Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country.

The Taliban is demanding the release of the detainees before the launch of direct negotiations between Afghans and the Taliban over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing arrangement.


Those intra-Afghan talks, slated for mid-March, will begin after the United States and the Taliban sign a historic peace deal that will trigger the phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Experts said the issue of Taliban prisoners could be a key obstacle in launching the country’s peace talks or, conversely, be used as a bargaining chip to exact concessions from the militants.

There are fears that the release of thousands of Taliban fighters could deprive the Kabul government of a key amount of leverage and undercut the peace process by strengthening the Taliban’s position on the battlefield.

‘Trust-Building Measure’

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on February 26 that Kabul will free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces held by the militants.

Shaheen said the “trust-building measure” was a prerequisite for the launch of the intra-Afghan talks.

He added that the prisoner release was part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, although Afghanistan is not a signatory to that bilateral agreement.

But the Taliban and the United States have not yet disclosed the contents of the deal.

The Kabul government has ruled out releasing the prisoners before the start of talks.

“When we, as the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, enter into negotiations with the Taliban and they demand the release of their prisoners, it will naturally be discussed, and will take into account the laws and interests of our people and [our decision] will be based on the consensus that will arise at that stage,” said Sediq Sediqqi, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, on February 20.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

‘Quid Pro Quo’

Omar Samad, a former Afghan diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the issue could be used as a “political stumbling block or a bargaining chip.”

“Bargaining chip can mean quid pro quo,” he said.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said the Afghan government could offer the Taliban a major concession before intra-Afghan talks with the expectation that the militants will reciprocate.

Kugelman said that could mean the insurgents agreeing to reduce violence during the negotiations, which analysts expect to be complicated and protracted.

The United States and the Taliban agreed to a weeklong reduction of violence across Afghanistan before the signing of the peace deal. The partial truce has largely held, with a dramatic decrease in Taliban attacks from around 75 per day down to under 15.

The militants contest or control nearly half of the country.

A similar truce during intra-Afghan talks has been mooted, although the Taliban has not commented on the possibility.

But analysts warned that there was a risk in the government giving away one of its primary bargaining chips at such an early stage of the peace process.

“The Taliban has ample leverage because it’s in no hurry to conclude a peace deal,” said Kugelman. “If it receives a major concession it may hold out and demand more before giving something up in return.”

10,000 Taliban Prisoners

There are an estimated 10,000 Taliban prisoners being held in Afghanistan. But the militants have said that some of those detained were accused of being sympathizers or members of the group, often to settle old scores, and are not actually combatants.

There have been several high-profile prisoner swaps and releases of insurgents since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.

In November 2019, two Western hostages were released from Taliban custody in exchange for three senior Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction.

The prisoner swap was seen as an attempt to kick-start U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks over rising Taliban attacks.

In 2014, five senior Taliban members were released from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.

All five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are based in Qatar, where they have taken part in negotiations with U.S. officials.

In 2013, former President Hamid Karzai controversially released scores of Taliban prisoners from a formerly U.S.-run prison near Kabul as an attempt to convince the militants to open direct talks with Kabul.

The move failed to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Analysts said some of those freed returned to the Taliban, bolstered their ranks, and increased the insurgency’s efficacy on the battlefield.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

As rival powers develop increasingly capable air-defense networks, the US military is working with defense firms to arm the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter with a missile able to destroy these systems at long range.

Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $34.7 million contract to modify the stealth jet’s internal weapons bay to carry “aft heavy weaponry,” the Department of Defense announced July 2019.

The “aft heavy weaponry” referenced in the announcement is the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile — Extended Range (AARGM-ER), a standoff weapon designed to target enemy radar systems from outside the range of enemy air-defense assets, a source close to the project told Aviation Week.


Northrop Grumman, which is responsible for the development of the AARGM-ER, has said that this long-range weapon can be deployed from a “sanctuary,” a protected area presumably beyond the reach of Chinese and Russian anti-access area-denial capabilities.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

The exact range of the weapon is classified, although there are reports that it could be in excess of 120 miles, significantly farther than the 60 to 80 miles of the AGM-88E AARGM.

The US Navy began developing the AARGM-ER, officially designated the AGM-88G, nearly two years ago with reported plans to field this weapon on nonstealthy fourth-generation fighters like the carrier-based F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the electronic attack EA-18G Growlers sometime in the early 2020s.

