In November 2015, a laptop-sized container of Iridium-192 disappeared from a storage facility near the Iraqi city of Basra. Iridium-192 is a highly radioactive and dangerous material used to detect flaws in metal and to treat some cancers. It’s also one of the main potential sources of radioactive material that could be used in a “dirty bomb.”
Its potential for misuse and the the location of the theft worries Iraqi officials that the material could be in the hands of ISIS (Daesh) militants. The fears sparked a nationwide hunt for the material.
A U.S. oil company, the Houston-based Weatherford, is the alleged owner of the storage facility where the material was lost, but the company denied it. The material itself is owned by a Turkish company, whom Weatherford says had control of the bunker.
“We do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored,” Weatherford told Reuters. “SGS is the owner and operator of the bunker and sources and solely responsible for addressing this matter.”
The iridium isotope loses its potency relatively easily, when compared to other potential sources of radioactive material, and ir-192 cases seem to go missing much more frequently than one might expect, especially in the United States.
Iridium-192 emits high energy gamma radiation and exposure to the isotope can cause burns, radiation sickness, and death. It also exponentially increases risks of developing cancer.
Ryan Mauro, an adjunct professor at Clarion Project, a think tank that tracks terrorism, downplayed the danger to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
“Shaping headlines is essential to ISIS’ jihad … beheadings, explosions and most brutal acts have become stale,” Mauro told Fox News. “A dirty bomb attack would be major news, regardless of how many immediate casualties occur.”
On June 23, 2012, U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis crashed in a helicopter during her last deployment to Afghanistan; she suffered a traumatic brain injury, severe facial trauma, a left leg above-the-knee amputation, damage to her cervical spine and damage to her upper arms.
On June 23, 2021, she returned from her successful summit of Mt. Denali, the highest point in North America at 20,310 ft; the latest peak she has conquered in her Seven Summit climb to raise awareness for organizations like Merging Vets and Players, a non-profit organization that coaches, mentors and leads combat veterans and former athletes to their highest level of performance.
Ennis plans to complete the Messner version of the Seven Summits — the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Messner version combines Oceania with Australia to make a proper technical climb.
To date, she has completed the following five climbs:
Aconcagua (Argentina, highest point in South America — successful in 2019) Denali (Alaska, highest point in North America — Successful in 2021) Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, highest point in Africa — Successful in 2017) Elbrus (Russia, highest point in Europe — Successful in 2018) Puncak Jaya AKA Carstenzs (Indonesia, highest point in Oceania — Successful in 2017)
She has two final climbs to summit:
Vinson (highest point in Antarctica — Scheduled for 2021/2022, 1st attempt) Everest (highest point in Asia — Attempted in 2019; spun 600 feet from summit; 2nd attempt TBD)
In 2018, her first attempt at Denali resulted in a bitter descent after reaching 18,200 ft in treacherous weather conditions when one of her guides began to struggle with AMS (acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness that results in dizziness, nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, and other dangerous symptoms).
But Ennis isn’t one to be defeated.
Three years later, she’s able to look back on another “alive day” with pride. “I’m down from a successful Denali climb and feeling stronger than ever. I’m still overwhelmed with emotions. I’m humbled as it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, physically, mentally, and emotionally — but I’m proud of my team and my effort — we did the damn thing,” she shared on Instagram.
A Paralympic athlete and leader in the prosthetic industry, she created the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which provides education, opportunities, and healing in the outdoors through their recreational therapy clinics and expeditions; introduces new and recycled medical device technology to underserved communities around the world; and partners with organizations with similar missions of improving the quality of life of individuals through mobility.
They don’t even put Charms in MREs anymore. Because if everyone is just going to chuck the candy out the Humvee window, that’s just a gross waste of high-fructose corn syrup.
Those who aren’t new to the service and have ever deployed with Marines probably saw the same scene at some point. Hungry Marines pour into their MREs and take out their favorite parts and toss the rest into the MRE box (a process known as ratf*cking). Let’s face it, some MRE parts are definitely better than others.
No matter what an individual’s tastes were, one item was always discarded: the Charms candy. The reason for that was a mixture of superstition and because the younger guys knew someone would slap the candy out of their hands or out of their mouths for the cardinal sin of even opening the wrapper.
The simplest answer is that Marines grow up in the Corps learning that Charms are just plain bad luck. Whether it was learned from saltier Marines or experienced firsthand, those things might as well be pure evil.
Eating Charms is like begging for the world’s largest thunderstorm to rain down on you and your platoon – even in the desert. Or they might set off a roadside bomb. Some think you’ll get mortared just for opening an MRE with Charms in it – unless you bury it.
The luck varied as much as the flavors did. As Sgt. Kenneth Wilson told Agence France-Presse just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a lemon-flavored Charm could cause a vehicle breakdown. The green ones were the ones that brought the rain. Raspberry meant certain death.
