The idea of winning hearts and minds dates back decades. Higher command believes that if allied forces do favors for and give material gifts to the enemy, they’ll be influenced by the acts of kindness and, perhaps, change their way of thinking.
Since that plan rarely works, many ground troops will appeal to the enemies’ children, thinking they can steer them over to the good side while they’re impressionable. In America, the idea of strange men giving candy to little kids is reprehensible, but on deployment, it’s cool.
However, in a country like Afghanistan, where most of the population is dirt poor, little kids have no problem with walking up to a patrol and asking an infantryman for “chocolate,” which means they’ll take any candy you have.
Sure, the kids usually have good intentions, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t give them those sugary snacks from your MRE.
Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake talks to some children during a foot patrol.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)
It might piss off their parents
Some Afghan parents don’t want their kids socializing with American troops because they don’t want the bad guys to see it happening — or they just flat-out hate America.
The last thing a grunt wants to hear is a potential Taliban member screaming at them.
What if the kids have allergies?
Some kids are allergic to chocolate, coconuts, or peanuts — and you can be sure that they won’t read the nutritional facts to see what’s in the small treat you gave them. Most of the kids think all candy is called chocolate and they want that piece you have stowed away in your cargo pocket. Once they get it, they just pop it in their mouth.
If they eat that bite-sized Snickers bar you gave them, suddenly go into anaphylactic shock, and their airway closes, you’ve just made the local populous even more pissed off than they already are at you for being in their country.
It’s hard to learn a little trust, but easy to place an explosive in a poorly placed dump pouch.
A friendship going bad
Grunts are people, too, and they have one or two strands humanity floating around in their bloodstreams — somewhere. Frequently, the infantryman will notice a little kid who reminds him of someone back home. In this moment, they might “bro down” a little and give them some candy.
However, Marines wear dump pouches that they use to put things in, like empty magazines or extra bottles of water. There could be a time where their new little friend sneaks up to them, discreetly steals something out of the dump pouch (or puts a ticking grenade in there) and takes off running.
That troop could die because he trusted that little sh*t. We’re speaking from experience here.
They might sell it for drugs
Countless kids we encountered on patrol while in Afghanistan were high off their asses. They were entertaining as hell, yes, but doped out of their minds. It’s possible that the piece of candy you gave them was what they need to sell to get the cash to buy their next fix.
We could put a photo of some Afghan kids getting lit below, but this article isn’t supposed to depress anyone… right?
It’s hardly a secret at this point that there are enough nuclear weapons on Earth to kill us all and destroy everything on the planet many, many times over. That was kinda the point of the whole “mutually assured destruction” theory. If someone launched a nuke, everyone would die. Since that would be crazy or stupid, we could be reasonably sure that no one would do anything that crazy… right?
Well, that’s how it all turned out, despite a few of our best attempts to launch a nuclear war anyway — in true American fashion. Nixon even wanted the Communists to think he might just be crazy enough to do it as a way to gain leverage in Vietnam, a strategy he called the “Madman Theory.”
So, being the daredevils we all are, humanity decided some things were important enough to save for all history, just in case we decided to send ourselves back to the Stone Age. Government and businesses wanted to ensure their most important possessions would be there for generations, so these things were just built to last — literally.
Entrance to the Seed Vault at dusk, highlighting its illuminated artwork.
About 800 miles from the North Pole is a Norwegian island that holds more than 1,750 different kinds of seeds from all around the world. It’s an effort to protect the Earth’s biodiversity from accidents, disasters, and — surprise — nuclear wars. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a joint effort on behalf of Norway’s government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. Its Arctic location makes it a perfect place to cold store some 4.5 million seeds, a genetic snapshot of the plants on Earth.
2. Family Genetic Research Records
Deep inside the Granite Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, there’s an underground vault that houses 3.5 billion microfilm images of the world’s family genealogical history. The Mormon Church runs FamilySearch, a non-profit family historian organization. Since 1965, 200,000 members of the worldwide church have gathered records from all over the world. They’ve collected civil registration records, church records, and probate, census, land, tax, and military records. The collection also contains compiled sources, such as family histories, clan and lineage genealogies, oral pedigrees, and local histories.
3. World Wrestling Entertainment
The WWE owns the single largest library of professional wrestling ever assembled — and it’s not just its original programming. It owns shows performed by ECW, AWA, WCW, and a slew of smaller wrestling federations from around the country. The trove is stored in a massive, climate-controlled bunker that is constantly maintained — in the Iron Mountains of Upstate New York’s Catskills range.
