Afghanistan's opium production is out of control - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Afghanistan has long been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin, and the Taliban has made a lucrative business from taxing and providing security to producers and smugglers in the region.


But the militant group has expanded its role in that drug trade considerably, boosting its profits at a time when it is making decisive gains against the Afghan government and its US backers.

Read More: Afghanistan is producing record numbers of opium

According to a New York Times report, the Taliban has gotten involved in every stage of the drug business. Afghan police and their US advisers find heroin-refining labs with increasingly frequency, but the labs are easy to replace.

The country has produced the majority of the world’s opium for some time, despite billions of dollars spent by the US to fight it during the 16-year-long war there. Afghan and Western officials now say that rather than getting smuggled out of Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, at least half of the crop is getting processed domestically, before leaving the country as morphine or heroin.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
Afghan contractors unload bags of fertilizer at the Nawa district government building compound in the Helmand province of Afghanistan Oct. 13, 2009. The Afghan government is distributing the fertilizer to residents to support alternatives to poppy. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Those forms are easier to smuggle, and they are much more valuable for the Taliban, which reportedly draws at least 60% of its income from the drug trade. With its increasing focus on trafficking drugs, the Taliban has taken on more of the functions a drug cartel.

“They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country,” William Brownfield, former US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement, told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier this year. “Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage.”

An Afghan farmer can be paid about $163 for a kilo of raw opium, which is like a black sap. Once it is refined into heroin, it can be sold for $2,300 to $3,500 a kilo at regional markets. In Europe it has a wholesale value of about $45,000.

Opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been consistently high since the US invasion in 2001. In 2016, there was a 10% jump in the area under cultivation, making it one of the three highest years on record. Initial data indicated 2017 was another record year, according to The Times, with government eradication efforts continue to be stymied throughout the country.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field while visiting Afghan settlements in Boldak, Afghanistan, April 5, 2010. (DoD photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Seizures of chemical precursors, which are needed to process opium, have spiked, and the amount of processed morphine and heroin seized has risen considerably, now outstripping that of opium.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that without drugs, the war in Afghanistan “would have been long over,” and a senior Afghan official told The Times that, “If an illiterate local Taliban commander in Helmand makes a million dollars a month now, what does he gain in time of peace?”

Read More: This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

The Trump administration has said its new strategy in Afghanistan is aimed at convincing the group there is no way to win on the battlefield, but its growing role in the drug trade is likely to make some elements of the Taliban less disposed to negotiations with the Kabul.

“This trend has real consequences for peace and security in Afghanistan, as it encourages those within the Taliban movement who have the greatest economic incentives to oppose any meaningful process of reconciliation with the new government,” the UN has said.

The Taliban’s move into heroin processing comes as it gains ground against the government, particularly in areas where the drug is produced.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province. 2016 (image UNODOC screen grab)

At the end of 2016, the Taliban was thought to control more territory than at any time since 2001, and the Afghan government has reportedly lost control of 5% of its territory this year.

A unit of several hundred Afghan commandos, working with US special-forces advisers, is tasked with interdicting the flow of drugs. But their work is often undermined by Afghan officials (including ones from their own unit) complicit in the drug trade or hindered by insecurity that persists in much of the country.

“In Helmand, we were targeting to do more than 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of eradication,” Javid Qaem, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of narcotics, told The Times. “We couldn’t do anything there, none at all, because Helmand was almost an active battlefield, the entire province.”

Helmand, home to an estimated 80% of Afghanistan’s opium poppies, is a “big drug factory,” a Western official told AFP earlier this year. “Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban,” he said.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
Source: UNODC, main trafficking flows of heroin

While the US Drug Enforcement Administration has said that a minuscule portion of the heroin seized in the US is from Southwest Asia, heroin sourced to Afghanistan makes up a significant amount of what is found on the street in Europe.

The State Department has said 90% of the heroin found in Canada and 85% of that found in the UK can be tracked back to Afghanistan.

