Donald Trump broke major news on his Twitter account on Dec. 22, tweeting, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
The tweet came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to strengthen the Russian nuclear arsenal. So, how can we revitalize the nuclear arsenal?
1. Modernize the Tech
As 60 Minutes reported in 2014, our land-based ICBMs still use 8-inch floppy disks for the computers that receive the president’s launch orders. In an era where a MicroSD card that can hold 128 gigabytes is available on Amazon.com for about $40, it seems like the computers could have been upgraded and made much more reliable a long time ago.
Some systems have fared better than others. The B61 gravity bomb is slated for some modernization. So have the planes that deliver that bomb, like the B-2 Spirit. The B-1 and B-52 have received upgrades as well.
That said, those upgrades are mostly for delivering conventional weapons.
2. Develop New Delivery Systems
According to Designation-Systems.net, the LGM-30 Minuteman entered service in 1962. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile entered service in 1981. The BGM-109 Tomahawk was operational in 1983. The B-52H entered service in 1961, while the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986.
The only strategic systems younger than music superstar Taylor Swift (born on Dec. 13, 1989) are the UGM-133 Trident II, which entered service in March, 1990, and the B-2 Spirit, which entered service in 1997.
At the end of the Cold War, some new systems were also chopped, notably the AGM-131 Short-Range Attack Missile II and the Midgetman small ICBM, while the LGM-118 Peacekeeper was negotiated away.
Newer means of delivering nukes might be a good idea, including versions of the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
Robert Wilkie, President Donald Trump’s’ nominee to become the next VA Secretary, said June 27, 2018, that he was against “privatization” of VA health care and would work to break the bureaucratic logjams on wait times and benefits appeals.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Wilkie also rejected allegations that he supported “racially divisive” issues in his private life and in his past work as a staffer for conservative senators.
Wilkie said he had previously attended events of the Sons of Confederate Veterans involving the display of Confederate flags but said he “stopped doing any of those thing at a time when that issue became divisive.”
He said that former President Barack Obama had sent a wreath to a Southern heritage event, an episode noted in a Washington Post report.
Wilkie also dispute the charge that in the 1990s he marked up draft legislation calling for young women to finish high school before they qualified for welfare.
Wilkie, who was working at the time for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Lott and other staffers made changes in the legislation.
When asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, whether he believed women should have to graduate from high school to receive government benefits, Wilkie said, “that would never enter my mind.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told Wilkie he expected his nomination to be confirmed, but added that Wilkie had worked for a “very racially divisive senator,” meaning the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.
“[And] you were appointed to this job by a very racially divisive president,” Brown said.
In his opening statement, Wilkie said that there were no excuses for failing to address the VA’s problems after Congress gave the department nearly $200 billion in funding and passed the VA Mission Act to overhaul and consolidate the VA Choice Program on private health care options for veterans.
Wilkie said he favored private and community care when the VA could not meet the needs of the veteran, but added that he was opposed to privatization and would keep the Veterans Health Administration fully funded.
If confirmed, Wilkie said his goal would be to make the VA more “agile and adaptive” to meet the needs of a changing veterans population.
“It is clear that the veterans population is changing faster than we realize,” he said. “For the first time in 40 years, half of our veterans are under the age of 65. Of America’s 20 million veterans, 10 percent are now women. The new generation is computer savvy and demands 21st Century service — service that is quick, diverse and close to home.”
Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, had been undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness when he was moved over to the VA in March 2018 as acting Secretary after Trump ousted then-VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Despite spending the past 20 years focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, the US military still outmatches its Chinese and Russian competitors. The US is the only country that can effectively respond to a military contingency anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.
Understanding that they are conventionally overpowered, China and Russia have been using irregular warfare to achieve their goals without matching the US military’s might. And they have been quite successful.
In Africa, China has been handing out development aid and infrastructure loans like candy, with the dual purpose of securing geopolitical influence and resources for its growing economy. In Asia, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors on its way toward regional supremacy.
Russia has used social media to influence election outcomes in the US and Europe. Moscow has also been using private military companies, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to achieve strategic goals in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, among other places.
Both countries understand that in an era of renewed great-power competition — a race between the US and Russia and China for geopolitical influence, economic advantages, and resources — irregular warfare is the ideal strategy against the US.
