Amid the extensive flooding in Nebraska and across the Midwest, farms, ranches, and feedlots have seen damages that will likely be far in the millions. Preliminary estimates of the overall damage in Nebraska are about $650 million. But it’s important to remember that the damage is ongoing, and that’s why the Nebraska National Guard delivered hay by air and land on March 25.
(Yeah, we know it sounds weird that getting hay wet can start a fire. In the broadest possible strokes: Wet hay composts in a way that generates lots of heat. The heat builds enough to dry some of the outer hay and then ignite it, then fire spreads.)
Cows fed affected hay, at best, can become malnourished. At worst, they are poisoned by the mold.
Nebraska National Guard soldiers provide assistance during flood relief
(Nebraska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen)
So, when ranchers and farmers in Nebraska reported that they had some cows safe from the floods and rain, but they were susceptible to becoming malnourished or poisoned by the only feed available, the National Guard planned a way to get fresh, safe hay to them.
Deliveries were conducted via helicopters and truck convoy, getting the feed past flooded roads and terrain and into the farms where it can do some good. In some cases, CH-47 Chinooks are rolling massive bales of hay off their back cargo ramps, essentially bombing areas with fresh hay. This allows them to reach areas where cattle might be trapped and starving, but even ranchers can’t yet reach.
Hopefully, this will ameliorate some of the damages from the storms. But the storms have already hit military installations hard and, as mentioned above, are thought to have caused over half a billion in economic damages.
The military is full of individuals from all cultures who come together under one roof to workout and better themselves, both physically and mentally. Over the past few decades, the government has spent vast amounts of cash in designing and building some amazing and well-equipped fitness centers for the troops.
Now, joining a military gym isn’t as easy as getting roped into a monthly subscription by someone at the front desk — first, you’ll have to go through boot camp. But once you do become a member, you can use any fitness center run by the military. But no matter where you are, the very first time you use these workout facilities, you’re going to encounter some interesting gym-goers.
You’ll probably catch a guy or girl peeking at you in the mirror when you’re not looking. We’ve got a name for people like that: “creepers.” Most of the time, they’re completely harmless — they’re just admiring your figure, but it can get annoying after a while.
Now, when you’re stationed in the infantry, having a girl show up to a predominately male gym is like finding the Holy Grail. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, many a gym-goer is guilty of becoming a creeper.
Well, well. Look who’s here again?
(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. John Robbart III)
The gym rat
It doesn’t matter what time of day you go to the gym — you’ll see this person when you enter and they’ll still be there working out as you leave. They’re so jacked that it seems like they live at the gym. Seeing these guys will leave you wondering, “do these guys ever go to work?”
The popular one
Everyone loves this guy or gal. They’ve got a winning smile and they say hello to everybody else in the gym. You know what? We like this stereotype, too, so we’re not going to hate on them. We’re just going to move on.
Now, there’s no proof he’s grunting, but it looks like he should be.
(Army photo by Spc. Cassandra Monroe)
When you’ve got your earphones in and you’re listening to some great tunes, its tough to hear the sounds you’re making as you lift those heavy weights. Unfortunately, everyone else in the gym totally hear you.
We get it — that leg press looked extremely hard to push out, but when you’re screaming louder than a woman in the throes of childbirth, it gets distracting. Grunting is a way many people motivate themselves, but nobody wants to hear your bellows while they’re trying to concentrate.
The ab checker
Most gym walls are plastered with mirrors. We use these mirrors to check our form, gawk look at other people, and monitor our physical progress. Some people take it a step further, though, periodically lifting up their shirts to check out their abs as if they might disappear somehow.
Nothing motivates you to workout harder than focusing on a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This brave trooper doesn’t mind twisting his or her body into some interesting positions in order to get their pump on. You’ll see the “daredevil” doing handstands, muscle-ups, and clapper push-ups in the middle of the gym and they don’t care what kind risk is involved.
China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.
China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”
The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.
In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.
According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.
“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.
“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.
Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.
Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.
In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.
US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)
The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.
In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.
Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.
“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.
In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.
Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.
These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.
The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.
Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.
A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.
Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.
The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.
These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”
The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.
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.”
Trips to the armory are supposed to be as simple as picking up your weapon system, training with it in the field, cleaning it, and checking it back in.
However, rarely does that timeline progress as seamlessly as troops would like. For all the newbie Boots out there who’ve never stepped foot inside the secured weapons compound, know that it’s a place where you’ll encounter an interesting cast of characters, all of whom claim the occupation of armorer.
The one who can find a single speck of dirt in your rifle
Some armorers like to stick their dirty pinky fingers inside your rifle only to magically discover that your bolt assembly has a greasy smudge on it. This guy isn’t him. Instead, he sticks a clean, sterile Q-tip inside and somehow manages to find the only grain of dirt left on your rifle — and rejects you.