The service is expected to later integrate the missile into the weapons bay of the fifth-generation F-35Cs, which only recently achieved initial operating capability.

The Air Force, also a part of the project, is expected to field the AGM-88G on its F-35As around 2025. The Marine Corps F-35Bs, because of the presence of the lift fan, has very limited space in its internal weapons bay.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter in-flight missile launch.

(F-35 Program Office)

The F-35 modifications, which will involve changes to the Station 425 bulkhead in the weapons bay, will also allow the advanced fighters to carry more air-to-air missiles internally, Aviation Week reported. The “Sidekick” modification, as the program is called, will allow the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, instead of four, internally.

The ability to store more firepower in the weapons bay rather than externally allows the F-35 to maintain its all-aspect stealth in combat. Storing the weapons on the outside in the “beast-mode” configuration allows the aircraft to carry more weapons overall, but it increases the size of the jet’s radar signature, making it easier to detect.

The modifications will be made at a facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and completed in 2022.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 restaurants you’ve been dreaming of while deployed

The last month of deployment can either drag slowly on or fly by, depending on how you keep your mind busy. If you’re looking for an escape from the drudgery, keep yourself distracted. And there’s no better way to keep your mind off the present quite like imaging all of the food you’ll eat when you arrive stateside. America is the melting pot of all the world’s cultures, which also means we have the very best of the world’s cuisine.


I can guarantee you, based on personal experience, that the question of, “what’re you going to eat first?” will come up. If you’re looking to start the discussion off with a delectable imaginary dining experience, fantasize about the spots on this list:

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

‘Murica!

(Pinch Kitchen/Facebook)

Pinch Kitchen — Miami

Restaurants overseas never perfectly nail the taste of American cuisine — and I do not mean fast food (admittedly, foreign countries can’t get that right, either). If you’re lucky enough to be stationed in Florida, or you’re planning on using some of your post-deployment leave days down south, make sure to stop by Pinch Kitchen in Miami, Florida.

They take American classics and add a dash of this and that to really bring out the taste in the classic meals we love. Now, before people start saying that hamburgers and hotdogs are not American because they originated from Germany, I’ll say this: Just like we did to the moon, we put our flag on them and now they belong to us.

Two executive chefs, John Gallo and Rene Reyes, put every effort into ensuring the food is perfect, the ambiance is unpretentious, and the place is filled with all of our favorite beers.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

This is a piece of art that you’re encouraged to eat. What a concept.

(Delmonico Steakhouse)

Delmonico Steakhouse — Las Vegas

If Vegas is in your future, do not miss Delmonico Steakhouse. The genius in the kitchen is Emeril John Lagassé III who, as you might know, had his own show on the Food Network. This restaurant is more upscale, and I’d strongly recommend taking someone you’re more serious with than that stripper you just met thirty minutes ago.

Regardless, the filet mignon and other steaks here are so good you’ll wish you were exclusively carnivorous. Treat yourself to a quality meal because you’ve earned it. Vegas has buffets and deals around every corner, and there are plenty of comfort foods for after you have stumbled out of the casino (and almost married that stripper I told you not to take to the Steakhouse while successfully evading capture from the police and being black-out drunk). So, take some time to enjoy a meal that isn’t self-served, warrior.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

It’s a family restaurant… I swear!

(Twin Peaks, Front Burner Restaurants, LP.)

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is a sports bar that started in Texas, but now has franchises all over the U.S. and is the primary competitor of Hooters. They serve beer at 29 degrees and have a made-from-scratch menu that includes American favorites, like burgers and nachos. It’s themed like a hunting lodge and goes to great lengths to put forth a degree of manliness, like offering “man-size” 22oz beers.

It’s a wholesome family restaurant with friendly waitresses that will make sure your table receives the attention a patron deserves. The themed events are fun and, sometimes, they have bikini car washes. The best part is that new franchises are opening every year so you won’t have to travel far if you’re lucky.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Worth every penny.

(Sushi Iki)

Sushi Iki — Los Angeles

Sushi Iki is in Los Angeles County, not the city itself. It’s in what the locals call “The Valley,” a barren wasteland of broken dreams. Just kidding — the Valley’s fine. It’s just really far from Hollywood, Santa Monica, or anything LA you’ve seen on television. However, don’t let the distance from your hotel deter you from this place; the sushi is legendary.

