The tense near-collision in the South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.

A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.


“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.

The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.

The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.

The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.

China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a new battle brewing in the Atlantic

The National Defense Strategy issued by the Defense Department in 2018 declared a new era of great power competition with “revisionist powers” — namely, China and Russia.

A new period of tension and competition with Russia has been evident in Europe since 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine.

In the years since, NATO has sought to improve its position in Europe, while Russia has displayed new naval capabilities in the waters around the continent.


In an email interview, Magnus Nordenman, a NATO expert and author of “The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Competition with Russia in the Far North” who was previously director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, explained what this new era of competition in the Atlantic looks like, what each side brings to it, and how the conditions continue to change.

Christopher Woody: As mentioned in the title of your book, there have been several battles for the Atlantic, namely during World War I and II and the Cold War. How does the present situation resemble those battles and how does it differ?

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

Coast guardsmen aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer watch the explosion of a depth charge, blasting a German submarine attempting to break into the center of a large US convoy in the Atlantic, April 17, 1943.

(Public domain)

Magnus Nordenman: During each great conflict in Europe during the 20th century the Atlantic has served as the crucial bridge that allowed the flow of war-winning supplies and reinforcements from America to Europe.

If a conflict between Russia and NATO erupted in the coming years, the Atlantic would serve that role again.

But it would not be a re-run of previous battles for the Atlantic. Changes in technology, a new-style Russian navy, and the context of global great-power competition would all help shape a future battle for the Atlantic.

Woody: Russia has made an effort to rebuild its navy in recent years. What capabilities does that force, its submarines in particular, have now that it didn’t have in the years after the end of the Cold War?

Nordenman: Unlike during Cold War days, the Russian navy is going for quality rather than quantity. And given that it has relatively limited resources it must focus its investments where they can make the biggest difference, and that is with its submarine force.

Russia has also focused on giving its navy a long-range strike capability with Kalibr missiles, which have been used to great effect in Syria. The use of long-range strike missiles from submarines was nearly an exclusive US domain until relatively recently.

Russia fires six Kalibr missiles at IS targets in Syria’s Hama

www.youtube.com

All this suggests that Russia would not try to halt shipping coming across the Atlantic from the US but would instead seek to attack command-and-control centers and ports and airfields in Northern Europe to disrupt US efforts to come to the aid of its European allies.

Woody: On the Center for a New American Security podcast in August, you mentioned that when it comes to dealing with Russia, you think there’s less an “Arctic problem” and more of a “Kola Peninsula problem.” Can you elaborate on the difference between the two and what that distinction means for NATO?

Nordenman: Arctic security is a growing theme, but I think it often confuses the debate rather than enlightens it.

The North American, European, and Russian Arctics are three very different places in terms of politics, accessibility, operating environment, and international relations. To place it all under the rubric “Arctic security” is not always helpful.

In the case of NATO and its mission to provide deterrence on behalf of its member states it comes down to the Kola Peninsula, where Russia’s northern fleet is based.

Woody: The Arctic remains a challenging region for navies to operate in, but climate change is altering the environment there. What changes do you expect naval forces to have to make in order to keep operating there effectively?

Nordenman: NATO member navies need to get familiar again with operating in the broader North Atlantic.

The last two decades have seen those navies primarily operate in places such as the Mediterranean, the [Persian] Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Those are very different domains in comparison to the Atlantic. And while the far North Atlantic is warming, it is not a hospitable place. It still remains very remote.

In terms of climate change, there are, for example, indications that warmer waters are changing the patterns of sound propagation in the far North Atlantic, which means that they must be measured and catalogued anew in order to conduct effective anti-submarine warfare.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Australia raises the stakes in angry tensions with China

Australia passed sweeping foreign interference laws on June 28, 2018, that have been one of the most contentious pillars of deteriorating relations with China in recent months.

The laws broaden the definition of espionage and ban foreign agents from influencing politicians, civil society organizations, media, and ethnic groups. Individuals will also be required to register if they’re acting on behalf of a foreign power. Some offenses covered by the laws are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.


“Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and abroad,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said when he introduced the laws in December 2017, though he made a point of saying he was not speaking about any one country.

But shortly afterwards Turnbull cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence” and called out an Australian politician for being a “clear case” of someone who took foreign money and then allegedly promoted China’s political views.

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said its government had made a “serious complaint” with Australia and that the claim of foreign interference “poisons the atmosphere of the China-Australia relationship.” The sensationalist state-run Global Times reportedly carried an editorial claiming “[Australia] is beginning to look like a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.”

