Deep underwater, on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, British crews are constantly prepared to fire their weapons, and potentially play a part in bringing about the end of the world.
Sailors on the four Vanguard-class submarines which patrol the waters and hold the UK’s nuclear deterrent operate under strict protocol for working out when to act and what to do — part of which is said to include listening to BBC radio.
According to a prominent British historian, the broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. “Today” has been broadcast at around breakfast time since 1958 and is the highest-profile news programme in British media.
Lord Peter Hennessy, a history professor who joined the UK’s House of Lords in 2010, said that if it can’t be heard for three days in a row, then it could signify Britain’s demise, and trigger their doomsday protocol.
According to Politico, Hennessy says: “The failure to pick up the BBC Today program for a few days is regarded as the ultimate test.”
If no sign comes through, the commander and deputy will open letters that contain instructions from the prime minister and execute their final wishes.
These letters, each known as a “Letter of Last Resort’ are secret instructions, written when a prime minister enters the office and sealed until an apocalypse. They tell the UK’s submarine commanders what to do with the country’s nuclear weapons if the country has been destroyed.
HMS Victorious photographed in the Clyde estuary
(LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD photo)
Writing these letters is one of the first tasks undertaken by any new prime minister. They are locked inside a safe inside another safe, and placed in the control rooms of the nation’s four nuclear submarines, Politico reports. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy.
Matthew Seligman, Professor of Naval History at Brunel University,told BBC Newsbeat that there are “only so many options available.”
“Do nothing, launch a retaliatory strike, offer yourself to an ally like the USA, or use your own judgment.
“Essentially, are you going to use the missiles or not?”
The UK has four submarines that are capable of carrying the country’s Trident nuclear missiles. At least one of these has been on patrol at all times since 1969, the government says.
There are 40 nuclear warheads and a maximum of eight missiles on each submarine.
Only the prime minister can authorize the launch of the country’s nuclear weapons.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
College pranks leading up to a rivalry football game are par for the course, an expected ordinary event. But when Army meets Navy every year, the pranks are pulled by individuals trained to plan, lead, and meticulously execute military operations – and there is nothing ordinary about the students who attend the United States Military Academy or the U.S. Naval Academy.
This is especially true of one of Navy’s most famous alums, H. Ross Perot tolled Army in one of the greatest pranks in academy history.
There was nothing ordinary about Ross Perot.
Perot died of leukemia in 2019 at age 89 but the self-made billionaire and businessman who may have changed the outcome of the 1992 election got his start at the Naval Academy, graduating with the Class of 1953. His prank, however, came before the 1975 Army-Navy Game, when Perot was not only out of the Navy, but already a billionaire. His company, Electronic Data Systems, had gone public seven years prior.
His billions might have been the key element in helping Perot troll – or rather toll – the entire West Point campus on the eve of the biggest game of the season. According to the 1989 book “The Long Gray Line” by Rick Atkinson, Perot had to somehow enlist the help of a West Point chaplain to even get started.
Money. Money is how he enlisted an inside man.
At zero dark thirty on the night before the 1975 Army-Navy Game, Perot, with the help of an Army chaplain, the U.S. Military Academy’s bell-ringer, and a Midshipman friend infiltrated the West Point campus and shattered the quiet of the Hudson Valley night.
They scaled the stairs of the West Point Chapel, locked the doors behind them and played “Anchors Aweigh” (Navy’s fight song, for the uninitiated) while singing at the top of their lungs. As barracks’ lights all over campus switched on and cadets flooded their ways to the chapel, Perot and company banged out the Marines’ Hymn on the bells as a follow-up.
Perot taunted the oncoming cadets before surrendering to the mob, who promptly handed the eccentric billionaire over to the waiting Military Police. Perot presumably accepted a slap on the wrist and Navy bested Army 30-6.
Turkey and the US-backed YPG forces — which have been helping the coalition fight ISIS in Syria — have been clashing off and on since at least April.
At the end of that month, the two sides exchanged rocket fire, which Turkey says killed 11 YPG fighters. In early July, Turkey deployed troops to the Kurdish-held border in northwest Syria, which the YPG commander called “a declaration of war.”