The variety of fish and shellfish served here can’t be found in just any sushi restaurant, and some are prepared so fresh that they were alive when you walked in the door. This is an expensive restaurant, but if you find yourself in L.A. this is one of those places you should not miss. Expect to pay around 0 per person for the full experience and for something modest.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drones are changing the way the world prepares for war

The number of countries with military drones has skyrocketed over the past decade, a new report revealed, showing that nearly 100 countries have this kind of technology incorporated into their armed forces.

In 2010, only about 60 countries had military drones, but that number has since jumped to 95, a new report from Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone revealed.

Dan Gettinger, the report’s author, identified 171 different types of unmanned aerial vehicles in active inventories. Around the world, there are at least 21,000 drones in service, but the number may actually be significantly higher.


“The one thing that is clear is drone proliferation is accelerating,” Michael Horowitz, a Center for New American Security (CNAS) adjunct senior fellow for technology and national security, told Insider, adding that it is particularly noteworthy that among the countries that have access to military drone technology, around 20 have armed drones, higher-end systems that are becoming more prolific.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt(

And the proliferation of drone technology is expected to continue as countries like China, which has emerged as a major exporter of unmanned systems, to include armed drones, and others export drones around the world. “Drone proliferation is inevitable,” Horowitz said, explaining that “current-generation drones are the tip of the spear for the emergence of robotics in militaries around the world.”

Newer systems are appearing at a rapid rate. “I think drones will be a ubiquitous presence on future battlefields,” Gettinger told Insider Sept. 26, 2019, explaining that drone technology is contributing to an evolution in warfare. “They represent an increase in combat capacity, an increase in the ability of a nation to wage war.”

“We are likely to see drones featuring more prominently in global events, particularly in areas that are considered to be zones of geopolitical tension,” he added, noting that “we see this playing out in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, the Ukraine, and other conflicts.”

Drones come in all shapes and sizes and levels of sophistication, and they have become important tools for both countries and non-state actors such as the Islamic State in several different countries, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In recent months, militarized drones have made headlines globally, highlighting the importance of unmanned systems.

Over the past few weeks, for instance, the American MQ-25 Stingray, an unmanned refueling asset expected to serve aboard US carriers, completed its first flight. Russia showed off its new Okhotnik (Hunter) drone flying alongside and working together with the fifth-generation Su-57, an important first step toward manned/unmanned teaming. And, China unveiled a suspected supersonic spy drone and a stealth attack drone during preparations for its National Day celebration.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Russia Su-57.

But, the incident likely the freshest in everyone’s mind is the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil sites earlier this month, when Saudi oil production was temporarily crippled by systems most air defense systems are not designed to effectively counter.

Arthur Holland Michel, who co-directs the Center for the Study of the Drone with Gettinger, previously explained to Insider that the attacks confirmed “some of the worst fears among militaries and law enforcement as to just how much damage one can do” with this kind of technology.

He called the attack a “wake-up call,” one of many in recent years.

The strikes on Saudi Arabia, which the US believes were carried out by Iran, marked the second time in just a few months the US has had to figure out how to respond to a drone-related incident involving Iran, as Iranian forces shot down an expensive US surveillance drone, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, in June 2019.

That incident nearly ignited an armed conflict between the US and Iran. President Donald Trump had plans to attack Iranian missile and radar sites in retaliation, but he called off the attack at the last minute due to concerns about possible Iranian casualties.

The US reaction, especially the president’s stated concerns that killing Iranians in response to the downing of an unmanned air asset was disproportionate, highlights the challenges of responding to attacks involving military drones.

“The US and other countries,” Gettinger explained, “will have to develop a framework for thinking about and understanding enemy unmanned systems and how to deal with them and what their responses should be. Drones are becoming a more important feature of militaries, and the US and other countries will have to have a framework for dealing with that.”

Addressing these challenges will likely become more important as the technology evolves with advancements in capability to create drones with the ability to fight like unmanned fighter aircraft, manned/unmanned teaming, and progress on swarming.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the North Korea summit can still blow up in the US’ face

President Donald Trump is less than one month away from making history as the first sitting US president to meet a sitting North Korean leader — but it’s increasingly looking as if he’s ill-prepared and sailing toward embarrassment.

Trump has of late talked up his work on North Korea, crediting himself with creating the conditions for talks through a hardline policy. But that self-congratulation could come back to haunt him.


