This non-profit wants veterans to vote - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit wants veterans to vote

With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.

“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.


“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”

She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.

Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.

IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.

Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.

Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”

IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


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A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

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First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

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Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

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A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

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A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

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US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Bulletproof Motivation: Tips from a Navy SEAL, CIA Officer, and Firefighter

When it comes to motivation, Navy SEALs have plenty to spare, but we know one guy that could even make some SEALs look lazy.


Earning your place among the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL teams, gathering intelligence for your nation’s security as a CIA officer, or serving as a fire officer for a professional fire department would each be enough to fill most lives, but not for our friend Frumentarius–he’s done all three, and you can call him Fru, for short.

We caught up with Fru recently to talk about motivation, and how young service members can follow in his accomplished footsteps. Of course, Frumentarius isn’t his real name, but it’s not a throw-away pseudonym either. After a career in covert special operations and another in covert intelligence gathering, he’s learned the value in keeping his identity at arm’s reach when it comes to engaging with the public.

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The Navy SEALs specialize in small unit tactical operations in difficult and dangerous environments.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

I’ve known Fru for a few years now, and can personally attest that the guy practices what he preaches. Keeping your body in good working condition through three of the most physically demanding careers out there is nothing to scoff at, but it’s not his physical fitness that sets Fru apart from the pack; in a lot of ways, it’s his mindset.

I wanted to know what advice Fru had for young service members just beginning their careers in uniform, and like you’d expect from a SEAL, a spy, or a firefighter; he didn’t disappoint.

“Just enjoy the experience as something you’ll miss when it’s over. Always work hard at everything you do so that you become a ‘go-to’ guy or girl when somebody needs something done,” Fru said.

“Don’t get too jaded, but cultivate a sardonic sense of humor and learn to laugh at the sometimes-absurd nature of military life and war. Treat your family as your number one priority throughout so that you have a good support system at home. Have fun because it will be over before you know it!”
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When this is what you do at work, it pays to have support at home.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau/Released)

Of course, military service isn’t all good days, especially if you want to become a SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, or any other member of America’s Special Operations units. In order to be successful, you’ve got to learn how to keep your head in the game and stay motivated. I asked Fru what he does when he’s working through exhaustion or high loads of stress.

“Those are the times when you need to be the most motivated,” he told me. “No one enjoys those times, and a true leader (in the sense of someone worth following or emulating) thrives in those difficult moments.”
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A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student participates in interval swim training in San Diego Bay.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

“Embrace the pain and stress and exhaustion and tell yourself those are the moments that make your own life exemplary — they are what make it stand out. They are what in many ways will define your service. You’ll tell the stories of those hard times for decades afterwards. Make them count and be the hero of your own story.”

But even Navy SEALs like to have a good time, and Fru is quick to point out that, while exhaustion and stress are par for the course, it’s still probably one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

“Most people are aware of the camaraderie, the high speed equipment/gear, the missions/operations, and all of that,” Fru explained.”

“They may not be aware that SEALs get paid to work out every single day, to dive and parachute, and to generally do fun stuff as part of the job. There are some sucky parts too, but for the most part, SEALs are paid to do stuff they love to do.”
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The sort of stuff Navy SEALs do for fun.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Anthony Harding/Released)

Eventually, Fru left the SEALs to go to work for the CIA. While these two jobs may compliment one another, being a SEAL didn’t guarantee him a spot in America’s most secretive intelligence service. Just like earning his SEAL Trident, Frumentarius had to start from scratch and prove he could hang in the very different world (and culture) that is The Agency. As Fru is the first to tell you, even SEALs can’t rest on their laurels.

“I had an academic background in international affairs that made it an appealing move for me. After getting to the Agency, I then tried to remember that I was in a different culture than the SEALs,” he said.

“Some things I brought over with me, in terms of attitude and drive, but other things I had to leave behind (most of the ‘military’ culture). I ultimately made the transition successfully by working as hard as I could to be an effective CIA officer, knowing that my time in the SEALs was not something I could rest on. I had to earn my way at the CIA like every one else.”
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(CIA Photo)

I asked Fru what his best tips are for current service members that want to pursue a career in an elite intelligence outfit like the CIA.

