Puerto Rico National Guard faces a perfect storm - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Puerto Rico National Guard faces a perfect storm

A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.

In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.


“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.

Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.

If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.

This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.

Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.

In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.

This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.

The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.

PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.

Annual training

PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.

Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.

Hurricane Maria

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.

They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.

Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.

Two earthquakes  

If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.

Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.

Hurricane season 

While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.

PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.

Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.

Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.

Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.

“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA will stop time to give wounded troops a ‘golden hour’

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking at ways to change how the human body manages time in order to improve wounded soldiers’ chances of survival and recovery.


DARPA has set up the Biostasis program to use molecular biology as a way to evaluate and possibly alter the speed at which living systems operate with the goal of extending the window of time between a damaging event and the collapse of those systems.

Such an extension would expand the “golden hour” — the period of time between injury or infection and the first treatment that is regarded as one of the most important factors in saving a life on the battlefield.

Also read: DARPA’s next big project is an airplane-deployed drone swarm

“At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all,” Tristan McClure-Begley, the Biostasis program manager, said in a DARPA release.

“Within a cell, these catalysts come in the form of proteins and large molecular machines that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes,” he added.

DARPA’s Biostasis program is looking at ways to slow the body’s biological processes to aid medical treatment. (DARPA)

“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off,” McClure-Begley said.

The Defense Department policy that ensures wounded troops are moved off the battlefield for care within the first hour after injury has been credited with the military’s nearly 98% survival rate, Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, Joint Staff surgeon, said in mid-February 2018.

Related: This is how DARPA’s new robotic co-pilot helps reduce workload

But the Pentagon’s shifting focus to near-peer adversaries — ones with considerable firepower and air capabilities — has raised questions about whether the golden hour can endure in future conflicts.

The Army is looking at additional training for medics to allow them to provide care beyond the initial triage stage, bridging the gap between a combat medic’s basic knowledge and that of a professional stationed at a battlefield aid station.

DARPA’s initiative, still nascent, is looking for biochemical approaches that control how cells use energy at the level of proteins, using examples from nature of organisms that can survive in extreme conditions and drastically reducing or shutting down their metabolic processes.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexander Rector)

“If we can figure out the best ways to bolster other biological systems and make them less likely to enter a runaway downward spiral after being damaged, then we will have made a significant addition to the biology toolbox,” McClure-Begley said.

Right now, the Biostasis program is focused on developing and testing proof-of-concept technologies. Similar Biostasis technologies could yield other medical benefits by reducing reaction times and extending the shelf life of blood and other biological products.

The US military is looking at other ways to boost the body’s ability to respond to and recovery from injury.

More: Here’s how medical aid stations handle mass casualty situations

Early 2018, doctors and researchers at the Military Health System Research Symposium discussed regenerative medicine and its uses — in particular, the possibility of regenerating limbs, muscles, and nerve tissue.

“We’re not quite there yet,” said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities.”

U.S. Army Cpl. Luke Waymon (center) and Spc. Kendal Cryblskey (left) administer IVs to simulated casualties during a cordon and search exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., on April 12, 2006. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, U.S. Air Force)

Saunders added that there has been progress in using synthetic grafts to spark the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues.

The research discussed at the symposium included efforts to use fillers to help damaged bones recover and the examination of the African spiny mouse, which has the ability to shed skin to escape predators and recover, scar-free, relatively quickly.

Also read: Military scientists are looking to salamanders to help regrow limbs on wounded troops

“Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage-control surgeries,” Saunders said. “[There are] many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”

The technologies in question are far from practical application. But the military, working under wartime imperatives, has made rapid medical advances in the past. In the run-up to World War II, an Army commission secured FDA approval for a flu vaccine — the first one in the US — in just two years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Russia held large-scale military exercises with troops from Belarus earlier this year, during which Moscow claimed more than 12,000 soldiers took part in a variety of drills in both countries.


The Zapad 2017 exercises fell short of many of the sinister elements observers thought they might include, but one aspect of the electronic-warfare component of the drills elicited surprise among NATO officials.

“The amount of jamming of their own troops surprised me. It was at a level we haven’t seen,” the chief of Estonia’s military intelligence, Col. Kaupo Rosin, told Defense News. “And they did it in the different branches, so land force, Air Force. That definitely surprised us.”

