An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

A situation that started with students protesting the government evolved into a failed coup d’etat and, consequently, the decimation of a once-thriving tourism industry. Protesters, feeling powerless in the face of violence, turned to the dark side for help, accepting aid from narco-terrorists sponsored by oligarchs.

The Sandinista Government, also known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), is a revolutionary ideology and organization that was created on July 19, 1961, to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. From an outside perspective, it looks like the government has come full circle in becoming what it was created to destroy.

U.S. Sanctions have influenced the Sandinista Government to change their strategy in restoring law and order to what was once known as the “safest country in Latin America.” Disregarding warnings from the embassy, I boarded a plane leaving the U.S. to Nicaragua to see it for myself.


An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

No sh*t, there I was…

Did someone say, “communism?”

A History of Distrust

Historically, Nicaragua and the United States have not have an outstanding relationship due several political scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair. Long story short: We sold weapons to Iran through Israel in order to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages. The funds from the weapons sale were going to benefit the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization that opposed the Sandinistas. Needless to say, they weren’t so thrilled about it.

Today, the people of Nicaragua don’t treat U.S. citizens negatively because of our nations’ histories, but they do harbor a general distrust of American diplomats and government officials — this is especially true among the top brass.

It is important to note these specific examples of the past because there are similar accusations heading our way once again.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Not your best pitch, Don.

The Reason for the Sanctions

In Nicaragua, a country that has served as a physical barrier in our ongoing War On Drugs in Central America, was developing all the telltale signs of an impending coup.

Local police responded with extreme force against what they believed was a new arm of the criminal underground created to overthrow the government. Their aggressive pushback was interpreted by outside news outlets as a wanton wave of human rights violations. The ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach backfired — as it tends to.

The United States responded by implementing sanctions on the government and corporations, withdrew vehicles donated to the Police, and the U.S. embassy closed its doors and ceased routine operations until further notice.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

I assure you, we’re open.

(RuddyWrites)

The Effect of Sanctions in August, 2018

Jacinto Saurez, the International Secretary of the FSLN, told the Havana Times of a conspiracy theory of a U.S.-sponsored coup. Oldtimers were quick to believe this because of our nations’ turbulent recent history.

Meanwhile, the United States is Nicaragua’s top investor with nearly a billion dollars invested in 2017, producing a return of 6%. Meanwhile, the rest of Central and South America was generating declining returns for U.S. investors. A law ratified in 2000 allowed foreign investors to retain 100% of their capital and the current Government has offered generous tax incentives in the areas of exports, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

As capitalists, we would never take a metaphorical cow producing milk behind a barn and shoot it, so the idea of a U.S. coup doesn’t hold water against facts.

The harsh reality is, sadly, that Nicaragua killed that cow themselves. The entire economy is reliant on the United States but old revolutionaries in power, blinded by pride, resent that the U.S. is essential to the country’s stability. The old, stubborn leadership resents any foreign influence — even if it is beneficial.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Taxes? No habla ingles.

(RuddyWrites)

U.S. sanctions aimed towards the Sandinista government have hit the tourism industry hard and they’ve hit the private sector even harder, yet the upper class has felt nothing. Investors have almost completely pulled out of the country and major corporations tied to the government have fired half their staff.

Mom-and-pop shops are running at max capacity to fill the void left behind by the departure of major department stores, restaurants, and franchises. Larger businesses have to raise their prices to keep up with taxes that the smaller businesses dodge. In short, we’re seeing a great dying of big business but an exploding entrepreneur market.

Small businesses are unaffected by the sanctions because they do not report their income. Hell, most small businesses down here don’t even have the proper licenses to operate legally.

The moment the new national strategy was implemented.

Intur ​

According to the Institute of Nicaraguan Tourism (Intur), U.S. tourism makes up a 24% market share in the country. A new national strategy has been implemented to try and regain American confidence and ensure visitors’ safety. They have increased police presence day and night, all barricades have been removed, and criminals have either been arrested or have fled the country. Regardless, I would highly recommend against traveling here without a guide or prior experience until the political situation improves.

Despite safety precautions, there are more ‘demonstrations’ planned for the near future that pose a security risk. It is unknown if the anti-government forces are going to return en masse.