Read More: 6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

According to the 2017 European Drug Report, “most heroin found in Europe is thought to be manufactured [in Afghanistan] or in neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.” (Drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption.)

Heroin is Europe’s most common opioid, with an estimated retail value between 6 billion and 7.8 billion euros, according to the report, produced by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy says it wants to shrink the Marine Corps by more than 2,000 Marines

The Department of the Navy revealed in its latest budget request that it wants to reduce the overall active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps by 2,300 Marines.


The fiscal year 2021 budget request “funds an active duty end strength of 184,100” for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy said in an overview of its planned budget for the coming fiscal year released Monday.

The department said that the current plan for the “reduction of active duty Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increasing lethality.”

The reduction is expected to apply to less critical aspects of the Corps, such as those that “do not have a defined requirement in the National Defense Strategy.”

In the FY 2020 budget request, the Navy projected a steady increase in the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Last summer, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger, now the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a smaller Corps might be necessary should resources be constrained.

“Among the most significant challenges I will face as the Commandant if confirmed will be to sustain readiness at high levels for our operating forces while concurrently modernizing the force under constrained resource limits,” he said, USNI News reported.

“We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment,” Berger told lawmakers.

“We will also need to divest of our legacy equipment and legacy programs and also consider potential end strength reductions in order to invest in equipment modernization and necessary training upgrades,” he added.

The Department of the Navy reduced its overall budget by billion compared to last year’s budget.

Overall, the US military will increase in size by roughly 5,600 troops, the Department of Defense budget request revealed, according to Military Times.

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

Articles

Community Solutions is tackling the epidemic of veteran homelessness

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
photo credit: M1kha


Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.

Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.

Community Solutions is a nonprofit devoted to ending homelessness, and one of its projects, Built for Zero, is committed to eradicating veteran homelessness.

A report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HUD Exchange estimates that there are slightly more than 39,000 homeless veterans (both in shelters and without shelter). While still a significant number, that number has seen huge decreases in the last few years thanks in part to partnerships with programs like Built for Zero.

Built for Zero is an intense national program that helps communities develop and implement drastic plans to address the issue of veteran and chronic homelessness, and “the conditions that create it.” The motivation is two-fold: homelessness costs local economies more money by sustaining shelters and emergency medical care, and that veterans who’ve defended this country shouldn’t be homeless in it.

“Homelessness is a manmade disaster, and it can be solved,” Community Solutions president Rosanne Haggerty wrote in the nonprofit’s 2015 Annual Report.

Built for Zero partners with communities and teaches them how to come up with ways to pool and manage their resources, tapping into previously non-traditional homelessness-fighting resources, like businesses, churches, and even real estate companies in order to address some of the conditions that impact homeless veterans.

Employment, transportation and healthcare are just some of the issues that the project addresses when fighting homelessness.

“Community Solutions works upstream and downstream of the problem by helping communities end homelessness where it happens and improve the conditions of inequality that make it more likely to happen in the future,” Haggerty wrote in the report.

Rather than make homelessness just a crime-fighting task, Built for Zero makes it a community task.

The techniques Built for Zero utilize have been proven to work. Earlier this week, a community in Wisconsin announced that it had eliminated veteran homelessness. To date, Built for Zero has housed over 40,000 homeless veterans, and helped 5 communities to accomplish their goals of eradicating veteran homelessness.

In 2015 alone, Community Solutions raised over $9 million through donations and grants. That money assisted in housing over 20,000 homeless veterans in 75 communities- and it saved tax payers an estimated $150 million doing it.

Check out how you can get involved with Built for Zero and impact veteran homelessness in your community.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Catch-22’ is the war miniseries that still feels relevant

Catch-22 was written six decades ago by World War II veteran Joseph Heller, but change the B-25s to CH-47s and make the sands of Pianosa (an Italian island) the sands of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Kuwait, and all the characters and most of the plots would fit right in.


The new miniseries from George Clooney, which features him in the supporting role of an insane commander of cadets, includes all the best moments from the novel. The funny ones, and the ones that capture the horror of conflict. Moments like these seven:
(Spoilers below.)

