U.S. Navy SEALs — the elite Special Operations group with a name that has earned its reputation around the world. If people know the name of one elite unit, it’s probably the Navy SEALs.
U.S. Army Rangers — as old as American history itself, they have presented themselves as masters of both conventional and unconventional warfare time and time again. During the Global War on Terror (GWOT), they have evolved into a precision special operations force (SOF) and gained extensive combat experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both are intensely involved in the GWOT, and both have had resounding successes and serious losses. As modern warfare continues to evolve, which one of these SOF units has delivered more impact in the War on Terror?
Navy SEALs train at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
(Photo by John Scorza, courtesy of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
When discussing the U.S. Navy SEALs, it’s important to distinguish between the SEAL Teams and SEAL Team Six. SEAL Team Six (sometimes referred to as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is tasked with executing a broad scope of special missions that often have a direct impact on the United States’ foreign policy and national security strategy. Most notably, they were responsible for killing Usama Bin Laden in 2011.
The other SEAL teams are under the purview of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and conduct special operations, often against terrorists and insurgents. This can be confusing since the vast majority of U.S. troops in foreign engagements from Afghanistan to Syria are fighting “terrorists,” but SEAL Team Six specializes in it.
Navy SEALs conduct operations in Afghanistan alongside Afghan partners.
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
In short, SEAL Team Six is conducting complex missions like hostage rescue; high-level, low-visibility reconnaissance; and direct-action raids against high-value targets (more in the vein of Delta Force, their Army counterpart). The other SEAL Teams have a different overall mission, though overlap does exist. The clear-stated mission on paper is to conduct maritime-based missions, but that is certainly not the end of it. Special operations units are versatile, and today’s SEALs are often training friendly foreign forces, conducting direct-action raids in and outside of large American engagements, or performing their legacy mission of carrying out maritime missions.
SEALs are currently conducting operations in war zones around the world; not all of the teams are relegated to Afghanistan and Syria. They have recently worked in the Philippines, Djibouti, Central America, and South America, to name a few places. They are not necessarily running direct-action raids in all these places. For example, conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) with a host nation could mean accompanying local groups on missions, or it could simply mean training them on basic infantry tactics and calling it a day.
A Navy SEAL conducts training with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV).
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
Rangers, on the other hand, are more specific when it comes to geography. You’re not going to run into a Ranger platoon in the middle of Ethiopia, and Rangers aren’t going to be the ones tasked with hostage rescue missions off the Ivory Coast. For the most part, they go to places where there is a large American presence (or where the military wants there to be one), where the fighting is heavy and the missions are frequent, and they can roll up their sleeves and get busy. They are a precision strike force, but they are precise amid large military efforts.
While Rangers also conduct FID missions, especially in Afghanistan, their purpose revolves around kill/capture missions on a day-to-day basis.
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to conduct an airfield seizure.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Seizing an airfield is to Rangers as a maritime raid is to the SEALs. The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for its ability to take an airfield from enemy control, though this hasn’t actually been conducted for years. Most of the time, Rangers are conducting kill or capture raids in Afghanistan. In fact, they were credited with killing or capturing over 1,900 terrorists during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. They have had a presence in Syria as well.
As terrorism and insurgent-type tactics have been more common among the enemies of the United States (in contrast to conventional military tactics), the need for special operations units has skyrocketed. Rangers, SEALs, and other elite groups have found themselves bearing that weight, evolving rapidly, and fulfilling the needs of a constantly changing battlefield.
A Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment conducts close quarters combat training.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
These units are required to have a breadth of skillsets, intensive training, and a specific state of body and mind — however, that doesn’t mean that every deployment is rife with firefights and explosions. Many Ranger deployments to Afghanistan have ended with no shots fired; many SEALs will deploy to countries around the world without conducting any raids.
So, who has the greatest impact on the GWOT?
