We’ve all poked fun of the U.S. Coast Guard. We get it. They’re like the red-headed stepchild of the Armed Forces. The very mention of their existence is almost always met by other troops spouting off the same, “yeah, well, they’re not always DoD!” Once you put your jokes about them aside, however, you’ll realize that they’re every bit as badass as the next troop.
For instance, the Coast Guard maintains their very own specialized forces that are on par, in terms of training and mission capacity, with the rest of the SOCOM units. And this isn’t an exaggeration, considering the fact that they’re constantly training with the SEAL teams.
They’re called the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT.
If they walk like a duck, dress like a duck, and operate like a duck…
(U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Robert Nash)
The MSRT is the full-time counter-terrorism assault arm of maritime law enforcement. They’re tasked with being the first responders to terrorist situations that require boarding and securing hostile vessels — in all waters, both domestic and abroad.
Originally a part of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group — or DOG, before it was dissolved in 2013 — the MSRT remains the go-to team in responding to piracy the world over.
Just to throw it out there, aiming a rifle from one of these is a headache, but these guys have mastered the art.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
Each assault element is broken down into several teams. The Direct Action Section is the main group of vessel-boarding operators that are extensively trained in close-quarters combat. Then, the Precision Marksmen Observer Team provides rear support through the lens of a high-powered sniper rifle, which is often aimed from moving aircraft or boats. Finally, the Tactical Delivery Teams bring the rest of their MSRT comrades into the fold.
The teams also include personnel that are specifically trained in handling chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and high-yield explosive environments, mixing the talents of EOD and bomb squad units with CBRN capabilities.
Go ahead and sh*t talk the Coast Guard to the face of an MSRT… I’ll wait.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
The MSRT is called in for situations that involve neutralizing terrorists or pirates. The scope of their mission is huge — if it’s in the interest of America to neutralize a threat at sea, they will. Their area of operations includes the often-misunderstood international waters.
As with most Special Operations, their movements are not often discussed in the news — but they go everywhere. Recently, one of their known areas of operations has been off the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea and all around the coast of Africa.
Fall is definitely a sports season. Baseball season wraps up with the World Series, hockey and basketball are just getting started, and football season is in full swing. The odds are good that, at some point, you’re going to either throw or at least be part of a sports party. Whether you like sports or not, you still like your friends and will probably want to join them.
What to bring to that party is, however, an important decision — especially if you don’t know sports, because you want to get invited to the next one.
With this simple decision, you can either turn yourself into a party snack legend by going the extra mile or you can ensure that you’ll never be invited again and irreparably damage the personal relationships you’ve built with people who thought you were their friend until you proved otherwise with that terrible thing you brought.
Note: This list is just for snack foods. Just because something didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it. Nearly any party will also accept finger-food desserts, like brownies, cupcakes, and Jell-O shots.
Who puts okra on a cheese plate?
12. Cheese Plates
How to win: A cheese plate is an easy crowd-pleaser. Add some crackers, some cold cuts, and a few grapes for effect and you’re good to go. No one ever objects to a cheese plate. Be advised: Blue cheese is for wings, not cheese plates. That stuff smells like feet.
How to be a legend: Upgrade the cheeses from your standard cheddar, colby, and pepperjack. Get some real cheeses in there. We’re talking brie, gruyere, and fresh mozzarella. Spring for better crackers. Ditch the cold cuts and make all those meats prosciutto.
How to lose: Fried cheese sticks. You know this game is three hours long, right? If you aren’t deep-frying them at the party, there’s no way to win by bringing these. Ever see fried cheese sticks after they’ve been sitting out for an hour? Not pretty.
French Onion dip is the easiest thing to make on this list. At least make it yourself.
11. Chips & Dip
How to win: Even if you only brought a tub of sour cream with a packet of french onion seasoning mixed in, you already won. Even if no one actually puts this on a plate, almost everyone will have at least one chip with dip. And no one will feel like they should save it when there are leftovers.
How to win: Proper potato skins have crispy shells and don’t skimp on the cheese and bacon. I don’t actually want big chunks of mushy potato in my mouth. That’s not what I signed up for.
How to be a legend: More meat. Every time. Maybe add a little spice to kick up the bland potato parts. Buffalo chicken potato skins are always a winner. Maybe some sriracha. Maybe even twice bake them.
How to lose: Bring a bag of Friday’s Potato Skins chips. C’mon, man.
It’s entirely likely both of these ingredients came from a can. Amazing.
9. Pigs in a Blanket
How to win: Bring all-beef junior franks wrapped in crispy golden-brown dough. Brush on melted butter for extra effect. Even your friend who swears they don’t eat processed food is going to sneak one or two.
How to lose: Someone once told me that anything wrapped in dough is a surefire winner, then I discovered Spanakopita. If you bring spinach wrapped in dough to my football party, I’ll know we aren’t friends.
Bringing sub sandwich ingredients not in sandwich form will get you ejected from the party.