Son of a b*tch!
Cpl. Miguel A. Garcia works on a weapon before heading out to help teach the Ghanian Army on armory procedures and weapons maintenance.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas)
The one who knows everything about weapons
It’s almost like they were born inside the Remington or Colt manufacturing plant because this troop is an absolute genius when it comes to firearms. Even if they’re a Boot, the senior enlisted staff respects this guy or gal.
That one sh*thead who is always cranky
We don’t know who or what puts this armorer in a lousy mood, but they seem to be in one every time you encounter them. Although you do your best to prevent angering them further, there’s no cheering them up.
It’s as if one of their general orders is to always be a d*ck to those who come within walking distance of the armory window.
They’re around… somewhere…
The one that was supposed to deploy with your unit, but now works at the armory.
Believe it or not, some troops will put in request after request to transfer to a different job to avoid deploying. Oftentimes, they get sent to work at the armory if they have a basic understanding of weaponry. One day, you’ll stroll up to the armory to check out a rifle, and there they are — it’s that guy from your unit, who’s now working window.
We all know they weaseled their way out of serving with the rest of the troops because they’re scared.
Sgt. Christopher R. Garcia explains the weapons capabilities to a group of cadets with El Camino High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
(Photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)
The one who gets forced to give hip-pocket classes
It’s simple: some troops have a knack for teaching, others don’t. Typically, nobody’s paying attention to these hip-pocket classes anyway. Troops just want to go to the field and blow something up.
A US Navy F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom | U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Lee O. Tucker
While the requirement for a carrier-based long-range strike capability is a frequent subject of discussion around Washington, the U.S. Navy’s need for improved air superiority capabilities is often neglected.
The service has not had a dedicated air-to-air combat aircraft since it retired the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in 2006. But even the Tomcat was adapted into a strike aircraft during its last years in service after the Soviet threat evaporated.
Now, as new threats to the carrier emerge and adversaries start to field new fighters that can challenge the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, attention is starting to shift back to this oft-neglected Navy mission — especially in the Western Pacific.
“Another type of new aircraft required is an air superiority fighter,” states a recent Hudson Institute report titledSharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict, which is written by The National Interest contributors Seth Cropsey, Bryan McGrath and Timothy A. Walton. “Given the projection of the Joint Force’s increased demand for carrier-based fighter support, this capability is critical.”
The report notes that both the Super Hornet and the F-35C are severely challenged by new enemy fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the Russian-built Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and Chengdu J-20.
Indeed, certain current adversary aircraft such as the Russian Su-30SM, Su-35S and the Chinese J-11D and J-15 pose a serious threat to the Super Hornet fleet. It’s a view that shared by many industry officials, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and even U.S. Marine Corps aviators.
“Both F/A-18E/Fs and F-35Cs will face significant deficiencies against supercruising, long-range, high-altitude, stealthy, large missile capacity adversary aircraft, such as the T-50, J-20, and follow-on aircraft,” the authors note.
“These aircraft will be capable of effectively engaging current and projected U.S. carrier aircraft and penetrating defenses to engage high value units, such as AEW aircraft, ASW aircraft, and tankers. Already, the F/A-18E/F faces a severe speed disadvantage against Chinese J-11 aircraft, which can fire longer range missiles at a higher kinematic advantage outside of the range of U.S. AIM-120 missiles.”
Nor does the F-35C—which suffers from severely reduced acceleration compared to even the less than stellar performance of other JSF variants — help matters. “Similarly, the F-35C is optimized as an attack fighter, resulting in a medium-altitude flight profile, and its current ability to only carry two AIM- 120 missiles internally [until Block 3] limits its capability under complex electromagnetic conditions,” the authors wrote.
“As an interim measure, the Navy and Air Force should significantly accelerate the F-35C’s Block 5 upgrade to enable the aircraft to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally.”
The F-35C was never designed to be an air superiority fighter. Indeed, naval planners in the mid-1990s wanted the JSF to be a strike-oriented aircraft with only a 6.5G airframe load limit with very limited air-to-air capability, according to one retired U.S. Navy official. Indeed, some naval planners at the time had discussed retiring the F-14 in favor of keeping the Grumman A-6 Intruder in service.
During this period, many officials believed air combat to be a relic of the past in the post-Cold War era. They anticipated most future conflicts to be air-to-ground oriented in those years immediately following the Soviet collapse. Together with a lack of funding, that’s probably why the Navy never proceeded with its Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter or A/F-Xfollow-on program.
