When it comes to motivation, Navy SEALs have plenty to spare, but we know one guy that could even make some SEALs look lazy.
Earning your place among the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL teams, gathering intelligence for your nation’s security as a CIA officer, or serving as a fire officer for a professional fire department would each be enough to fill most lives, but not for our friend Frumentarius–he’s done all three, and you can call him Fru, for short.
We caught up with Fru recently to talk about motivation, and how young service members can follow in his accomplished footsteps. Of course, Frumentarius isn’t his real name, but it’s not a throw-away pseudonym either. After a career in covert special operations and another in covert intelligence gathering, he’s learned the value in keeping his identity at arm’s reach when it comes to engaging with the public.
The Navy SEALs specialize in small unit tactical operations in difficult and dangerous environments.
I’ve known Fru for a few years now, and can personally attest that the guy practices what he preaches. Keeping your body in good working condition through three of the most physically demanding careers out there is nothing to scoff at, but it’s not his physical fitness that sets Fru apart from the pack; in a lot of ways, it’s his mindset.
I wanted to know what advice Fru had for young service members just beginning their careers in uniform, and like you’d expect from a SEAL, a spy, or a firefighter; he didn’t disappoint.
“Just enjoy the experience as something you’ll miss when it’s over. Always work hard at everything you do so that you become a ‘go-to’ guy or girl when somebody needs something done,” Fru said.
“Don’t get too jaded, but cultivate a sardonic sense of humor and learn to laugh at the sometimes-absurd nature of military life and war. Treat your family as your number one priority throughout so that you have a good support system at home. Have fun because it will be over before you know it!”
When this is what you do at work, it pays to have support at home.
Of course, military service isn’t all good days, especially if you want to become a SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, or any other member of America’s Special Operations units. In order to be successful, you’ve got to learn how to keep your head in the game and stay motivated. I asked Fru what he does when he’s working through exhaustion or high loads of stress.
“Those are the times when you need to be the most motivated,” he told me. “No one enjoys those times, and a true leader (in the sense of someone worth following or emulating) thrives in those difficult moments.”
A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student participates in interval swim training in San Diego Bay.
“Embrace the pain and stress and exhaustion and tell yourself those are the moments that make your own life exemplary — they are what make it stand out. They are what in many ways will define your service. You’ll tell the stories of those hard times for decades afterwards. Make them count and be the hero of your own story.”
But even Navy SEALs like to have a good time, and Fru is quick to point out that, while exhaustion and stress are par for the course, it’s still probably one of the coolest jobs on the planet.
“Most people are aware of the camaraderie, the high speed equipment/gear, the missions/operations, and all of that,” Fru explained.”
“They may not be aware that SEALs get paid to work out every single day, to dive and parachute, and to generally do fun stuff as part of the job. There are some sucky parts too, but for the most part, SEALs are paid to do stuff they love to do.”
Eventually, Fru left the SEALs to go to work for the CIA. While these two jobs may compliment one another, being a SEAL didn’t guarantee him a spot in America’s most secretive intelligence service. Just like earning his SEAL Trident, Frumentarius had to start from scratch and prove he could hang in the very different world (and culture) that is The Agency. As Fru is the first to tell you, even SEALs can’t rest on their laurels.
“I had an academic background in international affairs that made it an appealing move for me. After getting to the Agency, I then tried to remember that I was in a different culture than the SEALs,” he said.
“Some things I brought over with me, in terms of attitude and drive, but other things I had to leave behind (most of the ‘military’ culture). I ultimately made the transition successfully by working as hard as I could to be an effective CIA officer, knowing that my time in the SEALs was not something I could rest on. I had to earn my way at the CIA like every one else.”
I asked Fru what his best tips are for current service members that want to pursue a career in an elite intelligence outfit like the CIA.
“Get a degree in foreign language, economics, chem/bio/nuke, or international affairs/politics. If you can be proficient in a hard language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc), even better.”
Just like being in the SEALs, working for the CIA has its benefits. For Fru, some of the coolest parts of serving in that capacity was getting to see the big picture, and playing a role in how it unfolded. Even so, a job with unique benefits also comes with unique challenges.
