Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.
Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.
Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.
The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.
The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.
(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)
That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.
“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.
“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.
The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)
The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.
(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)
The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.
Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.
The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.
Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”
Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.
In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.
The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)
But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.
The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)
The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.
The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.
When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.
“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.
“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only time the Japanese struck U.S. soil during World War II. In response to the Doolittle Raid — the successful penetration of Japanese airspace and the bombing of strategic targets in Tokyo from the allies — the Japanese executed their revenge. The date of the launch was chosen for the birthday of former emperor Meiji, Nov. 3, 1944.
However, instead of using airplanes, the Japanese used fusen bakudan, or balloon bombs, that each carried four incendiaries and a 33-pound, highly explosive anti-personnel fragmentation device. The Fu-Go balloon bombs traveled 7,500 miles along the Pacific Ocean jet stream at altitudes between 20,000 and 40,000 feet. Witnesses described these large, white balloons as “giant jellyfish” floating in the sky. Their main objective was to start forest fires, create security doubts among the civilian populace, and cause upheaval.
The all-black Triple Nickles battalion was ultimately responsible for combating the slow-moving, round balloon bombs, which had no escort or protection and had been spotted by the U.S. Navy patrol off the coast of California only two days after their initial launch. The patrol alerted the FBI, and investigations were conducted to find the origin of these mysterious flammable balloons traveling over the Pacific Northwest and into Canada.
A Japanese Fu-Go balloon with its payload of charges suspended below. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions suffered heavy casualties in the European Theater (ETO) during the Battle of the Bulge and the courageous siege of Bastogne; they were in a desperate need for replacements. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, or the “Triple Nickles” as they became known, trained to fulfill this capacity. However, as with other all-black units of the time, African-American soldiers weren’t treated equally. “We were relegated to serving in menial units such as truck drivers, port companies (loading ships), mess halls (waiting on tables) and guard duty,” wrote Walter Morris, a Triple Nickle veteran.
Although no Triple Nickles completed a combat jump or deployed to Europe, these trendsetters provided another example of how an elite all-black unit could be employed in a combat or peacetime environment. The Triple Nickles participated in a top-secret project fighting forest fires as the U.S. military’s first smoke jumping paratroopers over the Pacific Northwest.
The Triple Nickles, a name derived from the parachute regiment’s designation, was created in the winter of 1943 and consisted of 17 of the original 20-man platoon from the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division. These men were hand-selected to create the first “colored test platoon.” A few months into 1944 saw newly minted paratroopers who completed training jumps at Fort Benning, Georgia. The first all-black parachute infantry battalion in history had formed but were still brand-new and lacked manpower. The paratroopers honed their skills and became experts in small-unit tactics.
Several went to the best schools the U.S. Army had to offer. Some became riggers and jump masters while others learned the metrics in communications, the skills to navigate difficult terrain as pathfinders, and the intricacies in demolitions.
They were the cream of the crop — college graduates, professional athletes, men of high character and extraordinary intellect. One Triple Nickle veteran, “Tiger” Ted Lowry, entered the ring to face world champion boxing legend Joe Louis, who came to Lowry’s base in 1943. He was accompanied by Sugar Ray Robinson — who Muhammad Ali coined as “the king, the master, my idol” — when the duo toured military camps to entertain soldiers. “Stay in the middle of the ring,” Robinson advised Lowry, “don’t let him get you on the ropes.” Lowry already had 70 fights to his name and somehow survived the three-round exhibition with one of the greatest boxers in history.
“You can’t imagine what that did for my ego,” Lowry reflected. “I had just been in the ring with the champion of the world, the greatest fighter in the world, and he was unable to knock me down. My confidence was inflated.” His fighting days halted when he joined the Triple Nickles but resumed when he faced Rocky Marciano, the Brockton, Massachusetts, undefeated heavyweight champion. Not only did he stun Marciano, but he shocked crowds of hometown Italian-Americans by going the distance twice with the Brockton Blockbuster, the only fighter ever to do so.
The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment march in the New York City Victory Parade on January 12, 1946. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin ensured the “Triple Nickles” not only marched in the parade, but wore the insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
When World War II was nearing a close and as the Germans were losing ground, the Triple Nickles’ focus shifted from Europe to the homefront. The Triple Nickles were the size of a “reinforced company” but expected to reach battalion size by 1945. The threat from the Japanese balloon bombs was imminent, and they were diverted to Pendleton, Oregon, and Chico, California, under secret orders to the 9th Services Command.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) received help from the U.S. Army when 400 paratroopers from the Triple Nickles were tasked with the difficult job. They turned in their rifles, hand grenades, and rucksacks. In that equipment’s place they donned football helmets with wire face masks, equipped 50 feet of nylon rope for lowering themselves from trees, and packed firefighting tools such as axes and handsaws on their person for parachute jumps.