Rosin said Russia has an advantage in that its forces can switch to civilian electronic infrastructure within its own territory should their military electronic networks get jammed or become compromised.

“They tested [their own troops] to learn how to switch into their own cable network and not to emanate anymore, but to deal with the problem,” he said.

Zapad 2017, at the Luzhsky training ground during the main stage of the Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, have warned about increasingly assertive Russian action along their shared borders. Estonia in particular has noticed increased Russian espionage activity.

The country’s intelligence service noted in its most recent annual report that:

The Russian special services are interested in both the collection of information and in influencing decisions important for Estonia. The Russian intelligence and security services conduct anti-Estonian influence operations, including psychological operations — in other words, influencing the defense forces and the general population of a potential enemy.

Rosin said NATO forces had a record of good communications, pointing to the bloc’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he noted that Russia is more capable than opponents faced in those countries, so NATO needs to look for new solutions and different ways to train its military leaders.

“We have to approach the problem as a complex problem — not just jamming, but also what other means can we use in order to disrupt the Russian communication system,” he told Defense News. “It probably includes some cyber activities.”

Baltic and British officials have said there is evidence of persistent Russian hacking efforts against European energy and telecommunications networks, as well as disinformation campaigns. Estonia itself hosted NATO’s biggest cyber-defense exercise this week, where “fictional scenarios [were] based on real threats,” a Estonian army officer said.

Rosin also said a foe with more robust electronic-warfare capabilities would require new ways of training officers to approach their commands. “If you have some limitations in communications, for example, how do you deal with that?” he said.

The military-intelligence chief cited Estonia’s military’s rapid troop call-up abilities and its relatively small size as potential advantages in a conflict, but, he added, communicating and coordinating with troops from other NATO members countries would complicate operations.

“When we are talking about the NATO command structure or different staff,” he told Defense News, “then I think the problem will kick in.”

Also Read: This is how Russia could sweep NATO from the Baltic Sea

NATO has itself assessed shortcomings in its command structure. An internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegal concluded that the alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe had “atrophied” since the Cold War ended.

The report recommended forming two new command centers: One to oversee the shipment of personnel and supplies to Europe, and another to oversee logistics operations in Europe. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in early November that the bloc’s defense ministers were set to approve a plan to create those commands.

Despite that change, Rosin said there remained operational and strategic challenges to NATO capabilities as well as questions about the bloc’s ability to deter threats.

Russia has advantages in time, personnel, and territory in which to operate, and Moscow would try to thwart a NATO military response, he said, noting vulnerabilities created by the Suwalki Gap and sea lines of communication.

“So the danger for us is if the Russians for some reason come to the conclusion that they might get away with some type of action in our region, then there is … [the possibility that they] might do some miscalculation and start something, which we don’t want,” he told Defense News. “In order to keep that under control, then our military posture must be adequate and the plans must be adequate. [Russia is asking]: Is really NATO coming to help or not?”

Russian action in Ukraine in 2014 and its continued involvement there — and NATO’s response to it — have been cause for concern in Eastern Europe, the Baltics in particular.

Ukrainian internal police at a massive pro-EU rally in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Ivan Bandura.)

Earlier this year, Lithuania’s defense minister told The Guardian that his country was “taking very seriously” Russian threats to Batlic stability, drawing parallels between propaganda about Lithuania emanating from Moscow and events preceding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

NATO has increased its troop and equipment deployment to the region in recent months to reassure allies there. (Lithuania has said it wants a permanent U.S. troop presence there.)

In June 2016, US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced takeoffs and landings on an Estonian highway for the first time since 1984. Russian and NATO aircraft have also come into increasingly close contact in the skies over the Baltics in recent years.

Overall, Rosin said, NATO had improved is posture in relation to Russia. Asked about his 2015 comments that Moscow was playing hockey while everyone else was figure skating, he struck an optimistic tone.

“I’m not sure if we are in the same hockey league with the Russians. Definitely not yet,” he told Defense News. “We are in a good way, but there is a lot of room for improvement.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Guess how much longer the Afghan president thinks foreign troops will have to help defend his country

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said he believes most foreign troops will be able to leave the country “within four years.”