After serving in Vietnam as an infantryman and a combat correspondent, Dye served for a number of years before he retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Los Angeles with the idea of bringing more realism to Hollywood films. Despite the door being shut in his face plenty of times, his persistence paid off when Oliver Stone took him on as a military technical advisor for “Platoon.”
That film jumpstarted Dye’s Hollywood career. But before he became the legendary technical advisor who helped shape everything from “Born on the Fourth of July” to “Saving Private Ryan,” Dye, 70, served three tours as a Marine on the ground in Vietnam; a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart and recipient of the Bronze Star (with combat “V”) award for heroism, in fact.
I tried to Google my way to how he earned the Bronze Star award with little results. As far as I know, the story is not known to the general public. So I decided to ask him in an interview at his home, north of Hollywood. This is what he told me.
“I had made it through Hue, in Tet of ’68, and I’d been hit in the hand. Just about blew my thumb off here and I got a piece of shrapnel up under my chin, and I was in the rear. And a unit that I had been traveling with — 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines — they called it rent-a-battalion because it was constantly OPCON/ADCON to various things, and they were really hot, hot grunts. I mean these were good guys. And so I heard that they were going on this operation, and I knew all the guys, you know the 3rd Platoon of Echo Co. was my home. And so, I said I well I’m going. They said ‘ah you’re not ready for field yet.’ I said ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going.’
So I packed my shit and off I went. And I joined up with Echo Co. 2/3 … and we were involved in a thing called Operation Ford and it was either March, I guess March, of ’68 and the idea was that there had been a bunch of [North Vietnamese Army] that had escaped south of Hue, or been cut off when they were trying to reinforce Hue. They had moved south of Hue along this long spit of sand — I think it was battalion-strength — and they had dug in there according to reconnaissance guys who had been in the area, and they were waiting for ships or boats to come down from North Vietnam and pick them up and evacuate them and get them out of there.
So the idea was that 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines was going to be sent in and we were going to sweep, I think north to south along the perimeter along that peninsula. And then there were guys who were gonna block in the south — another battalion, I think. And so we started walking — spread out as you usually are — and hadn’t really run into much. We were running through a few [villages] and sweeping them and taking a look, and then we started hitting boobytraps. And these were pretty bad because they were standard frag in a can — fragmentation hand grenade inside a C-ration can tied to a tree, pin-pulled, fishing line attached across the trail — you hit the fishing line, it pulls the frag out, spoon pops and the frag goes. Or we were hitting 105mm Howitzer rounds that were buried. So we got a few guys chewed up pretty bad.
And there was this one guy named Wilson who was walking maybe two or three ahead of me, and he should have known better than to go through this hedgerow. But I guess squad leaders were pushing us on or something like that, [and] Wilson went through the hedgerow and he hit a frag. Frag dropped right below his feet and blew up. So everybody was down and I could see what happened, so I ran up to see if I could help Wilson out. He had multiple frag all over him. It blew his crotch out, blew his chest out, and he had holes all over his face where the shrapnel had come up this way so I got a Corpsman up and we went to work on trying to save him. You had to play him like a flute. We tried to close his chest — and in those days we didn’t have all the medical gear, the QuikClot and all that sort of thing — we just did it with an old radio battery [and] piece of cellophane we got off it and closed his chest.
And we tried to breathe into him, but you had to play him like a piccolo, because the sinuses had shrapnel holes and you had to stick your fingers in there to make sure he didn’t leak air. Anyway, we kept him alive until they got a helicopter to come in and we got him out. He died on the way back to Danang. But they had noticed me go up and see what I could do for this guy.
So we continued to march and then we got hit really, really hard in the flank. And for some reason, I was out on the flank that got hit. And I was walking around by a machine gunner, name of Beebe, Darryl Beebe, Lance Corporal, and he had the M-60. And so they hit us really hard.
The third platoon commander, Lt. “Wild” Bill Tehan, ordered the platoon to pull back to this line of sand dunes where we had some cover from the fire. Beebe and I couldn’t get back. We were just trapped out there. And they started hitting us with grenades and 60mm mortars, and we couldn’t move. We couldn’t get back and we couldn’t go forward. And Beebe’s [assistant] gunner got killed, and he had ammo, maybe 20 meters up to the side. And I crawled over and got all his ammo and then crawled back to Beebe and started loading the gun. Off we went, and we just ripped them up. We tore into these bunkers that were taking us under fire. And Hell, I even pulled out my pistol and went to work. I mean we fired everything we had, threw every grenade we had.
We must have hurt them. I know we hurt them because I killed two or three that I saw get up and go and I shot at them and down they went. So I guess we suppressed enough fire where we could pull back and we pulled back. And at that point, I think it was mortars or 81s or the 105 battery that was supporting us, I don’t remember what. Anyway, they hit the bunker complex. And Tehan went up and he looked and we killed a bunch of them. The machine gun, the single machine gun had just killed a bunch of them. And so I guess they marked me down as number two guy, having done two good things.