Now the US Department of Defense is trying to counter that threat by investing in and expanding its own irregular-warfare capabilities.
The Pentagon heralded this shift with its recent decisions to turn the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office into the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate and to release the irregular-warfare annex to the National Defense Strategy.
The creation of the directorate was included in a November memorandum signed by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, which elevated the Pentagon’s civilian official overseeing special operations to the same level as a military service chief. The annex was released in October.
Struggle in the gray zone
The US military defines irregular warfare as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).”
Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean open warfare, but it can take place in the gray zone between competition that’s below the level of armed conflict and a war that’s formally declared. It can affect all traditional and non-traditional realms of geopolitical struggle, such as the economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber domains.
The difference between irregular warfare and counterterrorism is that the former is a strategy that aims to defend US global supremacy against state and non-actors, whereas the latter is a mix of activities and operations against terrorist groups and state-sponsored terrorism.
Same game, different name
Irregular warfare isn’t new to the US military. Indeed, the US campaign against terrorist organizations over the last two decades has included elements of it. But now, the irregular warfare “target deck” has been officially updated to include near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.
Irregular warfare against a near-peer adversary isn’t new either, but now the Pentagon recognizes that the strategy’s utility isn’t seasonal but enduring. Previously, the US would use irregular warfare against an adversary, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but would then let the capability and resources dedicated to it atrophy.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) already has potent irregular-warfare capabilities. Army special operations, in particular, take the lead on that front.
The Army’s Green Berets specialize in foreign internal defense, which means training local troops, and in unconventional warfare, which consists of creating and leading guerrilla campaigns. Both are squarely within the gray zone of irregular warfare.
Additionally, the Army’s Civil Affairs teams help create the necessary civil and political conditions for US diplomacy and political influence to be more effective. The Army’s Psychological Operations teams also help shape the geopolitical environment to favor the US.
Other special-operations units, such as the Marine Raiders or Navy SEALs, can contribute to an irregular-warfare campaign but perhaps not as effectively as their Army counterparts.
But to ensure a robust and effective irregular-warfare capability, US military has to understand and embrace it as a whole.
The conventional side of irregular warfare
Policymakers have relied on special-operations forces for almost everything for years, but conventional forces also play a big role in irregular warfare.
For example, if a US aircraft carrier cruises through the South China Sea, it sends a message to China by physically contradicting Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed region.
Similarly, when an Army mechanized brigade deploys in Eastern Europe and trains with local forces, it sends a dual message: A psychological one to the US partners and allies about American commitment in the region, and a geopolitical one to Russia, illustrating the US’s reach and influence.
Ironically, it is the conventional might of the US military that encourages adversaries to invest more in their own ability to wage irregular warfare.
WATM received this piece from a Marine reader deployed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, who was concerned about the scandal engulfing the Marine Corps over allegedly illegal postings of photos of female Marines on Facebook and other social media outlets. The views expressed in this piece are his own.
My views on the recent scandal are simple: sharing someone else’s nude photo with friends at the barracks is as equally reprehensible as sharing it on social media. There is no honor in either situation. If you justify the first, the latter will shortly follow.
I think the bigger problem here is that we have not done a good enough job fostering a culture of chivalry in the Marine Corps.
While we’ve done exceptionally well with regards to physical fitness, physical appearance, and discipline, we’ve also allowed a culture where “locker room talk” is not only acceptable, but somehow considered “manly” — and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This issue is neither unique to the Marine Corps nor the military. This behavior plagues our schools and workforces, and is a detriment to our society as whole.
It’s true that we are a product of the society we recruit from, but it is also true that as Marines, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Making Marines doesn’t simply mean training them for duty, but instilling in them the values and ethics that will in turn mold them into better citizens.
We have a proven record of doing just that, but we regularly fall short with our commitment to female Marines, as evident with recent events.
On March 14, 2017, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress he understands this kind of behavior is a problem in the Marine Corps, and he honestly confessed to not having a good answer in regard to how to fix it.
He took full responsibility as the Commandant, and I commend him for it. He didn’t make excuses; he acknowledged the deficiencies and I genuinely believe he is seeking a sustainable solution. That took humility and courage, which are characteristics of exceptional leaders.
