Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights - We Are The Mighty
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Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes.  For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.


Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Military veterans ascend a 50-foot-tall mountainside during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among the group of wounded warriors. While there, the veterans received lessons on safety, etiquette, knots, belaying, rappelling and climbing technique. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.

In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.

As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.

“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.

“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”

Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.

On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”

Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.

“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it.  Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”

Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.

Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.

Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Retired Tech. Sgt. Jessica Moore rides her bicycle down a mountain trail during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The camp participants spent two full days completing bicycle trails and endurance activities. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.

“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome!  It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”

Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.

After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?

When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.

At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.

“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”

At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Retired Staff Sgts. Richard W. Rose Jr. and Nicholas Dadgostar joke during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.

“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”

Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.

During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq.  Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.

“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it.  More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission.  It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”

While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Retired Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. holds a portion of his daily dose of medication, which he takes to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”

Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.

“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland Air National Guard, leaps over a mountainside area during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Connelly lost his left leg after a motorcycle accident a few years ago, but he didn’t let it stop him from competing in sports. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.

“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”

The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.

Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Military veterans leave the Hartman Rocks during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among wounded warriors who’d experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, amputations and other injuries. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.

At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned.  She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.

Articles

This massive nuclear sub just surprised two fishermen

Two Russian fishermen were just minding their business when a true predator of the sea popped up right next to them.


Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
GIF: YouTube/Vlad Wild

That’s a nuclear submarine of the Russian Navy. According to translations in Russia Today, the fishermen released a stream of curse words when they realized that a nuclear submarine was so close to them, and one of them asks the other to check out how badly his hands are shaking.

YouTube user Vlad Wild played it cool when he uploaded the video, though. He titled it “Nothing unusual, just submarine.” Check it out below:

Submarines work using stealth, so it’s rare to see them in the wild. These two men were extremely lucky to be able to see the boat in action.
MIGHTY TRENDING

This new nuke will deter Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Reports and rampant speculation regarding Russia’s announcement of a new, high-threat nuclear cruise missile have many asking questions about the ultimate aims of the Pentagon’s recently released Nuclear Posture Review.


The Pentagon’s accelerated development of a “nuclear-armed” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter attack envelope, and other new nuclear weapons, is of critical importance to a new sweeping strategic nuclear weapons modernization and development strategy aimed at countering Russia, China, and North Korea — and addressing a much more serious global nuclear weapons threat environment.

Also read: No one wants Russia’s new fighter — they want the F-35

Adding a nuclear-capable F-35 to the air portion of the nuclear triad — to supplement the existing B-2, B-52, and emerging B-21 — will bring a new dimension to US nuclear attack options and place a new level of pressure upon potential adversaries.

Discussion of the F-35’s role in nuclear deterrence emerged recently during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s recently published Nuclear Posture Review.

In written testimony, Defense Secretary James Mattis cited the F-35 as an indispensable element of US and NATO nuclear deterrence.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Modernizing our dual-capable fighter-bombers with next-generation F-35 fighter aircraft will maintain the strength of NATO’s deterrence posture and maintain our ability to forward deploy nuclear weapons, should the security situation demand it,” his testimony states.

Mattis also cited the emergence of the F-35 as a “nuclear delivery system” in the context of expressing grave concern that US nuclear weapons modernization has not, in recent years, kept pace with a fast-changing global threat environment.

“Nuclear delivery system development over the last eight years shows numerous advances by Russia, China, and North Korea versus the near absence of such activity by the United States, with competitors and adversaries’ developing 34 new systems as compared to only one for the U.S. —  the F-35 aircraft,” Mattis said in written statements.

Officials with the Office of the Secretary of Defense confirmed to Warrior Maven that Mattis here is indeed referring to an emerging “nuclear variant” of the F-35. Multiple news reports, such as Business Insider, cite senior officials saying a nuclear-armed F-35 is slated to emerge in the early 2020s, if not sooner. The F-35 is equipped to carry the B-61 nuclear bomb, according to a report in Air Force Magazine.

It makes sense that the F-35 would increasingly be called upon to function as a key element of US nuclear deterrence strategy; in recent months, F-35s deployed to the Pacific theater to participate in military exercises over the Korean Peninsula. The weapons, ISR technology, and multi-role functions of the F-35 potentially provide a wide range of attack options should that be necessary in the region.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
In this artist’s rendering, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is armed with the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and the Paveway bomb on both wings, as it prepares to drop the AMRAAM missile.

