Marines celebrate vet-owned business' launch of new, more delicious crayons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines celebrate vet-owned business’ launch of new, more delicious crayons

When news broke that “Someone finally made edible crayons for Marines,” Leathernecks likely read the announcement with confusion: When have crayons ever been anything other than edible and delicious?

The colorful sticks of wax have been a dietary staple for members of America’s 911 Force ever since the internet gods gave us all the gift that keeps on giving: a near-perfect meme riffing on the “stereotype” of how we Jarheads are the dumbest of all service members — so dumb that we eat crayons and paste with the same vacant zeal of that mouth-breathing, short-bus rider from kindergarten whose mom dropped him on his head. Mmmmmmmm, crayons.


Praise be to the meme lords who bless us with their bounty.

Having served on active duty for more than 10 years, Marine Corps veteran Tashina Coronel knows a little something about eating crayons. The 35-year-old mother of three in Waco, Texas, recently developed a line of novelty confections targeted toward the massive market of crayon-eating Devil Dogs.

“You throw a crayon at a Marine, and they’re going to eat it,” said the former administrator. “Yes, crayons have always been edible, but mine taste better.”

Coronel said she’s been in the dessert-making business for seven years. After leaving active duty in 2014, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute. She now owns and operates Okashi by Shina. The name, which pays tribute to Coronel’s Japanese heritage, translates to “Sweets by Shina.”

Tashina Coronel on active duty. Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Coronel’s packs of 10 Edible Crayons sell for on her website. She has received hundreds of orders and an overwhelmingly positive response since launching the colorfully named specialty chocolates.

“My website just went live two weeks ago, and it’s been surreal how many orders have come in,” she said. “I got 130 orders in two days.”

Each crayon is cleverly titled according to its corresponding color: Blood Of My Enemies, Glow Strap, Little Yellow Bird, Green Weenie, Blue Falcon, Hazing Incident, Zero-Dark Thirty, Tighty Whities, Silver Bullet, and Butter Bars.

Okashi by Shina’s set of chocolate “Edible Crayons.” Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Okashi by Shina also offers a Crayon Glue MRE Set that includes an edible glue bottle filled with marshmallow cream.

Coronel said she used several Facebook groups for Marines to focus group her idea before launching the product.

“I didn’t really know if people were going to take it personally,” she said. “I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, she’s jumping on the bandwagon to insult us; she sold out.'”

After designing her product and developing names for the crayons, Coronel shared her concept in the Marine Facebook groups.

“I loved the idea right away,” said Marisha Smith, a former Marine KC-130J crew chief who saw Coronel’s Facebook posts. “It’s an ongoing joke that we eat crayons, so we’ve just taken it and run with it. I plan to send some of the crayons to friends in November for the Marine Corps Birthday. I’m sure any Marine or service member in general would get a kick out of these. The fact they taste great too is just a plus.”

Coronel said before her website went live, most of her orders were coming from friends and family. Since getting some initial press coverage, fulfilling orders has become a full-time job.

“The majority of orders are actually coming from male Marines,” she said. “It means a lot that my brothers are looking out for and supporting me. With everything going on in the world right now, the coolest thing about this is I really enjoy being a morale booster and giving people a reason to laugh and have fun. I love being able to bring something to Marines that’s their own and share a little bit of our culture with others.”

Prepping for quarantine like …

Coronel said her family and God are the main driving forces in her life. Her husband, who served as a Marine artilleryman, has stepped up to help fulfill orders and handle the increased demand.

“My family inspired me to start my own business, and my husband is really supportive,” she said.

Coronel said she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location to expand her operations and eventually partner with military exchanges to sell her products on bases. She said she knows there are a lot of challenges ahead, but she’s ready to chase her dreams.

“As a Marine, I know if somebody calls us crazy, we’re just going to show them how crazy we are,” she said. “Nothing’s really an insult unless you call us soldier. Then it’s like, we’re fighting.”

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week of Apr. 29

It’s Friday, it’s payday, and we all have plans. Let’s go through these funny military memes, get through the safety brief, and pop smoke:


1. Pretty sure we’ve all felt this salty at some point:

(via The Salty Soldier)

But only chief is currently this salty.

2. Remember, private, it could always be worse …

(via The Salty Soldier)

… and soon will be.

SEE ALSO: These are the top ISIS leaders killed by the coalition (so far)

3. You know what, man? Just get in line (via The Senior Specialist).

Maybe pop a squat. It’ll be a minute.

4. There’s a chance the person who selected these images was biased.

Also, pretty sure a real Coast Guard skit team would be wearing life vests.