YPG and Turkish-backed rebels — who the YPG call mercenaries — clashed in northwest Syria on July 17, Reuters reported. The YPG said it killed three Turkish-backed rebels and wounded four more.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and extension of the PKK, which has been trying to set up its own Kurdish state within Turkey for decades. And the US has placed itself right between the two sides.
Turkey is the third-largest purchaser of US weapons, and in early May, the US began supplying weapons to the YPG to help in the coalition’s fight against ISIS.
The latter move has angered Turkey even more than the US’s unwillingness to extradite Fethullah Gulen, according to Kemal Kirisci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Gulen is a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and has been accused by Turkey of organizing the attempted coup in 2016.
These developments have coincided with Turkey’s gradual drift toward Russia. Ankara and Moscow recently agreed to build a pipeline through Turkey, which allows Moscow to bypass Ukraine, and last week, Turkey signed an agreement with Russia for the $2.5 billion purchase of Moscow’s advanced S-400 missile-defense system.
Turkey is also one of the three guarantors, along with Russia and Iran, of the Syrian de-escalation zones.
Kirisci told Business Insider that he can’t prove there is a direct connection between Turkey moving closer to Russia and the US supplying the YPG with weapons, but he did say, “You don’t need to be escorted to a village that you can see in the distance.”
“[Turkey] has been pissed off at the US for a long time,” Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider. “They’re not leaving NATO, but they’re trying to show everyone that they have options.”
Stein added that “the US is partly to blame” for increased tensions between Turkey and YPG, but, he said, “all sides have blood on their hands in this thing.”
Kirisci also said that “the Pentagon is running its own show,” and the US State Department doesn’t appear to be checking its decisions.
“We are concerned [about increased tensions between Turkey and YPG] but doing everything we can to defuse the situation,” Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.
Rankine-Galloway said that the weapons, which are tracked with serial numbers, will be collected from the YPG after the fight with ISIS concludes.
But Kirisci and Stein both said they were doubtful that the US will be able to collect the weapons from the YPG. “They’ll try, but it won’t happen,” Stein said.
It’s “to be determined” if a full-scale war will break out between Turkey and the YPG once the fight against ISIS is over, Stein said. The US probably won’t leave northwest Syria for a while, and its presence will help deter fighting between the two sides.
The skirmishes that have happened between Turkey and the YPG have happened in areas where there is no US troop presence.
How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?
That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.
But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.
A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.
1. North Korea tightly controls the internet
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.
Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.
But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.
As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”
Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.
2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.
Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.
It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.
3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at
According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”
Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.
4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it
According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.
Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.
5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country
North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.
The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.
Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.
Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.
6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn
Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.
They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.
“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.
An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.
But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0
Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.
But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.
7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies
North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)
(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)
According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.
8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games
In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.
The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.
The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.
The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.
9. Open WiFi networks are banned
North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).
For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.
Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.
10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech
North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.
According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.
People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.
This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Col. Charles McGee was honored at both the Super Bowl and the State of the Union address this week.
Charles McGee is having quite a week. McGee, who was part of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, was one of four 100-year-old veterans to participate in the Super Bowl LIV coin flip on Sunday in Miami. He was also honored Tuesday night at the State of the Union address with a promotion to Brigadier General. And you thought you were having a good week.
McGee, who looked rather spry at the game, walked the ceremonial coin to referee Bill Vinovich for the official toss. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, McGee flew to Washington, D.C. to attend the State of the Union address as an official guest of President Trump alongside his 13-year-old great-grandson who wants to join the Space Force.
Iain Lanphier from Scottsdale, Arizona is the great-grandson of Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee. Iain hopes to write the next chapter in his family’s remarkable story by attending the Air Force Academy and eventually going to space. #SOTUpic.twitter.com/GA6W2whvrV
Lauded tonight as a Tuskegee Airman, 100 year old retired Brigadier General Charles McGee was promoted to that rank today by President Trump and invited to be his guest in House Gallery tonight for the #SOTUpic.twitter.com/uiIIEtOdRD
President Trump honored McGee by naming him Brigadier General for his impeccable service. The promotion was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by both the House and the Senate. Just three days after McGee turned 100 (which he celebrated by flying in a jet), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a press release, “Col. Charles McGee’s service to our country is remarkable and fully merits this distinguished honor. I was proud to fight for the inclusion of this promotion to commemorate his work and his sacrifice … I could not think of a more fitting recognition from a truly grateful nation.”