Rangers often use helicopters to get to their objective.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Many of these conversations — Rangers versus SEALs versus MARSOC versus PJs versus Green Berets — devolve into a “which one is better” conversation. However, each has their task and function, and asking whether one is better than the other is like asking if a cardiac surgeon is “better” than a neurosurgeon — it depends on if you need heart surgery or brain surgery. The better informed find themselves asking: “Who is better at a maritime interdiction?” “Who can take this airport?” “Who has a presence in this area?” These are the practical questions that warrant practical answers, and those are the ones that matter on the practical battlefield.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.
This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.
The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”
If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.
(United States Department of Energy)
The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.
His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:
As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.
Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.
Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.
In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.
When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.
The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.
To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.
As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.
Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.
But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.
There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)
Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.
This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih have agreed on the need for U.S. military to maintain its presence in the Middle Eastern country, the White House says following a meeting of the two in Switzerland.
“The two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing the United States-Iraq economic and security partnership, including the fight against [the Islamic State terror group],” the White House said on January 22.
“President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to a sovereign, stable, and prosperous Iraq.”
The two presidents met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos — their first meeting since the United States killed a top Iranian commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad, angering many Iraqi politicians and leading to a call by the country’s parliament to expel U.S. troops.
Before the meeting, Salih said that Washington and Baghdad “have had an enduring relationship, and the United States has been a partner to Iraq and in the war” against Islamic State.
He later told Trump that “this mission needs to be accomplished, and I believe you and I share the same mission for a stable, sovereign Iraq that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors.”
Since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has attempted to balance relations with Washington and Tehran, which maintains strong influence with Shi’ite militias, although recent street protests have expressed anger about foreign influence in the country.
Separately, U.S. Major General Alexus Grynkewich, the No. 2 commander for the international anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, said the extremist group has been weakened but that a resurgence is possible should the United States leaves Iraq.
He told a Pentagon news conference that the extremists “certainly still remain a threat. They have the potential to resurge if we take pressure off of them for too long,” although he said he did not see a threat of an immediate comeback.
“But the more time we take pressure off of them, the more of that threat will continue to grow,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
The E-4 mafia is one of the tightest groups in the military. The group consists of service members who fall between the pay grades of E-1 and E-4 and is known for (unofficially) running the military. Sure, the senior enlisted and officers give the orders and the NCOs pass those organized plans along, but it’s the mafia that gets sh*t done.
As a member of this unique club, you must follow an unwritten rule that states we don’t talk about being in the mafia or the sh*t we pull off. Since most troops obey this fundamental rule, not much information gets out about this special, underground world. Although we’re not allowed to speak about the mafia that much, it’s definitely okay to crack jokes about the lifestyle through motherf*cking memes.
Let the humorous commentary begin!
To all the current members of the E-4 Mafia: Cheers, and remember to enjoy your time in the suck.
On Sept. 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler set World War II in motion when he invaded Poland. Germany attacked from the west, and 16 days later the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, by secret agreement with Hitler, invaded from the east. Poland kept fighting… but it never had a chance.
When Poland surrendered on Oct. 6, it disappeared from the map, its territory carved up and incorporated into Germany and the USSR. The dismemberment of Poland was but the first in a series of rapid-fire victories by the Nazis: On April 9, 1940, Germany invaded both Denmark, which fell that same day, and Norway, which fell on June 10. By then Hitler had also invaded Belgium, which surrendered after 18 days; Luxembourg, which fell after one day; the Netherlands, which held out for five; and even mighty France, which capitulated on June 22, after just five weeks of fighting.
Then on July 10, Hitler began bombing England in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, his planned invasion of the British Isles. The British faced the threat almost entirely alone: by then every other country in western Europe had either fallen to Germany, was allied with it, or had declared its neutrality in the hope of avoiding Hitler’s wrath.
Even the United States was officially neutral, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was under tremendous pressure from isolationists to keep America out of the war. What little aid he was able to send to Great Britain was menaced by German U-boats patrolling the North Atlantic.
With the threat of invasion looming, Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued new orders to Porton Down, a secret military facility in southern England set up during World War I to study the use of poison gas as a military weapon. The facility was created after the Germans introduced chlorine gas to the battlefield in 1915, and work at Porton Down had continued ever since. Now Churchill gave it a new project: find a way to use the deadly disease anthrax in battle. It was out of this crash germ-warfare program that Operation Vegetarian was born.