5. Fifteen knot winds, fire on the dropzone, whatever. The jump is always a go (via Do You Even Jump?).

Honestly, a broken engine would probably make me want to jump more anyway.

6. The struggle is very real (via Military Memes).

Seriously DOD, could you just double up on the toilet paper in MREs or something?

7. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along (via Pop Smoke).

This is just what an STD from the green weenie looks like.

8. Just tell chief how you really feel. He’s been there. He’ll understand (via Coast Guard Memes).

I mean, he’ll also destroy you. But he’ll understand your complaint while he does it.

9. Wow, Gustav lifts* (via Team Non-Rec).

*He lifts artillery shells the size of small cars and hurls them into Russian cities.

10. How the Air Force fixes everything but morale:

(via Military Memes)

They’ll use it for morale once they fill in these final gaps on the F-35.

11. At least they’re going to the credit union this time (via Team Non-Rec).

12. The Air Force: It’s like high school but lasts five times as long (via Air Force Nation).

This is what airmen get for joining the chess club of the military.

13. You chose infantry. They chose carousels (via Military Memes).

That’s not the POGs’ fault. Stop hating.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only father-son pairs to receive Medals of Honor

At only two times in American history have father-son pairs both earned Medals of Honor. One pair was based in the Civil War and then World War II combat, and the other pair in the Spanish-American War and World War I combat. All four would make their last names famous for generations to come.


Arthur MacArthur earned his fame rushing the Confederate defenses on Missionary Ridge.

(Images: Public domain; Graphic: WATM)

Arthur MacArthur receives the medal for actions in 1863

First Lt. Arthur MacArthur was only 18 and an adjutant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry when the regiment was arrayed against stiff defenses on Missionary Ridge in Tennessee near the border with Georgia. The Confederates had used this position to harass and attack Union forces for some time, and it was the last great barrier to the invasion of Georgia.

But the Confederate forces had a line of rifle pits at the base of ridge and trenches and other defenses at the top. The Union attack was ordered against the ridge, and confused orders led to a successful melee in the pits, but then a sporadic and faltering attack up toward the trenches.

It was during this attack up that MacArthur saw the Regimental color bearer go down, and he leaped forward to get the colors back up so the men would continue attacking. He was wounded twice while rushing the colors up the hill, but he still planted the flag and then fought to defend it, effectively leading an attack that took the ridge as well as the land 2.5 miles past it in a single day. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, promoted to major, and later took command of the regiment.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in World War II.

(Public domain)

Douglas MacArthur defends the Philippines until all is lost

Arthur would retire as a lieutenant general, but one of his sons would eclipse him in valor awards and rank. Douglas MacArthur was already a full general, and the recipient of seven Silver Stars and three Distinguished Service Crosses when Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941.

It was quickly apparent that Japan would have the upper hand, but Douglas was at least as tenacious as his father. He had his men establish defensive line after defensive line, conducting a controlled withdrawal that soaked the ground in blood for every inch they gave up. Eventually, he was forced to pull back to the Bataan Peninsula, allowing his men to defend themselves in more mountainous terrain, but also cutting off further escape and giving up the cities.

This whole time, Gen. MacArthur was often at the front, often under enemy fire. But his calmness under fierce attacks helped his men keep their cool in their desperate defense. It was only after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to order the general off of the islands on February 22, 1942, to prevent his capture that Douglas withdrew. And he did so with a promise to return. He would receive the Medal of Honor in April for his tenacity, but his men would suffer a death march.

Col. Theodore Roosevelt as the commander of the Rough Riders.

(Public domain)

Teddy Roosevelt leads the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt campaigned hard for war with Spain, and when the U.S. declared that war in April 1898, he wasn’t about to leave the fighting to everyone else. But, he knew the war might be short and that he was not yet ready to command a regiment. So he agitated for the creation of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, but he used his connections to be the second-ranking officer, not the commander.

He got his wish and was brought into the Volunteer Army as a lieutenant colonel and sent to Cuba, but only 8 of the 12 companies were able to get space on the ships, and none of their horses were brought over. Still, they performed well and, on July 1, 1898, were sent against the defenses on San Juan Hill at Santiago de Cuba. By this point, Roosevelt had been promoted to commander.

The attack plan said they must move slow, but the unit was coming under heavy fire, and Roosevelt felt the battle would be lost to attrition before it could take the heights. So he rushed his men forward in a series of bursts despite the fierce defense, and they succeeded. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for these actions in 2001.

At left, Maj. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., he would later serve in World War II as a brigadier general and earn the Medal of Honor.

