Footage of a Coast Guard drug interdiction where one Coast Guardsman jumps onto a narco-submarine and forces the hatch open has gone viral. And for good reason. It was possibly the most insane thing I’ve seen all week, but it’s actually not a shock to me. The Coast Guard does insane stuff like this all the time, but it’s never really talked about as much.
I get it, we all mock the Coasties. It’s the price you pay for being the little brother. But when you consider this, their elite snipers, and their track record for going toe-to-toe with narco-terrorists while the rest of us are stuck at NTC or 29 Palms… I think it’s time to admit that some Coasties may be more grunt than a good portion of the Armed Forces.
Just don’t be surprised when that sub-busting Coastie with balls of f*cking titanium calls you a POG at the American Legion. These memes go out to you, dude. Keep giving the Coast Guard an awesome name.
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
In case you missed the video, here’s an accurate representation of it…
Typically, the role of “Doc” in the convoy is as a passenger. While remaining alert and attentive, I also felt that I needed to keep my unit motivated and focused while they did their various jobs.
I took the task very seriously by acting as the Convoy DJ, playing the greatest hits for combat effectiveness!
Whether you cue up your own playlist for leaving the wire or DJ for the entire crew, stepping off is always better with an anthem.
Here are 8 tracks to help “kick the tires and light the fires.”
1. AC/DC — Highway to Hell
No convoy playlist is complete without a track from these rock Gods ripping through the airwaves. AC/DC has plenty of great hits to choose from, however, this song really says exactly how I felt about the roads we traveled in Iraq.
Perhaps it’s a little on the nose, but if you deployed to Iraq this song needs no explanation. All other lyrics aside, you can’t pass on a track with the refrain, “Bombs over Baghdad!” to really pump up that mission essential adrenaline.
You’ve got F/18s launching from an aircraft carrier, Navy SEALs on fast boats, guys jumping out of a helicopter into the surf — now add a wailing guitar riff and a pulsating drum beat and you have the ingredients for a Navy commercial that almost had me signing up for another 10 years.
You’ve also got an epic anthem to keep the troops pumped on those exceptionally long convoys.
(GodsmackVEVO | YouTube)Even if you’re no longer jocking up and taking the wheel of some Mad Max-esque war machine to go spread freedom and democracy around the world, you can still rock out to these amazing songs.
Every convoy needs some musical motivation. Whether you’re taking the kiddos to school, enjoying a leisurely Sunday drive or simply heading into the office for another day of crushing it, cue up this playlist and have an epic journey.
The US has committed to pulling its forces, as well as NATO forces, out of Afghanistan in a serious bid to stop the 17-year-long war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US tax dollars.
Citing “significant progress” in peace talks with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that harbored Osama Bin Laden and became the US’s first target after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a US official told Reuters the US was working on a ceasefire and the timing of a pull out.
“Of course we don’t seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan,” the official told Reuters on the same day Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gave a televised address saying: “No Afghans want foreign forces in their country for the long term.”
“Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and ensure there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Jan. 28, 2019.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
(Photo by Patrick Tsui)
“Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post-peace government,” the official said. “We would like to leave a good legacy.”
President Donald Trump reportedly pushed for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan at the same time he announced a troop pull out from Syria, which sparked widespread controversy, criticism, and the resignation of his defense secretary and top official in charge of fighting ISIS.
The US and NATO have fought in Afghanistan since 2001, when they toppled the ruling government that had harbored the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US and NATO have lost about 3,500 troops in the battle that’s killed tens of thousands of Afghans and nearly 10,000 Afghan security forces fighters a year since 2014.
The Pentagon currently spends about billion a year on the Afghanistan war while other parts of the government contribute additional money to secure the country, build infrastructure, and fund essential programs as the government struggles to control all of its territory.
Trump campaigned explicitly against the war in Afghanistan, calling it a big mistake that left US soldiers fighting without purpose.
United States President Donald Trump.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)
The Taliban recently agreed to a landmark concession, saying it would oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Talks in Qatar, now lasting over a week, have produced results that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan called “encouraging.”
Afghanistan, sometimes called the “graveyard of empires” for its historic ability to resist outside rule from Alexander the Great, to Britain, to the Soviets, has proven a stalemate for the US, which has failed to lock down the entire country from Islamist control.