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang

In April 2018, Turnbull conceded publicly that “there has been a degree of tension in the relationship” because of the introduction of the foreign interference laws.

And in June 2018 a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry answered questions about the laws by saying: “We hope that all countries could cast off Cold War mindset and strengthen exchanges and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.”

It’s not the first time the idea of the Cold War has been invoked in discussion around Australia’s current national security.

Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), recently told a parliamentary hearing that that espionage and interference activities have reached new and dangerous heights.

“The grim reality is that there are more foreign intelligence officers today than during the Cold War, and they have more ways of attacking us,” Lewis said.

Though the federal government had remained hush on the classified report that spurred its foreign interference laws, a number of media outlets have reported that a year-long inquiry found attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence Australian politics at all levels. The report also described China as the country of most concern to Australia.

Early 2018 the author of the report, John Garnaut, testified to the US House Armed Services Committe about attempts to interference and influence Australian politics and society. Since then, two bills have been introduced in Congress to uncover Chinese political influence campaigns.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may have actually increased nuclear production

As President Donald Trump touted a new era of diplomacy with the North Korean regime, a classified intelligence assessment appeared to tell a different story, according to several US intelligence officials.

The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites, according to over a dozen intelligence officials cited in an NBC News report published June 29, 2018. The officials said they believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be trying to conceal the secret facilities from the US.


“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”

According to five US officials cited by NBC News, the North Korean regime was increasing production of enriched uranium, even as relations with the US improved following the 2018 Winter Olympics. And since the leaders of both countries held a summit in Singapore in mid-June, 2018, the Trump administration has already delivered some concessions to the North.

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea
United Statesu00a0President Donald Trump

Trump halted Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major joint military drill with South Korea that was scheduled for August 2018. The military exercises have been a point of contention for North Korea, which sees them as a direct threat. The US and South Korea treat the drills as defensive measures.

During the US-North Korea summit, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two men pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It was a vast departure from 2017 when both Trump and Kim were openly threatening nuclear war. But the broad and nondescript document fell short of a specific plan or goal, and was criticized by foreign-policy experts.

And though North Korea took several steps to indicate it was in the process of dismantling its weapons program, such as blowing up tunnels leading to a nuclear-test site, critics who monitored the development say it may have all been for show.

“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” a US official familiar with the intelligence report told NBC. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.”

“There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time,” another intelligence official added.

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts to North Korea’s latest ballistic rocket test-fire through a precision control guidance system.
(KCNA photo)

The intelligence report may also confirm the theory held by many arms experts: that North Korea possesses a second, undisclosed nuclear enrichment facility. In 2008, North Korea signaled it would curb its nuclear program by televising the destruction of a water-cooling tower at a plutonium extraction facility, only to announce that it would “readjust and restart” in 2013.

The report also calls into question Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses as a nuclear threat to the US: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted in June, 2018, after returning from his meeting with Kim. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed and directly contradicted Trump’s claim.

“I’m confident what [Trump] intended there was, ‘we did reduce the threat,'” Pompeo said during a Senate hearing on June 27, 2018. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

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

popular

This app lets you see the destructive power of nukes on your hometown

Growing up relatively close to an Air Force Major Command base toward the end of the Cold War, we were constantly reminded of one thing: If the “big one” ever came, we were among the first to be toast. But were we really? Thankfully, now there’s a way to find out for sure.


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The short answer is yes. (Nukemap)

 

This simulation is a map of the effect of a 25-megaton strike on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from a Soviet R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile warhead. The R-36, introduced in 1974, gave the Soviets a first-strike capability with a rapid reload ability and a missile that could carry up to 10 independently targetable warheads.

The green area represents an immediately lethal dose of radiation, the yellow represents the initial fireball burst, and the red is a 20 psi air blast, capable of completely destroying most structures and projecting a 100-percent casualty rate. The dark circles surrounding the outermost red area represent different air pressures inflicted by the blast on the local population. The orange-ish area shows where third-degree burns and other radiation injuries are likely.

Estimated fatalities number more than 319,000 with another 375,000-plus injured.

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It could always be worse. This is a 150-Kiloton North Korean nuclear strike on Los Angeles. (Nukemap)

 

These simulations are brought to you by The Nukemap, a project created by Alex Wellerstein of the New Jersey-based Stevens Institute of Technology. Wellerstein is a professor at SIT, and his expertise is in the history of science and nuclear weapons technology. He also runs the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Professor Wellerstein has devoted his life and career to the study of the effects of nuclear weapons on societies and geopolitics.

