A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”

The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1

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The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

(Pin Up for Vets)

Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.

She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.

In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.

The result is exceptional.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”

While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.

You can help support their initiatives by checking out their online shop and pre-ordering your 2021 calendar today!
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how NATO’s budget really works

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO over how the alliance is funded and pressured other member states to increase defense spending.

In the process, he has made a number of misleading claims about NATO, distorting how it works and why it exists in the first place.

On July 12, 2018, Trump reiterated his criticism of NATO in a tweet, stating, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!”


Trump added, “All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!”

The president is correct that his predecessors also pressured other NATO member states to increase defense spending, but his claim that member states must pay the US for “protection” misrepresents how NATO works.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed by US President Harry S. Truman in Washington, on April 4, 1949, and was ratified by the United States in August 1949.

NATO’s roots

NATO is an alliance that was formed in the wake of World War II as the US and its allies sought to counter the Soviet Union’s growing influence in Europe and beyond.

The alliance was founded upon the notion of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them. This is precisely why NATO, for example, rallied behind the US in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has sent many troops to fight and die in places like Afghanistan over the years.

Collective defense requires collective spending

Accordingly, every NATO member state contributes to a relatively modest direct budget: a roughly id=”listicle-2586418750″.4 billion military budget and a 0 million civilian budget.

Overall, the US provides about 22% of this budget based off a formula that accounts for the national income of member states.

Beyond the direct budget, NATO came to an agreement in 2014 that each member state will increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective gross domestic product by 2024.

At present, NATO has 29 members and few have reached this goal — only five NATO members are expected to meet the 2% target by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the US spends roughly 3.6% of its GDP on defense, as its military budget in 2017 was approximately 8 billion.

There is no penalty for not reaching the 2% goal; it’s simply a guideline, and most member states have increased defense spending even if they haven’t reached that goal quite yet.

Moreover, NATO estimates collective defense spending among all member states will total more that 6 billion in 2018. US defense spending accounts for roughly 67% of this, but it’s also true the US has the highest defense budget in the world by far and this is linked to both its strong economy and internal politics.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg participate in a joint press conference, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Here’s Trump’s big issue with NATO

Trump wants other NATO member states to increase defense spending — and soon.

On July 11, 2018, he tweeted, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”

There is an underlying truth to Trump’s criticism of NATO that the US spends a significant amount of money and provides an extraordinary amount of resources and manpower to the protection of Europe and Asia. But the US benefits a great deal from this, and US involvement in NATO has long helped it solidify its role as one of the globe’s leading powers, if not the most powerful country in the world.

Moreover, Trump’s remarks on NATO seem to suggest that Europe must pay the US for protection from Russia, when this is not how the alliance is meant to function. Not to mention, Trump already has a dubious relationship with Russia at a time when much of the world, especially Europe, is concerned about its aggressive military activities.

In this context, Trump’s criticism of NATO has been condemned by politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US as well as by other world leaders and foreign policy experts.

Trump caused a crisis at the NATO summit over the issue of defense spending

Trump reportedly broke diplomatic protocol on July 12, 2018, by referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, and his intense demands regarding defense spending saw NATO leaders enter a special emergency session.

After the session, Trump said NATO member states had agreed to quickly increase spending.

“We’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO. Much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said in an unscheduled statement.

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

Articles

Athlete dedicates Invictus medals to soldier who saved his life

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar


As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.

Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.

Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling.  And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.

In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.

Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.

Lifesaver

“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”

Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”

Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.

“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”

He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.

“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”

Articles

This teen was accepted into all four US military academies

A Virginia teenager has received an appointment to all four major US military academies, a rare feat he’s been working on since he was a child.


Tim Park of Fairfax, Va. recently received appointment letters for the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., according to USA Today.