North Korea has in 2018, pursued diplomacy with its neighbors on the back of a vague promise to denuclearize. Pyongyang’s apparent wish to make peace with Seoul after Trump’s nuclear brinkmanship throughout 2017, shocked much of the world and has generated Nobel Peace Prize buzz for the president.

But now Trump worries his meeting with Kim Jong Un “could turn into a political embarrassment,” The New York Times’ David Sanger reported, citing administration officials.

In early May 2018, with only weeks until the historic summit, North Korea flipped on the US and South Korea, blasting them both with a series of complaints that seemed like a tantrum.

Sanger reported that Trump had questioned whether he should even go through with the summit and hastily spoke on the phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for reassurance.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
Kim with a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile.
(KCNA photo)

Trump has so far stayed the course with the summit, which would represent a major part of his foreign-policy accomplishments as president. For Kim, meeting a US president is a legitimizing win, lending his country previously unattainable international credibility.

But instead of Kim hoping the US grants him that legitimacy, it now appears Trump is the one trying to hold onto a meeting that North Korea appears willing to ditch.

Additionally, Trump is reportedly not thrilled about preparing for the summit, which is expected to cover not only the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula but virtually every major flashpoint in East Asian geopolitics.

Time quoted a senior administration official as saying Trump “doesn’t think he needs to” prepare that much for the summit with Kim.

Trump may have been misled

But if Trump is ill-prepared for the summit and it does blow up in his face, he can share some of the blame.

“It increasingly looks like the Moon administration overstated North Korea’s willingness to deal,” said Robert Kelly, a political-science professor who’s an expert on North Korea.

He added: “Moon likely exaggerated this to tie Trump to a diplomatic track to prevent him from backsliding into 2017’s war-threats which scared the daylights out of South Koreans. If Trump were less vain and had allowed his national security staff to vet the NK offer, he might have learned this.”

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in

It has been reported that Trump came dangerously close to striking North Korea in 2017. In doing so, he may have scared South Korea, not North Korea, into negotiations.

South Korea has reasons to push for diplomacy with North Korea, not least of which is that its citizens would be likely to bear the brunt of the suffering and death if war broke out.

The stuff could hit the fan

On June 12, 2018, in Singapore, Trump is set to face a task like never before in meeting Kim.

North Korea has measurably gained from its diplomatic offensive by forging closer ties with China — and, as Trump has acknowledged, seemed to get Beijing to ease off sanctions. Trump’s main achievement on North Korea thus far has been getting China to adhere to international sanctions.

Kim’s unwinding Trump’s win on the North Korea front with a sophisticated diplomatic ruse could prove embarrassing to Trump before the midterm elections in 2018, when he’ll look for a boost for the Republican Party.

North Korea experts fear that failed talks could lead the US to an even more militaristic path, possibly even to war against Kim.

Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser, John Bolton, has long advocated war with North Korea — and has been partly blamed for the recent collapse in diplomatic progress.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Kim Jong Un should fear the Lancer

Recently, a B-1B Lancer took part in Vigilant Ace 18, a massive U.S.-South Korea joint air exercise. According to FoxNews.com, the Lancer simulated strikes in the eastern part of the country, which drew the expected condemnation from North Korea.


This is not the first time this year that B-1s have participated in drills on the peninsula. Similar exercises took place in May and July. North Korea blustered then, too. So, why are the B-1Bs such a big deal to the belligerent state?

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
A B-1B Lancer releases its payload. There’s a lot of bombs there. (USAF photo by Steve Zapka.)

Maybe the North Koreans know that, despite what they tell people about Kim Jong Un, there’s no way he can keep the Lancer from inflicting a lot of hurt. You see, next to the A-10, the B-1B Lancer could possible be the most effective weapon against North Korea’s army. GlobalSecurity.org estimates North Korea has over 3,500 main battle tanks and 560 light tanks.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
A North-Korean-built M-1978 KOKSAN displayed at the Al Anbar University campus in Ramadi, Iraq is to be removed by U.S. Forces. (USMC photo)