The Nukemap is aimed at helping people visualize nuclear weapons on terms they can make sense of — helping them to get a sense of the scale of the bombs. By allowing people to use arbitrarily picked geographical locations, I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results.”

Wellerstein’s previous work was the MissileMap, a way to see that a country’s nuclear arsenal was even capable of hitting your hometown.

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Sorry, Ohio. You’re toast. (MissileMap)

 

Nukemap needs the user to enter the location of the target, the yield of the warhead used, and if the explosion is a surface explosion or airburst. If you don’t know anything about nuclear weapons, that’s okay: there are numerous possible presets available. For example, you can target New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many other American cities. But since the United States and Russia aren’t the only countries with nuclear capabilities, Nukemap also offers the effects of all potential nuclear attackers, including Israel, Iran, North Korea, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Japan, and South Korea.

You can even see historical presets, from the effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima blasts to the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear device ever exploded on Earth.

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Which would devastate four of the five New York City boroughs, if you were curious.
Humor

9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe

Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you. Sounds simple, right?


Apparently not for terrorists. Most of them don’t thoroughly study their weapon systems before employing that power on the battlefield.

There are also the bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for honor?social media purposes.

We’re glad they did because they have some epic weapon fails that we now get to laugh at.

Related: The military is going to put laser attack weapons on fighters

9. The terrorist who just can’t seem to keep his balance.

Can we get this guy a seat belt or something? (Images via Giphy)

8. This isn’t technically a weapons fail, but seeing the bad guys get smashed by a truck — we couldn’t pass that up.

Oopsie. (Images via Giphy)

7. You gotta love a funny ISIS negligent discharge every once in a while.

We guess he’s not used to touching something sensitive. (Images via Giphy)

Also Check Out: 9 weapon fails that will make you shake your head

6. Somebody didn’t properly lube their rifle before the ambush.

This is why terrorists can’t have nice things. (Images via Giphy)

5. There’s never a trained mortarman around when you need one.

Someone call the EOD techs. (Images via Giphy)

4. When you lie on your resume to get the tank driver position…but you get the job anyways.

Your left or my left? (Images via Giphy)

3. Just when you think you found a brilliant new way to fire that rocket you stole.

It looked good on paper. (Images via Giphy)

2. When you’re too focused lining up that perfect shot, but an American sniper ruins it.

Even the camera knew to get down. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: This is who would win a shoot off between a ‘Ma Deuce’ and a Minigun

1. When your rocket just doesn’t have enough juice.

Maybe next time. (Images via Giphy)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Defectors living openly in US happens ‘far more often than people would think’

A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.

According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.

Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.


Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.

When an NBC News reporter knocked on the door of the Smolenkov house Sep. 9, 2019, he was intercepted by unidentified men asking what he was doing.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.

That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.

“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.

“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.

“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.

“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”

Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.

But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.

All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.

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Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.

(Sky News)

Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.

Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.

“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.

“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.

“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”

When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What IBM’s Watson is doing in the Army’s motor pool

The Army recently drove tactical trucks with sensors, electronics, and other applications powered by commercially-developed artificial intelligence technology — such as IBM’s Watson — as a way to take new steps in more quickly predicting and identifying mechanical failures of great relevance to combat operations.


Described by participants as a “bake-off,” an Army-industry assessment incorporated attempts to use AI and real-time data analytics for newer, fast-evolving applications of conditioned-based maintenance technology.

Also read: These 6 military vehicles would make awesome Zords

Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems, such as Watson, to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other onboard vehicle systems.

“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

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This cargo truck, the M1083A1P2, represents today’s current fleet of medium tactical vehicles. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information, and other vehicle technologies and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.

When created, IBM stated that “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.

Related: This is why the Army is replacing the Hummer

Faster diagnostics, of course, enable vehicle operators to anticipate when various failures, such as engine or transmission challenges, may happen in advance of a potentially disruptive battlefield event. Alongside an unmistakable operational benefit, faster conditioned-based maintenance activity also greatly streamlines the logistics train, optimizes repairs, and reduces costs for the Army.

Army wheeled tactical vehicles, which include things like the family of medium tactical vehicles and emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, are moving towards using more automation and AI to gather, organize, and analyze sensor data and key technical indicators from onboard systems.

