The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.

Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.


“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.

Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.

The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.

“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.

An elite unit

The expansion comes at a time when the U.S. military is operating in smaller teams in remote regions of the world such as Africa and Southeast Asia. But the move doesn’t necessarily indicate plans to work in additional countries and the idea isn’t to make the force permanent.

Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
Four A-29 Super Tucanos arrive at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.

That’s why their mission is unlike the basic training Afghan and Lebanese pilots get learning how to fly the A-29 Super Tucano at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Kochen said.

“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.

“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”

The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.

“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”

The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”

Why not contractors?

Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.

Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.

“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.

The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
AGM-114N Hellfire missile
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)

The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.

Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.

It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.

But using contractors lacks “the integrated piece. It’s why we try to partner with a ground SOF unit so we can tie the two together. Contractors don’t necessarily have those relationships with the ground SOF that we do,” Kochen said.

Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”

Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.

Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”

Standing on their own

AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.

There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.

While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
B-26B over Vietnam.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.

Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.

Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.

“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.

The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.

Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.

“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.

“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.

“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Welcome to your first deployment, America

Welcome to your first deployment, America!

Thank you for your service.

Here we are, America. Over the last 10 days, we’ve entered into our own experience with the COVID-19 global pandemic that has catapulted the United States into unfamiliar waters. Early indicators saw a few isolated, regional cases followed abruptly by concerns in sports; particularly basketball. Clear warning signs from China and Italy forewarned us that things change gradually; until they change suddenly. The COVID-19 virus is clearly a dangerous enemy that, within 2-3 weeks, has resulted in 44,000 cases in all 50 states and over 500 deaths.


America, you’re new to sheltering in place, lockdowns, and travel restrictions. Understood. Mundane practices such as handwashing and covering your mouth were, until very recently, social niceties. Now they’re social mandates. Such is life on a deployment, America, where restrictions and hygiene are there for your safety. These things can work. Aside from a threat of nuclear war, you’ve enjoyed life over the last several decades free from a universally threatening entity that exposes you to acute and widespread danger.

Those of us in uniform are grateful for you have offer, “Thank you for your service!” in many ways through military discounts. Good for you! If I may now be of further service to you, America, and provide a few tips on how to survive (and thrive) now that we’re all in this deployment together.

Keep calm

Rational fear motivates unhelpful and irrational behavior. I haven’t seen any clear results on the effectiveness of a toilet paper stockpile on limiting disease progression. While COVID-19 is a clear and present danger, the relationship between the toilet paper stocks and the disease impact is not. We tend to collect comfort items and quasi-defensive items for those just-in-case moments. Today’s toilet paper is yesterday’s nuclear weapons. Such is the irrational behavior motivated by real threats to our comfort or safety. Military folks have experienced the “gas chamber” where you’re herded into a small building wearing gas masks. Required to stand there for 60-90 seconds for the full effect, you had to say your name and unit then proceed to the exit when instructed. I remember dropping my gas mask within full view of a Marine gunnery sergeant whose icy look created a cloud of doom around me. I quickly forgot about the gas chamber as I was schooled about the importance of staying calm and following instructions via flutter kicks and pushups. Keep calm, America, don’t drop your mask.

Carry on

Everyone matters and contributes to the mission. America, your social and occupational activities are more interconnected than you realize. You commute on the same interstates, fly out of the same airports, make picks on the same March Madness bracket (at least you did), and have a similar Monday through Friday rhythm. When deployed, your mission changes, into a team mission that includes keeping yourself and those around you healthy. Carrying a litter(or stretcher) is a team-task. Since 9/11/2001, many of us have unfortunately carried several litters. Not the fancy wheelio kind that roll and fold into an ambulance—the two-pole variety that requires strong bodies and support an injured or sick buddy. America, carrying on the daily business means recognizing fully that we are a team and that the COVID-19 mission requires that we will have to “carry a litter;” both figuratively and literally. Carry on, America, we’re all in this together.

Watch your muzzle: Safe weapon handling is a fundamental task that each Soldier must learn and never forget to execute. The barrel, or muzzle, of your weapon must always be pointed downrange safely away from others. The weapon is always treated as if loaded and we must trust one another to carry and utilize it safely for the sake of the team. The same now goes for an uncontrolled, uncovered cough in public—it’s as dangerous now as a mishandled weapon and a frank reminder that we all hold the safety of others in our hands. Watch your muzzle, America–cover your cough and point it safely downrange.