And then we got hit again, I think it was the next day. We had moved on, and we got hit again, and a corpsman and a couple of other people got hit. And I went up and pulled them out of the line of fire, and treated the corpsman. It was a very embarrassing thing because the corpsman was a guy by the name of Doc Fred Geise and I knew him real well. But he’d taken one in through the chest and I saw him go down, so I dropped my pack and went running up to him and they were firing all over me and one NVA that I didn’t even see, dumped a frag that hit right behind me. And boom it went off, and the next thing I knew, I was airborne. And I could feel stuff running down my legs. And I said, ‘ah, shit, I’m hurt.’ But I didn’t feel anything in particular, just dazed, you know the bell rung. And it was my canteen. That frag had blown out the bottom of both of my canteens, so I had water all over me.
Anyway, so I got up to Fred, and he had one through and through. And so, he was working on a guy who had taken one in the upper arm, broke the bone and I fixed him up the best I could then I got to Geise but there wasn’t much I could do. I stuffed the gauze in the entry wound, and wrapped it up the best I could — I was just winging it — what I could remember from first aid.
And he carried morphine syrettes. They look like those little tubes of toothpaste you get in a travel kit. And they have a plastic — they look like a little tube of Colgate — cover on the needle. And the needle has a loop in it, so you bite or pull the plastic off and break the seal with that little loop, throw that away, then you hit them in a muscle and inject that amount of morphine. I knew that.
But there was fire coming at me. I was working literally on my belly because the crap was just cutting right through us. And rounds were hitting so close they were just blowing dirt all over us. Mud and water and all that sort of thing. But I tried to stay focused and get Doc Geise injected with morphine.
Well I pulled the plastic off the morphine syrette and I hit him three or four times in the thigh, you know trying to
squeeze this morphine in. It wouldn’t go. And I couldn’t figure out — you know the poor guy’s thigh is worse than the gunshot wound — like a pin cushion. And I finally figured it out, ‘oh shit, I forgot to break the seal,’ so I break the seal and finally get morphine in him. But oh, God.
He was saying, ‘Dye, you asshole, you idiot,’ you know. And I’m just, ‘sorry, Doc.’
So anyway, we had a bad night that night because they had moved out of their fortified positions and they were trying to break through us. And we had a pretty serious fight that night.
I think that was the first and only time I burned through every round of ammunition I had and then also borrowed a bunch of ammunition. And in fact, we had a bunch of medevacs that had been taken out on amtracs, and the company gunny had kept their weapons. And so we were over there scavenging all night, getting loaded magazines. We only had the 20-round magazines at that point for the M-16, and a lot of 16s were going down. You know, they were not the best piece of gear we ever had.
So anyway, then we went on ahead and we had another three or four days with four or five sharp fights but nothing as spectacular. And we got to the rear, and I said well okay, I’ve got to go here. I’m going to go somewhere where I can go through my notebooks, and I had a little story about the corpsman, and I had a little story about this guy, and a little story about Beebe and the machine gun, and so on and I realized, a lot of that involved me, which I wasn’t real happy about, you know, mentioning my part in it.
But Lt. Tehan and the company commander really decided that I had done something spectacular, or out of the ordinary, let me put it that way.
And so they got Simmons and Beebe and Lt. Tehan and three or four other guys to write a statement that said this is what Sgt. Dye did. And the next thing I knew, my captain called me in and said ‘I hope you got a clean uniform and some boots that aren’t completely white,’ and I said, ‘oh no sir, I don’t.’ He said ‘well we’re getting you some because the general is going to pin a Bronze Star on you and that’s the first thing I ever heard about it. First time I ever heard that, you know. But that’s the story.”
Here is the full citation for the award, which Dye received on Sep. 9, 1968:
For heroic achievement in connection with operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a Combat Correspondent with the Informational Services Office, First Marine Division. On 14 March 1968, during Operation Ford, Sergeant Dye was attached to Company E, Second Battalion, Third Marines when an enemy explosive device was detonated, seriously wounding a Marine. Reacting instantly, he moved forward through the hazardous area and skillfully administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the injured man. A short time later, the unit came under intense hostile fire which wounded two Marines. Disregarding his own safety, Sergeant Dye fearlessly ran across the fire-swept terrain and rendered first aid to the injured men while assisting them to covered positions.
On 18 March 1968, Sergeant Dye again boldly exposed himself to intense enemy fire as he maneuvered forward to replace an assistant machine-gunner who had been wounded. Undaunted by the hostile fire impacting around him, he skillfully assisted in delivering a heavy volume of effective fire upon the enemy emplacements. Ignoring his painful injury, he steadfastly refused medical treatment, continuing to assist the machine gunner throughout the night.
His heroic and timely actions were an inspiration to all who observed him and contributed significantly to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission. Sergeant Dye’s courage, sincere concern for the welfare of his comrades and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
Sergeant Dye is authorized to wear the Combat “V”.