The smoke jumping program was in its sixth firefighting season, but the war dwindled their resources, and the Triple Nickles provided a welcome skillset. Pilots flying C-47s needed no additional training and had prior results in properly managing smokejumper assets in remote regions where fires were often inaccessible by roads. The response and defensive strategy against the Japanese balloon bombs was a little-known secret called Operation Firefly.
Later reports suggested that the Japanese launched over 9,000 helium balloons. Damage from these balloons was rare but noteworthy. One balloon exploded after it hit high-tension power lines that were connected to a plutonium plant in Hanford, Washington. It caused a temporary blackout to the community, and the plutonium plant was ironically responsible for developing the fuel for the atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan.
Triple Nickle member Jesse Mayes prepares to jump from a C-47. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Vincent “Bud” Whitehead, a U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, used to track and chase the balloons in the air from his plane. In March 1945, a balloon had landed on the ground but didn’t ignite. “They sent a bus up with all of this specially trained personnel, gloves, full contamination suits, masks,” Whitehead said in an interview with the Voices of the Manhattan Project. “I had been walking around on that stuff and they had not told me! They were afraid of bacterial warfare.” Biological and bacterial warfare fears were not exaggerated because it was later revealed that the Japanese had scrapped an operation at the end of the war for weaponizing the bubonic plague.
Another notable tragedy that involved these balloon bombs was the devastation of almost an entire family while they picnicked near the Gearhart Mountain in Bly, Oregon. On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell, his pregnant wife, Elsie, and five children from their Sunday School class were victims of the balloon’s lethality. The children went to investigate the strange object that had floated to the ground, but they got too close and were killed when the balloon did what it was designed to do. Archie Mitchell was the only survivor.
The Triple Nickles went to work to prevent additional American civilian casualties. First Lieutenant Edwin Willis, a brilliant planner and training specialist, put his paratroopers through a three-week crash course to learn proper firefighting knowledge and techniques. Willis received assistance and guidance from USFS smokejumpers and forest rangers as well.
Frank Derry, Parachute Instructor-Rigger, instructing prospective smoke jumper in the use of the “drop rig.” Simulates landing from chute caught in a snag or other obstacles by use of landing rope. Lolo National Forest, Montana. Photo by W.J. Mead, courtesy fo the National Archives and Records Administration.
This course included “demolitions training, tree climbing and techniques for descent if we landed in a tree, handling firefighting equipment, jumping into pocket-sized drop zones studded with rocks and tree stumps, survival in wooded areas, and extensive first-aid training for injuries — particularly broken bones,” said Morris.
Frank Derry, a master civilian parachutist, issued the Triple Nickles his “Derry-chute,” which was known for its maneuverability and steering capabilities. “Snag trees, those were the worst. I didn’t like those dudes at all,” Derry said, referring to the nuisances found in their path. “But landing in the trees was just as soft as landing, better than landing on the ground. The thick trees […] you just come into them like sitting down on a pillow, nothing to it.”
The Triple Nickles were also assisted by demolition experts from the 9th Services Command and USFS rangers. “Learning the touchy business of handling unexploded bombs, as well as how to isolate areas in which a bomb, or suspected bomb, was located,” Morris wrote. The incedinaries and chemicals were an additional pucker factor to their already challenging task.
Then-1st. Sgt. Walter Morris, right, prepares for his first jump with the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
The Triple Nickles also learned to live off the land and avoid costly mistakes that could derail their mission. “They could walk up the hills like a cat on a snake walk,” Morris wrote, discussing the expertise of USFS rangers. “They taught us how to climb, use an axe, and what vegetation to eat. At the same time, we underwent an orientation program with Forest Service maps. And, above all, our morale and spirit of adventure never sagged in the face of this unusual mission.”
The Triple Nickles became fully operational smokejumpers, but the numbers on how many fires and fire jumps they completed have been skewed over the years. Chuck Sheley, the editor of Smokejumper Magazine, states they completed 460 to 470 jumps on an estimated 15 of 28 forest fires, while they drove or hiked into the other fires. The National 555th Parachute Infantry Association consensus estimates the Triple Nickles answered 36 fire calls with 1,200 individual jumps across seven Western states.