Care for equipment

Dust, dirt, and carbon buildup inside a Soldier’s weapon may impair it and cause a malfunction. Occasionally, poor maintenance will lead to a safety hazard for the user, but, more frequently it just doesn’t work. America, your hands are similar to a Soldier’s weapon. They can carry COVID-19 and many other bad things that could harm you or others. Take care of your equipment, America, wash your hands.

Find the guy with the guitar

Good music can be uplifting in hard times. Music helps to both remember and forget; necessary during these times. A guy with a guitar strumming praise songs, country songs, or anything else can be a welcome reprieve and a particular song can hold memories for years to come. “Beer for My Horses” by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson was one of my family’s deployment songs that I had burned onto a CD back when it was still legal in 2003 before Operation Iraqi Freedom started. Just hearing it now takes us right back to those times. Drew and Elie Holcombare fast becoming our pandemic YouTube and Spotify favorites; a few of their videos may have gone viral—er, my apology. Too soon, right?

Write your war story

Things are moving fast, America. You are being asked to do unfamiliar things like stay at home, be resourceful, and contribute in brave, new ways. America, you have doctors, nurses, truck drivers, grocery workers, utilities personnel and multitudes others who have been thrust unwittingly onto the front lines of this pandemic leaving new tales of heroes.

How will you account for this? I recall going to a battalion command update once as a new Captain where I heard crazy acronyms, jargon, inside jokes, and major issues being discussed in a confusing blur it was difficult to understand. A squad leader nearby was writing detailed notes in an impressively dog-eared 5×8″ green notebook that resonated with attention to detail with sketches and personal notes. He gave me a fresh notebook and started my unbroken legacy of journaling that yielded over two dozen volumes of key missions, notes to myself, lessons, books I’ve read, sustaining Bible verses, historical events—and coffee stains.

There is even a website where Soldiers share their own personal lessons called From The Green Notebook that chronicles the self-developmental benefits of writing for military personnel. Now as a senior officer, I am profoundly grateful for the tip that that NCO shared with me on how to keep the fast-moving details organized. Now is your time, America. As fast as things are moving, time is compressed and a week feels like an eternity ago.

America, I submit that the consequences disease and war are challenging. COVID-19 will mark our society earliest upon our hospitals, physicians, and nurses who will do their best to save our fellow citizens. Physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and many others will be needed to restore mobility and health to the many who recover. Rally to support those heroes and, if you’re one of them, I applaud you.

We should hope that COVID-19 kills some things around us, and it should claim them hard and mercilessly. Those things are caustic political partisanship, self-absorption, divisiveness and the wasting of precious resources. Infect those things, COVID-19, and relegate them to the dustbin of history. What a luxury it was when our major social distancing focus was upon Prince Harry and Megan Markle leaving the UK. Good times, America, good times. Instead of this vacuousness, may unity, teamwork, and the reality of our interconnectedness spring forth. Shared sacrifice develops deep bonds, America.

These are historic times you’re in, America. You’ve been here before. Over the next few weeks, if you’re having trouble keeping calm, carrying on, caring for your equipment, or finding the guy with the guitar, please keep your muzzle pointed downrange as we saddle up and face COVID-19 together. I want you on my team so that a few months from now we can raise up our glasses and it’ll be my turn to thank you for your service!

COL Theodore Croy is an Army physical therapist and the Dean of the Graduate School at the US Army Medical Center of Excellence located at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, TX and has 31 years of military service.

These views are those of the author and in no way represent any endorsements or the official views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, or the US Army Medical Center of Excellence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The childish origins of the word ‘infantry’

In the days of antiquity, being in the cavalry was a privilege specifically reserved for those who ranked higher in the social order than the common people. Those who were too young, too inexperienced, or too poor to have a horse, usually ended up in a type of combat unit specifically named for them: the infantry.


From the early days of warfare on up through the Middle Ages and beyond, war was a socially stratified activity, just like anything else. The leaders of a country needed able-bodied men to fight the wars, and they needed those men to already have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. The problem is that most of those men definitely did not have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. If a country didn’t have a standing professional army and used mostly the rabble picked from its towns and cities, chances are good, it was filled with infantry.

