Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hysterical realities of being a ‘Zoom Soldier’

It’s finally here — the point in which playing Call of Duty might actually become relevant to your military career. In the extra weird era of “Zoom soldiers,” virtual training (to no one’s surprise) isn’t as great as it likely sounded when some general in the Pentagon thought it up (sorry, sir). Get soldiers together over their computer screens and execute training as usual. What could go wrong? Well, a lot actually.


Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Virtual missions

Congratulations, you have been selected to lead today’s attack on a Taliban stronghold. You are in charge of a 40-man infantry platoon and have at your disposal the most lethal and casualty-producing weapons available to the U.S. Army. Ready? Oh, one more thing: The Taliban stronghold is imaginary and your platoon is ten of your peers linked up over computers. Welcome to combat training in the Zoom era.

Everyone’s a super soldier

You are handed a map with your location and the location of the enemy and after planning, start your movement. Cue the unrealistic battlefield conditions and superhuman feats by you and the enemy. Do you have a 5-click movement to the objective? Too easy, you can “walk” that in two minutes over Zoom for “time constraints.” Need to call for air support? They arrive within 15 seconds tops and damn, your grid is on point.

Cadre are unsurprisingly biased

Recocking sucked before but reaches a whole new level of stupid in a virtual training lane. Unfortunately for you, the guy running the Zoom room is being a really d-bag today and all 20 rounds you fired on your pre-planned targets were misses. Instead of safety violations or hitting the wrong building, getting a pass depends on who’s feeling bored AF in their pajamas this morning.

There’s a mute button for that

The best thing ever just happened to safety briefs, newly promoted monologues from Sergeant Smith, and all the other pointless crap you had to listen attentively to before…a mute button. Is there anything more satisfying than muting your superior while playing COD on silent under the desk? I think not.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

No one’s looking this put-together every morning anymore.

What grooming standards

We’re not saying it’s true, but grooming accountability may or may not be as easy as a few outfit changes after you finally get around to shaving. No fresh haircut? Sorry, my camera function isn’t working today for the call.

Dang, my internet broke 

Have you ever had to face the wrath of showing up late, oversleeping or just plain forgetting? Virtually, there’s an excuse for that. Due to “unforeseen” circumstances, that 7 am phone call I missed was because of the Wi-Fi going down. Definitely not because I overslept, no way.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

When did PT become a group fitness class?

“PT is the most important part of every soldier’s day” – Every CSM in history. Oh, you thought COVID19 would let you slack off a little on working out? Well you thought wrong. Your Platoon Sergeant has made it very clear you will still execute PT every day and you have to show proof of doing the exercises. Better be ready to both hold your phone for video and do push-ups at the same time. You haven’t experienced true horror until you hear the words “the bend and reach” over a Zoom call and realize it’s not a joke.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do with your TSP after the military

Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?

Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.


The usually-better options include:

  1. Leave the money in your TSP account.
  2. Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
  3. Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.

The rarely-better options include:

  1. Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
  2. Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.

Leave the balance in your TSP account

Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.

“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”

Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.

Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.

Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement

Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!

Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan

Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)

Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.

Forrest Baumhover, a certified financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, suggests caution when moving your TSP to a 401(k).

“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”

Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum

Pros: Cash in hand.

Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.

Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity

Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.

Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.

This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.

Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.

“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How New York is on the frontlines of cyber warfare

Five months before the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to one of his advisers with an ominous message.


“Cyberwar,” read the subject line.

“Please take a look at this article,” Rumsfeld wrote, “and tell me what you think I ought to do about it. Thanks.”

Attached was a 38-page paper, published seven months prior, analyzing the consequences of society’s increasing dependence on the internet.

It was April 30, 2001. Optimistic investors and frenzied tech entrepreneurs were still on a high from the dot-com boom. The World Wide Web was spreading fast.

Once America’s enemies got around to fully embracing the internet, the report predicted, it would be weaponized and turned against the homeland.

The internet would be to modern warfare what the airplane was to strategic bombers during World War I.

The paper’s three authors — two PhD graduates and the founder of a cyber defense research center — imagined the damage a hostile foreign power could inflict on the US. They warned of enemies infecting computers with malicious code, and launching mass denial of service attacks that could bring down networks critical to the functioning of the American economy.

Also read: This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

“[We] are concerned that US leadership, and other decision-makers about Internet use, do not fully appreciate the potential consequences of the current situation,” the report said. “We have built a network which has no concept whatsoever of national boundaries; in a war, every Internet site is directly on the front line. If we do not change course soon, we will pay a very high price for our lack of foresight.”

The US government had a problem on its hands and it seemed a long ways from figuring out how to handle it.

More than 17 years later, that problem seems to have only gotten worse.