Utilizing speed, maneuverability, and lower-altitude flight when compared to how a bomber, such as a B-2, would operate, a nuclear-capable F-35 presents new threats to a potential adversary. In a tactical sense, it seems that a high-speed F-35, fortified by long-range sensors and targeting technologies, might be well positioned to identify and destroy mobile weapons launchers or other vital, yet slightly smaller, on-the-move targets. As part of this equation, an F-35 might also be able to respond much more quickly, with low-yield nuclear weapons in the event that new intelligence information locating a new target emerges.

Related: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

The F-35 recently completed a series of weapons separation tests and is currently able to be armed with the AIM-9X, AIM-120, AIM-132, GBU-12, JDAM, JSOW, SDB-1 and the Paveway IV, Lockheed Martin data states. While it is not yet clear exactly how a nuclear weapon might integrate onto the platform, the F-35 is configured to carry more than 3500 pounds of ordnance in stealth mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested.

While senior Pentagon leaders are understandably hesitant to discuss particular contingencies or attack scenarios, the NPR is quite clear that a more pro-active nuclear weapons posture is aimed at strengthening “deterrence.”

After analyzing the global threat calculus, the NPR calls for rapid inclusion of two additional nuclear weapons options — to include a sea-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile.

“A nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile and the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a low-yield option – will enhance deterrence by ensuring no adversary under any circumstances can perceive an advantage through limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack,” Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

Senior Pentagon leaders stress that neither of these new nuclear weapons recommendations in the NPR require developing new nuclear warheads or will result in increasing the size of the nuclear stockpile. NPR DoD advocates further stress that the addition of these weapons does align with US non-proliferation commitments.

Mattis and other senior leaders seem aware that elements of the NPRs strategic approach may reflect a particular irony or paradox; in response to questions from lawmakers about whether adding new low-yield nuclear weapons could “lower the threshold” to nuclear war and therefore introduce new elements of danger, Mattis told Congress that increasing offensive nuclear-weapons attack capability will have the opposite effect, meaning the added weapons would improve deterrence and therefore enhance prospects for peace.

Specifically, Mattis explained that a new, low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic missile could likely provide pressure on Russia to a point where they might be more inclined to negotiate about adhering to the INF treaty they have violated.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda R. Gray)

“We have an ongoing Russian violation of the INF. We want our negotiators to have something to negotiate with because we want Russia back in compliance,” Mattis told lawmakers.

Alongside this strategic emphasis, Mattis also stressed that the NPR stipulates that nuclear weapons will only be used in the most extreme cases, adding that the “use of any nuclear weapon is a strategic game changer. Nuclear deterrence must be considered carefully.”

Citing the rapid technological progress of adversary air-defense systems, Mattis further elaborated that a sea-launched cruise missile option might be necessary to hold potential enemies at risk in the event that air-dropped low-yield weapons were challenged to operate above necessary targets.

“To drop a gravity bomb that is low-yield means a bomber would have to penetrate air defenses. Air defenses are very different than they were 20 years ago,” Mattis told Congress.

For instance, Russian-built S-400s and an emerging S-500 are potentially able to detect aircraft at much further ranges on a larger number of frequencies. Furthermore, faster computer processing and digital networking enable dispersed air defenses to hand off targets quickly across wide swaths of terrain.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
S-400 missile system. (Photo by Vitaly Kuzmin)

This phenomenon also provides indispensable elements to the argument in favor of the Pentagon’s current development of a new nuclear-armed, air launched cruise missile – the Long Range Stand-Off weapon (LRSO). In similar fashion, a nuclear cruise missile could hold enemy targets at risk in a high-tech threat environment where bombers were less able to operate.

Some critics of the LRSO maintain that the introduction of the LRSO brings a “destabilizing” effect to the possible use of nuclear weapons. In a manner quite consistent with the current NPR, senior Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of several interviews that, by strengthening deterrence, the addition of a new LRSO is expected to have the reverse – or “stabilizing” – effect by making it more difficult for a potential adversary to contemplate a first strike.

More reading: This is who will likely build America’s new nuclear missiles

NPR proponents say a strengthened and more wide-reaching nuclear weapons approach is necessary, given the current threat environment which does, without question, seem to be raising the possibility of nuclear confrontation to a level not seen in years.

