Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.

WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.


Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Carlos Delgado)

The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.

Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.

25. Lincoln, Nebraska

Total score: 60.69

Employment (ranked out of 100): 49th

Economy (ranked out of 100): 8th

Quality of life (ranked out of 100): 29th

Health (ranked out of 100): 94th

24. Durham, North Carolina

Total score: 60.72

Employment: 15

Economy: 55

Quality of life: 28

Health: 42

23. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Total score: 60.85

Employment: 14

Economy: 10

Quality of life: 18

Health: 84

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Gerson Repreza)

22. Chesapeake, Virginia

Total score: 61.25

Employment: 57

Economy: 13

Quality of life: 26

Health: 61

21. San Antonio, Texas

Total score: 61.34

Employment: 29

Economy: 27

Quality of life: 19

Health: 47

20. Denver, Colorado

Total score: 61.79

Employment: 6

Economy: 50

Quality of life: 12

Health: 79

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Owen CL)

19. Laredo, Texas

Total score: 61.80

Employment: 33

Economy: 1

Quality of life: 78

Health: 20

18. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Total score: 61.96

Employment: 20

Economy: 72

Quality of life: 25

Health: 30

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen)

17. Columbus, Ohio

Total score: 62.16

Employment: 24

Economy: 14

Quality of life: 37

Health: 54

16. Boise, Idaho


Total score: 62.71

Employment: 21

Economy: 36

Quality of life: 4

Health: 89

15. San Diego, California

Total score: 62.75

Employment: 47

Economy: 78

Quality of life: 2

Health: 35

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Lucas Davies)

14. Plano, Texas

Total score: 63.23

Employment: 82

Economy: 44

Quality of life: 10

Health: 20

13. Fort Worth, Texas

Total score: 63.35

Employment: 70

Economy: 5

Quality of life: 32

Health: 20

12. Irvine, California

Total score: 63.66

Employment: 50

Economy: 40

Quality of life: 41

Health: 1

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Catatonique)

11. Madison, Wisconsin

Total score: 64.50

Employment: 27

Economy: 6

Quality of life: 21

Health: 40

10. Jacksonville, Florida

Total score: 65.50

Employment: 23

Economy: 20

Quality of life: 36

Health: 13

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Lance Asper)

9. St. Petersburg, Florida

Total score: 65.67

Employment: 51

Economy: 18

Quality of life: 23

Health: 13

8. Gilbert, Arizona

Total score: 67.73

Employment: 40

Economy: 3

Quality of life: 15

Health: 64

7. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Total score: 68.13

Employment: 62

Economy: 2

Quality of life: 11

Health: 61

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Jason Pratt)

6. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Total score: 70.06

Employment: 17

Economy: 24

Quality of life: 5

Health: 49

5. Scottsdale, Arizona

Total score: 71.45

Employment: 12

Economy: 9

Quality of life: 3

Health: 64

4. Raleigh, North Carolina

Total score: 71.78

Employment: 5

Economy: 4

Quality of life: 14

Health: 70

3. Orlando, Florida

Total score: 71.94

Employment: 3

Economy: 16

Quality of life: 9

Health: 32

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Drew Coffman)

2. Austin, Texas

Total score: 72.22

Employment: 11

Economy: 17

Quality of life: 7

Health: 20

1. Tampa, Florida

Total score: 72.44

Employment: 8

Economy: 12

Quality of life: 6

Health: 16

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

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The smart anti-drone grenade and bazooka that will save us from Skynet

Ok, so modern unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t nearly as much a threat as Skynet and these weapon systems really wouldn’t do anything to the T-1000. However, today’s remote-controlled drones can prove to be major security risks as surveillance or even explosive delivery platforms—it’s this threat that the 40mm net grenade and SkyWall 100 bazooka are designed to combat.

On February 5, 2019, the U.S. Army acquired a patent for a 40mm grenade designed to snare and defeat UAVs. I can already hear you typing, “Why not just shoot them out of the sky with air-burst rounds or regular bullets?” Well, the first problem is escalation of force. Depending on the ROE, live fire may not be approved as a reaction to unmanned surveillance. There’s also the fact that bullets fired into the air that don’t connect with their target will eventually fall to earth and potentially strike an unintended target. Additionally, shooting down a drone creates the danger of an uncontrolled airborne object falling from the sky, most likely over friendly forces. This danger is amplified if the drone is carrying explosives.


Enter the 40mm net grenade. Based on the standard 40mm grenade platform used in weapon systems like the Mk19 and M320 grenade launchers, the 40mm net grenade provides troops with a non-lethal standoff countermeasure to combat drones. The basic components of the grenade are the net and proximity detector. The operator aims at the drone and fires the grenade. At six to nine yards from the target, the proximity detector detonates a small charge that propels the petals and weights from the grenade and casts the net. The net ensnares the drone and neutralizes it. The Army has reported that initial tests of the grenade have been promising since it is easily operated and it is extremely effective against multiple targets—that’s right, drone swarms.
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An illustration of how the net grenade works (U.S. Patent 10,197,365 B1 Figure 2)

What if the drone bigger than a standard commercial drone? Get a bigger gun. In this case, a bazooka. Built by OpenWorks Engineering, the SkyWall is a smart anti-drone shoulder-fired bazooka that assists its operator in targeting and neutralizing unmanned aerial threats. The operator identifies the target using the intelligent scope. The targeting system then calculates a firing solution based on the target’s distance, speed, and direction. Once an optimal aim is acquired, the weapon fires its round at the target. The net-carrying canister round is capable of engaging drones up to 100m away. The net round can also be equipped with a parachute which helps to bring the drone safely to the ground. This can help with identification and intelligence gathering once the aircraft is recovered. The weapon system is designed to be operated by just one person and claims a fast reload time for dealing with multiple targets. That said, it’s hard to beat the rate of fire of a Mk19.