Follow the money

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry.

Willie Sutton, the notorious Brooklynite who spent his life in and out of prison, once told a reporter he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Computer hackers aren’t so different.

In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry, according to IBM. Over 200 million financial records were breached that year, a 937% increase from 2015. And that’s not including the incidents that were never made public.

As hackers become more sophisticated and cyber attacks more routine, New York is on notice. Home to the most valuable stock exchange on Earth, New York City is the financial capital of the world. When the market moves here, it moves everywhere.

So it was no surprise when in September 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) was gearing up to implement sweeping, first-of-their-kind cybersecurity regulations to protect the state’s financial services industry — an unprecedented move no other state or federal agency had taken anywhere in the US.

Cybersecurity in New York’s financial industry was previously governed by voluntary frameworks and suggested best practices. But the NYDFS introduced, for the first time, regulations that would be mandatory, including charging firms fines if they didn’t comply.

Related: This is how enemies hack America — according to a cyber warrior

Maria Vullo, the state’s top financial regulator, told Business Insider that her No. 1 job is to protect New Yorkers.

“They’re buying insurance. They’re banking. They’re engaging in financial transactions. And in each of those activities, they’re providing their social security information, banking information, etc.,” she said. “The companies that are obtaining that personal information from New Yorkers must protect it as much as possible because a breach of that information is of great consequence to the average New Yorker.”

On March 1, the regulations turn a year old, although some of the rules are not yet in effect and will phase in over time.

The NYDFS oversees close to 10,000 state-chartered banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage loan servicers, and other financial institutions, in addition to 300,000 insurance licensees.

The combined assets of those organizations exceed $6 trillion, according to the NYDFS — and they’re all in constant danger of being hacked.

Banks are vulnerable

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, second from left, meets with corporate and non-profit veterans organization’s leadership at a round table hosted by J.P. Morgan Chase in New York City, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 2013. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

In the summer of 2014, an American, two Israelis, and two co-conspirators breached a network server of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank.

They got hold of roughly 83 million customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

The hackers didn’t steal any money from personal bank accounts, but that wasn’t the point.

They wanted access to a massive trove of emails that they could use for a larger, separate money scam. In just three years, that operation netted the hackers more than $100 million.

The JPMorgan hack wasn’t the end game. It was a piece of the puzzle.

The attack began with the simple theft of a JPMorgan employee’s login credentials, which were located on a server that required just one password.

Most servers with sensitive information like a person’s banking data require what’s called multi-factor, or two-factor authentication.

But JPMorgan’s security team had lapsed and failed to upgrade the server to include the dual password scheme, The New York Times reported at the time.

The attack, the breach, and the reputational damage that followed could have been avoided with tighter security. Instead, the hack went down as one of the largest thefts of customer data in US history.

“Banks are especially vulnerable,” Matthew Waxman, a professor and the co-chair at Columbia University’s Cybersecurity Center, told Business Insider. “Disruption to the information systems on which banks rely could have shockwaves throughout the financial system, undermining public confidence in banking or knocking off line the ability to engage in commercial transactions.”

That’s the kind of catastrophic damage that worried the authors cited in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s 2001 memo.

They weren’t only concerned about stolen email addresses and social security numbers. They were worried about the fallout from such activity.

Banking works because consumers trust the system. But what if people lose trust?

Waiting until a catastrophe

News of impending cybersecurity regulations in New York in the fall of 2016 was both welcomed and shunned.

Some companies saw it as a chance to improve their own security standards while others complained of government overreach. Some were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the way they operated. Others were overwhelmed by the heavy lifting they would have to do to comply.

How a company views the regulations depends in large part on its size. Bigger institutions with more cybersecurity professionals and more resources at their disposal tend to already have in place much of what the regulations require. Many smaller companies, which tend to be under-staffed and under-resourced, have a lot more work to do to catch up.

The only additional thing Berkshire Bank has to do is sign off on its annual compliance form, which it sends to NYDFS to prove that it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.

“We actually have to do nothing [new] from a compliance standpoint,” the company’s chief risk officer Gregory Lindenmuth told Business Insider.

While several cybersecurity consultants told Business Insider they acknowledge the NYDFS rules as a positive step in the right direction, they also point to a new law in Europe as a leading example of the role government has to play in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and ensuring that companies secure consumers’ personal information.

More: Hackers can take a hidden test to become mid-grade officers in the US Army’s Cyber Command

In 2016, the European Parliament passed a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — landmark legislation that imposes millions of euros in fines on companies that do not adequately protect their customers’ data.