8. Party Subs
How to Win: Sandwiches are the closest thing to an entree anyone should bring to a sports party. From cold cuts to po’boys, they will be the unofficial main course on everyone’s plate.
How to be a legend: Tie the sub to the favorite team in the night’s game. If you’re watching the Steelers or Penguins, get some french fries and make a Primanti Brothers sandwich. For the Bills or Sabres, Beef on weck. Watching the Saints or Pelicans? Make a Muffuletta. You get the idea.
How to lose: Bringing Sloppy Joes or Manwiches. Those sandwiches are about as appetizing as their names make them sound.
7. Bacon-Wrapped Anything
How to win: The best part of this is that you get to mix up everyone’s expectations and bring something memorable. Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with little toothpicks are a surefire winner. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a classic. Even bringing bacon-wrapped bacon will be good for a laugh — and people will still want it.
How to be a legend: Get some cheese in there, too. Everyone likes bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. Everyone.
How to lose: Anything where the bacon ends up served cold. Desserts. Salad bowls. Bacon needs to be served hot and crisp.
If these aren’t actually soft, then we’re not actually friends.
6. Soft Pretzels
How to win: It’s important to emphasize that we’re talking about soft pretzels here. Not a bag of hard, sourdough pretzels. Those are for when I’m drinking all the leftover Bud Light later because the Bengals blew their playoff win with less than a minute left on the game clock.
How to be a legend: The pretzels are the easy part. What you’re going to bring is extra salt and an assortment of dipping sauces for everyone to enjoy with their pretzels – hot cheese, stone ground mustard, and pizza sauce are just the beginning.
How to lose: Few things in life are worse than picking up a warm pretzel, expecting to sink your teeth into its soft, buttery flesh and finding out it’s rock hard, either because it’s stale, old, or wasn’t cooked properly. Do your due diligence.
If it’s DiGiorno, you better have a good reason.
How to win: Everyone loves a fresh, hot slice. Your best bet is to come with one cooked and ready and have a prepared, uncooked one ready to heat up mid-game. Coordinate with your host.
How to be a legend: Individual calzones.
How to lose: If you put pineapple on a pizza meant for a group, you’re a sadist. Some people hate that. If you dip it in milk, you might as well be ISIS.
The only item on the list that is acceptable in its deconstructed form.
4. Street Tacos
How to win: Your biggest problem will be that some people will expect flour tortillas and/or cheese when we all know real street tacos have neither. It’s fine; bring both. This is America.
How to be a legend: Bring a spit and carve off some al pastor filling for you and your friends. No one will ever be able to forget you. Make a day of it.
How to lose: Forgetting the pickled onions.
Extra credit for King’s Hawaiian buns.
How to win: It’s hard to go wrong with tiny cheeseburgers, my dude.
How to be a legend: Imagine the best burger you’ve ever had. Was it made with lamb? Wagyu or kobe beef? Did it have an amazing cheese component? Think of the veggies – pickles, arugula, tomatoes, onions, caramelized onions… the sky is the limit. Whatever made it so good, make a ton of those for your friends. Grab a few Beyond Meat patties for your vegetarian friends.
How to lose: Everyone will eat turkey burger sliders if you bring them, but many will resent you for it.
Blue Cheese still smells like feet but is an expected condiment here.
How to win: I know, everyone’s probably wondering how wings ended up at #2 on a ranking of football foods. I love a good wing as much as anyone. While they’re still tops, they’re not the top. They’re just expected at a football party these days and when was the last time you heard anyone say, “oh, you have Buffalo Wings?! I love these!”
How to be a legend: Bring a bunch of different flavors, outside of ‘hot’ and ‘mild.’ You should always bring the classics (because everyone expects them) but nowadays, there’s so much everyone wants to try on a chicken wing: lemon pepper, Old Bay seasoning, spicy ginger, and so on.
How to lose: If you brought a bunch of crazy flavors and neglected to bring hot and/or mild, everyone is just going to ask for hot or mild. When you tell them you only brought garlic parmesan, they’re going to look down and just say “oh.” They’re looking down because delivering any respect to your face is going to be difficult in that moment.
How to win: If I went to a football party and someone brought a legit racks of ribs, they’ll be invited to every party I ever throw until the end of time.
How to be a legend: You brought ribs, buddy. You ARE a legend.
We asked the sailors of the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood, a Facebook group for U.S. Navy submariners, what some of their funniest experiences were while underway and got over 230 funny comments. Here are 11 of the best replies:
*Note: identities kept anonymous per group’s request.
1. The shoe polish prank.
The best items for this prank are binoculars, periscopes and sound powered telephones. Yes, it’s a bit childish but hilarious when you’ve been cooped up for weeks on end.
2. When civilians or people not in the submarine community ask if the subs have windows.
Facebook group comment: When people ask if we had windows I’d tell them we had a big screen just like on Star Trek and that we could communicate face to face. You should have seen their faces.