“Get a degree in foreign language, economics, chem/bio/nuke, or international affairs/politics. If you can be proficient in a hard language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc), even better.”
Just like being in the SEALs, working for the CIA has its benefits. For Fru, some of the coolest parts of serving in that capacity was getting to see the big picture, and playing a role in how it unfolded. Even so, a job with unique benefits also comes with unique challenges.
“CIA officers have to be choosy in their chosen targets of collection because CIA officers are supposed to acquire intelligence unobtainable through all other means. That’s the real challenge.”
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Aerial view of the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

(WikiMedia Commons)

Fru has since left the CIA behind as well, opting to switch to a different sort of service life that allows him to maintain a more regular lifestyle: that of a professional firefighter. Just like his previous gigs, saving lives and putting out fires can be extremely physically taxing. So I wanted to know how Fru had managed to stay so fit, active, and injury free throughout all of his various roles.

“A commitment to self-care — physically, mentally, emotionally, health-wise — is paramount. You have to commit to eating somewhat healthy, taking care of your body through aerobic exercise, weight training, and stretching, and to taking care of your emotional/psychological needs.”

“That means finding something healthy that works as an outlet for you (shooting, slinging weights, running, reading, playing guitar, painting, whatever). You have to keep yourself on an even keel as best as you can because all of those jobs have immense stresses. They’ll occasionally overwhelm you, and you have to just reset yourself and continue to carry on.”
If you want to know more about our friend Fru, or just to give him a shout on social media to thank him for his service, you can find him on Twitter here. Make sure to tell him Sandboxx sent you!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 great gifts for your military pet

You’ve covered the kids, your spouse, neighbors, your in-laws, and even snagged a little something for the mailman and school principal. As you’re making your list and checking it twice this holiday, don’t forget a favorite military pet!

The best gifts for pets are useful and practical items that might also benefit the pet owner in some way (think: hours of entertainment for an energetic pup or frisky feline). Here are the best gifts for pets this year:


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(PetFusion)

1. Interactive cat toy

This top-rated toy uses a cat’s natural hunting instincts to captivate their attention using a feather. Battery powered, the device mimics prey and mixes it up to keep pets engaged and anti-skid feet help to keep the gadget in place for any cat owners who might be worried about forceful felines.

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(Nite Ize)

2. Light up ball

Make fetch more fun with this LED light-up ball that promises hours of fun for your dog, even after the sun goes down. One bounce activates the color-changing toy and an easy-to-replace battery ensures playtime longevity.

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(Crown Paw)

3. Custom artwork

As it turns out, your pet can also be a military member….sort of. Crown Paw allows users to submit a headshot of their pet and then customize it into a regal portrait. All pets are welcome and users can choose from canvas themes like “The Admiral” or “The Colonel.” More than one animal in your house? Multi-pet themes like “The Officers” make gifting easy.

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(SmartBones)

4. Rawhide-free chews

Skip the rawhide for your pup this year and pick up some SmartBones, which are made from whole ingredients like vegetables and chicken. Enriched with vitamins and minerals, these treats not only taste delicious to a dog, but the natural motion of chewing helps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

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(Design Dua)

5. Stylish beds

Help your pet get the best sleep of their lives without sacrificing your interior design style. These woven beds (and specialty pods for feline friends) are made from natural Elephant Grass and are handcrafted using traditional Ghanian craft techniques. Each basket comes with a fitted cushion and are available in a range of sizes.

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(Furbo)

6. Pet camera

The whole family will enjoy this wifi-enabled camera that allows you to drop in your pet when you aren’t home. Using an HD, wide-angle lens, the device allows users to see, talk to, and even dole out treats, to pets using an app on their phone. The bonus? A built-in sensor alerts pet parents to animal and human movement, so you’ll never wonder what your pet is up to all day again.

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(Rocco Roxie Supply Co)

7. Pet odor + stain eliminator

Alright, this one might be a gift for the pet parents and not the pet, but 10,000+ reviews speak to the power of this enzyme-powered stain and odor remover. Created to work for both cats and dogs, this formula is chlorine-free, color safe and promises to work or you’ll get a full refund. You will never stress about pets and rental carpets again!

Still at a loss on what to gift your favorite military pet? Quality time still ranks pretty high on their list — and maybe a few extra treats, too.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This airman found a way to combine creative talent with military service

Fresh off of an assignment, he tentatively made his way through a checklist. With a friendly demeanor and calming presence he made his way to visit his colleagues, as old friends do. His intricately inked arms revealed stories untold with each tattoo beneath his neatly rolled uniform sleeves. With hazel eyes, he processed each story as he listened to its thoughts and goals.

