The U.S. military is famous for several things. The food in the DFACs, early morning PT and extreme grooming standards, just to name a few. One of the most underrated things about the military though is the sense of humor amongst troops in the field.
One gun crew from the 1st Armored Division certainly lived up to that legacy of laughs this week after a picture was posted on the division’s website showing that soldiers had named their M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer “Coronavirus.”
We’re taking preventative measures in the field as we continue to train and protect the safety of our Soldiers and Leaders.
As a force we must stay alert as we train to be lethal in combat.
#IronSoldiers #BulldogBrigade #COVIDー19 #IIICorpsCOVID19pic.twitter.com/V79CftGvf1
Yes, the virus currently circling its way around the globe and through the media has made its way into the psyche of a few soldiers.
But these 13Bs are hardly the first to christen their weapons with names. Earlier this year, an M1 Abrams belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division, was spotted sporting the name “Baby Yoda.” Other colorful names include “Change of Regime,” “Bull Dog II”, and “New Testament.”
The traditional isn’t limited to U.S. soldiers either.
In fact, soldiers have been naming their weapons since at least medieval times, when knights gave names to their trebuchets. And today, visitors to historic battlefields like Gettysburg can still make out the names etched on the back of a few artillery pieces.
As for the coronavirus, of COVID 19 as it is officially called, at press time, there are currently 11,500 cases in the U.S., according to a report from the Washington Post.
The U.S. military is on the frontlines of the country’s pandemic response. In addition to the thousands of National Guardsmen currently activated, President Donald Trump recently tasked the U.S. Navy to deploy both of its hospital ships to treat COVID 19 patients, reports Reuters.
The Navy operates two hospital ships, the U.S.N.S. Comfort and the U.S.N.S. Mercy. Although the ships belong to the Navy, the deck crew is usually manned by civilian members of Military Sealift Command, while the health care staff is comprised of military personnel.
The two ships, which were converted to floating hospitals from oil tankers in the 1970s, are the military’s only such vessels, with one covering the Atlantic and the other the Pacific.
Two decades after the Marines predicted most warfare would be in urban areas, the Air Force is coming to the same conclusions. Simply put, the great majority of humans live in cities these days, and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein has added urban warfare to his list of top focus areas.
Part of the reason for increasing the emphasis on urban conflict, which isn’t something you might traditionally think of about the service that brings us fighters, bombers, and satellites, is that the Air Force may not be well equipped to handle it.
“How do we design an Air Force for this kind of conflict?” Goldfein asked during his speech here. “Today, I think we are more designed for working in open spaces.”
By contrast, the Army and Marines are focused on urban areas like a, well, laser. The Marines had Fallujah — with the Army joining in to retake the city — and smaller versions in Afghanistan. The Army had Sadr City, Mosul (before ISIS), Samarra, and more. The largest service also has some institutional memories of urban battle from World War II, but hasn’t trained for full-out war in cities for some time.
As Goldfein noted in his speech, 80 percent of humanity will live in cities by 2050. And megacities, those with more than 10 million people. will grow from a dozen to 50.
One of the greatest problems with urban warfare is limiting civilian casualties and leaving much of the city standing, as the latest battle for Mosul illustrates in Iraq. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, during a Q and A with reporters, pointed to directed energy weapons (think fricking lasers! and related technologies like electronics-frying microwaves) as potentially useful tools. She also repeated a point she’s been making recently, that no one will tolerate the US using dumb munitions any more.
“The world can no longer tolerate imprecise weapons, at least from the United States of America,” she said when I asked her and the chief about what might an urban warfare Air Force look like. During her recent tour of Central Command, she learned about an airstrike against Daesh.
“They needed a weapon so precisely placed it would destroy ISIS and make the wall fall the other way,” she said, shaking her head to show how impressed she was. Friendly forces were only 13 meters away, she said. The fire request went out. A tasking order was drawn up. Fuzes were set. What may have been a Small Diameter Bomb was dropped and the wall did fall toward ISIS.
When I pressed Goldfein about what platforms and what weapons might be best suited to urban air support, given his comment about the force being designed for open spaces, he said the focus needed to be on modes and networks, as well as on range, persistence, and payload. That echoes such of what the Army has said for the last five years when discussing its next round of weapons: the network is the key, not the new tank.
Could this also have implications for the Light Attack experiment? One Air Force colonel was convinced it would help make the argument for such aircraft to be combined with precision weapons and, perhaps, lasers. But Goldfein made clear he had elevated urban warfare recently and didn’t have all the answers yet.