3. Sending a NUB (Non Useful Body) to machinery to get a machinist’s punch.
4. Sending a NUB to feed the shaft seals.
Shaft seals are mythological creatures new sailors are sent to go looking for on a fool’s errand by another sailor. The shaft seals are actually a series of interlocks and safety mechanisms that ensure the integrity surrounding the ship’s main propulsion shaft, and not nautical mammals.
5. Farting into the ventilation that takes air from one compartment into another.
Facebook group comment: We had a mech who’d stand watch on the ERUL (engine room upper level) that used to fart into the ventilation return that took air from the ERUL to the maneuvering control room. Then we’d all look around to figure out who sh-t themselves. About a minute later, we’d see him staring through the window at us with a grin bigger than Tennessee.
6. Preparing a NUB to go hunting when the 1MC (the ship’s public address system) announced “the ship will be shooting water slugs.”
Water slug refers to shooting a submarine’s torpedo tube without first loading a torpedo — like firing blanks with a gun.
7. Waking a sleeping shipmate and shouting “Come on man, we’re the last ones!!” while wearing a Steinke hood or SEIE.
A Steinke hood is used to escape a sub stranded on the ocean floor.
8. Trimming a shipmate’s webbed belt when he is trying to lose weight.
Facebook group comment: I’d trim about a quarter inch every couple of days from his webbed belt while he was trying to lose weight. He will say, “I’ve lost 10 pounds,” to which I’d respond, “why is your belt still tight?”
9. Pranking the XO (Executive Officer) by stealing the door to his stateroom.
It is tradition to prank the XO by stealing the door to his stateroom before transferring to another unit. This is huge because the CO (Commanding Officer/captain) and the XO are the only ones aboard who don’t have to share their rooms. It’s all in good fun, as is the XO’s retaliation. For example, we’ve heard of an XO who replaced his missing door with a tall sailor. Yes, that’s right, a real person. He even held a handle and made creaking noises when the XO opened the door.
10. Getting drunk sailors back on the boat after a port visit.
Facebook group comment: We’d laugh as we came face to face with the stumbling fools reeking of booze and debauchery. Me and the other watch stander would tie a line around the drunks and lower them down the aft battery hatch. The first few times were rough, they’d bang around going down but we eventually became good at it. Hell, sometimes I was one of those stumbling fools but they took care of me as I took care of them.
11. Pranking the JOOD (junior officer of the deck) with a trim party.
The prank is performed on a newly qualified Dive Officer, Chief of the Watch or JOOD where men and other weights are shifted fore and aft to affect the trim of the boat.
Trim definition (for non-sailors): Both on a submarine and surface vessels, a ship is designed to float as level as possible in the water. When the majority of the cargo weight is shifted to one end of the ship, the ship will begin to tilt.
The US Navy wants to increase the range of its aircraft so carriers can remain out of missile range, an apparent response to China’s anti-ship defenses.
The Navy recently announced that it has awarded Boeing a $219,600,000 contract to build and deliver conformal fuel tanks for its air wings workhorse, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, as part of an emphasis on increasing fuel capacity and refueling ability.
CFTs are additional fuel tanks that are attached to the outside of the aircraft, somewhat similar to drop tanks. Unlike drop tanks, however, they are attached to the structure of the aircraft instead of the wing, and cannot be dropped.
The CFTs can carry hundreds of pounds of extra fuel, allowing for more hours of flight time.
The tanks are not a new concept — both the F-15 and the F-16 have conformal fuel tanks that can be fitted to them, as do the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Navy is also trying to implement aerial refueling for carrier missions that do not require large tankers like the KC-46 and KC-135. This will be done through the use of the MQ-25 Stingray.
The Stingray is a unmanned aerial vehicle that is part of the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, a program that started after the Navy decided to change the direction of the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike project, which was intended to create a UAV that would strike enemy targets.
China has a distinct advantage when it comes to anti-ship defenses and reportedly has the world’s most advanced anti-ship ballistic missile.
The DF-21D has an approximate range of 1,100 miles, whereas the F/A-18 Super Hornet only has a range of 500 miles. The DF-21D has been referred to as the “carrier killer.”
China is also developing other missiles that are just as intimidating, such as the DF-26, which reportedly has a maximum range of 2,500 miles. China is also testing hypersonic glide vehicles that can go as fast as mach 10, making them almost impossible to intercept.
Carrier strike groups are extremely important to the US method of waging war. They have often been the first units sent to conduct strikes in places like Syria and Iraq.
At an Air Force Association breakfast March 30, 2018, the Secretary of the Air Force talked up the service’s progress in ridding the service of outdated rules and procedures that burden airmen.
When she took office in May 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered a two-year review of the service’s blizzard of instructions, policies, and rules with the overall goal of eliminating the unnecessary ones. Since then, the Air Force has gotten rid of about 100 of the total of about 1,400 instructions, she said.
As an example, Wilson cited a regulation that would have required her as Air Force secretary to sign off on how an obstacle course could be constructed on a base.