Whereas the NYDFS regulations cover just one industry in one US state, the GDPR affects companies in all industries across all 28 member states of the European Union. Companies that do not report a data breach or fail to comply with the law more generally could be fined up to €20 million or 4% of its global revenue.

Matthew Waxman, the Columbia professor, says it’s not surprising that the implementation of such a law remains far-fetched in the US.

“It’s sometimes very difficult to get the government to take action against certain threats until a catastrophe takes place,” Waxman said. “But that could change very suddenly if the banking system were knocked offline or another very major disruption to everyday life affected the lives and security of citizens on a massive scale.”

But are the deterrents strong enough?

Data protection advocates calling for stricter cybersecurity regulations in the US are generally happy about the NYDFS rules.

For the first time, a state government is taking seriously the protection of consumer data, they say. It’s giving companies in the financial sector an ultimatum: protect New Yorkers or face punishment.

But the nature of that punishment is not entirely clear.

“My big criticism of the regulations is there’s no clear consequence for non-compliance,” Tom Boyden, a cybersecurity expert who helps companies defend against cyber attacks, told Business Insider. “If companies don’t feel like there’s going to be any consequence for any action on their part, companies aren’t going to take [the regulations] seriously.”

In fact, for many companies, Boyden thinks “that’s the default position.”

More reading: Cyber-attack wreaks havoc on US Internet traffic

Vullo, the head of the NYDFS, said she has the ability to fine companies that are not complying and is willing to exercise that authority, although how much that cost may be would depend case-by-case.

“I don’t want this to be a punitive atmosphere, but obviously if institutions are not taking this seriously, then there will be consequences,” she said. “But it’s not the objective.”

If anything, the objective is to make it clear that cyber threats are real and that New Yorkers and the companies that maintain their personal information are facing higher risks of attack.

Cybersecurity affects everyone, and Vullo said she hopes the regulations will help companies prioritize it.

“Everyone is part of our cybersecurity team,” Theresa Pratt, the chief information security officer at a private trust company in New York, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t matter what myself or my colleagues do from a technical perspective. If I have one user who clicks a bad link or answers a phisher’s question over the phone, it’s all for naught.”

New York leading the way

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
New York Stock Exchange. (Photo by Beraldo Leal)

The new rules have far-reaching implications beyond New York. A business in the state that has a parent company based in Germany, for example, still has to comply with the regulations.

This leaves some organizations in the precarious position of having to either restructure company-wide cybersecurity practices or build an entirely new and unique security apparatus that is specific to its New York offices.

“I do think that because of the scope of some of these regulations, they’re kind of blurring the lines between countries and continents. I think we’re going to see more and more of this,” GreyCastle Security CEO Reg Harnish told Business Insider. The New York-based consulting firm is helping companies comply with the new regulations.

Further reading: Why the Pentagon will move its data to the cloud

In the absence of leadership from the federal government on certain issues related to cybersecurity and data protection, states like New York are beginning to fill the void. Several cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that the NYDFS regulations could become a model for other industries or even policies at the national level.

In 2017, at least 42 states introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to various cybersecurity issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And since the NYDFS rules took effect, financial regulators in Colorado and Vermont have followed New York’s lead with cybersecurity regulations of their own.

Indeed, cyber experts have come a long way in better understanding the threats we face since Rumsfeld’s dire cyberwar memo in 2001. But 17 years on, the former secretary of defense’s concerns still seem as relevant as ever.

Perhaps the memo was a prescient warning — a warning that fell on deaf ears, but is not too late to address.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Need some inspiration? This military nonprofit wants to send it to you – in a box filled with goodies

The Inspire Up Foundation launched their Spark and Inspire boxes for 2021. There are 100 free boxes that are up for grabs, each filled with over $100 worth of items said to empower, uplift and encourage the recipient.

Eligibility for the box requires those who register to be a military member, veteran, first responder or be a spouse of one. Their title sponsor for the quarterly boxes is the Military Lending department of Caliber Home Loans, it’s thanks to them that the boxes increased from 50 to 100 for 2021. Previous boxes included items like $100 Lowe’s gift cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blessing bags to give to the homeless and books written by prominent military community members.

In each box the organization works hard to feature a veteran-based business and this next one is no exception. They’ve partnered with Black Rifle Coffee company to provide each recipient with a bag of their original and much loved grind for the winter Activate box.

Spark and inspire summer boxes
Spark and Inspire 2020 summer box

The reason behind the creation of the initiative was simple according to Inspire Up’s Chief Financial Officer and WATM writer, Jessica Manfre. “What initially prompted it was watching military spouses around us struggling during the pandemic,” she explained. After partnering with an Air Force spouse who teaches resiliency, the idea was born. “We know we can’t solve the world’s problems with a box of stuff, but it is our hope that it sparks and inspires the recipient to keep going and find joy even in the midst of hardship.”