(Library of Congress)

His son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would never attain the presidency like his father did, but he would fight in World Wars I and II. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars in World War I, and then came back into service in World War II as an almost 60-year-old man. But still, he earned another two Silver Stars in combat in North Africa near one of his own sons (who also earned a Silver Star, there).

In the preparations for D-Day, he pushed repeatedly for permission to go ashore with the first wave, but his division commander kept denying it on the basis of the brigadier’s rank and age. So, Roosevelt, Jr., wrote to his distant cousin, then-President Franklin Roosevelt. Before the reply came back, the division commander finally relented and gave Roosevelt, Jr., permission, certain he would never see him again.

The 4th Infantry Division, like nearly everyone else that day, landed out of position, but they were lucky to have their deputy commanding general there to take charge. Roosevelt, Jr., personally led infantry waves into position under fire multiple times while walking with a cane. His re-making of the division landing plan was credited with keeping Omaha Beach open, and the commanding general gave his compliments when he landed with a later wave.

Roosevelt Jr. was nominated for promotion to major general, the Medal of Honor, and command of the 90th Infantry Division, but he died of a heart attack just hours before Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called to give him the news. The medal was awarded posthumously.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things that surprised the German army on D-Day

Believe it or not, the Germans were not surprised that the Allies were ready to invade Fortress Europe as a means of bringing World War II to an end. As a matter of fact, in much of Europe, the Nazis were ready for whatever the Allied troops were going to throw their way. The Nazis knew about the military build-up in England, and even the lowest-ranking Wehrmacht trooper knew the invasion would come at some point.

Luckily, the Allied powers still had a few tricks up their sleeves.


The Pas-de-Calais defenses in 1944.

They didn’t think Normandy would be the target.

The ideal point of an invasion of Europe from England, Nazi planners determined, would come at Calais. There were many reasons for this, but the simplest explanation is that Calais is the closest landing point from England. The English Channel is a tough, choppy sea with inclement weather – a more distant location could put a substantial invasion force at risk, so the troops manning the Atlantic Wall were reasonably sure Normandy was safe.

U.S. troops of Japanese descent fighting in the 442d Regimental Combat Team, one of the most storied units of the war.

No one expected it in June 1944.

Most experienced German troops and planners believed the Allies would not open a second invasion of Europe from the West until the Invasion of Italy was complete. Most thought another invasion of Allied forces would come only after the Italian Campaign reached the Alps or even crossed over them. This, coupled with the fact they thought the landings would come at Calais meant the Germans manning defenses at Normandy were not the best troops for the job. Those troops were hundreds of miles away.

American troops fighting in the hedgerows of the French countryside.

The advance was much faster than expected

German troops marveled at the speed with which American, British, and Canadian forces were able to move their men and materiel, not only in crossing the English Channel on D-Day and the days after, but in the weeks following June 6. The formation of a firm beachhead and the rapid advance through the French countryside astonished the Germans, who had made the same lightning advance across the territory just a few years prior.

German sailors of the Kriegsmarine.

How much the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine failed them

During the D-Day landings, the presence of the German Air Force or Navy was minimal where it existed at all. The Wehrmacht was the only real resistance to the Allied landings. Were it not for the Channel’s infamous choppiness and bad weather, the landings would have made it across the water entirely unabated. With no air cover or protection from the water, the army was essentially left out to dry.

The coordination of the Maquis

The Germans largely despised the resistance movements in France and other occupied countries and looked down on them with disdain. In practice, however, the close coordination between French resistance cells and the Allied command created a situation where German troops, transports, and heavy weapons that might have thrown the Allies back into the English Channel were instead tied up and slowed down for hours, leaving only the defenses sitting on the Atlantic Wall to try and stem the tide.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now there’s some doubt about whether Iran really tested a new long-range missile

The latest Iranian ballistic missile test, which was condemned by US President Donald Trump, never happened and the images that were released of the supposed test were actually taken more than seven months ago, Fox News reported Sept. 25.


The conservative cable news channel, citing as its sources two US officials who requested anonymity, said that the launch was “fake” and that Iran released video images of a failed missile launch that it conducted in late January.

Trump originally had reacted to the claimed launch on Twitter on Sept. 23 evening, saying, “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!”

Photo by Michael Vadon

When asked about the matter by EFE, a State Department official said that the US “is evaluating the reports” that Iran launched a ballistic missile Sept. 22 and refused to comment on “intelligence matters,” including the authenticity of the launch.

CNN reported that a Trump administration official familiar with the latest US assessment of the supposed test said that US intelligence radars and sensors “picked up no indication” of any Iranian missile launch.