But the B-1B Lancer has a way of dealing with a lot of tanks: It’s called the CBU-97. This is the weapon that enables the Lancer to protect the Baltics from Russian aggression. A B-1B can carry up to 30 of these internally, plus at least 14 more on rarely-used, external pylons.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a little math: Each CBU-97 has 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each with four “skeets” that fire an explosive projectile capable of going through the top of an enemy tank. A single B-1B carrying 30 of these can, therefore, deliver 1,200 “skeets” in one sortie. Each B-1B Lancer has the potential firepower to handle about 30 percent of North Korea’s tank force.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
A CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition cluster bomb equipped with the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser Kit. This is called the CBU-103. (US Air Force photo)

And you can safely bet it wouldn’t be just a single B-1B. Other B-1B Lancers might carry CBU-89 cluster bombs, which dispense GATOR mines in a mix of anti-tank and anti-personnel varieties. Others still might the CBU-87 cluster bomb, containing 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The fact is, North Korea’s army is primarily made up of massed ground forces — the kind of target that cluster bombs are really good at dealing with.

It makes sense that North Korea fears the Lancer. Especially since Secretary of Defense James Mattis just decided that the United States wasn’t going to give up cluster bombs after all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How sailors navigated before GPS

Humanity is fated to explore, colonize, and come up with new ways to assert dominance over the forces of nature. The timeline of recorded history is marked by inventions that have propelled us forward to achieve the impossible and expand our collective intelligence. The early explorers navigated the violence of the open ocean by using the stability of the heavenly bodies to guide them.

Before sailors could brave the blank spots on the map, they had to know where home was and how to find their place in the world. By charting the stars, keeping precise time, and using their honed senses, humanity was given the tools needed to explore ever outward.


Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

(HISTORY’s ‘Vikings’)

The Vikings used known points

The vikings sailed far enough from shore to lose sight of landmasses in a time before there was a proven method of navigation. They passed down knowledge of stars, coasts, currents, navigational landmarks, and wildlife to create mental maps.

They would make notes of unique mountain formations and follow currents favored by pods of whales for feeding. They also used a plumb bob, an instrument used to determine water depth by tying a weight to a rope and plopping it into the ocean. Viking sailors navigated by using their senses: listening to the calls of seabirds, allowing them to estimate which region they were in. They’d verify their guess by tasting the water to gauge the amount of fresh water flowing into the sea.

Flóki Vilgerðarson, who appeared in HISTORY’s Vikings, was a real person who used caged ravens when traveling. When he thought land was near, he would release a raven. If it circled the boat, there was no land. If it flew away, the ship followed it towards land. This technique was adopted by other vikings who followed in the footsteps of this pioneer.

Vikings crossed the Atlantic Ocean to found colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland using these techniques and raided western Europe with impunity, without fear of sea.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Let me sing you the song of my people…

(Maui Guide)

The Polynesians used songs

The Polynesians used songs to navigate the seas, an art passed down from master to apprentice over generations. They maintained guilds on each island that would identify sources of food and directed sailors towards them in times of famine and traded this knowledge for other resources. To identify where they were, they made close observations of sea signs, just as the vikings did, and recorded extremely detailed directions in the form of song lyrics.

The guilds also safeguarded the secrets of constructing outrigger canoes capable of making long voyages across the Pacific Ocean.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

With this, I will make my own empire! With blackjack — and freedom!

(ResearchGate)

The British invented the chronometer to identify latitude

Celestial navigation was turned into a science by the British. In 1714, the British government declared a prize of £20,000 be award to whomever could solve the problem of finding a ship’s current longitude position while out on the open ocean. John Harrison was clockmaker who believed the answer was in accurate timekeeping. He proved that one could find their latitude by calculating the position of the sun, moon, stars, or other celestial bodies in relations to the current time to find where you are on the globe.

Making a correct calculation required a timepiece that would not lose its accuracy due to storms, temperature changes, or manufacturing limitations. If one didn’t know the exact time, the almanacs and journals that outlined the location of celestial bodies were, basically, useless.

Harrison made the H4, a chronometer the size of a watch, and it was able to accurately keep GMS time in any clime and place, regardless of conditions. On its maiden voyage to Jamaica, it was only off by five seconds by the journey’s end.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants to replace Vikings with drones

The return of great-power competition has the US military refocusing on the potential for a conflict with a sophisticated adversary whose submarines can sink the US’s supercarriers.

Defense experts are increasingly concerned by a resurgent Russian undersea force and by China’s increasingly capable boats.

But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.


Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.

(US Navy photo)

‘It’s got legs’

During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.

Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.

“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.

It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.

(US Navy photo)

“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.

The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.

Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.

Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.

‘The leadership totally turned over’

As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)

An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.

The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.

With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.

Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.

“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.

“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.

Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.

“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)

The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.

Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.

More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.

“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”

‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’

Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.

“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.

(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)

Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)

“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.

Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)

“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.

(US Navy/Boeing photo)

The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.

“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.

“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.

Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.

“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”

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

Articles

Trump picks former Army intel officer to be SecNav

President Donald J. Trump today announced his intention to nominate Philip Bilden as the 76th secretary of the Navy.


If confirmed by the Senate, Bilden will replace Ray Mabus, who was the longest serving Navy secretary since World War I.

The announcement follows the president’s nomination of Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary and Vinnie Viola as Army secretary.

“All three of these nominees have my utmost confidence,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement following the announcement. “They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families. I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country. They had my full support during the selection process, and they will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process.”

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
Pictured: The Navy| US Navy photo

Bilden is a business leader, former military intelligence officer and Naval War College cybersecurity leader who served on the board of directors for the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.

He was commissioned in 1986 in the Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer and served for 10 years, achieving the rank of captain. Bilden’s family includes four consecutive generations of Navy and Army officers, including his two sons, who presently serve in the Navy.

“As secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” Trump said. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come. I am proud of the men and women of our armed forces. The people who serve in our military are our American heroes, and we honor their service every day.”

“I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said. “Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security. If confirmed, I will ensure that our sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”

Military Life

The ultra-rare Marine Corps uniform accessory you may never see

From the point of view of an airman who (in the right town) could be mistaken for a Coastie while wearing my dress blues, I have to say: Marine Dress uniforms have no equal. I totally get why people join the Marines just for the dress blues.


After a few years in the military and a few years in military-oriented media, I thought I had seen every uniform there was. That’s when I saw this guy:

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
Why is this Marine dressed like a magician?

This was surprising to me because I continually make fun of the movie Basic for depicting Samuel L. Jackson’s Army character wearing a cape. But I wasn’t the only one who was perplexed by this. In 2016, a Quora user asked Marines what that cape was.

For those not in the know, the Marines in the top photo are “pretty much wearing the same mess dress uniform” and the cape is a somewhat antiquated, but still on the books, accessory: the Boat Cloak.

Boat Cloaks are a made-to-order item that can cost upward of $1,000 at the NEX/MCX. One former Master Gunnery Sergeant recalled seeing one worn by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 at a Marine Corps ball. The Master Guns described the look as “magnificent.”

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
Army capes: not magnificent. Also, not a thing.

It’s difficult to find exact regulations for the Boat Cloak, but it looks like there are different versions for the Senior NCOs and Officers. As of 1937, it was still a required item for officers.

Get your Boat Cloak at the Marine Shop for $650.00. If you wear one to any mess dress-level function, please send photos to We Are The Mighty.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japans first marine unit in 70 years just drilled with U.S.

Japan activated its first marine unit since World War II in March 2018 to defend islands in the East China Sea, and in early October 2018 Marines and sailors with the US 7th Fleet trained with it for the first time.

Japanese forces are in the Philippines for the second edition of the Kamandag exercise, an acronym of the Tagalog phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea.”

Kamandag, usually a bilateral US-Philippine exercise, runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, 2018.

One of the first drills saw members of Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade load five of their amphibious assault vehicles aboard the USS Ashland, an amphibious dock landing ship based in Japan, carrying a contingent from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Below, you can see how troops from each country teamed up to steam ashore.


Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade during an amphibious landing in support of a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission during KAMANDAG 2 in the Philippines, Oct. 6, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kevan Dunlop)

A few days later, unarmed Japanese troops and armored vehicles took part in an landing operation, hitting the beach alongside US and Filipino marines and acting in a humanitarian role. That was the first time Japanese armored vehicles have been on foreign soil since World War II.

Source: Business Insider

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops provide aid during humanitarian aid and disaster-relief training during an amphibious landing as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 6, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade troops observe assault amphibious vehicle operations inside the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 4, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

US Marines and members of the Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade stand by in the well deck of the USS Ashland after assault amphibious vehicle operations during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 5, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japanese Amphibious Raid Deployment Brigade troops stand by inside the well deck of the USS Ashland, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade members inside an assault amphibious vehicle in the well deck of the USS Ashland after conducting amphibious operations as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

“We really tried to help the Japanese … build the ARDB on a marine-to-marine level and a service-to-service level,” Marine Brig. Gen. Chris McPhillips, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and leader of US forces involved in the exercise, told Stars and Stripes on Oct. 9, 2018, from the Philippines.