“Within four years, we think our security forces would be able to do the constitutional thing, which is the claim of legitimate monopoly of power,” Ghani said in an interview with the BBC broadcast on October 5.

He said that Afghan security forces turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban and “in terms of management and leadership, things are really falling into place.”

The Afghan government is struggling to beat back insurgents in the wake of the exit of most NATO forces in 2014.

A U.S. report found earlier this year that the Taliban controls or contests control of about 40 percent of the country, and security forces are also fighting against militants affiliated with the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has recently unveiled a strategy to try to defeat the militants after nearly 16 years of war, and officials said more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops are being sent to the country to reinforce the 11,000 U.S. troops already stationed there.

Trump has made an open-ended commitment to Afghanistan, saying U.S. troop levels will be based on “conditions on the ground,” not on “arbitrary timetables.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrorists now have a new group to join if they don’t dig on ISIS

A new al-Qaida-inspired group has sprouted up in Pakistan in the hopes of recruiting from a growing base of disaffected former Islamic State fans and militants.


Known as Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, the group has emerged in the city of Karachi and was founded by two militants who used to belong to al-Qaida, but disavowed that affiliation in early 2017, VOA reports.

Local media in Pakistan has reported that Ansar has been responsible for at least seven terror attacks in 2017 so far.

The group plays to militants upset with the way ISIS has sowed disunity, and as such, the tactics employed bear far more resemblance to those of al-Qaida, rather than ISIS. The group claims no formal affiliation with al-Qaida, but it does explicitly acknowledge strong influence from Osama bin Laden.

“The Ansar al-Sharia group started killings in Karachi since the beginning of this year and claimed responsibility for killing an army officer on Faisal Highway [in Karachi],” Major General Mohammad Saeed, head of a paramilitary security group in Karachi, told local media, according to Voice of America.

Saeed noted that Ansar al-Sharia has only been launching attacks against the police.

The group’s membership is not restricted to males. Pakistani police have arrested four female members already. Moreover, Ansar al-Sharia’s “kill team” sports three young men with graduate degrees in applied physics, showcasing the group is capable of recruiting talent.

Ansar al-Sharia has made announcements of its existence via Twitter, stating: “We give glad tidings to Muslim Ummah that a large number of Mujahideen from Karachi, Punjab and tribal areas are leaving ranks of IS and announce disassociation with [it].”

VOA was unable to independently verify the Twitter account’s authenticity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea claims to have tested a new weapon I guess?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “supervised” the test firing of a new tactical guided weapon, according to the country’s propaganda outlet on April 17, 2019.

It is unclear what type of weapon it was, but the regime claimed the test served as an “event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power.”

North Korea claimed the weapon has a guiding system and was capable of being outfitted with “a powerful warhead.”


The test comes months after the summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Vietnam ended with no tangible results. Last week, Kim said he was willing to meet Trump for the third time later this year, but tempered expectations by saying it would be “difficult to get such a good opportunity.”

President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

North Korea has long argued that the United State’s “maximum pressure” sanctions policy was detrimental to diplomacy.

“If it keeps thinking that way, it will never be able to move the DPRK even a knuckle, nor gain any interests no matter how many times it may sit for talks with the DPRK,” Kim said, according to North Korea’s propaganda agency.

North Korea made similar statements on an undisclosed weapon system in November, when Kim was said to have supervised a test of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon.”

Experts theorized at the time that the purported weapon was not nuclear in nature. Instead of a long-range missile with the capability to strike the US, South Korean experts suggested the weapon could have been a missile, artillery, anti-air weapons, or a drone, The Associated Press reported.

INSIDER reached out to the Pentagon for more information and will update as necessary.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Royal Navy updated a famous WW2 poster to warn its sailors about tweeting

The Royal Navy has revamped one of the most famous wartime propaganda slogans to warn its sailors to be careful what they tweet.


It issued an updated version of the 1943 “loose lips sink ships” poster, tweaked to refer to social media instead, and featuring the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier going down in flames.

The message was posted on Twitter Jan. 11 by the official account of HMS Queen Elizabeth, along with a reminder that “OPSEC [operational security] isn’t a dirty word!”

As the images show, the new, Royal Navy-branded poster is an homage to a well-known 1943 propaganda poster distributed by the United States Office of War Information.