Brazil’s contribution to the Allied war effort is extraordinary but often forgotten. Though Brazil originally tried to remain neutral in the conflict, the United States eventually encouraged the country to break off relations with the Axis powers. As a result, German u-boats began to sink Brazilian shipping and kill Brazilian citizens.
As a result, Brazil entered the war on the Allied side in August 1942, ready to punish the Axis for killing Brazilians.
The Brazilian Expeditionary Force numbered some 25,000 men, the only ally from South America to contribute troops to the war effort. Brazil’s fighting force would play a crucial role in some of the critical European battles to come, in a way no one thought possible. Literally.
Some commenters said the world would more likely see snakes smoking than see Brazilian troops on a World War II battlefield. So when the BEF showed up to deploy with the U.S. Fifth Army, they looked a lot like the Americans in their fatigues, save for one important detail: a shoulder patch, featuring a snake smoking a pipe.
Now proudly calling themselves the “Smoking Cobras,” the Brazilian forces were ready to fight the Italians and Germans anywhere they were needed. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Navy and Air Force were getting their revenge on the Axis Navy and Air Forces that had so damaged Brazilian shipping. After losing 36 or more ships before entering the war, they lost only three ships afterward. And despite Brazil’s Air Force only flying five percent of the war’s air sorties, they managed to destroy 85 percent of Axis ammo dumps, 36 percent of Axis fuel depots, and 28 percent of Axis transportation infrastructure.
Back on the ground, the “Smoking Cobras” of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force were fighting the Italians and Germans in the Italian Campaign in 1943 and making short work of their enemy while providing much-needed rest for units that had been fighting for months.
A Brazilian mortar crew fires their 81mm mortar in support of infantry in the Sassomolare area of the Fifth Army front north of Florence, April 1945.
The three regimental combat teams that comprised the BEF took on the German 148th Division, soundly defeating them at the Battle of Collecchio. Other victories came in succession: Camaiore, Monte Prano, Serchio Valley. The Brazilians also took down the Italian Monte Rosa, San Marco, and Italia divisions. In all, they captured more than 15,000 prisoners and took a further 500 out of action in later campaigns.
They retreated only when they ran out of ammunition, and their losses in Italy numbered just north of 450 killed in action.
A 1990 white Lincoln stretch limousine covered in dust slowly pulls to a stop. Former Army Ranger Angel Cortes, his brother, and a few of their posse roll out of the door. Their clothes sport a sketch of a grinning jack o’lantern.
They are carrying AR-15s, Multicam plate carriers, high-capacity P-mags with 5.56 armor piercing ammunition. Glocks are tucked in their waistbands. Moments later, rounds are ricocheting through car windows. Screeching high velocity lead rips into passenger side doors, metal on metal screaming as the car interiors are ripped open, their soft innards gutted by the physics of force times mass.
This could be the beginning of a post-apocalyptic film or a violent street crime. But it is not.
Instead it was a friendly gathering of ex-special operations soldiers on a practice shooting course, dreamed up and funded by former Army Ranger Angel Cortes. Bringing veterans together to shoot the shit and shoot some targets is his way of giving back and building a community of veterans and a few trusted civilians to talk about life.
Look closely and a few fine details start to emerge from the smoke and gun powder and dust. Listen closely, and you start to hear a melodic rhythm to the pattern of fire. This is not the chaotic gun fight of a street skirmish gone off the rails. Angel and his friends maintain a continuous volley of fire. When one person empties their magazine, another increases his rate of fire. They unload and reload sequentially, so that there’s never a time when someone is not firing. They are leaping and bounding in a smooth synchronicity, like members of a ballet company who have rehearsed this dance over and over again; there is a grace and a fluidity to their violence that upon close examination belies their level of training. They are shooting moving, communicating, and executing dilapidated cars the way a butcher cleaves a chicken. Look closer and you see even finer details. The magazine holders are made by Crye precision, a bespoke brand of high-end gun gear made by hipsters in Brooklyn (the gods of war have a funny sense of humor) that has become the go-to standard for the most elite Special Operations units in the world. Their skin and shirts are marked with bone frog tattoos, scuba bubbles, parachutist wings, globes and anchors. G-shocks and Garmin watches adorn their wrists. These are the subdued brands of SEALs, MARSOC and a variety of other commando units, many who have spent the last several decades at war.