“CIA officers have to be choosy in their chosen targets of collection because CIA officers are supposed to acquire intelligence unobtainable through all other means. That’s the real challenge.”
Aerial view of the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia
Fru has since left the CIA behind as well, opting to switch to a different sort of service life that allows him to maintain a more regular lifestyle: that of a professional firefighter. Just like his previous gigs, saving lives and putting out fires can be extremely physically taxing. So I wanted to know how Fru had managed to stay so fit, active, and injury free throughout all of his various roles.
“A commitment to self-care — physically, mentally, emotionally, health-wise — is paramount. You have to commit to eating somewhat healthy, taking care of your body through aerobic exercise, weight training, and stretching, and to taking care of your emotional/psychological needs.”
“That means finding something healthy that works as an outlet for you (shooting, slinging weights, running, reading, playing guitar, painting, whatever). You have to keep yourself on an even keel as best as you can because all of those jobs have immense stresses. They’ll occasionally overwhelm you, and you have to just reset yourself and continue to carry on.”
If you want to know more about our friend Fru, or just to give him a shout on social media to thank him for his service, you can find him on Twitter here. Make sure to tell him Sandboxx sent you!
“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.
Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.
FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.
FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Movie fans everywhere rejoiced when Tom Cruise officially announced that a sequel to Top Gun was in the works, as the original remains a beloved classic for its memorable quotes, thrilling action, and, of course, the most badass volleyball sequence in the history of film. Now Top Gun lovers have even more of a reason to get excited, as it was announced early July 2018 that Miles Teller has been cast to play the son of Goose, Maverick’s original flying partner, in the highly anticipated sequel.
On July 3, 2018, Teller confirmed he was pumped about Top Gun 2, linking to an article announcing his casting with the caption: “I feel the need…” For now, it is not entirely clear how prominent of a role Teller will have in the film, though rumors have circulated that Goose’s son will be one of Maverick’s proteges in the new Top Gun.
Transitioning to a civilian career doesn’t have to be boring. Here are 7 ways to join the civilian workforce while preserving the adrenaline rush that made the military rewarding (and, dare we say, fun):
1. Wilderness guides
Wilderness guides help campers, hunters, and adventurers navigate the backcountry safely while teaching them survival techniques. Vets who excelled in survival training and loved patrolling through the woods will excel here. Most guides hold a certificate or degree that can be paid for with the G.I. Bill, but a degree isn’t required. Avg. Salary: $42,000
Vets who want to keep working in small teams under challenging conditions might enjoy firefighting. Candidates need to maintain their fitness and can get a toehold by volunteering for a fire company, getting a fire science degree, or preferably both. And you can really ramp up the energy as a smoke jumper. These elite firefighters parachute ahead of the path of a wildfire, laying down the first line of defense against it spreading. Avg. Salary: $39,000
Diving demands attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure, especially when something goes wrong. All diving work includes the inherent danger of working underwater, of course, but those who want to up the ante can work in shark tanks, underwater caves, or even nuclear reactors. Avg. Salary: $41,000
4. Law enforcement
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation – SWAT Team
There are many parallels between the military and law enforcement. Both require teamwork. Both wear uniforms. Both demand comfort around weapons. And both require a lot of discipline. Many police departments (like Oakland PD, for instance) have programs to recruit veterans. Also, vets can collect the G.I. Bill at many police academies on top of their academy pay from the police department. Avg. Salary: $41,000
It may not be as exciting as carrier operations, but civilian pilots are needed to fly everything from jetliners to air ambulances to news choppers. Military pilots with lots of flight hours and a good safety record can easily transition to a civilian career. Those without any experience will need to stop off at a civilian flight school first — an expensive and time-consuming proposition, but ultimately worth the effort for those who want to take to the skies. Avg. Salary: $61,000
6. Helicopter lineman
Vets who loved hanging out of helicopters while on active duty might be interested in working for utility repair companies that need people to work on remote high-voltage power lines. Aerial lineman walk along the wires or ride in a hovering helicopter. Many companies require that applicants have lineman experience before working in the air, so vets entering the field will likely start in a ground position before moving up to helo ops. Avg. Salary: $56,000
7. Videographer or photographer
Media agencies need footage and pictures from extreme weather events, war zones, and disaster areas. Media specialists and combat camera vets are ready-on-arrival for these sorts of assignments. And like the military, the job requires a lot of travel and can be dangerous. Avg. Salary: $52,000
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.
