Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Just before the end of January 2018, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) announced that it had deployed its first operational F-35 at Misawa Air Base.


Misawa Air Base is shared by the JASDF and the U.S. Air Force, and located in the northernmost part of Japan’s Aomori Prefecture.

“The F-35A will bring transformation in air defense power and significantly contribute to the peace for citizens and ensure security,” JASDF 3rd Air Wing Commander Major General Kenichi Samejima said.

“All service members will do their best to secure flight safety and promptly establish an operational squadron structure step-by-step.”

American officials at the base also welcomed the development, with the commander of the U.S.’s 35th Fighter Wing, Colonel R. Scott Jobe, saying that U.S. pilots “look forward to training alongside our JASDF counterparts and continuing to enhance the safety and security of Japan together.”

Read Also: China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

The F-35 will be the most advanced fighter jet in the JASDF arsenal. Nine more F-35s are planned to be deployed by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

In all, Japan intends to field at least 42 F-35s over the next few years. The first four F-35s were made in the U.S., and the remaining 38 will be assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan.

Despite some controversies like cost overruns and the issue that no Japanese-made parts will be in the future jets, the F-35 is seen as essential for the JASDF in countering an increasingly capable and aggressive China.

Japan has reportedly been mulling replacing the helicopters on their Izumo-class helicopter carrier with the short vertical take-off and landing (SVTOL) variant of the F-35 that is fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps, something that China has warned against.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why wearing uniforms to a high school graduation is a boot move

It happens almost every single year and it’s always a giant fuss. A new recruit who is barely out of boot camp will wear their branch’s dress uniform as they walk down the aisle at their high school graduation. The school will invariably be annoyed that someone isn’t wearing the same thing as everyone else, they’ll cause a fuss, and, suddenly, everyone is up in arms against that school.

Now, we’re not going to throw any individual under the bus — so we won’t name names — but trust me when I say that stunts like this are definitely boot moves.


This time, the near-annual graduation controversy started with two Marines in Michigan. They informed their school of their plans month before entering boot camp and the school, of course, rejected their proposal. The students graduated recruit training on a Friday and come back to Michigan to graduate high school the following Sunday.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
They went to infantry training the next day, which means they only came back to graduate high school and show off their new uniform.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

First, it’s important to realize that schools don’t lack in compassion for the military and its troops, but the ceremony requires uniformity. The school made many concessions, including offering specially-made tassels, just like those worn by honor students, woven in red, white, and blue. They also offered to announce their military rank as they received their diploma and annotate their service in the rosters and the programs.

Even still, the students walked in their dress uniforms instead of the standard caps and gowns. The school’s superintendent allowed them to walk to keep their families happy. Afterward, an unnamed school board member discretely expressed to the students they were not happy with the rule violation, but that they also respected their service. This gentle aside then hit the internet, was blown out of proportion, and now the school board members are being made to look like as*holes.

The fact is that the uniform of the day was a cap and gown. These recruits disobeyed that order. When moments like this happen in the military because someone is trying to be an individual, the offenders swiftly disciplined. When this happens in the civilian world with recruits fresh out of boot camp (in this case, literally two days out of boot camp), the civilians who put out a simple rule (and offered many compromises) are made out to be the bad guys.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
They just wanted uniformity. You know, like that thing the military is known for.
(Photo by Chris Moncus)

Each school has a policy on wearing uniforms to graduations. Some allow it, some don’t. The entire state of New Jersey, for instance, allows all troops to wear their uniform to their high school graduation. If the school allows troops who’ve completed their initial entry training to wear a uniform, outstanding! Go for it! If not, the school shouldn’t be vilified for asking a young troop (and student) to follow a guideline.

If you still feel compelled to wear your dress uniform in an unofficial manner, wear it under your cap and gown. It’s as simple as that.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
Be like this guy. He’s doing everything the right way
(Photo by Sgt. Dwight A. Henderson)

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Citizens of the United States of America tend go mildly wild when they celebrate the fourth of July. It was on that day, in 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Deceleration of Independence, severing our nation from the British Empire.

Most people commemorate this fateful moment with a nice, wholesome family gathering. Dads work the barbecue while telling awful puns and moms try to make sure the kids don’t hurt each other with sparklers. The evening’s merriment is capped off by watching the fireworks explode over the nearby lake.

Now, we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing things wrong — if you’re into that mundane, picturesque lifestyle, more power to you — but we are here to tell you that veterans like to go big. Real big.

Independence Day is what binds the veteran community. We may argue and bicker over little things, but each and every one of us loves this country and its people. In demonstrating that love, we tend to go a little overboard when partying on what is, essentially, America’s birthday.


Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Just like the good ol’ days!

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales)

Going to the range

Veterans and firearms go together like alcohol and bad decisions. When veterans get a free day off work, they might visit the firing range. When they get a day off for the 4th, they’ll be there for sure — you know, for America.