Private First Class Malvin Brown was the only casualty of the Triple Nickles. Brown was a critical component of the team because of his medical expertise. Any injuries, accidents, or potential concerns went through the fire medics. When 15 Triple Nickles paratroopers boarded their C-47 on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Brown wasn’t supposed to be there. However, he volunteered to replace another medic who was sick. Hours later he jumped into a fire in Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon’s Cascade Range and landed in a tree. Moments later he slipped and fell more than 150 feet to the ground below. He died instantly.
Brown’s fellow smokejumpers changed their mission from fighting the fire to bringing home their teammate’s body. After an arduous search in rocky terrain, they located him and carried him more than 3 miles through the backcountry. Their first sign of civilization was a trail, but it took another 12 miles for them to find a road to get help.
The soldiers of the Triple Nickles weren’t respected while they were in service, but their contributions in a long lineage of elite all-black units are remembered as if they were legends. The Triple Nickles disbanded after World War II, but many of the soldiers continued to serve, including Lieutenant Colonel John Cannon, who was a combat medic during the Korean War. John E. Mann served as an Army Special Forces advisor in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, three Legions of Merit, and a Distinguished Flying Cross. Mann served in the military for 33 years and later authored four detective novels.
For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.
Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.
In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.
Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.
The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”
Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.
Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.
Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”
He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”
That’s the real weight problem we presently have in our military and in our country. We can lose weight, but in the world, only less than 1% of those people are able to successfully keep the weight from coming back. It’s a problem because we’re confused as to why everything we have tried in the past and everything that is currently available as tools to help us lose weight isn’t working.
Think about it. No one goes on a diet just so they can gain the weight back. When you start a diet, you imagine how you’ll feel once you reach your goal. But then what? What about life after the diet? That question is what we’ll answer in this two-part article.
What You Do Know: Fitness & Weight Loss Basics
When embarking on true transformation – not just relying on more motivation or ingesting more information – it’s important to revisit the basics and separate the facts from opinions.
Whether you’re new at working out or dieting or not, there are some fitness basics that are easy to understand and apply. And fortunately for you, if you’re a member of the Armed Forces, then exercise and good nutrition are standard issue. Unfortunately, the standard is growing too large and getting stretched to the point where there are legitimate health concerns, such as high blood pressure, chronic stress, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress even in those who haven’t been in traditional combat.
We’ve seen warning signs for years, and as hard as the military tries to help improve the quality of life and opportunities to increase our chances of living as well-balanced a life as possible as a military member, the results aren’t sticking. In the Army, for example, we see that “[the] bad news is that the typical lifestyle of Soldiers puts them at a higher risk for hypertension and heart disease. Too often, Soldiers cope with the stress of Army life by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy,” according to an article from Army.mil in 2011. “The good news is though, with lifestyle changes and/or medication, you can reduce your risk.”
Weight Loss is Easy
Weight loss is just being in a caloric deficit for a long enough period of time to change the shape and weight of your body. The reason why losing weight is so desirable for so many is because, honestly, you feel better in addition to looking better. You’re more fit, slimmer, in less joint pain, and have an easier time walking or going up and down the rungs on a shipboard ladder, which is typically only six feet of steps at a time, less than you’d find in a standard house.
The human body is complex but also simple. It likes to be at a normal weight where there is just enough fat, like Goldilocks’s bowl of porridge – the body likes feeling “just right.” If you carry more fat than your body prefers, then it will let you know by sending you signals like joint discomfort, maybe heat rashes, low back pain, tightness in your muscles, etc. Have you noticed how these symptoms either decrease or completely go away when you start losing weight?
You don’t just feel better because of the food or supplements you’re now taking – your body naturally feels better when it doesn’t have to spend so much effort and energy at maintaining as much weight as it was. You got yourself closer to feeling “right.”
Conversely, the human body doesn’t like being too low in weight. It will let you know with fatigue, hormones not performing optimally, and slowing down your physical movements in order to preserve energy.
The human body was designed to move and to eat, but we are living at the extremes of too much movement or too much food, or not enough movement or not enough food. We’re using as many externals things as we can to help us feel “normal.” But the more we rely on the latest fad diet, the latest supplements, the latest technology (clamping our stomachs down), the less normal and more disconnected we feel from our natural weight and state of being.
