US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy finds smoking gun that points to Iran in latest tanker attack

The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran’s culpability in June 13, 2019’s attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit on June 13, 2019, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that “it’s highly likely Iran is responsible.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said June 13, 2019, that Iran was responsible for the attacks, an announcment that briefly spiked US West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures up to $52.88 per barrel, or 3.4% from the day’s start.


He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations but said US conclusions were “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and called in to assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive with a detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran, Iran’s capital, has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined an unnamed “state actor” was behind the tanker attacks and concluded “it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed.”

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that “we’re not pointing to Iran, but we’re not ruling anything out at this time.” Another official asked the media outlet, “Who else could it be?”

U.S. Blames Iran for Tanker Attacks in Gulf of Oman

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Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: “I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it’s not clear who did it. Well, it wasn’t the Belgians. It wasn’t the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They’re the ones that did it. We’ve been warning about it.”

In early May 2019, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile-defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 Things that always happen at the annual unit holiday party

It’s that time of year where military installations host their annual holiday parties. Even if they’re taking place via Zoom this year, military members can celebrate with those at work, usually with their family in tow.

While most holiday parties take place over fancy balls, bbq joints, or decorated event centers for the masses, this year is likely to become a little more quaint. Either with small parties or by joining virtually from the comfort of your own home. 

The annual holiday party is a time for everyone to connect. Sure, you work with the same soldiers every day, but at a holiday party, you can let loose. You can celebrate, you can relax, and you can focus on a good time with work acquaintances. It’s an excuse to get together off the clock, and on someone else’s dime. 

But no matter how many of these parties you attend, there’s bound to be these main iconic events. Take a look below and reminisce about the crazy fun times you’ve had at holiday parties of the past. 

  1. Santa makes an appearance 

What’s a holiday party without Santa for the kids? (Maybe Santa is there for the adults too?) Inevitably, someone will yell an inappropriate comment about Santa’s libations, the location of his reindeer, or his lack of milk and cookies. (Santa can be difficult to pull off with a soldier physique.) 

Where there’s Santa, there’s a loud adult making some type of observation. 

party
  1. Someone’s boss drank way too much.

Sure they’re the boss at work but at the party? They’re the boss of the bottle. And honestly, who’s surprised here? Whether they threw caution to the wind and showed up crazy, or hid in the background, pouring whiskey in their Coke can, drinking was on the agenda. But that’s all part of the fun — isn’t that the whole point of a work party?! 

This is the military after all, no one’s surprised by a rough night! Let’s just all hope it didn’t lead to too rough of a morning. 

  1. You meet someone new

As a military spouse, maybe there’s a name that you’ve heard thousands of times but never were able to put a face with it. The holiday party is your chance to engage. Or, as a soldier, perhaps there’s a company legend whom you’ve never come into close contact with … yet. That paperwork ninja at battalion, or the crazy dude that everyone phones home about — you can meet them all in person (or via Zoom) at the holiday party. 

Tag in, you’re in for a treat! 

  1. You see something you didn’t want to see

No party is complete without its uncomfortable moments. Welcome to your company/battalion/brigade event; it’s no different. At every get-together, you’ll overhear a piece of gossip you never wanted to hear, you’ll witness a child being next-level ornery, you’ll see someone shoot whiskey from their nose or shove in mac and cheese off the floor. Whatever it is, you didn’t want to view with your own eyes but it happened all the same. 

No party — at least no party worth attending — goes on without a hitch. Embrace these events and be glad once you’re on the other side. After all, you’re making memories! 

  1. There’s a series of toasts

Get your drink hand ready, because you’re about to toast to him, her, the other guy, the girl down the hall, and more. Something about military folks getting together calls for announcements to be made and people to thank. 

Unless you’re called upon to present, just sit back, raise your glass and sip to those you know and love … and to everyone else in attendance. 

Company holiday parties are a great chance to get together outside of work. But that doesn’t mean its own character-filled events won’t take place. Instead, remain prepared and ready for anything — and if nothing else, enjoy the amazing people watching that’s about to begin. 

What’s your favorite holiday memory from a military get-together?