In this case, “firing range” is a pretty vague term. It could mean a closed-off, handgun-only range, a range out in the middle of nowhere that allows you to legally fire off a fully automatic, or, if you happen to be in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, your backyard. Regardless of how we do it, it’s our little way of supporting the Constitution — through celebrating the 2nd Amendment.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Who doesn’t love watching 50 cannons go off?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Coulter)

Visiting military installations for the “Salute to the Union”

Every year, on the fourth of July, military installations hold a ceremony at noon where they fire off one gun for every state in the Union. Some of the veterans who once participated in those ceremonies come back many years down the road to see it again.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

“You can eat all of that, right?”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)

Hosting massive barbecues

Burgers sizzling on the grill is the unofficial smell of the holiday. You can’t go anywhere in America without sniffing out some hot dogs, steaks, and whatever else the veteran is cooking.

The only downside is that veterans tend to go a little overboard on what they think is the “right amount of food” for everyone. Veterans prepare for the event that everyone’s going to eat a dozen burgers. Deep down, we know that’s not going to happen, but what if…

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

There are no safety briefs in the civilian world, but there probably should be…

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kareem Abiose)

Drinking enough alcohol to relive barracks life

Sobriety is entirely optional on Independence Day. From the moment they wake up until they eventually pass out from taking too many shots in the hot summer sun, veterans spend the entire day drinking .

Of course, they should always err on the side of responsibility and remember all of the safety briefs they got when they were in. They’ve got the basics down, like “don’t drink and drive,” but they might forget some of the niche briefs, like “don’t get drunk and decide to shoot bottle rockets out of a metal pipe like a friggin’ rocket launcher” — so that’s probably still game.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

But, you know, any of the veteran-owned t-shirt company shirts are open game!

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

Wearing unapologetically American clothes

It’s America’s birthday, so dress for the occasion. American flag hats, tank tops, underwear, you name it. Today, everything is red, white, and blue.

Technically, such articles of clothing are discouraged by the Flag Code, but it’s an expression of patriotism — and the First Amendment allows you to express yourself like that.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

No 4th of July is complete without driving 110 down the freeway blasting “Free Bird.”

(Photo by Jon Callas)

Blasting American musicians

As much as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden all kick ass, let’s reserve this day for America and American rock stars, baby!

Any party celebrating American independence should have a playlist featuring plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Aerosmith.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

If you’re doing it right, the neighbors should confuse your backyard for the show put on by the city.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

So many fireworks…

Veterans refuse to be outdone by the neighbors down the road who think their puny little display of patriotism is the best way to celebrate America. If that veteran also happens to be an old-school artilleryman or mortarman, you’re about to see something special…

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

If you see one of our brothers or sisters with one of these signs, you can just ask them and let them know when you’re doing the fireworks. Just don’t be an asshole about it.

(WLKY News Louisville)

Chosing to avoid fireworks

Every year on social media, we see photos of signs placed in front of veterans’ homes politely asking neighbors to not set off fireworks get picked apart by the veteran community. You know what? A veteran choosing to spend America’s birthday exactly how they want to is veteran as f*ck, too.

Can’t stand large crowds of people and the traffic? Stay in. That’s veteran as f*ck.

Don’t want to be in a public place when loud explosions go off? You don’t have to be.

This is a day to celebrate America’s freedom. If you’ve raised your hand, there’s no way anyone can take your veteran status from you. Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. You celebrate it however you feel necessary.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 business lessons from the ‘Black Hawk down’ raid

It is a day that should always be remembered — and studied.

On Oct. 3, 1993 a large special operations force unit set out to capture a Somali warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who was causing the deaths of Somali civilians by capturing international food aid and killing international peacekeeping forces who were providing security for the food relief effort. The “routine” combat operation to capture Aidid was drastically changed when one, and then two, Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in a dense urban area of Mogadishu that was swarming with militia. The mission instantly transformed from a capture mission into a multi-pronged rescue filled with tragedy, heroism, bravery, brotherhood, and lessons for the future.


Mogadishu, Somalia on Oct. 3, 1993 is a reminder of the sacrifices of the fallen and wounded U.S. servicemen as well as the unparalleled efforts to reduce the suffering for the Somali people.

Lesson #1: The team is the most important.

As the events unfolded from the planned capture mission into multiple rescue missions, street fighting, medical evacuations, and resupply missions, the military personnel realized they were fighting for each other. A SOF mission planning tenant is that “humans are more important than hardware”. The military understands missions cannot be accomplished without personnel, and business needs to learn that employees matter most.

In business, it is amazingly easy to focus on revenue, profitability, and stock prices, but Oct. 3, 1993 clearly reminds us that it is employees that need to be an overarching focus for a successful business in periods of crisis.

Lesson #2: Stability in success is an illusion.