Young Amy Forsythe was champing at the bit to get into the military and continue her family’s tradition of military service. Her grandfather had been a Marine and her grandmother had been an Army nurse, and the two of them met while serving in on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II.
To please her parents, Forsythe attended junior college for a few years, but she couldn’t suppress her desire to serve. She enlisted in the Marines in 1993 as a combat correspondent and spent her first year as a radio broadcaster stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I ended up serving about eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps and then I went into the reserves before 9/11,” she explained. “After the attacks, it was inevitable that I would be mobilized.”
She deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as a public affairs chief with an Army Civil Affairs Task Force in 2002 and 2003, the period when insurgent IED attacks were just starting to heat up. In 2006, she deployed with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Al Anbar province, Iraq.
During the 2006 deployment in Fallujah, things started to really heat up,” Forsythe remembers. “We had a lot of close calls — rocket attacks, mortars — we were moving this huge satellite dish around Ramadi and Fallujah trying to avoid heavy engagements. My boss was also a female Marine, Major Megan McClung, and she was killed in Ramadi, which gives you the sense of what was happening.”
Forsythe saw a lot of women serving in combat zones and fighting alongside their male counterparts, regardless of billet or MOS.
“Women in combat isn’t anything new,” she says. “In the Marines, every Marine is a rifleman at the basic level. During Desert Storm, people said Americans weren’t ready for women to come home in body bags, but every person in a forward deployed area is susceptible to injury or death. Women serve and take just as much risk as men. If women can meet the standards, then everyone else can adjust.”
In 2006, Forsythe and her teammate, then-Cpl. Lynn Murillo took a lot of risks shuttling a satellite dish around Anbar Province, connecting Iraqi military and civic leaders with the pan-Arab media for the first time during the Iraq War. Since much of the success of the American mission in Iraq depended on controlling information, it was a critical mission.
She and Murillo spent most of their time out with Marines on foot patrols covering the Iraqi army training and connecting service members with hometown news stations and national news outlets. After a year in Anbar, she redeployed but was right back there a year later, astonished at the changes in the area.
“I couldn’t believe how things changed in Haditah and Ramadi,” she recalls. “There were still attacks to the base and personnel, but it was amazing to see the improvements to the infrastructure, roads, schools, etc. In 2006, the insurgency was at its worst and out of control. By 2008, Anbar Province was seeing security improvements and new construction underway.”
Her 22-year career spans changes for the U.S. military and for the women who serve. “I’ve seen so many changes through the years, but the wars helped prove women are willing to shoulder the burden of serving in combat zones. After her two tours in Iraq, she returned to Afghanistan in 2012 and also served with U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2014.
Of all her assignments and risks, one the most harrowing events of her career occurred when she was on temporary duty assigned to the public affairs office at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013.
“It started like any other ordinary day, until the Navy Yard Shooter put us in lockdown mode,” Forsythe remembers. Our office was next to Building 174, the scene of a mass-shooting incident. “It was surreal, tragic and beyond belief. After surviving four combat tours, there we were in Washington, D.C., losing all those people.”
After her first three combat tours, Forsythe accomplished what she set out to do in the military. Serving about 18 years in the Marines on both active duty and in the reserves, Forsythe was looking forward to retiring from the reserves until the Marine colonel for whom she worked encouraged her to apply for the Navy’s Direct Commission Officer program.
“I didn’t know this program existed,” Forsythe says. “But accepting a commission with the Navy is a continuation of my desire to serve. When you go from enlisted to officer, you can look forward to a 35 or 40-year career and retire at age 60.”