Muralist, painter, street artist, and 315th Airlift Wing Reservist, Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, combat photojournalist with the 4th Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, used his creative talent and public affairs training to win 2018 Air Force Photographer of the Year and first place in the 2018 Military Visual Awards portrait category.


“On a daily basis we are involved with creativity, adventure and challenge,” Lundborg said.

At a young age, Lundborg began developing his talent through murals and street art that at times brought a little trouble, so he turned to boxing as a creative outlet. These two outlets led him to a crossroads when it came time to choose between a career in art or fighting. Lundborg found that way through the Air Force.

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Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, paints a mural at Giphy’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles, April 10, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

“Corban is tenacious,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Herrick, 4th CTCS combat photojournalism superintendent. “He wants to grow and find a way to expand his capabilities and contributions.”

Lundborg’s active duty Air Force career in logistics led him to Korea, where he was able to reignite his dream to be a full-time artist through an apprenticeship at a local tattoo parlor there. There his creativity flourished.

Lundborg said, “I find peace and fulfillment in creativity.”

Soon after returning to the states, Lundborg was able to combine his passion for art through his military career at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Joint Air Reserve Station, Minnesota, as a photojournalist.

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Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, prepares the cameras before a video production shoot for the Air Force Reserve mission video at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 7, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

Lundborg is extremely talented, selfless and quite the servant-leader, Herrick said.

In Minneapolis, Lundborg reached out to his community as an educator to inner city teens.

“The classroom was my new-found joy and the objective of my class was to engage, inspire and change each student’s life,” Lundborg said. “I aim to help them find their identity and their voice through the arts and pull out the greatness already within them.”

Through various combat camera projects Lundborg found his voice at JB Charleston, where his imagery contributed to every mission accomplished.

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Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, stands next to a mural he painted on The Smokestack, a popular establishment in Dubuque, Iowa, Sept. 26, 2016.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

“Staff Sgt. Lundborg’s imagery wasn’t just utilized at the tactical and operational levels,” said Maj. Meg Harper, 4th CTCS Flight Commander. “It ended up having strategic impact as well.”

Lundborg’s work often went straight to the four-star commanding general while overseas, Harper said. His talent strengthened the Air Force mission through on-target, high quality photos.

“I consider Lundborg an absolute key to our combat camera mission,” Harper said.

Lundborg brought his talents to the battlefield for a purpose.

“I believe each person’s life is an intelligently placed brushstroke on a large canvas intentionally placed by the creator for a larger purpose,” Lundborg said. “Each day I have really been living a dream”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now the Iraqi army is going after the Kurdish forces who helped beat ISIS

Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces exchanged fire at their shared border on Oct. 20, capping a dramatic week of maneuvers that saw the Kurds hand over territory across northern Iraq.


Iraqi forces shelled Kurdish military positions north and south of Altun Kupri, a town of about 9,000 people just outside the country’s autonomous Kurdish region, a day after Brig. Gen. Raad Baddai gave warning he was going to enter the town.

Organized Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, as well as irregular forces, responded with rocket fire.

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Kurdish Peshmerga near the Syrian border (photo by Enno Lenze)

By mid-day, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said anti-terrorism forces, the federal police, and the country’s Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Front militias had taken the town.

But the peshmerga’s general command disputed that claim, saying Kurdish fighters fought off the advance and destroyed 10 humvees and an Abrams tank.

Ercuman Turkmen, a PMF commander, said from inside the town his forces were being targeted by sniper fire. Speaking to the AP by phone, he said he had no orders to enter the Kurdish autonomous region.

There were no casualty reports but AP reporters saw ambulances outside the town.

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Logo of Popular Mobilization Forces. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The boundaries of the country’s Kurdish region have long been disputed between Baghdad and Irbil, the Kurdish capital, but Kurdish forces this week withdrew in most areas to positions they last held in 2014, effectively restoring the contours of the map to the time before the rise of the Islamic State group.

They pulled out of nearby Kirkuk after brief clashes and handed over surrounding oil fields nearly without a fight, but they held on to Altun Kupri, making a symbolic last stand in front of the vastly more powerful Iraqi army.

“The Kurdistan Peshmerga Forces have resisted heroically in this confrontation and have recorded a great honor,” the peshmerga general command said in a statement released mid-day.