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff said on Oct. 8, 2018, that its 6.8mm, next-generation weapons, slated to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine, will be able to penetrate any body armor on the battlefield.
“It will fire at speeds that far exceed the velocity of bullets today, and it will penetrate any existing or known … body armor that’s out there,” Gen. Mark Milley told Military.com at the 2018 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. “What I have seen so far from the engineers and the folks that put these things together, this is entirely technologically possible. … It’s a very good weapon.”
Milley’s comments come on the heels of an Oct. 4, 2018 draft solicitation announcing the Army’s plans to “award up to three prototype Other Transaction Agreements … with each offeror developing two weapon variants and a common cartridge for both weapons, utilizing government-provided 6.8 millimeter projectiles,” according to the solicitation posted on the federal contracting website FedBizzOpps.”The weapons include the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR).”
The Army also intends to make follow-on production awards for “250,000 total weapons system(s) (NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, or both), 150,000,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, tools/gauges/accessories, and engineering support,” the solicitation states.
Pfc. Tyler Kramer, a mechanic with I Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division qualifies on an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a range Feb. 1, 2018, at Fort Stewart, Ga.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ian Thompson)
The awards could be worth ” million the first year and 0 million per year at the higher production rates,” it adds.
The contracts were the result of a prototype opportunities notice the Army posted in March 2018 for the small-arms industry to submit ideas for the NGSW-AR, an effort to replace the M249 squad automatic rifle, made by FN America.
Milley would not comment on the recent prototype contracts, but said that there were “several prototypes that were advanced forward.”
He added that the Army will likely not “speak too much about its technical capabilities because our adversaries watch these things very closely.”
“It’s a very sophisticated weapon, a very capable weapon. It’s got an integrated sight system to it, and it also integrates into the soldier’s gear and other equipment that we are fielding,” Milley said. “And not surprisingly with a weapon like that, it’s probably pretty expensive. We expect it to be expensive so we are probably not going to field the entire Army with this weapon.”
He explained the service will likely field these cutting-edge weapons to infantry and other close-combat forces.
“The bottom line is we are committed to a new rifle and a new squad automatic weapon,” Milley said. “We hope to be able to shoot it on ranges down at Fort Benning, [Georgia], hopefully … maybe sometime next year late summer.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
As the Chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince McMahon knows a thing or two about leadership, business, and being successful.
So when he offers advice, it’s a good idea to listen. McMahon did just that in a question answer session specifically for veterans in partnership with American Corporate Partners, a mentorship non-profit for vets (Disclosure: This writer went through ACP’s year-long program in 2011).
On how to keep people motivated without stifling their creativity:
“One of my expressions is to ‘treat every day like it’s your first day on the job.’ When you do that, it either confirms what was done yesterday was right—or it gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at something. I always ask our employees not to think traditionally in a non-traditional world.”
On what veterans offer to civilian employers:
“Work ethic, leadership, communication skills and time management, as well as the ability to multi-task and work under pressure are traits I believe veterans can offer any organization. At WWE, we recruit experienced talent from a variety of industries and pride ourselves on promoting from within the company.”
On what veterans should do when they are transitioning out of the military:
“Don’t just be satisfied getting a job. Determine what it is you really want to do and be passionate about it. Be tenacious and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
On how to choose what to do with your life:
“My advice to anyone is to follow your heart and passion, and reach for the brass ring. You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. This may mean working long hours in your current career field and then going into business for yourself in your spare time.
You’ll know when the time is right to make the jump in its entirety, but be totally prepared. You need a well-thought out plan of action. Obtain as much professional advice as you possibly can and don’t let your ego get in the way.”
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, held July 11-12, 2019, brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
The event honored those who served and gave veterans, families, and community members the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about veteran-related resources and programs.
Guest speaker Johnathan Courtney, Army combat veteran, shared his story of healing and how he struggled to find himself when he came home from the Iraq War. He said that if it wasn’t for the help of his wife Emily, he wouldn’t be where he is today. With her help and support he was able to connect with caring providers within VA and a support network with community organizations.
“It starts with vets helping vets and family care,” said Courtney, now Chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the State of Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He hopes that by sharing his story of healing with fellow veterans that it will encourage them or someone they know to reach out for help if they need it and learn about resources available. “Many veterans don’t reach out for support and we are trying to change that here,” he said.
Veterans of all eras were recognized and honored for their service to the nation during the opening ceremony on July 11, 2019.