“We’re concerned about: some of the adjustments in potential adversaries’ thinking about nuclear weapons. With a greater reliance on nuclear weapons, a featuring of them, in some cases — for example, in the Russian nuclear doctrine, called “Escalating to De-escalate.” John Rood, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy told reporters when discussing the NPR.

From the Nuclear Posture Review

Russia’s belief that limited nuclear first use, potentially including low-yield weapons, can provide such an advantage is based, in part, on Moscow’s perception that its greater number and variety of non-strategic nuclear systems provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict. Recent Russian statements on this evolving nuclear weapons doctrine appear to lower the threshold for Moscow’s first-use of nuclear weapons.

The text of the report specifically cites the importance of dual-capable aircraft (DCA) in Europe and states that the F-35 is fundamental to deterring Russia.

“We are committed to upgrading DCA with the nuclear-capable F-35 aircraft. We will work with NATO to best ensure — and improve where needed — the readiness, survivability, and operational effectiveness of DCA based in Europe,” the Nuclear Posture Review states.

New ICBM

The NPR also seeks to accelerate ongoing efforts to modernize the air, sea and ground portions of the nuclear triad. DoD is immersed in current efforts to fast-track development and prototypes of a new ground-based strategic deterrent ICBM, Air Force developers have told Warrior Maven.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
A static display of ICBMs. From left are the Peacekeeper, the Minuteman III, and the Minuteman I. (USAF photo by R.J. Oriez)

Early prototyping, including expected prototype “shoot off” testing is slated for 2020, service developers have told Warrior Maven in recent interviews. Northrop Grumman and Boeing are both now under contract to build the new weapon. The Air Force plans to build at least 400 GBSDs, Air Force senior leaders have said.

Critical elements of the new ICBM, developed to replace the decades-old Minuteman IIIs, will feature a new engineering method along with advanced command control, circuitry, and guidance systems, engineers have said.

New bomber

Regarding the air component, the Air Force recently completed a critical design review of its new B-21 Raider nuclear-capable stealth bomber. As is often the case with nuclear weapons, many of the details regarding the development of this platform are not available, but there is widespread discussion among US Air Force leaders that the bomber is expected to usher in a new era of stealth technology; much of the discussion focuses upon the bomber’s ability to operate above advanced enemy air defenses and “hold any target at risk anywhere in the world,” the Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch has told Warrior Maven in past interviews.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
An artist rendering shows the first image of a new Northrop Grumman Corp long-range bomber

Early available renderings of the bomber show what appears to be an advanced B-2 like design, yet possibly one with a lower heat signature and improved stealth properties. However, service leaders are quick to point out that, given advancements in Russian air defenses, stealth will surge forward as “one arrow in a quiver” of nuclear attack possibilities.

Concurrently, the Air Force is surging forward with a massive B-2 modernization overhaul, involving new digital nuclear weapons capability and the integration of a developing system called the Defensive Management System. This enables the B-2, which Air Force developers acknowledge may indeed be more vulnerable to advanced air defenses than in earlier years when it was first built, to more quickly recognize locations of enemy air defenses at safer ranges as a means to avoid detection.

New nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine

Finally, shifting to a program widely regarded as among the most significant across the DoD enterprise, the Navy is already underway with early development of the new nuclear-armed Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. Several key current efforts with this, including early “tube and hull” forging of missile tubes, work on a US-UK common missile compartment, and little-discussed upgrades to the Trident II D5 nuclear missiles.

Undersea strategic deterrence, as described by Navy and Pentagon leaders, offers a critical means to ensure a second strike ability in the event of a catastrophic first-strike nuclear attack impacting or disabling other elements of the triad.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

While it may seem obvious, nuclear deterrence hinges upon a recognizable, yet vital contradiction; weapons of seemingly limitless destructive power are ultimately employed to “keep the peace” and save lives. Along these lines, Senior Navy and Air Force nuclear weapons developers routinely make the point that, since the advent of nuclear weapons, the world has managed to avoid massive, large-scale major power force on force warfare.

While Pentagon leaders rarely, if ever, offer a window into current nuclear-strike capabilities, it is widely discussed that the current North Korean nuclear threat is leading US military planners to envision the full spectrum of nuclear weapons contingencies. Even further, the US did recently send B-2 bombers to the Asian theater — stationing them in Guam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard is patrolling deeper and has $500 million in cocaine

While scouring the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean over the past several months, the crew of the US Coast Guard cutter James seized 19,000 pounds of cocaine.