During the prior raids in Mogadishu, the SOF unit had used a well-rehearsed and well-executed combination of helicopter and ground convoy insertion and extraction tactics that performed well. On Oct. 3, 1993, the various militia in Mogadishu used RPGs in a ground-to-air role instead of the traditional ground-to-ground role. This change in how RPGs were used immediately put at risk the heavy reliance on helicopters when two Black Hawks were shot down using RPGs.

Businesses need to learn that any stability in their product line, pricing, and customer base can vanish overnight when the competition rapidly adapts.

Lesson #3: Building teamwork & relationships before the battle. 

Prior to the battle, the SOF forces trained together and many had known each other for years. The times before adversity are the most important because it is during the times of quiet that learning occurs, relationships are built, and methods perfected. It was really all the time before the battle that prevented Oct. 3 in Mogadishu from turning into a tragedy.

Business needs to realize that during the “good” times, business needs to take a very hard look at products, implement solid employee training programs, value customers, and develop broad product and service lines to begin improving business results before the competition acts.

Lesson #4: Difficult training triumphs over adversity.

The SOF in the Battle of Mogadishu were Rangers, Special Operations Aviation, the legendary “Delta” Force, and other military units. These groups are some of the most highly-trained military forces in the world. The central point for business (that the military realizes) is that you may never fully know when you will enter your most challenging point, which is why constant, difficult training is vital to success.

Business leaders must understand that constant, challenging, up-to-date and difficult training is the only way to remain constantly prepared for challenges that you cannot fully anticipate.

Lesson #5: Success in one area does not mean success in another.

In 1993, the U.S. military was supreme in the world. It had been a central player in forcing the Soviet Union to abandon communism for democratic reforms. In the Middle East, Operation Desert Storm built a strong coalition that destroyed the regional military power, Iraq, in less than a week of conventional ground combat.

The unexpected challenge for the U.S. military in Mogadishu was that the militia forces were an exceptionally effective, and highly untraditional, military force adept at fighting in the dense, confusing urban terrain of a major city. The lesson for business is that just because you are strong in one product category or one market does not mean that you will be strong in others.

Lesson #6: Lower level leaders with initiative bring success.

Encouraging and developing leaders with initiative is one of the hallmarks of SOF. A great deal of the success that US forces experienced in Mogadishu came from lower level leaders who understood that the initial plan had to be modified, observed what needed to be done, and then took multiple successful actions to ensure that the follow on plan was successful. The lesson for business is that few product launches or new business initiatives succeed exactly according to plan.

Business needs to encourage the development of trained, bright, and focused leaders and instill them with a spirit of initiative, so they seek out problems when initial plans fail to deliver success at the end. Initiative is one of the most powerful forces in employees.

Lesson #7: Learn, reshape your operations, and prepare for the next fight.

Finally, SOF never rest in examining their mistakes and creating new methods, tactics, and equipment to ensure success in the future. The Battle of Mogadishu continues to be relentlessly studied and examined by the very people that fought the battle to improve for the future.

Oct. 3, 1993 brought about a renewed focus on urban fighting, new medical technology to halt bleeding faster, and renewed focus on fighting as a combined force of air and ground teams working together. Business needs to adopt the military process of an after-action review, or debrief, to learn how to make every operation a study for future improvement. An effective team never rests in their desire to be even greater.

The business challenges of COVID-19 continue to demonstrate that life and business are transforming in unpredictable and dynamic ways. When a business focuses on their team, expects and plans for instability, builds teamwork, trains their employees, understands the strategic relevance of prior success, builds employee initiative, and constantly learns how to be better that organization is prepared to succeed in a world of chaos and challenge.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special Marine band remembers connection to Bush

As the nation mourns the passing of one its finest patriots, current and former members of the Marine Band remember President George H. W. Bush as a man whose love of music and uncommon graciousness elevated the unique relationship between the Chief Executive and “The President’s Own.”

“Although President Bush served as our Commander-in-Chief before my time in ‘The President’s Own,’ the close relationship he developed with the Marine Band is well-known,” Music Adviser to the White House and Marine Band Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging. He never missed an opportunity to connect with those around him and thank them for their contributions, and the men and women in the band who got to know President Bush both during his administration and in the many years beyond will always remember his ever-present appreciation and admiration for all those who served our nation alongside him.”


Col. John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.), Marine Band Director from 1979-96, recalled memories of President Bush with great ease. “Of all the presidents I served, he was the most conversive and was the kindest man in the world,” he said. He recounted how the president would make a point to bring the guest of honor from each state dinner over to Bourgeois and the Marine Chamber Orchestra to make introductions. “It was very much like being a part of the family,” Bourgeois said. It was during President Bush’s administration, in February 1990, when Bourgeois led the Marine Band on an historic 18-day concert tour of the former Soviet Union as part of the first ever U.S.-U.S.S.R. Armed Forces band exchange. “The president was integral to making that tour happen and while we were there we saw the end of the Soviet Union,” he said.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

“The President’s Own” remembers and honors George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America.