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Marines receive Purple Hearts for actions in Syria

Three U.S. Marines received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during fighting in Syria in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, during ceremonies in Twentynine Palms, California, on October 22, 2018, and in an undisclosed location in U.S. Central Command on November 7, 2018.


US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, receives the Purple Heart, October 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

The awardees were Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines; Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; and Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

All three Marines have fully recovered from their injuries, according to a press release from the Marine Corps. U.S. troops have been deployed to Syria since at least 2015, but the exact details of the deployments have often been kept quiet due to security concerns and the tense political situation as Russian, Iranian, U.S., and other forces operate so close to one another.

So, it’s not much of a surprise that the Marine Corps hasn’t offered details of the incident that resulted in the Purple Hearts being awarded to the Marines.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, stands by during a Purple Heart ceremony, October 22, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

But while the U.S. has taken relatively few losses despite having an estimated 2,000 troops deployed to Syria, that largely speaks to the professionalism of the troops and leaders deployed there as warfighters have found themselves in sticky situations repeatedly.

Five service members have been killed fighting there. And dozens of special operators were forced to kill approximately 100 Russian mercenaries attacking them en masse in a February, 2018, attack.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is awarded the Purple Heart Medal by Lt. Col. Steven M. Ford, commanding officer, 3/7 at Victory Field aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris)

The U.S. deployment was originally focused on wrenching as much territory as possible back from the Islamic State, the terror organization that swept Iraq and Syria and made inroads in nearby countries, and has stuck around to help eradicate remnants of the group.

The U.S. deployments to Syria are typically of special operations units like the Army Rangers and Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs, but conventional Marines have also been part of the mix, especially infantrymen who employ mortars or missiles and artillerymen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Air Force vet tells the story behind ‘Suicide Butterflies’ and her other tattoos

Heather Hayes was an Air Force mechanic who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and has tattoos that tell the story of her time in uniform.


To Hayes, “tattoos are a journey.”

One of them is a Banksy graffiti piece called “Suicide Butterflies” that depicts a woman shooting herself and the resulting damage morphing into butterflies.

“It’s kind of intense I suppose,” Hayes said. “Basically it’s a symbol of something really tragic turning into something really beautiful.”

Hayes’s story is part of a series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattoo’d veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

MIGHTY HISTORY

This fighter pilot shot down more than 20 enemy aircraft, earning him the title ‘Quad Jungle Ace’

Sitting in the driver’s seat with his foot on the gas, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson drove to the Alert Tent in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1943, as jeeps carrying other pilots from the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force trailed in a column behind. On his mind were the names of other pilots who were lost in a mission the night before, friends of his with whom he had shared pancakes in the mornings and gambled his valuables away in late-night poker games. They were briefed on the mission and sat around for hours in boredom at Horanda Air Field, a large stretch of land that was formerly just another patch in the New Guinea jungle.

When Johnson and his squadron of eight P-38 Lightnings were alerted, they took to the air to intercept a massive aerial convoy of 18 dive bombers supported by 20 agile fighters. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but Johnson wasn’t entirely concerned about that as all he could focus on was reaching the enemy before they dropped their payload over Oro Bay, an advanced military shipping installation.


US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Squadron posing in front of a P-38 Lightning commemorating the first USAAF pilots to land and operate in the Philippines after the landing on Leyte, October 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As his plane climbed through the clouds, the bombers came closer into his sights. He maneuvered his aircraft and issued orders over the radio to communicate their approach. The Japanese were unaware that they were being trailed in the air when Johnson and his squadron ambushed the enemy, walking his rounds from the nose of the aircraft into one of the dive bombers, igniting the plane’s fuselage.

Black smoke and a flash of flames burst through the plane’s side as the bomber plummeted out of the sky. The Japanese zeros peeled off, and an all-out dogfight ensued. On numerous passes, Johnson evaded the tracers shot by Japanese fighters, diving and climbing, rolling and tilting before his rounds struck and downed a second enemy bomber. Their surprise attack netted him three aerial victories, two bombers and one enemy fighter, a solid day’s work that impeded the enemy formation from reaching its target.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

A P-38 Lightning prepares to land after flying a heritage flight with the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter April 3, 2016, during the Luke Air Force Base air show, 75 Years of Airpower. Photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/U. S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

The large enemy force diverted away from their intended target as Johnson’s small but ferocious display of aerial finesse surprised and overwhelmed the Japanese. For his actions on this day he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Service Crosses. In his following tours, Johnson was a nightmare for the Japanese in the Pacific, earning 22 aerial victories with 21 probables to secure his status as a quadruple ace (five aerial victories are required to achieve “ace” status).