(Image from Royal Navy)

Instead of the 40s-style battleship shown sinking in the original poster, the 2018 version shows the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, which is identifiable from the trademark “twin islands” design of its flight deck.

The message the poster is designed to convey is the same as in the ’40s, though the media are different.

In WWII, commanders were worried that people with access to military information could carelessly share it in conversation, which could eventually be picked up by hostile intelligence services and used against the U.S. military.

Also Read: 8 military acronyms that will make you cringe

Today, the concern is that sensitive information could inadvertently be posted in public by somebody on board who did not realize the significance of what they were sharing.

It’s easy to find images taken by people on board the ship on social media who tagged their location, though there’s nothing obvious in them to suggest they could risk the ship’s security.

 

Business Insider went aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in December and spoke to sailors on board, including one who talked about social media.

Able Seaman Callum Hui, the youngest member of the ship’s company, said that he uses networks like Snapchat to post photos to his friends back home — but that there are sensitive areas on board he knows not to document.

In a statement to Business Insider, the Royal Navy declined to elaborate on the specific poster campaign, but said it was part of a “robust” operational security plan.

It said: “The Royal Navy takes operational and personal security very seriously and robust measures are in place to ensure the security of the ship and the ship’s company is not compromised.”

Articles

This is the Air Force vet who forced KSM to reveal his darkest secrets

James Mitchell had a successful 22-year career in the U.S. Air Force — most notably as a top trainer at the Air Force’s survival school — before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.


And while he earned some awards and accolades for his service as a SERE leader, it was what he did as a contractor for the CIA after his retirement that truly marks his career.

See, Mitchell is the man who broke al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (often called “KSM”) and other high-ranking members of the terrorist group in the months and years after 9/11.

Photo provided by Crown Publishing

After the release of his new book about the interrogation program titled “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell sat down for an interview with Marc Theissen, a Washington Post columnist and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

During the 90-minute discussion, Mitchell both clarified details about the controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” he used and provided insights into the minds of the terrorists.

 

First, Mitchell explained the difference between interrogation and what he describes as “how do you do” visits.

“These enhanced interrogations that I was part of really only dealt with about 14 of the top folks. I didn’t have anything to do with the mid-level or low-level folks at all,” Mitchell, who’s a licensed psychologist, said. “And most of these interrogations took place over a period of time of about two weeks. KSM’s took about three weeks. And then after that, there was no enhanced interrogations for KSM — you know, none at all.”

He later added, “[O]ur goal in doing enhanced interrogations was to get them to make some movement, to be willing to engage in the questions instead of rocking and chanting and doing the other sorts of things that they had previously been doing.”

Once they broke, it was all about “cigarettes and beer,” to borrow a quote from Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis.

“We switched to social influence stuff because we know that the real way that you get the cooperation that you want is not by trying to coerce it out of them,” Mitchell said. “It’s by getting them to provide the information in a way that they don’t feel particularly pressured to do it.”

Mitchell made it clear that after the terrorists broke, the nature of his visits were more along the lines of maintenance. During one of those visits, he described how the mastermind of 9/11 revealed that he had personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

“He describes cutting his head off and dismembering him and burying him in a hole. And [we] asked him, was that difficult for you to do, thinking emotionally this had to be hard to do,” Mitchell said. “And he said, ‘Oh, no. I had sharp knives. The toughest part was getting through the neck bone’ — just like that.”

Mitchell also described KSM’s shock at George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks, revealing that the terror leader thought the U.S. would treat the attack as a law enforcement problem and not go to war over it.

Photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed taken after his capture by American personnel. (Photo by DOD)

“And then he looks down and he goes, ‘How was I to know that cowboy George Bush would say he wanted us dead or alive and invade Afghanistan to get us?’ And he said it just about like that, like he was befuddled, like he couldn’t imagine it,” Mitchell said.

And Mitchell firmly denies that his EITs were torture.

“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell said. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”

Mitchell’s book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” is published by Crown Forum and is available at Amazon.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians just buzzed the US Navy – again

A United States Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Air Force Su-30 Flanker over the Black Sea earlier today. This is the latest in a series of incidents this year in the Black Sea.