(Official White House Photo)

On a more light-hearted note, Bourgeois recollected an event on Dec. 7, 1992, when the Marine Band performed Hail to the Chief at a White House holiday reception for the president’s staff. At the end of the fanfare, an unlikely gentleman made his way through the crowd and took the podium: comedian Dana Carvey, known for his uncanny impression of the president. But it was the annual Gridiron Club dinner where Bourgeois witnessed President Bush in a truly nostalgic moment. It was March 1993 and Gridiron president, Los Angeles Times bureau chief Jack Nelson, sat at the center of the head table with newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton on one side of him and former President George H. W. Bush on the other. As Bourgeois led the Marine Band to the dais for The Star-Spangled Banner, he saw both Clinton and Bush lean over to whisper to Nelson. Nelson later told Bourgeois that President Bush commented that there are many things he won’t miss about being president but the Marine Band isn’t one of them.

Few members of the Marine Band can boast of a better first performance at the White House than former Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boguslaw, USMC (Ret.). Although he had performed at the White House before May 14, 1992, this was the first time he performed solo in the private residence. As he played a medley of Broadway show tunes from “Carousel” and “Oklahoma,” President Bush and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stood in the well of his piano where he overheard the two leaders discuss perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “President Bush was always a gentleman and always came over to shake my hand and thank me,” he said.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Inaugural Parade of George H.W. Bush.

(George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)

Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Wilson, violinist and current string section commander, joined the Marine Chamber Orchestra in 1990, halfway through President Bush’s term. What impressed him about the president was that he always made a point to go out of his way to acknowledge and thank the musicians for their participation at assorted events, even if it meant shaking off his handlers to seek out the orchestra. It was during President Bush’s tenure that Wilson and several other musicians founded the Free Country ensemble and one of their early performances was at President Bush’s daughter Dorothy Bush’s wedding to Robert P. Koch at Camp David on June 27, 1992. In addition to Free Country, the Marine Band provided a brass quintet in the chapel for the ceremony and a dance band for cocktail hour. After the event, as the musicians packed up their instruments to leave, President and Barbara Bush found them to shake each of their hands, ask their names, and thank them for their music. Wilson said from that day forward, President Bush remembered his name and called him Pete each time he saw him at the White House. “He had an amazing ability with names and people,” Wilson said.

At a congressional picnic Wilson was singing with Free Country and he recalled President Bush seemed to appear from out of nowhere and shook hands with each of the musicians as they performed. Wilson considers it a point of pride that he was able to greet Bush and not lose a beat during the fast-moving lyrics of Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” It was another event, however, that Wilson can never forget. The Marine Chamber Orchestra was performing at the White House on Jan. 16, 1991 and President and Mrs. Bush were greeting visitors in a receiving line. Wilson noticed then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell walk up to the president in his green service uniform to pull him away. Bush didn’t come back to the event. When Wilson returned to Marine Barracks Washington, the news on the television in the lounge was reporting the first bombing attacks on Baghdad and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

President Bush is accosted by a gorilla carrying mylar balloons in celebration of the President’s 65th birthday, South Lawn of the White House, June 12, 1989.


“We all recall how very kind and appreciative he was of everything the band did at the White House,” said Former Executive Assistant to the Director Capt. Frank Byrne, USMC (Ret.). “Mrs. Bush was also wonderful. I do especially recall the two Desert Storm victory parades, one in New York City and one in Washington. I marched and played in both. In NYC the crowds were so big that we hardly had room to get the band through the streets at certain points. There was ticker tape, but also all kinds of paper, including big stacks of continuous feed letter sized paper that were a challenge to get through. President Bush and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf were in the reviewing stand and were so happy and proud. It’s not often the band gets to do a big street parade in good, not freezing, weather and it was a thrill to participate.”

“I remember several occasions at the White House that President Bush, upon seeing members of the Marine Band, would pause his entourage just long enough to personally thank the members of the Marine Band and relay how much he, the First Lady and the staff appreciate our musical contribution,” said former bassoon player Master Sgt. Dyane Wright, USMC (Ret.). “He stated that the music by members of the U.S. Marine Band is what they enjoyed the most about their White House events.”

“I will always remember President and Mrs. Bush as being unfailingly gracious, kindhearted and appreciative toward the members of the Marine Band,” recalled Former Director Col. Timothy W. Foley, USMC (Ret.).

The late Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Corrado, USMC (Ret.), served ten presidents from 1958-2003. His wife Martha reflected on “Charlie’s” many, many encounters with President Bush and recalled in particular when the president requested Corrado to perform at his residence at Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 10, 1991, while he and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan prepared for the upcoming Economic Summit of the Industrialized Nations in London. “I was jealous that he got to go!” she said. “He played in the sunroom while the meetings took place and the family was very appreciative of him being there.”