Sadly, while on a courier mission after the war, the B-17 or B-25 he was in entered severe weather, and a violent mixture of rain, lightning, and turbulence knocked out all radio communications. One of the passengers neglected to bring along a parachute, and knowing the consequences of giving up his own, Johnson handed it to the passenger, who then bailed out of the plane. Everyone with a parachute was rescued and survived, while Johnson fought with the controls until he perished. Accounts vary as to whether he was the pilot or a passenger on the plane.

Johnson’s remains were lost with the rest of the aircraft. Since he wasn’t on a combat mission, his heroic last act on Oct. 7, 1945, did not warrant a posthumous Purple Heart; however, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism at the risk of life in a non-combat-related incident. A hero in the sky even on his final flight. Gerald R. Johnson is sometimes confused with Gerald W. Johnson, another ace pilot during World War II, but the latter’s aerial dominance was in the European Theater and not the Pacific.

Butch O’Hare: The Irish-American Who Became the US Navy’s First Combat Ace

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


MIGHTY MOVIES

Disney uses stormtroopers to enforce social distancing, but it’s actually fine

Star Wars stormtroopers aren’t real. But if they were, this would be a great use for them.

The white-suited Imperial soldiers were spotted patrolling a balcony at Disney Springs, the shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that was the first Disney World property to reopen last week. Following a monthslong COVID-19 closure, the complex implemented lots of new precautionary measures, and the stormtroopers were there to remind guests of what they needed to do to stay safe.


The “conversation” between the two costumed Disney cast members. a sort of screwball comedy bit reminiscent of the funniest moments from The Mandalorian, was piped through nearby speakers. Attractions Magazine captured some of the best bits and posted them to YouTube.

“Yeah, I’m gonna need you to move…one bantha’s length away please,” the headstrong female stormtrooper says to the clueless male stormtrooper, a reminder to him and the crowds below of the importance of social distancing.

In another bit, he tries to get the attention of someone in the crowd by saying “Hey! You! With the face covering!”

“They all have face coverings,” she replies.

“Well, I made them all look,” he points out, eliciting a groan from his exasperated companion.

Face masks are, of course, a CDC-recommended measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They’re also required for all employees and guests at Disney Springs, and thus made great fodder for the stormtroopers’ routine.

“Some nice face coverings down there,” the female stormtrooper said of the tourists’ masks below. “Probably nicer than these helmets.”

“I doubt it,” he replied matter-of-factly. “These helmets have atmospheric processing units with multi-stage filtration, heat dispersion, and vacuum-tolerant oxygen delivery.”

“Do you stand at night reading spec manuals?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes, actually.”

“That checks out,” she said, the “you nerd” heavily implied.

The stormtroopers’ repartee was nice because it managed to have some fun with the serious situation without making light of it. Wearing face masks and social distancing is serious, but this performance shows that messages aimed at the public can have some levity and be effective.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A full explainer on how and why Russia stole Ukraine’s ships

A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.

The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.


The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces was on full combat alert ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament on Nov. 26, 2018, when lawmakers backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko to impose 30 days of martial law in response to the skirmish.

Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:

What happened and where?

The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.

Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.

As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.

At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.

Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.

Захваченные украинские катера стоят в Керчи

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Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.

Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?

From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.

At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.

With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”

“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”

The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.

The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.

The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.

As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

Why now?

Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.

The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.

Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.

There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.

Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly stated that holding elections under martial law would be possible.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.

How did we get here?

Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.

The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

How will the international community respond?

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.

Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”

But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.

What’s Russia’s next move?

With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.

Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.

If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.

“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.

“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”

It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 tips to service your car after a road trip

The summer road trip is an iconic American institution.