Her education and experience as a military journalist allowed her land a job as a reporter and occasional anchor for a local television station. And these days, when not activated, she runs a media company in the San Diego area.
“I love seeing veterans transition out of the military and end up owning their own businesses,” says Forsythe. “It’s so encouraging to see vetreprenuers who have certain skill sets and want to own their own business. Putting a dollar price on your services isn’t easy. It’s hard to determine your own value because you don’t want to under-sell yourself.”
She doesn’t consider herself special, but makes it a point to inform anyone, especially female service members, that anything is possible if you are aware of your own potential.
“I would tell other female service members and veterans to be curious. Be creative. Be confident. In other words, keep learning and seeking knowledge, use creative problem-solving techniques and believe in yourself.”
Serving as enlisted and as an officer, on active duty and in the reserves, in both the Marines and the Navy, Forsythe encourages others to seek opportunities in the reserves.
“It’s been a struggle to balance a civilian career,” she says. “But it’s like having the best of both worlds. Cutting ties with the military too abruptly can cause regret for some service members. Plus, the extra monthly pay and camaraderie with other ‘weekend warriors’ is a great way to stay connected with others who have similar experiences.”
“I’m sure they’ll have to pry the uniform out of my hands when that retirement day comes,” says Forsythe. “But I will always advocate for veterans. The service has been such a part of my life, I will continue to serve in uniform for as long as I can.”
For all of you who still have the Internet, here are the 13 funniest military memes we could find. For those of you who have lost the Internet to Hurricane Matthew, get out there and get it back. You signed for that Internet.
1. He might not be able to find where he’s supposed to put it, but he will still definitely set it off (via Devil Dog Nation).
2. You must reach a perfect spiritual center before you are ready to eviscerate the enemy and leave their entrails hanging from trees (via Military Memes).
3. Travel all over the planet to find new and exciting decks to sweep (via Military Memes).
In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.
It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.
Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.
Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.
Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”
Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.
Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.
Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.
But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.
On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.
The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.
Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.
The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.
“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”
The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.
During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.
“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Radicalized In Pakistan
The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.
The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.
The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.
War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.
But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.
The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.
Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.
‘We Were All Scared’
Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.
Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.
“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”
Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.
“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”
During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.
The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.
By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.
By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.
The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.
Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.
Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.
Negotiating An End To War
In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.
But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.
For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.
Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.
“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.
“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”
Road Map For Afghanistan
The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.
More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.
But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.
“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.
But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.
Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.
There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.
The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.
The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.
“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”
The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.
Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.
But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.
Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.
“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”
Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.
“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”
A screenshot of the cockpit video of Thunderbirds performing the flyover on Apr. 11, 2020.
The U.S. Air Force flight demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, performed an inspiring flyover of the greater Las Vegas area on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in honor of healthcare workers and first responders working during the international COVID-19 crisis.
The flight, which included all six of the Thunderbird F-16s in wedge formation along with at least two camera aircraft accompanying the aircraft, took place at 2:30 PM local Las Vegas time and was watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators who were separated all over Las Vegas by social distancing guidelines.
Local media, aviation photographers around Las Vegas, and the Thunderbirds produced some sensational visuals of the event. Interestingly, the team carried out the flyover in 5 instead of 6 jets because, according to local spotters, one of the F-16s experienced a birdstrike shortly after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base.
One fascinating photo featured on the local Las Vegas Review Journal social media pages showed the Thunderbird formation flying over the famous Luxor pyramid-shaped hotel with five “Janet Airlines” Boeing 737s parked at McCarran International Airport. The aircraft, perhaps the “worst kept secret in the world”, fly personnel to several classified test facilities around the western U.S.
A statement on the official Air Force Thunderbirds Twitter page said, “We salute the healthcare workers and first responders who are at the forefront of our nation’s fight against COVID-19. They are an inspiration for the entire country during these challenging times and it was an honor to fly for them today.”