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

George H.W. Bush poses with Marine Band Drum Major MSgt Gary Peterson at the annual Alfalfa Club Dinner.

Former principal cello Master Gunnery Sgt. Marcio Botelho, USMC (Ret.), remembered an equally memorable performance for President Bush: “It was my first year in the band and sometime between April and June I was at home when I got a call from work. The question was, ‘How quickly can you get to the Barracks? Because we have to go to the White House.’ I came in right away and we immediately departed to the White House. Only three of us went, since we were the only available musicians: concertmaster Master Sgt. Bruce Myers, violinist Gunnery Sgt. Jim Diehl, and myself. President Bush was having a working lunch with Lothar de Maizière, the newly-elected prime minister of the old GDR (East Germany) and the White House staff had discovered that the PM had been a musician. At the time we were told he had been a cellist. Anyway, we rushed in to the house, put our cases in the mezzanine level holding room and went up to the state floor. President Bush and the PM had dined in the state dining room and we set up in the Blue Room. No sooner had we set up, the president and his guest walked in and took a seat about six feet from us. Bruce called out a tune: Haydn’s London Trio No. 3, 1st movement. We played it, they thanked us, we returned to the barracks. Possibly the shortest performance I ever played at the White House.” Botelho was also quoted in a Dec. 1989-Jan. 1990 issue of the Marine Band’s newsletter Notes saying, “It’s surprising because even though we are performing background music, people often make it a point to compliment us. In fact, at all of the state dinners the President and Mrs. Bush have greeted us and thanked us at the end.”

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

President George H.W. Bush escorts Queen Elizabeth II of England during a State Dinner at the White House on May 14, 1991.

(Official White House Photo)

In 2011, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library requested a Marine Band uniform for a new exhibit featuring a baby grand piano from the Bush’s collection. Then-Drum Major Master Gunnery Sgt. William L. Browne, USMC (Ret.) prepared the uniform and personally fitted the mannequin that would wear it. After Browne took the uniform to the tailor for alterations and cleaning, he carefully packed it in his carry-on luggage and traveled to College Station in December 2011 to ensure that it was installed correctly. He arrived to find the mannequin sitting at the piano with permanently bent legs that presented some technical challenges. He assisted curator Susanne Cox in putting the mannequin in place on the bench at the piano and made last minute adjustments to the fit and appearance. One thing he couldn’t adjust, however, was the length of the mannequin’s hair. “I know how hard it is to give a mannequin a haircut so I made an exception just this once,” he said with a wry smile. Browne was honored to participate in this exhibit for the senior former President Bush. “Every time I’ve seen him at an event, he and Mrs. Bush always made a point to come over to thank the band,” he said. “At my very first presidential event as Drum Major in 2008, President Bush stopped me in the hallway to say how much he appreciated the band and how good it was to hear us.”

The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Col. Fettig, will perform one last time for President Bush at his funeral service at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Selections include Gustav Holst’s Nocturne from A Moorside Suite, Kevin Siegfried’s arrangement of “Lay Me Low” from Shaker Songs, Aaron Copland’s Our Town, Paul Christiansen’s arrangement of “My Song in the Night,” John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen, and Samuel Augustus Ward’s “America, the Beautiful.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s Labor Day weekend!


Some of you military types will be by the pool, some of you will be skating or shamming on duty, and at least one of you will be explaining to someone on Facebook that Labor Day isn’t about veterans or the military.

Let the best memes of the week help you stave off any labor (for at least a few more minutes) and give you some tips for celebrating the holiday.

1. Don’t forget to include your pets.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

2. Remember: you can get arrested for a DUI while driving a boat.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
The Coast Guard will ruin your Yacht Party.

3. Guys, be yourself when talking to the ladies.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
You know it’s true because it’s the first thing he said to her.

4. Be prepared if the ladies reject your advances.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Check out: 6 urban legends about Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

5. Just in case, pack your rain gear.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

6. Be sure to pick up some fun for the kids.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

7. Get your paperwork done early. (h/t Air Force Memes Humor)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
You know the MPF will close for a training day the Friday before Labor Day. You just know it.

8. Word gets around when you’re having a party. You may have to dodge people. (h/t Pop Smoke)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Now Read: It’s not the Beretta M9 that sucks, it’s the ammo

9. Every veteran has that one veteran friend.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
How did she even see him?

10. Be sure you listen and heed your safety brief.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

11. Let loose, and relax a little. Maybe grow a little facial hair.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

12. Take in a movie. (h/t Pop Smoke)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
That’s the same year this movie was released.