The James’s haul was about half of the 38,00o pounds of cocaine its crew offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Those drugs were seized in 19 interdictions at sea carried about by six US Coast Guard ships — nine of which were conducted by the James.

The total haul had an estimated wholesale value of about $500 million.


“Operating in the dark of night, often under challenging conditions, these outstanding Coast Guard men and women … driving our boats, flying our armed helicopter swiftly interdicted drug smugglers operating in a variety of vessels used to move these tons of narcotics, from the simple outboard panga to commercial fishing vessels to low-profile high-speed vessels and even semi-submersibles designed to evade detection,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, the commander of the James, said Nov. 15, 2018.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

A pallet of interdicted cocaine being offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter James by crane in Port Everglades, Florida, Nov.15, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

The drugs were unloaded just a few weeks after the end of fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 30, 2018. During that fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine — the second highest total ever. Fiscal year 2017 set the record with 493,000 pounds seized, topping the previous record of 443,000 pounds set in fiscal year 2016.

The increase in seizures comes amid growing cocaine production in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of the drug and the main supplier to the US market. Production of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, has steadily risen since hitting a low in 2012.

Colombia is the only South American country that borders both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but most of the cocaine it sends to the US takes a westerly route.

“In 2017, at least 84 percent of the documented cocaine departing South America transited the Eastern Pacific,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration said in its most recent National Drug Threat Assessment.

“Shipments around the Galapagos Islands increased to 17 percent of overall flow in 2017, up from four percent in 2016 and one percent in 2015,” the DEA report found. “In 2017, 16 percent of cocaine moved through the Caribbean, nine percent traveling through the Western Caribbean and seven percent through the Eastern Caribbean.”

The Coast Guard’s activity in the eastern Pacific, where it works with other US agencies and international partners, is meant to stanch the drug flow at its largest and most vulnerable point: at sea.

“The Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts really employ what I call a push-out-the-border strategy. We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Adm. Karl Shultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said Nov. 15, 2018, during the offload.

“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence, corruption, instability,” Shultz added. “It’s just very hard to govern in that space when there’s that much associated disarray here that surrounds these drugs, so we’re really proud of the ability to push that border out.”

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

The Coast Guard Cutter James crew, Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District with 18.5 tons of interdicted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida.

(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)

Coast Guard officials have said after having success against self-propelled semi-submersibles, which are like subs but typically can’t fully submerge, the service has seen an uptick in the use of low-profile vessels, which look similar to speedboats but sit lower in the water, often with their decks right at water level.

“The low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz told Business Insider in a 2018 interview. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes,” he said, adding that the increase “reflects the adaptability” of traffickers.

Asked on Nov. 15, 2018, about smuggling trends the Coast Guard has observed above and below the water, Schultz said again pointed to increased use of low-profile vessels.

“We’re seeing these low-profile vessels now, which is a similar construct [to semi-submersibles] but with outboard engines,” Schultz told reporters. “They paint them seafoam green, blue. They’re hard to detect … from the air.”

Semi-submersibles and low-profile vessels are pricey, running id=”listicle-2620650428″ million to million each. But the multiton cargoes they carry can fetch hundreds of millions of dollars, making the sophisticated vessels an expense traffickers can afford.

Schultz and Randall both touted the Coast Guard’s work with its US and foreign partners.

Claire Grady, third in command at the Homeland Security Department, put the service’s high-seas interdictions squarely within the government’s broader efforts to go after drugs and the smugglers bringing them north.

“We must take actions abroad in addition to our actions at home. This merging of the home game and the away game represents the layered defense that we employ to keep the drugs off our streets and dismantle the criminal organizations that wreak violence and instability,” Grady said aboard the James on Nov. 15, 2018.

“The Coast Guard is critical to this effort, and the seized narcotics that you see behind me represents a major victory.”

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

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7 helpful habits that veterans forget

Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, their good habits tend to fly out the window.

Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.


Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.

(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

Waking up early is an annoying, but useful, habit

The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.

When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)

Exercising daily

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working. It’s a good habit to have.

The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.

(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

Shaving every day, haircuts every week…one of the most annoying good habits

If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.

When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

15 minutes prior

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.

Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore. This habit is one we don’t really miss.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.

(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

Suppressing opinions is a hard habit to break

Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.

The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.

(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)

Putting in extra effort

Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.

However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.

(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)

Sympathy toward coworkers

A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.

Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.