Whether a cross-country tour with the family, a trip to the beach with friends, or the long haul home from college when the second semester ends, American motorists log millions of collective miles on those summer road trips. A US Department of Transportation study found that the average recreational summer road trip sees an average of a 314-mile drive one-way on such trips, or more than 600 miles in total. Many trips, of course, measure well into the thousands of miles.

Road trips can be enjoyable and relatively inexpensive compared with air travel, but they can do a number on the car, truck, or SUV logging all those miles. To keep your vehicle in its best possible shape, you need to complete a number of car care tasks after the long drive is over, and these go beyond the routine maintenance you offer a commuter vehicle.

Here are the steps to take to service a car after a long summer road trip.


US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)

1. Clean the car thoroughly, inside and out

After days on the road, deep cleaning your car is a necessary and timely step. As Mike Schultz, Senior Vice President of Research Development with Turtle Wax explains: “Not only are smashed bugs unsightly on your ride, but some also contain acidic substances, which can bite into the paint. Simply trying to scrape of stuck-on bugs can damage paint, too.”

He recommends using a dedicated car cleaning product to lift away the smashed insects. You should also remove floor mats and thoroughly clean the car’s carpets and upholstery and then let it air out for hours to prevent mold growth.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)

2. Check the tire treads

Long drives can wear down tires past their point of full efficacy and safety, so check the treads once you get home.

As Fred Thomas, Vice President and General Manager for Goodyear Retail explains: “Proper tire depth is an easy way to help maximize safety and performance. There are several ways to check tread depth, including the ‘penny test.’ Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.”

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

3. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank

After a long road trip, it’s likely you won’t use your car as heavily for a period of time, especially if you live in a city and store the vehicle elsewhere.

Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank can help fuel remain fresh and prevent corrosion. If your car is likely to go unused for more than a month following your long drive (or any time) you should use a fuel stabilizer.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)

4. Top off the fluids

Beth Gibson, Experiential Travel Expert with Avis Car Rental says: “Fluids are like blood for your car, and after a long trip they’ll be depleted. To keep levels where they should be and ensure your car is in drivable condition for the next time you use it, replenish windshield wiper fluid, and transmission fluid,” and so on.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

5. Get an oil change

Even if your car isn’t due for an oil change for another few months or few hundred miles, it’s a good idea to get an oil change after a long trip.

The extended journey will have put more strain than usual on the motor, especially if your vehicle was towing a trailer or was more heavily laden than normal what with luggage and passengers.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

6. Replace the wiper blades

Auto experts recommend you get fresh wiper blades twice a year anyway, but the likely heavy use your windshield wipers saw during a long road trip may necessitate earlier replacement.

Wiper blades usually cost less than and you can install them yourself or have a shop do it, which will likely only charge you for 15 minutes of labor.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

7. Run a diagnostics check-up

You can buy a top quality OBD-II scanner that lets you assess all sorts of systems within your car for less than , and using such a scanner might detect an issue before it becomes a big problem, saving you an even costlier repair.

After a long drive, these scanners can check everything from filter quality to engine health, and it can explain what’s behind that annoying check engine light.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

8. Test your brakes

Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief, Cars.com, says: “You gave your car a work out on that long road trip – now it’s time to pay extra attention to how it’s driving now that you’re back on local roads with slower speed limits. Is there a squeal happening when you hit the brakes or a weird sound coming from the wheel? Give your ride a test drive so that you know what work needs to be done when you take it in for maintenance.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In one wing, there are 435. On the other, there are 100. Luckily, this isn’t referring to a severe weight imbalance detrimental to an aircraft’s flight. These are the number of appointed individuals responsible for making the nation’s laws on Capitol Hill and the people who some Air Force legislative liaisons and fellows engage with to ensure continued legislative support for national security.

The legislative liaison and fellowship programs are designed to provide service members opportunities to improve understanding and knowledge of the functions and operations of the legislative branch and how it impacts the military.

According to Title 5, U.S. Code Section 7102 and Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1034, United States Air Force personnel have the legal right to petition and furnish information to or communicate with Congress.