While the net grenade is still in its testing and evaluation phase, the SkyWall has already been deployed operationally. The SkyWall Patrol model was implemented as a kinetic component of the GUARDION air defense system by German police at the Berlin Air Show. In an environment where an unregistered drone could cause serious damage to sensitive and expensive aircraft, keeping the skies safe is a serious business. The GUARDION system detects, tracks, and neutralizes drones in built-up and public spaces. This is made possible by SkyWall’s accurate and non-lethal characteristics.

The U.S. Army is also implementing SkyWall Patrol in its anti-drone system. At a demonstration in Italy, the Army provided an overview of the system, performed two engagements against a drone, and held a discussion on the recovery and exploitation of an unmanned system once it is captured. The demonstration was a major event with 55 multinational observers in attendance. Additionally, Sgt. Kiara Perez became the first female U.S. service member to operate the SkyWall Patrol during the demonstration. Sarah Conner would be proud. “The SkyWall Patrol system aligns with the U.S. Army’s modernization strategy, which focuses on making soldiers and units more lethal,” the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command said in a press release.

As technology evolves, so too does the battlefield. The implementation of new technologies in warfare also prompts further technological research and development in the pursuit of countermeasures. While this means increased capabilities for our troops, it also means more mission essential tasks to train on and more sensitive items to keep track off.

Articles

Marines’ future helicopter may be optionally manned

As the Marine Corps enters the final stages of preparing to receive the CH-35K King Stallion, its new heavy-lift workhorse helicopter, aviation officials are already looking forward to the Corps’ next generation of rotorcraft.


Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation, told reporters Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., that the Corps had asked for optionally manned capability for the Pentagon’s future vertical lift plan, which aims to develop replacement choppers for the Army and other services.

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Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor

“We’ve told them it’s what we want,” Davis said. “Why wouldn’t we want it?”

Davis said he envisioned a vertical lift platform that might be operated unmanned to deliver cargo and manned for more sensitive or technically complex missions.

Potentially, he said, such a platform, equipped with a sensor, could also serve as an unmanned sentry of sorts from the air in defense of a deployed ship.

Davis noted that the future vertical lift, or FVL, program is currently in the down-select phases, and acquisition was expected to take place in the 2030s.

“The future of aviation is operationally manned,” Davis said.

The Air Force and Marine Corps are both part of the FVL program, which is led by the Army.

One candidate to satisfy FVL requirements is Bell’s V-280 Valor aircraft, a next-generation tiltrotor that does feature a fly-by-wire control system. The other aircraft being evaluated in the FVL program, the medium-lift Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant, also features fly-by-wire capabilities.

Davis said Marine officials had communicated with both contracting teams about their interest in optionally manned technology.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps continues to evaluate concepts for a separate unmanned or optionally manned air cargo and logistics platform.

In May, two Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-MAX optionally manned rotorcraft arrived at Marine Corps’ Operational Test Evaluation Squadron 22 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, for testing and development designed to evaluate their ability to perform surveillance and reconnaissance.

The K-MAX had previously deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, where it assisted Marines in moving cargo and gear across the battlespace.

Marine logistics officials have also expressed interest in DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES), an unmanned vertical lift platform designed for cargo resupply, medevac and surveillance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the next Air Force One won’t have an in-air refueling capability

The US Air Force confirmed in early August that it would buy two Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental airliners and convert them to serve as future Air Force One planes for US presidents.


The decision to buy planes that were already built rather than custom-made aircraft stemmed from President Donald Trump’s push to cut costs.

Trump publicly criticized the Boeing-led program’s cost in December.

Earlier this year, Trump said he would be able to cut a billion dollars from the $4.2 billion Presidential Airlift Recapitalization program, though the White House later said those savings would only amount to “millions.”

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USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh

Now the exclusion of a key feature to keep expenses down may attract objections from Congress.

“Strangely to me, the Air Force has just announced that the next version of Air Force One will not have in-flight refueling capability. What do you make of that?” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton asked Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford on Tuesday, during a hearing to confirm Dunford’s reappointment to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I think that was a decision that was not made by the Air Force, but made by the White House,” Dunford said, “and I think it had to do with the fiscal constraints on the program.”

Cotton, calling the decision strange, suggested lawmakers and military leaders might reverse it. “I think we might need to revisit that decision here on Capitol Hill,” he said, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in August that it wouldn’t mandate the new planes have in-flight refueling systems, and officials have said adding that capability would add unneeded costs.

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Air Force One arriving with the President on-board in Israel earlier this year (Photo US Air Force)

But while the 747-8 models can fly almost 1,800 nautical miles more than the jets they will replace without refueling, according to Defense One — and even though presidents have never used in-flight refueling on the current planes — Dunford said the need to make ground stops for refueling, even in the case of emergency, “will certainly be a limiting factor, and we’ll have to plan accordingly.”