The firefight ends as abruptly as it started. There’s no high fives, no whooping and screaming, little fanfare to signify the end of the run. After all, these are not the streets of LA… but it easily could have been for Angel and his brother who admittedly grew up in LA’s gang life as affiliated members. Nor are these the streets of Anbar or the dirt roads of Afghanistan. But once again… it easily could’ve been. Five years ago Angel was deployed to Afghanistan attached with 3rd Special Forces Group.
For much of the American public who holds caricatures of veterans in their heads, this seems like a strange scene. The wars are over, or at the very least waning. Many veterans are suffering. An un-indoctrinated civilian might ask, “Should they be out playing GI Joe on the range? Don’t they need to heal?” Some civilians might even be cognizant of the story of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper who was shot by a PTSD stricken veteran on the very shooting range he was trying to help him with rehabilitation. These narratives neglect the full range of experience of a large portion of veterans who are returning from overseas.
Angel, like many of the veterans out on the range this day, became a man in the military — literally. Angel’s mom signed his papers to join the service when he was 17 years old. He was in combat in Iraq by the time he was 18. He spent most of his 20s, his formative learning and earning years, deployed. While other 18 to 30 year olds were forming networks and connections that would determine their trajectory in life, Angel was fighting and watching his friends die.
Returning at 26 to the civilian world, Angel had three kids, no savings, and few job skills that translated to civilian life (there are a few jobs outside of the smoke-jumper community that require a static line parachuting qualification). He worked at a yogurt shop while attending community college. In the military, every penny of his paycheck had been spent on supporting his brother and sister back home. He took his last active paycheck to treat himself to one thing to commemorate his multiple combat deployments, a 1990 325I BMW. The beemer just kept breaking and his wife suggested he purchase a car that was more reliable. So, he saved some money and got the infamous 1990 white limousine, with mahogany interior, which became his famous daily driver. Inspired by Bam Margera of the Jackass skater culture, it represented how Angel was driving forward in his own unconventional style. While going to school, Angel started a T-shirt company, the OG Pumpkin, based on a design made for him by his son. The pumpkin design, like Angel, is paradoxically both menacing and friendly. It has a ghoul-like appearance that is sinister, sarcastic and yet somehow seems to be laughing with you.
Angel promotes his OG Pumpkin brand online and on Instagram. Like all great advertising though, his greatest asset is word-of-mouth— and the word is starting to spread. Every month Angel uses the proceeds from his company to hold shooting range days for his fellow veterans who like him are navigating the twilight between active duty service and the civilian world.
This particular range day was a vehicle range. A mid 90s silver Jetta and a white Toyota Corolla were towed to a remote shooting range in the foothills of Los Angeles. The tow truck driver, 40-something hispanic, with easily recognizable ink indicating a formerly affiliated or incarcerated life, looks like he could’ve been right out of Angel’s neighborhood. He dropped the cars in the middle of the range, then headed to the safe fire spectators area where Angel’s dad was grilling carne asada and adobo tacos for the group.
About 30 veterans, including SEALs, Army Rangers, MARSOC and a host of other operators from the alphabet soup of elite units (DEA, HRT, SWAT, others), teamed up in impromptu pairs to run drills, shoot targets and offer tactics and tips to each other. The vehicle course is a treat even for top-tier units. It’s not every day you get to practice shooting through the front windshield of a car to hit steel targets. The operators were jovial but subdued. The culture of Special Operations, which pays homage to the idea of a silent professional (although more often in word than deed) makes it uncool to express too much emotion, even after letting 30 rounds rip through your muzzle.
Putting together range days is not just about shooting. in fact it’s very little about shooting. It’s merely Angel’s version of golf. It allows him to spend time with his friends, his fellow veterans, network about business and entrepreneurialism, and re-capture some of the community that ended when he took off his uniform.
Ryan Garcia is one of those veterans. He returned home from Nangarhar, Afghanistan last year after serving in the 2nd Battalion 34th Regiment out of Ft. Carson, Colorado. He didn’t know Angel in the service, but had watched his YouTube videos about becoming a Ranger and going through selection. Garcia, like Angel, had grown up in Southern California, and upon completing his last tour returned home. His transition was somewhat rocky. He ostensibly was going to school, but didn’t exactly move from the front lines to the front of the class. “When I got out, I lost my purpose … yeah I’m getting through school, but I was in a depression. I would say I was busy but I wasn’t doing anything.” About six months ago, between Xbox games, Garcia saw a post of Angel’s from the shooting range. Inspired, he went to shoot. What he found was a camaraderie that seemed to fill a hole he didn’t know was missing. Being around fellow veterans was a first step toward a healthier reintegration. Garcia spoke with Angel about classes, and saw how Angel was attacking the classes like a mission. Previously Angel had helped inspire Garcia to excel in the Army, now he was leading by quiet example by stressing the importance of classes and community. Garcia remains grateful for Angel’s mentorship, and now helps out other veterans as well. “At end of day whether you’re in a warzone, or back here, we have each other’s back.”
