeze 0 million in payments to WHO. Until then, the US was the largest financial contributor to WHO.

According to publicly available data, as of the end of 2019, China contributed million to WHO — .8 million in assessed contributions and .2 million in voluntary contributions — while the US gave 3 million — 6 million in assessed contributions and 6 million in voluntary contributions.

It’s not clear whether the US will cut from the assessed or voluntary contributions. Other nongovernmental groups, like the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, gave WHO 1 million in voluntary contributions in 2019.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

President Donald Trump told a coronavirus press briefing last week that the organization had “failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”

Trump and other critics have accused WHO of assisting China in efforts to suppress information on the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

In particular, the Trump administration has criticized WHO’s claim in mid-January that there was no known human-to-human transmission of the virus.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

According to The Guardian, the tweet was posted because an official worried that a WHO expert was issuing warnings that deviated from China’s messaging. (A WHO source told Business Insider the message was posted to “balance the science out,” rather than for political reasons.)

Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso, also referred to WHO last month as the “Chinese Health Organization,” referencing its close ties to Beijing.

‘Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide’

Experts told Business Insider that China’s contributions to WHO were not goodwill gestures but rather a series of political power moves to boost its global image.

“Beijing sees an opportunity to boost its superficial credentials as a global contributor to the pandemic following the US decision to halt funding to WHO,” said John Lee, who served as a national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop from 2016 to 2018.

Lee now works as a senior fellow at the United States Studies Center in Sydney and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

He said China’s other altruistic measures, like sending medical teams and protective equipment to countries battling the coronavirus, were also tools meant to give China a political boost in the global arena.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, previously told Business Insider’s Alexandra Ma that China was trying to craft an image for itself as a global leader in the coronavirus fight rather than the country from which the virus originated.

“Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide trying to paint the Chinese government as the solution to the problem, rather than one of the sources of it,” Richardson said.

WHO leaders ‘captured’ by China

Lee said that while science and health experts at WHO “do wonderful work on the ground in all parts of the world,” the agency’s leadership had become “captured by countries such as China,” putting its credibility to the test.

“When [WHO] leadership is called to make decisions of global health concern such as with the current pandemic, such decisions tend to be overly influenced by political rather than health priorities,” Lee said.

“In this context, Dr. Tedros is deeply compromised and his credibility is heavily damaged,” he added.

WHO officials have hit back at accusations of the organization being “China-centric,” saying its close relationship with China is “essential” in understanding the origins of the outbreak.

“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to Tedros, told reporters earlier this month.

Tedros has also dismissed accusations of associating too closely with China, saying the agency was “close to every nation.” “We are color-blind,” he told reporters on April 8.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 reasons why ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’ was like the Wild West

In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.


Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.

Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Cpl. Robert Santiago, front, from Perth Amboy, N.J., and Sgt. Eddie Glowacki, from Great Valley, N.Y., Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215, look out over the Sangin Valley during an operation near Forward Operating Base Nolay, Afghanistan, Jan. 27, 2014. The SFAAT considered the operation to be a success and was dedicated to helping the ANA in the region to become completely sustainable and self-sufficient. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joshua Young)

Paved roads were scarce

In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”

Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.

The local cemeteries

How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?

Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
HM3 Mitchell Ingolia, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conducts a security patrol through the dangerous area known as Sangin, Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hernandez)

 

The nasty terrain

In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.

In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.

The locals lived in tribes

In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”

Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado (left) and Cpl. Rocco Urso (right), both with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provide over watch security during an operation in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2010. The Marines conducted a two-day operation to clear insurgents from the Wishtan area. (USMC photo by Cpl. David Hernandez)

 

The Marines lived like cowboys

When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Arlington Cemetery will expand next year

For its second act of expansion, Arlington National Cemetery plans to grow southward onto property formerly occupied by the Navy Annex. Work there will begin in 2020, said the cemetery’s executive director.

Karen Durham-Aguilera spoke March 12, 2019, before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. She told lawmakers the cemetery plans to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2020. She also thanked them for providing the appropriate funding to make it happen.


“With Congress’s support, the Defense Access Road project is fully funded with million and the Southern Expansion is partially funded with 9.1 million dollars no-year funding, toward a 0 million requirement,” she said.

Both projects, which include a plan to reroute Columbia Pike, which runs alongside the cemetery to the south; and a plan to develop reclaimed land and bring it up to the standards of the cemetery, are currently underway.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

The road project should finish by 2022, Durham-Aguilera said. The second phase of the project should begin in 2022, and complete in 2025.