The Thunderbirds shared their flyover time and route across social media before the flight so people in Las Vegas could view the flyover while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Nellis AFB, just outside Las Vegas, Nevada, has a long history of supporting the community through triumph and tragedy under the leadership of 57th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny. Following the tragic October 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the 57th Wing honored health care workers, first responders, survivors and memorialized victims of the tragedy with two specially painted aircraft, an F-16 and an F-15, wearing the moniker “Vegas Strong”.
First responders around Las Vegas maintained social distancing while watching the Thunderbird flyover.
Brig. Gen. Novotny and the entire 57th Wing, have consistently led the U.S. military’s effective use of social media not only with the public affairs outreach by the Thunderbirds, but through a host of other initiatives that showcase the Air Force mission and personnel performing the Air Force mission every day at Nellis AFB and around the world.
The video game community is filled with the same amount of douchebags as regular society. The majority of gamers hop online, as they have for years, to enjoy spending some time playing their favorite title — then, some as*hole comes in and ruins it all in a blink of an eye.
It’s an inevitability. There’s always that one dick who ruins the fun for everyone else just because they can. In gaming, they’re generally referred to as “trolls,” but in the military, we call them “Blue Falcons” — or buddy f*ckers. Even the most kindhearted, polite person might unleash their inner as*hole when they’re safely behind the anonymity of their video game avatar.
At the end of the day, when these online Blue Falcons do their dirty work, no one really gets hurt — it’s still just a game and players usually just respawn somewhere else (or log off for a while). That being said, the level of time, effort, and dedication these guys put into f*cking with some random players is beyond astounding.
(South Park Studios)
But seriously though, if you’re interested getting your kids to stop playing video games – there’s definitely a market for that.
(Bluehole Studios Inc.)
We’re not referring to the guys who pick up a rifle and camp in one spot for (seemingly) hours just to score a kill (we’ll get to that in a minute). Instead, we’re talking about the people who go out of their way in the “real life world” to hunt down someone’s virtual character — just to kill them or harass them.
This type of Blue Falcon became much more popular with the rise of game streaming. Now, some people take it as a point of pride to track down whatever high-profile streamer is on air and kill them — even if it’s against the rules. But your average stream sniper doesn’t even come close to that one time a father hired virtual assassins to hunt and kill his son’s characters in hopes that it’d make him give up video games.
I just blame it on a terrible grenade throw.
Online games assume that once you’re randomly placed onto either the blue or red team, you’ll be loyal to the other players out of a mutual desire to win. Not all games have friendly-fire turned off, so it’s important to watch your aim.
It sucks when someone on your team accidentally shoots you — but it’s infuriating when they do it on purpose… and it’s in the spawn zone. Now, the other players on your team have to either kill that douche or let them continue trolling. Either way, the other team won’t mind.
And yet camping is a legitimate strategy in real life.
Games often provide a wide-open world for players to enjoy themselves in. In fact, some games are so massive that they’re comparable to actual states in America. They’ve got all that room to play in and yet some assholes still feel the desire to hole up somewhere — to set up camp and sit with a shotgun, just waiting for you to round the corner.
“Camping,” as it’s called, is most egregious when you’re the last player alive on your team. Not only does the enemy need to search every single corner, but your teammates are often stuck waiting for a chance to respawn, too. Some game developers will put in a system that punishes “camping” after a while, but that won’t stop the dedicated.
After a certain point in EVE, if you want to get insanely rich, you need to get nefarious.
Remember when the internet was first introduced and everyone was extremely wary of online creeps and scammers? Well, apparently, all of that is thrown out the window when it comes to video games.
“Scammers” in online games take many forms, from people trying to sell you junk for gold to those who run extremely complex banking schemes in games like EVE Online. That’s right — in CCP Games’ space-based MMO, players would loan out virtual money to other players, manage a massive system where players have, essentially, created an investment bank, and then make off with trillions of Isk, the in-game currency.
To make matters worse, Lord Kazzak would heal himself with each player he killed…
Players who bring disaster into low-level areas
In most online games, threats are appropriate to their area. If you want to fight a dangerous baddie, you’ll have to do it over there, near those other dangerous baddies. Some clever players, however, have figured out how to drag extremely tough bosses or (or virtual plagues) into major player hubs.