A deflationary trend has developed for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO) from 32.24 to 31.70 (at the time of writing). This may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s actually a pretty severe drop. The exchange rate is currently id=”listicle-2598140554″ USD to C.70 and, though the jump in U.S. buying power is good news for us, it has had devastating consequences for the local population.

Adam Hayes of Investopedia does a great job of explaining it:

“Deflation typically occurs in and after periods of economic crisis. When an economy experiences a severe recession or depression, economic output slows as demand for consumption and investment drop.

This leads to an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin holding onto liquid money reserves to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand.”

Normally, Nicaraguans are paid in U.S. dollars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The employees prefer to be paid this way because the dollar is less volatile. Corporations are lobbying for a new law that changes the payout to workers to Cordobas instead of dollars because of deflation. So, now that the local currency has deflated, the prices on everything have gone up. Unfortunately, corporations want to pay people “technically” the same amount — but by that logic, when the economy recovers, they’re “technically” paying people less.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

These colors don’t run.

(RuddyWrites)

Americans living in Nicaragua

So, what’s the situation like for Americans in the country?

Many foreigners have left, but one thing is for certain among Americans who have remained: They will not be intimidated. Surprisingly, the Americans give no f*cks. They have stockpiled supplies, ammo, and alcohol. Those who have property out in the countryside have opted to weather the storm away from the cities. Those living within the cities have installed electric fences, cameras, and are even flying personal drones when things get hairy.

Nicaragua may be dangerous at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s no Afghanistan. Fortunes are made in times of chaos and it’s a buyers market. Right now, residential and commercial properties are practically being given away.

Americans aren’t turning tail. When I attended a bullfighting competition in the city of Juigalpa, a city saturated with Sandinista loyalists, I took a picture of this warrior:

Articles

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector.


The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. The VA indicated it would proceed with filling open positions previously exempted under the hiring freeze. Noting that the White House had ordered all departments to be leaner and “more accountable,” the VA indicated that more than 4,000 jobs would still be left vacant unless they were specially approved “position by position” by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.”

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua
VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in April. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.

Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.

“It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters.

Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group was concerned the VA would overlook positions that didn’t directly affect health care, such as staffing of its suicide prevention hotline.

Also read: These 5 vets discuss the ups and downs of the VA

In a statement April 26, the VA said the hiring restrictions were needed to “streamline VA’s corporate structure and administrative positions.”

While President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, the memo indicated that the government’s second largest agency with nearly 370,000 employees was no different from other departments that needed to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and left open the possibility of “near-term” and “long-term workforce reductions.” Shulkin is also putting together a broader proposal by fall to expand the VA’s Choice program of private-sector care.

“This memo lifts the federal hiring freeze. However, this does not mean business as usual for hiring,” stated VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson. She said VA leadership aimed to proceed in the coming months with “deliberative hiring strategies” as it seeks to build “a future VA of Choice.”

The memo comes as the Trump administration seeks to highlight accomplishment and accountability at the VA. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as “the most corrupt” and pledged to expand private care.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Trump planned to sign an executive order April 27 to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

Shulkin has acknowledged that the VA was hurt initially by the hiring freeze because it could not hire claims processors. Shulkin later exempted those positions, including 242 the VA earmarked for this year to specifically address an appeals backlog, a 36 percent increase. But the VA has said it would need an additional hiring “surge” of at least 1,458 full-time staff to stem a growing appeals backlog. The backlog was expected to exceed 1 million within a decade, with average wait times of 8.5 years. The current wait time is as many as five years.

Shulkin also has signaled, without naming specific locations, that underutilized VA facilities will have to close. “There are some parts of the country where facilities are sitting empty, and there is no sense in keeping them empty,” he has said.

Meanwhile, the VA is stepping up efforts to root out bad employees.

The executive order being signed by Trump would create a VA office to “discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans.”

Recent audits by the VA inspector general and a report by The Associated Press in February found a pattern of poor VA compliance involving equipment and drug inventory checks, putting patients at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center and leading to a sharp rise in opioid thefts across the VA system since 2009.

In March, the Republican-led House approved legislation to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend, or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. But the measure has been slow to move in the Senate after Democrats and unions cast it as an attack on workers’ rights.

AP writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how WWII, G.I. Joe and a decorated U.S. Marine shaped Transformers

Today, the Transformers IP has a world-wide presence in toys, comic books, video games, TV shows, movies and even amusement park rides. Just hearing the name cues the iconic jingle or robotic transforming noise in the heads of even the most casual fans. It’s incredible to think that this franchise that dominates the globe owes its existence to the Second World War, G.I. Joe action figures and one very special Marine.