So far, it would seem, the Iranian reports of the “successful” missile test do not appear to be true, the official added to CNN, saying “As far as we can see, it did not happen.”

Iran’s English-language television channel Press TV broadcast a video Sept. 22 of the allegedly successful launch of a new medium-range ballistic missile called the Khorramshahr which, according to the Iranian military, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and is capable of carrying multiple warheads.

Trump said last week that he had made a decision on whether the US will continue to abide by – or withdraw from – the nuclear pact with Iran that put an end to 12 years of diplomatic conflict over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, but he has not yet revealed what that decision is.

In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly almost a week ago, Trump declared the nuclear pact to be an “embarrassment” that his government could withdraw from if it suspects that Iran was using the accord as a shield to ultimately be able to build a nuclear bomb.

United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” he said.

Regardless of whether the latest launch was faked or not, the US feels that the Iranian ballistic missile program and its “support for terrorism” constitute “provocative” behavior that undermines regional security, prosperity, and stability, the State Department officials told EFE.

“We will continue to carefully monitor these actions and we will use all the tools we have available to counter the threats of the Iranian missile program,” one of the sources added.

According to experts, Iran is the Middle Eastern nation with the largest arsenal of ballistic missiles – more than 1,000 short- and medium-range rockets.

Articles

This is how some veterans reacted during the Las Vegas shooting

The horrific shooting rampage in Las Vegas — and its mounting death toll — has made it the worst mass shooting event in U.S. history, eclipsing Virginia Tech, the Pulse Nightclub and Sandy Hook Elementary School in its barbarity.


Yet, in the face of such horrors, shining glimmers of hope emerge — among them the courageous police who responded to the incident, and even some veterans in the crowd who sprang into action when the bullets were flying.

Of the approximately 22,000 people in attendance, many were veterans, according to multiple accounts.

(Image via dw)

Iraq war veteran Colin Donohue told Fox News “I looked around and went ‘Oh crap this is actually happening.’ So I started pushing people out and said ‘Alright, let’s go. You need to go here.” He continues, “We started taking care of those who are injured. There were a lot of people and it gives me chills because there’s nothing I could do. I’m not a doctor, but you have a lot of people out there helping out.”

Russell Bleck, eyewitness at the Route 91 Harvest festival, tells TODAY show “Thank god it was at a country concert, there were so many ex-military there. You saw these men jump into action, their training … not even in uniform. These people just knowing what to do and treating their wounds.”

Veterans on site were giving aid; even plugging bullet hole wounds with their fingers. Bleck concludes “I didn’t see a single one taking cover, these guys were just running directly into the danger zone.

(Image via ABC7 News)

Plugging bullet holes with your fingers has been a tried and true method for quick, improvised aid. Back in 2011, Marine Lt. Col. Karl Trenker, used his fingers to stop blood loss during a robbery.

A man in the middle of the volleys stood up, beer in one hand, raised a middle finger towards the shooter as others begged him to “get the f*ck down” in a video released by The Sun. He’s still unidentified but if it turns out that he was a veteran, I don’t think it’d surprise anyone.

(Screengrab via The Sun)

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

On March 22, 2019, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine at Base Miami Beach worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent 12 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,926 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) was responsible for six cases, seizing an estimated 18,239 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous (WMEC-625) was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 7,218 pounds of cocaine.

    Tampa’s crew is extremely proud of the work they accomplished over the past three months. There are few things more frustrating to our sailors than idle deployments, and none more gratifying than accomplishing a very important mission with impacts that resound across our Nation. For many of the crew, this will be their last deployment on Tampa, and it’s one they will always remember.” said Cmdr. Nicholas Simmons, commanding officer of the Tampa.

    The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

    Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. LEDET 107 is permanently assigned to the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego, California.

    Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel speaks to the press about the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew’s drug smuggling interdictions and offload, March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    The US sends in the A-10s against a resurgent Taliban

    The Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the Afghan capital of Farah province on May 15, 2018, forcing the US to send in A-10 Warthogs in a show of force, according to numerous media reports and a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

    The Taliban, equipped with HUMVEEs and Afghan police pickup trucks, attacked multiple Farah City checkpoints and took over an intelligence headquarters, according to Long War Journal.


    “There is fighting still going on in the city of Farah,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for Resolute Support, told Business Insider over the phone, which “despite rumors to the contrary, remains on the outskirts of the city, three kilometers to the north and west.”

    “You’ve got Army, police, commandos, and Afghan air force involved in the fight,” O’Donnell said. “Both Afghan A-29s and Mi-17s have conducted multiple air strikes, and US forces have conducted one drone strike. We’ve also conducted a show of force with A-10s.”