Lauded tonight as a Tuskegee Airman, 100 year old retired Brigadier General Charles McGee was promoted to that rank today by President Trump and invited to be his guest in House Gallery tonight for the #SOTUpic.twitter.com/uiIIEtOdRD
McGee is one of the most celebrated aviators in history, having completed 136 combat missions in World War II, 100 combat missions in the Korean War and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War. That’s 409 total combat missions if you’re not doing the math. Watch McGee’s Super Bowl appearance here:
The man who would construct American armored units in France in World War I and lead combined arms units, with armor at the forefront, in World War II got his start leading cavalrymen and cars in Mexico. In fact, he probably led the first American motor-vehicle attack.
Pancho Villa, 5, Gen. John J. Pershing, 7, and Lt. George S. Patton Jr., 8, at a border conference in Texas in 1914.
He attended West Point, became an Army officer, designed a saber for enlisted cavalrymen, and pursued battlefield command. When Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing was sent to Mexico to capture raiders under Pancho Villa, Patton came along.
Patton was on staff, so his chances of frontline service were a bit limited in the short term. But he made his own opportunities. And in Mexico, he did so in May 1916.
U.S. Army soldiers on the Punitive Expedition in 1916.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Patton led a foraging expedition of about a dozen men in three Dodge Touring Cars. Their job was just to buy food for the American soldiers, but one of the interpreters, himself a former bandit, recognized a man at one of the stops. Patton knew that a senior member of Villa’s gang was supposed to be hiding nearby, and so he began a search of nearby farms.
At San Miguelito, the men noticed someone running inside a home and Patton ordered six to cover the front of the house and sent two against the southern wall. Three riders tried to escape, and they rode right at Patton who shot two of their horses as the third attempted to flee. Several soldiers took shots at him and managed to knock him off his horse.
An Associated Press report from the 1916 engagement. Historians are fairly certain that this initial report got the date and total number of U.S. participants wrong, believing the engagement actually took place on May 14 and involved 10 Americans.
(Newspapers.com, public domain)
It was a small, short engagement, but it boded well for the young cavalry officer. He had made a name for himself with Pershing, America’s greatest military mind at the time. He had also gotten into newspapers across the U.S. He was his typical, brash self when he wrote to his wife about the incident:
You are probably wondering if my conscience hurts me for killing a man [at home in front of his family]. It does not.
Patton’s bold leadership in Mexico set the stage for even greater responsibility a few short years later.
Lt. col. George S. Patton Jr., standing in front of a French Renault tank in the summer of 1918, just two years after he led a motor-vehicle charge in Mexico against bandits.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)
When America joined World War I, Pershing was placed in command of the American Expeditionary Force.
Patton, interested in France and Britain’s new tanks, wrote a letter to Pershing asking to have his name considered for a slot if America stood up its own tank corps. He pointed out that he had cavalry experience, experience leading machine gunners, and, you know, was the only American officer known to have led a motorized car attack.
Pershing agreed, and on Nov. 10, 1917, Patton became the first American soldier assigned to tank warfare. He stood up the light tank school for the AEF and eventually led America’s first tank units into combat.
Trump will reportedly meet Kim in the same spot Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27, 2018, when Kim made history by being the first North Korean leader to enter the South.
CNN’s sources said there’s a possibility Kim will invite Trump to enter North Korea, and that parts of the summit may take place in the country where no sitting US president has set foot.
A spokesperson for Moon told CNN they “think Panmunjom is quite meaningful as a place to erode the divide and establish a new milestone for peace.”
“Wouldn’t Panmunjom (the name of the border village where Moon and Kim met) be the most symbolic place?” the spokesperson added.
In addition to logistical and symbolic appropriateness, the DMZ has broadcasting infrastructure in place and proved capable of capturing the historic moment of Kim and Moon’s meeting on April 27, 2018.