“We have an instruction on how to build an obstacle course,” Wilson said. “My guess is, if they need to build an obstacle course, they can probably figure it out.”
Wilson said the work continues to whittle down the Air Force’s body of rules and regulations.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“We are prioritizing the ones that are outdated and actually track them every month,” Wilson said. “The biggest challenge we have been facing is in personnel and operations” as the Air Force presses to push decision-making down to the lowest levels to save time and money.
In addition to eliminating red tape, the Air Force is also intent on teaching airmen to act on their own initiative, she said.
“We don’t expect in future conflicts to have the exquisite command, control and communication we’ve had over the last 27 years of combat” as potential adversaries become more adept at jamming, Wilson said.
“We will need airmen to take what they know and take mission orders and execute the mission using their best judgment for the circumstances at the time. If we expect them to work that way in wartime, then we need to treat them that way in peacetime,” she said.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command is dumping its Android tactical smartphone for an iPhone model.
The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.
The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.
When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smartphone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.
“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”
Nett Warrior, as well as the ATAC and soon-to-be-fielded iTAC, basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.
They are also designed to help leaders view intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance sensor feeds such as video streams from unmanned aerial systems.
The Nett Warrior system uses a Samsung smartphone worn in a chest-mounted pouch and connected to networked radio General Dynamics AN/PRC-154A Rifleman Radio. Nett Warrior evolved from the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program. Army officials began working on that system in the mid-1990s and over the next decade struggled with reliability and weight problems.
The special operations forces’ ATAC and iTAC use a smartphone connected to a Harris AN/PRC 152A radio.
Both radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, but the PRC-152A allows operators to automatically move across different waveforms to talk to units in other services. The Rifleman Radio does not have this capability, the source said.
This is a problem, the source said, because SOF units can communicate with conventional soldiers using Nett Warrior, but it’s only one-way communications. Nett Warrior-equipped soldiers can only receive communications from SOF; they cannot initiate or answer SOF units with the Rifleman Radio, the source said.
Military.com reached out to Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior to talk about this problem and to see if it was considering changing to the iPhone and possibly trading in the Rifleman Radio for the PRC-152A.
We received the following mail response:
“PEO Soldier has no response to the questions” posed by Military.com, according to PEO Soldier officials.
The Army does have plans to move the AN/PRC-159 radio as a fix to the one-way communications problem, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020 at the earliest, the source said.
As a short-term fix, the Rapid Equipping Force is looking at fielding Harris PRC-152A radio to units such as the 82nd Airborne Division that make up the Global Response Force, the source said.
When William “Wild Bill” Donovan created the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he was looking to create a truly unique intelligence outfit whose ranks included the least suspicious group of spies, saboteurs, and strongmen who were willing to infiltrate enemy countries and gather intelligence for the Allied cause. This precursor to the modern-day Central Intelligence Agency included a number of famous agents.
Actor John Wayne visiting troops in Brisbane, Australia.
For such a military supporter to not have served in the military seems strange – and it seemed strange to him too. As a matter of fact, his service (or lack thereof) during World War II seemed to follow the actor for the rest of his life. But when he died, a certificate was found among his personal papers, from William Donovan, commander of the OSS, thanking him for his service to the office. All the Duke ever divulged about WWII service was gathering information while on a trip to Brisbane to entertain American troops, but ever since his death rumors swirled about what exactly his roles could have been. Only two people knew for sure – Wayne and Donovan.
Moe Berg was possibly one of the most brilliant Americans who ever lived. And his service to the OSS was invaluable. Berg personally jumped into occupied Norway to help take down a Nazi heavy water plant in an attempt to keep the Third Reich from its nuclear ambitions. But Berg’s most valuable service was capturing film of important Japanese military targets while on a goodwill baseball trip before the war. A film he happily provided American authorities.
Before the United States entered World War II, Marlene Dietrich was way ahead of the game in hating on Hitler. After helping Jews escape persecution with her Hollywood salary, she renounced her German citizenship. During the war, she made so many trips to the front to entertain the troops, it was said she’d seen more action than General Eisenhower. The OSS recruited Dietrich to record propaganda songs in German to demoralize the enemy.
Before she began serving up French cuisine, TV Chef Julia Child was serving up French freedom with the OSS. She began her career working directly for Donovan, writing the names of agents on index cards. She later helped develop shark repellant for the OSS to keep sharks from detonating sabotage charges intended for German u-boats. Child also worked as the head of the OOS registry in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) memorizing every message that passed through her office.
The Of Mice and Men author and World War II correspondent was one of the earliest recruits for the Office of Strategic Services. In 1942, Steinbeck penned The Moon Is Down as an epic piece of pro-Norwegian propaganda that was translated into Danish and distributed by the Danish Resistance.
One look at their pin curls, painted red lips and A-line dresses in patriotic hues, and you’re instantly transported back to the 1940s.
But then you hear the Blue Anchor Belles sing. Just a few notes, and you can’t help but tap your toes.