Altun Kupri is the last town on the federal side of the border on the road between Kirkuk and Irbil.

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A checkpoint near Altun Kurpi, between Irbil and Kirkuk. Photo from NRT Images.

Kurdish forces entered Kirkuk in 2014 when Iraq’s army melted away ahead of the Islamic State group’s blitz across northern and western Iraq.

The city, home to over 1 million Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, emerged at the heart of the dispute over whether Kurdish authorities should return the territories it acquired during the war on IS. They have lost an important stream of oil revenues with the loss of the city, dealing a serious blow to aspirations for independence.

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani championed a non-binding vote for Kurdish independence in September. Baghdad condemned it and instead demanded the return of the disputed territories, precipitating the crisis.

The peshmerga are vastly outmatched by Iraq’s federal armed forces and the Iranian-sponsored militias that fight alongside them. Both the Kurds and the federal forces are accustomed to calling and receiving coalition air support as part of their shared war on the Islamic State group.

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A Peshmerga soldier loads his M16 rifle during a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense class. Army photo by Sgt. Lisa Soy

“There’s nothing we can do about it, honestly. I’m urging the coalition forces to come and help us.” said peshmerga fighter Ibrahim Mirza. “No doubt we have martyrs.”

Kurdish authorities sent reinforcements to the front lines. An Associated Press team saw a convoy of dozens armored vehicles arriving at the Kurdish side of the front, and fighters waiting in the town of Kustepe, on the Kurdish side of the border.

Thick black smoke rose from a checkpoint north of Altun Kupri after it was hit by a shell, and ambulances rushed from the front lines into Kurdish areas.

Altun Kupri is 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Kirkuk.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 6 initiatives are leading the charge for women in the veteran space

When I left the military, I thought I had to give up part of who I was. In a way, I did, but I also didn’t realize the importance and value of being a veteran. I thought that leaving the service was closing a chapter and simply starting the next thing – which at the time happened to be my new role as a mom and military spouse. I didn’t see my role of being a veteran carrying any weight. Of course, I knew I was a veteran from my six years of active-duty service, but I didn’t feel welcome enough in the veteran space to even find out what it meant to serve in that role.


Our focus often goes to our new roles. You raise your hand or stand up at various events or ceremonies thanking you for your service, and that is what you think being a veteran is. But being a veteran is not something you were; it is a part of who you are. And for a long time, you can miss out on the community that you are searching for, not knowing what you are looking for. It can feel like you gave up everything about who you were, and somehow because you are no longer in the military, your story and voice don’t matter.

But you are wrong. Not only does your voice matter, but it is also needed. Just like in the male-dominated military, your unique perspective as a woman and as a veteran is important for solving problems, making changes and leaving a legacy. That hasn’t changed because you took your uniform off.

Your story does matter, and you can make a difference for other veterans if you take the first step of getting involved. In the past five years, we have started to see a change in the veteran space. More women veterans are stepping up and using their voice as a powerful tool to not only bring to light the struggles women veterans face but bringing more females into the veteran community and helping to bring change.

These are a handful of the leading organizations making change for women veterans.

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Women’s Veterans Interactive

Women’s Veterans Interactive (WVI), created by Ginger Miller, addresses the unique and often unrecognized challenges facing our nation’s two million women veterans as they return to civilian life. WVI focuses on meeting women veterans at their point of need while breaking down barriers leading to homelessness. WVI holds an annual conference focused on Leadership and Diversity in which they bring together women veterans with a wide variety of speakers and topics. The conference ends with an awards dinner recognizing women veterans for the work they do.

Service Women’s Action Network

Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) is the voice of all military women. They are committed to seeing that all servicewomen receive the opportunities, protections, benefits and respect they deserve. SWAN has three areas to guide them: support, connect and advocate. Support through a network of vetted resources, connect by bringing together military women and organizations across the country to amplify the voices of servicewomen and advocate for women by building a national reputation as a force behind the policy change.

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Women in Military Service for America Memorial

Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history through exhibits, memorabilia and a cataloged history of the record of over 200,000 women veterans.

Women Veterans Alliance

Women Veterans Alliance (WVA) has the vision to connect over 2 million female veterans for the purpose of sharing our gifts, talents, resources and experiences. Founder Melissa A. Washington is a Navy Veteran who saw a need to bring women veterans to equip, empower and encourage each other. Each year their “Unconference” focuses on one-on-ones, self-care, specialized breakouts and more.