Losing weight is easy because there are so many ways to lose weight. Interestingly, all diets share the same secret but in their own different flavors: you lose weight because they put you in a caloric deficit. That’s how weight loss works in any diet.
DEFICIT PER DIET
Ketogenic: removed an entire food group (carbs).
Paleo: removed an entire food group (processed food).
Whole30: removed processed foods and more, including grains, legumes, sugar, dairy, and junk food (basically the same as Paleo but a little more restrictive).
Weight Watchers: created smaller portions, which is a caloric deficit.
Mediterranean Diet: low on red meats and processed food (steak and donuts pack more calories per volume than fish and grains do).
Low Carb: lowered processed carbs. You still eat tons of carbs on this diet, but those carbs come in the form of spinach, carrots, apples, etc (all vegetables and fruits are carbs).
The reasons these diets don’t work is because:
1.) You can still gain weight or stall your weight loss if you eat too much of the food within that diet, and,
2.) When the diet is over, if you go back to eating the way you were before, then you start getting back your former body.
Here’s the thing…
It’s not the food or the diet that is the reason for the weight regain. In Part 2, the actual reason will become crystal clear.
Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?
Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.
The usually-better options include:
Leave the money in your TSP account.
Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.
The rarely-better options include:
Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.
Leave the balance in your TSP account
Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.
“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”
Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.
Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.
Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement
Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!
Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.
Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan
Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)
Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.
“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”
Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum
Pros: Cash in hand.
Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.
Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity
Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.
Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.
This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.
Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.
“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.
As a former Navy Hospital Corpsman who served in Afghanistan, treating sick and injured Marines was a daily task. So I compiled a list to help in the event you come across someone who is suffering from a fresh gunshot wound. Basically, follow these steps, and you too can help save a gunshot victim.
1. Don’t freak out.
During a traumatic event, adrenaline will enter your bloodstream, causing your heart rate to increase. You could also experience some tunnel vision. Remember to breathe. The calmer you are, the better you can maneuver your thought process during the situation.
2. Call 9-1-1
Calling 9-1-1 is free from any phone in America, even if it’s turned off for “billing issues.” As long as the battery has some juice, you can dial the popular 3-digit number (just don’t ask the operator to do you a favor and call your relative and forward them a message; not cool).
Note: It’s important to know your location. The operator may ask when you phone in.
3. Check the wound or wounds
While you’re on hold, locate the entry wound. Did the bullet exit anywhere?
A man has 7 holes, where a woman has 8. (Trust me, I was a corpsman.) If the person been shot, they’ll have 1 or 2 extra. Typically, the entrance wound won’t be as large in diameter as the exit, so it can be easily missed when you first go all Magellan exploring.
If the wound is pouring out blood or squirting out rapidly each time your heart beats you’ll want to . . .
4. Stop arterial bleeds
The location of the arterial bleed depends on what technique you’ll use to control the hemorrhage. If the victim’s arm or leg is the affected area, placing a tourniquet above the wound is the best option and only above the joint, never below. But how to make one?
Use your belt or a loose fitting shirt to tie it around the limb – never use a shoelace! Using a shoelace can damage the surrounding healthy skin tissue and just adds to the laundry list of injuries. We don’t want that. For all other areas — arterial bleeds such as neck, groin, and armpit injuries — using a pressure dressing is your last and only option.
Packing the wound with really any fabric on hand – a shirt, t-shirt or a sock (yes, I said sock) – will limit the amount of blood loss. The goal is to get the wound to clot. But what if the bullet entered the chest cavity? Then you’re going to want to …
5. Know your A-B-C’s
No, I’m not referring to the alphabet (although you should totally know it). A-B-C stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. If the victim is screaming in pain, chances are, their airway is clear and they’re breathing well enough. If they’re not, the question becomes how good of a person are you? Good enough to pump oxygen into their lungs via mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?
A bullet lodged in a lung is a bad thing. Oxygen and carbon dioxide shouldn’t be able to escape out any other path than your trachea. This can cause your lung to decompress on itself and collapse it. The room air can penetrate inside the chest cavity and further compress your lungs.
Implement the use of a chest dressing with a flutter valve. By covering the wound with a thin flexible plastic covering and taping 3 sides. Air can only escape, not be brought in. If done correctly, it works every time.
The circulation test is simple. Do they carry a pulse? By checking the patient’s major pulses in their neck, wrists or in their feet. You’ll find out the strength of the heart which will inform you the amount of the blood the body has lost. The stronger the better.
How do I know if the victim has lost to much blood?