The Air Force plans to start modifying the 747s in 2019 and have them enter service in 2024. By that time, the two Boeing 747-200-based VC-25A aircraft that serve as Air Force One when the president is aboard will be 34 years old.

The Boeing 747-8 platform was selected as the next presidential aircraft in January 2015. The two aircraft acquired for the program were built by Boeing for a Russian airline that went bankrupt before it could take delivery. The company then held on to the planes until a new buyer could be found. The Air Force has not disclosed how much it paid for them.

Air Force One acts as a mobile national command center, and expected modifications include a specialized communications system, electrical upgrades, a medical facility, and a self-defense system. What requirements will be put on the planes and how much they will cost have been the subject of wrangling between the Pentagon and contractors for months.

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Obama on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aboard Air Force One en route to New Orleans in 2013. (Photo: The White House)

The Air Force is looking to cut costs by striking better deals on the materials going into the planes. A number of the plane’s interior furnishings will be commercially available products.

“From this point forward, any additional cost savings will arise from capitalizing on acquisition process opportunities,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense One this month.

Boeing has already gotten $170 million in development funding to study the future Air Force One’s technical requirements. Earlier this month, the Air Force awarded the company another contract worth a little less than $600 million to begin the preliminary design of the future Air Force Ones.

“Those [cost-saving] opportunities identified will be reviewed to ensure mission capabilities are not degraded,” the Air Force said at the time, according to Defense News. “The entire preliminary design effort will keep a focus on affordability.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The world’s best hot dogs are made by this veteran-owned company

Almost 150 years after Charles Feltman introduced the first Frankfurter hot dog to New York, two Brooklyn brothers reintroduced it to the world in 2015. Chief Executive Officer and Army Veteran Captain Joe Quinn and his brother Michael revived Feltman’s in honor of their brother Jimmy, who lost his life in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. 

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Since 2015, the Quinn brothers worked hard to make Feltman’s one of the fastest growing natural food companies in the United States. Feltman’s of Coney Island is now a veteran-owned and operated Gold Star family business, made up of almost all Army and West Point Academy graduates. Despite the heavy ‘Go Army’ company environment, the team is stepping forward to support the Navy in a big way.

Feltman’s has made a point to give back to the military community, supporting a variety of non-profits and endeavors. In 2020, they supported the non-profit Travis Manion Foundation through sales for the Army/Navy game. Quinn explained, “As a West Point graduate that runs a company that’s heavily on the Army side, we like to talk a lot of smack when it comes to the Army/Navy rivalry, but at the end of the day we’re all on the same Team. I feel that’s captured by a West Point/Army company [Feltman’s] supporting a foundation and the memory of legendary Annapolis/Navy graduate 1stLt Travis Manion. Travis is what this game and this country is all about and we are proud to support the foundation that’s in his name…Beat Navy.”

“We all have a strong connection to the military; three of us having gone to West Point,” Quinn explained. He shared that the company remains dedicated to serving nonprofits and especially those that benefit veterans. “Travis was a Naval Academy grad and we know his sister Ryan. We’ve always wanted to partner with the Travis Manion Foundation.”

Not only is the CEO Army, so is the rest of the executive team. Executive Chairman Nick Loudon and Chief Marketing Officer Rob Boeckmann are both West Point graduates (classes of 2004, 2012, respectively), and Chief Operating Officer Greg Syvertson is a former Army intel NCO.

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MMMmmmmmmmm. Photo courtesy of Feltman’s

“The West Point connection in our company and brand is strong” Rob Boeckmann explained. When asked about his role, Boeckmann, who grew up in Germany, said “I never really ate hot dogs until I joined the Feltman’s Team. My first language is actually German, and being born and raised over there, I have to admit I never really liked hot dogs. But when I tried these all natural hot dogs, I knew it was a good fit because they are very good. They’re exactly what I want my friends and family to eat. Feltman’s hot dogs turned me, a non-hot dog eater, into a believer. And as a marketer, it’s great to represent and work for a brand with a story beginning with an immigrant. Charles Feltman immigrated from northern Germany, where my own family has its roots. Feltman’s in the early 20th Century was the biggest restaurant in the world, a global destination in New York City. And we are trying to bring that back. And it’s great to get to do this job with fellow academy grads and Army veterans. 

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Chef Rush approves!

One of the things that sets Feltman’s apart from other competitors is their commitment to all natural products that are 100 percent beef and made without nitrates. The hotdogs are uncured and Feltman’s is known for its spice and smokey blend. Add that in with their commitment to the military community and deep love of country, it’s a recipe for success – pun intended. 

To learn more about Feltman’s or to place an order for hot dogs click here. Feltman’s ships nationwide.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army will get first light tank prototypes in 2020

The U.S. Army awarded contracts Dec. 17, 2018, to two defense firms to build prototypes of a new lightweight tank to give infantry units the firepower to destroy hardened enemy targets.

The service awarded General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP with what’s known as Middle Tier Acquisition (Section 804) contracts worth up to $376 million each to produce prototypes of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system.


The two companies will build 12 prototypes each and begin delivering them to the Army in about 14 months so testing can begin in spring 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022 and begin fielding the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks sometime in fiscal 2025.

“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 17, 2018.