Other guest speakers, representing different tribes and organizations, shared their stories of healing over the two-day period, including Gold Star families who were given a special honor at the event. Gold Star families are relatives of service members who have fallen during a conflict.
VA staff members participated in a panel discussion to help answer questions and share information about VA services. VA Portland Health Care System panelist members included Sarah Suniga, Women Veterans Program Manager, Ph.D., and Valdez Bravo, Administrative Director for Primary Care Division. Other panelist members included Kurtis Harris, Assistant Coach Public Contact Team for the VA Portland Regional Office; Jeffrey Applegate, Assistant Director of Willamette National Cemetery; and Kelly Fitzpatrick, Oregon State Department of Veterans Affairs Director.
Additionally, VA Portland Health Care System staff from the My HealtheVet Program and Suicide Prevention team tabled at the event.
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations held July 11-12, 2019 brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
“It’s a great honor to connect with veterans in this community,” said Terry Bentley, Tribal Government Relations Specialist for VA Office of Tribal Relations and member of the Karuk Tribe of California. Bentley has participated in this event since it first started seven years ago. She said she feels privileged to partner with tribal and community organizations to make it all come together and encourages anyone who served in the military or who knows someone who served in the military to participate next year.
“This event is about helping our veterans and encouraging them to come forward to see what’s available,” said Reyn Leno, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, member of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and past chairman of the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Committee. “Even if we help just one veteran during this event I think that in itself is a success.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.
Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.
Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer
The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.
The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.
(US Army photo)
Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.
During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.
Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.
“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.
The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.
The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.
To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
(US Army photo)
In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.
“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”
To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.
In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added
CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.
“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.
The king of battle, in all its thunderous glory, has struck fear into the hearts of enemies for centuries. Throughout the history of warfare, different varieties of artillery weapons have been used on battlefields to great effect and have ranged from ancient and medieval siege weapons to railway guns, naval artillery, and even atomic weapons.
But which artillery pieces stand out from their peers as the most ridiculous and the most awesome? We have a few suggestions.
A 36-inch mortar in use by the US during World War II for test-firing bombs was later converted to be used as a siege mortar, but it was never used in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Little David mortar has a name that can be deceiving because it is considered, along with the British Mallet’s Mortar, to be the largest-caliber gun ever made. As the United States prepared its battle plans to invade Japan during World War II, the US Army began a project to build a weapon capable of annihilating coastal and heavily fortified defenses. Little David had a 36-inch (914mm) caliber mortar and could fire 3,650 pound shells through a 22-foot muzzle at a distance of 6 miles.
Two artillery M26A1 tractors including the “Dragon Wagon” helped transport Little David to its required firing position. The behemoth mortar didn’t see combat action before Japan surrendered after two atomic bombs exploded over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war and the Little David mortar.
Counterweight trebuchets at Château de Castelnaud. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
When one thinks of a medieval siege weapon, the trebuchet is at the top of the list. These compound machines use the mechanical leverage of a lever to launch 200-pound stones with a sling, which were capable of destroying the empire’s most prized fortifications. The ancient war machine was believed to be invented in China in 300 BC and was largely used by the French in Europe. These destructive weapons didn’t just hurl stones, darts, or wooden stakes through the air. Casks of burning tar, dead animals, pots of Greek Fire, and disease-infested corpses were some of the other forms of damaging projectiles seen throughout history that made both a psychological and biological impact on the enemy.
Reproductions of ancient Greek artillery, including catapults such as the polybolos (to the left in the foreground) and a large, early crossbow known as the gastraphetes (mounted on the wall in the background). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A ballista was an ancient missile (bolts) and stone throwing weapon system that was effective against guards defending their castles or fortifications during large-scale sieges. The ballista arrived on the battlefield with the Greeks in the 4th century BC, and the Roman Empire evolved the machines to be highly capable against both troops and walls.
With an effective range of 300 meters, the iron-clad darts or sharpened wooden projectiles easily pierced body armor and impaled determined defenders, both killing their fight and psychologically damaging their morale. Procopius, a Byzantine Greek scholar, described how during the 6th century ballistas were sometimes placed in siege towers, which increased their lethality against defenses.
Soldiers used the “Grasshopper Crossbow” while in the trenches during World War I before better advancements made them obsolete. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy
Before French and British forces employed the 2-inch Medium Trench Mortar or the Stokes Mortar upon German infantry during World War I, the allies used a grenade-throwing crossbow with an effective range of 125 meters. Elie André Broca was a French artillery officer, doctor, science professor, and inventor who manufactured his weapon system under the name L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy, more commonly known as Sauterelle, or “The Grasshopper Crossbow.”