For The President,
H.W. Buse, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
Russia has unveiled images of a new super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile that media reports claim could wipe out France, Britain or the entire state of Texas.
Dubbed the “RS-28 Sarmat” but carrying the NATO codename SS-X-30 “Satan 2,” Russia is the only country to really deploy any type of super-heavy ICBM. The intention behind those missiles was to take out American ICBMs before the National Command Authority could order a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.
The first such missile Moscow had of this type was the R-36, known to NATO as the “SS-9 Scarp.” The Scarp had a range of up to 9,600 miles on land targets, and could also be used as the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, with a range of up to 24,850 miles. It carried a single nuclear warhead, but that warhead had a yield of 18 or 25 megatons, based on the version of the missile.
The next super-heavy Russian ICBM was the R-36M, known as the SS-18 “Satan.” Some versions of this missile carried the single 25 megaton warhead. Others carried up to 10 multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs. With a range of almost 10,000 miles, this missile was bad news for whoever it targeted.
The RS-28/SS-X-30 reportedly has a shorter range (about 6,200 miles), but it has the ability to carry as many as 15 MIRVs. It can swap out the MIRVs for a single 40-megaton warhead.
That would make it the most powerful warhead on an in-service missile. The Soviet Union did detonate a 50-megaton warhead, the Tsar Bomba, in 1961 on Novaya Zemlya. The Tsar Bomba was delivered by a modified Tu-95 “Bear” bomber, but was only an experimental system.
The closest an American missile came to the punch that these Soviet or Russian super-heavy ICBMs had was with the LGM-118 Peacekeeper missile. The Reagan-era Peacekeeper (also known as the MX) had a range of 8,700 miles, and could carry up to 10 MIRVs — usually equipped with W87 warheads capable of delivering a 475-kiloton yield. The Peacekeeper was deactivated in 2005 in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
The SS-X-30 is slated to enter service in 2020, replacing the SS-18.
Makes the NATO codename of “Satan 2” seem pretty appropriate, doesn’t it?
The US Air Force announced that the last squadrons of the legendary B-52 Stratofortress have concluded their operations against ISIS in the Middle East and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and have returned home to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
“Following two years of B-52 squadrons employing nearly 12,000 weapons on Islamic State and Taliban targets across U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, the venerable BUFF flew its last mission April 7  before turning over the bomber duty reins to the newly arrived B-1B Lancer,” an Air Force spokesman said in a statement.
The bomber, nicknamed the BUFF for “Big Ugly Fat Fellow,” has been in service with the Air Force for 63 years, the last two of which it served as US Central Command’s go-to bomber.
Almost 12,000 weapons were dropped over the course of 1,850 missions on ISIS and Taliban targets. On average, B-52 aircrews recorded 400-450 hours in a single six to seven-month deployment, which is nearly three times the traditional 300 hours usually flown by B-52 crews.
A number of new records were also made. The 23rd Bomb Squadron celebrated its 100th birthday in June 2017, with 400 consecutive missions without any maintenance delays, breaking the previous record that was set during the Vietnam War’s Operation Linebacker II in 1972.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
In September of that same year, the B-52 surpassed the B-1 Lancer’s record of 761 consecutive missions without a maintenance cancellation by 73 missions, increasing the record to 834.
A B-52 dropped 24 precision guided munitions during a 96-hour air campaign against Taliban training and narcotics facilities in Feburary 2018, breaking the previous record (which was also set by a B-52) for the most smart bombs dropped on the Taliban.
American commanders have huge respect and admiration for the B-52 and its aircrews. “The BUFF did a fantastic job crushing ISIS on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria,” Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, the commander of US Air Forces Central Command, said.
“Some would say it’s a cold war relic,” Lt. Col. Paul Goossen, the commander of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, said. “But it’s such a versatile airframe that it keeps being reinvented and it keeps showing its usefulness and its relevance in every war that America finds itself in.”
US Central Command’s future bombing operations in its area of responsibility will be conducted by B-1 bombers.
The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.
The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.
The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.
Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.
“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”
The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.
That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.
“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”
Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.
Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.
More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.
That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”
Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.
“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.
The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.
After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.
So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.
“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”
Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.
But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.
“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?
“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”
Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, their good habits tend to fly out the window.
Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.
We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.
(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)
Waking up early is an annoying, but useful, habit
The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.
When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).
Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working. It’s a good habit to have.
The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.
Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.
(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)
Shaving every day, haircuts every week…one of the most annoying good habits
If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.
When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.
“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
15 minutes prior
If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.
Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore. This habit is one we don’t really miss.
Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.
(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
Suppressing opinions is a hard habit to break
Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.
The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.
Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.
(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)
Putting in extra effort
Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.
However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.
In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.
(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)
Sympathy toward coworkers
A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.
Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.