To get to that end goal, I think it’s important we start at the beginning.
Men and women from all over the U.S. and our territories flock to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego and Parris Island every year to become Marines. Currently, the requirements to even get accepted to attend Marine Corps recruit training are higher than in that of recent years.
The Marine Corps looks for quality men and women who will add value to our force and while we may come from different backgrounds and walks of life, in the end, we’re all united in our love of Corps and country.
Many of these recruits are fresh out of high school and still in their teens, which means that sex is typically the first and last thing on their mind and a big reason why the Marine Corps has traditionally conducted much of the training separately in order to reduce distractions and make the most out of those twelve weeks.
Male Drill Instructors are known to use sexual innuendos and lewd comments about women to help male recruits remember the skills and knowledge they need to graduate. While this might be an effective way to get the male recruits to absorb the information quickly, it also exacerbates a problem that we’ve already acknowledged takes place in our society, and therefore fosters a culture that is not conducive for chivalry to thrive.
It teaches Marines that disrespecting their female counterparts, by making lewd comments about them, is acceptable.
While this might be a common practice in the civilian sector, we should, and must, hold ourselves to a higher standard.
The Marine Corps’ core values are honor, courage, and commitment. While some Marines may not follow all of these, the truth of the matter is that most do, and it is our responsibility — as noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers, and officers — to instill these values in all of our Marines by setting the example and holding each other accountable.
I can’t tell you how much I love this organization as we’re perhaps the last real warrior culture that exists today.
We’re known as modern day Spartans, Devil Dogs, etc., but I think that some may have misunderstood what it means to be a warrior. Some equate it to being hostile and irreverent towards women. Some, unfortunately, believe part of being a man means to degrade our female counterparts even though Spartans were known to hold their women in the highest regard and medieval knights were the ones who created the concept of chivalry to begin with.
My hope is that we as Marines can grasp this concept and set the example for the rest. We are known to be “First to Fight,” and it’s a term we’re proud to bear.
We thrive on being known as standard-bearers, and that is a privilege and honor that should, and must, also extend to how we choose to lead.
Jane Fonda is a star of stage and screen whose career began in 1960. She is the daughter of legendary actor and WWII Naval Officer Henry Fonda. Jane, now 83, is long regarded as enemy #1 among Vietnam veterans (because Ho Chi Minh is dead and even if he weren’t it would be a close vote).
Fonda was a prominent antiwar protestor in the 70’s, focused on the rights of troops while in the military and of those who wanted to resist being drafted. She was primarily associated with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to which she gave a lot of time and money. Fonda was no more or less a lightning rod for criticism than any other celebrity who spoke against the war during that time, but that all changed in 1972.
She went to Hanoi that year to tour villages, cities and infrastructure. A series of photos of her sitting at an NVA anti-aircraft battery earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and the undying spite of Vietnam veterans everywhere. There were also rumors she turned over secret messages from POWs to their captors. This is not true, but still, her father was probably more than a little disappointed in her.
“There is one thing that happened while in North Vietnam that I will regret to my dying day. I allowed myself to be photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun,” she wrote in 2011. “It happened on my last day in Hanoi. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced.”
To this day, Fonda feels the scorn of the military veteran community. If you want to get a feel for how much scorn the community feels, just Google “Jane Fonda Vietnam.” I’ll wait.
The hatred persists, even among non-Vietnam veterans and people who weren’t even born in 1972. Despite her attempts at apologies, and given the level of vitriol levied at her even 40+ years later, the anger and hatred is not likely to end any time soon.
“Whenever possible I try to sit down with vets and talk with them, because I understand and it makes me sad,” she told the audience, according to the Frederick News-Post. “It hurts me and it will go to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think I was against the soldiers.”
A bunch of teenagers found magic coins and became rangers — specifically, Power Rangers.
While everyone has to believe that Zordon had his reasons for selecting angsty teens rather than proven leaders, Army Rangers might have a little issue with magical coins being the only threshold for assuming their coveted title.
But what if real Army Rangers became Power Rangers? While the fights would be awesome, there would also be some other changes. Here are nine of them:
1. Step one would’ve been finding out where the alien spaceship that grants superpowers came from
Seriously, who finds a spaceship with super-powering coins on it and doesn’t start investigating where more coins are? After all, denying the enemy the coins limits the enemy’s combat power and distributing those coins to other Rangers would multiply friendly combat power.