A Su-30 makes a low-level pass at Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the two-seat multi-role fighter harassed the Navy plane for 24 minutes, including a pass at full afterburner that was roughly 50 feet away. The P-8 was in international airspace at the time of the incident.

A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

The last time such a close encounter took place was this past June. In that incident, an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Su-27 Flanker over the Baltic Sea. The Flanker came within five feet of the American plane, the closest of about three dozen close encounters that took place that month.

A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea earlier this year. The United States Navy released video of the incident, showing Su-24 Flankers making close passes over the vessel. In all of these close encounters, the American ships and planes were in international waters or airspace.

A Su-24 Fencer buzzes USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea on Feb. 10, 2017. (YouTube Screenshot)

The incident came over three weeks after U.S. Navy fighters intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bears 80 miles from the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as it operated in the Sea of Japan. The Bears were well within range of being able to fire powerful anti-ship weapons like the AS-4 Kitchen.

A Russian Air Force Tu-95 launching from an airport in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Russia hasn’t been the only country involved in buzzing American forces. Iranian and Chinese forces have also operated near American forces, in some cases unsafely. In the Persian Gulf, an Iranian drone flew into an aircraft carrier’s landing pattern, nearly causing a mid-air collision with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Chinese J-10 Flounder fighters buzzed a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating in international airspace off Hong Kong earlier this year.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 ways to keep busy at home without relying on screens

COVID-19 is here and schools have been cancelled across the country for weeks, even months. No matter if you are a working parent who is now teleworking or a stay at home parent with an unexpected long Spring Break, this list will help you get things done around the house without using copious amounts of screen time. All while saying screen time, especially education-focused learning, is important and a great tool to use within moderation.


Legos

Legos are a useful tool. When I give my boys a box of Legosand minimal direction they can play for hours. But when I can channel their energy into learning while playing, Legos become worth their weight in gold. Check out these 20 educational ways to use Legos. Even with all of these, the best way to use Legos is through free-play and imagination.

Go Outside

Depending on where you live the weather might not be ideal for going outside, but luckily Spring is almost here to stay, and even a 10-minute walk in the rain is a way to break up the schedule. On nicer days, send the kids outside to play. Some of my favorite games are race around the house, tag, sending the kids to find various objects in nature and puddle jumping in the rain. Make it a point to spend at least an hour outside each day. It will be good for you and the kids. Bonus if you can bring your laptop so you can get work done too.

Magna-tiles

Similar to Legos, but not as sturdy. One of my favorite things about Magna-tiles is that you can use them on the fridge to practice learning shapes and colors, but they are also great for building. Give your kids a theme and watch them use their imaginations. My boys especially love building rockets that we count down to blast off (aka total destruction of the said rocket).

Read Books Alone or Together

Even with a six and four year old, my boys can sit and read books for at least 30 minutes on their own. Sometimes longer. I often set a timer for the boys to read and then reward their independent time by me reading them a story. It gives them something constructive to do and allows me to get work done. And having a reward at the end of the time is an added bonus for them.

Art Projects

To be fair, not all art projects are created equally, but drawing with markers and crayons is a great way for kids to use their imaginations and keep them focused on a project for an extended period of time. You can leave it basic with coloring or go on Pinterest and become the art queen or king.

School Workbooks

Last summer we had every intention of doing school work during the break, but life happened and the school workbooks we bought went unused. Luckily for us we still have them and each day we will be working through the workbook.

What ways are you finding to keep your kids entertained with this sudden life interruption? Has there been something that you have felt has helped you the most or are any of these suggestions something you want to try at home this week?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This insane anti-aircraft gun chased the Israelis out of the sky

The Israeli Air Force has long been dominant over the skies of the Middle East. They have superb pilots and they use their planes very well. There was a time, however, when that dominance was challenged – and it was arguably Israel’s darkest hour.


In 1973, Israel stood triumphant in the Middle East. For a quarter-century, it had fended off efforts to wipe it off the map. But on Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack. To protect their armored forces, the Egyptian-Syrian forces used a combination of two Soviet-designed systems: The SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile and the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka.”