“Southern Expansion will add 37 acres of burial space and extend the cemetery’s active life,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We will continue to provide quarterly report to Congress, outlining the progress of these important projects.”

To move forward on the project, Durham-Aguilera said the Army is working with Arlington County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration.

Other Progress

Durham-Aguilera also told lawmakers about additional projects that have either been completed at the cemetery, which are underway, or which are currently in the planning stages. Since 2013, she said, 70 infrastructure projects have been completed. Today, an additional 25 are underway.

“We have completed or are currently rebuilding more than eight miles of roadways, with approximately ten additional miles in planning or design,” she said. “We have replaced about one-third of the cemetery’s storm sewer lines … since 2013, we have replaced over 1,000 feet of sanitary line, typically, as an emergency repair. We plan to replace or rehabilitate an additional 5,000 feet to prevent further failures.”

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

The Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Plan will add more space to ANC in a location near the existing Air Force Memorial and former Navy Annex. Plans include rerouting portions of the existing Columbia Pike.

(Army illustration)

In submitted testimony, Durham-Aguilera said the cemetery will also do work on its administrative building where families gather in advance of a funeral.

Eligibility criteria

In fiscal year 2018, ANC buried nearly 6,500 service members, veterans and eligible family members, Durham-Aguilera said. While the expansions will extend how long the cemetery can remain active, it will not be enough, she said.

“Expansion alone will not keep ANC open well into the future — defined as 150 years,” Durham-Aguilera said. “The [fiscal year 2019] National Defense Authorization Act requires the secretary of the Army, in consultation with the secretary of defense, by Sept. 30, 2019, to prescribe and establish revised criteria for interment that preserves ANC as an active burial ground. Evaluation of multiple options is ongoing to inform the secretary of the Army’s decision.”

To help inform that decision about eligibility criteria, Durham-Aguilera said, ANC has, among other things, conducted two public surveys of nearly 260,000 respondents and held meetings and listening sessions with key stakeholders — including more than 25 veteran and military service organizations.

“Arlington National Cemetery’s enduring mission is to represent the American people for the past, present and future generations by laying to rest those few who have served our nation with dignity and honor, while immersing guests in the cemetery’s living history,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We are committed to ensuring confident graveside accountability, our cemetery maintenance, our fiscal stewardship, and preserving the iconic look and feel of the cemetery.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army official tests out smart combat glasses

The U.S. Army’s new boss recently got a chance do shoot-house training with the latest Microsoft-based, smart soldier glasses.

Ryan McCarthy, who is now serving as acting secretary of the Army, and incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville traveled to Fort Pickett, Virginia earlier this spring to try out early prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.

The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS — a high-tech device that relies on augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers. The experience is reportedly similar to first-person shooter video games. The system is being designed to also be worn in combat, projecting the operator’s weapon sight reticle into the glasses.


“He and I literally put them on, and we went through a shoot house together,” McCarthy told Military.com on a flight to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

“Here’s the thing — they are empty rooms, because we had the synthetic feed.”

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

The Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.

McCarthy then described how the IVAS device presented targets that resembled enemy fighters from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“I literally came in a room … and they looked like Taliban targets and ISIS guys with black turbans,” he said. “They had one where they had a guy holding a civilian. It looked like a very good video game.”

IVAS is part of the Army’s effort to create a synthetic training world so soldiers can run through many repetitions of combat scenarios, such as clearing urban areas and engaging enemy forces, without having to leave home station and travel to training facilities.

Leaders can view the data compiled by IVAS during the training to show soldiers where they need improvement.

McCarthy and McConville were joined by Army and Marine Corps sergeants who also took a turn with IVAS.

“We had a bunch of NCOs from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 1st Marine Division, and they did the shoot house and reminded me that I have been out for a while,” McCarthy chuckled, referring to the days when he served in the Ranger Regiment. McCarthy served in the Army from 1997-2002.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.

McCarthy acknowledged that these were early prototypes of IVAS that need further development.

“You would do it for a little bit, and they would go out and [engineers] had to make a tweak and they would get the screen back up,” McCarthy said.

Rangers and Marines liked the technology, he said.

“The one thing that they all really liked about it was the greater depth perception,” he said.

“It was like a pair of glasses … and literally when you are walking through a room and seeing the target, I had depth perception to my left and right, so I could see down the hallway.”

IVAS replaces the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.

Officials hope to complete the prototyping phase on IVAS by 2020; when the system might be fielded to soldiers is still unclear.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

49ers’ Garland wears a different kind of uniform off the field

When Air Force Academy football player Ben Garland broke his left hand at practice in 2009, Head Coach Troy Calhoun thought he might miss the rest of the season. Garland played that week.