An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Transformers is still going strong with a new Netflix original series (Netflix)

Following the end of WWII, American troops occupied the Japanese islands as the nation entered into the process of reconstruction. A key element in reviving the Japanese economy was its once prominent toy industry. However, with few raw materials available after the war, toy makers were forced to resort to unconventional sources.

American GIs occupying Japan were fed heavily with canned rations. It was the metal from these cans that was recycled and used to craft Japanese robot toys. To highlight Japanese craftsmanship, these toys were often motorized with clock mechanisms that allowed them to walk and roll.

The popularity of Japanese robot toys increased through the 1960s and 1970s. With the expansion of television, the robot toys were paired with manga comics and anime cartoons that engaged children and promoted toy sales. Japanese robot-based entertainment like Astroboy, Ultraman, Shogun Warriors and Gigantor became increasingly popular in America.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Robot shows like Gigantor were also successful in Australia (Eiken/TCJ)

However, even the robots from the east couldn’t compete with “A Real American Hero” like G.I. Joe. High sales of the action figure in the states were enough to convince Japanese toy maker Takara to license G.I. Joe for the Japanese market.

Having gained respect in the Japanese toy world for their toy dolls, Takara wanted to branch out and make a toy line for boys. However, G.I. Joe’s iconic scar and grimacing expression were a bit too harsh and aggressive for post-war Japan. To market the toy to Japanese boys, Takara decided to make G.I. Joe into a superhero with superpowers. When the designers realized that G.I. Joe’s body wasn’t conducive to a superhero build, they resorted to type and made him into a robot. With a clear plastic body displaying his metal computer-like internals, G.I. Joe became Henshin Cyborg. Henshin meaning “transformation”, this was the first step towards what we know today as Transformers.

Following the 1973 oil crisis, the 11.5″ tall toy and all of its accessories became prohibitively expensive to produce. Like G.I. Joe in the states, Takara introduced the 3.75″ tall Microman. A mini version of Henshin Cyborg, the Microman toy line focused even more on transforming toys with robots that could change into sci-fi spaceships. Microman was so popular that it was marketed in the US under the name Micronauts.

By the 1980s, robot toys that transformed into exotic spaceships were losing popularity. To rejuvenate the robot toy concept, Takara introduced the Diaclone Car Robo and Microman Micro Change lines. Diaclone toys transformed from robots into 1:60 scale vehicles like cars and trucks while Microman toys transformed into 1:1 replicas of household items like cameras, cassette players and toy guns.

At the Tokyo Toy Show, Hasbro executives took notice of Diaclone, Microman Micro Change and the plethora of other Japanese transforming robot toys and wanted to develop their own toy line. A deal was struck with Takara and Hasbro lifted almost every one of their toy lines for the US market, including Diaclone and Microman Micro Change.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Diaclone transforming robot truck Battle Convoy (Takara)

To review, Hasbro licensed G.I. Joe to Takara in the 1970s. Takara turned G.I. Joe into Henshin Cyborg. Henshin Cyborg was shrunk down to Microman. Microman evolved into Diaclone and Microman Micro Change, both of which were licensed back to Hasbro. Things had really come full circle.

With all of these transforming robot toys, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics to develop a backstory for the new toy line. Over a weekend, Marvel writers came up with the names and backstories for the first 26 Transformers as well as the plot for the first comic book issue.

Diaclone and Microman Micro Change robots were renamed and became Transformers as we know them today. Micro Car became Bumblebee, Cassette Man became Shockwave, Gun Robo became Megatron, Battle Convoy became Optimus Prime and the War for Cybertron between the just Autobots and the oppressive Decepticons was born. The first commercial for the Transformers toys introduced the now iconic jingle and the phrases, “Robots in disguise” and, “More than meets the eye.”

The 1984 release of Transformers was a huge success netting Hasbro 5 million in sales. The popularity of the franchise was due in large part to the Transformers cartoon, the star of which was the venerable Optimus Prime.

Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, became so iconic that he was brought back to reprise the role of the Autobot leader in the 2007 Transformers film and its many sequels. Cullen, also known for voicing Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, crafted the voice of Optimus Prime with inspiration from his older brother.