Spark and Inspire is an initiative run by five military spouses, all affiliated with different branches of service. It was their hope that by continually creating conversation around empowerment, service to others and living a purpose-filled life – they could create a ripple of change.

“We recognize that the pandemic and all of the negative impacts it comes with is going to be around for a while. Our non-profit is committed to continually seeking out ways we can connect our communities with each other and help create spaces to come together,” Manfre said. Inspire Up has hosted a number of virtual opportunities for military spouses with partners like Military Families Magazine. Through these events they talk about the issues weighing on the military community and work on solutions together to target them.

While this may all be virtually – for now – the organization hopes to expand to in-person mini events later in 2021. The boxes of “joy” as Manfre called it, is just the beginning for what the team hopes to accomplish.

So how do you get your hands on one of these for yourself or someone you know? It’s simple, click here to visit their website and simply follow their social media channels @inspireupfdtn to look for your chances to win.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s UN vetoes have enabled mass murder in Syria

Since the start of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, Russia has vetoed 12 UN Security Council resolutions concerning the conflict. Among other things, these resolutions covered human rights violations, indiscriminate aerial bombing, the use of force against civilians, toxic chemical weapons, and calls for a meaningful ceasefire.

Russia’s behavior at the Security Council is not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Its vetoes have provided political cover for the Assad regime, protected Moscow’s strategic interests and arms deals with the Syrian state, and obstructed UN peacekeeping. They’ve helped shift the locus of peace talks from a UN-backed process in Geneva to a Russian-led one in Astana. And they’ve had real and dire consequences for the people of Syria.


The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 500,000 lives, turned millions of people into refugees, and all but destroyed the country. While all sides have contributed to this catastrophe, the Assad regime in particular has made repression, brutality, and destruction its signature tactics — and Russia has chosen to protect it.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Some seem resigned to dismiss this behavior as everyday international politicking. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary of the UK’s opposition Labour Party, recently offered an excuse: “People will always block resolutions. If you look at the number of resolutions America has blocked, I mean that’s the way of politics.”

This is nothing more than idle whataboutism. Yes, it’s right to note what the US has done in defiance of the UN over the years, not least over Iraq and with its 44 Israel-related vetoes in the Security Council. But Russia has taken vetoes to another level on Syria, covering for and enabling atrocities while working to make sure the UN cannot do what it needs to do to stop the carnage.

Regime maintenance

Moscow first intervened militarily to prop up Assad’s deadly authoritarian rule in September 2015; had it not entered the fray, Assad’s reign would have almost certainly given way to a successor. But Russian backing for Assad began well before 2015.

For a start, his government has long been a major Russian arms client. While public data is incomplete because many transactions are highly opaque, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has tracked the build up of Syrian weapons purchases in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising. Russian military resources to Syria increased from 9m in 2000 to 272m in 2011.

Consider the Russian (and Chinese) veto of February 4 2012, which blocked a draft resolution calling on Assad to relinquish power. At the time, there was uncertainty about whether Russia would abstain or vote no. Facing defeat amid mass protests and now armed resistance, the Assad regime accelerated its brutality through bombing. On the eve of the scheduled Security Council meeting, Assad’s forces bombarded the city of Homs, murdering scores of civilians.

Was this massacre designed to signal to Russia that Assad was prepared to go all out, burn the country, and win at any cost, meaning Moscow might as well back him? Or was Assad informed in advance that Russia would cast the veto, so he could slaughter with impunity? Does a veto clear the way for more brutality, or do acts of brutality force Russia to veto UN reprisals?

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus.

(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)

The most likely answer is both. The pattern is now firmly established: Assad kills civilians and political opponents, the Security Council considers a resolution, Russia vetoes it and puts outs propaganda to provide cover for Assad’s abuses, and the cycle of mass killings goes on. As Russian vetoes have become routine, they have emboldened Assad. As an Oxfam report said, even UN resolutions which were not blocked “have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, other UN member states, and even by members of the UNSC itself”.

The vetoes flaunt Moscow’s power to the world and reassure Russians at home. They are also helping Russia maintain a permanent military and political presence in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. In exchange for intervention, the Kremlin has gained access to Syria’s energy infrastructure and secured the future of its major Syrian bases on the Mediterranean.

The wrong path

But Russia still has a choice: it can be a force for peace, liberty, and inclusion, or it can continue to shelter and defend tyrants. Given the Kremlin’s general hostility towards equality, liberalism, and democracy, it has chosen another path: to thwart the Security Council, violate its own ceasefire agreements, and overlook the consequences for civilians. This implicates it in the deaths of thousands of Syrians – more than the so-called Islamic State and the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra combined.