Also read: This SEAL Team 6 vet idolizes ‘Rough Rider’ Teddy Roosevelt

Getting into just one military academy is an achievement in itself, since it takes a bit more than having good grades and submitting an application. Applicants need to first receive an official nomination from their congressman (with the exception of the Coast Guard Academy), ace an interview with an officer at the school, and have exceptional grades and civic achievements to boot.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
Tim Park | Fox5/screenshot

Park told USA Today he was inspired by his own family’s service in and around the military, which began with his grandfather — who was a child during the Korean War. Park’s grandfather, who went on to become a doctor, offered free medical care to Korean War veterans in Pennsylvania.

“What he said is he had a debt of honor he wanted to repay,” Park told USA Today.

Park’s father currently serves in the military in the US Army Reserve. That may explain why he’s leaning toward West Point, the academy in upstate New York that has been commissioning Army officers since 1802.

“I would say when I was about 8 years old, there was a documentary on the History Channel talking about these four service academies and I thought to myself that day, I want to do that,” Park told Fox5 DC.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A man just tried to ram the checkpoint at US base in England

A person has been arrested after trying to gain access to a U.S. Air Force base in England, according to media reports.


RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk was placed on lockdown after the incident, which the BBC described as an “apparent attempt to ram” the checkpoint.

U.S. service personnel opened fire when the man tried to enter the base. He was ultimately caught by police with only “minor cuts and bruises.”

Also Read: These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

The base has a Royal Air Force name but is used by the U.S. military. It houses about 3,100 U.S. military servicemen and 3,000 more family members, according to Reuters.

The incident is now over, and police say there is “no wider threat to the public or occupants on the base.”

A press release from Suffolk Police said:

Suffolk Police were contacted at approximately 1:40 p.m. (Dec. 18) to reports of a disturbance at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. […]

 

Shots were fired by American service personnel and a man has been detained with cuts and bruises and taken into custody.

 

No other people have been injured as a result of the incident.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
The RAF Mildenhall Honor Guard performs a three-volley salute during the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge May 28, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

During the lockdown, personnel on the base were instructed to hide in the offices, lock their doors, switch the lights off, and close their windows and curtains, according to U.S. Brian Boisvert, a sergeant deployed on the base who described the situation to Sky News.

The lockdown was lifted after about an hour, Boisvert added.

The 1,162-acre compound was due to be closed after the U.S. said it would move its operations from the base to Germany, Reuters reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time Rangers stole a bulldozer for an assault vehicle

In 1983, Rangers were on the point of the spear during a mission to protect American citizens in Grenada in 1983, attacking a key airfield that was being expanded by Cuban engineers. When the Rangers began to fight the engineers, the Rangers hotwired bulldozers and then used them as assault vehicles.


The fighting was part of Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada after a coup threatened the lives and security of U.S. citizens in the country who were there to study medicine. Reagan ordered 2,000 troops to the island, and U.S. Army Rangers were sent to seize the airfield at Point Salines.

But the mission quickly ran into problems. A lack of aircraft forced some Rangers to stay at the airfield, unable to take part in the assault and cutting the combat power of those who would make the jump. Then, plans for the assault changed in the air.

See, while Rangers and paratroopers often want to conduct combat jumps, earning uniform swag and bragging rights for life, the safer and tactically superior option to airborne operations is “air-land” operations. In air-land, the commander cancels the jump and the planes land instead. Paratroopers or Rangers, without their chutes, rush off the back. That way, they’re already concentrated for the fight and don’t have to struggle out of their gear.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
Three U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters prepare to touch down next to the Point Salines airport runway during “Operation Urgent Fury” on Oct. 25, 1983. (U.S. Army Spc. Douglas Ide)

 

As the Rangers were flying to their target on Oct. 24, intel said that the runways were clear of debris, and that air-land was an option. The commander ordered the Rangers out of their parachutes. Then, only 20 minutes from the target, they learned that enemy defenses were ready to go, so the Rangers were rushed back into their chutes and then had to jump without being able to have Army jumpmasters or parachute riggers inspect their harnesses.

When the Rangers reached their target, they jumped in waves at only 500 feet above the ground. That low jump allowed them to fly under the worst of the enemy defenses, but meant they would fall for only 17 seconds and have no chance to pull a reserve chute if anything went wrong in the air. Luckily, the jump went well, and the Rangers went right into combat mode.