Marine Captain Henry Laurence Cullen, Jr., known as Larry, was a decorated veteran of the war in Vietnam. While serving with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Capt. Cullen was awarded a Bronze Star with a V device as well as two Purple Hearts for his actions during Operation Hastings in June 1966.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Capt. Cullen was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery (Cullen family)

When his younger brother told him he was going to audition for the role of a hero in a cartoon series, Capt. Cullen said, “Peter, if you’re gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Don’t be one of those Hollywood heroes pretending they’re tough guys when they’re not. Just be strong and real. Tell the truth. Be strong enough to be gentle.”

With his older brother’s words echoing in his mind, Peter Cullen delivered the strong yet gentle voice performance that Transformers fans today will always hail as the one, true Optimus.

“He had a lot of influence on me, you know, and especially coming back from Vietnam. I noticed somebody different,” Cullen remembered of his older brother. “Going into that audition, Larry was with me. I mean, he was right there beside me. When I read the script, Larry’s voice just came out. He was my hero.”

From recycled ration cans, to a classic American action figure and an inspirational leader of Marines, the Transformers franchise has had a lot of American military influence to get to where it is today.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s newest torpedos get a deadly tracking upgrade

Sea bass is considered a culinary delicacy around the world. The Chilean sea bass, in fact, often turns up on five-star restaurant menus. But if you’ve been keeping up with the times, you know that there’s a new, American sea bass out in the ocean that has a very big bite. We’re talking something that can takes a chunk out of the metallic denizens of the ocean, both surface-dwelling warships and the subs that lurk beneath.

Okay, it’s not exactly a “sea bass,” but rather a “CBASS,” or Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, and it’s a huge upgrade to the MK 48 Mod 7 torpedo currently in service.


You may be wondering why the United States Navy is looking to improve on the MK 48 — especially since a U.S. sub hasn’t fired a torpedo in anger since World War II.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

MK 48 torpedo aboard USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740).

(DOD photo by Lisa Daniel)

The fact is that technology doesn’t stand still, and the Navy learned the hard way during World War II that reliable torpedoes are essential. Learning from history is why the US is constantly pushing to improve its torpedoes. And it’s a good thing, too, because Russia and China have been pushing to upgrade their naval forces in recent years.

According to Lockheed, the newest Mod 7 will include a suite of new, wide-band sonar systems, advanced signal processing, and enhanced guidance systems. All of this is attached to a 650-pound, high-explosive warhead atop a 3,500-pound torpedo.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

43 years after this test shot, the MK 48 Mod 7 CBASS ensures that the United States Navy’s subs can still kill anything afloat — or under the surface.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Official handouts credit the MK 48 with a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a maximum range of over five nautical miles, and an operating depth of at least 1,200 feet. However, the real specs are probably much better in terms of performance. Unofficial figures show the torpedo actually has a top speed of 55 knots and a maximum range of 35,000 yards (almost 20 miles).

The United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy have teamed up to produce this very deadly “fish.” In this case, the CBASS is the predator.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lethal insider attack on U.S. troops expected to continue

In the wake of the second deadly insider attack in Afghanistan in 2018, experts say that these incidents are an unfortunate reality of the train, advise, and assist mission: that U.S. troops cannot avoid living among killers in disguise.

The latest suspected green-on-blue attack occurred Sept. 3, 2018. Killed in the attack was Command Sgt. Major Timothy Bolyard, the top enlisted soldier for the Army’s new 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, a unit designed for Afghan advisory missions. One other service member, who was not identified, was wounded. Afghan security personnel or insurgents wearing Afghan uniforms are suspected in the attack.


In July 2018, an insider attack killed U.S. Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel of South Gate, California and wounded two other U.S. service members, who were operating in the Tarin Kowt district of Afghanistan’s south central Uruzgan province.

Since 2007, insider attacks have killed 157 coalition personnel, according to the Modern War Institute at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The institute did not break down the numbers to show how many of the victims were U.S. personnel.

“It’s going to happen,” Jason Dempsey, an adjunct fellow for the Center for New American Security, told Military.com. “You are talking about a security force of about 300,000-plus. You’ve got changing loyalties, you’ve got desertion rates up to 25 percent … dudes are flowing out of the Afghan military nonstop.

“There is absolutely no way to stop it.”

Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he is surprised that there have been so few of these attacks.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

U.S. Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel of South Gate, California.

(US Army photo)

“It’s one thing to look back and say, ‘there were some of these incidents when you had 100,000 Americans in the field, but right now they are almost the inevitable option for the Taliban,'” Cordesman said.

“We have to understand — this is a war; it is a war being fought on an ideological level and ethnic and sectarian level. … I don’t want to say that this means you can disregard these sort of attacks, but I think given the numbers it’s not surprising that they are taking place. It is surprising that [the numbers] are so low.”

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is now mainly dedicated to the train, advise, and assist missions working with Afghan forces that in many cases have never worked with U.S. personnel before, experts maintain.

“As an advisor, your primary means of force protection is your direct Afghan counterpart and it’s your direct Afghan counterpart who has the pulse on his organization,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey, an Army infantry officer who deployed twice to Afghanistan, said he investigated a green-on-blue incident in 2012 that left two U.S. contractors dead.

“A U.S. unit just showed up and hung out at a checkpoint with a bunch of Afghans, and there was a hothead in the group of the Afghans who the Afghans knew didn’t like Americans,” Dempsey said. “He was fighting the Taliban, but he didn’t like the Americans.”

An argument ensued and a “point-blank firefight broke out,” Dempsey said.

The investigation revealed that the Afghans said “if anybody would have told us that the Americans were going to show up, that dude wouldn’t have been there,” Dempsey said.

The U.S. military is investigating the Sept. 3, 2018 attack, as it does with all attacks of this nature.

“Almost inevitably, when there is an incident like that, people on both sides almost have to overreact,” Cordesman said. “First, you have to send a message that there is discipline and retribution; second, you have to reassure people and third essentially take time to investigate because what can be just a one case could become far more dangerous if there is any kind of cell.”

Trust is something that “you are always building and rebuilding,” Cordesman added.

The Sept. 3, 2018 insider attack occurred a day after Army Gen. Scott Miller assumed command of Operation Resolute Support. The change of command comes at a time when Taliban forces have increased their attacks on high-profile targets and rejected the recent offer for a ceasefire from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Currently, there are about 15,000 U.S. and 6,400 NATO troops serving in Afghanistan.

“You have a very narrow, small part of American society taking all these risks for us,” Cordesman said. “We can’t eliminate those risks and be effective.”

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

popular

Airman retired for pain finds freedom in rugby

Karah Behrend’s tattooed arms and wild blue hair aren’t the only reasons she stands out on the rugby field. It’s a relatively new hobby for Behrend, though her practiced technique paints a different picture. She performs with the intensity, coordination, and endurance of an experienced athlete.

And she does it all from the seat of her wheelchair, facing an opponent that the crowd cannot see.

“In 2015, a doctor handed me a sticky note with seven small life-changing letters on it,” the retired Senior Airman and Air Force Wounded Warriors Program member said. Those letters were CRPS/RSD.


She was diagnosed with a disease know as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome — a rare, largely untreatable and widely unknown neurological disease. According to the McGill Pain Index, it is the most painful chronic form of agony known to modern medicine.

“It rates above amputations, phantom limb and natural childbirth,” Behrend said. “It’s a lot to handle on the good days.”

But no one could see Behrend’s pain. It was hidden inside of her body, sending incorrect nerve impulses to her pain receptors. She said her invisible wound even damaged her way of thinking.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

U.S. Air Force retired Senior Airman Karah Behrend, a member of the Air Force Wounded Warriors Program, poses for a photo at the Tactical Fitness Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa D. Van Hook)

“I was very sick and tired of feeling like I constantly had to prove myself, and prove the existence of this [disease],” said Behrend. “Everything was breaking down but you could not see it.”

After nearly two years of dealing with excruciating pain, Behrend decided to attend her first Air Force Wounded Warrior CARE event.

“Before that event, I was a recluse. I wasn’t functioning,” said Behrend. “But that first CARE event taught me to value myself and see past my disease and disability.”

Behrend said the introduction of adaptive sports guided her back to happiness. She decided she would no longer sit back and play defense in her own life.

She said she started participating in as many sports as possible, from basketball to shooting, and even won a gold medal at the Warrior Games. Wheelchair rugby, however, quickly became her passion.

“Adaptive sports gave me my life back,” she said.