For other veterans it’s a chance to stay involved, and help. Mike O’ Dowd, a former Navy seal close quarters combat tactical instructor volunteered his time at the range day to help other veteran sharpen their skills. O’Dowd, who runs a Company called Defense Strategy Group that teaches civilians shooting tactics and skills said, “By hosting these range days, Angel has been bringing veterans from all branches together in our natural environment. He’s given us a space to feel at home again, with people we trust. It’s something that I’ve been missing since leaving the Navy.”
Ultimately, Angel’s path as an entrepreneur, starting with a clothing company, studying to become a registered dietitian, even the range days he puts on for his fellow veterans, speak to something larger. Veterans return from service and overseas, and face a series of choices: What am I going to do? How do I support myself? And more fundamentally: Who am I? What is my purpose? Those questions are more formally known as veterans transition. There are significant headwinds for veterans transitioning out of uniformed service; many lack formal education and networks for civilian occupations, some are struggling with the invisible wounds of war, and many struggle to find purpose in a world where your mission isn’t briefed to you before you go out the door. Angel, and the cabal of veterans he has touched, show all the promise of a way forward. Coming home to a community where he once sold guns on the street, he is now a community leader, teaching self-defense and gun safety. Returning to a family that was abusive, he has broken the cycle of abuse, and is not only a father thrice over but a patron of the entire family. Angel came from a home where he often had only one meal a day, and is now feeding his fellow veterans.
Like many veterans, there was no clear path for Angel when he left the military. Instead he used the same skills and values that got him through Ranger selection and 24 months of combat, to find his way in the civilian world. Taking care of others, perseverance, service above self, finding a way to win; these are traits burnished into the character of special operations personnel. What he lacks in formal education, he made up for in hustle and drive. While Angel and many of his fellow veterans return home and are still fighting demons from their time overseas, they also have a host of skills and armor that are allowing them to become leaders in the civilian world. In some way this was the original mission of the Jack-O-Lantern, in the old world it was designed to ward off evil spirits. Angel, and his band of OG Pumpkin brothers, continue to do just that.
Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on NETFLIX, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. Prior to his work in television, Kaj spent five years on active duty serving as a US Navy SEAL. As a lieutenant, he led a team of special warfare personnel in covert operations overseas deploying as a detachment commander in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Kaj continues his service as a science diver for Force Blue, a team of veterans in support of ocean conservation.
NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.
Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.
From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.
The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.
Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.
NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.
Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.
Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.
(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)
25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)
Power Index rating: 1.0885
Total population: 11,491,346
Total military personnel: 38,800
Total aircraft strength: 164
Fighter aircraft: 45
Combat tanks: 0
Total naval assets: 17
Defense budget: .085 billion
A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.
(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)
24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)
Power Index rating: 1.0035
Total population: 10,839,514
Total military personnel: 268,500
Total aircraft strength: 93
Fighter aircraft: 24
Combat tanks: 133
Total naval assets: 41
Defense budget: .8 billion
Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.
Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)
Power Index rating: 0.9953
Total population: 8,754,413
Total military personnel: 170,000
Total aircraft strength: 124
Fighter aircraft: 15
Combat tanks: 56
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .22 billion
A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.
(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)
21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)
Power Index rating: 0.9839
Total population: 7,101,510
Total military personnel: 52,650
Total aircraft strength: 73
Fighter aircraft: 20
Combat tanks: 531
Total naval assets: 29
Defense budget: 0 million
Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.
(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)
20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)
Power Index rating: 0.9687
Total population: 5,518,371
Total military personnel: 262,050
Total aircraft strength: 153
Fighter aircraft: 55
Combat tanks: 160
Total naval assets: 270
Defense budget: .66 billion
Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.
A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.