The “Belles,” as they’re known, is a 1940s-style female singing trio in the Pensacola, Florida area. The group is made up of Naval aviator spouses.
The group takes inspiration from The Andrews Sisters, the best-selling harmony group of the early 20th century, famous for their song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
“We’re bringing boogie-woogie back,” Goldie Lahr, who started the singing trio in 2016 while stationed in Oklahoma City, said.
Lauren Martin, a member of the group, notes that the song is a crowd favorite.
“I missed singing, so I decided to start [the group],” Lahr said.
Lahr began arranging unique, three-part harmonies for beloved songs from the World War II era. She held auditions to find additional singers for the group, inviting fellow military spouses to be a part of her vision. Before she knew it, the Blue Anchor Belles was born.
Like for many military families, new orders eventually came. So rather than leave it behind, the Blue Anchor Belles PCS’d to Pensacola in 2018, a move that’s been a great fit.
“Coming to Pensacola has been like coming home for us. Not only is the rich history of Naval aviation here close to our hearts, but the military, veteran and civilian communities have welcomed us with open arms. Not to mention, people in Pensacola love live music,” Lahr said.
The Belles perform at military functions, community events and minor league sporting events. Still, their passion is singing for aging veterans and their families at assisted living centers and memory care facilities.
“This is music from their generation, and you can see how much joy it brings them. Plus, it brings us joy to keep this vintage music relevant,” Lahr added.
Since its beginning, nearly a dozen talented female singers have been a part of the Blue Anchor Belles.
“Once a Belle, always a Belle,” Lahr said.
But as most military stories go, their spouses eventually move on to new assignments in new duty stations. Each member takes a piece of the Belles along with them when they move.
“We’ve gotten pretty used to members coming and going,” Lahr said.
For that reason, auditions are held semi-regularly.
“The member that’s about to leave teaches the new member her parts.”
Lahr admits there’s a downside to having members move so frequently.
“But there’s an upside too,” she added. “We have this community of Belles all over the country. We’re in Washington state, San Diego, Virginia, and that community is constantly growing!”
Martin joined the group in 2019 when she moved to the Pensacola area with her husband for primary flight training at NAS Whiting Field.
“I saw a call for auditions and decided to give it a go. I did theater and music growing up and had really missed it,” Martin said.
She says she appreciated the opportunity to pursue her passion.
“Moving down here, I had a hard time finding a job. There weren’t many opportunities in the field I work in, and when employers realize you’re a military spouse and are going to move sooner rather than later, it just adds to the difficulty. It was disheartening. Then I found the Blue Anchor Belles, and it was so nice to have something for me. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love, which is singing and performing, and so lucky to be a part of this,” Martin said.
The Belles love being a part of a community of military spouse performers, which is exactly what Lahr was hoping to build in the first place.
“It’s a special thing in that it gives military spouses the opportunity to use their talents and a family to belong to,” Lahr said.
The new year will bring another PCS for Lahr, and she plans to bring the group with her, opening up the opportunity for new military spouses to join the Belles’ ranks.
“We brought the boogie-woogie to the gulf coast, and soon we’ll look to bring it to the west coast. And who knows where we’ll take the Belles after that,” said Lahr.
Tiffany Marquis is no stranger to serving her community through volunteerism. Together with her active neighborhood, she’s turned quarantine walks into decorative art treasure hunts with sidewalk chalk displays, massive egg hunts, and even painted sign photo ops.
When Marquis learned from another Family Readiness Group leader that troops were seeking resources for incoming troops facing quarantine after deployment, she quickly pulled resources together.
“Another FRG leader had seen my spouse of the year Facebook page and thought I might be able to help her and reached out. We had never met before, but this is just what you do. We are all here for the same mission, the same cause,” said Marquis.
All returning soldiers were facing a 14-day quarantine in the barracks no matter what their living or marital status was.
“You want them to be comfortable. You want to make what they are going through easier if you can,” Marquis said.
Marquis called upon her contact at NC Packs 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization supporting service members and families out of North Carolina through care and comfort item donations.
“I met the organization at a back to school drive years earlier. Immediately you get the understanding that they are there to help, to show up. When I called them, they were immediately on board asking me what I needed,” Marquis said, who volunteers her time at the organization whenever possible.
Marquis didn’t stop at calling upon just one organization; she put the ask out to her community Facebook page where the group has regularly shown up for each other throughout the pandemic.
“People were excited to help however they could. Within a few days I had over 15 packs of toilet paper and facial tissue.” While these items may seem obvious on the list of comfort, given the scarcity of local stockpiles nationwide, it speaks volumes to the love and selflessness of those contributing to the project.
“Not only did we get hygiene kits, but we had plenty of favorite snack items donated as well,” she explained. Snacks represent normalcy in America for soldiers. Receiving the comforts of home upon arrival is one small way to help with the reintegration process.