6. Is it getting chilly in here?
Blood is the bodies main source of regulating its core temperature of 98.6 degrees. The more blood the victim loses, the lower body temperature will fall and the faster the pulse will become as it increases to provide oxygen through the body. Your buddy (or the stranger you’re trying to save) could start to feel as cold as if they were running naked through the Alaskan wilderness even though it’s a hot summer day in Southern California.
This is called going into shock.
It’s time to warm up. Presuming the patient’s is laying down:
Raise their legs up above their heart. Gravity will pull the blood down their legs and send it back to the heart. Their legs will probably go numb, but it’s a small price to pay. They will either have to die or suffer from “pins and needles.”
Cover the man or woman up with a blanket if you have one.
“Spoon with them” – sounds crazy but I’ve had to spoon a few Marines in my time to warm them back up.
And don’t forget to tell them…
7. The bleeding you can’t see is the one you need to worry about
Internal bleeding to the victim and the Good Samaritan is your worse enemy… but more so for the victim. Without proper medical instrumentation, controlling internal blood loss is impossible externally. Skin bruising may occur as a hematoma sets in.
Treatment: I’ve got nothing, but good luck!
8. Check and recheck
Only the paramedics know how long it will take before they show up. Depending on what neighborhood the crime took place, you could be waiting for a while.
Just kidding, but seriously it could be awhile. So this would be a good time to check all the tourniquets and pressure dressings you literally just learned how to install. Let’s face it: like any maintenance, it takes some practice to do the treatment right.
9. Hang in there
Encouraging the victim everything is going to be okay is a huge part of making it through this horrible event. It’s not a fun situation to be in. Little words of encouragement go a long way, but avoid asking for personal items or an ex-girlfriend’s phone number “just in case they don’t make it.”
10. Pass the word
The paramedics showed up! Great. Now can you tell them what life-saving interventions you performed. Please include:
Where the injuries are located
If you put on a tourniquet, how long ago did you put it on?
Their Zodiac sign
How long ago the shooting occurred
And the most importantly, if you want to go to the hospital with them, ask for a ride – Übers and Taxis can be expensive.
What do you buy the woman who’s operator AF for Christmas? Guns, guns, and more guns. And maybe some leggings. Previously, we explored what to buy the man in your life who’s operator AF. The list was inspired by my quest to find the perfect gift for my husband, but that prompted him to ask me what I wanted for Christmas. Apparently a million dollars and a pool weren’t going to happen on such short notice. Thus, this list was born:
1. Sport Earmuffs
Sound Management | Honeywell Howard Leight™ Impact® Sport Earmuffs
These cancel out harmful sounds, which sounds just about right for the impending arrival of the in-laws.
Amplifies low-level sound up to 4 times
Protection against harmful noise
Folds for convenient storage
Soft headband for greater wearer comfort
Connects to iPod, MP3 and other devices
Low energy consuming features a 4-hour automatic shut-off
Features patented Air Flow Control™ technology for optimal attenuation
2. Nike Field Boots
It’s shitty, but Nike doesn’t make these in women’s sizes. Math will have to happen here.
Quick-drying synthetic leather overlays for durability and support
Multiple ventilation zones that allow the boot to breathe and drain quickly
Genuine leather footbed for durability, flexibility and comfort
Nike Free-inspired outsole, designed for traction and natural range of motion
Sticky rubber forefoot lugs for exceptional traction on all terrain
Weight: 15.9 ounces (men’s size 9)
3. Tactical Pants
WOMEN’S STRYKE PANT
These are roomy enough for kneepads… for kneeling on the range!
6.76 oz. Flex-Tac ripstop fabric
Articulated knees (kneepad ready)
Bartacking at major seams and stress points
12 pockets sized for tactical use
Operator AF or no, every woman capable of pulling the trigger should own a handgun. This tiny thing fits perfectly into numbers 5 & 6 on my list.
Caliber / System: 9×19 / Safe Action
LENGTH: 159 mm / 6.26 in.
WIDTH: 26 mm / 1.02 in.
LENGTH BETWEEN SIGHTS: 132 mm / 5.20 in
HEIGHT: 108 mm / 4.25 in.
BARREL LENGTH: 86 mm / 3.39 in.
Weight UNLOADED: 509 g / 17.95 oz.
Weight LOADED: 634 g / 22.36 oz.
TRIGGER PULL: ~2.5 kg / ~5.5 lbs.
TRIGGER TRAVEL: ~12.5 mm / ~0.49 in.