14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)
Power Index rating: 0.6784
Total population: 5,320,045
Total military personnel: 72,500
Total aircraft strength: 128
Fighter aircraft: 49
Combat tanks: 52
Total naval assets: 62
Defense budget: billion
13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)
Power Index rating: 0.6634
Total population: 8,236,303
Total military personnel: 171,000
Total aircraft strength: 167
Fighter aircraft: 54
Combat tanks: 134
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .83 billion
Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)
Power Index rating: 0.6071
Total population: 9,960,487
Total military personnel: 43,875
Total aircraft strength: 206
Fighter aircraft: 72
Combat tanks: 120
Total naval assets: 63
Defense budget: .2 billion
erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.
(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)
Power Index rating: 0.5969
Total population: 10,674,723
Total military personnel: 29,050
Total aircraft strength: 103
Fighter aircraft: 12
Combat tanks: 123
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .6 billion
10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)
Power Index rating: 0.5383
Total population: 44,033,874
Total military personnel: 1,182,000
Total aircraft strength: 240
Fighter aircraft: 39
Combat tanks: 2,214
Total naval assets: 25
Defense budget: .88 billion
9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)
Power Index rating: 0.5255
Total population: 10,768,477
Total military personnel: 413,750
Total aircraft strength: 567
Fighter aircraft: 189
Combat tanks: 1,345
Total naval assets: 115
Defense budget: .54 billion
8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)
Power Index rating: 0.4276
Total population: 38,476,269
Total military personnel: 184,650
Total aircraft strength: 466
Fighter aircraft: 99
Combat tanks: 1,065
Total naval assets: 83
Defense budget: .36 billion
A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.
(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)
7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)
Power Index rating: 0.4079
Total population: 48,958,159
Total military personnel: 174,700
Total aircraft strength: 524
Fighter aircraft: 122
Combat tanks: 327
Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: .6 billion
An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.
(Italian Air Force photo)
6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)
Power Index rating: 0.2565
Total population: 62,137,802
Total military personnel: 267,500
Total aircraft strength: 828
Fighter aircraft: 90
Combat tanks: 200
Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: .7 billion
5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)
Power Index rating: 0.2461
Total population: 80,594,017
Total military personnel: 208,641
Total aircraft strength: 714
Fighter aircraft: 94
Combat tanks: 432
Total naval assets: 81
Defense budget: .2 billion
4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)
Power Index rating: 0.2216
Total population: 80,845,215
Total military personnel: 710,565
Total aircraft strength: 1,056
Fighter aircraft: 207
Combat tanks: 2,446
Total naval assets: 194
Defense budget: .2 billion
3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)
Power Index rating: 0.1917
Total population: 64,769,452
Total military personnel: 279,230
Total aircraft strength: 832
Fighter aircraft: 103
Combat tanks: 227
Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)
2. France (Overall ranking: 5)
Power Index rating: 0.1869
Total population: 67,106,161
Total military personnel: 388,635
Total aircraft strength: 1,262
Fighter aircraft: 299
Combat tanks: 406
Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.
(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)
1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)
Power Index rating: 0.0841
Total population: 142,257,519
Total military personnel: 3,586,128
Total aircraft strength: 3,914
Fighter aircraft: 818
Combat tanks: 20,300
Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: billion
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Biden administration told lawmakers Wednesday the US will soon start to evacuate thousands of Afghans who have assisted American troops for nearly two decades to other countries in an attempt to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, The New York Times reported.
As the drawdown in Afghanistan enters its final stages, many veterans and some legislators have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis for the locals who have helped American forces during the past 20 years of war.
“When that last soldier goes wheels up out of Afghanistan, it is a death sentence for our local allies, the Taliban have made that clear in their words and in their actions as they hunt these people down right now as we speak,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican and former Green Beret, said last week.
More than 18,000 interpreters, security guards, fixers, embassy clerks, and engineers have applied for the Special Immigrant Visa, which takes more than two years on average to obtain. The Times reports that those applicants have 53,000 family members. A senior administration official told the Times family members would also be evacuated to another country to await visa processing.
Calls for the Biden administration to swiftly evacuate Afghan contractors have grown in recent months, with advocates fearing the Taliban could go “house to house” after Western forces leave, targeting interpreters and their families. The Taliban, meanwhile, said earlier this month that Afghans who helped foreign forces have nothing to fear as long as they “show remorse for their past actions” and don’t engage in future “treason against Islam and the country.”