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This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays

A popular app that connects resellers with buyers for used items just announced an initiative to help the military community fulfill the holiday wishlists of 15 homeless veteran shelters across the country.


The makers of the ReSupply app launched the holiday effort, dubbed Operation ReSupply, which will allow app users to find, acquire, and ship items from a master shelter wish list via their mobile devices through Jan. 1.

Related: This Ranger-veteran Santa granted a dying child’s final wish

How it works in three steps:

1. Verified ReSupply users submit their donations via the app.

2. Next, a ReSupply brand ambassador matches the item with a shelter.

3. Finally, the app provides donors with a prepaid shipping label.

All the proceeds from sales between app users during this period will also be donated to the veteran shelters.

While the ReSupply app only works with veterans and servicemembers verified through ID.me, civilians who wish to participate can help cover shipping costs by donating to #OperationReSupply’s Go Fund Me page.

This short video shows how the app helps homeless veterans:

ReSupply, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy and Coast Guard divers look for torpedoes under Arctic ice

Divers from U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) Two, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) One, and the U.S. Coast Guard braved harsh Arctic waters to play a critical role during a torpedo exercise as part of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018.


ICEX 2018 is a five-week biennial exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations.

During the exercise, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) each fired several training torpedos under the ice. Training torpedoes have no warheads and carry minimal fuel.

Also read: Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

“The primary objective of this year’s ICEX is to test new under-ice weapons systems and validate tactics for weapon employment,” said Ryan Dropek, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, Rhode Island Weapons Test Director. “Once the divers recover these torpedoes, we can extract important data about how they perform and react in these conditions.”

After the submarines fire the torpedoes, helicopters transport gear and personnel to the location where the positively-buoyant torpedo is expected to run out of fuel. Each torpedo has a location device in order to assist in the search. Once found, a 3-4 person team will then drill a series of holes for the divers to enter and exit, as well as one hole for the torpedo to be lifted by helicopter.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Chief Hospital Corpsman Kristopher Mandaro, assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, surfaces from a waterhole during a torpedo exercise in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

“Once we know the location of the torpedo and drill holes, our divers slip into the water to begin placing weights on a line attached to the tail end of the torpedo,” Chief Warrant Officer Michael Johnson, officer-in-charge of MDSU-2 divers, explained. “The weights help shift the torpedo from a state of positive buoyancy to neutral buoyancy under the ice.”

Related: The Army developed new high-tech fabric for fighting in the Arctic

Once the torpedo is neutral, the divers place brackets with cables to the top and bottom of the body of the torpedo. A helicopter then connects to the torpedo before lifting it vertically out of the hole.

The three dive teams completed additional training in preparation for diving in the unique environment of the Arctic Ocean.

“To prepare for ICEX, we completed training at the Coast Guard’s Cold Water Ice Diving (CWID) course and earned our ordnance handling certification from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center,” said Johnson. “Additionally, each unit completed MK48 Torpedo recovery training and Unit Level Training (ULT) classroom training on hypothermia, frostbite, ice camp operations, dry-suit, and cold-water ice diving.”

The USCG CWID course is a two-week course in Seattle, Washington hosted by the USCG instructors at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) which focuses on the use of equipment and diving operations in harsh Arctic waters. During the course, divers complete a diving practical in Loc de Roc, British Columbia at 5,000 ft. elevation to put environmental stresses on the divers and equipment to acclimate to the cold and altitude.

“Our underwater construction teams have always had the ice-diving capabilities, so it was awesome to be invited out to this exercise to make sure we’re keeping up with something that we say we can do,” said Builder 1st Class Khiaro Promise, assigned to Construction Dive Detachment Alfa.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

During ICEX, the divers conducted dives using two different types of diving methods. UCT-1 and the USCG dove with SCUBA equipment, which provides divers with an air supply contained in tanks strapped to the backs of the divers. The divers equip themselves with a communication “smart rope” which is a protected communication cable to the surface that acts as a tending line so support personnel on the surface has positive control of the divers and so they can quickly return to the dive hole.

More: The Coast Guard is outnumbered 20-to-1 in the Arctic

MDSU-2 divers used the diving system DP2 with configuration one, which provides voice communications and an air supply provided by the surface. This configuration allows the divers to swap the composite air bottles without the diver resurfacing and without interrupting their air supply.

“We decided to use the DP2 system because it performs in arctic conditions very well,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Davin Jameson, lead diving supervisor for MDSU-2. “The ability to change our air supply during the dive is critical and allows us to stay under the water a lot longer.”