“We identified Army data challenges, delivered new sensors – and used different approaches – invariably bringing on different ways that data can be delivered to the Army,” Aven added.

Faster computer processing brings substantial advantages to Army vehicles which increasingly rely upon networked electronics, sensors, and C4ISR systems.

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

Multiple vendors took part in the industry “bake-off” event, which included participation from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL); the ARL is among a number of Army and DoD entities now accelerating development and integration of AI into a wide range of military technologies.

“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Mangement for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”

Technical gains in the area of AI and autonomy are arriving at lightning speed, offering faster, more efficient technical functions across a wide range of platforms. Years ago, the Army began experimenting with “leader-follower” algorithms designed to program an unmanned tactical vehicle to follow a manned vehicle, mirroring its movements.

More: Pentagon will aggressively implement new Electronic Warfare strategy

Autonomous or semi-autonomous navigation, quite naturally, brings a range of combat advantages. A truck able to drive itself can, among other things, free up vehicle operators for other high-priority combat tasks.

AI-enabled CBM can function through a variety of methods; sensor information can be gathered, organized, and then subsequently downloaded or wirelessly transmitted using cloud technology.

IBM’s Watson also drew upon this technology when contributing to an Army Stryker “proof-of-principle” exercise last year wherein the service used cloud computing, AI and real-time analytics to perform Conditioned Based Maintenance functions.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wanted to be a CIA agent

Today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an actor and all-around American treasure. But things were almost very different.

On June 12, 2018, Johnson revealed his long-held dream to be a CIA agent on Instagram. In the post, The Rock said he would have pursued his dream if his academic advisor didn’t give him a reality check.

“In college, my goal was to eventually work for the CIA,” he wrote. “Until my criminal justice professor and advisor (Dr. Paul Cromwell) convinced me that the best operative I could become for the agency is one that also had a law degree.”


But Johnson realized that wasn’t exactly the right path for him.

“I thought that’s a great idea until I realized no respectable law school would ever let me in with my pile of steaming s— grades,” he wrote.

At the time, Johnson was a self-described “Smirky Beefy McBeef,” 22-year-old football player for the University of Miami in Miami, Florida. After college, The Rock went on to play football for the Calgary Stampeders, a football team based out of Alberta, Canada. However, he was cut from the team two months into the season, The Globe and Mail reported.

But, you know, things turned out just fine for The Rock.

The athlete went on to become a professional wrestler before pivoting to a career in movies. And now? He’s known for being a doting father, dominating the action movie scene, and giving back to his fans. Not too shabby.

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

Articles

Trump nominates VA undersecretary to take over top job

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.


Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is “fantastic” and will do a “truly great job,” The Associated Press reported.

Also read: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.

Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.

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Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs

A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.

Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.

A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Navy SEAL Google hired as its security chief

As corporate America recruits veterans who have led men and women under fire, Google has skimmed the cream of the crop to manage its global security.


Veteran Chris Rackow heads the team that protects the company’s 80,000 employees, its offices and property, in more than 150 cities across almost 60 countries. Google tapped Rackow’s experience just over a year ago, recognizing the value the former warrior would bring to the search powerhouse. He had spent years in two of the most elite military and paramilitary organizations in the world: the U.S. Navy SEALs and the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

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A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson)

Rackow’s leadership illustrates how corporate America has caught on to the resource created by veterans of U.S. foreign interventions. An ability to manage complex, risky, and dynamic problems, especially in the rapidly changing technology industry, carries a premium.

Google brought Rackow on board in September 2016 as vice president of global security. He is one of many veterans at Google, which does not disclose the number it hires, but says they’re employed in every job category, including software engineering, sales, finance, and security.

Related: Fortune 500 CEOs who served in the military

“One of the highest values of veterans is leadership just because it is such a core element within the military, from junior-enlisted all the way up to senior officers,” Rackow said. “Everybody’s expected to exert some type of leadership, and that is baked into recruits from day one all the way through.”

“It’s a quality that I have seen to be slackening across the business world,” Rackow said. “That’s, I think, where veterans really can play a huge part – coming in and providing positive, respectful, and dignified leadership for organizations, especially multinationals.”

Rackow’s military career started in 1988 when he joined the SEALs, a Navy special forces unit known for its punishing selection program and high-stakes covert missions. He was a SEAL for nearly 23 years. He also spent 13 years in the FBI, for five years as a member of the Hostage Rescue Team, a counter-terrorism unit operating at home and abroad, and, like the SEALs, famed for its harsh induction and commando-style operations.