In addition to the expected Grenadian troops, though, the Rangers ran into 500 Cuban engineers who were there to help the Grenadians expand the airfield. The Cuban engineers put up an impressive base of fire against the Rangers. They would later learn that Fidel Castro had sent advisors to the country the day before to plan and improve the defenses ahead of the American invasion.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
An M561 Gama Goat truck loaded with supplies prepares to pull away from a C-141B Starlifter aircraft parked on the flight line at Point Salines Airport during Operation Urgent Fury after the airfield was captured by Rangers. (Spc. Douglas Ide)

 

Now, the 1st and 2nd battalions, 75th Ranger Regiment, were on the ground and fighting. It’s not really a question whether or not they could’ve defeated the engineers and other defenders. But the Rangers don’t risk casualties when they don’t have to.

They had spotted several abandoned bulldozers on the airstrip, and some of them knew how to hotwire the simple machines, so they did so. Ranger fire teams advanced using the bulldozers for cover, firing on the defenders as they found them.

Over 100 Cuban soldiers and 150 other defenders surrendered to the Rangers, and the entire airfield was taken in just one day. An evening counterattack against the Rangers failed. Point Salines belonged to the U.S. forces.

But the airfield seizure didn’t come without cost. Five Rangers were killed in the assault, and another six were wounded. Additional troops, including Rangers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, were lost assaulting a nearby prison where political prisoners were being held.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army issues tips for operating weapons in extreme cold

The U.S. Army recently put out a reminder to soldiers on how to make sure their weapons continue to function when temperatures dip below freezing.


“Cold temperatures can greatly affect the maintenance, functioning, and employment of infantry weapons,” according to a Jan. 2 Army press release. “The Army will continue to operate in cold weather environments worldwide, so we must be able to maintain our weapons in any climate.”

Condensation is a killer.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
A Special Forces Operator assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) fires a round at a target hundreds of meters away during sniper training Feb. 8, 2017 at Limestone Hills Training Area at Fort Harrison, Montana. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Cantrell)

Also known as sweating, condensation forms on weapons when troops move them from freezing temperatures into a warm shelter. Taking weapons dripping with condensation back out into the cold will result in the internal mechanisms freezing together, causing stoppages, the release states.

If possible, keep weapons outside during extremely cold weather. When left outside, weapons should be readily accessible, guarded, and sheltered to keep ice and snow from accumulating in the working mechanisms, sights, or barrel, according to the release.

If weapons must be kept inside a shelter, keeping them near the floor will reduce the chance of condensation. Keeping the inside temperature of the shelter close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit will also cut down on condensation, according to the release. Condensation will continue to form for about an hour after bringing weapons into a shelter, so wait until it stops before wiping weapons down.

Also Read: Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

Upon leaving the shelter, take a few minutes to pull the charging handle to the rear and drop the magazine several times to prevent parts from freezing, the release states.

Also, use “Lubricant, Arctic Weapon” on all weapons except the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun instead of Break-Free CLP, which can thicken and cause weapons to operate sluggishly or jam, the release states.

What else? How do you keep your gear ready for cold-weather environments?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how an RPG works

The United States and the Soviets disagreed on almost everything; except the fact that anti-tank infantry capabilities are necessary for decisive offensive combat. The Soviets fear our tanks because of their armor, speed, and firepower and raced us in the manufacture of rocket propelled grenades, also known as RPGs. Due to the variety of RPGs in circulation, we will focus on the RPG-7, the most widely used of all Soviet-era anti-tank weaponry.


A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

(TRADOC BULLETIN NO. 3 U.S. Army)

The RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher is cheap, simple, and effective. The RPG-7 is part of one of many evolutionary branches of rockets. It is a decedent of the German Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon from which all RPG series stem from. In 1961 the RPG-7 was adopted by Soviet Armed forces.