The Navy’s F/A-XX program could be used to fill the service’s air superiority gap — which has essentially been left open since the F-14’s retirement and the demise of the NATF and A/F-X programs. But the problem is that the Navy is pursuing the F/A-XX as a multirole Super Hornet replacement rather than an air superiority-oriented machine.
“The danger in its development is that it suboptimizes the fighter role in the quest for a hybrid fighter/attack jet,” the Hudson Institute report notes. “This would leave the Joint Force without a carrier-based sixth generation air superiority fighter.”
As the Navy’s current director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, has stated in the past, the authors also note that such “an aircraft could feature large passive and active sensor arrays, relatively high cruising speed (albeit not necessarily acceleration), could hold a large internal weapons bay capable of launching numerous missiles, and could have space to adopt future technologies, such as HPM [high-powered microwaves] and lasers.”
“This air superiority asset would contribute to Outer Air Battle integrated air and missile defense requirements and would be capable of countering enemy weapons, aircraft, and sensor and targeting nodes at a distance.”
Outer Air Battle, of course, refers to a Navy concept from the 1980s to fend off a concerted attack by hordes of Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers, Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and surface action groups lead by warships like the Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers — as now deputy defense secretary Bob Work [he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security at the time] described to me in 2013.
These Soviet assets would have launched their arsenals of anti-ship cruise missiles from multiple points of the compass.
As Work described it, the Navy was relatively confident it could sink the Oscarsand surface ships before they could launch their missiles. They were far less confident about their ability to take out the Tu-22Ms before they could get into launch position.
The Tomcats, under Outer Air Battle, would try to “kill the archers” — the Backfires — before they could shoot and attempt to eliminate any cruise missiles that they launched. But, Work notes, no one knows how well it would have worked during a shooting war with the Soviet Union — and it’s a good thing we never got to find out. But with China’s emerging anti-access/area denial strategy, the threat is back.
While the F/A-XX and the Air Force’s F-X are in their infancy, it has become clear that they will be different aircraft designs that will probably share common technologies. The Navy does seem to be focusing on a more defensive F-14 like concept while the Air Force is looking for a more offensively oriented air superiority platform that could replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
“As you’ll see over the coming years, the differences between the primary mission and the likely threats will drive significant differences between the F/A-XX and F-X programs as well as legacy systems like the F-22 and F-35,” one senior defense official told me.
Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.
But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.
Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.
At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.
(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)
In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.
The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.
“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”
They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.
These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)
To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.
The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.
They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.
Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,
“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”
It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.
US Special Operations Command is weighing the use of nutritional supplements or even performance-enhancing drugs to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits, according to a report from Defense News.
While special-operations forces already have access to specialized resources, like dietitians and physical therapists, SOCOM is looking to increase their ability to tolerate pain, recover from injuries, and remain physically able in challenging environments.
“If there are … different ways of training, different ways of acquiring performance that are non-material, that’s preferred but in a lot of cases we’ve exhausted those areas,” Ben Chitty, the senior project manager for biomedical, human performance, and canine portfolios at US SOCOM’s Science and Technology office, told Defense News.
While Chitty said SOCOM was exploring nutritional supplements, other substances were in consideration as well.
“For performance enhancing drugs, we’ll have to look at the makeup and safety in consultation with our surgeon and the medical folks before making any decisions on it,” he told Defense News.
One goal of the research to develop what Defense News referred to as “super soldiers” would be to expand troops’ ability to operate in places not well suited for humans — high altitudes or underwater in particular.
While the evaluation process would emphasize safety — “We’re not cutting any corners,” Chitty said — any proposal to deploy pharmaceutical substances among special-operations troops is likely to draw scrutiny, especially in light of recent revelations about a what Capt. Jamie Sands, the commander of 900 Navy SEALs on the East Coast, called a “staggering” number of drug cases among Navy Special Operations units.
Three active and retired SEALs spoke to CBS in April, with their faces masked and voices disguised, telling the network that illicit drug use among SEAL units was increasing.
“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” one of them said.
Another active-duty SEAL described by the CBS report tested positive once in the past for cocaine, and, during a new round of testing prompted by a drug-related safety stand-down in December, tested positive againfor prescription drugs. He was being removed from SEAL teams.
While Navy SEALs are supposed to undergo regular drug tests, that doesn’t always apply when they are away from their home bases. As demand for SEALs in operations around the world has grown, they have spent an increasing amount of time deployed.
Three active-duty SEALs told CBS they hadn’t been tested in years. Sands, for his part, announced in December that SEALs would start undergoing tests while deployed.
While Chitty did not mention the frequency of operations — and the physical and emotional wear and tear related to it — as a reason for pursuing nutritional and pharmaceutical supplements, other special-operations officials have warned that their forces are being depleted by an overreliance on them.