The efforts of Marquis and her neighborhood throughout this tough season is a prime example of how capable and strong the military community is no matter what obstacle they are facing. “We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us from supporting each other,” stated Marquis confidently.
“The FRG overall is a team. As a leader your goal is to support the unit however you can throughout deployments, homecomings, or with fundraisers.” Marquis and the FRG leader who reached out for support are now mutually invested in the success of each other and their missions, exchanging help and resources to rise to meet the need.
In uncertain times and with plenty of units across all service branches facing similar situations, the example set here is one to follow.
“It starts with one person,” Marquis shared. “One person to form a team and the team then moving forward in the right direction.”
At the end of August, 2017, India and China backed away from a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau, high in the eastern Himalayas.
In the year since, both sides have sought to mend ties, especially after a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in April, 2018.
The two countries are engaged in a kind of “recalibration” of their relationship, even though deeper-rooted issues that divide them persist, according to Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst at geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor.
The appointment of Vijay Gokhale, who was ambassador to China during the Doklam crisis and helped resolve the dispute, to foreign secretary was “an indication that India wants to take … a less confrontational posture,” Pervaiz said.
China, too, has come to believe it needs “a bit more calm” with its neighbors, including India, in part because of contentious relations with the US, Pervaiz added, though he stressed that Beijing’s change in thinking was likely temporary. China has also made overtures to India about a potential partnership in trade disputes with the US.
In October 2018, New Delhi and Beijing launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats, and China’s ambassador to the country predicted more cooperation there in the future. In late October 2018, they are to sign a long-discussed internal-security agreement expected to cover cooperation on intelligence sharing, disaster mitigation, and other issues.
Despite the apparent rapprochement, the two countries are keeping a close eye on each other.
While India has largely pulled back from positions it took during the Doklam standoff, imagery reviewed by Stratfor in January 2018 showed that in late 2017 and early 2018, Delhi increased its deployments of combat aircraft to bases near the disputed area.
Those images showed even more activity around Chinese bases in Tibet, north of the disputed area, including airfield upgrades and a large aircraft presence. (China puts more assets at those bases because it does not have bases closer to the border area.)
In October 2018, officials told Hindustan Times that Delhi was concerned about construction at the Chinese air base in Lhasa, which included bomb-proof bunkers for aircraft and expanded surface-to-air missile batteries.
“You need blast- or bomb-proof hangars for fighters only if there is a possibility of hostilities,” one official said.
Any activity with military hardware or other assets that could have military applications around the eastern end of India and China’s shared border was likely to attract scrutiny, Pervaiz said.”
If you are India or China and you are seeing any sort of moves that either military is making, you view that almost through the lens of paranoia — that if you’re making that move, how can that be used against us in a potential conflict?” he told Business Insider.
The Doklam Plateau
The Doklam Plateau sits at the southern edge of the Himalayan mountain range, where the elevation is on average close to 15,000 feet. High altitudes and rough terrain put considerable limitations on military operations.
While the higher elevation gives China an advantage in surveillance and physiological acclimatization, lower air density hinders jet aircraft engines and limits the weaponry and fuel that aircraft can carry. China’s air force is larger than India’s, but it only has five air bases in Tibet — though upgrades at the Lhasa base described by Hindustan Times include special helicopter bases that allow them to take off and land with full payloads.
India’s air power in the region would offer it some advantages. Indian air bases, including those that received more aircraft in 2018, are closer to the area in question than China’s bases. India counts 20 air bases within range of the Line of Actual Control, which separates Indian- and Chinese-claimed territory.
India has also also practiced with transport planes at forward landing areas in the region.
But China’s air defenses are more effective and reliable than India’s. And China has more artillery that can fire farther and is more mobile.
Thin air at higher elevations hinders traditional rocket propulsion, but Chinese officials claimed in August 2018 they were progressing on a type of electromagnetic propulsion that would give rocket artillery longer range and more accuracy.
Both countries can be expected to use land-attack cruise missiles — the Indian Su-30MKI jets deployed to the area are capable of firing India’s Brahmos missile. But China has a larger inventory of them, and the paucity of Chinese targets in the area north of the border would likely mean Beijing would have the edge.
Much of the fighting in a conflict around Doklam would likely be done on the ground, even though the terrain would limit quick strikes and mass movement of troops.
Indian fought its last war, with Pakistan, in 1999 and has been involved in sporatic clashes with Pakistan, as well as counterterror and counter-insurgency operations for years. (Delhi was developing a special Mountain Strike Corps for the northern border, but it was shelved in summer 2018.)
An Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI
China fought its last war in 1979 — a three-week incursion into Vietnam that ended with China’s withdrawal, though both sides claimed victory. Xi has ordered China’s military to increase readiness and launched reforms to the force.
Along the Line of Actual Control, however, China may gain an edge through superior command, control, and communications and through its unified command structure in the region, whereas India divides the region among three combatant commands.
India is aware that it would likely lose a military confrontation with China, Pervaiz said, as it did in 1962. (Mao later said China invaded essentially to teach India a lesson.)