So why not look for the coins? Would be pretty great to get a whole battalion of Power Rangers to spearhead all future American operations, right?
2. Every one of them would need a dip straw installed in their helmets so they could spit tobacco juice during fights
Army Rangers are known as well for stuffing their lips with coffee grounds and tobacco as they are for annihilating enemy forces with extreme prejudice. But take a look at the screengrab above. See anywhere to spit dip in that helmet? That’s going to need a redesign. May we humbly suggest DARPA? Natick might not be up to this.
3. Alpha 5 would’ve been relentlessly mocked for being a POG
The spaceship has a small robot with super strength and, instead of fighting in the field, it helps train and manage the Power Rangers. Sure, the Rangers may need him to get the job done, but that never stopped them from making fun of any other support troops, so why would they stop with the robot with Bill Hader’s voice?
4. Every Ranger would carry a crew-served weapon — either the M2 .50-cal or Mk-47 grenade launcher or the M107 .50-cal sniper rifle
Does anyone think a bunch of Rangers would get super strength and start carrying less firepower into combat? Hell no. Rangers with super strength would go shopping in the Weapons Company armory.
Those guys would carry modified M2s and Mk-47s. At least one guy would grab a Barrett .50-cal. sniper rifle and start using it like a carbine.
5. The drunken shenanigans would be legendary (assuming they can get drunk)
So, we’re not yet sure that the Power Rangers can get drunk since some superhero stories say that the healing factors make it impossible. But think a bunch of Rangers would give up drinking if they could?
Nope. And superpowered humans would get in fights with bouncers, police, and the special operators who would have to be pressed into law enforcement roles to keep them in line.
6. They would show off in the gym all the time
The Power Rangers woke up completely ripped. Of course, the Rangers probably went to bed at least a little ripped, so imagine how strong they would be in the morning.
Now imagine that they don’t work out the next morning shirtless, bench pressing entire people who are bench pressing lots of weight.
7. At least one of them would try to sleep with Rita
Yeah, Rita is the supreme evil lady. But she’s pretty attractive. And she’s probably available (there aren’t many handsome monsters in the trailer). At least one Ranger would proposition her. At least.
8. At least one Ranger would be missing from each of the first few fights because they would be combat jacking
Speaking of things that at least one Ranger would be doing in combat, the attempted “monster jacking” — combat jacking but in a fight with a monster — would disrupt each of the first five fights. At least the first five.
9. The rest of the Rangers would make fun of them for needing super powers
The entire rest of the Army’s Ranger Regiment would be super jealous that they weren’t the ones who got super powers, but they wouldn’t let it show. Instead, they would heckle the Rangers with power coins relentlessly.
“Oh, the little baby can’t throw a car without his special coin? Guess the rest of us will go ahead and protect the U.S. everywhere else in the world without any magical powers. Like real Rangers.”
Whether you’re on a small FOB — let’s face it, most airmen won’t be here — or a military base, Afghanistan deployments can either be the most boring or a little bit exciting, depending on how you play your cards. Okay, fine — it’s going to be a little boring no matter what.
Yes, deployments are most often filled with binge-watching TV on time off or working out multiple times a day, but these are some tips that can make time in the sandbox a little more exciting.
That is, if you can get away with them and not get an Article 15 or court-martial.
4. Alcohol in mouthwash bottles.
Everyone knows that drinking while deployed is against general orders — meaning this you could get in heaps of trouble if you’re dumb and get sh*t-faced. Tip: Don’t be dumb.
It’s easy to get alcohol into Afghanistan if you utilize everyday items to smuggle it in and send it through regular mail. Just don’t go around swigging out of the mouthwash bottle or else someone is going to figure out what’s up.
And if you’re going to share, make sure the ones you share with don’t f*ck it up by opening their mouths to supervisors.
3. Befriend a loadmaster.
Okay, okay — this might only work if you have access to a loadmaster or if you work near the flightline, but networking saves the day in dire times.
Make friends with a loadmaster — or heck, even a pilot — and they’ll willingly bring you back anything you want from wherever they go, probably for a price. Obviously, you’ll pay the price of whatever they bring back, but you might find yourself owing them a favor later (No, not that kind of favor, sicko. Just be willing to help them when they need it).