Now: The 13 biggest military movie bombs in Hollywood history

13. And don’t forget Grandpa.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 can now help the US Army destroy enemy missiles

A US Air Force fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter successfully transmitted live targeting data to US Army ground-based air-and-missile defense systems for the first time in an important test conducted during the recent Orange Flag exercise, the fighter’s developer announced Aug. 6, 2019.

The Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), a complex system developed by Northrop Grumman to connect sensors, launchers, and command and control stations, was able to “receive and develop fire control quality composite tracks” by “leveraging the F-35 as an elevated sensor” during the recent exercise, Lockheed Martin revealed.

The tracking data was sent to the IBCS through the F-35 ground station and F-35-IBCS adaptation kit, systems developed by Lockheed to let the F-35 talk to the US Army air-and-missile defense network.


The F-35 is capable of detecting threats that ground-based systems might struggle to pick up on until it’s too late. The curvature of the Earth can affect the ability of certain ground-based radars to adequately detect threats. The F-35 — which, as Breaking Defense noted, has been described by senior Air Force officers as “a computer that happens to fly” — is able to rapidly maneuver towards new targets and to change altitude, which radar arrays on the ground are unable to do.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base.

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

“The F-35, with its advanced sensors and connectivity, is able to gather and seamlessly share critical information enabling greater joint force protection and a higher level of lethality of Army IAMD forces,” Scott Arnold, the vice president and deputy of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, explained in a statement.

With the technology and capabilities tested recently, an Army Patriot battery, for example, could theoretically get a better read on an incoming threat using information provided an airborne F-35.

“Any sensor, any effector, any domain,” Dan Verwiel, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager of missile defense and protective systems, told Defense News. “This is the future of the US Army’s fight.”

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Three years ago, an F-35 transmitted targeting information to a Navy Aegis Combat System armed with an SM-6 anti-air missile, which was then launched at a mock target simulating an adversarial aircraft. Now, this fighter, one of the most expensive weapons in the US arsenal, is being paired with Army air-and-missile defense networks.

The US military is looking at using the F-35 for multi-domain operations, meaning it wants the jet to do far more than the fighter-bomber missions for which it was initially designed. The fifth-generation jet can also use its high-end sensors to send difficult-to-detect transmissions containing critical data to other air assets, warships, and troops on the ground to increase battlespace awareness.

The capabilities being tested are a top priority as the US military looks to modernize the joint force in the face of great power competition with China and Russia.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.


The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

Foreign suspects

It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
Edward Snowden speaks to a crowd via video conference. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

Renewal for six years

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Photo from Senator Feinstein’s website.

Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.

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.


Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

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.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

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.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

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.”

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

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.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

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.”

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

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 MOVIES

Watch: Navy filmmaker’s ‘Top Gun’ inspired mini-documentary

When Matthew Callahan was first introduced to the movie Top Gun at 2 years old, the film became an instant favorite.

So when the award-winning video producer for the Navy’s All Hands Magazine was tasked with producing a series of videos for Naval Air Station Oceana’s Virtual Air Show last month, Callahan drew inspiration from director Tony Scott’s Cold War classic.

Top Gun was my first true love of cinema,” Callahan told Coffee or Die Magazine. “It’s a movie of its time — the late ’80s, when they were just overdoing everything — but the way it’s filmed is beautiful. I’ll never forget that opening scene with footage at sunrise or sunset on the ship. You don’t often see military personnel and equipment framed that way, where it’s kind of treated like a total spectacle, and I try and capture that same feeling with a lot of my stuff because it cuts through a lot of noise.”


Callahan was part of a three-man production team including All Hands video producer Jimmy Shea and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Jorge. Together, they spent five days producing eight videos for NAS Oceana’s virtual air show. Trying to convey the excitement and spectacle of an air show with a series of short videos is no easy task, but Callahan and his team worked hard to translate their own passion for viewers.

“We produced eight or nine video products in five days,” Callahan said. “The tempo was pretty nonstop. It was exhausting but also amazing.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp-brLzwc1o
The Next Generation: VFA-106 Prepares F/A-18 Aircrew For Fleet

www.youtube.com

The standout production from the trip is a roughly three-minute video about NAS Oceana’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. The Virginia Beach-based training squadron prepares freshly minted F-18 aircrews for fleet service.

Callahan said for that video he supplemented the team’s production from Virginia with footage provided by the Navy’s advertising agency.

“I asked for cool, sexy carrier footage, and the ad agency really delivered,” Callahan said. “It seems like Top Gun really set a kind of visual precedent for filming jets on an aircraft carrier, and I wanted to produce something fast but serious in a brass-tacks kind of way.”

Callahan said that while he realizes most of his audience engages with his productions online or on mobile devices, he still tries to include some audio and visual treats for true cinephiles who might watch on a larger TV screen or with noise-canceling headphones.