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MGM-51 Shillelagh Anti-tank missile fired from M551 Sheridan light tank.

“As we close with the enemy, at this time, there is artillery — which is area fires that can be used — but there is no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield and to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain to allow infantryman to close with the enemy,” he said.

The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform armed with a large enough cannon to destroy hardened targets for light infantry forces. The idea was to field it to airborne units for forced-entry operations.

Parachute infantry battalions can be used to seize airfields as an entry point for heavier follow-on forces. Airborne forces, however, lack the staying power of Stryker and mechanized infantry.

The 82nd Airborne Division was equipped with the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle until the mid-1990s. Developed during the Vietnam War, the Sheridan resembled a light tank and featured a 152mm main gun capable of firing standard ammunition or the MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missile.

The MPF, however, will not be air-droppable, Coffman said, explaining that Air Force C-17 Globemasters will carry two MPFs each and air-land them after an airfield has been secured.

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A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1 flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.

(US Air Force photo)

Army requirements call for the MPF to be armed with a 105mm or possibly a 120mm cannon and rely on tracks to maneuver over terrain so it can keep up with advancing infantry, Coffman said.

GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner ST Kinetics, but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.

“This is an integration of mature technology. The vehicles don’t exist, but the technologies — the pieces, the systems, the subsystems — they do exist,” said David Dopp, project manager for MPF.

The plan is to conduct developmental testing to assess the prototypes’ mobility, survivability, and lethality.

“So these have a long-range precision weapon system on them, so over … several kilometers, how well do they perform? How lethal are they?” Coffman said. “They are going to take a couple of these vehicles out, and they are going to shoot them with likely enemy caliber munitions. They are going to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers.”

The Army then will move into a soldier vehicle assessment followed by a limited user test scheduled for fiscal 2021, Dopp said.

“In the soldier user test, we will execute likely missions that [infantry brigade combat team] will have in full-scale combat,” Coffman said. “So this isn’t driving down the road looking for IEDs; this is American soldiers engaged in full-scale combat.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain just buried 3 soldiers from World War I

The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.


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British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.

(Crown Copyright Open Government Licence)

The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.

Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.

So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.

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Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.

(Crown Copyright Open Government Licence)

Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.

“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”

“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”

The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.

France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.

More photos from the ceremony can be found at the United Kingdom government website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and Pakistan begin anti-terror military cooperation

Pakistan and Russia have begun annual joint military drills to boost counterterrorism cooperation to tackle the growing threat of Islamic State stemming from neighboring Afghanistan.

Officials said the “Druzhba-III” (Friendship-III) drills went into action Oct. 22, 2018, at the National Counter-Terrorist Center in the mountain town of Pabbi, where the Pakistan army’s commando unit, the Special Services Group, is headquartered.

Chief army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said this is the third exercise of the Pakistan-Russia bilateral training cooperation.


Russian military officials said during the two week exercises more than 70 Russian commando troops and their Pakistani counterparts will undertake joint tasks at an altitude of 1,400 meters.

Moscow and Islamabad launched the joint drills in 2016, a year after the local branch of Islamic State, known as Khorasan Province or ISK-P, unleashed its regional terrorist operations from bases in “ungoverned” border districts of Afghanistan.

ISK-P has carried out some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan in recent months.

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Pakistan-Russia bilateral training cooperation aims to boost counterterrorism cooperation to tackle the growing threat of Islamic State stemming from neighboring Afghanistan.

(ISPR photo)

Russia maintains the Middle Eastern-based terrorist group is trying to use volatile Afghan regions next to the border with Central Asian countries to threaten Russian regional security interests.

Pakistan blames ISK-P for plotting terrorist attacks in the country from its Afghan bases.

The Islamabad-Moscow security partnership has strengthened and expanded since late 2014, when the two former rivals signed their defense cooperation agreement.

In August 2018, Moscow concluded an unprecedented contract with Islamabad, opening doors, for the first time, for Russian military training of Pakistani army officers.

The deal came amid Islamabad’s deteriorating relations with Washington, which has resulted in the halt of all military exchange programs with Pakistan and left a void that Moscow has stepped in to fill.

Moscow and Islamabad have been pushing for starting peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency for ending the war and preventing Islamic State from using the turmoil-hit country as a sanctuary.

Russia acknowledges its contacts with the Taliban, while Islamabad is accused of covertly supporting the insurgents to sustain and expand the 17-year-old Afghan war.

The United States is critical of Russia’s growing contacts with the Taliban, alleging Moscow is trying to undermine international efforts aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan. Washington has also cut defense ties with Islamabad for not doing enough to prevent Taliban insurgents from allegedly using Pakistani soil for deadly cross-border attacks.

Russian and Pakistani officials deny they are providing any military assistance or shelter to the Taliban and insist their ties with insurgents are meant to influence them to engage in an Afghan peace process.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The airsoft gun so good the Coast Guard is buying it

The U.S. Coast Guard recently selected an airsoft pistol as its new training pistol.

The service will acquire the SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol — a high-end airsoft pistol designed to be an exact replica in look, weight, balance and handling characteristics of the Coast Guard’s Sig Sauer P229 service pistol, according to a Nov. 2, 2018, company news release.

The Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has long used the Sig P229 .40 caliber pistol as its duty sidearm.