With a sprinkle of holy water and a protester condemning the late Mikhail Kalashnikov as a “manufacturer of death,” Russian authorities have unveiled a monument to the designer of the widely used AK-47 assault rifle.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and the head of state-run military-industrial conglomerate Rostec were on hand for the dedication of the monument to Kalashnikov on the Garden Ring road in central Moscow on September 19.
The statue — not far from monuments to renowned poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin — was unveiled by Kalashnikov’s daughter, Yelena Kalashnikova.
Minutes before the ceremony began, a man unfurled a sign saying, “the manufacturer of weapons is a manufacturer of death.” He was quickly detained by police and taken away from the site.
The weapon Kalashnikov invented is the most widely used assault rifle in the world and has been fired in nearly every conflict around the globe for the last 50 years.
There are estimated to be as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles around the world.
“Mikhail Kalashnikov is an embodiment of the best features of a Russian person — extraordinary natural giftedness, simplicity, honesty, organizational talent,” Medinsky said, adding that “the Kalashnikov assault rifle is truly…a cultural brand of Russia.”
The head of Russia’s Udmurtia region, Aleksandr Brechalov, spoke at the ceremony, praising Kalashnikov for his contribution to “Russia’s glory and defense.”
Kalashnikov lived and worked for many years in the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, where Kalashnikov assault rifles are still made.
A Russian Orthodox priest then prayed for Kalashnikov and sprinkled the monument with water sanctified by the church.
But Kalashnikov — who was born into a peasant family during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution and died in 2013 at the age of 94 — voiced mixed feelings about his achievements and his legacy late in life.
Several months before his death, he wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in which he said: “The pain in my soul is unbearable.
“I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives that means that I…am responsible for people’s deaths.”
Medinsky presented plans to Putin for the Kalashnikov statue in September 2016 during a tour of the Kalashnikov Group’s headquarters in Izhevsk.
The project was backed by the Russian Military-Historical Society — which is chaired by Medinsky — and by Rostec, whose CEO is Putin ally Sergei Chemezov. Rostec is the majority owner of Kalashnikov.
The monument was unveiled on a state-mandated professional holiday honoring Russian arms makers going back to tsarist times.
Kremlin critics say that Putin, who has involved Russia in wars in Syria and Ukraine and touts Soviet and imperial-era battlefield achievements to promote patriotism, focuses on military affairs to draw attention away from domestic troubles.
Team Red, White Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. This effort is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
But while having lots of members and a host of chapters across the country is a great thing for a young veteran service organization, there’s a challenge in keeping it all connected. That’s why Executive Director Blayne Smith and his colleagues decided to link up with Team Red, White Blue’s various members with a little run among friends.
And what if this little run wasn’t so little? What if it spread across the entire country?
“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” Smith said. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”
So in 2014, on a shoestring budget and with just a couple company reps doing most of the logistical legwork, the Old Glory Relay was born. Now spanning 4,216 miles and involving upwards of 1,300 runners and cyclists, the 2016 Old Glory Relay will see an American flag passed between participants — including veterans and their supporters — down the West Coast, across the desert Southwest, through the Deep South, and ending in Tampa, Florida, after 62 days culminating in a Ruck March on Veterans Day.
“For this year we decided to go even bigger. It’s a bit more ambitious, it’s a longer route but more members and more chapters will get to participate,” Smith said. “There’s something really powerful about running a few miles carrying an American flag. It’s really invigorating to run with it and hand it off to the next person knowing you’ve done your part to get it across the country.”
With the support of the presenting sponsor, Microsoft, along with other partners, Amazon, Westfield and Starbucks, the race began at the Space Needle in Seattle on Sept. 11. The relay will be following a route through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through the end of the month. The relay then turns east, through Phoenix, Tucson and San Antonio before crossing the South through the Florida Panhandle to Tampa.
Team Red, White Blue has done a ton of legwork to prepare for the relay, mobilizing local chapters to help carry the flag and get their communities energized to cheer runners along. Smith said school kids, local police and fire stations and residents along the way all turn out to motivate the runners and keep the relay going. And while the event is geared toward unifying the chapters and its members in a good cause, it’s the spirit of shared sacrifice and appreciation for the men in women who served in uniform that really makes the Old Glory Relay special.
“This is what happens when you slow people down enough to move on foot through a town with an American flag and see what happens. All those human connections start to happen,” Smith said. “America is a beautiful place. But the most beautiful terrain in America is the human terrain, and you don’t see it if you don’t slow down. And that’s what this is all about.”
You can support Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay by following the Old Glory Relay website, sharing your own photos and videos with the hashtag #OldGloryRelay, and by tracking Old Glory via the “OGR Live” webpage for up-to-the-minute information on the runners’ and cyclists’ status.
The last of the Marine Corps‘ remaining EA-6B Prowlers have wrapped up their final mission in the Middle East, where they supported troops taking on the Islamic State group. Now, the electronic-warfare aircraft will soon be headed to the boneyard.