“I’m always editing and creating soundscapes for that one person who might wanna watch these stories on a big display with a good sound system,” he said. “It’s almost never the case, with most folks engaging on mobile, but there’s always gonna be someone who does. I hope that there’s a payoff for those few who chose to watch that way.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Don’t panic (yet) about the post-Brexit British military

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
The ballistic missile submarine HMS ‘Vanguard’ alongside the ‘Type 45’ destroyer HMS ‘Dragon’ in 2010. Royal Navy photo


It’s not every day one of Europe’s largest economies votes to pull itself out of the European Union, the British prime minister announces his resignation and serious questions erupt regarding the future of the Western political order.

But fortunately for NATO and the British military, it’s not time to panic … yet. The military implications of Brexit will not set in overnight, and Britain has a backup plan.

However, there could be profound consequences for the alliance and the British military over the long term — some of them negative.

For one, NATO is responsible for Europe’s collective defense, not the European Union. The United Kingdom will remain one of Europe’s largest economies and will continue to wield outsized global influence due to its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Nor does leaving preclude Britain from participating in the E.U.’s military missions, such as chasing pirates off the Horn of Africa.

The British economy has tanked, but Britain will survive. The actual process of withdrawing from the European Union is also exacerbated by the entangling of European and British case law, which will take years to sort out.

Parliament must ratify the referendum for it go into force — and what remains of the British-European relationship years from now is a mystery. But there’s no doubt that Brexit (if it happens) could have major consequences for British foreign and military policy.

A June briefing paper from the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security research organization, described a a possible withdrawal from the European Union as “significant a shift in national strategy as the country’s decision in the late 1960s to withdraw from bases East of Suez.”

That’s a big, sweeping and once-in-a-generation shift.

It was evident at the time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom withdrew its military from East Asia and the Middle East to focus on countering the Soviet army in Europe. This period coincided with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where British Army troops deployed beginning in 1969.

Britain joined the European Union’s predecessor organization in 1973. In short, Britain’s growing military ties with Europe were inexorably bound with growing economic and political ties.

Those ties shaped the British military.

The Royal Air Force scrapped its long-range Avro Vulcan strike bomber, which wasn’t needed to defend the homeland from a Soviet invasion. Britain put off building new aircraft carriers, but developed Trafalgar-class attack submarines to hunt Russian subs in the North Atlantic.

Britain’s Tornado fighter jets are also a product of the 1970s, built by a German-Italian-British consortium and designed specifically to fight Soviet forces in Europe.

The Falklands War served as a brief interlude in 1982. But beginning in the 1990s, Britain would shift to a more internationalist posture, fighting wars in Iraq and later Afghanistan, where Britain still keeps 450 troops in an advisory role.

Today, British warplanes and advisers are involved in the war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.K. military is increasingly involved in Africa.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo

In short, the British military is less focused on Europe, and is more globalist, than it was during the Cold War.

So in an irony for Brexit’s most isolationist supporters, one possibility is that a post-E.U. Britain might increase its role in NATO to make up for its declining influence in European capitals. Especially now that European governments worry about Russia’s military build-up.

“The U.K. might find that the extent of its commitment to European defense would be one of its few bargaining chips as it entered a period of tough negotiations on the terms of its future economic engagement with its E.U. neighbors,” Malcom Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute wrote.

The outcomes of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw in July are likely to further constrain the U.K.’s room for maneuver, committing the U.K. to invest in deployments and capabilities whose main role will be to contribute to deterrence of Russia. New crises in Europe and its neighborhood (for example in the Balkans or Africa) could also increase immediate demands on U.K. capabilities, especially in cases where the U.S. makes it clear that it expects Europe to take the lead.
In these circumstances, as Europe’s most capable military power, the U.K. could not easily stand aside from the European consensus without significant risk to its reputation as a reliable NATO partner.
Nor can a resurgence of security concerns closer to home be ruled out.
Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 8th

Just when you thought things were getting nice and boring, a 1st Lt goes and steals an APC and drives it through Richmond. You know, deep down, the mechanic responsible for that vehicle is secretly proud that their M577 managed to keep up in a police pursuit.

The APC started up, managed to get off base and drive 60 miles to Richmond with the cops on his ass within 2 hours — all without breaking down. Sure, that lieutenant is going to be turning big rocks into smaller rocks for a while but, holy crap, someone give that motor sergeant a medal!


Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

“I went where you told me. I took a left on Victory Road and still didn’t see it.”

(It’s funny because every installation has at least two “Victory Road”s.)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

I swear that this is the last ACP Joyrider meme… this week…

(Meme via Artillery Moments)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via OAF Nation)

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Colombia is still fighting its decades-long drug war

After hitting a low in 2012, Colombia’s cultivation of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, jumped 134% between 2013 and 2016, US officials said late 2017.


2016 alone saw a 52% increase in the area under coca cultivation, rising to 360,774 acres from 237,221 acres in 2015, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Potential cocaine production jumped 34%, from 712 tons in 2015 to 954 tons a year later.