The service is expected to join the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps in fielding the Army‘s new Modular Handgun System.

But the Coast Guard will use the SIG AIR Pro Force P229 for simulated training, according to the release. The Sig airsoft pistol uses a semi-automatic firing mode with a gas blowback to mimic traditional firearm shots with a functional slide lock. It has a muzzle velocity of 280 to 340 feet per second and a range of 50 to 80 feet, the release states.

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The SIG AIR Pro Force P229.

(Sig Sauer photo)

“The SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol is engineered and manufactured to meet the SIG standards for precision, quality, accuracy and reliability,” Joe Huston, vice president and general manager of SIG AIR, said in the release. “The SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol gives the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cadets and Guardsmen the ability to practice gun handling, conduct target practice in various environments, and train in realistic force-on-force scenarios with a pistol that has the same look and feel of their issued P229 sidearm.”

There was no mention how much the Coast Guard spent on the deal, but the contract was awarded to Tidewater Tactical in Virginia Beach, Virginia, through a small business set-aside, according to the release.

The SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol comes equipped with a SIG rail and one 25-round magazine. It will be available for commercial sale in 2019, the release adds.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Few feats of engineering are as impressive as a military-grade helicopter. Today worth millions of dollars each, these high-tech birds are a formidable military asset, including, among many other uses, for rescue operations — all a fact US military personnel helpfully chose to ignore during Operation Frequent Wind when they pushed several dozen of them into the sea, in one case for no other reason than to save a mother, a father, and their five children.


For anyone unfamiliar with it, Operation Frequent Wind was the name give to the final phase of evacuations during the Fall of Saigon — effectively the final days of the Vietnam War. Noted as being one of the largest military evacuations in history and the largest involving helicopters as the primary means of evacuation, Operation Frequent Wind is celebrated as a logistical success for the US due to the fact that a few dozen helicopter pilots were somehow able to evacuate over 7,000 people in around 18 hours. This is made all the more impressive when you realize that the mass evacuation was never supposed to involve helicopters much at all.

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A South Vietnamese helicopter is pushed over the side of the USS Okinawa during Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975.

(US Marine Corps photo)

You see, while Operation Frequent Wind is now famous for being the most successful mass helicopter evacuation ever organised, using helicopters as the primary means of evacuation was never the original plan — it wasn’t even the backup plan. It turns out that it was the backup to the backup to the backup plan.

Known initially as Operation Talon Vise until North Vietnamese spies heard whispers of it, the plans for a mass evacuation of Vietnam had been in place for several years and were originally supposed to involve the primary use of both commercial and military aircraft which would evacuate at-risk citizens and military personnel, with the total slated to be evacuated estimated to be about 2 million people.

Failing or in addition to this, the idea was to dock ships at Saigon port and load them with as many people as possible. In the event none of these options were possible, the final, Hail Mary plan was to instead use military helicopters to transport people to ships off shore.

Of course, evacuating the original estimate of 2 million people was never an option for the helicopter plan alone, nor even the extremely whittled down number of about 100,000-200,000 that military brass eventually reduced that figure to. Instead, at this point it was just as many people as they could as fast as they could.

So why did the US have to fall back to literally their least effective option if they’d been planning the evacuation for years? Well, much of the blame falls somewhat unbelievably to the actions of a single man — Graham Anderson Martin, the American ambassador to South Vietnam at the time who steadfastly refused to agree to start an evacuation for fear of mass panic and given his unshakable faith in the notion that the threat of the “superior American firepower” would keep the enemy at bay.

Despite this, recommendations did go out in advance of Operation Frequent Wind that at risk people should leave the country, resulting in a total of around 50,000 people, including a few thousand orphans, leaving via various planes in the months leading up to an actual evacuation being started. This was mostly done via supply aircraft who would bring supplies in, and then load up as many people as they could for the trip home. Yet an official full scale evacuation, which would have seen these efforts massively ramped up, was continually stalled by Martin.

Military brass tried and failed to persuade Martin to change his mind, with Brigadier General Richard E. Carey going as far as to travel to Saigon to plead personally with with the ambassador. This was a meeting Carey would later diplomatically call “cold and non productive” and should be noted took place on April 13th, 2 weeks after preparations were already supposed to have begun for the mass evacuation.

This back and forth continued until April 28th when North Vietnamese forces bombed the Tan Son Nhut Air Base, effectively eliminating any possibility of getting people out via large aircraft capable of mass evacuation. When this was pointed out to the Martin, he still refused to call for the evacuation, deciding to wait until the next day so he could drive out to the base and confirm the damage for himself.

Upon confirming that North Vietnamese forces had indeed destroyed the air base and the best option for a mass evacuation, he finally relented.

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South Vietnamese refugees arrive on a U.S. Navy vessel during Operation Frequent Wind.

This was an order that was relayed to soldiers on the ground via the official Armed Forces Radio station by the words “The temperature in Saigon is 105 degrees and rising,” followed by the playing the song I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by Bing Crosby.

As a direct result of Martin’s stubbornness, the military had no choice but to rely on the least effective means of mass evacuation — via helicopter, with the operation officially commencing later that afternoon at 14:00.

Even as the operation began, Martin’s bullheaded refusal to prepare in anyway for an evacuation caused problems for certain helicopter pilots, most notably the ones trying to evacuate him and his staff.