McPhillips said the exercise improved the forces’ ability to work together in an emergency and enhanced communications at all levels.

Source: Stars and Stripes

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japanese Amphibious Raid Deployment Brigade troops maneuver an assault amphibious vehicle inside the well deck of the USS Ashland as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

“Our goal was to allow them to operate from US ships and learn how amphibious operations are conducted,” he added. “Specifically, the mechanics of getting [amphibious] vehicles on and off of ships.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

A US Marine signals to an assault amphibious vehicle in the well deck of the USS Ashland, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

Japan, which disbanded its military after World War II, set up the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade in March 2018. It currently has about 2,000 members and is expected to grow. It will train to defend islands in the East China Sea, where Japan and China have territorial disputes.

Source: Business Insider

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade members drive an assault amphibious vehicle into the well deck of the USS Ashland during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 4, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” Japanese Vice Defense Minister Tomohiro Yamamoto said at the unit’s activation in early April 2018.

Source: Reuters

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade troops enter the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a number of steps to strengthen the military, expanding the budget and adding new commands. Japanese warships recently ventured into the Indian Ocean to reassure partners there, and Japanese subs recently carried out exercises in the crowded waters of the South China Sea for the first time.


Abe himself also plans to visit the northern Australian city of Darwin in November 2018 — the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since Japanese forces bombed the city during World War II.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members prepare to embark on the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

Critics in Japan have expressed concern that the country is at risk of contravening the constitutional restriction against developing offensive capabilities and waging war. The amphibious brigade was particularly worrying, as critics believed such a unit could be used to project force and threaten neighbors.

Source: Reuters

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

popular

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Christmas is a time for giving. Yeah, family and friends share gifts with one another, but the spirit of Christmas is also about giving to those in need. Every year, you’ll find boxes placed by Toys for Tots, waiting to catch donations of new, unwrapped presents from giving, good-willed samaritans. These gifts go toward brightening up a less-fortunate child’s Christmas morning.

Though you might not know it, this gesture of good will is made possible by the Marine Corps Reserves. Since 1995, Toys for Tots has been listed as an official mission of the Marines to be conducted around the holidays.


Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
(Official Marine Corps Photo)

I know the Marines were there, accepting toys with a smile, but a salty Gunny knife-handing civilians who didn’t donate would arguably be more effective.

Toys for Tots got its start in the winter of 1947, when Diane Hendricks, wife of Maj. Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, wanted to gift a bunch of homemade dolls to kids in need. Diane made the dolls with the hope of giving a happy holiday to some less-fortunate girls — but she quickly realized that there was no such organization to help her help others.

Maj. Hendricks, inspired by his wife’s generosity, gathered his fellow Marine Corps Reservists buddies and placed giant boxes outside of movie theaters across Los Angeles to help attract others to their cause. Off-duty Marines were to accept donated gifts in their Blues and personally thank each donor.

The first Christmas was a massive success. Their small team gathered 5,000 toys and gave them to the children of Los Angeles. It was such a success, in fact, that they were able to elevate the charity to the national level the very next year.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Re-Essa Buckels).

Doing every little bit to make Santa’s job a little easier this Christmas.

Even as the movement gained national recognition, it remained a fairly small-scale operation, done by Marines reservists between drill weekends — but this mission of good will was eating into the time that the Marines needed to spend being Marines.

By 1980, the stipulation that stated gifts had to be “new and unwrapped” was added because the young Marines spent way too much time refurbishing all of the used toys parents didn’t want anymore.

Toys for Tots had grown far bigger far faster than anyone imagined. The Marines knew they needed to expand the program to keep giving toys to children that needed them, but they couldn’t do it at the expense of being Marines. So after 44 years of being an unofficial program of Marine Reservists, they sought official recognition from the Pentagon to keep going. In 1991, The Marine Toys for Tots finally became an actual charity.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan
(Air Force Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd)

So, help out your fellow Marines and donate a toy or two when you see their boxes. It really will go a long way.