A conflict now is not in the interest of either country, he added, but “they both are going to continue to sharpen their capabilities in the event that there ever is a conflict [in order] to be able to fight and execute on that conflict, no doubt about it.”
Since the end of the Doklam standoff, China has kept the assets it deployed there — tents, bunkers, and vehicles, Pervaiz said — in place, even as Indian forces withdrew.
Questioned about that change in parliament in 2018, the Indian Defense Ministry tacitly admitted “China has actually altered those facts on the ground” and India had to accept the change, Pervaiz said.
India too has pursued a longer-term shift in its strategy toward the disputed border.
Delhi tried to minimize the number of roads in the border area after the 1962 war in order to deprive future enemies of transportation routes.
Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment (left) and Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade (right)
Since the 1990s, however, India has switched to what Pervaiz called “an offensive-defense posture, meaning that we’re not just going to deny the Chinese access to roads in our region. We’re actually going to start building more roads and infrastructure so that our military can be better positioned.”
Amid the recalibration, the broader strategic issues driving tensions between India and China — the border dispute or China’s partnership with India’s rival, Pakistan — have not dissipated, suggesting the current period is one in which both sides are trying to manage their disputes, which Pervaiz analogized to treating a chronic illness.
“It may be that the physician says that you’re not going to get rid of this,” he said. “This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life, but we can manage it … and then the symptoms can stay under control.”
Even though neither side sees conflict as in their interest, deep-seated disputes that persist raise the chances one may occur.
“In the long run, because the strategic drivers are still there, and they’re building up their assets, the roads, the bunkers,” Pervaiz said, “that that does mean in the future, there’s actually a heightened probability there’s going to be some sort of confrontation, even if it’s a small one.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps wants to overhaul its force to prepare to be more dispersed and more flexible to deter and, if need be, take on China’s growing military in the Pacific.
“China has moved out to sea, and they have long-range weapons and a lot of them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on February 11 at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill.
“Those two things have changed the game,” Berger added. “Take those away, in other words, we could keep operating with dominance everywhere we wanted to, as we have. We cannot do that. We can’t get stuck in old things. We are being challenged everywhere.”
Since taking over last summer, Berger has called for a shift from a force suited for fighting insurgencies to one that can square off with China across the Pacific.
What Berger has outlined is a lighter, more mobile force that can operate in small units on Pacific islands. But the amphibious force that will support those units is not where it needs to be, Berger said last week.
That may mean the Corps needs new ships in the future, but he said it also needed to make better use of its current assets, which is where the “Lightning carrier” — an amphibious assault ship decked out with 16 to 20 F-35B stealth fighters — comes in.
“I’m in favor of things like the Lightning-carrier concept because I believe we need to tactically and operationally be … unpredictable,” Berger said. “We’ve been sending out every [Amphibious Ready Group] and [Marine Expeditionary Unit] looking mirror-image for 20 years. We need to change that.”
“You would like to see one of those big decks one time go out with two squadrons of F-35s and next time fully loaded with MV-22s and another MEU with a 50-50 combo. Now that’s how you become unpredictable. How do you defend against that?” Berger added.
The Lightning carrier’s nontraditional configuration is “a force multiplier,” the Corps said in its 2017 aviation plan.
In his commandant’s planning guidance issued in July, Berger said the Corps would “consider employment models of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU other than the traditional three-ship model” and that he saw “potential in the ‘Lightning Carrier’ concept” based on Wasp-class landing-helicopter-dock ships and the newer America-class amphibious assault ships.
The USS Wasp exercised in the South China Sea in spring with 10 F-35Bs aboard, more than it would normally carry.
In October, the USS America sailed into the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35Bs embarked — a first for the America that “signaled the birth of the most lethal, aviation-capable amphibious assault ship to date,” the Corps said.
The Lightning-carrier configuration gives the Marine Air-Ground Task Force aviation element “more of a strike mindset with 12 or more jets that give the fleet or MAGTF commander the ability to better influence the enemy at range,” Lt. Col. John Dirk, a Marine attack-squadron commander aboard the America, said at the time.
Even with the Lightning carrier, more needs to be done, Berger said on Capitol Hill.
“I think our … amphibious fleet has great capability. It is not enough for 2030. It’s not enough for 2025,” he said.
“We need the big decks, absolutely. We need the LPD-17. That is the mothership, the quarterback in the middle,” Berger said, referring to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the “functional replacement” for more than 41 other amphibious ships. Eleven are in active service, and the Navy plans to buy one in 2021.
“We need a light amphibious force ship, a lot of them, that we don’t have today,” Berger added.
When asked by Military.com, Berger declined to say how many Marines and aircraft those light amphibious ships could carry or whether they would be in the Navy’s new force-structure assessment, which is still being finalized. The Corps is also conducting its own force redesign, which Berger said would be released within the next month.
Berger also said he thought there was a role for the littoral combat ship, four of which the Navy plans to decommission in 2021, and the Navy’s future frigate.