In the early days of World of Warcraft, players could bring a massive demon, Lord Kazzak, directly into Stormwind City, where he would proceed to evaporate players with barely any effort.
On rare occasions, players band together and decide to not fight each other — usually for a good reason. Then, one person comes in and breaks the armistice when they see a good chance to kill everyone. The most famous example of this was in World of Warcraft. When a well-respected player passed away in real life, players gathered for a virtual funeral. Then, players of the opposing faction learned that they were holding it in a neutral area and without weapons and, well… you guessed it.
But this doesn’t just happen in MMOs. Recently, a Fortnite player named Elemental_Ray took advantage of an in-game event to rack up a massive kill count. Players gathered on an easily-destroyed ramp to get a good view of an in-game rocket launch. When this Blue Falcon destroyed the bottom of the ramp, it all came crashing down — firmly placing Elemental_Ray at the top of Fortnite‘s all-time leaderboard for number of kills in single match: 48.
Hey, remember in your last cyber awareness re-certification when you had to click through a whole scenario based on whether or not you would share industrial secrets on message boards with friends you had met at a science and engineering convention? Has anyone besides a senior officer or civilian engineer ran into that particular conundrum literally ever?
If the security pros were really going to prepare standard soldiers on the line for how to defend Army networks from unsavory actors, they can probably jettison entire sections of the cyber awareness training and add a short text document like the one below:
Seriously, everyone, we let the USO build so many centers on our bases for a reason. Get some pizza, watch the game, and do your shady downloads there.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)
Download your movies (porn) on the USO or morale networks
Yeah, we know you guys find more and more ways to download things you shouldn’t on the Army networks. We try to limit the sites you can connect to, the types of files you can download, and even what ways you can get the files off of the computer afterwards. But still, you find ways to email each other .jpgs and .movs of disgusting stuff.
Disgusting stuff that has viruses hidden in it. No, not HPV — computer viruses. We let the USO set up wifi on base, we set up morale wifi on base. And we don’t monitor what you download directly to your personal devices. Please, please stop downloading your movies to the government computers.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Stop clicking on email links. Just stop. Google the sites and stories you want.
We’ve given so many warnings about phishing and spear phishing attacks, but soldiers keep getting caught in these kinds of attacks. So, from now on, when you see an email you want to click on, please just Google the keywords for the site you wanted to visit.
Google will typically screen out malicious sites, making it much better at this than you are. So stop even trying to decide which links are safe and which aren’t. Just stop clicking on things.
Stop clicking past all the security warnings
The Army has a problem with security certificates, meaning that you’re going to have to tell a few of your browser tools to make security exemptions for the army.mil sites. Obviously not best practice, sorry about that, but please stop adding security exemptions for other sites all over the web.
Army.mil sites flag security checks because it takes an act of Congress to update all of our certificates. The other sites you visit flag security checks because they’re trying to turn on your camera while you’re watching the vids so they can blackmail you with the resulting imagery. Oh, speaking of blackmail bait:
Civilian teaches a soldier how to use a tactical smartphone without sending pictures of his junk to social media contacts who aren’t actually hot girls.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Avery)
The 19-year-olds messaging with you aren’t real and don’t want your dad bod
Hate to tell you this, but most of you’ve gotten up in pounds as you’ve gotten up in rank, and even those of you who have not have gotten up in age. And, I know it’s a big surprise, but 19-year-old girls are typically into college boys with six packs. So, please, start feeling more suspicious than horny when you get texts, Tinder matches, or private messages from people way too attractive to be interested in you.
Otherwise, these people engage in lengthy conversations where you incriminate yourself in conspiracies to meet them in hotels, and then they blackmail you for money or government secrets. Just watch adult sites instead. (But, again, use the morale or USO internet, not the NIPR. Not. NIPR.)
Sgt. Hercules can lift any load, but can he set a secure password?
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Cline)
Change your passwords and stop using nicknames for your genitals
Whether you’re accessing your premium subscription on that adult website, getting into your email, or opening a new Grindr account, please stop using the same passwords for everything. And please, please stop using your children’s names, birthdates and anniversaries, and favorite car manufacturer for passwords.