Hand grenades exposed the thrower to sniper fire and pot-shots from infantrymen, while the Grasshopper Crossbow enabled allied soldiers to launch French F1 hand grenades and British Mills bombs from behind the cover of their trenches. The crossbow weighed 64 pounds and required one to two operators to use a hand crank similar to how bolts are loaded on modern crossbows. An experienced operator could hurl four bombs per minute.
The Davy Crockett required a three-man crew to operate and could be used in place of a turret on the back of a jeep. Photo courtesy of armyhistory.org.
M28/M29 Davy Crockett
Code named Little Feller I, presidential advisor and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sat surrounded by US Army generals and engineers while 396 spectators watched nearby as the smallest nuclear explosion ever recorded was detonated on July 17, 1962. Kennedy peered through his protective lenses as a dust cloud appeared after the nuclear detonation occurred 2.17 miles in the distance.
In the midst of the Cold War, the US military frequently tested new capabilities at the Nevada Test Site. One of these mechanisms was the M28/M39 Davy Crockett recoilless rifle weapon system. A three-man crew operated the weapon the same way a typical mortar crew would operate in the field, except instead of a mortar shell, the Davy Crockett fired a nuclear projectile carrying the W54 nuclear warhead, which had the explosive equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. The nuclear capability was carried by small teams on the ground while deployed to Europe and provided a nuclear security blanket in case war with the Soviet Union ever broke out.
History’s first atomic artillery shell fired from the Army’s new 280mm artillery gun. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
M65 Atomic Cannon: “Atomic Annie”
The M65 Atomic Cannon, better known as “Atomic Annie,” was a towed artillery piece that fired the W-9 15-kiloton atomic 280mm Projectile T124. The 47-ton weapon system had a remarkably fast emplacement rate, taking only 12 minutes to ready and fire and 15 minutes to make ready for traveling to the next target. The maximum range of Atomic Annie was between 20 and 35 miles, and it was operational between 1953 and 1963. The only nuclear detonation occurred at the Nevada Proving Ground during Operation Upshot Knothole on May 25, 1953. The device traveled a distance of 7 miles and detonated 524 feet above the ground. The testing was captured on video for archival records. Atomic Annie was never used during combat operations.
The rear 18-inch turret of HMS Furious. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun
The largest and heaviest weapon ever used by the British was the BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun. The initial design was geared toward arming the HMS Furious to make it capable of providing naval support to smaller vessels in the Baltic Narrows during the invasion of Germany in World War I. However, the warship lacked defenses and was considered a liability rather than an asset. During test trials of the 18-inch/40 (45.7 cm) turret gun, the ship couldn’t handle the overpressure when the gun fired. In theory, having a large naval weapon was a necessity, but since it didn’t pass the required tests, the HMS Furious was converted into an aircraft carrier.
The Royal Navy recognized they had a capability but had no sure way to apply it. On Sept. 28, 1918, the HMS General Wolfe changed these perceptions when it fired on a railroad bridge at Snaaskerke at a distance of 36,000 yards — the longest range any Royal Navy vessel has ever engaged enemy personnel up to that point in history.
Giant artillery shell that hit the Adria building on Aug. 18, 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising. Heavy shells like this were fired by siege weapons. Photo courtesy of SPWW1944.
The Karl-Gerät was another siege weapon in the Nazi Germany inventory and was deemed the largest self-propelled gun in the history of warfare. The 273,374-pound super weapon could be moved across Europe during World War II through the use of European rail networks. When the weapon reached its destination, it was detached from its special transportation car and set up facing its target — usually a city or town. The Karl was used during the Battle of Sevastopol and along both the eastern and western fronts. It had its fair share of mechanical and technical problems but still crippled buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Warsaw Uprising. The historic Battle of the Bulge might have turned out different if the Karl wasn’t strafed and damaged by allied aircraft orbiting above.
The Dictator was used during the American Civil War. Photo courtesy of ironbrigader.com.
During the American Civil War, the Union built a makeshift railroad battery of their own that tipped the scales at 17,120 pounds. They called it the “Dictator,” and it was used during the 1864 Siege of Petersburg. The Dictator was secured on a reinforced railway car and could fire 200-pound shells at a 45-degree angle up to 4,235 yards.