When a slight error in directions puts a man in mortal danger

When a new gunner shows up to the squadron, he’s bunked in the tent of Yossarian, the main protagonist of the novel and the only one of the miniseries. Yossarian isn’t the most helpful of lieutenants, but he gives the new sergeant directions to the administration tent. A slight miscount of tents sends the sergeant to the ops tent, instead.

So the sergeant, instead of signing in to the unit, gets thrown into the next plane going up on a mission, a dangerous one over Nazi-controlled Italy.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

(Hulu screenshot)

When an Army sergeant tries to marry an Italian whore

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A young Army sergeant meets an attractive sex worker, falls in love, and wants to get married, even though everyone in the unit tells him it’s a horrible idea.

In Catch-22, that’s Nately, and his enduring loves goes to “Nately’s Whore,” an Italian woman with a funny pimp and a clever younger sister. While Nately’s story is a bit cliche, it also features one of the better lines of sergeants loving sex workers.

“Sure, she’s a prostitute now, but she won’t be once I marry her.”

When a piece of flak almost sends the hero home

During one of the bombardier’s missions, he almost gets his “million dollar wound,” the one that would let him go home. Slight spoiler: He’s hit in the nuts by flak. As the American doctor later explains, any man who gives up a nut for his country is entitled to go home. But any man who almost loses a testicle has to fly more missions.

And, spoiler, Yossarian only almost lost his testicle. A piece of shrapnel passed through his scrotum, between his testicles.

When an aviator creates a mock scrotum to ask about his testicles

And how did Yossarian learn that he still had two testicles? An Italian doctor told him. But the Italian man only spoke Italian, and Yossarian only spoke English, so he did a bit of improvisation, just like any soldier trying to communicate with a local would do.

In Yossarian’s case, that was turning a handkerchief into an improvised scrotum filled with two nearby pieces of fruit. Then he pointed at the fake nut sack, said, “Two,” pointed at his own sack, and asked, “Two?” The doctor got the idea, laughed, and confirmed the boys were still present.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

(Hulu screenshot)

When the colonel tries to cover up failure by giving an award and promotion

At one point, our hero is so distracted on a bombing run that he goes through the whole run-up, gives all the verbal commands and watches for the release point, but forgets to actually throw the lever to release the bombs. Yossarian, pretty strung out by this point, decides to just get his plane to go around for another pass.

(Major spoiler) But on that second pass, a beloved character is killed, and Yossarian blames himself for making the second run. His bosses blame him too. But when they go to punish him, they suddenly realize that punishing the bombardier would send the message that the mission failed. So, to maintain the perception that the mission was a success, they promote him and give him a medal instead.

(Then, for slightly related reasons, they have him arrested about 24 hours later.)

When the whole world turns dark

But the most familiar parts of the miniseries, and the novel, are the dark moments, when the humor melts away, and the terrifying reality of the war smashes its way in like the world’s most horrible Kool-Aid Man. We aren’t going to list any moments here, because all of them are major spoilers.

But the themes of loss, vulnerability, the futility of war, rampant capitalism, and more are all explored. The “loss” one comes up a lot.

Catch-22 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

www.youtube.com

The titular catch: Catch-22

It’s in most of the ads, so you’ve probably seen how Catch-22 works. If not, it’s a piece of bureaucratic genius that sounds exactly like something the Army would come up with.

Flying bombing missions is suicidal and, therefore, insane. Anyone who is insane doesn’t have to fly bombing missions. All they have to do is present themselves to a doctor and ask to go home. Except.

Except that the moment they ask to go home, the doctor is required to take that as the thought process of a rational mind. Rational people aren’t crazy and can’t be sent home for insanity.

So anyone who asks to go home, can’t. Anyone who doesn’t ask can go home anytime, as soon as they ask.

If you’ve got Hulu, you can check out the show anytime. If not, the book is probably better anyway. Sure, you don’t get to watch Hugh Laurie, but there are even more jokes than in the miniseries. And the novel was written by a vet, so it avoids some of the military mistakes like the show makes. (One guy wearing massive sergeant stripes introduces himself as a lieutenant. There’s about one mistake like that per episode.)