A new, flexible hood a little more than an inch thick is expected to better protect military working dogs at risk for short-term or permanent hearing loss on the job, the Army Research Office announced Nov. 20, 2019.
Funded by an Army small business innovation grant, Zeteo Tech Inc. and the University of Cincinnati developed the Canine Auditory Protection System (CAPS) to replace often rigid products that are hard to put on dogs, according to a recent news release.
Dr. Stephen Lee, senior scientist at the Army Research Office, said in the release that CAPS could extend dogs’ working lives, protecting them from high-decibel noise during training, transport and operations.
“Even a short helicopter flight can affect a dog’s hearing, resulting in impaired performance and inability to hear the handler’s commands, which can hinder the mission,” he said.
The Canine Auditory Protection System, resembling a close-fitting hood, uniformly distributes the pressure required to hold the dogs’ hearing protection in place, while avoiding challenges associated with straps.
The researchers found a “significant” reduction in short-term hearing loss when wearing the product during helicopter operations.
CAPS is also compatible with other gear, like goggles, and was tested for usability and comfort on canines working in the military or federal law enforcement. It is designed to conform to each dog’s unique head shape, and its flexibility ensures a proper sealing around their ears for maximum sound reduction.
Lee said CAPS could broaden the use of military working dogs in operations in the future, extending their ability to work in a wide range of environments with soldiers and autonomous systems.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The start date of the offensive to oust Islamic State fighters from the city of Raqqa and end the terror group’s state-building project has been announced several times in the past few months, often with great fanfare by commanders in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States’ ground ally in northern Syria.
The last announcement came in March when Kurdish commanders said an assault on the city would begin April 1.
Two weeks later that start date, like many others, has come and gone, prompting the months-long question: when will the U.S.-backed SDF offensive shift gears from isolating Raqqa, which is hemmed in on three sides now, to mounting an assault to retake the capital of the jihadists’ self-styled caliphate?
Over the weekend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French news agency AFP he would support whomever wants to oust Islamic State militants from Raqqa, but mocked the delay in an assault on the city, which U.S. officials believe is being defended by around 4,000 IS fighters.
“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” he said. “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”
The Turkish defense minister again complicated the U.S. effort to choreograph an agreement among multiple local and international players about a Raqqa offensive by pressing Ankara’s long-standing demand for the U.S. to end its alliance with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, whose fighters dominate the ranks of the SDF.
There were no signs that the Turkish request made persistently by Ankara in recent months, and relayed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a February phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, will be heeded.
U.S. officials say they envisage the Raqqa battle will resemble the fight in neighboring Iraq, where local indigenous forces have been waging the struggle to retake the northern city of Mosul, the last IS major urban stronghold in that country.
Some 500 U.S. special forces soldiers deployed in northern Syria are helping to train and advise SDF units.
Mattis later said at a press conference the U.S. remains in solidarity with Ankara when it comes to fighting Islamic State militants and Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but he made no mention of discontinuing the alliance with the YPG, the armed wing of Syria’s Democratic Union Party, or PYD.
The Turks, who fear the emergence of a Kurdish state in north Syria, maintain there’s no real distinction between the PYD and the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)
Mattis cited the long security relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, dating back to 1952 when Turkey joined NATO; but, in the wake of the April 16 constitutional referendum that greatly enhances the Turkish president’s powers, analysts say it is unclear how much Erdogan values his country’s alliance with the West, and whether his slim victory will embolden him to disrupt a Raqqa assault by the SDF.
Earlier in April, Erdogan ramped up the pressure on Washington, saying his government is planning new offensives in northern Syria this spring against groups deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara, including IS and the PYD’s militia.
In March, Turkish forces escalated attacks on the YPG in northern Syria, forcing the U.S. to deploy a small number of forces in and around the town of Manbij to the northwest of Raqqa to “deter” Turkish-SDF clashes and ensure the focus remains on Islamic State.
Local anti-IS activists say the air raids fail to distinguish between military and non-military targets; however, with IS fighters seeded throughout the city and surrounding villages, being able to draw a distinction is become increasingly challenging, say U.S. officials.
“Civilians are now [caught] between the criminal terrorists on one side and the international coalition’s indiscriminate bombing on the other side,” said Hamoud Almousa, a founding member of the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is opposed to an assault on the city being led by the YPG.