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Women of the Military Podcast & The Female Veterans Podcast

Women of the Military Podcast is a place of empowerment and sharing the stories of military women’s past and present with the belief that all stories matter and need to be shared. The podcast allows women to share their stories, and it can bring healing and the ability to let go. So many military women never talk about their experience and feel so alone in their struggles. The podcast brings a dynamic range of stories and experiences to help women not feel so alone. And, if you are looking for more stories of military women, check out The Female Veterans Podcast.

These are just a handful of the many women veteran organizations that have been making an impact and bringing about change to the veteran space. But there is still more work to do. Women often get pulled so far away from the military community that they don’t even realize these resources are available to them. Our voices matter.

I now see why organizations like the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion were so popular after the previous wars ended. There is something about serving in the military that changes you and builds a bond with people who may not look like you or believe what you do, but they are still your brothers and sisters in arms.

And we need that community.

What are your favorite veteran organizations focused on helping women veterans?

MIGHTY TRENDING

How NASA honored John Young, its most experienced astronaut

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of John Young, who died Jan. 5 following complications from pneumonia at the age of 87. Young is the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times:


Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

 

John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.

 

Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country.  His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.

Also Read: Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…’

 

John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity.  He was in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’ We will miss him.

For more information about Young’s NASA career, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/astronautprofiles/young  

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran boasts about its increased uranium enrichment capacity

Iran says it is continuing to acquire uranium and is close to finishing a plant where it can build more centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The announcement on July 18, 2018, comes a day after Iran filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States in response to President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull his country out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners in Iran have questioned whether Iran should continue honoring its obligations under the landmark deal with world powers after Trump’s decision.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement — which also was signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union — Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei


The other signatories have said they will remain a part of the deal. Iran has demanded financial concessions from Europe to compensate for losses caused by Washington’s renewed sanctions.

Khamenei in June 2018 announced his country was preparing to increase uranium-enrichment capacity at its Natanz nuclear facility.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran will continue adhering to the nuclear deal and that the country’s stepped-up nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.

A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters that the organization was aware of Iran’s announcement but had no comment.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, while Washington has accused it of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Veterans of the Persian Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery unless policies are changed — even if they were bestowed the Medal of Honor, a new report says.


There are 21 million living veterans in the U.S., but the cemetery has room for only 73,000 burials.

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Soldiers of the 3rd U.S Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) prepare to move the casket of Medal of Honor recipient Leonard Keller to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery’s section 60. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Currently, any veteran with an honorable discharge and at least one day of active duty is eligible for interment there at Arlington. That’s a lower bar than the cemeteries managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which require two years of active duty service. (RELATED: VA Insists On Paper Records, Slowing Payments To Private Docs But Creating Union Jobs)

Largely thanks to the one-day-minimum policy, the cemetery will be closed even to those killed in action — known as “first interments” — by 2042.

“If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate under current policies, it must be expanded geographically and/or alter the iconic look and feel of the cemetery,” an Army report presented to Congress August 23 said. “If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate without expansion, eligibility must change or it will close for first interments by mid-century.”

That’s only 26 years into the future, meaning veterans of recent wars, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, have little hope of burial there when they die later in life. “With current policies, Veterans of the Gulf War, Somalia, [Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom] era cannot expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, even if awarded the Medal of Honor,” the report says.

Between 1967 and 1980, burial at Arlington was limited to those killed in action (KIA), retired career, and medal of honor recipients. If the policy is changed to limit the cemetery to KIAs only, the cemetery will have enough space for hundreds of years.

But doing so would disenfranchise Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom will be octogenarians around 2040 and many of whom already felt mistreated by their country.

Besides changing policy, the cemetery can consider more compact and above-ground burials, which would risk losing the “serene and ordered look … with its rows of white headstones, trees, and tasteful historical and ceremonial spaces.”

It could also expand, either by acquiring neighboring land — which is hard to come by in Arlington — or at a new site. One such expansion is already taken into account in the projections.

Follow Luke on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Over the last few years, the Air Force has been taking proactive approaches to prepare for a proverbial “sucker punch” via cyber-attack. In preparation for this assault, and to mitigate vulnerability, cyber resiliency is being ingrained into Air Force culture.

By military definition, cyber resiliency is the ability of a system to complete its objective regardless of the cyber conditions, in other words, how well it can take a cyber-punch and keep fighting.