How?

Well there was a large tree in the embassy courtyard that military brass had “strongly advised” Martin cut down so as to better allow helicopters to land there should the worst happen. Martin, believing that doing so would be as good as admitting the war had already been lost, absolutely refused to do this. As Henry Kissinger would later note, “Faced with imminent disaster, Martin decided to go down with the ship.”

On that note, to his credit, Martin refused to leave once the evacuation had begun, though this was much to the annoyance of the pilot, Colonel Gerry Berry, sent to fetch him. Instead, Martin continually had refugees boarded while he simply waited with his staff in his office, knowing that as long as he was there, the helicopter would keep coming back allowing more lives to be saved.

It wasn’t until the 14th trip that an exhausted Berry finally reached his wits’ end. Said Berry, “I called the sergeant over. And he got up in the cockpit. And I said, ‘This is it. Get all these people off. This helicopter’s not leaving the roof until the ambassador’s on board. The President sends.'”

With an order supposedly from the President himself, though not actually in reality, Martin finally relented and allowed Berry to complete his mission by transporting Martin and his entourage.

Of course, what the military brass had failed to remember after this supposed last flight was that they’d accidentally left almost a dozen soldiers behind at the compound… This wouldn’t be realized for many hours, but all 11 Marines were rescued after being forced to barricade themselves on the rooftop for the night in case of an attack.

Leaving the evacuations as late as Martin did understandably resulted in mass panic across Saigon with many thousands of South Vietnamese citizens fleeing in everything from cars to stolen planes and helicopters.

In addition, lack of time meant that helicopter pilots had a laughable number of people to rescue, resulting in many ignoring the “recommended” weight limit of their craft and massively overloading them to the very extremes of what they could handle given the pilot’s assessments and weather conditions. In one case, one pilot noted he was overweight to the point that he could only hover inches off the ground, but no one was willing to get off as for many it would mean their life if they could not get out of the country.

He then stated he thought if he could get some forward speed he could get the additional lift needed, so simply pitched the craft forward and took a dive off the rooftop he was on, barely recovering before hitting the rooftops below and then managing to very slowly climb from there.

As for these pilots, they were instructed to ferry evacuees to waiting ships in the South China Sea, many of which quickly began to run out of space resulting in people sleeping double in the small bunks, as well as just anywhere on the ships there was available space for someone to sit or lie down on.

On top of that, any South Vietnamese pilots that could manage to get a hold of their own helicopters and flee to sea were also crowding the decks as they arrived. This resulted in the order to push some of these South Vietnamese helicopters overboard to make more space, or orders for some pilots to simply crash their helicopters into the ocean and await rescue after they’d dropped off any passengers.

This all brings us around to the incredible story of Major Buang Lee. Knowing he and his family — a wife and five children — would in all likelihood be executed if they couldn’t find a way out of the country immediately, the Major managed to commandeer a small Cessna O-1 spotter plane. Under heavy fire, he managed to take off and flee the country with two adults and five children jam packed aboard the tiny, slow moving aircraft.

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A South Vietnamese UH-1H is pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing.

He then headed out to sea in search of a ship to land on or ditch the plane next to. About an hour and a half off the coast and with only about an hour of fuel left, he finally found one in the USS Midway.

The issue now was there was not sufficient room to land on the ship, owing to the number of helicopters on the deck. Unable to find the right frequency on the radio to talk to those on the Midway, Buang resorted to dropping notes.

The first two notes, unfortunately blew away before anyone aboard could grab them. Buang tied the third to his gun and dropped it. When the crew aboard retrieved it, they saw it read: “Can you move the helicopters to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me. -Major Buang, Wife and 5 child.”

The captain of the vessel, one Lawrence Chambers then had a decision to make. While it was possible to move some of the helicopters out of the way, there was no room to move them all. The young captain, only appointed to that post some five weeks before, decided that there was little chance the family would all survive if they tried to ditch in the sea next to the Midway and be rescued that way.

Said Lawrence of the event, “When a man has the courage to put his family in a plane and make a daring escape like that, you have to have the heart to let him in.”

So, thinking he’d likely be court-martialed for it, he made the call to move what helicopters could be moved and dump the rest in the ocean after stripping them of any valuable gear that could be removed quickly. In total, some million (about million today) worth of helicopters were ditched in this way.

There was another problem, however. The plane in question typically needs a minimum of a little over 600 feet of runway to land and come to a full stop. The Midway itself in total was about 1,000 feet long, but the runway deck was only about 2/3 of that, meaning there was zero margin for error here.

Thus, in order to land such a craft on the deck with enough margin of safety, the ship really needed to be moving as fast as possible to make the plane’s relative speed slow enough that it could stop in time before falling off the end. Using the cable system to stop the craft faster wasn’t deemed a good option as in all likelihood it would have just resulted in the landing gear ripping off and/or the plane flipping over in a spectacular crash.

Unfortunately, Chambers had previously granted the ship’s engineers permission to take the Midway’s engines partially offline for routine maintenance. After all, helicopters did not need nor want that relative wind, especially when landing on such a crowded deck.

Said Chambers, “When I told the chief engineer that I needed 25 knots, he informed me that we didn’t have enough steam. I ordered him to shift the hotel load to the emergency diesels.”