“Liberating [Raqqa] does not come by burning it and destroying it over its people who have suffered a lot from the terrorist group’s violations,” he added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists for its information, said that four civilians — two women and two children — were killed April 17 in an airstrike believed to have been carried out by coalition warplanes on the Teshreen Farmarea north of Raqqa.
The Observatory says between March 1 and April 10, airstrikes killed 224 civilians. They included 38 children under the age of 18, and 37 women.
Another mainly Arab anti-IS activist network, Eye on the Homeland, complains at the lack of international condemnation about the civilian casualties from the airstrikes, arguing civilians caught in the conflict are being treated inhumanely.
“We assert that the liberation of civilians from all forms of terrorism requires that military forces acting in the area avoid civilian killing, displacement, and the destruction of their properties whenever possible,” the network said recently on its website.
It warned the deaths will “be used to by terrorist organizations in their propaganda to convince civilians that these military forces do not have their interests at heart” and will “only further fuel radicalization.”
The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”
Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.
“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.
“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.
Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.
If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.
Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.
Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.
Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.
Cynthia Cline was deployed to the Middle East when she started doing research on getting out of the military.
“I was looking for some encouragement from women who had separated and what they were doing now,” she said.
That’s when she stumbled on a blog by a former airman who had transitioned out of the military to become a stay-at-home mom and eventually started writing — just the path Cline was considering for herself.
“I spent probably hours on her website reading her stuff,” she said. “It very much felt like here’s this person who’s a few years ahead of me.”
That’s exactly the kind of resource Amanda Huffman is trying to provide. A former captain in the Air Force who separated in 2013 after giving birth to her first son, Huffman started the blog Airman to Mom that helped Cline prepare for her own transition in June.
Huffman, 36, had a difficult transition out of the military. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom with a new baby, she’d spent six years as a civil engineer in the Air Force, which included a deployment to Afghanistan. While there, she worked on a provincial reconstruction team tasked with building bridges, wells, schools, and other projects to win over the hearts of the Afghan people.
She earned a Bronze Star, as well as the Air Force Combat Action Medal and Army Combat Action Badge for her service.
“I really struggled with my identity after I left the Air Force, and motherhood was not what I thought,” she said.
“At the time I really felt like he wasn’t sleeping through the night — failure. He wasn’t walking fast enough? Failure,” Huffman said. “I had this pressure on myself to force my son to do whatever the [baby] book said, and if he didn’t, then it was like I was a failure.”
Huffman, now a homeschool- and work-from-home mom of two boys and a military spouse, started blogging in 2014 as a way to process what she was experiencing.
“Writing was something where I wasn’t a failure because people read it and they responded and were like, ‘Oh this resonates,’” she said. “It was the start of finding myself, but it was more like something I couldn’t see as a big failure over my life.”
Though her blog had a nod to her military experience in its title, Huffman initially shied away from divulging too much of her military story.
“I was anti-veteran stuff, which is actually really common for veterans, especially female veterans,” she said. “The stereotype of the veteran community that I had in my mind was like the [Veterans of Foreign Wars], going to a bar with a bunch of old guys and having to be like, ‘Yeah, I am a veteran. I deployed.’ And so, I was like, ‘I already was in the military. I had to prove myself just because of my gender. I don’t want to have to go and be part of a community and have to prove myself.’”
Huffman said at the time, it made more sense to get involved in the Christian and mom blogging communities because she already knew she would be welcome for who she was.
“I didn’t have to prove like yes, I do deserve to stand here because I am a veteran. I think that was a lot of it,” she said.
But Kristen Smith, Huffman’s blogging mentor and a fellow military spouse, noticed Huffman wasn’t fully tapping into her story and encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone.
“She was trying to narrow in on this one piece of who she was, which was being a mom and how everything else shaded it” — but Huffman wasn’t just a mom who happened to be a veteran, Smith said.
Huffman took the advice and started writing more about her military experiences. Website traffic soon showed there was an audience for it.
She then published a downloadable resource, “Girl’s Guide to the Military,” on her website, which has drawn readers from all over the world, including women serving in foreign militaries, and is the inspiration for Huffman’s upcoming YouTube channel of the same name that she plans to launch in January.