2. Hang with the foreign military.
Any chance you can spend time with military personnel from different countries, do it. New Zealand is particularly delightful because they can drink on deployment and their accents are easy on the ears (ladies).
Besides the allure of alcohol and the accents, getting to know others from other countries just opens up new lines of communication, and meeting people kills time. You might also end up with some cool challenge-coin swag and squadron T-shirts by the end of deployment.
1. Last Resort: O’Doul’s at the BX and binge watch TV shows.
If you’re not daring enough to do any of the above for fear of a court-martial or an Article 15, stick with a couple of O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beers and watch movies on your laptop or smartphone. The Air Force Exchanges are notorious for selling almost anything you can get at a Walmart, so go wild, go crazy, and buy some fake beer.
It might sound boring and pointless, but at least there are no general orders being broken. So, airman, crack open that O’Doul’s and re-watch Dexter for the third time, because that might be as good as it’s going to get.
Taliban militants now control or contest nearly half of all districts in Afghanistan as the U.S. pours thousands more troops into the country, a new analysis from The Long War Journal reveals.
The insurgent group predominately controls rural districts throughout the country where the Afghan government and national security forces do not have an extended presence. “Rural areas in Afghanistan are essential to the Taliban’s resilience and ability to consistently undermine Afghan security,” the LWJ noted, citing the insurgent groups ability to use rural districts to mount attacks on urban centers.
The large Taliban control of the country comes as the U.S. is sending approximately 3,000 more troops to the country to support the Afghan National Security Forces. This deployment is in tandem from a new declared strategy from the Trump administration which will place an emphasis on cracking down on Pakistani sanctuary for Taliban militants, and making a sustained and prolonged commitment to Afghanistan.
The Obama administration made a point of tying its troop deployments to a declared timeline for withdrawal, something President Donald Trump has explicitly rejected instead embracing a “conditions” based approach.
The conditions however are dire. The Taliban now control more territory than at any time since 2001 and the Afghan National Security Forces’s are suffering historic casualties.
Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.
According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.
The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.
The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.
The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.
In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.
Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.
The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.
But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.
According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.
The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.
“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”
Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.
Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.
The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.
“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”
Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.
According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.
Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”
While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.
Hours after former U.S. drone operator Brandon Bryant testified in front of the German parliament, two USAF officer arrived at his mother’s house in Missoula, Montana to warn her she was on ISIS’ “hit list.”
Is this a coincidence? Does the terror group have a hit list targeting mothers of service members in Missoula, Montana? Why would the Air Force frighten a civilian like this for no reason?
Bryant was testifying on the how the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany contributes to the unmanned aerial vehicle program. He served six years in the Air Force, racking up a staggering kill count of more than 1,600 people — a number that he said sickens him. He rejected a reenlistment bonus of more than $100,000.
Bryant with a UAV during his time in the Air Force
Ramstein Air Base is one of the main hubs of the U.S. drone program. A high-tech satellite relay station there allows drone operators to run their aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, or the Middle East from Nevada (or elsewhere) via the Germany-based installation. A major problem with this revelation is Europeans in general abhor the American military’s use of drones and the program itself may be a violation German law, which makes the use of drones via Ramstein a violation of the agreement that allows the U.S. to use the base. As a result American personnel at Ramstein could be subject to prosecution under German law.
“The U.S. government has confirmed that such armed and remote aircraft are not flown or controlled from U.S. bases in Germany,” said spokesperson Steffen Seibert, a delicate statement that employs semantics to present non-damning facts without contradicting Bryant’s testimony.
The Air Force officers who visited Bryant’s mother informed her that her personal information might have been acquired by ISIS in the days after the recent Office of Personnel Management hack. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations vehemently denied any accusation of whistleblower intimidation. They told Bryant’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack (who also represents whistleblower Edward Snowden), it was their “duty to inform” Bryant’s mother.
Bryant has been slamming the Air Force since he separated, and the Air Force has been denying his claims just as long. Bryant sent Air Force Times a certificate from the Air Force confirming his kill count. Radack believes the Air Force is attempting to silence Bryant by “delivering death threats from ISIS.”