4. Steam Trains
Despite the idea that the country would be totally destroyed in the event of a nuclear war with the United States, The Soviet Union wanted the ability to move around its massive territory. The problem was that nuclear weapons release an electromagnetic pulse upon detonation, destroying electronics within range of the pulse. For the USSR, the answer was easy, just use engines that don’t need electronics — steam power. Only 12 steam locomotives are still intact at the preserved base of the Strategic Steam Resource near Roslavl in Smolensk.
5. The American Economy
While it’s no longer housed at one site (which was then called the Culpeper Switch), the entire American economy was prepared for a nuclear war. A bunker in Culpeper, Va. housed enough cash to replenish the U.S. economy east of the Mississippi River — to the tune of some billion. It also housed a switch that transferred the Federal Reserve Bank’s EFT system and provided data backup for the bank.
That facility has been moved from its original location and spread across the country so you can still owe your student loans in the event of a catastrophe.
6. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence
The foundational documents of the United States aren’t just going to be left on their own in the event of a nuclear war (or, actually, a zombie apocalypse — the responses for each are the same). The National Archives has a security plan in place for the most important documents it houses. The Library of Congress’ Top Treasures Inventory was housed in a special vault during the Cold War to ensure their survival in case of a nuclear attack on Washington — on the National Archives site.
If there was time, however, it was said the documents would be airlifted to another continuity of government site, like the Culpeper Switch. The documents’ current security plan is classified.
At the Tank Biathlon currently going on in Russia, top crews are driving great tanks through maneuvers, demonstrations, and competitive events. Apparently, one Kuwaiti crew decided to one-up everyone by drifting a T-72 around a turn.
The T-72 is a fine tank, but it isn’t a drifter. Instead, the tank rolls nearly all the way over. Someone is likely going to have an awkward talk with his commander when he gets back to Kuwait.
“Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.” Verdict: Definitely true. Sadly, this prediction became true quickly, on September 11, 2001.
“Iraq and Iran [will] develop long range missiles in the near future. Iran … could be testing such weapons by as early as the coming year, and cruise missiles by 2004.” Verdict: Both true and false. Iran is definitely working on an ICBM and was expected to test it in 2015. But international sanctions on Iran has brought it to the negotiation table and diplomats say they are close to a comprehensive deal.
“The world population will grow by more than one billion, to 7.2 billion.” Verdict: True. The world population is now about 7.3 billion.
“Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the US as a shaper of the global economic system.” Verdict: Not quite true. The CIA report was very bullish on the European economy, which had been sluggish at the start of the year, but has recently picked up steam.
“Aids, famine, and continuing economic and political turmoil means that populations in many [African] countries will actually fall.” Verdict: False. Africa’s population rose from 800 million in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2014.
Propper, a relative newcomer to the body armor market, has – thankfully – recorded its first save.
Deputy Michael Hockett, Troup County (GA) Sheriffs Office, was struck by gunfire while in the line of duty back in January. Deputy Hockett responded to a residence to perform a welfare check (reportedly at the request of the resident’s father) and was subsequently engaged with gunfire by that resident. Matthew Edmondson shot at Deputy Hockett, then barricaded himself in the house. He eventually surrendered to SWAT personnel, was treated for a gunshot wound from Deputy Hockett’s return fire, and was formally charged.
Deputy Hockett was treated and released for what were described as “minor injuries.”
“We are proud to be part of the reason Deputy Michael Hockett of the Troup County (GA) Sheriff’s Office is alive today. The innovative design of the 4PV concealed armor prevented the projectile from reaching the deputy better than a traditional 2-panel design that leaves the sides vulnerable.”
We were unable to source any additional information about the fight, so can do no more than report what you’ve read and seen here, but we’re glad Deputy Hockett is okay and happy we’re affiliated with a company that helps save lives on the sharp end.
This time we asked Air Force veteran Julio Medina, who’s the founder of Morale Patch Armory, why these moto patches endure in popular military culture – even when a command may not fully appreciate them.
“Morale patches are a simplistic form of art that most people can relate to in some way or another,” Medina says. “Whether it’s humorous or something that will make you embrace your inner patriot, morale patches send strong messages.”
The Latin in the patch above means “not worth a rat’s ass.” During the Vietnam War, troopers who ferreted out Viet Cong insurgents hidden in complex subterranean hideouts became known as “Tunnel Rats.” These brave servicemen had to dodge human enemies, animals (like bats), and potentially deadly gasses — not to mention VC booby traps. The story alone makes for a great patch.