Not only did the divers have an essential role in torpedo recovery, they were also essential to camp operations. “Prior to torpedo retrieval dives, all the divers on ice helped set up the camp and in the building of two runways (one 1,300 and one 2,500-ft),” Senior Chief Navy Diver Michael McInroy, master diver for MDSU-2. “In the camp, everyone has responsibilities to keep operations on track. The divers worked hard to do their part in and out of the water.”

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
A Sailor assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) mans the sail after the boat surfaces through the ice cover March 10, 2018 in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

MDSU-2 is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Ft. Story (JEBLCFS) in Norfolk, Virginia. The unit deploys in support of diving and salvage operations and fleet exercises around the world. The primary mission is to direct highly-mobile, fully-trained and equipped mobile diving and salvage companies to perform combat harbor clearance, search and expeditionary salvage operations including diving, salvage, repair, assistance, and demolition in ports or harbors and at sea aboard Navy, Military Sealift Command, or commercial vessels of opportunity in wartime or peacetime.

Related: The US is ‘late to the game’ in militarizing the Arctic

UCT-1 is also homeported at JEBLCFS and is worldwide deployable to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations. Seabees operated off the coast of Alaska for the first time in 1942 when they began building advanced bases on Adak, Amchitka and other principal islands in the Aleutian chain.

ICEX divers and their support elements are a proven and vital component to the success of this five-week exercise. The partnership between the Navy and Coast Guard builds on the foundation of increasing experience and operational readiness even in the one of the harshest regions of the world.

“The brotherhood in diving means we have a lot of trust in that other person when you go underwater, and you get close to your coworkers, it’s more of a family,” Promise said.

Articles

DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.


The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.

“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.

NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

MIGHTY TRENDING

A gymnast just defected from North Korea by ‘vaulting a 12 foot border wall’

Just in time for Thanksgiving, WATM brings you breaking news to remind you to to feel especially grateful: North Korea is the worst. Sure, America might have super high COVID rates and a little election chaos, but at least you don’t feel the need to defect by vaulting a 12′ barbed wire fence to your freedom. That’s right, a North Korean gymnast mustered all of his talent and courage combined with a healthy amount of desperation and hope, and vaulted a border wall into South Korea to seek asylum.

According to the Chosun Ilibo, the 20-something man climbed an iron pole and used the height to jump over the border fence. He was then spotted about a mile south of the border by South Korean forces using a thermal observation device. The man was promptly detained, identified himself as a former gymnast and reportedly requested political asylum.

Officials were so taken aback by his feat that they asked him to demonstrate twice how he was able to jump over the three-meter fence, according to the BBC’s Seoul correspondent. Authorities vowed to investigate why hi-tech security systems did not work.

According to the London Telegraph, “the audacious defection sparked alarm that the high security demilitarized zone, separating North from South, had been successfully crossed. The four-kilometre-wide, 250-kilometre-long strip is fortified by fences, minefields and armed sentry posts. Few defectors take the dangerous option of trying to break through, with most of the 33,000 who have fled North Korea since the ’90s opting for risky but more achievable routes through China.”

And, just because we love you and know how much you love reading about North Korea, here are 7 facts about North Korea from our good friends at Business Insider:

1. North Korea ranks 51st in population, but has one of the largest standing militaries

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
The North Korean military. 

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Two North Korean children rollerblade. 

According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” He reported that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang],” in particular.

3. Drugs are common and largely unregulated

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Kim Jong-Un visiting Ryuwon Footwear Factory in Pyongyang. 

Drug use in North Korea is largely unregulated and quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs, UPI reports. Known locally as yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers sneak it across the border into China for foreign sale, according to Radio Free Asia.

Public Radio International reports that methamphetamines, and specifically highly potent crystal meth, are also common in the DPRK, and though these drugs are not as openly permitted as pot, their use is widespread. Meth is often used less for recreational purposes and more as an appetite suppressant and to help workers toiling away for long hours at farms, factories, and in other trades.

4. North Korea is home to the world’s largest stadium

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
The May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. 

Not only is the DPRK home to the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity, but it holds that distinction by a massive margin. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (also known as May Day Stadium) has a total capacity of 150,000 people.

It dwarfs the next largest stadium, which is Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, which accommodates 107,600 people. The venue is used for occasional sporting events, but its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival, a massive affair held each August and September that celebrates North Korean history, culture, and achievements.