Interpreters don’t trust that promise. The Taliban has tortured and killed dozens of Afghan translators during the past two decades, the news agency AFP reported.
“The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us,” Omid Mahmoodi, an interpreter who worked with US forces between 2018 and 2020, told AFP.
It’s not clear yet where Afghans will wait, or whether third countries have agreed to the plan. In a June 12, 2021, letter to President Joe Biden, Guam’s governor Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero asked that the island be a landing point for those in need, like it was in 1975 when the US evacuated approximately 130,000 Vietnamese refugees.
According to a document from the Truman Center obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine, the cost of flying Afghan allies to Guam would be relatively low. The Truman Center’s Matthew Zeller estimates the average price would be $9,981.65 per person, for a total cost of about $699 million for 70,000 evacuees.
“It sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s an additional 8.3 hours of the DOD budget. But it’s a hell of a down payment in keeping Americans alive in future wars. Because this is how we’re going to show people that we keep our word,” Zeller said.
VA will soon mark 100,000 veterans cured of hepatitis C. This is exciting news and puts VA on track to eliminate hepatitis C in all eligible veterans enrolled in VA care who are willing and able to be treated.
Building on this success, VA takes on another important issue during Hepatitis Awareness Month: making sure all veterans experiencing homelessness are vaccinated for hepatitis A.
Recently, there have been multiple large outbreaks of hepatitis A among people who are homeless and people who use injection drugs across the U.S. Currently, there is a large outbreak in Tennessee and Kentucky that has affected well over 5,000 people across the two states with 60 deaths reported thus far.
Given that individuals experiencing homelessness may also be at increased risk of exposure to hepatitis B, VA recommends vaccination for those with risk factors against both hepatitis A and B, as appropriate.
3D illustration of the Liver.
During Hepatitis Awareness Month, the HIV, Hepatitis, and Related Conditions Programs, the Homeless Programs, and the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are collaborating to raise awareness on this issue.
We are collaborating with leadership and frontline providers to ensure all identified veterans who are homeless, non-immune and unvaccinated for hepatitis A and those at risk of HBV exposure are offered vaccination, as appropriate, at their next VA appointment.
Veterans who are interested in either hepatitis A or B vaccination may ask their VA provider for more information.
Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19) is a great reminder to check in with your provider about hepatitis C testing and treatment as well.
Joint Task Force 5-0 in Hawaii is helping authorities handle evacuations, provide security, and monitor air quality as Mount Kilauea spews out clouds of toxic gas and lava destroys homes in its path.
About 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes so far on the big island of Hawaii, but the majority are staying with friends and family, said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, state public affairs officer. Only a few hundred are in temporary community shelters, he said.
More than 150 National Guard troops have volunteered for active duty to help with evacuations and to man checkpoints in front of the lava flow. Other troops are standing by in case more mass evacuations are needed.
Black Hawk helicopters are conducting aerial surveys to monitor the lava and check on fissures, Anthony said. At least 17 fissures in the Puna district are currently emitting lava and toxic gasses. One lava flow is approaching the Puna Geothermal Plant and Anthony said that situation is being watched closely.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
Members of the 93rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team are monitoring air quality to ensure dangerous gasses do not encroach on populated areas.
In May 2018, Army National Guard Soldiers went door to door in neighborhoods such as the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens to warn residents of the danger and advise them to evacuate in front of the approaching lava flow. Anthony said some residents waited until the last minute.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
“I have no idea how anybody could stay inside that evacuation zone for days on end,” Anthony said. “The amount of gas and smoke and steam … sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid and all is incredibly nasty stuff.”
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
The troops of JTF 5-0 are staged in the town of Hilo, about 15 miles north of the evacuation zone. They go into the evacuation zone for about four hours at a time to conduct roving patrols and help police man checkpoints, Anthony said.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara is the task force commander. He is the deputy adjutant general of Hawaii. Some active force officers and Soldiers from the island of Oahu have joined him on the JTF staff, Anthony said. They are planning for contingencies in case the volcano eruption worsens.
Despite the troubles with Mount Kilauea, across most of the island, business continues as usual, Anthony said.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)
“It’s just a beautiful, picture-perfect day on a Hawaiian beach,” he said. Then he contrasted it with the situation inside the evacuation zone where toxic fumes kill foliage and hot lava obliterates structures.
“It’s a mix of paradise and a freaking hellscape,” he said.