The DICASS (Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System) sends submariners range and bearing data via and FM frequency.
Medina also talked about the elements of a good morale patch.
“Relevance, clean design, and a clear message are key factors in a successful morale patch drop,” he says. “There are some amazingly talented artists out there, but unless you have the ability to get relevant eyes on the patch, it will start collecting dust no matter how good it is.”
“Military active duty, veterans, and law enforcement are the largest consumer base,” Medina says. “There are quite a few airsoft players in that bunch, too. I’m sure none of these groups come as a surprise. There are so many different styles of patches out there.”
The patch above is for the USAF’s 509 Operations Group, which pilots the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The chicken is a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens start to eat people. Most of you will probably get the Simpsons reference better.
Medina believes the enduring popularity of morale patches comes from how they poke fun at the mundane or at high-stress situations. The common denominator is the camaraderie built from shared experiences – the tension and hard times that troops go through as a cohesive unit.
“Military members of all branches deal with common military-related stressors day in and day out that the average individual may not even experience in a lifetime,” Medina says.
“Morale patches are key to lightening the mood by making things funny … making you feel like a proud American, just the way you felt when you graduated basic training and became a part of something bigger than yourself,” Medina explained.
Morale patches have always been an interest for Medina. As a former enlisted Air Force Security Forces airman, Medina kept his own collection of quirky patches since 2007.
“I kept seeing really creative patches being made and sold by hobbyists,” Medina recalls. “As opposed to the few mainstream brands in the industry that sell mass quantities of a single design.”
That’s how Medina started his own patch business. His passion for the industry combined with his appreciation of the humor and artistry led him to establish Morale Patch Armory.
“I once heard ‘Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ ” Medina says. “Since the inception of Morale Patch Armory, every day has been fun and exciting even through the toughest challenges.”
“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.” – Minot J. Savage
On Saturday December 19th Staff Sergeant Matthew James Whalen suffered a massive stroke from which doctors determined he would not recover. The family decided to remove the 35-year-old four-combat-tour veteran from life support once they knew that his organs could save the lives of others.
Later, they would find out that two recipients were veterans.
This video posted by friend Sean Hatton shows Honor Guard and former service members standing at attention in the halls of Plaza Fort Worth Medical Center as Whalen was wheeled past them en-route to his last heroic act. The emotional clip has been viewed over 10 million times and shared close to a quarter-million times.
Whalen is survived by his wife, Hannah and three children: Logan, Mattix, and Sadie. A GoFundMe page was set up by friends to help provide for them, and pay for Matt’s hospital bills. To date, over $78,000 has been raised. In an update to donors, Brandon Bledsoe, the campaign’s originator wrote: “You have done God’s work, you have shown compassion to the reaches that only the best of humanity can achieve. You have helped a family in need, whether you knew them or not.”
The US Department of Homeland Security is concerned that Chinese-made drones and the data they can collect could get into the hands of the Chinese government, according to a DHS alert obtained by CNN.
The alert, which CNN reported was sent out on May 20, 2019, said Chinese-made drones have the ability to share information and data to a server that isn’t exclusively controlled by the drone manufacturer.
It’s unlikely that live video feeds from Chinese-made drones could be shared with the Chinese government, and audio feeds aren’t usually available as many drones don’t come with microphones. With that said, some drone software saves snippets of video and images that could be saved on a drone company’s servers. Information such as flight and operations data, too, could reveal where, when, who, and why a drone is being used.
As part of a 2017 national-intelligence law, China expects its citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities. The alert reportedly suggests that Chinese drone companies could share — or be forced to share — data collected from their drones abroad, including to people in the US.
While the alert didn’t single out any specific manufacturers, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI holds a significant majority of the drone market share in North America — up to 80%, according to an industry analysis from CNN.
In 2017, the US Army issued a ban of DJI drones after alleging that the company shared critical infrastructure and law-enforcement data with the Chinese government.
DJI said in a statement to Business Insider that it has total control over how the data stored in its servers is handled and that its technology has been independently verified by the US government and US businesses. The company also said customers can enable options that would protect their data, as per the DHS’s reported recommendations. As for corporate or governmental use of DJI drones, the company said it offers models that don’t transfer data to DJI directly or over the internet at all.
DJI’s full statement is below:
At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements.
For the first time, Moody’s 23rd Maintenance Squadron’s propulsion flight accomplished an unprecedented feat by ensuring every TF34 engine in their fleet is repaired to serviceable status.
