A Sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 (CWA 66), based at Ft. George G. Meade, Md., was killed while deployed in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.
Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, was killed while supporting Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and teammates of Chief Petty Officer Kent during this extremely difficult time. She was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, Commanding Officer, CWA-66.
Personal photo provided by the family of Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent.
Kent, who hailed from upstate New York, enlisted in the Navy Dec. 11, 2003, and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., in February 2004. Her other military assignments included Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Gordon, Ga.; Navy Special Warfare Support Activity 2, Norfolk, Va.; Personnel Resource Development Office, Washington, D.C.; Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Meade, Md.; and Cryptologic Warfare Group 6, Fort Meade, Md. Kent reported to CWA 66 after the command was established on Aug. 10, 2018.
“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said CWA 66 Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collections) Denise Vola.
Kent’s awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal (2), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon, and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended several military exercises, but now that restrictive measures have been eased some are going forward, albeit in a scaled-down form.
Two kicked off in early June in Poland and the Baltic Sea, drawing particular interest around the world, and not just because of the logistics of holding them amid an ongoing pandemic. The proximity of the training to Russian territory is seen by many as a possible signal that the U.S. military is shifting its interest in Europe eastward.
What Are The Exercises?
The first exercise involves 4,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Polish troops in northwestern Poland. The bilateral training features a Polish airborne exercise and division-size river crossing from June 5 to June 19.
Dubbed Allied Spirit, the exercise was supposed be linked to a much larger U.S.-led multinational exercise in Europe, including NATO members, called Defender Europe 20, which had to be significantly scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second one, Baltops 20, runs from June 7 to June 16 in the Baltic Sea region. The maritime-focused exercise, which has been held annually since 1972, involves 28 maritime units, 28 aircraft, and up to 3,000 personnel from 19 countries, with Finland and Sweden being the only non-NATO participants.
Both exercises are designed to show international resolve against any potential threat and improve the “interoperability” of national armies’ land, sea, and air assets.
How Has COVID-19 Affected The Exercises?
The pandemic has forced military commanders to modify and reduce the scale of Defender Europe 20. The exercise was originally planned to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years, involving 20,000 soldiers and nine NATO allies practicing military maneuvers in several European countries.
Before the pandemic shut down most of the continent, more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment had already arrived in Europe. Most of the original plans were scrapped but the U.S.-Polish exercise received a green light in mid-May.
Baltops 20 has also been modified. There will be no land element to complement the air and sea operations to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This means normally standard features of naval exercises such as amphibious landings, exchanging personnel between ships, and merchant vessel boarding will not take place.
Are The Exercises Directed At Russia?
The U.S. military and NATO have been quick to point out that all exercises are “defensive in nature.” Lisa Franchetti, the commander of the Naples-based U.S. 6th Fleet, told journalists that Baltops 20 should not be interpreted as a threat to any specific country and exercises are held in international waters and international airspace. Franchetti encouraged the Russian military to behave professionally.
However, many observers expect the Russian Navy to make close approaches to the exercises and that Russian jets may “buzz” allied planes, meaning that they will fly so close as to create “wake turbulence.”
A NATO official recently told RFE/RL that, in 2019 alone, allied aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe. Even though the alliance doesn’t reveal numbers for specific regions, it is believed most of the incidents occurred around the Baltic Sea.
The Allied Shield exercise takes place in Drawsko Pomorskie, some 350 kilometers from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. When Defender Europe 20 was announced, Russia planned its own war games in direct response but called off its exercise as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Moscow has called on NATO to scale down military activity and move them away from Eastern Europe to reduce tensions.
Will The Russian Military Officially Observe The Exercises?
No. U.S. military officials told RFE/RL that they “were not aware of any Russian notification to inspect exercise Allied Spirit in Poland.” The threshold for required observation in accordance with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Vienna document on the transparency of military exercises is 13,000 troops — twice as many as will be present in Poland in June. Naval exercises such as Baltops 20 are not subject to notification and observation requirements enshrined in the Vienna Document.
Why Is The Presence Of U.S. Troops In Poland Politically Significant?