“This 13 inch mortar was used principally against what was known as the ‘Chesterfield Battery,’ which from the left bank of [the] river, completely enfiladed our batteries on the right; all our direct fire seemed to have no effect,” according to a 1st Connecticut historian. “From this mortar was the only fire that seemed to hold the battery in check.”
Adolf Hitler, second from right, and Albert Speer, far right, in front of the 800mm Gustav railway gun in 1943. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Nazi regime had several advanced weapons within its arsenal, and Adolf Hitler’s own Schwerer Gustav, a super weapon and railway gun, was the largest weapon ever built. The Nazis first used the cannon during the Battle of Sevastopol in 1942. The Schwerer Gustav required a crew of 2,000 people to operate and took four days of maintenance before the enormous railway gun could be used. More than 300 800mm shells decimated the Crimean city and, although it was originally created to destroy the Maginot Line — a defensive fortification deemed impregnable — the Schwerer Gustav was ultimately never needed after a successful Blitzkrieg campaign.
Ever since a 2015 poll revealed that a certain slice of Americana supported bombing Agrabah, the fictional city Disney’s Aladdin calls home, it’s been interesting to consider what other fictional countries have actually messed with the United States and totally gotten a pass. Agrabah didn’t actually damage its relations with the U.S., presumably because the U.S. either doesn’t exist yet in that world, or because they don’t have oil.
Meanwhile, a number of other countries have attacked America and/or its American heroes and haven’t yet met the full-on retaliation they deserve.
1. Pottsylvania — “Rocky and Bullwinkle”
These guys have been sending special agents to try and kill American heroes FOR YEARS. Pottsylvania is populated entirely by special agents and saboteurs.
Their children are taught assassination techniques and espionage practices from an early age, their highest medal is the Double Cross and their mysterious dictator (known only as “Fearless Leader”) makes Kim Jong-Un look like a teddy bear. Their two most active agents are skilled infiltrators and have never been captured.
2. Bilya — “Iron Eagle”
Bilya is supposed to be a fictional Arab state in the Middle East. These guys had the balls to shoot down an American F-16, capture its pilot, and then sentence him to hang in a show trial.
Luckily, the pilot’s 16-year-old son Doug (an Air Force Academy reject) and Chappie, an Air Force Reserve pilot, steal two F-16s of their own and fly off to Bilya to rescue him. What should have happened was America launching an all-out raid on Bilyan infrastructure and military targets. Then, after they released the American they took for no reason, the Bilyans would pay us back the $18 million they owe us for shooting down our F-16.
3. Val Verde — “Commando,” “Predator,” and “Die Hard 2“
This nondescript South American country has more coups than a flock of pigeons (say that sentence aloud for the full effect). For some reason, all of their worst representatives seem to end up in the United States, ready to coerce American heroes to do their bidding.
Fortunately, John Matrix lives inside an unlimited ammo cheat code world.
In “Commando,” a deposed dictator named Arius kidnaps John Matrix’ daughter to force him to kill the current president (of Val Verde). Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t even make it to Val Verde. Instead, he ices every single person who came near his daughter.
In “Die Hard 2,” terrorists hit an airport to free another captured dictator, ruining John McClane’s Christmas, everyone’s flight schedules, and never taking any blame for what they do.
And that is United Airlines’ job.
In “Predator,” Dutch Schaeffer’s commando team has to mount a hostage rescue from guerrillas in Val Verde. You might know what happens next (hint: it has something to do with an invisible alien).
Seriously, how many times do they get to mess with America before we do something about this? Who is the President in this movie universe? And I am dying to know more about this place – what are the exports, other than terrorism and contras?
4. Latveria – Marvel Comics
Latveria is an Eastern European nation tucked back into the Carpathian Mountains, led by a guy whose name is freaking Dr. Victor von Doom. Even George W. Bush could convince the world that this guy needed to be ousted, and he wouldn’t have to throw Colin Powell under a bus to do it.
Dr. Doom is obviously a state sponsor of terrorism. Doom is responsible for the proliferation of chemical weapons, attempted assassinations of allied heads of state, and oh so many crimes against humanity.
Lt. Col. Charles Daniel, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, walks towards the AH-1W Super Cobra prior to its final flight at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans, on Oct. 14, 2020. (Robert Brown/U.S. Marine Corps)
After 34 years of service and more than 930,000 flight hours, the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter made its final flight last week. Maj. Patrick Richardson, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, flew the last Super Cobra flight out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
The Marine Corps has transitioned to the “Zulu” variant of the aircraft, the four-bladed AH-1Z Viper.