This readiness level relinquishes the need for the flight to perform maintenance on their current A-10C Thunderbolt II engine assets. While they normally maintain the 74th and 75th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s engines in support of Moody’s close-air support mission, the backshop will now centralize their TF34 repair efforts to assist other bases and Major Commands to include Reserve and National Guard units.
This has allowed the 23rd MXS to play a vital role in helping secure an Air Force-wide 200 percent ‘war-ready’ engine status, the highest in the TF34’s 40-year history.
“I’m excited for every member of this team,” said Master Sgt. Cevin Medley, 23rd MXS propulsion flight chief. “This is my third base and engine backshop. Repairing an entire TF34 engine fleet to serviceable status (with zero required maintenance) is something I have only “heard” about in my 17 years.
“This (accomplishment) is important because it not only allows us to meet our minimum deployment requirements, but we also can support other operations if every (Moody AFB) A-10 aircraft were to be tasked to deploy,” Medley added. “Since our ‘war-ready’ engine levels have been so high, we have been able to help the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 community with their due engine repairs.”
The 23rd MXS propulsion flight manages WREs, which are engines that are ready to be installed on the A-10. Of their entire fleet, 14 are spare WREs, which surpasses Air Combat Command’s required level of five spare WREs. The flight’s 280 percent spare WRE rate has enabled the backshop to currently perform no current maintenance on their assets and have rebuilt seven engines in total from outside Moody.
Airman 1st Class Jordan Vasquez, 23rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, inspects the fuel lines of an A-10C Thunderbolt II TF34 engine, May 16, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)
The road to pursue this challenge wasn’t easy. An innovative process, known as the Continuous Process Improvement, positioned the flight to have a chance at history. In 2017, approximately 20 civilians and Airmen from almost every enlisted rank implemented ideas to help the flight better maintain the TF34 engine.
“(2017’s) Continuous Process Improvement event allowed us to identify waste in our streamline,” said Medley. “This enabled us to shave an average of 58 work hours off each engine visit. This allowed us to go from six awaiting maintenance engines, which is the amount of engines we didn’t have the manning to work because we were repairing other engines in 2016, to where we are today.”
In order to reach new heights in maintenance proficiency, many small changes were made. The flight refocused training for new Airmen on common problems, began pre-ordering commonly needed engine parts, enhanced cross-unit and internal communication and even added updated photos to technical orders.
For Senior Airman Dakota Gunter, 23rd MXS aerospace propulsion technician, these new improvements paid big dividends for the backshop’s operations.
“The Continuous Process Improvement not only helped us (reduce) time on engine rebuilds, it also made the job a lot easier,” said Gunter. “Our processes have gone a lot smoother with everything from checking out tools to (performing) and documenting maintenance. Teamwork has been key during all of this, with everyone playing a key part to ensure the job is complete.”
According to Medley, the cohesion and continued support of not only the 23rd MXS, but the 23rd Maintenance Group supervision proved invaluable. He hopes to sustain their achievements and continue to assist in getting the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 fleet to match Moody’s readiness.
Beyond hardware, however, countries in Asia are also reassessing the balance of power there, contemplating how to engage China and what role the US — long a guarantor of security and trade in the region — will play going forward.
“Everyone out in Asia is, on one hand, scared of China, and, the other hand, they need China for trade,” Mike Fabey, author of the 2017 book Crashback, about tensions between China and the US in the Pacific, told Business Insider. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here. America’s on the other side of the world.'”
Officials in the region felt the Obama administration “was letting China slide with a few things here and there” to secure cooperation, or at least noninterference, from Beijing on other issues, like the Paris climate accord, Fabey said. “But even with that, there was still definitely a feeling, ‘Hey, America’s got our back.'”
The Trump administration has referred to the region as the “Indo-Pacific,” in what is likely meant to be a rhetorical swipe at China, though it also points to the region’s maritime dimensions. But, Fabey said, “with the recent administration, there’s much more of a feeling now in the Western Pacific, even from folks like Australia, who are really wondering exactly how far America would go now if China were to do anything.”
That has translated into greater interest in local partnerships.
“You’re starting to see Australia, Japan, and India, for example, there’s a new emerging trilateral out there, and that they’re counting the US out. The US is involved,” Fabey said, but there’s now more of a feeling of, “‘we’re on our own more, at least we should act like we’re on our own more, and we’ll do it without the US if we have to.'”