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Members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team spring into action. (Photo courtesy of FBI)

Now he works in an industry where the weapons of battle are code and silicon chips.

“I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” Rackow said. “In fact, I’m probably at the very low end of the totem pole based on the amazing skills we have here at Google.”

And for veterans, the corporate world has some significant differences from the armed services.

“The government and the military really are quite homogeneous. It really is not as truly diverse as a company is, and especially a global company,” he said.

“You really are presented with 360 degrees of various belief systems and ideas and concepts. That’s probably just the unique challenge for veterans, is to understand … the larger landscape that they need to be able to understand and learn how to operate within.”

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Google employees participate in Pride 2016 in London. As a company, Google promotes, exhibits, and supports diversity. (Photo by Katy Blackwood, cropped for viewing)

Still, his service gave him deep expertise in areas where the skills needed for military operations overlap with those required in a global technology firm — teamwork, for example.

“A team is really a group that understands that we are sacrificing a small part of our individuality, but we’re coming together for a common good, a common goal,” Rackow said. “Whether you call it a common goal or you call it a mission, it’s all the same thing.”

“True leadership really means there’s no one model, and oftentimes within a team, let’s say of 10 people, you might have to exercise 10 different leadership styles … without it looking as if you’re catering to individual needs,” he said.

Along with his background in warfare, Rackow brought into the tech industry a solid civilian education – thanks to realizing during his time with the FBI that he was getting intellectually out-gunned.

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Graduations aren’t just for basic. Getting a degree helps propel vets into higher positions post-service. (DoD Photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

“I was coming to the conclusion that I was going after people that were way smarter than I was, and I needed to go back to school,” he said.

He spent two years getting two degrees simultaneously: an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a master’s in global management from Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, the latter teaching him “how to be successful across different cultures and belief systems.”

See Also: 20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

Rackow, married with a teenage daughter, has bounced around the world for decades, mostly in the Middle East and the western Pacific. Now, working at Google and living in Half Moon Bay, he’s not so far from where he spent his formative years. Born in Los Angeles, he lived in Lake Tahoe from kindergarten through fourth grade.

When he was in fifth grade his family moved to San Diego. “I grew up pretty much a California water kid. I was always out in the water, surfing, sailing, diving. Surfing stuck with me – I go out when it’s appropriate for my age,” he said. “I’m not charging anything big anymore. But I love to go out and stand-up paddleboard, or go out and surf.”

He considers his hiring by Google “a stroke of luck” that started with a call from one of the company’s recruiters.

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Kerry-Ann Moore, left, an advisor from the Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department, shakes hands with Army Capt. Jessie Felix during a military job fair in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, May 2, 2015. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.)

“It was of great interest to see if I could actually come and work and provide value here, and especially after doing the research on what Google believes and what they think they can do for the planet in general, I looked at it as another service-based environment,” he said.

Google supports veterans through grants to an education group and scholarships. It also hosts a veterans’ network among employees and resume-writing workshops pairing Google employees with veterans entering the civilian workforce, Rackow noted.

Though a commando for most of his career, he had prefaced his service with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I’m an engineer at heart,” he said. “But as my counselor in college told me, I probably should never practice engineering.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways you can help veterans in your community

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit originally started by World War I vets and civic leaders in the 1920s, is looking to help veterans and volunteers meet up so that America’s former service members can get the help they’ve earned and volunteers can find opportunities to be helpful.


DAV_Volunteering_AHv1

vimeo.com

1. Get hands-on, especially for disabled vets

Many veterans have projects around the house that might be challenging for them to complete, especially if they were disabled during their service. So, DAV has built a new online platform to allow veterans, their caregivers, and friends of veterans to sign up and list projects where the veterans or caregivers could use some help.

Volunteers can peruse the list and find opportunities in their local areas. The listings include everything from clearing snow off of driveways to garage painting to meal prep and camaraderie. Chances are, someone needs something that you can help with. The tool is new many vets are still discovering it, so feel free to check back if you don’t see anything local immediately.

2. Help veterans voice their needs through social media and online platforms

As a matter of fact, if you know a veteran who could use some help, you can create a listing for them on the service, and the tool makes it easy to share the listing through Facebook, Twitter, or email.