Because of what is happening in Poland’s western neighbor, Germany. U.S. President Donald Trump has authorized a plan to reduce the U.S. permanent troop presence in Germany by 9,500 from the 34,500 service members who are currently there. The move will also cap the number of American soldiers in Germany at 25,000. More than 1,000 of the troops leaving Germany may be redeployed to Poland, adding to the 4,500 already there on a rotational basis.
Poland, whose government enjoys close ties with the Trump administration, is pushing for an even bigger American presence on its soil and hopes to capitalize on its special relationship with the United States in the future. The very fact that a joint exercise has been resuscitated despite the pandemic can be seen in this light.
It can also be viewed against the backdrop of tensions between Washington and Berlin over everything from Germany wanting to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Germany failing to meet its NATO military-spending target, trade tensions, and a host of other disputes including the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.
When you’re on deployment in the middle of nowhere, calling friends and family can be challenging. The satellite phones might be down for various reasons — or since you’re probably in different time zones — the person you’re trying to reach has been in bed for hours.
Get used to it because you have six more months until you rotate home.
As more and more people use social media these days versus talking on the phone, new problems will surface for our deployment service members — all because of freakin’ social media.
Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.
Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.
The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.
Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)
Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.
Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.
He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.
In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.
He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.
After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.
Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.
Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.
A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.
(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)
In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.
In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.
Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.
Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)
Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.
Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.
(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)
Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.
John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.
Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.
Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.
It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.
The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.
If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.
If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.
(Meme via Vet Humor)
Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.
Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.
Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.
The Air Force announced Jan. 23, 2019, the details of the fiscal year 2019 Aviation Bonus program.
The fiscal 2019 AvB program is designed to augment continuing aircrew retention efforts across the Air Force, by offering experienced aviators bonuses for signing tier-based contracts, ranging from three to 12 years of continued service.
Congress raised the annual maximum aviation bonus from $25,000 to $35,000 in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and required the Air Force to present aviation bonuses based on a business case analysis. The Air Force evaluates its rated inventory every year to ensure the AvB program is tailored to meet the service’s needs.
For the fiscal 2019 RegAF program, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered to active duty aviators whose initial undergraduate flying training service commitment expires in fiscal 2019:
Bomber pilots (11B), fighter pilots (11F) and mobility pilots (11M)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to 12 years
Lump-sum, up-front payment options of 0,000 exist for seven to nine year contracts and 0,000 for 10-12 year contracts
Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Remotely piloted aircraft pilots (18X/11U) and special operations forces pilots (11S)
o Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to twelve years
Command and control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pilots (11R) and combat search and rescue fixed wing pilots (11H)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years and ,000 for contract lengths of 10-12 years
A lump-sum, up-front payment option of 0,000 exists for seven to nine year contracts
Combat search and rescue rotary wing pilots (11H)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years
Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to six years and ,000 for contract lengths of seven to nine years
For aviators whose contracts have expired or who have never signed a previous AvB agreement, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered:
Pilots (11X) and RPA pilots (11U/12U/13U/18X)
Annual payments of ,000 to ,000 based on the three to six year rates of the member’s core community identification as set above for contract lengths ranging from three to nine years
Contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service
Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to five years
Eligible airmen must have 19 years or greater of total active federal military Service and contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service
The application window for airmen interested in applying for the fiscal 2019 AvB program will be open until Aug. 30, 2019. For full eligibility requirements and details about program changes in fiscal 2019, airmen should visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.
The United States has substantial air, land, and sea forces stationed in South Korea
As well as several units based in Japan and the western Pacific earmarked for a Korean contingency. Together, these forces far exceed the firepower of North Korea’s armed forces and represent a powerful deterrent not just against Pyongyang but any potential adversary in the region.
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)
The first U.S. forces that would be involved in a North-South Korean conflict are those currently based in South Korea. On the ground, the U.S. Army rotates a new armored brigade into South Korea every nine months — currently the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Each brigade is manned by 3,500 soldiers and consists of three combined arms battalions, one cavalry (reconnaissance) battalion, one artillery battalion, one engineer and one brigade support battalion. Armored brigade combat teams typically consist of approximately 100 M1A2 Abrams tanks, 100 M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and eighteen M109-series self-propelled howitzers.