Articles

The American Legion just elected its first female national commander

A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.


Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.

“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”

Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
Denise H. Rohan. Image from American Legion.

She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.

Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.

Articles

These are the former KGB bodyguards protecting Kim Jong-un from harm

Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who lives in constant fear of assassination, has reportedly hired Russian ex-KGB bodyguards to protect him in case of an attempt on his life.


Japan’s Asahi Shinbum reported that Kim hired about 10 former KGB counter-terrorism agents to train his bodyguards on how to detect and respond to terrorist attacks.

The KGB, the former Soviet Union’s main security and spy agency, had decades of practice in defending high-value targets against attempts at regime change.

The source told Asahi Shinbum that Kim was particularly scared of US advanced-weapons systems, like the Gray Eagle drone the US is set to operate in South Korea in 2018.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
An MQ-1C Gray Eagle armed with Hellfire missiles revs up before taking flight. DoD Photo by 1st Lt. Jason Sweeney.

However, it’s unclear how counter-terrorism bodyguards could protect Kim against a drone high in the sky raining down bombs.

South Korean media has reported that the US and South Korea have been working together on a “decapitation force” to kill the North Korean leader in the event that Pyongyang becomes intolerably aggressive.

Kim has a history of going to extreme measures to shore up his reign over North Korea, with some reports saying he killed his half-brother Kim Jong Nam to thwart a Chinese-backed coup attempt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the first of these never-before-seen D-Day videos in stunning 4K

While 4K video was far from the technology of the day, the people over at AARP pulled out all the stops to get the legendary footage of history’s largest amphibious landing into the viewing technology of today. Narrated by acclaimed actor Bryan Cranston, the video series presents the personal letters and feelings of the men who landed on the beaches of Occupied France that day.


The first in the series, “Landing on Omaha Beach,” is the story of the landing through the eyes of Pfc. Dominick Bart, a 32-year-old infantryman who landed on the beach during the first wave. Cranston brings Bart’s experiences alive as he reads about the Private First Class’ experience on the beaches in Bart’s letter to his wife, Mildred.

Omaha was just one of five Allied sectors invaded that day, and one of two that would fall to the American invasion forces. Omaha’s principal challenge was the 150-foot cliffs overlooking the beach, from which Nazi guards rained death on the invaders.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Some 43,000 men assaulted Omaha Beach alone that day, and by 7:30 in the morning had managed to get through the beach to the cliffs. A half hour later, 900 American GIs were at the tops of the bluffs and assaulting the entrenched enemy positions. By 9:00 a.m., U.S. troops had cleared the beach and began moving inland. An estimated 2,000 – 5,000 men were killed and wounded in the assault on Omaha Beach alone, not to mention the four other sectors engaged by British and Canadian troops.

For the Americans, it was their finest hour.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

North Korea and South Korea, two countries still technically at war since 1950, will march under a unified flag during the Winter Olympics next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


The Koreas will also engage in joint training at a ski resort and form a joint women’s ice hockey team, according to Oliver Hotham of the North Korea-focused news website NK News.

Related: North and South Korea had formal talks for the first time in 2 years

The news comes after the first major talks between North Korea and South Korea in two years, which began earlier this month amid soaring tensions between the U.S., its ally South Korea, and North Korea. Both the unified Korean flag and the inclusion of North Korean athletes in the games were discussed during those talks.

South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, floated the idea of North Korea participating in the games early in his presidency, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed a willingness to engage in talks about the Olympics during his New Year’s address, during which he also threatened the U.S. with nuclear annihilation.

Despite the invitation, North Korea has few athletes capable of competing in the games.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Pyongyang will also reportedly send a 180-member orchestra to the games, but it’s closely tied to North Korean propaganda that glorifies the country’s missile and nuclear programs and the government.