To be sure, not all Security Council resolutions are worthy of support, and Russia cannot be held responsible for all of Assad’s crimes and human rights abuses. Western nations are certainly not unbiased; their decisions and interventions have had long-lasting pernicious effects on civilian populations in the Middle East, and they too have failed civilians in Syria and elsewhere.

The US intervened in Iraq to oust a dictator, Russia intervened in Syria to preserve one in power. Both moves have turned out to be disasters. But to document that Russia has killed civilians via its military and political interventions is not Russophobic. The death of each Syrian matters, regardless of who fired the shot, dropped the bomb, or maintained the siege.

Providing political cover for one tyrant will embolden others everywhere, as they learn how far they can push the boundaries of oppression. And all along, steps could have been taken to prevent or at least limit the carnage. Russia’s failure to do so in Syria and elsewhere will be to its eternal shame.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the first museum to tell the entire history of the US Army

The U.S. Army announced on Aug. 28, 2019, that the National Museum of the United States Army will open to the public on June 4, 2020.

The National Museum of the United States Army will be the first and only museum to tell the 244-year history of the U.S. Army in its entirety. Now under construction on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, admission to the museum will be open to the public with free admission.

The museum will tell the Army’s story through soldier stories. The narrative begins with the earliest militias and continues to present day.


“The Army has served American citizens for 244 years, protecting the freedoms that are precious to all of us. Millions of people have served in the Army, and this museum gives us the chance to tell their stories to the public, and show how they have served our nation and our people,” said acting Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

(US Army photo)

In addition to the historic galleries, the museum’s Army and Society Gallery will include stories of Army innovations and the symbiotic relationship between the Army, its civilian government and the people. The Experiential Learning Center will provide a unique and interactive learning space for visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on geography, science, technology, engineering, and math (G-STEM) learning and team-building activities.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

(US Army photo)

“This state-of-the art museum will engage visitors in the Army’s story — highlighting how the Army was at the birth of our nation over 240 years ago, and how it continues to influence our everyday lives,” said Ms. Tammy E. Call, the museum’s director. “The National Museum of the United States Army will be stunning, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors from around the world to see it.”

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

(US Army photo)

The museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Army Historical Foundation is constructing the building through private funds. The U.S. Army is providing the infrastructure, roads, utilities, and exhibit work that transform the building into a museum.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

(US Army photo)

The Army will own and operate the museum 364 days a year (closed December 25). Museum officials expect 750,000 visitors in the first year of operation. A timed-entry ticket will be required. Free timed-entry tickets will assist in managing anticipated crowds and will provide the optimum visitor experience. More information on ticketing will be available in early 2020.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

(US Army photo)

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Raytheon unveils new drone-killing missile to pack onto fighter jets

Defense industry giant Raytheon unveiled its newest weapon, the Peregrine air-to-air missile, Sept. 16, 2019.

The weapon, designed for use on fourth-and fifth-generation fighter aircraft — anything from an F-16 to an F-35 — is about 150 pounds and 6 feet long, making “the most efficient use of the real estate on a fighter aircraft,” according to Mark Noyes, business development executive at Raytheon.

“Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance,” Thomas Bussing, the vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said in a statement.


The new missile will combat a number of airborne threats, including other missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and other aircraft, while saving space. The AMRAAM missile, for example, is 335 pounds and 12 feet long.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Mockup of the Peregrine air-to-air missile.

(Raytheon)

“With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development,” Bussing said.

The missile’s guidance and sensor systems allow it to “detect and track moving or stationary targets at any time of day and in challenging weather conditions,” according to the release.

The Peregrine combines “the autonomy of AMRAAM [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile]” with the maneuverability of the 9X Sidewinder missile, Noyes told Insider. The three weapons together, he said, provide warfighters with “just an incredibly potent and catastrophic capability against the enemy.”

The Peregrine incorporates already available materials, military off-the-shelf components, and additive manufacturing processes, making it a low-cost option for militaries facing increased air threats, particularly missiles and UAVs.

Noyes praised the Peregrine’s ability to “autonomously track and destroy a target,” saying, “The ability of this new seeker is just incredible for all weather, day and night.”

The Peregrine’s small size, combined with its high-performance propulsion system, allows airfighters to fire more rounds, faster, as well — enabling it to “overwhelm the enemy with affordable mass.”

As Defense News points out, the Peregrine announcement dovetails with a Raytheon executive’s comments about the proliferation of counter-drone technology, indicating that the company’s focus on defeating drones won’t stop any time soon.