The army in South Korea also maintains the 2nd Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, equipped with approximately sixty Apache attack helicopters, Blackhawk, and Chinook transports. The 210th Artillery Brigade, equipped with M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems provides long-range artillery fire, while the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade provide Patriot missile coverage of Osan and Suwon Air Force Bases. The 35th Brigade also operates the AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar and six Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launch vehicles recently sent to the country to beef up anti-missile defenses.
The other major component of American power in Korea is U.S. tactical aviation. The U.S. Air Force maintains the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, consisting of the 25th Fighter Squadron at equipped with A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack jets and the 36th Fighter Squadron with F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fighters (about forty-eight aircraft in all). The 8th (“Wolfpack”) Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base consists of the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons, which fly a total of forty-five F-16C/Ds. The A-10Cs have the mission of close air support, while the F-16C/Ds are responsible for air interdiction, close air support, and counter-air.
Beyond the Korean Peninsula, the United States maintains an array of forces ready to intervene. U.S. military forces in Japan include the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, two guided missile cruisers and seven guided missile destroyers. Many of the cruisers and destroyers have ballistic missile defense capability although two of the destroyers, Fitzgerald and McCain, are out of action due to collisions with civilian merchantmen. The Reagan and surface warships are all based at Yokosuka, Japan.
Further south, Sasebo, Japan is the home of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the ships of its amphibious task force. Together, this amphibious force can lift a marine infantry battalion reinforced with armor, artillery and aviation assets collectively known as Marine Expeditionary Unit. Sasebo is also the home of the 7th Fleet’s four minesweepers. The result is a well-balanced force that can execute a wide variety of missions, from ballistic missile defense to an amphibious assault.
Farther north in Japan, the U.S. Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing is located at Misawa, Japan. The 35th Wing specializes in suppressing enemy air defenses (SEAD) and is trained to destroy enemy radars, missile systems, and guns to allow other friendly aircraft a freer hand in flying over the battlefield. The wing flies approximately forty-eight F-16C/Ds split among the 13th and 14th Fight Squadrons. Near Tokyo, the USAF’s 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base flies C-130 Hercules, C-130J Super Hercules, UH-1N Huey and C-12J Huron aircraft.
Marine Corps units are spread out across Japan, with Marine fixed-wing aviation, including a squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, tankers, and logistics aircraft stationed at MCAS Iwakuni, the only Marine Corps air station on mainland Japan. Three squadrons of Marine helicopter units are stationed at MCAS Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Marine ground forces include the 4th Marines, a marine infantry regiment with three battalions, and the 12th Marines, an artillery regiment with two battalions of artillery.
Also on Okinawa is the sprawling Kadena Air Base, home of the 44th and 67th fighter squadrons, both of which fly the F-15C/D Eagle fighter. Kadena is also home to a squadron of K-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, a squadron of E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, and two rescue squadrons. Farther from a potential Korean battlefield (but still in missile range) Kadena would act as a regional support hub for American airpower, with AWACS aircraft monitoring the skies and controlling aircraft missions while tankers refueled bombers, transports, and aircraft on long-range missions.
The next major American outpost in the Pacific, Guam, is home to Submarine Squadron 15, four forward-deployed nuclear attack submarines supported by the permanently moored submarine tender USS Frank Cable. Naval special warfare units are also based on the island. An army THAAD unit was deployed to the island in 2013 to protect against North Korean intermediate range ballistic missiles.
Guam is also home to Andersen Air Force Base. Andersen typically hosts a variety of heavy aircraft, including B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence Mission, KC-135 tankers and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones. Andersen served as a jumping off point for bomber raids against North Vietnam and today would see a surge of B-1B, B-2A and B-52H bombers from the continental United States in the event of a flare-up in Korea.
U.S. forces in the northwest Pacific are considerable, amounting to two ground combat brigades, approximately seven wings of fighters and attack aircraft, a handful of strategic bombers, an aircraft carrier, submarines, hundreds of cruise missiles and an amphibious assault task force. That already formidable force can be swiftly augmented by even more combat forces from Hawaii, Alaska, and the continental United States, including F-22A Raptors, airborne troops, and more aircraft carriers, submarines, and bombers. It is a robust, formidable, adaptable force capable of taking on a variety of tasks, from disaster relief to war.
‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.
Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.
The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.
The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.
In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.
The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.
Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.
More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.
China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.
Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.
The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.
Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.
The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.
It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.
In late summer 2017, two unarmed Russian military planes flew over critical American defense areas, completely unescorted, unintercepted, and completely unabated in any way. In Washington, a plane flew over the Pentagon, the Capitol, and even the White House – areas off limits to most other pilots, from the U.S. or elsewhere.
But Russia can fly over them whenever it wants.
Putin will find a way to troll the US with this power.
The Tupolev Tu-154M also flew over the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and even the Presidential retreat at Camp David. Another Russian Tupolev Tu-154M military plane flew over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump was taking a break from the White House.
They both left from Dayton, Ohio.
Leaving: One of the best things to do in Dayton.
It may sound fishy, but there’s a good reason for the unrestricted flyovers. The United States and Russia are both party to the Open Skies Treaty, along with 32 other member states. It dictates that area controlled by a member state is open to observation by any other signatory. Any unarmed plane can fly over even the most sensitive areas of another country who signed on to the treaty. This is how the United States was able to prove military activity in Eastern Ukraine was a Russian build up over Moscow’s vehement denials.
So Russia can fly right over the White House on July 4th.
Usually they just buzz American ships at sea.
The treaty was talked about as early as 1955, but the Soviet Union (rightly) believed it would compromise their national security. It was formally re-introduced after the fall of Communism in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. All aircraft and its sensor equipment will carry home country observers and submit to an inspection to ensure its sensors are in line with treaty stipulations.
Only once was an Open Skies Treaty request ever turned down. In February 2016, Turkey denied Russia an Open Skies flight over NATO airbases in the country as well as areas near the Syrian border. In September 2018, the United States almost denied another Russian flyover by refusing to certify Russia’s latest Open Skies plane. Though the U.S. eventually relented, it said it was a response to Russia’s refusal to allow American flights over Kaliningrad, near the Poland-Lithuania border.
The Good Conduct Medal is one of the easiest medals an enlisted troop can earn. It’s an award given to enlisted personnel for every three years of “honorable and faithful service.” During times of war, the GCM can given out at one year of good service and can be posthumously awarded to service members killed in the line of duty.
But the GCM isn’t the same as a service stripe, which is given to soldiers every three years, Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen every four years, and is never given to airmen. To earn a GCM, you need to keep your nose clean (or don’t get caught doing something you shouldn’t) for three years. If you’re a solider, boom, that’s an instant 10 promotion points.
(Photo by Pvt. Paul R. Watts Jr.)
The intent behind the GCM is to award outstanding troops who’ve managed to go three years without ever failing to be at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform. The disqualifying factor for this medal is if you ever receive an NJP.
Now, what is and isn’t considered eligible for a non-judicial punishment is loosely defined and is entirely at the discretion of the commander. Talking too severely to a subordinate could be considered an NJP-worthy offense by a commander that’s cracking down on hazing, while another unit’s commander may turn a blind eye to horrendous acts that discredit the military.
The moment a troop gets a “Ninja Punch,” their 3-year GCM timer restarts. Three years after a sergeant knifehands a private, that private is once again eligible for a Good Conduct Medal. A scumbag who has brown-nosed the commander or has a commander who “doesn’t want the unit to look bad” will receive this medal every third anniversary of their enlistment. Do you see the discrepancy?
(Photo by Cpl. Brady Wood)
Once again, one unit may make an elaborate ceremony to honor the troop for their three years of good conduct while another may just ask a troop to buy a Good Conduct Knot to add to their ribbon rack. Again, this is at a commander’s discretion.
There is a silver lining to all of this. Fresh young troops who are giving the military their best can feel like their world’s been shattered the first time they screw up. Stern talking-tos and regular bad conduct counseling statements don’t blemish one’s good conduct streak — take the lickings and move on. An offense typically only turns into an NJP when it’s one in a series of misconduct.