While the inclusion in the Olympics may seem a bright spot for improved relations, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser reportedly dismissed the talks between the Koreas as “diversions,” and his secretary of state on Jan. 17 did not rule out a military strike on North Korea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Vietnam War veterans will be honored at the World Series

On behalf of the upcoming film Last Flag Flying, Amazon Studios partnered with We Are The Mighty to donate two World Series tickets to a lucky veteran in the Los Angeles area.


When Army veteran Greg Alaimo was told he’d won tickets to the World Series, he couldn’t believe it. “You won’t believe it either!” he told We Are The Mighty.

Alaimo, a Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Medal recipient, had assisted the Los Angeles Dodgers in finding recommendations for Vietnam War veterans for their Hero Of The Game. After Alaimo received the final list (which includes men like Medal of Honor recipient Ray Vargas and Charlie Plumb, who was a POW for 6 years during the war), he realized he wanted to meet the men on it.

“The heroes they chose are amazing. I called my contact and thanked him for allowing me to participate. I then asked if I could purchase two tickets. He regretfully indicated no tickets were available. I wanted to visit with those chosen for this is the first time the Dodgers have honored Vietnam veterans at a World Series.”

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control
Alaimo and his unit Bravo 1-7 on stand down in Bien Hoa, home of the First Infantry Division, The Big Red One, just below Saigon. (Photo courtesy of Greg Alaimo)

That’s when Amazon teamed up with We Are The Mighty to give out another set of tickets.

“When I was contacted about winning the tickets I thought it was a joke. I’m holding two great tickets for [Game Two] and I’ll meet those representing all Vietnam Vets — amazing.”

They’re not the only “amazing” ones. Alaimo has an impressive service history himself — during Active Duty and beyond. After fighting in Vietnam with the First Infantry Division, Alaimo returned home and became “the go-to guy” if veterans need help. A member of American Legion Hollywood Post 43, Alaimo says it’s important for him to connect with the veteran community because he doesn’t want them to be treated the way he was after he returned from Vietnam.

“They need to know we respect them and are grateful for their sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of their families.”

Alaimo will be taking his good friend, and fellow veteran advocate, Charlie Cusumano with him to the game. We asked who they’ll be rooting for:

“Duh????? Go Blue! DODGERS!!!!!”
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

Creating a sense of community may look different for each of us. While some Americans enjoy the close proximity of city life, those who live in rural areas welcome the less crowded towns and wide open spaces as signs of home.

Although many rural residents enjoy these perks, the very nature of life in rural communities may unintentionally isolate them from others. Rural Veterans often report lower quality of life related to mental health than their urban counterparts, a challenge exacerbated by a lack of qualified specialists or nearby medical facilities.


Mental Health Month is observed each May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. Many risk factors disproportionately affect Veterans, especially those in rural communities with shortages of mental health providers.

As the lead advocate for rural Veterans, VA’s Office of Rural Health implements multiple support programs to help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans. In 2019, ORH focused on eight critical mental health and suicide prevention programs, including:

  • Rural Suicide Prevention connects Veterans to comprehensive suicide prevention services and resources through enhanced education, public awareness campaigns, community training, crisis support, firearm safety, and care management for high risk individuals.
  • Vets Prevail Web Based Behavioral Support provides Veterans suffering from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder with tools to overcome these challenges. The program focuses on Veterans returning from recent conflicts, like Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
  • Military Sexual Trauma Web-Based Therapy uses telehealth to deliver specialized mental health care directly to the homes of Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.
  • Clinical Resource Hubs – Telemental Health connects specialists with rural Veterans to ensure access to mental health care services in rural areas.

To find out if these programs and others like them are available in your area, please contact your local VA medical center.

Support

If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Dozens of US Army tankers have been playing tank warfare video games online to train for combat during the pandemic, the Army said this week.

Tankers with D Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division are using the online game “War Thunder” to train, according to an Army news story first reported on by Task & Purpose.


Several different games were considered, but “War Thunder,” a free cross-platform online game that simulates combat, won out.