At first, Behrend wasn’t wheelchair-bound — she still had the ability to walk, but in Wounded Warrior events, basketball and rugby competitors play in wheelchairs regardless of their mobility. It didn’t take long before Behrend found both success and enjoyment in the activity.

Wheelchair rugby combines elements of basketball, rugby, and handball. Devoting herself to the offensive position of “high pointer,” Behrend said she used her aggression to excel. Off the field, she constantly had to endure the unpredictable ebbs and flows of debilitating, chronic pain. On the field, she had an opportunity to reclaim some brief control in her life — in the form of attitude and effort.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Senior Airman Karah Behrend, Air Force Wounded Warrior, poses for a portrait with medals she won during the Wounded Warrior Trials in Las Vegas, NV March 13, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

And much of that progression happened in spite of a huge obstacle — in June 2018, Behrend lost her ability to walk. It happened as a result of a car accident injury, which caused her disease to creep its way to her spinal column and confine her to a wheelchair permanently.

Making matters worse, the spreading of her CRPS also affected her ability to fully control her hands. That makes all her athletic endeavors all the more difficult.

Despite near impossible odds, Behrend presses on.

“I take my life 10 seconds at a time,” she said. “It helps me get through the pain, the frustration and the thoughts of not wanting to go on. It’s okay to have those thoughts and feelings. Allow them, accept them, and embrace them. Allow them to motivate you to do something bigger and badder, just to prove to yourself that nothing can ever stop you.”

“When I’m playing, it’s the only time I’m free and feel like myself again,” Behrend said. “No limitations, just free.”
Through AFW2, Behrend not only found her release through sports, but was welcomed into an irreplaceable support network of coaches, fellow wounded warriors and team leads.

One member of that support network, Ilyssa Cruz, said she witnessed Behrend’s resilience firsthand.

“I started my job at the end of April [2018],” said Cruz, a team lead for the Air Force North West Warrior CARE Event. “My first event was Warrior Games with the Air Force, and that’s where I met Karah. From the first time I met her till now, she has really progressed. She’s been kicking butt the past couple months, participating in event after event.”

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

As of December 2018, nearly 430,000 Americans served in the US Army and Air National Guard, according to Department of Defense data.

Guard members sign up to commit one weekend a month and two weeks per year for training — but are often asked to sacrifice much more in service to their state and country.

Between September 2001 and September 2015, some 428,000 members of the National Guard were sent on deployments.

These troops also answer the call when disaster strikes their home states, like the recent fires in California and during Hurricane Harvey.

When it comes to capabilities, no two states are alike — we ranked the top six, measuring everything from sheer size of force to whether the state has special forces, strike, and a brigade combat team. Overall, we found Texas has the most capable National Guard.


An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

Texas Army National Guard soldiers from the 143rd Infantry Regiment conduct a live fire exercise at Fort Hood, Texas in October 2018.

(Texas National Guard photo by Sgt. Kyle Burns)

1. Texas

Don’t mess with Texas’ National Guard.

Texas has a number of capabilities that elevate the Lone Star State to the #1 position.

Its sheer size is a significant factor — the Texas National Guard is host to nearly 21,000 troops, including its army and air components.

Texas is also home to two companies of the 19th Special Forces Group and Air Guard fighter and attack wings that provide strike and drone capabilities.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

A California National Guard soldier from the 19th Special Forces Group descends for a landing during a high altitude, high opening training near Los Alamitos, California in February 2018.

(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

2. California

California’s National Guard forces nearly equal those found in Texas, including Green Berets in the 19th Special Forces Group.

But because the nation’s most populous state only yields roughly 18,000 troops, they fall in at #2.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier looks out the side of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter near Nichols, South Carolina, in September 2018.

(Pennsylvania National Guard photo by Capt. Travis Mueller)

3. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania hosts more guardsmen than California, with a force almost 18,500 members strong.

But because the state does not have Special Forces troops — the most elite forces in the Army, who are called upon for the most dangerous missions — it slid back to take the #3 spot.

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, sit on the flight line at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where they fly to conduct training and maintain readiness during winter months.

(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Hope Geiger)

4. Ohio

Though small in geographical size, census data shows Ohio to be the 7th most populated state in the US, so it’s no surprise that it has a highly capable National Guard.

Its 16,500 guard members include Green Berets, jet pilots, and an infantry brigade combat team that has deployed to Afghanistan.