This new recognition came with many perks — and one huge drawback. First, it allowed the charity to work with organizations to take on large-scale donations and financial assistance. It also meant that people could now mark off any given resent as a “charitable donation,” which comes in handy just before tax season. New employees, outside of the Marines, could come handle some of the legwork. And, to top it all off, the organization was able to use funds to get needed materials, like boxes and wrapping paper, without the Marines spending their personal money on it.

But this all came in direct conflict with the military’s stance on staying out of the public sector. Despite being a program made by Marines, carried out by Marines for 44 years, and having “Marine” in the title (its full name is the “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation”), the United States military is not supposed to endorse any civilian organization, company, or charity.

This awkwardness needed to be addressed and, in 1995, the Marine Toys for Tots Organization became the one and only organization to earn an exception when Secretary of Defense William J. Perry added “assisting the Toys for Tots” as an official mission of the United States Marine Corps.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it’s like to be a military family quarantined in Italy

When the first reports of Coronavirus, COVID-19, made the news in late January for cases outside China, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte assured residents, “The system of prevention put into place by Italy is the most rigorous in Europe.”

But then cases popped up across the country. Ten towns within the regions of Lombardy and Veneto were quarantined, and local lockdowns were put into place, but as a whole, the country was operating as usual.


That all changed on March 9, 2020, when the entirety of Italy was ordered into full quarantine, impacting more than sixty million people across twenty regions.

On March 10, 2020, COVID-19 was responsible for killing 168 people in Italy, the highest death toll in a single day since the outbreak began in the country.

Katie, a travel writer and military spouse currently under mandatory quarantine in Vicenza, agreed to speak candidly to ‘We Are The Mighty’ about what it’s really like to be a military family stationed in Italy right now.

When you first started hearing about Coronavirus were you worried? Did people seem panicked?

I first heard about Coronavirus when it began circulating in the news probably around the same time most of us heard about it. This was when it was mainly affecting areas in China.

To be honest, I wasn’t worried and didn’t pay too much attention to it, because I was ignorant as to how fast and wide it would spread.

I was still traveling during this time, and I didn’t notice anyone seeming panicked or worried, it all seemed like business as usual at airports and tourist sites.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

What has the shift in your life looked like — what was a normal day versus now?

The situation has been developing in a way that has meant the changes to daily life have been incremental, which, in a way, is helpful because everything didn’t change at once.

During the first week, the gyms were closed and that was a big change to my daily life as I had just recently begun a new program to focus on some fitness goals. In the second week, I had a trip to Romania planned, which I had to cancel. The next big change was when the quarantine zones began, and that has had the biggest impact to daily life now that I can only leave the house for necessities.

Normally, I work from home anyway, so I’m fortunate that it’s not dramatically different from a regular day.

How do you think this will impact life over the next 30 days? How will it impact the Italian economy?

Everything has been changing so quickly that I have no idea what will happen in the next 30 days. I certainly hope that some of the restrictions are lifted by then, but it’s hard to know what will be happening tomorrow, let alone next month.

I think it will be tough on the Italian economy and, for that reason, I think it’s very important for us to help mitigate it as much as possible by supporting local businesses here when we can.

One thing I will say is that it has been inspiring to see businesses in the area adapting to the new quarantine restrictions with a resilient and positive attitude. A local winery just began a delivery service since we can no longer drive to them, and tonight I was able to buy dinner and a few bottles of wine which was not only a great treat for me, but a nice way to support them as well.

Are you worried about your military spouse?

Not at all. He is actually away and has been since before the Coronavirus started impacting daily life here in Italy. I’m confident that he is in good hands and busy with his training.

What self-care measures or safety precautions are you taking?

It can be stressful at times keeping up with all the changes, so for self-care, I have been making sure I have something in each day to simply relax, whether that is a face mask, reading, cuddling my dog, or watching a little WWE wrestling (it’s my favorite).

As for safety precautions, my biggest precaution has been to follow the official channels to stay up to date with any changes. Then, I simply follow the guidance given with each update. The precautions are things like washing hands regularly, keeping a distance from other people when in public, and not traveling.

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

What else would you like people to know?

The only other thing I’d like people to know is how inspiring it is to see Italian people respond to this in such a community-focused way. Generally speaking, it seems that, although inconvenienced as all of us are, Italian people around me have a focus on doing what’s best for the collective, and it’s heartwarming to see.

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