“It is our responsibility to truly understand the intersection of politics and policy as members of an apolitical organization,” said Maj. Gen. Steven L. Basham, former director for Secretary of the Air Force legislative liaison, who is now the deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa Command. “We are not only the Air Force liaison to Congress, but we are also liaisons for Congress to the rest of the Air Force.”

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Lt. Col. Joe Wall, deputy chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, salutes a staff vehicle to welcome Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, before a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Basham says that individuals selected to become legislative liaisons are intuitive, broad and flexible thinkers. Despite donning a suit or business attire during their time on the Hill, aspiring liaisons or fellows are required to have exceptional professional bearing and appearance, exceptional organizational skills, performance and knowledge of current events in national security affairs and international relations are also desired.

“We bring phenomenal people into this program,” Basham said. “As a matter of fact, we want individuals who are experts in their career field who have the ability to look across the entire United States Air Force. When we’re working with Congress or a staff member, they don’t see a bomber pilot or a logistician; they see us as a United States Air Force officer or civilian who is an expert across all fields.”

According to Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, budget operations and personnel director for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller, the opportunity to serve as a legislative liaison and then as a legislative fellow to a member of congress provided him valuable experience in understanding how the government and democracy work. His time working at the Hill “left an indelible impression” in his mind.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Maj. Michael Gutierrez, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, and Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, corresponds with legislators in preparation for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“As a squadron, group and wing commander, I frequently relied on my understanding of the legislative process to help inform my bosses and teammates on how they could positively affect their mission through the right congressional engagement at the right time,” he said. “I also left the experience with a keen understanding of the importance of relationships, communication and collaboration. Those lessons serve me well today, and I share them with younger officers every chance I get.”

Airmen working on the Hill come from diverse career backgrounds. Historically, the liaison and fellowship programs were only open to officers but have opened to senior noncommissioned officers and civilians in recent years. Typical responsibilities of fellows include assisting with the drafting of legislation, floor debate preparation, planning and analysis of public policy and serving as congressional liaisons to constituents and industry. Fellows are required to come back to serve as legislative liaisons later on in their careers and into positions where they can utilize their acquired knowledge of the legislative process.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Maj. Christopher D. Ryan, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, discuss Air Force inforamation with Dan S. Dunham, military legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Legislative Liaison Office,said the first step to being a legislative liaison is making sure that the liaison understands the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force’s vision and priorities. As members of the Senate legislative liaisons, she and her team work primarily with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its members, as well as any members of the Senate who have Air Force equity. Along with preparing senior leaders for hearings or meetings with legislators, they provide members of Congress and their staff information that helps in their understanding of current Air Force operations and programs.

“I wish I knew what I know now from a legislative perspective when I was a wing commander because I didn’t understand the power of the congressional body back then,” she said. “Every installation has challenges. Every installation has aging infrastructure. Every installation has lots of different things that they’re working through, and I did not engage with my local congressional district as much as I would have if I had I been up here and understood that (our representatives) really do want to help.”

Dan S. Dunham, a military legislative assistant who works for U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said the legislative liaisons are who they “turn to first” whenever they have Air Force-related questions – may it be on budgets, programs or operations.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, deliver his opening statements during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“Air Force and Congress can be a tall order – both sides have different chains of command and different constituencies to which they are answerable,” he said. “That can significantly increase the risk of miscommunication. The legislative liaison fills a critical role in bridging that gap and they are frequently the ones we rely on to be the primary facilitator for getting answers and information for our bosses.”

Along with having constant interaction with the highest echelons of Air Force leadership and the key decision makers, due to the sensitive nature of information exchange at this level, legislative liaisons must be capable of thinking on their feet and making informed decisions.

“We bring individuals in who sometimes have to make the call when talking with the staff on what information they should provide,” Basham said. “I think the level of trust they have for their senior leaders having their back when they make that call is invaluable.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The historic US-North Korea summit to be held in Singapore in June

US President Donald Trump has announced the place and time for his historic summit with Kim Jong Un.

The meeting, the highest-level contact ever between the US and North Korea, is set to take place in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Trump announced the details in a tweet on May 10, 2018:



The meeting will be the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

The specifics of the meeting were finalized in the past few days by Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who returned in the early hours of May 10, 2018, from a face-to-face meeting with Kim.