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

Articles

It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

In the wake of the revelation that a large group of active-duty Marines is under investigation for sharing nude photos of female troops without their consent, a senior congressman is calling on the Marine Corps to take swift and decisive action.


Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement Sunday calling the alleged behavior by Marines and Marine Corps veterans “degrading, dangerous, and completely unacceptable.”

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
A 2014 study revealed the U.S. Marine Corps has the highest rate of sexual assault against women in the military (8% of female Marines were sexually assaulted in the year the study was conducted). (U.S. Marine Corps Photo: Cpl. Adam Korolev)

“I expect that the Marine Corps Commandant, General Neller, will use his resources to fully investigate these acts and bring to justice any individuals who have broken the law and violated the rights of other servicemembers,” the Washington Democrat said.

“He must also ensure that the victims are taken care of. The military men and women who proudly volunteer to serve their country should not have to deal with this kind of reprehensible conduct,” Smith added.

The investigation was made public Saturday evening by reporter Thomas James Brennan, who reported for Reveal News that members of the private Facebook group Marines United had shared dozens of nude photos of female service members, identifying them by name, rank and duty station. Group members also linked out to a Google Drive folder containing more compromising photos and information, Brennan reported.

A Marine Corps official confirmed an investigation was ongoing, but could not confirm that hundreds of Marines were caught up in it, as Brennan reported. The official referred queries about specifics to Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which did not immediately respond Sunday.

“The Marine Corps is deeply concerned about allegations regarding the derogatory online comments and sharing of salacious photographs in a closed website,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Ryan Alvis said in a statement provided to Military.com. “This behavior destroys morale, erodes trust, and degrades the individual.”

Of allegations are substantiated, active-duty Marines involved in the photo-sharing ring could be charged with violating UCMJ Article 134, general misconduct, for enlisted troops, and Article 133, conduct unbecoming, for officers, Alvis said. If Marines shared a photo taken without the subject’s consent and under circumstances for which there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, they may be charged with Article 120, broadcasting or distribution of indecent visual recording, she said.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
The Marine Corps takes measures to educate and train Marines on sexual assault prevention and response and its effect on our brothers and sisters in arms. The frontline representatives for this effort are known as uniformed victim advocates, or UVAs.Advocates not only provide support, education, and training to Marines, they also play a large part in preventing sexual assault. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“A Marine who directly participates in, encourages, or condones such actions could also be subjected to criminal proceedings or adverse administrative actions,” Alvis said.

To underscore the significance of the allegations to Marine Corps leadership, both Neller and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green released statements condemning the alleged behavior.

“I am not going to comment specifically about an ongoing investigation, but I will say this: For anyone to target one of our Marines, online or otherwise, in an inappropriate manner, is distasteful and shows an absence of respect,” Neller said in a statement provided to Military.com. “The success of every Marine, every team, every unit and command throughout our Corps is based on mutual trust and respect.”

Green went further, releasing a 319-word statement in the form of an open letter calling the online photo-sharing “demeaning” and “degrading” and adding there was no place for it in the Corps.

“We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other. This behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy,” he said. “As Marines, as human beings, you should be angry for the actions of a few. These negative behaviors are absolutely contrary to what we represent. It breaks the bond that hold us together; without trust, our family falters.”

Messages Brennan shared with Military.com show that some members of the group responded to his report by threatening him and his family and attempting to publish information about where he lived.

“‘Amber Alert: Thomas J. Brennan,'” wrote one user, referring to the child abduction emergency system. “500.00 $ for nudes of this guys girl,” wrote another.

Brennan is a former infantry Marine and combat veteran.

This is not the first time the bad behavior of Marines online has captured the attention of Congress.

In 2013, the harassment of civilian women and female troops on several so-called “humor” Facebook pages with Marine Corps members prompted Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, to call on then defense secretary Chuck Hagel and then-commandant Gen. Jim Amos to intervene.

But in that instance, Marine Corps leadership opted to address the behavior privately, and on a case-by-case basis. No criminal prosecutions of Marines connected to the Facebook pages were ever publicized.

A later 2014 report on similar behavior resulted in investigations into 12 Marines, according to internal public affairs guidance published by Marine Corps Times.

As the first female Marines join infantry units in the wake of a 2015 Pentagon mandate opening all ground combat jobs to women, it’s possible service leaders now feel an additional mandate to quell the online exploitation of female service members by their colleagues publicly and decisively.

“Standup, speak out, and be a voice of change for the better. Hold those who misstep accountable,” Green said. “We need to realize that silence is consent–do not be silent. It is your duty to protect one another, not just for the Marine Corps, but for humanity.”