A recent study with a small sample of veterans trying to recover from mental health issues found that video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.
The researchers concluded that although the impact of video games may vary based on the user, clinicians may wish to discuss video game play with their patients to help them “optimize their use of games to support recovery.”
“Gameplay may promote a mindfulness-like psychological [escape] but can also provide users with benefits of confidence, social connection, personal growth, and opportunities for employment or even leadership,” the researchers wrote. “These benefits are accessible to people with disabilities for whom traditional treatments, leisure activities, or social interactions may be challenged by circumstances or limitations. Games could be implemented in large populations very inexpensively, thus acting as potentially very cost-effective recovery supports or mental health treatments.”
Some of the participants, the researchers also note, described using video games to “distract from overwhelming symptoms, including suicidal thoughts and drug or alcohol use.”
The study included 20 veterans — 15 men and five women — who ranged in age from 25 to 62. Sixteen of the 20 vets reported they had PTSD or trauma-related symptoms. Most of the participants said they had more than one current mental or behavioral health diagnosis, with PTSD and depression being the most common combination. Three people had more than one type of trauma, such as combat — or training-related trauma, military sexual trauma, or childhood sexual abuse.
Dr. Michelle Colder Carras, a public health researcher, led the study, which appeared in November 2018 in the journal Social Science Medicine. With extensive research experience in video game play and in mental health recovery, she interviewed the veterans on the value of the games. (She shares that she’s also played video games herself and has recovered from her own mental health problem.)
In the study, the video game genres included sports, puzzles, gambling, role-player action, fantasy settings, and shooter games. But Colder Carras emphasizes that the genre or specific game isn’t what necessarily helped with recovery. The benefits, she says, stemmed more from the connections the veterans made with other video game players; the distractions they created for themselves by playing the games and removing their focus, for example, from alcohol or drugs; and the meaning they derived from the games.
“Meaning derived from game narratives and characters, exciting or calming gameplay, and opportunities to connect, talk, and lead others were credited as benefits of gaming,” the researchers write. “Responses often related closely to military or veteran experiences. At times, excessive use of games led to life problems or feeling addicted, but some veterans with disabilities felt the advantages of extreme play outweighed these problems.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Considering the neighborhood Iran is in, the country has experienced relatively few terror attacks. In fact, much of Iran’s military strategy seems centered around keeping terrorism and external aggression outside of Iran itself, even if the attacks target Iranian forces.
All that is changing in recent days as Iran reels from another attack on its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This one killed more than a dozen of the highly-trained members of the powerful Iranian military force.
The remnants of an IRGC bus after an explosives-laden car rammed it on Feb. 13.
A car filled with explosives was rammed into a bus carrying dozens of IRGC personnel on Feb. 13, 2019, in Iran’s Sistan-and-Baluchestan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Some 27 members of the IRGC were killed, and 13 others were wounded in the attack. An al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took responsibility for the attack.
Iran is an Islamic Republic made up of predominantly Shia Muslims. External Sunni groups say the Sunni minority inside Iran is discriminated against by the Shia majority government. Sistan-and-Baluchestan is filled with members of the ethnically Baluchi people, who practice the Sunni form of Islam. Jaish al-Adl has been committing acts of terror inside Iran since 2012 to fight the systematic oppression of Sunni Muslims.
Balochi people outside of Iran have protested Iran’s government of the province for decades.
In January 2019, Jaish al-Adl set off two bombs that wounded three police officers in Baluchi city of Zahedan. In October 2018, the group kidnapped 10 at a border post in Mirjaveh. A month prior to that, the group killed 24 at a military parade in Ahvaz. That’s just from one group. On Dec. 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb carried out by the Salafi terror group Ansar al-Furqan killed two and wounded 48 more in Chabahar, in the same province. In 2017, ISIS-linked terrorists carried out a series of bombings across the capital city of Tehran, killing 17.
Between 2010 and 2017, Iran had no terror attacks within its borders. Prior to that, it saw only a handful of scattered attacks and bombings. The latest attack was one of the deadliest experienced by the Islamic Republic in years.
Iran’s special forces are currently deployed in Syria.
Iran currently projects power from Afghanistan in the East to Lebanon in the West, including its presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic supports the Asad Regime in Syria, as well as the anti-Israel terror groups Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past, anti-Shia terror groups have been funded and armed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, whom Iran blames for the latest attack on Iranian soil.