Recognition graphic of a ZSU-23-4. (U.S. Army)

The latter system was truly deadly, considering Israeli tactics. Radar-guided and with four 23mm cannon capable of firing as many as 1,000 rounds per minute, the ZSU-23-4 was able to hit targets almost two miles away. Many Israeli pilots in A-4 Skyhawks, Mirage IIIs, Neshers, and F-4 Phantoms soon found out the hard way that flying low to avoid surface-to-air missiles was hazardous. In one strike, six aircraft were lost taking out a missile battery.

The Israelis eventually came up with workarounds to defeat the SA-6/ZSU-23 combo, but they needed aircraft replacements from the United States, due to losing roughly 100 aircraft. The Israelis would learn their lesson, and in 1982, Syrian forces found themselves on the wrong end of a turkey shoot.

Having proven itself in combat, the ZSU-23-4 was widely exported. As of 2014, 39 countries use this system to provide tactical air defense for their forces. Russia has since replaced the ZSU-23 in front-line units with the 2S6 Tunguska and the Pantsir gun-missile combo systems but this mobile gun will forever be known for the time it almost chased one of the best air forces in the world from the skies over a battlefield.

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

Veteran’s Last Patrol honors veterans in hospice. Here’s how you can, too

In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.

“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.


Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.

This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.

The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.

“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.

Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.

“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.

This year the goal is 10,000.

With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.

Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.

Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?

Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to:
Veteran’s Last Patrol
140B Venture Blvd
Spartanburg, SC, 29306


MIGHTY CULTURE

The luckiest duty stations worldwide

Luck has quite a diverse meaning within the military community. It’s sarcastically used to laugh at impossible situations, it can take years to ponder why it was on your side that day or is just used to define coveted situations or duty stations a few of us fall into. With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, we’re looking at some of the luckiest duty stations worldwide through the many different definitions of the word.


Lucky to be a part of such a prestigious assignment

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels-Schinnen is one post where you’ll feel you have a finger on the pulse of the world. That’s because NATO headquarters, located less than ten minutes away, is there. Special status cards, ID’s and privileges may apply to service members and their families depending upon the assignment. With Brussels being the administrative center for the European Union, it can be an exhilarating and fast-paced atmosphere.

The city boasts 14th-century architecture, and the opportunity to rub elbows with top business and government figures of today. As such a unique experience both culturally, and as an assignment within the military, lucky is exactly the feeling you’ll have if stationed here.

Lucky to experience such a remote location

U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll‘s location requires several zooms in if you’re searching on Google Maps. Home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, turquoise waters, and coral reefs for miles. With its ultra remote location, the cultural history of The Marshall Islands is something you’ll remember experiencing forever.

Ancient skills like “wave piloting” have been studied by anthropologists for some time now and are stories or skills families can see firsthand. Remote island life happiness hinges on acclimation. It’s important to remember you won’t be marooned forever and begin to embrace as much sailing, snorkeling or scuba diving as humanly possible between shifts.

Lucky to stand on such historic ground

Hawaii tops many duty station lists for its beautiful location, but an assignment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is much more than a vacation. It’s the chance to stand at the center of one of history’s most iconic moments in time.

With the Pearl Harbor National Memorial essentially in your back yard, it’s time to take that deep dive into the pages of history. Those assigned here should feel lucky to inherit the legacy of this location and do their best to carry on the stories of those forever immortalized in her waters.

Lucky to live in a vacation destination

The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located along the pristine shorelines of the Florida panhandle, a year-round tourist destination. What caught our eye was the opportunity to not just live in a beach town but living oceanfront is made possible via affordable condo living. Who needs a gym membership when your daily swim can be in the Gulf of Mexico?

Another appealing feature of an assignment here is the potential to dive into the military landlord market. Rental opportunities are expanded to include vacation renters in addition to the military crowd.

Lucky to have a “home base” to experience Asia from

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is located on the main island of Japan, near the Yamaguchi Prefecture. If you’d have trouble pinpointing that on a map, you’re not alone. Cities like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul are all major metros within the geographic area. Flying from the United States to Asia is not cheap, making travel either costly, lengthy (to get it all done in one trip) or both. Being stationed halfway across the world has a major travel perk. What used to be a 12-hour plane ride is now two. Becoming conversationally fluent in the many Asian languages is also much easier while you’re completely immersed within it. We’re confident you’ll feel lucky to have such a unique and culturally rich experience in your life.