Blue: Cyber in the Contested Domain

vimeo.com

To help lead these efforts, the Air Force, through Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center, stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The NDA instructed the military to analyze the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report findings back to Congress. In 2018, the program was fully funded by Congress to begin its mission.

“It’s all about two things, making sure our warfighters are protected and making sure they are able to do their jobs,” said Joseph Bradley, director of CROWS.

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Joseph Bradley is the director of the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS) which ensures cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, then maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle. (U.S. Air Force)

Initially CROWS was created to look at liabilities in legacy weapon systems, but now it is taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, rather than as an afterthought. Then CROWS maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle.

Cyber resiliency needs change constantly and impact all Air Force missions — new threats emerge regularly and require new approaches to improve mission assurance.

As an F-35 Lightning II pilot, Maj. Justin Lee flies one of the most advanced aircraft on the planet with systems that will be upgraded and enhanced well into the future.

“We’re passing off a tremendous amount of data and, just like your computer, you want that data to be correct,” Lee said. “If you go into an adversarial environment against a frontline threat, then they’re going to be trying to do their best to interfere with it.”

It’s not just his weapons system that is vulnerable; the data these systems take in and put out is just as vulnerable and critical to mission success.

“If a hacker is able to get into the GPS time and get it off sync just by a few nanoseconds, then it can cause the bomb to land in a place that we don’t want,” Lee said.

One key mission in the evolution of CROWS was to find ways to implement cyber resiliency in the acquisition process. This now includes embedding cyber professionals within a program’s executive offices. Also, an acquisitions guidebook was created to standardize cyber-related language for contract evaluations, reducing the burden on any future programs while also allowing better communication with industry partners.

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An Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with an Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook during a training exercise at an undisclosed location in the mountains of Afghanistan, March 14, 2018. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. GREGORY BROOK)

CROWS allow cyber experts to join forces with the command responsible for the maintenance and development of a weapons system. Through testing and analysis, CROWS will then offer recommendations to make the system less vulnerable and ultimately safer.

Combat and training missions, weapons delivery and air drops are all put together using computer-based air-space mission planning systems. When the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center wanted to overhaul their software to assist ground operations for aircraft, they called on the CROWS for help.

“As the challenges were identified we put together an engineering plan for how we would start to resolve or mitigate some of those cyber security vulnerabilities. The CROWS walked us through that analysis,” said Col. Jason Avram, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Airspace Mission Planning Division chief.

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Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd Space Operations Squadron defensive counter-space operator, uses software to identify interference to a specific satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 16, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JONATHAN WHITELY)

“As that engineering plan came together, which looks specifically at how we’re going to deal with data integrity issues not only the data that we’re ingesting, but also how we’re processing that data through our software and then how we’re transferring that data to any platforms.”

According to Avram, CROWS funded the effort to develop an engineering plan on how to mitigate vulnerabilities over time.

Having cyber resiliency personnel inserted into a weapons system’s development and life-cycle management allows them to be at the tactical edge; fully understanding the system so they can detect if the obscured hand of an adversary is at play.

“They’re (CROWS) the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of DevOps and lethality. “So, they go in (figuratively) with the flashlight, they investigate and ‘holy cow’ there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that?”

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Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs. (AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // KELLYANN NOVAK)

Higby asked, how does that cop who is on the beat, how do they get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved who may have built or designed that system to facilitate an agile response to the threat?

He explained the responses to a threat could mean a number of repercussions to the Air Force. There could be a need to ground the asset and not fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be a decision to still fly with the vulnerability in place because there may be other work arounds.

It all goes back to the resiliency; can the weapon system maintain a mission effective capability under adversary offensive cyber operations. The fix may be the deployment of code to quickly patch and shut the window and get the adversary out of the system. But in all responses, you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion alongside the CROWS.

“We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever,to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision,” Higby said. “Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.”

In short, the Air Force has to be ready and able to take a punch.

“That’s the idea behind resiliency; you are going to fight to get the mission done no matter what happens,” Higby said.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Master fitness trainers help soldiers prepare for combat

Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.

Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.

Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.


“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”

That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.

Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.

To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.

According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.

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Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)

He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”

That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.

“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”

When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.

“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”

Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.

“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”

“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”

Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.

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U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”

That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”

When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.

This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.

“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.

“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.

For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.

The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.

After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

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A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

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Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

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