(Photo by Spc. Adeline Witherspoon)
The Good Conduct Medal should be awarded to those troops who exemplify the military values. It is a flawed system that sees undeserving scumbags awarded while good troops who make a genuine and innocent mistake aren’t — but the troops that do deserve it and earn it make the military proud.
When we leave active duty, we go through a lot of emotional ups and downs, we have many hurdles to overcome, and most importantly, we have to repurpose ourselves.
That repurposing process is a subconscious one for the overwhelming majority of us. We fall into the civilian world and look for things we couldn’t do or have while we were in the service. You know, like drugs, experiences, traveling opportunities, and sleeping in past 0600 on a weekday. Basically, we’re just adult versions of Amish teens on Rumspringa.
After we get those things out of our system, we find ourselves so far on the other side of society that we realize we need to get back to “normality.” That normality is somewhere between the extreme lifestyle of the military and the post-DD-214 period of blowing off steam, so we think.
We should instead be repurposing ourselves to do great things like growing businesses, shaking up industries, raising the status quo. In order for us to do that, we need to not forget the greatness we came from by ending up in a “normal” life.
I’m not just talking about combat veterans or vets with spec ops training here. I’m talking about all of us, all veterans, from the most boot Airman to the grizzliest retired E-9 turned private security contractor that you can think of. If we weren’t better humans, we wouldn’t have even thought the military was an option for us in the first place.
Get out of the shadow of normalcy.
The decision to end up in normal is a mistake for us. Normal kills potential. Normal shits on passion. Normal shames greatness.
We need to stay closer to the fringe than the normals do.
Blasting normal in the crotch… after living like this there’s no way you’ll be happy being “normal.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV/Released)
The fringe is where the magic happens
It’s not easy to stay on the fringe though… it’s demanding and exhausting out here, but it feels like home to us. You need to stay fit and capable in order to live outside of normal.
That’s why the military has fitness standards when normal people have 2.6 doctors visits a month. The fringe only seeks medical attention when something is broken from flying too close to the sun.
That’s why you need to be training. You’re training to stay strong, lean, and healthy, but even more importantly, you’re training to stay at the tip of the spear, albeit a different spear than you stood on in the military.
It doesn’t matter if your new spear is higher education, the business world, entrepreneurship, or parenthood. The best in their field are those that know how to leverage their body to produce greatness.
You’ve already been given keys to the castle of greatness through your military indoctrination. The foundation of that castle is training hard to take care of your body and make everything else in life seem easier.
You might think that, somewhere along the way, someone in the staff of a senior senator from Kentucky would have figured out what Duffel Blog really was. Instead, in 2012, a concerned constituent actually had the Senator’s office send a formal letter to the Pentagon concerning Duffel Blog’s report of the VA extending benefits to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Duffel Blog and its writers are more than brilliant. What it does at its best is play the role of court jester – delivering hard truths hidden inside jokes. In the case of Senator McConnell’s office sending a letter of concern to the Pentagon over a Duffel Blog piece, the site was hammering the VA, equating using its services to punishing accused terrorists in one of the most notorious prisons in the world.
We laugh, but they’re talking about the VA we all use – and we laugh because there’s truth to the premise.
Paul Szoldra is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Duffel Blog, former Military and Defense Editor at Business Insider, and was instrumental in the creation of We Are The Mighty. He’s now a columnist at Task & Purpose.
Speaking truth to power is not difficult for Szoldra, even when the power he speaks to is one that is so revered by the American people that it’s nearly untouchable by most other media. We live in an age where criticizing politicians is the order of the day, but criticizing the military can be a career-ending endeavor. You don’t have to be a veteran to criticize military leadership, but it helps.
“If you go back on the timeline far enough, you’ll find a lot of bullsh*t,” Szoldra says, referring specifically to comments made by generals about the now 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. “And I have no problem calling it out, highlighting it where need be.”
Szoldra doesn’t like that the top leadership of the U.S. military exists in what he calls a “bubble” and can get away with a lot because of American support for its fighting men and women — those fighting the war on the ground. Szoldra, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 2010, was one of those lower-enlisted who fought the war. When he writes, he writes from that perspective.