Bryant told The Intercept that without Ramstein the U.S. would either have to find another relay base in the area or operate the drones in country, which would require deploying more operators and create greater risk to personnel than is currently faced with U.S.-based operations.
Chantae McMillian Langhorst is an Army spouse of two years, currently stationed in Georgia while her husband trains to be a helicopter pilot. She’s also a mama to one-year-old Otto, Olympic athlete and just won the coveted title of “Titan” for the central region on NBC’s the Titan Games, hosted by “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.
She’s just a little busy.
Even before her husband decided to join the Army, Langhorst’s life was already deeply rooted in the military. Both of her parents were in the Army when they met, while stationed overseas in Germany. They would go on to serve and retire after 20 years each. Langhorst shared that she absolutely believes being a military kid helped her become more adaptable and independent. She knows those experiences served her well and helped mold her into the person and competitive athlete that she is today.
Langhorst graduated from Rolla High School in Missouri as a track and field athlete. She was also selected as a Nike All American. She received a scholarship to the University of Nebraska and began competing in the heptathlon. During her time in college, she received the coveted title of All-American five times while competing. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art, she was approached by a coach who suggested she continue competing.
This time, in the Olympics.
“One of the best times of my life was learning about myself, how hard I could work and being able to dig deep and figure things out,” said Langhorst. In 2011 while training to compete in the Olympics, she suffered a devastating injury to her patellar-tendon in her knee during a high jump. Although she would never want to go back to that time in her life, Langhorst believes pushing through to heal from that injury to qualify for the Olympics made her a stronger athlete in the end.
Despite that injury, she made the U.S. Olympic team. Although Langhorst didn’t medal, she credits making it to the London 2012 Summer Olympics was one of the greatest achievements of her life.
In 2014, she found herself in Ohio training for the 2016 Olympics. Langhorst became a track and field coach at the University of Dayton. She also met her future husband, who was a sports trainer at the time. In 2015, she was selected for ESPN’s famous body issue. Although she didn’t make it past the trials for the 2016 Olympics, she didn’t give up. Langhorst began exploring the winter Olympics but stopped once she was faced with a surprise.
She was pregnant with little Otto.
Langhorst’s husband had begun the process of joining the Army and knowing that little Otto was on the way, they were even more excited for their new journey. They married in 2018 and he went off to Army training in 2019. After his graduation, they were stationed in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he began helicopter pilot training. Then, Langhorst received an interesting phone call.
The Titan Games wanted her to try out.
They flew her out to Los Angeles in January of 2020 for a combine. A few days later, she was told she made the cut and would need to get to Atlanta to start filming. For 20 straight days she was involved in competitions twice a day and filming 12 hours a day. Langhorst describes it as an amazing experience but also exhausting. She also shared that there wasn’t much food. “I look so shredded on TV because I was eating like a bird,” she said laughing.
Langhorst became a Titan, swiftly eliminating her competition in the first episode.
“I hope I can inspire people,” she shared. Langhorst said that she understands how easy it is to get lost in being a military spouse and putting the service member’s career before your own. She found herself doing it before that call from The Titan Games. “Spouses need to know that they can still achieve a lot – even with a kid,” she explained. Langhorst said that having Otto gave her more purpose and the fuel to work even harder to make him proud.
These days, Langhorst is training for the Olympics again with the goal of medaling. Even with her super athletic abilities and tunnel vision goals, she’s absolutely human. She loves donuts, although she doesn’t indulge often. Fun fact: She loves training barefoot. Langhorst is also an artist who loves to paint and still searches for four-leaf clovers, something she always did with her dad who passed a few years ago. Now when she finds one, she feels him with her.
Langhorst has come a long way from the young girl who had her goals written on her bedroom ceiling. She hopes that her story of persistence and drive will encourage others to live their purpose. Langhorst has achieved so much in her life already, but she isn’t done yet. She’s just getting started.
To learn more about Langhorst, check out her website. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook as she takes you on her journey to the Olympic trials.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.
Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.
The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.
Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.
“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.
Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”
Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.
Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.
“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.
“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.
Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.
Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.
The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.
Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.
The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.
Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.
Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.
He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.
In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.
Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.
The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.
The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.
He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.
Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.
The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.
Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.
In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”
He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.
The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.
After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.
Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.