The word “infantry” is just as its root word suggests. Derived from the latin word infans, the word literally means infancy. Later versions of the word became common usage in French, Old Italian, and Spanish, meaning “foot soldiers too low in rank to be cavalry.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

The last thing you see when you’re too poor to own a horse and no one thought to bring pointy sticks.

As if walking to the war and being the first to die from the other side’s cavalry charges wasn’t bad enough, your own cavalry referred to you as babies or children. Another possible Latin origin of the phrase would also describe infantry just as well. The word infantia means “unable to speak” or perhaps more colloquially, “not able to have an opinion.” The latter word might describe any infantry throughout history. As a conscript, you were forced into the service of a lord for his lands and allies, not given a choice in the matter.

In the modern terminology for infantry, this is probably just as true, except you volunteered to not have an opinion. At least now, you get healthcare and not cholera.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Um, Russian ministry report claims soldiers have dolphin-derived telepathy?

Elite Russian soldiers can crash computers, treat wounded troops, and read foreign-language documents locked inside a safe using the power of their minds, a report in the Defense Ministry’s official magazine claims.

Using “parapsychology,” a catch-all term for any psychic ability, soldiers can detect ambushes, burn crystals, eavesdrop, and disrupt radio waves, according to a report by reserve colonel Nikolai Poroskov.

The techniques were developed over a long period starting in the 1980s Soviet Union, by studying telepathy in dolphins, the report said. It also claimed soldiers can now communicate with the dolphins.


The article, entitled “Super Soldier for the Wars of the Future,” was swiftly scorned by experts. But its appearance in the February 2019 edition of the Russian defense ministry’s Armeisky Sbornik (Army Collection) magazine is nonetheless remarkable.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

The front cover of February’s “Armeisky Sbornik.”

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The report says: “With an effort of thought, you can, for example, shoot down computer programs, burn crystals in generators, eavesdrop on a conversation, or break television and radio programs and communications.”

“Those capable of metacontact can, for example, conduct nonverbal interrogations. They can see through the captured soldier: who this person is, their strong and weak sides, and whether they’re open to recruitment.”

Soldiers could even “read a document in a safe even if it was in a foreign language we don’t know,” the report said.

Soldiers have also been trained in “psychic countermeasures,” the report said — techniques which help soldiers stay strong during interrogations from telepaths in rival armies.

The report also says Russian special forces used these “combat parapsychology techniques” during the conflict in Chechnya, which ran from the mid-1990s until the late 2000s.

The chairman of the commission to combat pseudoscience at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yevgeny Alexandrov, told news outlet RBK that “combat parapsychology” is a fabrication and is recognized as a pseudo-science.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

(Photo by michelle galloway)

He said: “Such works really existed and were developed, but were classified. Now they come out into the light. But, as in many countries of the world, such studies are recognized as pseudo-scientific, all this is complete nonsense.”

“All the talk about the transfer of thought at a distance does not have a scientific basis, there is not a single such recorded case, it is simply impossible.”

However, Anatoly Matviychuk from Russian military magazine “Soldiers of Russia” told RBK that parapsychology is the real deal.

“The technique was developed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences in an attempt to discover the phenomenal characteristics of a person.”

“A group of specialists worked under the leadership of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces. The achievements of that time still exist, and there are attempts to activate them.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkish offensive against Kurds moves forward as US prepares to pull troops

An effort to withdraw the 1,000 remaining US troops in northern Syria is underway, after new intelligence shows US forces in the crosshairs of a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) and a possible planned counter-attack.

Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Oct. 13, 2019, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said President Donald Trump directed the national security team to begin a “deliberate withdrawal” of US forces from northern Syria.


“In the last 24 hours we learned that [Turkish forces] likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west,” Esper said.

“We also have learned in the last 24 hours […] the Kurdish forces, the SDF, are looking to cut a deal if you will with the Syrians and the Russians to counter-attack against the Turks in the north. And so we find ourselves is we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.”

Esper specified that the withdrawal, which he said will done “as safely and quickly as possible,” is of troops from northern Syria, which is where he says most of US forces in the country already are.

US forces had been repositioning in northern Syria over the course of the week prior, as Trump announced that several dozen troops would shift away from the Kurdish forces – a move criticized as opening the door for Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been US allies in the fight againt ISIS.