‘They’re very good at playing that card’
First proposed in 2007, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, made up of the US, Japan, Australia, and India, gained new life in 2017, when officials from those countries met to discuss a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and seven core themes, including freedom of navigation, maritime security, and a rules-based order in the region.
Some members of the Quad have tread carefully out of concern about China, which protested its restoration. India has also expressed reticence about the partnership — in part over concerns about its own autonomy as well as doubts about the other three countries’ approaches to China.
“China likes to play the card, ‘Look, you’re Asian. We’re Asian. Quite honestly, no Western power is going to protect your Asian rights out here … You can’t depend on the West to do that,'” Fabey told Business Insider. “And they’re very good at playing that card.”
But cooperation between countries in the region continues, with an eye on securing and enhancing trade and security.
Japan has increased efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative, ramping up international partnerships and investments — including in Sri Lanka, where a recent Chinese port project has angered India.
Australia has followed suit, talking to the US, India, and Japan about a joint regional infrastructure program to rival Beijing’s outreach.
Australia, India, and Japan have been pursuing a trilateral partnership since late 2015, aimed at ensuring “open and free” movement in the region and advancing their shared interests.
The Malabar 2017 exercises in summer 2017, in which India, Japan, and the US took part, emphasized antisubmarine warfare — including submarine-on-submarine exercises. “Nowhere else does the American Navy do that,” Fabey noted, saying cooperation between US and Indian navies “is unlike any other in the world.” (While New Delhi blocked Australia’s participation in Malabar 2017, their defense cooperation has progressed.)
India and Japan did three days of antisubmarine exercises in the Indian Ocean in October 2017.
In March 2018, Vietnam’s president visited India, where the leaders of the two countries put out a statement pledging to continue defense cooperation. Two days later, US carrier made a port call in Vietnam — the first such visit in four decades and a sign of growing ties between the US and Hanoi (whose acquisition of submarines has also irked China).
Around the same time, India’s army chief said that New Delhi was working with Australia, Japan, and the US to guarantee “freedom of navigation” in the region. A few days later, India began its Milan 2018 naval exercises, underscoring New Delhi’s growing engagement with the region.
The Milan exercises were first held in 1995 with four countries. This year, 16 countries joined the drills, which, for the first time, included a joint multilateral exercise at sea. The naval portion took place around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, strategically located near the Malacca Straits, which connects the Indian and Pacific oceans.
That was followed in late March 2018 by the fourth meeting between US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Indian navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba, where they “discussed ways to improve interoperability to include additional naval exercises and staff talks.”
As with the Quad, India, which uses Russian-made military hardware, has been reluctant about joint operations. Its reticence about information-sharing has reportedly hindered those exercises and broader interoperability.
‘Like their Caribbean’
China has made clear its displeasure with such regional cooperation.
When Japan’s inclusion in the Malabar exercise was permanent in late 2015, Beijing reacted sharply, saying it hoped “the relevant country will not provoke confrontation and heighten tensions in the region.”
The rivalry between China and India in the Indian Ocean appeared inflamed in February 2018, when both looked poised to respond in the Maldives, where the government imposed a state of emergency, jailed opponents, and stifled protests. (The state of emergency was lifted in late March 2018.) India has long wielded influence in the Maldives, but the government there has courted China, buying into what critics fear is Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy.”
China has also flexed its muscles in the South and East China Seas. In January 2018, a Chinese sub was detected around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are controlled by Japan but disputed by Beijing. It the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area and drew a Japanese protest. Chinese ships have entered that area on six days this year, most recently on March 23, 2018.
In recent days, Vietnam, which has sought to mollify Beijing after the US carrier’s visit, assented to Chinese pressure to scrap an offshore oil-drilling project — the second time in a year Hanoi has done so. The cancellation is likely to be read in Beijing as a sign Vietnam’s strategic thinking has not changed, despite US shows of force in the area.
Such a victory means Beijing’s efforts to assert its claims, and to influence its neighbors, are unlikely to end. Even with regional efforts to counter China, the country’s geography, resources, and military put it in a position to wield considerable influence over the region and the trade that passes through it — which makes a continuing US presence all the more important, said Fabey, author of Crashback.
“If the US were to pull back from there … China would take control, and if China wants to do this, they basically would,” he told Business Insider. “The South China Sea could be like their Caribbean. How we control the Caribbean, China says it wants to control the South China Sea.”
“Now as long as everything’s equal — that is to say, that China is benefiting from that being free and open — then I guess there’s no problem,” Fabey said. But that could change, he added, if Beijing decides changing it is in its interests. “China will always do what’s best for China.”