“You thought, ‘My goodness, this guy, he’s a pretty special human being,”’ Calhoun said.


Garland, 32, is now entering his sixth NFL season overall and his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. For the last nine years, the offensive lineman has spent his offseasons with the Colorado Air National Guard.

“It shapes who you are,” Garland, a captain with the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard, said of his military training. “It teaches you that teamwork, that discipline, that work ethic. A lot of things that are valuable to the team, I learned in my military career.”

Garland was 5 years old when he attended an Air Force football game with his grandfather, who was a colonel. That experience led the determined boy to vow to play on that field someday and become an officer.

Garland played on the defensive line at the Air Force Academy from 2006 to 2009, earning all-Mountain West conference, second-team honors as a senior. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and placed on the reserve/military list for two years so he could honor his military commitment.

Garland became an offensive lineman in 2012 and has been on three teams that reached the Super Bowl — the Broncos after the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season and the 49ers last February. Garland started at center during San Francisco’s 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“I’m definitely known around the wing as the guy who plays in the NFL,” said Garland, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 308 pounds.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Capt. Ben Garland. Courtesy photo.

Garland has worked primarily in public affairs with the Air National Guard, handling media and community relations as well as internal communications. He has deployed abroad, including to Jordan in 2013.

He was also the recipient of a 2018 Salute to Service Award, in part, because of actions off the field including donating game tickets each week to service members, visiting the Air Force Academy annually to speak to students, working with Georgia Tech ROTC and mentoring local young officers, according to the NFL.

“Once you join the military, you are always an airman or soldier or whatever branch you choose, but we’re all service members,” said Major Kinder Blacke, chief of public affairs for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard. “I don’t really think you take that uniform off. I guess I would say I see him as a guardsman who’s an excellent football player and has pursued both of those dreams at once. It’s really admirable.”

Garland said he cherishes his time at Air Force.

“It was extremely challenging and physical, and you were exhausted at times, but the challenging things in life mean the most to you,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have some of my closest friends from it.”

Garland served on active duty from 2010-12 after graduation. He was already a member of the Air National Guard by the time he made his NFL debut for the Broncos against the Raiders in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2014.

“The way he is able to have a full plate but to do it with such drive and energy, he has an enormous amount of work capacity,” Calhoun said.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports calendar and left a question mark over Garland’s NFL career. There is no guarantee that Garland will be with his teammates for the 49ers’ scheduled opener against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sept. 13.

Regardless, Garland still possesses a clear vision for what lies ahead.

“Once my NFL career is over, I’d love to do more stuff with the military,” he said. “It just depends where my body’s at. …[In] the military, you get people from all walks of life to come together to be one of the best teams in the world. These selfless, incredible, courageous people, you get to know and be friends with. I definitely want to be a part of that as long as I can.”

Keep up with Garland’s career updates by following him on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Army jobs that civilians get all wrong

Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.

Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:


10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)

Infantry

It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.

Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.

Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)

Chaplain’s assistant

People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”

See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.

Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)

Watercraft operator

Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.

Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

These are military police. That is not a radar gun.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)

Military police

Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.

They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)

Truck driver

Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.

There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

Fuelers

Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.

Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.

It’s more intense than you think.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Syrian government has retaken all of Damascus from ISIS

The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.


The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.

State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.

The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Bashar al-Assad

The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.

Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.

Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”

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

Articles

The journalist behind ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ loved embedding with the troops

To be clear, Paramount’s new film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is not a war movie; it’s a memoir about a journalist covering a war zone. Specifically, that journalist is Kim Barker, whose book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the basis for Tina Fey’s new film.


“I was always more curious about what it was like to live through war than what it was like to die in it,” Barker says. “You’ve got aspects of real people in the movie and things that actually happened … but they make Tina Fey braver than I ever was.”

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Barker, who is now a Metro reporter at the New York Times, was a war correspondent covering Afghanistan for the Chicago Tribune starting in 2002. Her time in the field was her first real experience with U.S. troops. Sometimes, those deployed soldiers talked to her as if she was their therapist.

“I love to embed with the troops,” Barker recalls. “But I found that they just wanted to talk to me about living, their lives back home, and how grueling this was on relationships to have deployment after deployment after deployment.”

In her time embedded with deployed troops, Barker saw the stress of fighting two wars take its toll on the U.S. military and those who served.

“It made me so grateful to all the people who were willing to share their stories and were super honest with me,” she says. “Those were the stories I really loved to tell, not going out and getting shot at — because I’m a chicken, and I’m not that reporter.”