The RPG-7 is 37.8 inches in length and weighs 14.5 lbs unloaded and 19 lbs when loaded with the 85mm caliber round (the rocket). It has a rate of fire of 4-6 rounds per minute at an arming range of 5 meters. It has a sighting range of 500 meters and a maximum range of 900 meters, at which point it self destructs. This speed is more or less three football fields per second.

The initial velocity of the rocket is 117 meters per second that increases up to 294 meters per second when the rocket assist engages. At full speed, it can penetrate up to 13 inches of armor at zero degrees.

This weapon has seen a wide range of use throughout the world along with the communist favorite AK-47.

How an RPG 7 works

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The grenade is separated into two parts, the warhead and sustainer motor, and the booster charge. These two parts must be screwed together before the grenade is ready to fire.

When the projectile is first launched it is powered by a small strip powder charge to reduce the backblast area from harming the gunner. At approximately 11 meters the sustainer rocket kicks in, ignites, and boosts the rocket to maximum velocity.

The fins open after launch with canted surfaces that spin the rocket and stabilize the rocket in flight.

The rocket itself is 36.62 inches long and weighs 4.6 pounds. HEAT rounds are olive drab, and practice rounds are black. They use a point impact fuse with a base detonator.

The shape of the warhead is to penetrate tank armor by using the Munroe Effect:

The greatly increased penetration of an explosive into a surface (as of metal or concrete) that is caused by shaping a conical or hemispherical hollow in the forward end of an explosive cartridge – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When the round detonates a small cone of metal forms and burns through the armor. There is no explosion after the core penetrates the armor, it is often the metal continuing out the other side of the target.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

Soviets training.

(Larry Cook)

Since the RPG-7 is a direct fire weapon, it’s effectiveness on the battlefield is directly affected by the ability of the gunner. The weapon’s biggest weakness is crosswind when leading a target down range. In winds greater than 7 miles per hour, a gunner cannot expect to hit more than 50% of the time beyond 180 meters. They must calculate both wind direction and velocity, but even then results may vary.

There are two standard sights for this weapon: Iron sights and a telescopic sight.

Iron sights are permanently attached and can sight 200 to 500 meters with no wind or lead adjustment. In a conventional force, it is the backup sight system, but since most forces who use this weapon are unconventional, it is usually the primary.

The Soviet tactical doctrine regarding the RPG-7 states that it is most effective at 300 meters or at a point blank target with a height of two or more meters. The reasoning for 300 meters is that it will reduce the target reaction time to take evasive action or to counterattack. Even if it doesn’t kill the target, it’s still going to scare the sh*t out of it long enough to reload and strike again.

A U.S. Army test against a stationary M60 tank concluded that at 300 meters the probability of a gunner hitting his target is 30%. A second round has a 50% chance of hitting. The round was designed to penetrate 13 inches of armor but in practice penetrates 11 inches of steel instead.

During these tests, the U.S. Army also found that exposed tanks not in defilade are twice as vulnerable as one that is. A troop is to react immediately when fired at by an RPG-7. Because a second round is more likely to hit, it is imperative to suppress with machine guns, pop smoke, and move out of the kill zone.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

(vietnamwarjournal)

Out of all the Soviet weapons, the deadliest is their propaganda infecting governments around the world.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ships shadow Navy in tense Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam traversed the strait Oct. 22, 2018, US Pacific Fleet confirmed to Business Insider. The US Navy conducted a similar operation in July 2018, sending the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold through the tense waterway.


The pair of US Navy warships conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law,” Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr told BI, adding that the purpose of the mission was to demonstrate “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and to remind others that “the US Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The latest move comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have been fighting over a variety of issues ranging from trade to territorial disputes.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

The US Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Curtis Wilber.


China, concerned that US military actions around Taiwan will embolden pro-independence factions on the self-ruled island, has bolstered its military presence in the area in 2018. The Chinese military has sailed its aircraft carrier and accompanying escort ships through the Taiwan Strait and conducted “encirclement” exercises involving fighters, bombers and other military assets throughout 2018.

Beijing perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take military action if Taiwan attempts to declare independence.