It has been accompanied by a flurry of diplomatic activity. Pompeo brought back with him three US citizens who had been detained in North Korea, but were released at Trump’s request.

That visit to North Korea was Pompeo’s second in a month, which in itself represents a drastic step up in the level of official contact between the North Korean and US governments.

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019
Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim has repeatedly proposed talks with world leaders about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was a US precondition for talks. Kim has asked for few concessions in return for his promise to denuclearize.

Trump’s administration has laid out a number of ambitious goals for the negotiations, which include permanent, irreversible, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea before sanctions are lifted.

Singapore had not been widely suggested in advance as a likely location for the summit.

But a number of factors make it a logical choice: It has diplomatic relations with both countries, hosts a North Korean embassy, has a good position in Southeast Asia, and can play the part of a neutral third party.

Other candidates had been Mongolia, also a neutral country, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

On May 9, 2018, Trump reportedly said that the DMZ was no longer being considered, even though he had suggested it himself only a few weeks ago.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

TSA catches man smuggling gun in DVD player at US airport

A New York man was arrested after a handgun was discovered hidden inside a DVD player he had packed in his checked bag at John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 13, 2019.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) discovered the handgun when the bag was going through security scanning. The 9mm handgun was wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden inside a DVD player, according to a TSA press release. The gun was not loaded.

The man, who is from Queen’s, New York, was arrested at his gate before boarding a plane to Mexico. He has been charged with weapons violations.


In the US, TSA regulations outright forbid passengers from possessing firearms on their persons and in their carry-on luggage.

However, they may be permitted in checked luggage if very specific regulations are followed.

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A handgun was discovered in the man’s checked bag.

(TSA)

“Firearms carried in checked bags must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in,” the TSA said on its website. “Check with your airline to see if they allow firearms in checked bags.”

“When traveling, be sure to comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international government,” the agency added.

According to the TSA, it is not uncommon for passengers to be caught with guns and other firearms at its checkpoints.

The TSA discovered 91 guns in the carry-on bags of the 16.3 million passengers screened between April 8 and April 14, 2019.

Of those 91 guns, the agency said 81 were loaded and 35 had a round chambered.

Those who are caught in possession of a firearm at a TSA checkpoint can be arrested or subject to a fine of up to ,333.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

How these guys make the weapons from our favorite video games

Video games are known for over-the-top weaponry. In the universe of games, a seemingly tiny blonde dude can easily swing around the giant Buster Sword (see: Final Fantasy VII) and a kid with a mask is given free reign to swing around a ridiculously shaped, dual-bladed sword (see: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).

In real life, getting your hands on these incredible weapons is a much more painstaking endeavor than simply showing up at a store and dropping a few rupees or a couple hundred gil. Tony Swatton of Burbank, California’s Sword and Stone and the crew over at Baltimore Knife and Sword take pride in forging authentic, legitimate versions of pop-culture’s finest weaponry. Together, they formed the web series, Man at Arms: Reforged, which you can find on YouTube.

Let’s set the bar extremely high right off the bat with a look at their work on a Warhammer 40K Chainsword:

Swatton is a self-taught blacksmith who got his start working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook and has been creating weapons and armor for film and television ever since. His work can also be seen on the official World of Warcraft channel in a series called Azeroth Armory.


The show expanded to Maryland and added Baltimore’s Knife and Sword crew at the start of the second season. Since then, the channel has achieved internet stardom by bringing the viewers along for the ride as they create some of the most interesting weapons from film, television, and gaming. Behind each weapon is a very long, methodical process. Each weapon takes as long as 200 hours to forge, which is distilled down into a single 10-minute video segment.

They’re also not afraid to take on historical recreations, such as a 400-year old Chinese Dandao:

Each project requires a unique approach but, in general, they employ plasma cutting to get the desired shape out of steel, mold the intricate details out of clay for a bronze cast, spend days perfecting every minute detail, and then finally assemble, sharpen, and test their new weapon.

They create content based off of YouTube comments, so if you can think of an awesome weapon that isn’t in their nearly 150-video-long catalog, leave a suggestion!

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