BARREL RIFLING: right hand, hexagonal
LENGTH OF TWIST: 250 mm / 9.84 in.
Magazine Capacity: STANDARD: 6
Because who doesn’t appreciate a woman in leggings.
Built-in Trigger Guard for added protection
Fast breakaway retention tab holsters your gun securely in place
No gun grips rubbing your thighs
No printing through your skirt
Fast and smooth draw time
Great for all seasons, all day/night wear
An additional accessory compartment
Right handed draw only
6. Concealed carry corset
Dene Adams® corset holsters
Buy 2. Trust me.
Actual shapewear garment
Fast breakaway retention tab holsters your gun securely in place
Fast and smooth draw time
Great for all seasons, all day/night wear
Comes with a Universal Trigger Guard Insert
Measures and stays true to size
Hand wash/ Line dry
Gun Fit: Compact to Micro (Up to 7.9 inches)
Closure: Two rows of hook and eye
Extenders: Classics Corset Size Extenders
7. Eye Pro
M FRAME® 2.0 STANDARD ISSUE BALLISTIC – ANSI Z87.1 STAMPED
Eye pro is important AF, and I don’t trust my eyes to anyone other than Oakley.
ANSI Z87.1 Stamped
Our performance sunglasses meet and exceed the impact-resistance standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 Eagle, knew it had a winner on its hands with the plane. It was the first U.S. fighter with greater engine thrust than weight, allowing it to accelerate vertically like a rocket. And it was highly maneuverable, so it could out fly its likely adversary in the Foxbat and other MiG jets.
But McDonnell Douglas and the U.S. Air Force wanted to prove that the F-15 was superior to anything Russia had before pilots clashed in actual combat. After all, if your enemy knows their likely to lose in a real battle, they’ll hopefully just stay home.
So they took a pre-production version of the F-15 and stripped everything unnecessary off of it, to include the bulk of its paint. It had an Air Force graphic on the fuselage, but the standard gray, anti-corrosion paint was removed to save even that little bit of weight. Their goal was to set all of the major time-to-climb records for planes.
If time-to-climb sounds like a niche record to compete on, it’s actually super important to air combat. Speed, max altitude, and acceleration are all important as well. But speed in a climb determines which plane in a dogfight is likely to get above the other while they’re maneuvering. And altitude equates to extra energy and speed in a fight, because the higher pilot works with gravity instead of against it while attacking.
The first record was shattered on Jan. 16, 1975. Maj. Robert Smith took off from North Dakota in freezing weather. Smith conducted a 5G pull-up and rocketed up past 3,000 meters, over 9,840 feet. He hit his mark in 27.57 seconds, shattering the old 34.5 record.
That afternoon, another major broke the 6,000-meter, 9,000-meter, and 12,000-meter records. Another pilot destroyed the 15,000-meter record by 37.5 seconds, breaching the altitude in just 77.05 seconds.
And yes, all three pilots were flying the same Streak Eagle. They went on to beat the Foxbat’s records for 20,000 meters, 25,000 meters, and 30,000 meters in the following two weeks. The 30,000-meter record was beaten in just under 3.5 minutes. That 30,000 meters number equates to 98,425 feet, and the pilot coasted to 103,000 feet before beginning his descent.
The Streak Eagle used in all of these record-setting flights is now in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
A revolutionary new material from the company that produces service rifle slings could cut several pounds from the weight Marines carry on their backs.
Blue Force Gear, which designed the combat sling Marines use on their service rifles, created a new lightweight, heavy-duty material that could replace every strap on a Marine rifleman’s kit. In the process, the material swap would shave between 6 and 8 pounds from the total weight of the products.
The material, called ULTRAcomp, is more durable than the nylon typically featured on vests, packs, and pouches, said Stephen Hilliard, Blue Force Gear’s director of product development. It’s made of high-performance laminate that doesn’t tear or absorb as much water as the nylon typically used on those products.
“We see a weight reduction of anywhere from 15 to 20 percent,” Hilliard said at the Modern Day Marine expo here. “If you ask any Marine if they like to ditch 6 pounds of useless webbing and layers of fabric while still maintaining durability, every one of them would take it.”
There are broader impacts to those weight savings beyond the individual Marine, he added.
A Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)
“When you look at the bigger picture and think about transporting 100 Marines on an aircraft and you’re saving, say, 6 pounds for each, that’s 600 pounds less,” Hilliard said. “That’s less fuel getting burned on the aircraft.”