Huffman also started asking readers to submit their own military stories, which she published in a series on her website that she later made into a book.
“I did an interview-style 31-day series on deployment, and what I was expecting was that it was going to be a bunch of men who deployed sharing like their war stories of being deployed, but instead it was mainly all women and it was a realization that I’m not the only woman veteran who has a story to tell,” she said. “I thought my story was pretty unique because I deployed with the Army — blah blah blah — but all these women had these amazing stories, and I had no idea what women were doing, and I was like, I don’t care about deployments anymore. I just want to hear women’s stories.”
In 2018, she planned to do another series focusing solely on women veterans’ stories, but with a cross-country permanent change of station move coming up for her husband, who is active-duty Air Force, Huffman’s friend suggested she look at turning the stories into a podcast instead of writing out the interviews.
So Huffman reached out to one of her fans and booked her first guest for the show: Cline.
Getting to know the ‘Women of the Military’
Huffman typically interviews one woman per episode, beginning by asking each guest why she joined the military and ending with any advice the guest would give to younger women who are thinking about joining.
The podcast has garnered 34,000 downloads, and guests have included women of all branches and ranks — from enlisted women who served four-year terms to four female generals and a former secretary of the Air Force. Some interviewees have shared stories of sexual assault or harassment in the military that they had never before told publicly.
While all stories are different, “they all resonate for different reasons,” Huffman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl; the military pushes you. They break you down to build you back up, and so that part of that transition into who the military makes you and then that transition out and trying to find yourself as a civilian — there’s a lot of commonalities in that, just experience of changing you into someone and then trying to find your new path.”
The way Huffman talks about her own military experiences on the show is refreshing and somewhat uncommon among narratives of women veterans often heard in the media, said Smith, who has been following her mentee’s journey as Huffman has expanded her portfolio.
“She did some really cool shit, and she talks about her service in a way that I think we typically are accustomed to hearing men talk about it,” Smith said. “She tends not to talk about this really uncomfortable situation and the ways that being a woman sort of impacted [her]. She just talks about her service.”
Cline, who has since started a blog of her own, said Huffman’s work is “extremely encouraging” and helped prepare her for her transition out of the military and the potential struggle she might have in finding her new identity as a civilian, though it ultimately went smoothly.
“First, when you initially look at the idea of sharing women’s stories, it might not seem like a big deal for most people — and yet on the sheer fact that she shared her story and that’s what encouraged me to take the next step in my blogging world, I feel like that changed my life. Storytelling changes lives,” Cline said.
“People need to hear our stories,” Huffman said. “But also, we need to tell our stories, and when we tell our stories then another women veteran hears it and is like, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one.’”
The famous HMMWV’s days are numbered. The Army has made its fifth order for the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, officially coming in four versions: the M1278 Heavy Guns Carrier, the M1279 Utility, the M1280 General Purpose, and the M1281 Close Combat Weapons Carrier.
According to a release by OshKosh Defense, this order consists of 748 vehicles and over 2,350 installed kits. The vehicle is currently in Low-Rate Initial Production, and the first units are expected to be equipped with the vehicle by the middle of Fiscal Year 2019,with a planned Initial Operating Capability by the end of 2020.
The HMMWV has served for over 30 years, but like the Jeep it replaced in the 1980s, it was proving to be incapable of meeting the demands of a modern battlefield. For the Jeep, the problem was keeping up with armored fighting vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank and the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
During the War on Terror, the HMMWV proved it could keep up with vehicles, but it was also very vulnerable to a favored tactics of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan: the improvised explosive device. Up-armored HMMWVs were developed, but they still proved vulnerable and eventually the military bought Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, including the M-ATV from OshKosh, for use on many missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
OshKosh notes that the JLTV is 33 percent smaller and 33 percent lighter than the M-ATV. The company stated that the program remains on time and “on budget” in the release. A decision on full-rate production is reportedly pending.
It will still take a long time for the JLTV to replace the HMMWV: Over 281,000 Humvees have been built since it entered service in 1985. This order represents less than one half of one percent of the total Humvee built.