“We cannot put anything on the side right now, not with your adversary building to north of 400” ships, he said, referring to Chinese naval expansion.
“The ships that we have, we need to increase the survivability of them, increase the command-and-control capability of them, arm them where we need to,” Berger added.
Berger and Rep. Mike Gallagher, who also spoke at the Capitol Hill event, both emphasized deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and both said that would depend on forces that are stationed forward and dispersed.
The Pentagon is “struggling to figure out how do we do deterrence by denial in Indo-Pacom. How do we deny potential adversaries their objectives in the first place, rather than rolling them back after the fact? That hinges on having forward forces,” said Gallagher, a former Marine officer and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee.
The challenge is “to develop an entirely new logistics footprint, which includes new ships to support, resupply, and maneuver Marines around the first island chain, littorals, and in a high-threat environment, where speed and mobility serves as the primary defense,” Gallagher said.
That may require new classes of ships, added Gallagher, who told industry representatives in the room that “new classes of ships do not have to mean less work, and in the case of the future amphibious fleet — because I believe we need more potentially smaller amphibious vessels — it might actually mean more work.”
In his remarks, Berger called deterrence “the underpinning of our strategy.”
“I believe that because whatever the cost of deterrence is,” Berger said, “is going to be lower than the cost of a fight, in terms of ships and planes and bodies. So we need to pay the price for deterrence. I’m 100% there.”
On December 4, 2020, President Trump signed a bill that waives a federal law requiring that requires a Medal of Honor to be awarded within five years of the actions for which the award is recommended. The bill, H.R. 8276, was introduced by Representatives Michael Waltz (R-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). By signing the bipartisan bill into law, President Trump has authorized U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.
On October 17, 2005, Sfc. Cashe was part of a route clearance mission in Daliaya, Iraq. He served as the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Previously, the experienced NCO infantryman served in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. During the route clearance, Cashe was in the lead M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle when it struck an IED.
The explosion ruptured the vehicle’s fuel cell which covered Cashe in fuel, and caused the vehicle to burst into flames. Initially slightly injured, Cashe exited the Bradley, helped the driver out, and extinguished the flames on his clothes. Six of Cashe’s soldiers and their interpreter remained in the Bradley which had been consumed by the flames. Cashe moved the the rear of the vehicle and reached through the flames to rescue his men, his fuel-soaked uniform burning. He rescued six soldiers and refused medical attention until the others were evacuated. Sadly, the interpreter was killed in action. 10 soldiers from the Bradley were wounded, 7 of them severely. Cashe suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 72% of his body. He succumbed to his wounds on November 8, 2005.
For his heroic actions, Cashe was awarded the Silver Star. Since then, Cashe’s family has led the effort to upgrade his award to the medal of honor. Recently, however, Cashe’s valor and his family’s campaign have gained public attention. Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, Cashe’s battalion commander at the time, said that he was not aware of the extent of Cashe’s injuries when he nominated Cashe for the Silver Star. The general since has submitted additional statements to the Army to justify upgrading Cashe’s Silver Star to the Medal of Honor.
On October 17, 2019, 14 years after Cashe rescued his men from the burning Bradley, Reps. Waltz, Murphy, and Crenshaw wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy formally requesting Cashe’s award be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On August 24, 2020, Secretary Esper agreed that Cashe’s actions merited the upgrade. The following month, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 8276 to waive the five-year statute of limitations. The same month, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, brought public attention to the campaign by taping Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet.
On November 10, 2020, the Senate also unanimously passed the bill and cleared the way for Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. With President Trump’s signing of the bill, the last hurdle to recognize Cashe with the nation’s highest military honor is cleared. “I applaud President Trump for signing our bill into law, recognizing Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for his bravery in risking his own life to save his fellow soldiers,” said Crenshaw. “He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield, and now he is finally receiving proper recognition for his bravery and sacrifice.”
Once the President receives endorsement from the new acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, he will be able to award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. This would make Cashe the first African-American to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. On July 23, 2020, Cashe’s son, Andrew, followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Two Marine veterans playing “Pokemon Go” in a Los Angeles suburb on Jul. 12 ended up catching an attempted murder suspect instead of a Pikachu.
Javier Soch and Seth Ortega were hunting Pokemon near a museum when they saw a man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her three sons, according to reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The Marines talked to the man, who was agitated but coherent. He asked for cigarettes and shelter and the Marines told him to check the local police station for help.
The Marines kept their eyes on the man as he walked off. “We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch told reporter Matt Hamilton.
The man interacted with two more families. He continued to act suspiciously but did not do anything illegal — at first.
“[We] walked across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega told an ABC affiliate.
The veterans sprung into action. Soch stayed with the family while Ortega sprinted after the man. The man attempted to flee, but he couldn’t get away from the Marine.
He was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance, but the police then learned that the man had a warrant out for attempted murder in Sonoma, California. He will be extradited to face charges there.