“We’ve been operating at such a high [operational] tempo for the last decade plus, and with budgets going down, what we’ve had to do is essentially … eat our young, so to speak,” Theresa Whelan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, said during a House Armed Services Committee session this month.
Special-operations commanders, while acknowledging the strain increased operations have put on their units, have emphasized that they are still capable of addressing threats emerging around the world. But, Whelan told Congress, constant readiness has had and will have consequences.
“We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations that has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted development of force for the future,” she said. “And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse.”
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.
For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.
According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.
But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!
The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.
Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.
Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.
A lot of factors go in to a veteran’s post-military life. Where they choose to live when they get out of the service is important for many reasons. Veterans Affairs hospitals in some areas of the country are overcrowded and have a hard time giving fast, quality care. Access to decent schools and a quality education for the vets to use their GI bill benefits are another factor.
Analysts from WalletHub looked at 100 American cities and judged them based on four criteria: employment, economy, quality of life, and health. For each of those areas of study, the analysts looked at a number of weighted metrics, including skilled jobs, veteran unemployment rates, housing affordability, median veteran income, VA facilities, the quality of those facilities, and more.
These 10 cities may or may not surprise you, but they’re definitely worth a look!
10. Austin, Texas
This should surprise no one. Austin is a city that has been coming up in conversation for more than twenty years. From its proximity to the military bases in Texas, to its active nightlife and vibrant social scene (not to mention the SXSW Festival that comes around every year), Austin is the place to be for everyone — not just veterans.
9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
In the proverbial shadow of Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs is the second most populous city in Colorado. It is consistently ranked as one of the top spots to live in America, not just for vets. Also, apropos of nothing, marijuana is totally legal here.
8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach offers more for the avid outdoor veteran than just the beach. Nearby Back Bay Wildlife Refuge offers kayaking, birdwatching, and hiking, among other activities. Even the thriving downtown entertainment offers more for vets than it did even just a few years ago.
7. Raleigh, North Carolina
“The City of Oaks” has a vast array of schools, public and private, along with nearby Chapel Hill and Durham. It also boasts a world-class technical research park that houses IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson, and Lenovo.
6. Plano, Texas
Yes, really. Plano and the greater Dallas area are proud handlers of U.S. military tradition. The (relatively) nearby presence of Sheppard Air Force Base, NAS Fort Worth, and JRB Carswell ensure there will be a great infrastructure for veterans who stick around the area.
5. Tampa, Florida
Tampa was the top bootlegging and rumrunning towns during prohibition. Tampa has been big on the military since Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders staged their visit to Cuba from here. On that note, Tampa is also the only place to visit Cuba in the mainland U.S. Yeah, check out José Marti Park.
4. Fremont, California
Freemont is a young city, an amalgamation of five other cities that came together in 1956. But if you’re going to be in the San Francisco area, Fremont is the furthest south you can still hop on the BART.
3. Seattle, Washington
I’m not sure this one needs an explanation. Seattle is home to Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, and more. It’s probably more difficult to get a job at that fish market where they throw fish at each other.
2. San Diego, California
The town that brings you Navy SEALs might have just stolen Amazon from Seattle. So they might be up a level on this list next year.
1. Boise, Idaho
Boise being in the top ten might have surprised you, but it didn’t surprise anyone in Boise. The residents enjoy a high quality of life, which includes the Greenbelt – a 25-mile long strip of wildlife habitats and bike paths along the Boise River.
So the Expert Soldier Badge is now a thing. And I mean, I get the concept behind it. Army infantrymen and medics go through a rigorous course to prove their merit to be bestowed a shiny badge – their own Expert Infantry/Medic Badge. And it’s not a bad thing for soldiers of every other MOS to have something to strive for. But here’s the thing. Infantrymen and medics don’t give a flying f*ck about the EIB/EMB if they have their Combat Infantry/Medic Badge.
It all goes back to how you earn them. My old infantry first sergeant once told me that “one is because you know your sh*t. The other is because you been through the sh*t.” You can only wear one of them, so everyone picks the one that shows they gave Uncle Sam what their contract says they would.
And I even get that every MOS outside the 11 and 68 series are less likely to earn their Combat Action Badge. But like. The CAB is the one thing you point to to tell everyone you’re not some POG-ass commo guy. But like… One badge says you’re not a POG, and the other says that you’ve read plenty of books on how to be less of a POG… I’m just saying…
Whatever. We all know the ESB was invented just because of some staff officers that got pissy because the Pathfinder Badge isn’t around anymore for them to look slightly more impressive than the other butter bars. Anyways, here are some memes.