Listings can cover any need that doesn’t require a specific license or certification for safety, and the pre-made general categories cover a lot of territory as well. These can include asking for help teaching less tech-savvy veterans learn to work their phones, helping mobility-challenged vets grocery shop or do meal prep, or even conducting veteran remembrance projects.

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Student Conservation Association members assist with recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

(National Park Service)

3. Recruit your kids and other young people (and potentially get them scholarships)

Youth may be wasted on the young, but sometimes you can get those whipper-snappers to volunteer their time and youth to help others. As an added benefit, those helping out may be eligible for the potential rewards for altruism, like merit badges or college scholarships.

And volunteering on platforms like the DAV’s new platform makes it easy to track volunteer hours. DAV even offers scholarships for students who have volunteered to help veterans, whether the student found those opportunities on volunteerforveterans.org or elsewhere.

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​Darlene Neubert, Step Saver carts driver of Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepares to go out to WHASC’s parking areas to pick up patients. Around the military and veteran community, volunteers can make a big difference in terms of what medical care patients can receive.

(U.S. Air Force Daniel J. Calderón)

4. Donate your own time (and maybe your wheels)

Of course, the youth have some limitations, like the fact that many of them can’t drive. So, it may be necessary to donate your own time and potentially your car’s time, especially if you find a veteran who needs to get some help getting to or from their medical appointments.

DAV and Ford got a fleet of vans set up to help veterans who live relatively close to VA medical centers, but these vans need volunteer drivers. And vets do live outside of the areas these vans can service, so there’s a good chance that vets in your area need help getting to appointments or to places like the grocery store.

5. Share this video 

The video at top, clearly, is all about helping people find out about opportunities to help veterans in their local areas, especially through DAV programs.

But as a savvy WATM reader, you’re likely the kind of person who already thinks about veterans a lot (and there’s a decent chance you’re a veteran yourself). So, help get the word out by sharing this video, and we can recruit more volunteers to help veterans in need.

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine leaders remind Russia of the 300 Marines on their doorstep

The stated goals of the Marine Corps‘ newest rotational force in Norway are to enhance partnerships with European allies and improve the service’s ability to fight in cold weather.


But on a brief visit to the 300-member unit ahead of Christmas, the commandant and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps both described the strategic role the small unit fills — and the fact that a peacetime mission can be preface to combat if circumstances change.

The Norwegian Home Guard base near Trondheim that houses the Marine rotational force was the first stop on Gen. Robert Neller’s annual Christmas tour.

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Gen. Robert Neller. (Photo from USMC)

The stop was a new one for the tour. The first Norway rotation, from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, deployed in January and was replaced by a new unit from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, in late August.

Neller emphasized to the Marines that they should remain ready to fight at all times, predicting a “big-ass fight” on the horizon.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said. ” …You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

Neller later told the Marines that he expects the Pacific and Russia to be the service’s operational points of focus as the nation looks beyond the fights in the Middle East that have stretched into the better part of two decades.

The United States’ position that Russia presents a major threat was re-emphasized in the new National Security Strategy released Dec. 25th. The document discusses Russia’s practice of “using information tools” to interfere with other nations’ democracies and militant aggression that crosses borders.

“With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrates its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region,” the strategy states.

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green put the Marines’ role starkly.

Read More: The reason Russia says it wants to nuke Norway over a deployment of 330 Marines

“Just remember why you’re here,” he said. “They’re watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We’ve got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar.”

The rotational force itself is much more circumspect about its role in the region. On a visit to the unit in May, Military.com found troops assigned to the unit had even been instructed not to use the word “Russia” in interviews with the media.

In large part, this is due to regional sensitivities.

The rotational unit is in Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian government, which maintains an economic relationship with Russia and shares a 120-mile border on its northeastern edge with the country.

While Norwegian feedback on the Marines’ presence has been generally positive — then-Norwegian Defense Minister Ina Eriksen Søreide announced in June that the rotation had been extended for a year, until 2018 — others have cited misgivings.

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(Photo by Daniel Burton, MSCEURAF operations specialist)

In October, Norway opposition leaders asked Prime Minister Erna Solberg to explain exactly what the American troops are doing in the country.

Russian officials, for their part, have been outspoken in opposing the presence of Marines in Norway and warning of diplomatic repercussions.

Though Green did not name Russia, he referred to its displeasure at the Marines’ presence nearby.

“They don’t like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don’t like the fact that we oppose them,” Green said. “Three hundred of us, surrounded by them, we’ve got them right where we wanted, right? We’ve done this before.”

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