Trump has denied that the US is enabling the Turkish offensive, calling it a “bad idea.” However, the move to reposition troops stemmed from a call between Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since then, Turkish forces have entered Kurdish territory in Syria and overtaken a key border town. Artillery fire nearly hit a small group of US forces stationed in a Kurdish-controlled town on Oct. 11, 2019, too. ISIS members imprisoned in Syria have indicated a plan for jailbreaks amid the conflict, and a video emerged Oct. 19, 2019, that appears to show some ISIS members escaping in the aftermath of a Turkish attack.

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

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how vulnerable US satellites are to solar storms

The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its GPS communications temporarily knocked out Sept. 6 after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms.


Both events were X-Class solar flares, the most severe classification, and one of them was the most powerful since 2005, Engadget reported. When solar flares like these are directed at Earth, the resulting radiation storm can easily impede radio and GPS communications. These resulted in heavy communications interference for a full hour Sept. 6.

The second storm was an X9.3, the strongest since 2005 and severe enough to cause the sun to spew out plasma from its surface in a coronal mass ejection. Radio emissions collected by the US Space Weather Prediction Center indicate that the storm caused a “wide area of blackouts” on the sunlit side of Earth, according to Space.com.

 

 

The Sept. 6 explosion spewed out plasma clouds several times the size of Earth at roughly 3 million mph, according to astrophysicist Karl Battams.

The most powerful sun storm ever recorded blasted the Earth with enough radiation in 2003 to disable NASA’s solar measurement equipment.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New restaurant options are coming to Army and Air Force Bases

Panda Express and Muscle Maker Grill are among the new restaurants coming to Air Force and Army bases in 2019, officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) told Military.com.

AAFES manages restaurant contracts on Army and Air Force bases, including deals with familiar brands such as Subway and Starbucks. Other restaurants, like P.F. Chang’s, currently at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and coming soon to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are contracted by base morale and welfare officials.


On-base food fans will get a break from Burger King and Taco Bell, as officials open a variety of new options and expand others.

Chinese fast-food restaurant Panda Express will open this year at Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Travis Air Force Base, California, AAFES officials said.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

Panda Express.

(Flickr photo by Rick Obst)

Healthy menu-focused Muscle Maker Grill will open additional locations at Benning; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; and, according to the company’s website, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Qdoba, which opened on several bases last year, including Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort Stewart, Georgia, will add more military locations.

While a Change.org petition to bring Chick-fil-A to bases continues to circulate and had collected nearly 88,000 signatures as of this writing, AAFES officials declined to comment on whether the restaurant will make an on-base appearance.

AAFES officials said they also will be bringing in a few less well known restaurant chains.

Chopz, a fast-food outlet that offers healthy options focused on salads, subs, burritos and wraps, will open at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, they said. And Slim Chickens, a fast-food chain primarily located in Texas and Oklahoma, will open locations at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Hood, Texas, later in 2019, they added.

Troops, military families and veterans can stay on top of military discounts, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the West’s new plan to counter Chinese influence

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.

Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.


China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiu00a0with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.

Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.

After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)

More recently, Australian media reported that the governments of China and Vanuatu had discussed establishing a Chinese military presence in the latter country, an island nation northeast of Australia.

While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)

At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”

The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.

This effort has been called “debt-trap diplomacy.” US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has described it as “weaponizing capital.” IMF chief Christine Legarde has cautionedChina and countries doing business with it about the potential for mounting debts.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)

Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.

That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.

The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.

Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why US fighters and Russian bombers keep squaring off near Alaska

On Thursday, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted a pair of Russian military planes as they entered into America’s Alaska air defense identification zone (ADIZ), just days after conducting similar intercepts of Russian bombers in the same region. This time, the Russian aircraft, which were both reportedly IL-38 maritime patrol planes, had come within 50 miles of the Alaskan island of Unimak and then proceeded to spend a full four hours in the area.

A pair of F-22s, America’s most capable air superiority fighters, intercepted the Russian planes and escorted them out of the area. Thursday’s intercept marks the fifth time American fighters had to shoo Russian bombers and other aircraft away from U.S. Air Space this month, and the ninth time this year. A number of those intercepts included Russia’s Tu-95 long range, nuclear capable, heavy payload bombers, as well as Su-35 fighter escorts.