“This final flight is very important for us to honor the aircraft,” Richardson said in a video released by Bell Helicopter. “… It’s an honor to be the last guy to fly one. I never thought I’d be in this position.”
The dual-blade helicopter Richardson flew over New Orleans on Oct. 14 was received by HMLA-773 in 1994, he said. Marines flew it in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2005. Lt. Col. Charles Daniel, the squadron’s executive officer, said in the video that he flew the aircraft making last week’s final flight during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Marines also flew the Super Cobra in Iraq, Somalia, the Gulf War and with Marine expeditionary units operating on Navy ships around the world.
Both Richardson and Daniel called the Super Cobra’s final flight bittersweet. Richardson said he flies the AH-1Z Viper, while Daniel said the AH-1W’s retirement coincides with the end of his own career.
“I’ve had a lot of great memories in this aircraft,” Daniel said. “It has gotten me back safe every time and done everything I ever asked it to do. I enjoyed every moment of my time with the Whiskey and the Marines around it.”
The newer AH-1Z Viper is faster, carries more ordnance, has an all-glass cockpit, and can stand off further from the fight, Daniel said.
The Super Cobra’s retirement represents just one transition for Marine Corps aviation. AV-8BHarrier squadrons are saying goodbye to that aircraft as the service transitions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Marine Corps is also in the process of upgrading its aging CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter to the powerful new CH-53K King Stallion.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.
“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.
Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.
However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.
Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.
In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.
Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.
“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.
Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”
“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.
Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.
The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.
“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.
“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.
Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.
An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.
Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”
Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.
In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.
The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.
On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.
More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.
During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.
The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.
The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.
Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.
More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.
The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.
Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.
The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.
An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.
The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.
The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.
Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”
Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro
A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.
Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.
The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.
Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.
Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.
He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.
He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.
During a meeting this week with the Marine Corps rotational force stationed in Norway, the Corps’ commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, told Marines that war could be looming and that his command may soon adjust its deployments to meet rising threats.
Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, telling members of the U.S. force in the Nordic country to be ready at all times.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
Marines have been in Norway since January, when a rotation from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived. The rotation was extended during the summer, and a replacement from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived in August. The rotation is the first time a foreign force had been stationed in Norway since World War II.
Neller told Marines in Norway that he expects focus to shift from the Middle East to Russia and the Pacific — areas highlighted by President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy and home to three parts of the Defense Department’s “4+1” framework: Russia, North Korea, and China (along with Iran and global terrorism).
Marines in Norway have trained with Norwegian and other partner forces for cold-weather operations. Earlier this year, the Marines carried out a timed strategic mobility exercise, organizing the vehicles and equipment that would be needed to outfit a ground combat force.
Norway and the Marine Corps have jointly managed weapons and equipment stored in well-maintained caves in the central part of the country since the Cold War. The commander of Marine Corps Europe and Africa told Military.com this summer that Norway could become the service’s hub in Europe.
Places like Norway would become more of a focal point for the Marine Corps, according to Neller, deemphasizing the Middle East after two decades of combat operations there.
“I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said in Norway, when asked by a Marine about where the force saw itself fighting in the future. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”
A Marine artillery unit recently left Syria after several months supporting the fight against ISIS there (burning out two howitzers in the process), but Marines remain in the region — including 450 training and advising partner forces in Afghanistan and hundreds more in Iraq, where they recently returned to “old stomping grounds” in western Anbar province to support anti-ISIS efforts.
While Neller admitted that U.S. forces would remain in the Middle East for some time to come, he predicted “a slight pullback” from that region and a reorientation toward Russia and the Pacific.
“So I believe we’ll turn our attention there,” he said,according to Military.com.
‘We’ve got them right where we wanted’
Countries throughout Europe have grown wary of an increasingly assertive Russia, especially the Baltic states and others in Eastern Europe.
But Norway and others in Western Europe are concerned as well. Norway has publicly discussed ways to counter Russian armor and boosted its defense spending.
Earlier this year, Oslo decided to buy five P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft — a move that tied it closer to the U.S. and UK, with whom it maintained a surveillance network during the Cold War. In February, Norway decided to shift funds from cost-savings programs into military acquisitions. That same month, Norway teamed up with Germany to buy four new submarines — two for each. (None of Germany’s subs are currently operational.)
In November, Norway accepted the first three F-35A fighters to be permanently stationed in the country, joining the seven Norway has stationed in Arizona for training. This month, Norway signed a contract for 24 South Korean-made K9 self-propelled howitzers and ammunition resupply vehicles.