5. North Korea holds political elections every five years

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
North Koreans clap during a mass rally organized to celebrate the re-election of Kim Jong Un as First Chairman of the ruling National Defense Commission, 2014. 

Strange as it might seem for a dictatorship to hold elections, North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. However, the ballots they receive only list one candidate name, for the office of Supreme People’s Assembly deputy in their district, according to The Economist.

The only decision the voters have to make is whether to vote for the sole candidate listed or to vote against them, which involves placing their ballot in a separate box from the positive votes and having their identity noted, which could be considered an act of treason, The Economist reports.

6. North Korea exists in its own time zone

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
A clock hangs above chairs inside a waiting room at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital. 

As of August 15th, 2015, North Korea exists in its very own time zone, shifted at least a half-hour apart from any other place on earth, CNN reports. Pyongyang time is GMT+08:30, to be precise, and was adopted in an apparent return to the time the nation used prior to twentieth-century Japanese colonization.

7. For some North Koreans, life is improving

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Munsu Water Park, North Korea. 

To be clear, for many North Koreans almost every day is a struggle where food shortages, horrid work conditions, and government oppression define life. But for some DPRK citizens, everyday life bears some similarities to the rest of the world, NPR reports.

More and more North Koreans have access to mobile phones, DVD players, and other devices that were virtually unknown less than a generation ago, according to NPR. Recreational opportunities including movie theaters, amusement and water parks, and more are common in Pyongyang and a handful of other population centers, and influence from the wider world increases more with each passing year, NPR reports.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia allegedly threatened nuclear war in Europe in 2017

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.


According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.

Others, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pushed back, citing a lack of evidence of any violation. (Trump refused to recertify the deal in October 2017 and withdrew from it in May 2018.)

Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.

Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”

“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.

Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.

The Baltic states have warned about what they perceive as increasing Russia activity against them, and there is evidence that Moscow is working on military facilities in the region.

Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.

“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”

‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’

Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.

Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”

Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.

During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.

The US had a similar plan.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.

It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)

Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.

“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”

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

Articles

HOAX: ISIS forced to ban burqas after women kill jihadis with hidden pistols

Islamic State leaders have been forced to abandon one of their religious beliefs by no longer forcing Muslim women to wear the burqa in public. The reason: Women under ISIS domination are fighting back – and using the face-and-body covering garment to do it.


Using clothing items to cover women’s bodies is common in the Islamic world. Many Muslim women are not forced to wear these garments, they are proud to do so. In some areas, however, the law does force women to wear certain coverings.

These items range from a simple headscarf, called a “hijab,” to the full-body burqa.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Afghan women wait outside a USAID-supported health care clinic.

The burqa became synonymous with the harsh treatment of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Now, under penalty of torture and death, ISIS forces women to wear such a garment in cities under its control.

They used to, anyway.

According to the International Business Times, sources inside the ISIS-held city of Mosul in Iraq say a Muslim woman in full veil shot and killed two ISIS fighters at a checkpoint south of the city’s center. She used a pistol hidden under her burqa to do it.

ISIS is now on the alert for similar attacks.

Burqas are used by women in some parts of the Muslim world, but Iraq and Syria are typically not among them. Syria, traditionally a secular state, discourages the use of Islamic head coverings. When the Syrian city of Manbij was liberated from the Islamic State by Kurdish fighters in August, VICE’s Tess Owen reported women burning their burqas. Some lit cigarettes from the burning garments.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
Women burning their burqas and men cutting their beards after ISIS is pushed out of Manbij.

“Damn this stupid invention that they made us wear,” IndiaTimes quoted a recently freed woman as she lit her burqa on fire.

Update 9/9/16: As great as this story was to think about, it turned out to be part of a misinformation campaign by Iran.

Articles

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

How much of a threat do Russia’s emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines pose to NATO and the U.S.?


Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military — with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.

Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia’s current military modernization and the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
A T-90A battle tank in Moscow | Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however some examinations of Russia’s current military reveals questions about its current ability to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.

Nevertheless, Russia continues to make military advances and many Pentagon experts and analysts have expressed concern about NATO’s force posture in Eastern Europe regarding whether it is significant enough to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Eastern Europe.

Also, Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outermost borders are sizeably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.

Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, yet the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.