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Win the first War on Terror by backing ‘Shores of Tripoli’ on Kickstarter

It was the first time the United States fought a pitched battle on foreign soil and, as a sign of things to come, came out the victor. In 1805, Arab mercenaries and United States Marines under the command of William Eaton and Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon marched on the Tripolitan city of Derna. Their mission was to capture the city, then restore the rightful (American friendly) ruler of Tripoli to the throne. The Marines were outnumbered by nearly ten to one and made an overland march of 500 miles before they could even attack.

Well, do you have a better idea? A new strategy game on Kickstarter invites you to give it a shot.


In Shores of Tripoli, a new game from Washington, DC’s Fort Circle Games, take one or two players to take up arms as either the United States or the Bashaw of Tripoli in a game of wits and maneuvers designed to bend your opponent to your will. Tripolitania wants to keep conducting pirate raids that have brought it so much wealth in gold and slaves. The United States is out to end the reign of Barbary terror and restore the freedom of American ships at sea.

With cards representing significant events and the most important players in these events, players use dice and in-game figurines to start battles, start diplomatic talks, and get more troops to the fight. To win, the Americans must force the Tripolitans to submit to a peace treaty or forcibly install a pro-American ruler.

Guess which route the Marines chose.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

“Lolz” – Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

To win as Tripoli, you have to inflict enough shock and damage on the Americans and their squadron of ships as possible, sinking four frigates or capturing 12 merchantmen.

Shores of Tripoli the board game honestly looks like any history buff’s greatest wet dream. Along with educational information about the conflict, the game comes with a high-quality game map, 82 wooden game pieces, and a lot of other high-quality elements. One historian’s review of the game called it “historically accurate” and “sophisticated” as well as “beautifully designed” and – most importantly, “very fun.

Now learning about military history doesn’t have to mean memorizing a bunch of boring dates. Now it means taking down the first terrorists with the United States Marine Corps.
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Which looks like everything I’ve ever wanted in any game anywhere.

(Shores of Tripoli on Kickstarter)

You won’t get it in time for Christmas 2019, but for a backing of .00 you can get a copy of this amazing-looking historical strategy game. Or in true Marine Corps fashion, you can donate your copy to Toys for Tots. As you donate more money, you get more copies of the game, presumably one for yourself and up to 30 to donate to schools and Toys for Tots.

William Eaton just declared himself general and commander of the force that attacked Derna. For id=”listicle-2641249602″,000 you can declare yourself the Executive Producer of Shores of Tripoli game. Head on over to its Kickstarter page to find out how.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This forgotten bulldog was an American light tank that worked

The Army’s recent pursuit of a new light tank design to address a never-filled gap in capabilities caused by retiring the M551 Sheridan and the XM8 Buford Armored Gun System has made headlines lately. But, at one point, the U.S. Army had some good light tanks.


The M3/M5 Stuart and the M24 Chafee both served in World War II, with the latter also seeing action in Korea and Vietnam. The light tank’s job back in World War II and Korea was to carry out reconnaissance missions and to provide support for infantry units. The light tank wasn’t meant to fight other tanks.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
The Stuart M5A1 light tank. (Image from Wikimedia Commons user Balcer)

America’s ultimate light tank came about during the Korean War, the M41. The M41’s biggest advantage over the M24 was a more powerful powerplant. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the M41 had one 500-horsepower engine as opposed to the two 110-horsepower engines of the M24. This enabled it to go 45 miles per hour — significantly faster than the M24’s 35 — even as it added six tons of weight. The M41 was named “Walker Bulldog,” after a general who died in a vehicle accident during the Korean War.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
South Vietnamese M41 Walker Bulldog in Saigon. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Walker Bulldog’s crew of four had a 76mm main gun, an M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun to deal with enemy threats. The tank didn’t have a long career in United States service, however, largely due to the fact it was too large for reconnaissance and lacked the firepower to fight tanks.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Retired in the 1960s, many American M41s ended up on target ranges. (Image from DoD)

Still, it was widely exported. South Vietnam purchased many, which fell into the hands of North Vietnam when Saigon fell. Taiwan has a few hundred in service, thanks to an extensive modernization effort that has included implementing reactive armor and better guns, like the 90mm Cockerill.

Learn more about this forgotten “bulldog” light tank in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lazLdLNtMWc
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Children’s books to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

Military families are often better positioned to learn the history of our country as they move to new communities with different museums, landmarks, and parks. As parents, we can take advantage of our nomadic lifestyle to expose our children to the complex, beautiful, and ugly stories of our nation. And a diverse bookshelf is a great place to start.  

Below are a few books for preschool through high school to add to your collection or library pickup list as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Black History Month in February. These stories will help kids understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and impact and the continued struggle for equality for all Americans. 