With this, the ship was able to achieve the requested speed and Buang’s landing was also helped by another 15 knots of headwind, further reducing his needed stopping distance.

With that done and deck cleared as it could be, Buang was given the greenlight to land, ultimately doing so with textbook precision and with plenty of deck to spare, becoming a rare individual in relatively modern times to land such an aircraft aboard a military carrier.

And, thankfully for Captain Lawrence, he was not court-martialed for ditching rather valuable military hardware to save Major Buang and his family, and instead enjoyed a continuance of his successful career, eventually retiring as a Rear Admiral.

In the aftermath of Operation Frequent Wind, the U.S. ships continued to hang around for a few days off the coast, trying to pick up as many refugees from the water as they could. Finally, the order was given to head home, forcing the commanders to leave many thousands of people that had been promised evacuation behind.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Arlington Cemetery will expand next year

For its second act of expansion, Arlington National Cemetery plans to grow southward onto property formerly occupied by the Navy Annex. Work there will begin in 2020, said the cemetery’s executive director.

Karen Durham-Aguilera spoke March 12, 2019, before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. She told lawmakers the cemetery plans to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2020. She also thanked them for providing the appropriate funding to make it happen.


“With Congress’s support, the Defense Access Road project is fully funded with million and the Southern Expansion is partially funded with 9.1 million dollars no-year funding, toward a 0 million requirement,” she said.

Both projects, which include a plan to reroute Columbia Pike, which runs alongside the cemetery to the south; and a plan to develop reclaimed land and bring it up to the standards of the cemetery, are currently underway.

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

The road project should finish by 2022, Durham-Aguilera said. The second phase of the project should begin in 2022, and complete in 2025.

“Southern Expansion will add 37 acres of burial space and extend the cemetery’s active life,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We will continue to provide quarterly report to Congress, outlining the progress of these important projects.”

To move forward on the project, Durham-Aguilera said the Army is working with Arlington County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration.

Other Progress

Durham-Aguilera also told lawmakers about additional projects that have either been completed at the cemetery, which are underway, or which are currently in the planning stages. Since 2013, she said, 70 infrastructure projects have been completed. Today, an additional 25 are underway.

“We have completed or are currently rebuilding more than eight miles of roadways, with approximately ten additional miles in planning or design,” she said. “We have replaced about one-third of the cemetery’s storm sewer lines … since 2013, we have replaced over 1,000 feet of sanitary line, typically, as an emergency repair. We plan to replace or rehabilitate an additional 5,000 feet to prevent further failures.”

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The Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Plan will add more space to ANC in a location near the existing Air Force Memorial and former Navy Annex. Plans include rerouting portions of the existing Columbia Pike.

(Army illustration)

In submitted testimony, Durham-Aguilera said the cemetery will also do work on its administrative building where families gather in advance of a funeral.

Eligibility criteria

In fiscal year 2018, ANC buried nearly 6,500 service members, veterans and eligible family members, Durham-Aguilera said. While the expansions will extend how long the cemetery can remain active, it will not be enough, she said.

“Expansion alone will not keep ANC open well into the future — defined as 150 years,” Durham-Aguilera said. “The [fiscal year 2019] National Defense Authorization Act requires the secretary of the Army, in consultation with the secretary of defense, by Sept. 30, 2019, to prescribe and establish revised criteria for interment that preserves ANC as an active burial ground. Evaluation of multiple options is ongoing to inform the secretary of the Army’s decision.”

To help inform that decision about eligibility criteria, Durham-Aguilera said, ANC has, among other things, conducted two public surveys of nearly 260,000 respondents and held meetings and listening sessions with key stakeholders — including more than 25 veteran and military service organizations.

“Arlington National Cemetery’s enduring mission is to represent the American people for the past, present and future generations by laying to rest those few who have served our nation with dignity and honor, while immersing guests in the cemetery’s living history,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We are committed to ensuring confident graveside accountability, our cemetery maintenance, our fiscal stewardship, and preserving the iconic look and feel of the cemetery.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

Iraqi forces “swiftly and thoroughly” ejected ISIS fighters from Al Qaim — a city at the western edge of Iraq’s Anbar province and the terrorist group’s last stronghold on the Iraq-Syria border — in early November.


ISIS has lost most of the land it once held and has largely disappeared as an organized fighting force. All that’s left of the group’s so-called caliphate, which once stretched from northwest Syria to the edges of Baghdad, is chunks of territory along the Euphrates River in Iraq and Syria.

For the close to 1,000 US Marines assisting Iraqi forces in the area, the campaign has led them back to familiar terrain to continue the fight against an enemy that appears set to evolve into a different kind of threat.

“Marines, in particular, understand western Iraq,” Marine Corps. Brig Gen. Robert Sofge told Marine Corps Times this month — an area Sofge called “old stomping grounds” for US Marines.

“We spent most folks’ career there and there are relationships there that endure,” Sofge said. “Even while priorities may shift in and around [US Central Command], that doesn’t make what’s going in Anbar [province] less important.”

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U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1st Marine Division, confirm map details about Fallujah, Iraq, before continuing patrols during Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Nov. 12, 2004. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan C. Knauth, U.S. Marine Corps.)

ISIS fighters have mostly withdrawn from Iraqi cities, Sofge said, but a Marine Corps task force is still in the area assisting Iraqi forces around Al Qaim with airstrikes and artillery support, as well as with intelligence and surveillance. But the expanse of empty desert in Anbar presents its own challenges in a new phase of the anti-ISIS effort.