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Soldiers assigned to the 101st Cavalry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard off load from a CH-47 Chinook during cold weather training in January 2019.

(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell)

5. New York

Although New York does not have Special Forces, its force is sizable at 15,500 strong.

It hosts not one but two air attack wings — who fly MQ-9 Reaper drones — and an infantry brigade combat team.

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Georgia Army National Guard helicopters fly over the Georgia State Capitol during the inauguration of Governor Brian Kemp on Jan. 14, 2019.

(Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tori Miller)

6. Georgia

Georgia may not have Special Forces, but it hosts the sixth-largest National Guard in the US, with roughly 14,000 troops including an infantry brigade combat team.

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

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The Air Force just revealed this secret Middle East air base for the first time

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.

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Senior Airman Deandre Barnes, 1st Fighter Wing crew chief, awaits orders from Capt. Blaine Jones, First Fighter Wing F-22 Raptor pilot. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.

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.

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Airmen from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Honor Guard participate in a special Memorial Day retreat ceremony. Photo by Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun.

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?”

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Afghan Woman Reportedly Kills 25 Taliban Militants After They Killed Her Son

Hell hath no fury like an angry Afghan mother.


In Afghanistan’s Farah province, Reza Ghul watched her son’s murder before her eyes, then reportedly picked up arms and helped wax 25 Taliban militants in response to the attack on the local police checkpoint.

Now, we write reportedly because at the moment, the story is sourced only to Khaama Press and Tolo News, which are both local newspapers in Afghanistan. No western sources have picked up on it yet, so a healthy dose of skepticism should apply here.

Still, this is definitely a “whoa if true” story. Seema, Gul’s daughter-in-law, told Tolo News: “We were committed to fight until the last bullet.”

Khaama writes:

She was supported by her daughter and daughter-in-law during the gun battle which lasted for almost 7 hours that left at least 25 Taliban militants dead and five others injured.

Sediq Sediq, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the armed campaign by women against the Taliban militants is a symbol of a major revolution and public uprising against the group.

“It was around 5 a.m. when my son’s check post came under the attack of Taliban,” Reza Gul told Tolo News. “When the fighting intensified, I couldn’t stop myself and picked up a weapon, went to the check post and began shooting back.”

If other Afghans fight back against the Taliban with just half the apparent ferocity of this family, things may be alright.

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These ‘kinetic fireball incendiaries’ are designed to destroy WMD bunkers

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The Pentagon has been developing a weapon system of highly flammable and intensely hot rocket balls to help destroy weapon of mass destruction (WMD) bunkers.

These “kinetic fireball incendiaries” are specially designed to rocket randomly throughout an underground bunker while expelling super heated gases that rise over 1,000 degrees Farenheit.

These rocket balls are specifically designed for destroying potentially dangerous materials — such as chemical or biological weapons — without blowing them up, which would risk scattering the materials into the surrounding area, Wired notes.

“There are plenty of bombs which could destroy a lab, and bunker-busting weapons can tackle hardened underground facilities. But blowing up weapons of mass destruction is not a good idea. Using high explosives is likely to scatter them over a wide area, which is exactly what you want to avoid,” Wired writes.

Instead, the fireballs function alongside a 2,000 pound BLU-109B bunker bomb, Flight Global reports. These bunker bombs are able to punch through six feet reinforced concrete. After punching into a bunker, the bomb would then release its internal kinetic incendiaries.

Once inside a bunker or structure, the rocket balls get to work. Essentially, the balls are hollowed out spheres comprised of rubberized rocket fuel that have a hole on the outside. As Technovelgy notes, this hole causes the balls, once ignited, to expel hot air in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, the expulsion of air causes the incendiary balls to rocket wildly throughout a structure with enough force to break down doors. This allows the balls to randomly and fully reach the entirety of a bunker while incinerating everything inside.

Wired also notes that the use of such incendiary devices could allow the military to effectively clear out a building without damaging the structure’s integrity, as well as effectively dealing with a nuclear facility without spreading nuclear material into the atmosphere or surrounding region.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy may look to this Army workhorse for special ops

For years, the Navy has been planning to buy Lockheed’s newest version of the Sea Stallion helicopter, the CH-53K King Stallion. In fact, they’ve already pre-ordered 200 of the new helicopter. But Lockheed’s new bird is running into a lot of stumbling blocks, ones that have the Navy careening toward a tried-and-true Army favorite: The Chinook.