The 3rd ABCT, which recently returned from South Korea, does not actually have any tanks to train in right now because they are waiting to get upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, but even if they had them, the coronavirus would likely keep the four-man crews from piling into them.

3rd ABCT spokesman Capt. Scott Kuhn, who wrote the Army news story, told Insider that the tank crews have training simulators like the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and Advanced Gunnery Training Systems (AGTS), but, like a real tank, these simulators require soldiers to be in close proximity to one another.

Social distancing demands in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus required leaders to take a look at alternative training options.

Seeing that all their soldiers had a PlayStation, an Xbox, or a PC that “War Thunder” could be downloaded on, troop leaders decided that was the best option in these unusual times.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5eac185e48d92c70c4024f43%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=931&h=ba0788a5780be39b0edc5b2c3ebc8dad31cd168ef5822e4c2b6b4d6f36845bf7&size=980x&c=1690490190 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5eac185e48d92c70c4024f43%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D931%26h%3Dba0788a5780be39b0edc5b2c3ebc8dad31cd168ef5822e4c2b6b4d6f36845bf7%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1690490190%22%7D” expand=1]

An online video game that 1st Cavalry Division soldiers are using to help maintain readiness while protecting the force from the coronavirus.

US Army/Capt. Scott Kuhn

“We are able use the game as a teaching tool for each crew member,” Staff Sgt. Tommy Huynh, a 3rd platoon section leader, explained in the Army release.

“For example, drivers can train on maneuver formations and change formation drills. Of course online games have their limitations, but for young soldiers it helps them to just understand the basics of their job,” he said.

One of the big limitations is that “War Thunder” only allows players to virtually operate tanks and other weapon systems from World War II and the Cold War, meaning that the game is not a perfect training platform for modern tanks.

While there are certain limitations, there are also some advantages, the main one being a new perspective.

“Being exposed to other viewpoints through the game is extremely helpful,” Sgt. David Ose, a 1st Platoon section leader, said in the Army news story.

“If you are a driver and you’re inside a tank for real, you don’t get to see what it looks like from above. You don’t always understand that bigger picture because you’re just focused on the role of driving the tank,” Kuhn told Insider.

“This kind of broadens that. It provides a training opportunity to teach younger soldiers how what they do impacts the bigger picture for the platoon or the company,” he explained.

The training, while somewhat unconventional, remains structured. Sessions tend to include a briefing from the section or platoon leader. There are also required training manual readings.

Game play is treated like the real thing, as leaders issue commands and soldiers use proper call-for-fire procedures. And after the soldiers complete an online training session, there is an after action review to talk about how the soldiers can do better in the next exercise.

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

Articles

10 Sailors missing after USS John S. McCain collides in South China Sea

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — UPDATE POSTED AUG. 20, 9:42 P.M. (EDT)


The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.

There are currently 10 Sailors missing and five injured.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

A family assistance center has been established. Families can call 011-81-46-816-1728 (international) or 243-1728 (DSN on base).

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities. In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, Republic of Singapore Navy Fearless-class patrol ships RSS Gallant (97), RSS Resilience (82), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance.

MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America are also responding.

Alnic MC is a 600-foot oil and chemical tanker with a gross tonnage of 30,000.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft. The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

More information to follow.

——————-

UPDATED AT AUG. 20, 8:42 P.M. (EDT)

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

A family assistance center has been established. Families can call 011-81-46-816-1728 (international) or 243-1728 (DSN on base).

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities. In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, the Republic of Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant (97), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance.

MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America are also responding.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft. The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

More information to follow.

——————-

POSTED AUG. 20, 7:38 P.M. (EDT)

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, Aug. 21.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities.

More information to follow.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you may not have expected from serving

When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.

Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.

It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.

You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:


Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)

Playing paintball

If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Loading ammo onto an aircraft

We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.

Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Some may use their anger more than others.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

Feeling emotional extremes of every type

Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

You might even earn their accolades.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

Hanging with another country’s troops

You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.

And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?

(U.S. Army)

Building a terrain model

Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.

You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information