The amount of cocaine seized in the country also rose by nearly half, the UNODC said, from 253,591 kilos in 2015 to 378,260 kilos in 2016. That was accompanied by a 26% increase in the number of illegal cocaine labs destroyed, from 3,827 in 2015 to 4,842 the following year. (The real amounts are likely much higher than official estimates.)

Also read: Argentina found 400 kilos of cocaine in the Russian embassy

Colombia has faced pressure from the US to clamp down on that surge, but there were a variety of factors that drove it through 2016, when the government signed a peace accord with left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Under that deal, the government has pursued crop-substitution and alternative-development programs to pull farmers away from coca.

But a lack of resources has hindered implementation of those programs, and in lieu of an alternative, Colombian growers have forged ahead with the only one they can grow profitably.

“What really happened, I think, is that the government did stop fumigating, which was a factor,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “It also cut way back on manual eradication, and it didn’t make a presence” in often-marginalized parts of the country where cultivation has been the most intense, Isacson told Business Insider.

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
A coca farmer worker speaks with the police during a working day of manual eradication in Taraza, Colombia. (Photo by William Fernando Martinez)

Isacson, who spent a month on the ground in Colombia in February 2018, pointed to Putumayo, a department on Colombia’s southern border.

“That fringe area with Ecuador is no-man’s land, and nobody’s seen an eradicator or a development official, same for most of Catatumbo,” he told Business Insider, referring to a region in the northwest Colombian department of Norte de Santander, where cultivation is also intense.

Related: How the Coast Guard intercepts half a million pounds of cocaine

“So if it’s no-man’s land and you see your neighbor’s now got waist-high coca bushes, and they’re two years old and nobody’s messed with him, it’s probably pretty tempting to grow it yourself,” Isacson said.

Efforts to get farmers to grow other crops have faltered because they aren’t economically viable — in part because getting those crops to market from rural, isolated areas eats away the profit margin.

“You probably often make more with almost any other crop, but it’s always a different crop. Sometimes it’s coca. Sometimes … something else might be getting a better price than coca, but coca never goes down,” Isacson told Business Insider. “It’s just this always above-average price. It’s like an insurance policy for them.”

“The government has tried alternate-crop development and what have you, but it’s never worked, because growing breadfruit, bananas, and other crops does not come close to fetching the prices that coca does,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

The value of coca increases dramatically as it is refined and moves toward consumer markets.

The ton of fresh coca leaf needed to make a kilo of cocaine costs a few hundred dollars in Colombia. After its processed and turned into power, that kilo can fetch $30,000 or more in the US. On the street, once that kilo is “stepped on” by cutting it to grams and adding fillers, its total value can exceed $100,000. (Though not all that money filters back to the source.)

More: How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

“Coca cultivation has always been the most marketable and the highest-priced commodity that the criminal groups have engaged in, because really there’s no other crop that brings the price that cocaine does,” Vigil, who worked on the ground in Colombia while in the DEA, told Business Insider.

That doesn’t necessarily translate into a boon for farmers, however. Traffickers and criminal groups, as the main buyers, have outsize control at the point of purchase, often dictating the price.

“The farmers really don’t have a say, because they have to be able to sell the cocaine that they produce,” Vigil said. “If they don’t acquiesce to the prices of the major drug-trafficking organizations, they’re going to move on, and there’s always somebody else that they can buy it from.”

Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression
A member of an anti-narcotics police squad in front of a burning hut during a raid to destroy a coca laboratory near Tumaco, in southern Colombia, June 8, 2008. (Photo by William Fernando Martinez)

Farmers have also been left vulnerable by the Colombian government, which has forged ahead with manual eradication, which has vastly outstripped the building of roads and infrastructure that would support alternative development and cultivation of other crops, in part because of an economic downturn that has lashed the government’s budget.

And while nearly 30,000 families are now receiving benefits from Colombia’s Comprehensive Program for Illicit Crop Substitution, that’s only about one-quarter of the families who have signed collective agreements, which is just the first step in a long process to get aid.

Also read: Cocaine bust highlights growing Air Force role in Southern hemisphere

With a lack of state support, farmers interested in moving out of the coca trade are often exposed to FARC dissidents and other criminal groups, who have rushed to fill the vacuum left by demobilizing FARC units and want farmers to continue tending coca bushes.

“They don’t have the money to support us, and the pressure to continue [growing coca] is fierce,” a community leader in the isolated southwest municipality of Tumaco — a global hub for coca — said in late 2016, after a deadly clash between state security forces and farmers protesting efforts to destroy their coca.

In January 2018, the Colombian government sent 2,000 troops to Tumaco to contain violence there.

“What we have seen — in Norte de Santander it’s happened [and] in Putumayo to some extent — is people signing on to the crop-substitution programs [and] getting threatened or killed for … abandoning it.”

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