More than 250 members of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 are returning to North Carolina after spending seven months operating out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The squadron — the last to fly the service’s decades-old electronic-warfare aircraft — is only about four months away from being deactivated.
But that didn’t slow the Death Jesters downrange, where they were tapped with supporting two campaigns simultaneously: Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
“The mission of the Prowler is and always has been to deny, degrade and disrupt the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Robert Ryland, an electronic-countermeasures officer with VMAQ-2. Being based in Qatar, he added, allowed them to respond to missions for both operations.
Ryland declined to specify how many flight hours the crews flew throughout the deployment, due to operational security concerns. But the operational tempo remained high throughout the deployment, he said.
A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
“The presence of electronic warfare is extremely important to the supported unit,” he said. “Though this is the final EA-6B deployment, the need for electronic warfare will remain high worldwide in the future.”
The Marines were called on to support not only U.S. ground troops, but coalition forces as well. From planning missions to executing them, the squadron worked with troops from several countries.
“There were a lot of people on this deployment who’ve dedicated their entire lives to this aircraft, its community and most importantly, the electronic-warfare mission,” Ryland said.
The end of an era
The Prowler has been a part of the Marine Corps’ aviation arsenal since the Vietnam era. The aircraft has been vital on the battlefield, since, including during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in the fight against ISIS terrorists.
Seeing the Prowler used all the way up until its sundown says a lot about its capabilities, said 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Despite the aircraft’s age, Ryland said the Marines with VMAQ-2 were able to maintain high readiness throughout this final deployment.
“There’s sometimes a bit of a misconception that old equals having a hard time getting jets airborne, but that’s actually not the case with the Prowler,” he said.
Ryland credits their skilled maintainers, who’ve worked on Prowlers for a long time. Some joined VMAQ-2 when other Prowler squadrons deactivated.
Now as VMAQ-2 prepares to deactivate, too, the Marines with this squadron are on the lookout for new opportunities. Some will transition to other Marine Corps aircraft, join a different branch, or leave the military when their service time is up, Ryland said.
“Everybody has their own personal plan for what they’ll do next,” Ryland said.
Lt. Col. Greg Sand, EA-6B requirements officer with Marine Corps headquarters, told Military.com in 2017 that the Prowler’s sunset wouldn’t force anyone out of the Marine Corps.
Three EA-6B Prowlers.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
If Marines weren’t selected to transfer to work on another aircraft, he said they could always serve in B-billets or support their headquarters. And some with EA-6B aircrews were also transitioning to work with drone squadrons, he said.
Despite the end of the Prowlers’ era, the need for electronic-warfare capabilities on the battlefield isn’t going away. Throughout the aircraft’s sundown process, Stephenson said the Marine Corps has been building up a suite of new electronic-warfare capabilities across the Marine air-ground task force.
According to Marine Corps planning documents, that includes pods or sensors that can be affixed to other aircraft and new signals intelligence and cyber capabilities.
“This will be the new way the Marine Corps plans to transition from utilizing the Prowlers to a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes and functions as a sensor, shooter and sharer and [includes] an EW node,” Stephenson said.
Marine units heading to sea or combat are already carrying some of those capabilities, Sand said. They offer commanders a great deal of flexibility, since they can be added to fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“A MAGTF commander can just walk out onto a flightline now, see the asset, and he or she owns that asset and can task that asset,” Sand said.
And Marine ground troops will still be able to call on joint forces when they need airborne electronic attack capabilities, he added.
“The Prowler in practical terms has been replaced in additional capacities by the Navy [EA-18G] Growler,” Sand said. “That’s a Super Hornet … with a pretty fierce EW capability. The Growler really is the follow-on to the Prowler.”
For now, VMAQ-2 still has a few months of work left before the Prowlers’ final flights. When the squadron does get ready to say goodbye to its beloved aircraft in March 2019, Ryland says they’ll hold a sundown ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Any Marine who worked with the Prowler, whether a year or decades ago, is invited to attend.
“The Prowler has been a really incredible workhorse for the Marine Corps, the United States and allied forces for many, many decades,” Ryland said. “I know the people who fly and fix these aircraft have a lot of respect for them and certainly for those who came before us.
“There is a tremendous amount of hard work and training that goes into performing the Prowler mission,” he added. “It’s a great honor, every time I get to fly in one.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
WWC Global is a leading women and military spouse owned small business that supports the management and operational needs of government agencies. WWC was also one of the first businesses to focus on military spouse employment, over a decade before it became a hot topic.
In 2004, Lauren Weiner found herself living in Italy and unemployable, despite an impressive resume. She left her position with the White House to follow her husband on his Department of Defense civilian assignment in Italy, when she quickly discovered spouses were not eligible for most government civilian positions. A few weeks after her arrival in Italy, she signed up for a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast. She had no clue that tour would change the trajectory of her entire life.