A think-tank known as The National Interest has recently published a number of reports about the technological progress now being made by Russian military developers.  The various write-ups include reporting on new Russian anti-satellite weapons, T-14 Armata tanks, air defenses and early plans for a hypersonic, 6th-generation fighter jet, among other things. Russia is unambiguously emphasizing military modernization and making substantial progress, the reports from The National Interest and other outlets indicate.

For instance, Russia has apparently conducted a successful test launch of its Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile, according to The National Interest.

“This is the second test of the new weapon, which is capable of destroying satellites in space. The weapon was apparently launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility north of Moscow,” the report from The National Interest writes.

In addition, The National Interests’ Dave Majumdar reported that Russian Airborne Forces are set to form six armored companies equipped with newly modified T-72B3M  tanks in the second half of 2016. Over the next two years, those six companies will be expanded to battalion strength, the report states.

Russia is also reportedly developing a so-called “Terminator 3” tank support fighting vehicle.

During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures.

Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.

Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.

Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.

By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.

On the overall Naval front, Globalfirepower.com assesses the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.

In fact, the Russian-built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights
A prototype of Russia’s fifth-generation jet, the PAK FA. | Wikipedia Commons

Citing Russian news reports, the National Interest reported that the Russians are now testing a new, S-500 air defense systems able to reportedly reach targets up to 125 miles.

In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout strategic areas by the Russian military.

Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.

Rand Wargame

While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate findings from a recent Rand study explaining that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.

The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Rand study has concluded.

After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.

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In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s.  During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.

The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.

“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.

“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead.  As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.

A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.

One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.

A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.

The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.

“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.

During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.

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NATO military forces

“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union, the study maintains.

“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.

The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.

Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.

The actual NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe is something that is still under consideration, a recent report in Military.com sites sources saying NATO is now considering adding more troops to its Eastern flank as a way to further deter Russia.

However, while the Pentagon’s ongoing European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.

At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.

Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.

For example, an exercise known as Swift Response 16 began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany; it include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why sending B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters to South Korea could be Kim’s worst nightmare

Defense officials at the highest levels of South Korea’s government told Yonhap News on Wednesday that the US would deploy “strategic assets” to the peninsula amid tensions with North Korea.


“The US has pledged to expand the rotational deployment of its strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula,” Chung Eui-young, the chief of the National Security Office said according to Yonhap.

While “strategic assets” can refer to nuclear weapons, it can also mean nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, or stealth aircraft. Chung said the deployment could happen as early as the end of 2017.

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from an aircraft carrier. Photo courtesy of US Navy

Another South Korean publication, Chosun, reported on Tuesday that a government source said the US may send an aircraft carrier, B-2 stealth bombers, and the world’s stealthiest and most lethal combat plane, the F-22 Raptor.

The talk of increased US firepower in South Korea comes after North Korea interpreted some of President Donald Trump’s tweets as a declaration of war, and announced it would try to shoot down US bombers flying anywhere near its airspace.

As it stands, the US has B-1B Lancer bombers stationed in Guam that frequently respond to North Korean missile or nuclear tests by doing flybys near its borders accompanied by advanced US, Japanese, or South Korean jets.

But the B-1B isn’t nuclear capable, nor is it stealth. The B-2, however, has both.

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Photo from USAF

Although the US already has F-22 and F-35 stealth aircraft stationed nearby in Japan, placing them on the Korean Peninsula could spur further escalation of an already-tense situation.

The B-2 can carry 16 nuclear warheads as well as massive ordnance penetrators — bunker-busting bombs that would be the US’s best bet for hunting North Korea’s leadership as they hide in underground caves.

NK News recently reported that the US had to tell North Korea about the last flight of the B-1 near its borders, because Pyongyang couldn’t really track the supersonic bomber jet. If North Korea struggled with the non-stealth B-1, then it has little hope of spotting a B-2 and virtually no chance of spotting the F-22 on its radar screens.

Still, the move could backfire and destabilize the situation in North Korea, as the US’ asymmetrical advantage over North Korea’s aging forces could cause an uneasy Kim Jong Un to think he has no choice but to strike first.

“Often times when we think we’re sending very clear signals, we can’t be sure they’re being interpreted that way,” Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute, told Business Insider of the US’s attempts to show its strength towards North Korea.

“In South Korea they’ve talked about trying to scare North Korea into changing their behavior,” Town said, referring to the deployment of US military assets to South Korea. But, “the way they change their behavior is not necessarily the way we want them to.”