The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

Russian Su-35 (WikiMedia Commons)

The Su-35 is a fourth-generation fighter, meaning it lacks stealth capabilities, but is still regarded as among the most capable dogfighting platforms on the planet. The Su-35’s powerful twin engines are capable of propelling the fighter to a top speed of Mach 2.25, far faster than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and each comes equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the aircraft to perform incredible acrobatics that most other fourth and even fifth generation fighters simply can’t.

That is to say that Russia is clearly taking these incursions into America’s backyard seriously, sending some of their most capable platforms on these missions.

America’s F-22 Raptor, however, also comes equipped with twin, thrust vectoring power plants, which in conjunction with its stealth capabilities, likely makes the F-22 the most fearsome air superiority fighter on the planet.

Are Russian bomber intercepts common for the U.S. or its allies?

The short answer is yes. The United States and Russia have a long history of staring matches in the Alaskan ADIZ, but many other nations, particularly members of NATO, often mount their own intercept flights as Russian pilots encroach on their air space as well.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

USAF F-22 Raptor intercepting a Russian Tu-95 bomber near Alaska earlier this month. (NORAD)

Russia regularly conducts long-distance bomber missions all over the world, sometimes prompting an intercept response from nations that feel threatened by their bomber presence. According to the BBC, Royal Air Force intercept fighters have ushered away Russian bombers and other aircraft encroaching on their airspace no fewer than ten times since the beginning of 2019.

What is Russia trying to accomplish?

Like many military operations, these flights are motivated by multiple internal and external factors.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

(WikiMedia Commons)

Training and Preparation

The primary reason behind these long-range flights, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply training. In order to be able to execute these long range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold.

It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long range flights.

Long range missions require a great deal of logistical planning as well, as bombers are often accompanied by fighters that don’t have the same fuel range as the massive planes they escort. That means not only coordinating with escort fighters from multiple installations, but also managing support from airborne refuelers and flights of Advanced Warning and Control (AWAC) planes. Executing such a complex operation takes practice, no matter the nation conducting them.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

USAF F-15 intercepts Russian Tu-95 Bear Bomber (USAF)

Posturing in the face of opponents

An important part of Russia’s foreign policy is maintaining the threat they represent to diplomatic opponents (like the United States and its NATO allies). Deterrence is the ultimate goal of many military operations, and demonstrating the capability to launch long-range strikes against national opponents is meant to support that doctrine.

The concept of using a strong offense as a good defense dates back to when mankind first starting sharpening sticks to defend their territory, and is perhaps best demonstrated in a modern sense by America and Russia’s nuclear deterrent approach of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The premise behind MAD is simple: by maintaining a variety of nuclear attack capabilities, it makes stopping a nuclear response to an attack all but impossible. In other words, if the U.S. launch nuclear weapons at Russia, Russia would be guaranteed to fire their own back at the U.S., and vice versa.

The promise that one nuclear attack would immediately result in a large-scale nuclear war is seen as deterrent enough to keep nuclear powers from engaging in such a terrible form of warfare… at least thus far.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

(ABC News Headline Jan 10, 2020)

Making the nuclear threat feel mundane

The third, and perhaps most nefarious, reason behind these flights that prompt intercepts from U.S. or allied fighters is as a means of desensitizing military personnel and even civilian populations to the presence of Russian bombers or other aircraft on our doorstep.

Because each of these flights prompts a flurry of headlines form major media outlets, many Americans have taken to dismissing these flights as so commonplace they hardly warrant the webspace. Likewise within the military, conducting frequent intercepts of Russian aircraft can leave some pilots and commanders increasingly complacent about the threat these aircraft potentially pose.

Imagine a bear breaking into your trash can every couple of months. The first few times, you’d be pretty scared and concerned. You might even set up cameras and invest in some bear-spray you can use to deter the bears from coming back. After a few months of sporadic bear visits, that fear turns to annoyance, as you begin to feel as though the bear isn’t a threat to you, but is an inconvenience in your life.

After years of dealing with the same bear digging through your trash, you would likely stop seeing the bear as a threat to your safety and adopt a more neutral approach to rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath every time it comes lumbering up to your old trash can.

The bear itself is no less dangerous to you than it was the first time you saw it and panicked, but your perception of the bear has shifted. Now, while you’re aware that it could hurt you, you’ve also developed an understanding that it probably won’t. You may even start to ignore it from time to time. That unintentional complacency brought about through familiarization will leave you less primed to react if the bear suddenly does pose a threat to your safety.