After overhearing Donna Huneycutt asking the tour guide if she could get coffee before the bus departed, she decided to follow her to get some too. “We started talking on the way over there and became fast friends within five minutes,” Weiner shared. She quickly discovered that Huneycutt had left her job in corporate law to follow her husband to Italy, who was a Naval officer. She too was struggling with the lack of opportunities.
The pizza place in Italy where many meetings took place.
“We jokingly say that the company was started over coffee,” Weiner shared with a laugh. Huneycutt echoed her sentiment and added that “we owe MWR for the founding of the company” since they provided the tour where the two met.
“The initial mission of the company was to provide employment for Lauren and enough employment for me so I could get some child care assistance. Shortly after that, the mission of the company was to find as many talented military spouses as possible and match them with the critical needs within the Department of Defense,” said Huneycutt. “Then it evolved to finding qualified and outstanding people in different, under-tapped labor pools such as veterans, retirees and State Department spouses, aligning them with critical needs of the government. That mission still hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been doing this.”
When Weiner was asked if they had ever anticipated their company growing as large as they have, she laughed and quickly said, “Definitely not!” Weiner explained that Huneycutt initially just planned to incorporate the company for her and then go on to write a novel, but they received their first contract and then another came along. They found themselves hiring their first military spouse, a Harvard trained lawyer, Jeanne McLaine. She was only being offered paralegal positions at the base, despite her background and extensive experience. McLaine still works for the company today.
“I was told I could be a secretary. There was actually a policy against anyone who was a dependent applying for a position above a GS-9 at the base at the time … I was told I could not have a GS-13 or GS-14 job because I was a trailing spouse,” shared Weiner. “It was eye-opening and it was rough.”
By the end of their first year in business, they had seven employees. Weiner shared that she actually never wanted to grow over 50 employees, thinking it could cause them to “lose who we are.” But after a few years, they were well over that number. “The military spouse community is what built us in the first place and what supported us and sustained us,” shared Weiner.
Currently, over 74% of their employees are military spouses and/or veterans.
With their continued success, they are often asked what their next big plan or idea is. “We never want to lose sight of the things that led to our success. Our commitment to honesty and credibility have continued to open doors for us. We measure our accomplishments by the success of our clients and our staff. We will continue to do this in the future,” said Huneycutt.
Their firm is dedicated to leverage their expertise to serve their customers in various stages of policy design, exercise training, financial management, IT support and strategic management. Some of their clients include the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Agency for International Development.
“Our mission is and has always been to help make government more effective and efficient, because it impacts our own lives,” explained Weiner.
Initially, the response to their firm successfully obtaining and running these large government contracts was one of disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that they were awarded the work and that they could do it. Weiner and Huneycutt were often asked if they were “doing this as a side business” until they became mothers to children. Or, it was assumed their husbands had established the company, although their husbands have absolutely no role in it. “We changed the dynamic and the conversation, very quickly,” Weiner shared.
When Weiner was asked what advice she would give military spouses who want to start their own businesses, she offered, “Put your head down and do it. People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t and give you every reason why it won’t work. Do not believe them. It is really hard work and you have to work harder than anyone else, but you can do it,” she said.
Their hard work has paid off. They now boast over 24 locations and their employees span four continents and 13 time zones. In the last two years alone, their operations have tripled. All of that growth led to their newly announced name change from WWC to WWC Global. They’ve also redesigned their logo to incorporate their history of its founding in Italy and their first client: the U.S. Navy.
“There have been many milestones that have made me pause and reflect. One of my favorites is the work we have done to provide meaningful employment to 170 military spouses,” said Huneycutt.
“We were able to build this and we are going to continue to build it further,” said Weiner. “Every once in a while, I stop and go… wow.”
To learn more about WWC Global and what they do, click here.
“The Main Enemy.” That’s how the Russian political, military, and intelligence apparatuses see the United States. Although the end of the Cold War brought with it hopes of democratization in Russia, 30 years later, with President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, at the helm, Russia seems buried in the past, stoking a fire against the West mainly through covert means and information operations.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Intelligence Community released its annual threat assessment. When it came to Russia, American intelligence assessed that it poses one of the most serious intelligence threats to the U.S., sowing discord and division within the U.S. while trying to divide Western alliances, such as NATO and the European Union, alongside preserving and increasing Russia’s global standing.
Heading this campaign of subversion are Russia’s potent intelligence agencies: The SVR (foreign intelligence), FSB (domestic intelligence and counterintelligence), GRU (military intelligence), and FSO (a mix of domestic law enforcement, border patrol, presidential guard, and signals intelligence).
A History of Subversion
From the reign of the Tsars, Russian history is deeply steeped in espionage. The Russian monarchs operated intelligence services to prevent the all-dreaded assassination attempts from domestic and foreign rivals. When the Bolsheviks ousted the Tsars after the Russian Revolution in 1917, they kept the same focus on intelligence, but now the target deck of potential threats swelled. Russian anti-communists (also known as the “Whites”), foreign nations, and even other Bolsheviks were all considered threats to the nascent revolution.