The rhetoric between Iran and Pakistan has risen so high in the days following the attack, Iranian officials are meeting with Pakistan’s forever-rival India to discuss anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.
We all know Hollywood tends to get a lot wrong about the military. Uniform items, tactics, and even people from history get mixed up, dropped, and/or lost along the way. But Hollywood also glamorizes a lot of what the military is and what military life is like. If we were to actually live by Hollywood war movie standards, military life would be all yelling, push-ups, and constant field training.
Who would do all the paperwork? Some salty staff NCO who will always be complaining about all the paperwork he has to do. Well, they got that part down. Here are six things Vietnam veterans really did that you’ll never see in the movies.
I didn’t see this in Forrest Gump.
Yeah, the military still has this detail. But whenever you hear the telltale sounds of Hueys over the music of Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son, the newly-deploying troops are always headed to some very green, very loud base filled with troops who are grilling out and kitting up to go on a search and destroy mission. These new privates are given their marching orders to go out on a combat patrol immediately, even though they’re still green. When (if) they get back, they get time to sit in the bunks and chatter.
No. While they were gone, the REMF NCOs made quick use of that grilled food. It’s time to do the private’s work. Here’s your diesel fuel, Tom Cruise. A lot of Vietnam vets say that’s the newcomer’s first work detail.
Remember when Forrest Gump was busy rescuing Bubba from the oncoming wave of napalm that lit up the Vietnamese in the area? He barely made it out alive. What great, gripping action. The enemy was subdued, Forrest and Lt. Dan were safe, and Forrest could go on honoring Bubba and his family.
What they don’t show is probably the Beehive anti-personnel rounds that lit up the area before the napalm was dropped. After the NVA or Vietcong are pinned to trees by exploding flechettes, it’s pretty hard for them to escape the area before the napalm comes in. Some private is going to get sent to count just how many charred bodies are attached to trees. It ain’t pretty, but it happened.
Body bag duty
When an allied troop dies, someone needs to take care of the body. That’s a junior enlisted job. In places like Saigon and in field hospitals, dead ARVN troops were bagged and moved from hospital to mortuary to burial details – really quickly if the troops were lucky. If they were unlucky, they were moving heavy, dripping bags or bodies that reeked of death and decay and were often filled with maggots.
That’s a smell you won’t ever forget, vets say.
Amazing but fictional.
The new clueless LT.
Isn’t it awesome to see a competent, intelligent, squared away officer like Lt. Dan Taylor leading American fighting men into combat? Throughout Forrest’s entire time in Vietnam, Lt. Dan led them through rice paddies, jungles, and other terrain, clearing tunnels and destroying outposts. Sure, he also led them into an ambush, but sh*t happens, and then it’s burnt to a crisp – just like that ambush.
But Lt. Dan doesn’t represent every Lieutenant who came to Vietnam. Vietnam vets remember new officers showing up to tell seasoned troops how to do their jobs, even if it was wrong or if the officer was unable to read maps.
Do you really want to know what happens in either Captain Marvelor Avengers: Endgame even though we’re just a few weeks away from one movie and about a month away from the other one? Well, if you want to stay pure on any of these Marvel movies, then you should probably get off the internet! In the meantime, for the curious, it looks like Samuel L. Jackson has just revealed a detail about Captain Marvel which could spoil everything about Avengers: Endgame.
In early February 2019 Several news outlets reported on an interview Jackson gave to Total Film back in January 2019. The relevant detail? Jackson confirms what many fans have long-suspected: Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can travel through time.
“I guess we might figure out that she can do things that nobody else can do,” Jackson said in the Total Film interview. “She can time travel, so maybe she can get ahead or behind or whatever, and figure out what all that is. The fact I have the pager 20 years later – it gets addressed in an interesting sort of way.”
The “pager” is a reference to the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War in which Nick Fury (Jackson) uses a ’90s style pager to send a signal to someone who seems to be Captain Marvel. Is he sending this signal to the past? Does this mean Captain Marvel will time travel to 2019 at the end of Captain Marvel? The answer seems to be yes, which again, confirms a fan theory a lot of people have had since 2018.
But, more relevantly, this information makes Captain Marvel essential viewing for anyone planning on seeing Endgame. Because if Marvel did edit out a character from the Endgame trailers and that character is Carol Danvers, then her origin story will become a huge deal.