No, your genital nicknames aren’t any better, especially since you all keep bragging about the names on Reddit and Facebook.
We’re tired of putting up pictures of soldiers in front of computers or holding smartphones, so here’s an Army colonel addressing a conference as a video game avatar.
Why do you update your Steam games every day but virus scans only when you buy new computers?
You know how your Steam library is automatically updated, all you gamers out there? For everyone else, it’s sort of like when Flash player needs another update. It happens frequently, you won’t notice the difference unless you read the patch notes, and it’s actually essential that you do the updates.
So, new rule, please set your virus protections to automatically update. If you won’t or can’t do that, then update your virus definitions every time Flash or Steam initiates an update.
Also, please figure out how computers work
This, by the way, gets to a larger issue that isn’t necessarily a direct cyber threat, but it’s honestly just sort of grating, and even the game-playing nerds aren’t immune to this: figure out how your computers work. Not only would this help you avoid cyber threats better, but it would also cut down on the number of times we hurt ourselves biting our tongues.
It’s just so exhausting hearing people talk about buying a new hard drive to improve their frame rates or graphics, or people getting 4K monitors when their video cards can’t support it. Just, please, learn how computers actually work before you get a new MILITARY STAR card to fill with ill-considered purchases.
Soldiers with over 16 years of service who want to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to a dependent must do so before July 12, 2019, or risk losing the ability to transfer education benefits.
Last year, the Department of Defense implemented a new Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Education Benefits, or TEB, eligibility requirement, which instituted a “six- to 16-year cutoff rule,” said Master Sgt. Gerardo T. Godinez, senior Army retention operations NCO with Army G-1.
Further, soldiers who want to transfer their education entitlement must have at least six years of service, he said. All soldiers must commit to an additional four years of service to transfer their GI Bill.
However, soldiers who are currently going through the medical evaluation board process cannot transfer GI Bill benefits until they are found fit for duty under the new DOD policy.
(U.S. Army photo)
“For Purple Heart recipients, [all] these rules do not apply,” Godinez said.
Prior to the new policy, there were no restrictions on when a soldier could transfer their education benefits.
Since 2009, over 1 million soldiers have transferred their GI Bill benefits, Godinez said.
“To transfer their GI Bill, soldiers have to go into milConnect website, login with their common access card, then select the tab there that talks about the transfer education benefits,” Godinez said.
If a soldier needs additional help, they can visit their installation’s service and career, or education counselors. In July 2019, the new rules will be in effect and those soldiers with more than 16 years of service will not be eligible to transfer education benefits.
“Soldiers need to [review this benefit] to make an educated decision,” he said.
A major Chinese shipbuilder briefly posted, and then deleted, images of plans for ships and weapons systems that reveals that China may be planning to unseat the US as the most powerful navy in the world.
The images, screengrabbed and reported on by Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer at Popular Science, showed Chinese plans for a massive, nuclear-capable aircraft carrier with stealth jets, nuclear submarines, and underwater drones, as well as a possible “underwater Great Wall of China” attack and defense system to surveil and attack enemy ships.
The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) had previously confirmed on their website that a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was in the works and expected by 2025, the South China Morning Post reported.
China currently operates two aircraft carriers, both of which are based on Cold War-era Soviet designs and burn fossil fuels, which limits their range and power projection ability. The smaller carriers, which displace about 60,000 tons, feature ski-jump platforms rather than the flat decks of US aircraft carriers, which also limits the weight and range of the aircraft it can launch.
The photos posted by CSIC show a large flat-deck carrier that looks much like US Nimitz-class carriers.
One picture shows a carrier at sea with models of unmanned drones and stealth jets on the deck. China has an upcoming class of stealth jets, though none of them have been navalized.
With a nuclear-powered, flat-deck aircraft carrier, China would join the US and France as the only countries with full-on naval power projection capabilities. China’s single nuclear carrier would put it on par with France, but far behind the US, which has 11 full-size nuclear aircraft carriers.