Troops in the special operations community are already using Blue Force Gear’s products as a way to cut weight. The company has items in the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements, or SPEAR program, he said. And Marine Raiders use their own unit funds to buy the lightweight kits.
“Our hope is that when those units intermingle and have intra-service operations, other Marines will say, ‘Oh wow, look at all this weight we’re saving even though it costs the same,’ ” Hilliard said. “That trickles on down into all the elements of the services.
“We want every Marine or soldier to get to save the same amount of weight, not just the special guys,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The US Air Force was forced to terminate an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile July 31, 2018, in response to an unsafe “anomaly” that emerged during a test, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California ordered the destruction of the $7 million ICBM early July 31, 2018, eliminating it over the Pacific Ocean. Global Strike Command refused to comment as the incident is under investigation.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, described the test as “perfect,” at least until “somewhere in flight, we saw an anomaly.”
“The anomaly was going to create an unsafe flight condition, so we destroyed the rocket before it reached its destination,” he said at the 2018 STRATCOM Symposium on Aug. 1, 2018, according to Military.com. “It was the smart thing to do.”
Tests occur regularly, but failures are much more infrequent. Hyten told his audience that the last failure happened in 2011, with the one before that occurring in 2009.
Explaining that this is a “rare thing that is in the missile business,” Hyten said that “now we have to go figure out what happened.”
An unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Monday, May 14, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Aubree Milks)
One possibility, and potentially the most likely given the STRATCOM’s chief’s characterization of the incident as the emergence of an “unsafe flight condition,” is that the missile veered off course, forcing a Mission Flight Control Officer’s hand. The motto among the MFCOs is reportedly “track ’em or crack ’em,” according to Popular Mechanics, which sent reporters to observe one of these tests firsthand.
In the initial phase of flight, the MFCO may have only a matter of seconds to make the critical decision to terminate a missile, making that individual the sole decision maker for the weapon’s fate. In the later phases, the officer might act on the consent of his/her superiors.
If the officer detects that the missile will cross any predetermined safety lines, that individual will reportedly “send a function,” causing the missile to crack and spiral into the ocean.
While July 31, 2018’s decision to destroy the ICBM was purportedly “smart,” not every executed self-destruct sequence is intentional.
Human error, specifically the pressing of the wrong button, caused a test of a US missile defense system to end in failure July 2017. A tactical datalink controller on the destroyer USS John Paul Jones accidentally identified an incoming ballistic missile as a friendly system, resulting in the initiation of a self-destruct sequence for the SM-3 interceptor, Defense News reported at the time.
The initial report from the US Missile Defense Agency said that the interceptor missed the target, revealing that the “planned intercept was not achieved.” During a later test in January 2018, an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor fired from an Aegis Ashore missile defense facility in Hawaii also failed to achieve the desired intercept.
Hyten said that July 31, 2018’s test failure is exactly why the US tests its systems. “We have to make sure that things work. We learn more from failures than we do successes,” he said, adding that the unsuccessful test does not weaken America’s offensive capabilities.
“I have a full complement of ICBMs on alert,” he explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Winter is coming… but first, there’s Halloween. It’s the season of costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and horror. So, while plenty of people are going to paste themselves in front of TVs to watch a few Halloween classics, the rest of us are grabbing controllers and keyboards to immerse ourselves in true, interactive Halloween magic.
Here are seven great games to get in the mood, from horror to action to virtual trick-or-treating:
The Spirit killer in Dead by Daylight can phase walk to sprint through the map and track injured survivors by their blood. Best of all, she can create phantom versions of herself, decoys that can fool players into thinking they’re facing the real killer.
Dead by Daylight
Dead by Daylight racked up some awards and lots of positive reviews when it was released, and it’s obvious why. This horror game pits one monster against four survivors. The survivors have to try and make it out alive, usually by working together, but you can try to escape on your own.
Or, you can play as the monster, hunting the survivors down one by one and placing their bodies on meat hooks to save for later. The base game includes some cool, original monsters, but you can also download some of horror’s greatest movie slashers, like Freddy and Jason.
The enemies in Killing Floor 2 are endless and murderous.
Killing Floor 2
Killing Floor 2 is an action-horror game filled with bloody “ZEDs,” murderous clones created by an evil corporation. The clones make up a motley and murderous group of enemies, encompassing everything from standard human-ish murderers to massively obese clowns to titans with blades strapped to their arms.