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The Chinook took its first flight with the U.S. Military in 1961.

The Pentagon has directed the Navy to look at buying maritime versions of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter, a version that is protected against the corrosive seaborne environment of aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships. Lockheed’s billion King Stallion program has run into a series of technical problems and delays over the past few months. The program is delayed by more than a year and still has “100 outstanding deficiencies that require resolution,” according to Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Since one of the missions for the new King Stallion is moving heavy cargo, not just any replacement will do. That’s where the Chinook comes in.

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The CH-53K King Stallion.

“There is simply no other helicopter that comes close to the performance of the CH-53K or that can meet Marine Corps requirements,” said Bill Falk, Lockheed’s King Stallion program director. The Marine Corps agrees, saying adapting the CH-47 for maritime operations is no simple fix or easy upgrade. The Marines believe the Chinook can’t provide the heavy lift necessary for future operations.

Boeing, of course, disagrees, saying the helicopter already “conducts ship-based operations for U.S. Special Forces and international operators, and enjoys a strong reputation among all the U.S. services.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an Air Force pilot saved a United Airlines flight

For most airmen going on leave for the holidays, the time off means an escape from their everyday Air Force career. After all, when is someone going to need a loadmaster at the liquor store (unless there’s a huge bourbon shortage at an egg nog festival and Costco is planning a relief drop from a C-17)?

An Air Force pilot on a United Airlines flight, however, is another story.


Like a scene out of a movie, Captain Mike Gongol was on a flight to see his extended family in Denver from Des Moines in 2013 when the B1-B Lancer pilot noticed the Boeing 737’s engine begin to idle — something only another pilot would realize. When the plane began to descend and drift to the right, he knew something was up.

He was right. A nurse on board the flight, Linda Alweiss, entered the cockpit, and found the pilot slumped over in his seat.

The rest of the plane knew something was up when a flight attendant asked the passengers if there was a doctor aboard the plane. They were asked to remain seated as the crew ran up to first class with a medical kit. When the attendants again addressed the passengers, they asked if there were any “non-revenue pilots” aboard the plane.

Gongol realized the pilot was probably the patient – and his Air Force specialty was needed. The first officer must have been the only other pilot aboard. He “looked to his wife as she gave him a nod, and Gongol pressed his button and headed toward the flight deck.”

“He was sick and mumbling and was just incoherent,” the nurse told KTLA.

A Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a very different craft from a Boeing 737. Differences in weight, crew, engine number and thrust, top speeds and ceilings are all significant factors. The moment Gongol entered the cockpit, he and the first officer sized one another up – he opted to support her as her first officer.

The Air Force captain decided to let her take the lead. He backed up her checklists, used the radio, and kept an eye out for anything going wrong.

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“She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be,” Gongol told Air Force Space Command. It was only when they moved to land in Omaha that Gongol took the lead. The first officer had never landed in Omaha, but Capt. Gongol knew the airfield well, landing there many times in training. Still, he talked her through it.

The pilot, as well as the other 157 people aboard the flight, survived the trip.

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‘Lt. Dan’ received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

And he did it while thanking World War II veterans for “defeating tyranny”.


Gary Sinise paid tribute to military veterans as he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13” actor was joined by members of the armed forces and emergency services during the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard.

The 62-year-old was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Vietnam War veteran Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump and created the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2003 to support servicemen and women.

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On stage, Gary thanked Second World War veterans for “defeating tyranny over 70 years ago”.

“Just imagine the world if we had not succeeded in defeating that tyranny all those years ago,” he said.

“I’m grateful for these heroes and all who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success that I’ve had in the movie and television business to try to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom,” he added.

“It’s a great country. I’ve been so blessed over the years.”

General Robin Rand, head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, described Gary as a “true American patriot”.

Also read: 11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about helping vets

Addressing Gary on stage, he said: “My friend and brother Gary doesn’t stop. Like a tiger in battle, he doesn’t quit. He’s just there for us, quietly and without fanfare. You’re a humble servant and you’re a valued friend to American warriors who serve in ill forgotten places. Your star is a legacy of service and a legacy of love.”

Other guest speakers at the event included “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton and “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna.

Gary was presented with the 2,606th star on the Walk of Fame.

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