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

Barker looked for stories that described the daily life of troops and everyday Afghans, the people who lived the war day in and day out for years.

“You wanted to be true to what they were telling you and not censor yourself, yet you really cared about the people that you were meeting there,” Barker adds. “Watching them adjust to going from Afghanistan to Iraq and back again… the stress that’s been put on our military fighting two fronts at the same time changed my view of my troops because I actually got to know them.”

Many of the Afghans in her circles want Western troops to stay in Afghanistan longer. While Barker admits she’s a reporter and not a Washington policy maker, she says the troops do provide stability for the coming generations of Afghan people.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Kim Barker with warlord Pacha Khan in 2003. Khan’s forces ousted the Taliban from Paktia Province during the 2001 invasion, with American backing. (Photo by Ghulam Farouq Samim)

“They [Afghans] are a bit more modern, they live in the cities,” she says. “I think their feeling is, ‘Hey, just give us enough security and enough civility here to let the next generation take over, and to let some sort of stability to come underneath democratic institutions.'”

For anyone who might be anxious to get out and do some war reporting in this environment, Barker believes it’s a great opportunity, but cautions the uninitiated against going in completely unprepared.

“There are openings to be able to sell stories,  great stories,” she says. “When I went overseas the first time I had no clue, but I had these people around me who did, and I had a newspaper that would back me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I worry about folks going into these places without any kind of safety net at all.”

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” opens in theaters on Friday, March 4th.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 21st

It was the Air Force’s birthday this week — and it seems like, in terms of gifts, they got a lot: Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Keith Wright spoke about “hybrid airmen,” which would make airmen more badass and less likely to be mocked by the other branches, the “Up or Out” rule is being evaluated because it was stupid to begin with, and the Captain Marvel trailer, featuring a superhero who was a USAF pilot, dropped the morning of its birthday.

Happy birthday, ya high-flyin’ bastards. Make another trip to the chocolate fondue fountain — you guys earned it.


10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

It’s been years and I still can’t figure out whether you’re supposed to say “you’re welcome.” 

I usually just respond with, “thank you for your support” and awkwardly give them the finger guns.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Sarcastic Memes Ruining Crewman’s Dreams)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Shammers United)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Disabled Marine Corps Minds)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

No lie. You can hate it all you want, but you’ll eventually say “screw it” and try it. 

Then you learn it’s for a single steak and you’ll nope the f*ck out of there and take your happy ass to the greasiest, most disgusting KFC known to man — which happens to be right next door.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Military World)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
Humor

11 memes that will remind you how boot you were

Newbies who first enter the military typically have a pretty tough time. They are continuously reminded that they suck by their superiors and are treated like children 99% of the time.

Now, fast forward in your military career a few years and, hopefully, you’re an NCO by now. You look upon the boots who’ve just joined and probably say to yourself, “I hope I was never that bad…”


The truth is, you probably were — if not way worse. Need a refresher? Scroll down the page and get transported back to your boot days.

Note: This article will make you feel f*cking old. Enjoy!

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

(NavyMemes.com)

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Russia joins China in search for vaccine as virus outbreak spreads

Russia says it has received the genome of the coronavirus from China and is working jointly with its neighbor to develop a vaccine against the illness as the number of deaths and confirmed cases continues to jump.

Chinese authorities said on January 29 that there are 5,974 confirmed cases nationwide in the country, from which 132 people have died.

Another 9,239 suspected cases of the respiratory illness are being monitored, the government’s National Health Commission said on January 29.


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Dozens of cases have been confirmed outside mainland China as well, including in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia, prompting Russia, which has no confirmed cases, to join the race to stop the illness.

“Russian and Chinese experts have begun developing a vaccine,” the Russian consulate in China’s Guangzhou Province said in a statement on its website.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it believes China is able to contain the coronavirus, but mounting concern over the jump in cases has prompted hundreds of foreign nationals to leave the provincial capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The total number of confirmed cases now surpasses that of SARS, another respiratory illness that killed more than 600 people worldwide in 2002-2003.

Symptoms of the new kind of coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Authorities have sealed off access to 17 cities in Hubei Province, where the pathogen is believed to have originated and was first reported in December.

Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island, some 2,000 kilometers from the mainland.

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The European Union as well as countries including the United States, Japan, and South Korea are also repatriating their nationals.

British Airways has suspended bookings on its website for direct flights from London to Beijing and Shanghai until March.

The World Health Organization has recognized the outbreak as a national emergency but stopped short of declaring it an international one.

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

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