The US Navy’s latest challenge to China comes just a few weeks after a showdown in the South China Sea, in which a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US Navy warship during an “unsafe” encounter following a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands. That incident followed a string of US Air Force bomber flights through the disputed East and South China Seas, flights Beijing characterized as “provocative.”

Chinese warships shadowed the US Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait Oct. 22, 2018, but the Chinese ships remained at a safe distance.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.


That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.

“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.

The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.

Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.

The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.

“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”

The F-35B’s first landing on the Queen Elizabeth was in September 2018, as it sailed off the US coast. The Queen Elizabeth has since landed and launched British F-35Bs, but its first operational deployment, in 2021, will be with a US Marine Corps F-35 squadron.

“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.

“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”

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MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters on the Ford’s flight deck, January 16, 2020.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Indra Beaufort

Time to think about the other things

The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.

The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.

“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.

The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.

The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.

Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e3254b862fa815fb35c65d2%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=493&h=384e6c5b70751f76d229c9cd0f02854785f7016281d63c9f1d320c0da2760e6f&size=980x&c=2815517446 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e3254b862fa815fb35c65d2%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D493%26h%3D384e6c5b70751f76d229c9cd0f02854785f7016281d63c9f1d320c0da2760e6f%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2815517446%22%7D” expand=1]

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, left, and an E/A-18G Growler on one of the Ford’s aircraft elevators before being lifted from the hangar bay to the flight deck, January 21, 2020.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist Seaman Jesus O. Aguia

The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”

“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”

The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”

“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.

Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.

The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.

“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”

The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.

But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.

“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”

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

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal left the hospital in May 2018, after recovering from an assassination attempt. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent at his home in Salisbury in March 2018, by Russian spies, British counter-terror authorities have said.

One creepy prospect for the Skripals is that the would-be assassins may still be in the UK, living undercover as normal people, Russian espionage experts say. It’s easy to smuggle people out of Britain. For those of us not in the espionage business, it seems surprising that the attackers would stay in the country rather than escape immediately.


But Russia probably left its agents in place for an extended period after the attack.

Russia probably has more “sleeper” agents living as ordinary British people in the UK right now that during the Cold war, according to Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft, who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain. Russia’s “illegals” program places agents in Western countries where they live apparently normal lives for years, all the while quietly collecting influential contacts. Russia might activate an illegal for a special mission like an assassination. Fifteen people are suspected to have been killed by Russian spies in Britain since 2003. The most recent was Nikolay Glushkov, a vocal Putin critic who predicted his own murder.

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar
Nikolay Glushkov

Madeira told Business Insider that if a sleeper agent was used in the attempt on Skripal’s life, he or she probably remained in Britain after the attack rather than trying to immediately escape back to Russia.

“Why leave someone here, at risk of detection, after such a high-profile attack?” he told Business Insider. “I can only think of two scenarios where that might happen:
  • “An actual ‘illegal’ with an existing, years-long ‘legend’ would attract attention by going missing all of a sudden – i.e. friends, co-workers or neighbours might report a missing person to police, who might then put two and two together and tie that person to the Skripal attack. Better to keep him/her in place, living a mundane life again, their role in this operation now concluded.”
  • “Someone who isn’t an ‘illegal’ in the strictest sense of the word, but for now having to stay in hiding in the UK until things settle down a bit. Perhaps with a new set of ID papers, s(he) can eventually look to exit the country via a quieter, lower-profile exit point.”

Obviously, we cannot know exactly what the operative did after the attack. The Mirror reported in April 2018, that one suspect has flown back to Russia. Earlier that month, the Mirror’s source speculated that the sleeper agent would still be in the UK, ready for another mission. “Unless it were an absolute emergency and the operative had to chance a ‘crash escape’, this exit point would normally be carefully picked based on e.g. the set of ID papers available, the person’s appearance and overall profile, history in the UK if checked by the Border Force, how tight border controls were assessed to be at that exit point, etc.,” Madeira told Business Insider.

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

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