U.S. forces have also moved throughout Europe in recent months for training and deployments to bolster partners in the region, but the rotational force in Norway has been particularly irksome for Russia, which shares a 120-mile border with Norway.
U.S. Marines in Norway have been hesitant to link their deployment directly to Russia — going as far as to avoid saying “Russia” in public — but Moscow has still expressed displeasure with their presence.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said relations between Oslo and Moscow were “put to a test” when Marines arrived in January. Moscow warned its neighbor in June that the Marines’ deployment could “escalate tensions and lead to destabilization” in the region.
Norwegian officials themselves have also questioned their government about what the Marines are doing there, out of concern that the country’s leadership could be shifting its defense policy without debate.
For some of the Marines, Moscow’s displeasure appears to be a point of pride.
“They don’t like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don’t like the fact that we oppose them,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green told Military.com. “Three hundred of us, surrounded by them. We’ve got them right where we wanted, right? We’ve done this before.”
An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.
Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.
General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.
The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.
“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.
“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”
Another insider attack
Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”
On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.
In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — If the 13 years of running Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has taken an emotional and physical toll on founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, he doesn’t show it. Watching him in action at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia is a study in determination and attention to detail. No bypassing staffer is too junior to be engaged, and no veterans issue is too trivial to be addressed.
“If you had asked me 13 years ago that if this far in the future it would still be this hard, I would have said you were full of it,” Rieckhoff says. “Everything is still too hard, from getting candidates to say the right thing to reforming the VA.”
He’s also concerned that philanthropic organizations haven’t responded to a national health problem that he compares to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
“This is like going to the convention in 1982 and people are kind of peripherally talking about AIDS when their friends are dying,” he says. “So if we accept that 20 vets are dying a day as a base point, we’re going to walk out of these conventions and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and these other billionaire philanthropic leaders are not going to be focused on veterans issues.”
Rieckhoff spreads the blame for the lack of progress on veterans’ issues — heath care and beyond — across several camps, starting with the commander-in-chief.
“President Obama has failed to provide the country a national strategy, and as a response, you’ve gotten fragmentation,” he says. And, by his reckoning, that fragmentation has taken myriad forms, including divisions among the veteran community itself.
“Too often VSO are having tribal fights when we really should recognize that we’re all really in deep shit because our demographics are our destiny and our demographics are bad,” Rieckhoff warns.
He goes on to explain that the veteran community is about to experience a “tectonic shift” numbers-wise because the World War II generation is all but gone and the Vietnam War generation is dying fast.
“We’re going to go from 12 percent in the population to, at some point, under five percent,” he explains.
In the face of this reality, Rieckhoff says that veteran service organizations and, more broadly, veterans themselves need to unify.
“My big takeaway in the wake of these two conventions is we have to find ways to be united and focused and we have to find ways to multiply our impact,” he says. “If veterans alone are carrying water for veterans’ issues we will lose. We’re just too small. There aren’t enough of us.”
That’s not to say that he doesn’t think veterans have individual impact potential; in fact, Rieckhoff is quick to point out that vets are in a unique position nationwide right now.
“If you’re a veteran and you walk into a Starbucks or a classroom and announce your status you’re going to get 2 minutes of ‘rock star’ respect where people will listen to you for a little while before they jump into their corners for Bernie or Trump or whoever,” he says. “But you have that opening that opportunity to try and be a leader and bring people together. That’s what veterans need to be doing right now. We can bring the temperature down. We can do it through credibility and patriotism and through our example.”
At the same time, Rieckhoff warns vets against being used as props.
“As a community, we have to be really wary about being used. If they want to throw you up on stage with someone, make sure that you’re getting out of it what you need because they’re going to get what they need,” he says. “It’s kind of like when you join the military, right? Uncle Sam’s going to get what he needs out of you. Make sure you get what you need out of Uncle Sam.”
The discussion pivots to the political sphere, and Rieckhoff is at once unflinching and bipartisan in his take on what’s in play for the military community.
“The conventions have been fascinating to watch,” he says. “I think what’s happened in the last four years is both parties realize that veterans make good populism. Last week you had Joni Ernst and a wall of veterans, this week you’ll have Seth Moulton and a wall of veterans. They know – Trump especially – that there is a huge populist undertone to everything veterans.”
But Rieckhoff fears the community may be squandering its time in the spotlight.
“We have lacked a real sharp edge of activism,” he says. “If this was 1968, vet protestors would be in the convention.”