“If we’re talking about sending troops into Syria… I wonder what does that feel like to the grunt on the ground,” Szoldra says. “I don’t really care too much about the general and how he’s going to deal with the strategy, I wonder about the 20-something lance corporal that I used to be trying to find IEDs with their feet.”
His work is thoughtful and, at times, intense, but always well-founded. Szoldra also does a semi-regular podcast with Terminal Lance creator, Max Uriarte, where they have honest discussion about similar topics. Those discussions often take more of a cultural turn and it feels more like you’re listening to Marine grunts wax on about the way things are changing – because that’s exactly what it is, with just as much honesty as you’d come to expect from Paul Szoldra and his ongoing body of work.
The times Duffel Blog articles were mistaken for real news
Duffel Blog’s new party game
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
The military and Mixed Martial Arts go hand-in-hand. Both cultures are bloody, sweaty, and violent.
So it’s no wonder that MMA is rife with military veterans fighting in anything from the Ultimate Fighting Championship to little MMA promotions around the country.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion and all around MMA legend, Randy Couture, is an Army veteran and former middleweight contender. Brian Stann is a former Marine officer who enjoyed a great deal of success in the sport.
Other veterans include UFC stand outs Brandon Vera, Tim Credeur, and Jorge Rivera.
With Army veteran Neil Magny fighting at UFC 207 on Dec. 30th, we decided it was time to take a look at the best veterans actively fighting in MMA.
1. Tim Kennedy.
Though he lost his last two fights (one under controversial circumstances), Tim Kennedy is the most successful veteran in the sport today. Kennedy spent 10 years on active duty with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to serve his country in the Texas National Guard as a Special Forces sniper.
Kennedy challenged for the Strikeforce middleweight championship and has enjoyed several years in the biggest MMA promotion, The UFC.
2. Liz Carmouche.
Former Marine helicopter mechanic Liz Carmouche once challenged Ronda Rousey for the women’s bantamweight championship and nearly submitted her in the first round.
A tenacious bantamweight with bags of cardio endurance, Carmouche could make another run at a title fight. She’s currently 15-6 and recently defeated Kaitlyn Chookagian at UFC 206.
3. Neil Magny.
An Army veteran with an 18-6 record, Magny is the #8 ranked welterweight in the world and will fight former lightweight champion Johnny Hendricks at UFC 207 on Dec 30.
Magny recently had an impressive 7-fight win streak and has won 10 of his last 12 with big wins over well-known fighters Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum.
Still, he’ll have his hands full with the heavy handed knockout artist Hendricks on Dec 30.
4. Andrew Todhunter.
Undefeated fighter and former Green Beret, Andrew “The Sniper” Todhunter has only fought twice in the last two years, but at 8-0 (all by submission) it’s hard to deny the potential and success he’s had in MMA. When it comes to ground fighting, he’s a prodigy.
5. Colton Smith.
The sky was the limit for Army Staff Sergeant (and Iraq veteran) Colton Smith in December 2012 when he won The Ultimate Fighter season 16. But three loses in a row in the octagon forced him back down to the minor leagues where he rattled off four wins in a row. Smith could be poised to make another run at the UFC and realize some of that potential that got everyone excited about him a few years ago.
6. Caros Fodor.
A Marine veteran of six years, Fodor has fought for just about every major MMA promotion from the UFC to Strikeforce to One FC and now the World Series of Fighting.
In May, 2016, Fodor fought and defeated his adopted brother, Ben Fodor in 3 emotionally charged rounds.
7. Matt Frevola.
He’s only 4-0, but Army Reservist Matt Frevola is turning heads and is about to make his debut in Titan Fighting Championships where the management team is excited to see what he can do.
8. Robert Turnquest.
With a record of 6-3 after only two and a half years in MMA, 14-year Navy veteran Rob Turnquest has a bright future ahead. He recently lost a decision to MMA legend, JZ Cavalcante, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
9. Sharon Jacobson.
She’s only 4-1 and didn’t fight in 2016, but Jacobson, an Army veteran, ran off 3 impressive wins in a row in 2015 and made a name for herself in the strawweight division.
Will we ever see a military veteran wearing a UFC championship belt around his or her waist in the octagon? Odds are yes. With some determination and a little window of opportunity, it could be one of these nine.