The Soviets began spying against other countries immediately, and the U.S. in particular was a big target. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Russian intelligence officers recruited hundreds of Americans to spy for the Soviet Union, an espionage onslaught that resulted in the compromise of the Manhattan Project and the leaking of nuclear secrets to the Soviets, with which they managed to build their own atomic weapons.
Other Western countries were also affected. Great Britain’s infamous Cambridge Five (Donald Mclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross), a group of the British elite who infiltrated its institutions, including MI6, Foreign Office, and BBC, wreaked havoc with their perfidy.
West Germany suffered too. A cadre of “Romeos,” attractive young Soviet and East German intelligence officers, used their sex appeal and charm to target lonely, single West German secretaries and recruit them, infiltrating the highest echelons of the West German government.
In an interview in 1998, KGB general Oleg Kalugin, head of KGB’s political operations in the U.S. who later defected and became an American citizen, offered some great insight on how Russian intelligence services tackled the “American target.”
“The heart and soul of the Soviet intelligence—was subversion. Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare the ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples,” he had said.
An Unofficial Rulebook
By interfering with the U.S. political process in 2016, Russian intelligence services, directed by the Kremlin, crossed an unspoken line that had existed since and survived throughout the Cold War. In his excellent book, Spymaster’s Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression, Jack Divine, a retired CIA officer who served as acting director and associate director of operations, describes this unofficial rulebook as the “Moscow Rules.”
This set of unofficial norms ensured that the respective intelligence activities didn’t go beyond a red line that would provoke either side into using its military—and as a result, its nuclear arsenal. Assassinations, terrorism, and excessive violence against the other country’s intelligence officers were a no-go, as was direct interference in the other country’s political processes.
For example, KGB officers wouldn’t beat a CIA officer caught meeting with a Soviet asset in Moscow to death (they could—and did—try and execute their countryman, though). Similarly, the CIA wouldn’t promote independence movements in other nations inside the Soviet Union or try to influence the leadership deliberations inside the Communist Party in an effort to destabilize Kremlin’s power.
These unofficial “rules of engagement” kept in check the respective intelligence services, ensuring that their actions in the cloak and dagger realm didn’t inadvertently cause World War Three. But in 2016, Putin Russia threw the Moscow Rules out of the window.
Back to the Future
In 2016, using its cyber capabilities, the Kremlin aimed to delegitimize America’s democratic process, sow distrust in Western media, and widen preexisting socioeconomic and racial fissures in the U.S. The main actor in this was the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a seemingly independent organization that works closely with the Russian intelligence apparatus, particularly the SVR and GRU.
In 2016, the IRA created thousands of Twitter accounts (3,814), YouTube videos (more than 1,000), and hundreds of Facebook pages and events, masking them as American political groups and initiatives, that posted divisive and inflammatory material. Using thousands of bots on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major social media platforms, they promoted and spread these posts to reach at least 29 million Americans, and potentially reaching 126 million, and influenced the political process in a way that’s hard to quantify.
Several of these pages and posts were directly opposed to each other (for example, “Blacktivist” and “Stop All Immigrants”) despite being run by the same Russian source. It is worth highlighting that Russian intelligence services directed their malicious efforts against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. It wasn’t until the closing months of the election season, when Trump seemed to have a feasible chance to win, that the Russians started favoring him. (It’s important to highlight that Russian meddling in the election process was primarily intended to make Americans question the electoral process and democratic institutions.)
The election interference, one of many in which Russian intelligence meddled in the last few years (other examples are the Brexit vote, Scottish independence referendum, and Catalonia independence referendum), is part of what the Russians refer to as “Active Measures.”
Active Measures (Aktivnye Meropriyatiya), is the Russian version of Covert Action and can include election interference, information operations, influence operations, assassinations of dissidents, and cyberwarfare.
Through its active measures tactics, Russia attempts to undermine U.S. influence in the world and sow division between Western countries and NATO in order to weaken the West, thereby increasing Moscow’s importance to the world as a major international player.
According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian officials believe that the U.S. and its allies have been conducting influence operations to undermine Russia and Putin in addition to pursuing regime-changing in the countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Georgia. Interestingly, U.S. officials assess that Russia seeks an accommodation with the U.S. on mutual non-interference in domestic matters and also for the West to recognize Russia’s long-gone sphere of influence in states the former Soviet Union. If that assessment is correct, it could explain the interference in the 2016 election as a show of force from the Kremlin and a tangible way to visualize the dangers of domestic interference.
Although subversion is the primary goal of Russian intelligence operations, it doesn’t mean that traditional collection is absent, with the Kremlin targeting mostly the U.S. defense and artificial technology industries, usually recruiting employees within those companies in order to achieve their goals.
A formidable foe, the Russian intelligence services pose a grave threat to the U.S. and the West.