Children’s books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Several young readers’ biography series have covered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including the “Ordinary People Change the World” series for preschoolers with “I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.”  by Brad Meltzer. “National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr.” and “Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?” are both for elementary school-aged children.  

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

There are many children’s books that use the backdrop of Dr. King’s famous speeches. For younger readers “Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson demonstrates children’s participation in Civil Rights marches. “I Have a Dream” illustrates Dr. King’s famous words for children, with art by Kadir Nelson.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Several stories on award lists inspired by the memory of Dr. King include “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport, which focuses on his speeches; “Martin Rising: Requiem for a King,” poetry by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney for middle schoolers; and for teenagers, “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone, where a modern teenager starts a journal to Dr. King.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Civil Rights History for Young Children 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

“A Ride to Remember” was written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan. This book explains segregation and the impact of the Civil Rights movement on children at the time by telling the story of the day Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated. Langley was the first Black child allowed to ride the carousel, on the same day as the March on Washington.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

“The Undefeated” is the 2020 Caldecott Medal book by prolific author Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson that lovingly demonstrates the endurance and strength of African Americans throughout history and into the future. 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

“She Was the First”  is a new picture book written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Eric Velasquez that tells the story of the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

To further celebrate Black women in politics, consider Kamala Harris’ picture book “Superheroes are Everywhere,” illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

“Lillian’s Right to Vote,” which tells the story of an elderly African American woman who recalls the history of voting rights through her family’s eyes, is by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award-winner Shane W. Evans. 

“The Story of Ruby Bridges,” a picture book by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, is a must-have for any children’s bookshelf to tell the story of school desegregation, however, for slightly older independent readers (recommended for ages 8-12), Bridges herself wrote an award-winning autobiographical account of her experiences in “Through my Eyes.” 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Military History 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

“You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen,” written by award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by her son Jeffrey Boston Weatherford, tells the story of African American pilots during World War II. Weatherford has written many children’s books on African American history.

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

Published by Scholastic for upper elementary and middle school, “Forgotten Heroes: The Story of of the Buffalo Soldiers” delves into the history of this regiment and the complicated history of the American government using one oppressed group to fight another. 

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

The Red Summer of 1919 was impacted in large part by returning World War I soldiers. The violence of this time period is important to understanding the continuing fight for equality. While more books for young readers are needed on the subject, “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919” is an award-winning young adult book. Teen Vogue also has a series of articles and links to resources looking at these events that can be a starting point for parents to read with their teens. 

Children’s classics

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea
Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

A few favorites that deal with growing up during the Civil Rights movement are “Brown Girl Dreaming” by must-read children’s author Jacqueline Woodson, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor and its sequels, and “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” by Christopher Paul Curtis. Each is a Coretta Scott King and Newberry honoree. The Coretta Scott King Award is given to Black authors and illustrators to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife “for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” 


For more suggestions, several organizations and websites offer diverse book lists as part of their mission.  For more books on Martin Luther King, Jr., Black History, social justice issues, or books by Black authors and illustrators, check out: We Need Diverse BooksMoreDiverseThe Brown Bookshelf, and Rich in Color

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s newest weapon shoots paintballs of pepper spray

The Army has a new non-lethal weapon to help soldiers in Afghanistan “irritate and deter” potential adversaries with pepper-filled balls, Army Times reports.

The non-lethal launcher, known as the Variable Kinetic System (VKS), is made by PepperBall Technologies. It fires projectiles much like paintballs containing a hot pepper solution.


“We are truly honored the US Army has selected PepperBall’s VKS to use as its non-lethal protection in its mission to defending the United States,” Ron Johnson, CEO of United Tactical Systems, which owns PepperBall, said in a statement.

“Our VKS platform was the only non-lethal source that was capable of complying to the US Army’s standards,” Johnson added.

The projectiles have a range of around 50 yards and leave a “debilitating cloud,” impacting the eyes, nose and respiratory system. The irritant, which is 5% pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA) and a synthetic version of pepper spray, is released when the projectile makes contact.

The weapon is built like a paintball gun and can carry up to 180 rounds when it’s in “hopper mode” and 10 or 15 rounds when it’s in “magazine mode.”

The Army awarded a $650,000 contract for the weapons, which reportedly have the same controls and ergonomics of the M4/M16 weapons system, which many soldiers already carry. In other words, it will not be tough for most soldiers to transition into using these non-lethal launchers.

In total, the Army reportedly purchased 267 of the weapons, which are currently being used in training.

Weapons like this can help soldiers in high-intensity, urban settings and especially during crowd control situations.

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

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