He introduces a broader theme, saying, “It’s a very complicated psycho-social situation we’re in where our community has been asked to sacrifice over and over again, but the public has reasoned that those in the military are self-selected as people who are willing to sacrifice over and over again. You can send us on 12 tours and we’re not going to make that much of a stink.
“The bigger issue is the lack of precedent for the lack of involvement in our country in a time of war. There’s no precedent in American history for this much war with this small group of people for this long.”
That societal reality has yielded some things of concern, not the least of which, according to Rieckhoff, is the fact that there are very few veterans in positions of real power.
“None of the candidates in either party is a veteran,” he points out. “Neither chairman of the VA on either the House or Senate side was a veteran. Jeff Miller and Bernie Sanders can’t run around talking about how wonderful they were when they presided over the largest VA scandal in American history.
“Bernie Sanders used the scandal to pass the omnibus and Jeff Miller is running around with Trump, using his time on HVAC for that. That’s politics, I get that. But At the end of the day veterans are still screwed.”
Rieckhoff likens the situation to “asking a plumber to fix your television.”
He uses what’s going on at the VA as an example, saying, “Bob McDonald is an army of one right now. He’s getting his legs cut out from under him by the Republican congress and Democratic leadership won’t touch him, so he’s almost out of time. He’s a good man who’s tried, but likely he’ll be out. The probability is we’ll get a new VA secretary who’ll get nominated in February or March, confirmed in March or April, and maybe he gets to work in June. So, six months into 2017, we’ll have the vision of a new VA secretary.”
Rieckhoff wants veteran leaders “who are still on the sidelines” to engage.
“There should be a coordinated and independent effort to recognize that these are trying times politically and we need to have a new call for these folks to serve,” he says. “You had the ‘Fighting Dems” in ’06 and I told Rahm Emanuel that ‘you have a political jump ball here,’ and he didn’t see it.
“The Fighting Dems wasn’t started by the party; it was started by that crew – Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth and Joe Sestak. That was the first iteration. Four years later the Republicans had their own round, but there was never really a coordinated campaign by either party to recruit veterans. There was a coordinated campaign to push out veterans and to celebrate veterans, but there’s not actually a farm team.”
Rieckhoff goes further, actually recommending a ticket that a large percentage of veterans would support right out of the gate.
“If [former NYC mayor] Mike Bloomberg and [retired Admiral and former CJCS] Mike Mullen started their own party tomorrow, a third of our membership would go with them . . . probably a third of the country would go with them,” he opines.
Rieckhoff sums the landscape up as “crazier,” and, again, he believes that presents a unique opportunity for the military/veteran community.
“We’re some of the only people who can go to both conventions and understand both sides,” he says. “That’s the powerful position for us whether it’s gun control, immigration, Islamophobia, gay rights, marijuana, or whatever. We can be a unique bridge builder between both sides. The Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements are great examples. The veterans community is on both sides of those.”
For all of the impact potential veterans might have, Rieckhoff is also mindful of negative stereotypes that exist among the civilian populations, something he blames in large part to “media laziness.”
“The only description the media had of the Dallas shooter was that he was African-American, and he was a veteran,” he points out. “Why? Because they have to file a story quickly and those were the only two things they could verify. That accelerated media cycle perpetuates lazy reporting. And when you have a vet who fits the stereotype they run with it.”
Rieckhoff exhales and contemplates the requirement to constantly attend to the pubic’s perception of vets, and that reminds him of the accomplishments of the community and, specifically, the legacy of IAVA.
“When IAVA started in 2004 the veterans landscape was a desert,” he remembers. “Now it’s a metropolis. We are very proud of the fact that a lot of people who come through the IAVA team have gone on to do really cool stuff.”
A quick review of the current roles of IAVA alums bears this out. Vet leaders like Abdul Henderson (now on the Congressional Black Caucus), Bill Rausch (now at Got Your 6), Tom Taratino (Twitter), Matt Miller (Trump campaign), and Todd Bowers (Uber) all spent time on the IAVA staff.
“We built IAVA to be a launching pad,” Rieckhoff says. “I’d rather have Tom Taratino at Twitter changing the culture than have him at the House VA Committee talking to a bunch of other veterans for the ninetieth time.”
But in spite of the challenges, Rieckhoff is bullish on the future of the veteran community.
“In 10 years, disproportionally CEOs are going to be veterans, candidates are going to be veterans, entrepreneurs are going to be veterans,” he says. “And that’s going to be exciting to watch.”