Clearing and holding territory recaptured in Anbar will be “much more challenging,” said Marine Corps Col. Seth Folsom, commander Task Force Lion, which oversaw fighting in Al Qaim.

Folsom told the Associated Press that it was easy to motivate troops to fight to regain their country. “What’s less easy to motivate men to do, is to stand duty on checkpoints,” he said.

Read More: This is why Fallujah is one of the Marine Corps’ most legendary battles

Added to that challenge is the potential for a shift to irregular warfare.

“We believe that the enemy is in the deserts and also fading into the civilian population,” Sofge told Marine Corps Times. “There’s still a great deal of work to be done, even if it’s not against traditional formations in the cities.”

Sofge said the remnants of ISIS in the area have yet to adopt insurgent tactics that Al Qaeda, the group’s predecessor in Iraq, used against US personnel and Iraqis in the mid- and late-2000s. Marines on the ground there are not advising Iraqi forces on counterinsurgency tactics because such operations are not being conducted.

‘It’s quiet before the storm’

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U.S. Marines huddle behind walls as they receive instructions about their next move after a M1A1 tank eliminates the Iraqi insurgents in a house the Marines were receiving fire from in Fallujah, Iraq, in support of Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Dec. 10, 2004. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris, U.S. Marine Corps.)

Resources in Anbar are stretched increasingly thin among a growing number of coalition troops stationed in the area.

Marines in Al Qaim ration water, according to the AP, while water-shortage notices adorn bathrooms and showers at Al Asad, the coalition’s main base in the province. Weather conditions and a lack of Iraqi escorts often delay supply convoys dispatched to outposts in Anbar.

Unlike coalition forces in northern Iraq, forces in western Iraq now also face the “tyranny of distance” as a complicating factor for their operations, Folsom told the AP.

Also Read: This Marine Singlehandedly Cleared A Rooftop After His Squad Was Pinned Down In Fallujah

A Marine staff sergeant who was in Anbar in 2007 told the AP that while mood among US personnel after ISIS’ ouster was one of accomplishment but not of finality. He said that while he initially didn’t think he’d be back, he now expects US forces to be there for generations.

“When my son joins the Marines, he’ll probably be deployed to Iraq,” he said with a laugh.

Some Iraqis in the area are anxious about things to come.

In Fallujah, a city in eastern Anbar that became a flashpoint for sectarian tensions and insurgent fighting during the US occupation in the 2000s, the mood remains tense, as Sunni-Shiite tension simmer.

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Anti-government insurgents in Fallujah, 2004

While ISIS’ ouster has brought Iraq together in some ways, the success of the campaign has allowed old divisions to resurface in some parts of the country. At an military outpost in Fallujah, Iraqi Col. Muhammad Abdulla said the local population, largely Sunni in a Shiite-majority country, remained wary of the central government, which has been dominated by Shiite officials in the post-Saddam era.

Some in the area were still sympathetic to extremists, while others doubt US or Iraqi forces can protect them, leading most to not cooperate, Abdulla said.

“We say it’s quiet before the storm,” Sheikh Talib Hasnawi Aiffan, head of the Fallujah District Council, told Ben Kesling, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was stationed in Fallujah as a Marine lieutenant in 2007.

“We are scared,” Aiffan told Kesling. “We have experienced it before.”

Articles

Pictures reveal possible new Chinese IFV

China may be working on a new infantry fighting vehicle – less than a decade after introducing its latest vehicle, the ZBD-04.


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A ew Chinese infantry fighting vehicle (right) is seen in this photo circulating around discussion forums. (Photo from CJDBY via Janes.com)

Janes.com reports that a photo possibly showing the new Chinese IFV next to a ZBD-04 emerged on discussion forms in early February. The vehicle’s major upgrade appears to be the addition of an unmanned turret. ArmyRecognition.com notes that the ZBD-04 made its debut in 2009. This video shows the ZBD-04 taking part in a parade.

The ZBD-04 has a very similar armament suite to Russia’s BMP-3. It has a 100mm main gun, a 30mm coaxial gun, and three 7.62mm machine guns. The 100mm gun is capable of firing the AT-10 “Stabber,” a laser-guided missile. The vehicle can carry up to seven soldiers, and has a crew of three. The vehicle is also capable of some amphibious operations as well.

Russian experience with the BMP-3 has shown some problems with the basic design. The vehicle is relatively lightly protected. This means it can ford a river, but if it gets hit, the crew and infantry squad inside are very likely to go out with a bang. ArmyRecognition.com reported that Russian BMP-3s have reportedly been blown apart at the welds when the onboard munitions go up.

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A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. A new IFV in development is replaces the combined 100mm gun and 30mm cannon turret with an unmanned turret with a 40mm gun. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

The new Chinese IFV may be dispensing with the 100mm/30mm combo in favor of a new 40mm gun.

Jane’s reports that the new gun could be chambered for cased telescoped ammunition. According to ThinkDefence.co.uk, such a system packs the payload inside the propellant, allowing more rounds to fit in a given volume.

China displayed a 40mm cannon that could fire cased telescoped ammunition in November, 2016. The United Kingdom is considering the use of a similar cannon in the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle and the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle.

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