There’s no real story to speak of; it’s really just an arena horror game. But, it features great gunplay and an awesome soundtrack combined with waterfalls of gore. A nice touch is that increasing the difficulty doesn’t just make the ZEDs more powerful and robust, it also changes the ways they behave, making them better coordinated and more aggressive.
Jason breaks into a cabin as a camp counselor makes her way to the car unseen.
Friday the 13th: The Game
Friday the 13th: The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, but it’s all about one of America’s most iconic movie killers. Players taking on the role of the killer can adopt one of Jason’s many looks, from the 1989 video game to the Jason impersonator from A New Beginning. Players trying to survive are known as “counselors” and can pick from over a dozen different Crystal Lake camp counselors.
Jasons work to kill all seven counselors before they escape or are able to defeat him. Counselors try to survive long enough for the police to arrive or go for an epic win by completing teamwork challenges and escaping or killing Jason (both of which are hard). Lots of movie characters make appearances, including Jason’s mom and Tommy Jarvis.
The angel statue is ironic, in case you couldn’t guess that in a game about members of a cult committing murder.
Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulu is based on — what else? — the Lovecraft Universe. Specifically, it’s based on a tabletop game based on the Lovecraft story, “Call of Cthulhu.” You’re a World War I vet and private detective sent to investigate the murder of the Hawkins family at their burnt house where, as it turns out, some crazy occult stuff is going on. And, of course, there are lots of tentacles.
An awesome, Lovecraftian twist in the detective genre comes as gathering occult clues slowly leads to insanity.
It looks like a promising psychological/survival horror game. Unfortunately, this title doesn’t actually release until October 30, just in time for Halloween, but way too late for us to gather nuggets to share with you ahead of time.
The DOOM Marine isn’t know for playing nice with demons.
Yup, the old DOOM series. In every game, you play the role of a guy sent to a place where portals to Hell are opening. While most DOOM games, including the 2016 iteration we’re recommending here, are more action than horror, they’re still a great way to get ready for Halloween as you fight your way through the hordes of demons.
The game provides a great atmosphere, soundtrack, and plenty of blood and gore without really trying to terrify you, so you can easily fall asleep. You know, unless the game’s awesome soundtrack pumps up your heart up too high. Bonus: Playing DOOM for Halloween will help you prep for the release of DOOM Eternal.
Around Halloween time, World of Warcraft, a game already filled with the undead and monsters, gets more of both.
World of Warcraft’s Hallow’s End
This isn’t a full game of Halloween or horror, but World of Warcraft has special events for most holidays, and Halloween happenings are especially fun. Starting on October 18, players will be able to trick-or-treat, kill the Headless Horseman, collect costumes, and hurl pumpkins onto each other’s heads.
It’s all lots of fun and very family-friendly. Even killing the Headless Horseman is accomplished with little blood and gore, especially compared to the other games on this list. But, seeing as this is only a two-week event, it’s more for people who already own the game. It’s not likely worth it for folks who have no interest in the rest of the game (which is full of more monsters, including zombies and witches and Lich Kings… so why aren’t you interested?).
Sophie is the ghost of a dead teenager, and she is out to get you.
Sophie’s Curse is a crazy simple game. You’re a nurse hired to take care of an old grandpa in a haunted house with faulty wires and four generator-powered lights. You have to keep the lights on and, spoiler, a ghost is there to attack you.
The monster is standard fare, but the limited controls and the focus needed to keep the lights on guarantees that most players will experience some serious jump scares. You have no way of fighting the monster, so the key to survival is making it to the safe points quickly whenever she shows up. TO top it off, the game is cheap. It’s currently on sale on Steam for id=”listicle-2611465480″.69 until October 15 — down from .
If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren’t to blame. It’s your weak-ass grip.
Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?
If you have, then you know it’s usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?
Your limiting factor isn’t that your back or legs are weak, it’s your grip.
For pull-ups, it’s more of the same story. You’ve probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn’t too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.
Again, it’s not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.
If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.
Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson
Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs
If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can’t hang for more than a minute, at least at first.
Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.
Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.
When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.
If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.
U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik
The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.
Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.
The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can’t use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it’s easier to hold on, right?
Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.
Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.
U.S. Army Courtesy Photo
If you’ve got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.
Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.
Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.
No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.
If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.
The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.
You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer’s walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.
Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.
Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.
If you’re going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.
Don’t be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)
If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn’t a concern of yours. If you’re like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan… it’s free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.
Don’t forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.
Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.
The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.
One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.
Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.
While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.
Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.
The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.
Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.