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The slight delay in your response, brought about by complacency, could be all the bear needs to do some real damage. The same can be said about Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers.

How to combat complacency with a Russian “Bear” in your yard

Complacency isn’t just a concern when it comes to Russian aircraft or curious bears. Letting your guard down is a constant concern for service members on the front lines of any conflict.

Military protocol is one powerful tool in the fight against complacency, because it mandates a threat response and outlines its proper execution. In other words, the U.S. Military doesn’t have to make any specific decisions at the onset of identifying a potential threat. Instead, they execute the tasks on their threat response checklist to gather vital information, prepare a response, and in these cases, intercept the bombers.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

USAF F-22 intercepts Russian bomber (NORAD)

In this way, America can turn the potential threat of complacency into a valuable training operation, wherein U.S. personnel act as though this Russian bomber flight could be a real attack. Of course, the risk of complacency remains, but that’s why continuous training and preparation is an essential part of American defense.

Whether it’s Russian bombers or a wayward Grizzly, if you treat every interaction like it could be dangerous, you’ll be better prepared in the event that it is.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.

In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.

“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”


Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.

“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”

While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.

Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.

“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.

It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.

“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”

Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.

“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”

Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”

After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”

Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.

On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.

Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.

At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.

“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.

“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “

In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.

“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”

Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.

Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”

According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.

“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”

At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.

Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.

“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.

“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in
Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

How one commander tried to get his men to leak D-Day plans

British Lt. Col. Terence Otway and his men were to be charged with assaulting the Merville battery on June 6, 1944, at the height of the D-Day invasions of occupied France. For their mission – as well as the overall invasion – secrecy was of the utmost importance, so Otway wanted to ensure his men held that secret close and wouldn’t divulge anything under any circumstances.

So he turned to one of the oldest tricks in the intelligence-gathering book to test their mettle: using women to try to draw the information out of them.


The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
The Merville Gun Battery. (Wikimedia Commons)

Otway and the British 9th parachute battalion were going to assault the series of six-foot-thick concrete bunkers that housed anti-aircraft guns, machine gun emplacements, and artillery from a special artillery division. In all, 150 paratroopers would attempt to take down 130 Germans in a hardened shelter. Since the assault would come just after midnight and well before the main landings, operational security was paramount. The Lieutenant Colonel decided to test his men to see if they could be trusted with the information.

According to the 2010 bookD-Day: Minute by Minute, Otway enlisted the help of 30 of the most beautiful women of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce and sent them out to the local pubs with the mission of trapping his men into divulging their secret plans. It was an important test; if the men of the 9th weren’t able to take down those guns, the entire landing might be in jeopardy.

D-Day
A memorial to the commander of the 9th at the former location of the battery (Wikimedia Commons)

But Otway would be pleased with the discipline of his men. Throughout the nights, they caroused as they always had, drinks in hand, singing the night away. But not one of Otway’s men ever gave up their secret. The attack would go on as planned. His 150 now-proven loyal men landing in the area by parachute and by glider that day in June. Even though the winds disbursed the fighters throughout a large area, they still managed to take down the gun site, albeit taking heavy casualties in the process.

After the Merville Gun Battery was down, the exhausted and depleted British paratroopers then moved on to secure the occupied village of Le Plein. Their assault on the guns cost them roughly 50 percent of their total strength – but they were able to accomplish their mission because of the total secrecy surrounding it from lift off to completion.


Feature image: “The Drop” by Albert Richards (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TRENDING

16 facts you never knew about the American flag

It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.


The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
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1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer

Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.

2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
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3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag

On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.

4. The colors of the flag have important meanings

Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.

5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student

In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather.
– It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
– No other flags should be placed above it.
– When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size.
– It must be flown at every school and during all school days.
– If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated.
– Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown.
– And many more.

7. You can’t sign your name on it

Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.

8. … or put it on a t-shirt

Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.

 

9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful

At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.

10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal

Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.

11. Indestructible flags exist

Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today.

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors
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12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans

While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!

13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag 

We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.

14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer

National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.

15. There are 6 American flags on the moon

…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.

16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.

During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.

You don’t have to walk to the moon to honor our flag. Kick off the Flag Day festivities by learning how to properly fold a flag, learn more about its history, or try one of these tasty, patriotic treats!

Which fact was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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