Just days after President Donald Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “nuclear button” and flaunted the size and efficacy of his own nuclear fleet, the two countries have made strides toward peace.
With little more than a month before the start of South Korea’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea has reopened communications with Seoul and expressed interest in mending relations.
In the same New Year’s Day address in which Kim touted his willingness to engage in nuclear war, he “earnestly” wished for South Korea’s games to succeed and said it was a “good opportunity to show unity of the people.”
The U.S. and South Korea have also announced they will pause their military exercises not just through the end of the games in late February but reportedly all the way through the Paralympics, set to end in mid-March.
As a result, the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea may have just scheduled an unprecedented 2 1/2 months of markedly lowered tensions.
North Korea hates the U.S. and South Korea’s military exercises, which regularly feature huge numbers of troops and advanced weapons systems. Lately, the drills and development of new weapons systems have increasingly focused on taking out Kim.
North Korea often intentionally times missile launches to coincide with the drills.
North Korea, China, and Russia all support the “freeze for freeze” path to negotiations, wherein the U.S. and South Korea suspend the military drills in exchange for North Korea halting missile and nuclear tests.
The U.S. has always rejected this strategy on the grounds that North Korea’s missile tests are illegal and the military drills are not. But the Winter Olympics have opened a window of opportunity for diplomacy.
But is it a trap?
North Korea has made overtures of peace to South Korea before. In fact, Andrea Berger, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, pointed out on Twitter that Pyongyang had a history of extending olive branches after periods of tension.
“2017 painted the extremely worrying security backdrop that everyone is desperate to move away from,” Berger wrote. “The DPRK will test each South Korean administration, pushing to see how far doors will open.”
“But, it is worth remembering that most January windows of opportunity for North-South progress get smashed fairly quickly,” Berger wrote — North Korea’s peace overtures normally occur in January.
Even as North Korea prepares for its highest-level talks with South Korea in years, reports have surfaced that it’s planning to test a missile or at least a rocket engine.
Additionally, a lull in activity may tempt South Korea to side with China, Russia, and ultimately Pyongyang, rejecting the U.S.’s calls for total denuclearization and holding out for talks until strict preconditions have been met.
But for now, the U.S. and South Korea are set to go months without provoking North Korea with military exercises. It will be up to North Korea, which has backed out of peace talks before, to demonstrate its commitment to de-escalation.
Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.
The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.
While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.
Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.
“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)
The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.
Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.
While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.
An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)
The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.
Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.
While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.
“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The first trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” dropped July 18, 2019, at Comic-Con in San Diego and in case there was ever any doubt, Tom Cruise proves that even at 57, he is still one of the most badass action stars on the planet.
We learn little about the actual plot but the trailer is able to give viewers a clear idea of the tone of the sequel, as the titular fighter pilot appears to be as talented, fearless, and reckless as he was when we last saw him over 33 years ago. As one of his superior officers — played by Ed Harris — lists off Maverick’s career accomplishments, we see Maverick has not lost his need for speed, as he flies through a desert at full-throttle before ascending up to the sky at nearly a 90-degree angle.
However, it is also made clear that Maverick’s loose canon persona has likely cost him in his career, as Harris’ character notes “you can’t get a promotion, won’t retire, and, despite your best efforts, you refuse to die.” Perhaps Maverick’s love for the sky has kept him from creating a successful five-year plan? Or maybe he just isn’t interested in getting a fancy title if it means giving up his seat in the cockpit. Only time will tell.
Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures
The rest of the trailer is a lays on the nostalgia pretty thick while giving us brief glimpses of new characters. We see Maverick donning his signature aviators and leather jacket and he even hops on his motorcycle to ride alongside a couple of fighter planes. While Harris is the only new cast member featured prominently in the trailer, we do get to see a few new faces, including Jon Hamm, Monica Barbaro, and Glen Powell as one of the new hotshot pilots playing some shirtless volleyball. The cast also features Val Kilmer returning to reprise his role as Ice Man, Maverick’s frenemy, and Miles Teller, who will be playing the son of Maverick’s deceased co-pilot Goose.
The sequel reportedly focuses on Maverick returning to Top Gun as an instructor, where he trains a group of young pilots, including Goose’s son. But, thankfully, the debut trailer lets viewers know that the film will still feature plenty of Cruise in the sky, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career over the past three decades. We can’t wait to see Maverick back in action.
“Top Gun: Maverick” come to theaters on June 26, 2020.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.