    Dozens of Taliban fighters have been killed, and Afghan forces have suffered an unknown number of casualties, O’Donnell said, adding that he was unsure of any civilian casualties.

    The Afghan governor of Farah province, Basir Salangi, fled the city of 50,000 people when the attack began at about 2 a.m., but he remains in the province, according to The New York Times.

    (U.S. Air Force Photo)

    O’Donnell said the Afghan government remains in control of the city, but ATN News reported that “at least three parts of the city came under the control of Taliban,” Long War Journal reported.

    The “rebels had captured the 3rd police district and stormed the intelligence department,” Long War Journal reported, citing Pajhwok Afghan News. Taliban fighters have also attacked the city’s hospital, where they killed two wounded Afghan police officers. They may even be moving on the prison.

    O’Donnell said that the fighting is expected to last through May 17, 2018, and that US advisers are on the ground, but not involved in the fighting to his knowledge.

    “The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group. … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”

    The US announced in November 2017, that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes. Some analysts have criticized it as a game of “whack-a-mole” since the Taliban can reportedly rebuild the labs in just a matter of days.

    The US has been quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history, going on 17 years, which the Pentagon says costs about $45 billion per year.

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

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

    In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

    In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

    In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


    One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

    Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

    A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

    So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

    International law and American concerns

    International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

    Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

    In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

    But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

    In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

    The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

    Global trade and American national security

    The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

    America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

    What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

    Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

    You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

    But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

    Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

    A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

    In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

    Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

    Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

    Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

    Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

    So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

    The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

    The importance of chokepoints

    But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

    And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

    (US Department of Defense)

    The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

    So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

    They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

    America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

    So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

    The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

    This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUK on Twitter.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

    The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.


    Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.

    That all changed during the course of his usual work.

    And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.

    In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.

    He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.

    The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.

    (Photo by Ronnie Barrett)

    Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.

    Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

    The Air Force’s ongoing pilot shortage has been a cause for concern. This summer, the Air Force announced that they were increasing bonuses in an effort to keep pilots. How has that worked out?


    According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation’s gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.

    Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, participated in Red Flag Alaska, a national exercise aimed to provide high-intensity combat training for pilots in a controlled environment at Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, in May 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Jordyn Sadowski)

    It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn’t to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.

    “Surge has become the new normal,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.” A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.

    Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

    “The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”

    To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    How the Marines select their military working dog handlers

    Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. The military working dog handlers are one such dog.

    Military police officers have many conditions they have to fulfill to effectively complete the mission of prevention and protection in peace and wartime. One aspect of their duty is to be handlers for the military working dogs.


    “To even have the opportunity to be a military working dog handler, you have to be military police by trade,” said Cpl. Hunter Gullick, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “We go to the school at Fort Leonard Wood for roughly three months before graduating and joining the fleet. After that you can put a package in to request the chance. This process is long since they screen you with background checks, schooling history and recommendations. If they accept you, you are sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for another three months of school, this time strictly for military working dog handler training.”

    The tradition of using dogs during war dates back thousands of years, but the U.S. military did not officially have military working dogs until World War I. Since that time the partnership between the canines and their human has grown.

    Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

    “We utilize the dogs for a number of things,” said Cpl. Garrett Impola, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC. “The dogs are trained for substance location, tracking, and explosive device detection. During festivals and events we use them as security to do sweeps and to detrude conflicts. No other single MOS can do everything our dogs can.”

    The handlers spend most of their working day with their partner to keep at top performance. This can be both a struggle – as much as it is a joy — for the Marine partner.

    “The best part about my job is the dogs, for sure,” said Gullick. “They give everything they have to you, so we give everything to them in return. The most challenging aspect of my job would be that sometimes the dogs are like kids. It can get frustrating so you have to have patience. You also have to be humble because as a handler you have to be able to take constructive criticism.”

    The Marine and military working dog are a team. The job of being a handler is always a work in progress. Marines are encouraged to push their limits and learn more when it comes to doing their jobs. They are always learning new techniques and procedures when it comes to performing their job to the best of their abilities.

    “You will never know everything because each dog is different,” said Gullick. “With one, you think that you have the dog world figured out and then another one comes along and throws a curve ball at you. You have to continually learn and adapt.”

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

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    This Ranger fought in Mogadishu before becoming a country music star

    On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.


    As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”

    “SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.

    Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.

    Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”

    “What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.

    “Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.

    Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.

    “Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.

    With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”

    As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”

    Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.

    After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.

    Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)

    Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.

    Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.

    Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.

    Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)

    From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!