Anthrax is the name of a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which lives in soil. If the seedlike spores of the bacteria enter a cut in a person’s skin (a form of the disease known as cutaneous anthrax), the result is a serious infection whose most distinctive feature is a coal-black scab. That’s how anthrax gets its name—anthrakis is the Greek word for coal.
When left untreated, cutaneous anthrax is deadly about 20 percent of the time. When the spores are eaten or inhaled, the danger is far greater: gastrointestinal anthrax kills animals or people who eat the spores about 60 percent of the time, and inhalational anthrax kills its victims about 95 percent of the time. (Modern treatments have cut the mortality rates considerably, but those treatments weren’t available in the 1930s.)
DEATH FROM THE SKY
When anthrax spores are eaten by grazing livestock, even if the infected animals don’t die, their meat cannot be eaten because it will spread the disease to anyone or anything that consumes it. This was what the scientists at Porton Down decided to focus on: they came up with a plan to disrupt the German meat supply by wiping out vast herds of grazing cattle across northern Germany.
They would accomplish this by dropping anthrax-tainted “cattle cakes” (concentrated dietary supplements that are typically fed to cattle) from Royal Air Force bombers over the pastures and grazing fields. Any cattle that ate the cakes would die within a few days, as would many thousands—or perhaps even millions—of Germans who came in contact with the cattle or the cakes.
Once a portion of the German meat supply was shown to be poisoned, the thinking at Porton Down went, the country’s entire meat supply would become suspect. Terrified Germans would abstain from eating meat entirely (hence the name Operation Vegetarian) making wartime food shortages—and German morale—even worse.
Officials at Porton Down placed an order with a supplier for enough raw materials to make for five million cakes. Then it contracted a London toilet soap manufacturer to cut the material into individual cakes about an inch in diameter and weighing less than an ounce apiece. Finally, Porton Down hired a dozen soap makers, all of them women, to come to the secret facility and inject the cattle cakes with anthrax spores supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, which produced them in a lab.
By the spring of 1944 all five million cakes had been manufactured and pumped full of anthrax; the modified RAF bombers that would drop them over northern Germany were ready as well. Porton Down’s planners estimated that it would take about 18 minutes for the bombers to reach their targets over Germany. Upon arrival they would drop 400 cakes every two minutes in a bombing run that lasted 20 minutes, dropping 4,000 cakes in all. If 12 bombers were used in the mission, they’d drop 48,000 cattle cakes. When they finished, most of the grazing land in northern Germany would be contaminated with anthrax. And there would be millions of cattle cakes left over for future bombing runs in other parts of Germany.
“The cattle must be caught in the open grazing fields when lush spring grass is on the wane. Trials have shown that these tablets are found and consumed by the cattle in a very short time,” Dr. Paul Fildes, director of Porton Down’s biology department, observed. And because the anthrax spores can remain viable in the soil for a century or more, the poisoned land would remain uninhabitable for generations. No cattle would be able to graze there, nor would humans be able to step foot there for many decades to come.
All that remained was for Winston Churchill to give the order for Operation Vegetarian to proceed. The order never came. Why not? Because by then the war had turned decisively against Germany. Operation Sea Lion, Hitler’s plan for a land invasion of England, was never put into effect: British fighters shot so many German planes out of the sky in the run-up to the invasion that Hitler was forced to put it aside. Instead, he set his sights on Russia, and invaded his former ally in a sneak attack on June 22, 1941.
After months of steady progress, by October 1941 the Nazi invasion of Russia began to bog down, and Hitler failed to take Moscow before winter set in. Instead of finding shelter in the city, his ill-equipped, poorly clothed troops suffered through the brutal Russian winter in the open countryside, and many thousands died or were incapacitated by frostbite. Moscow never did fall, and by spring the Russians had regrouped and began to push back against the Germans. Then on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into the war. His hands no longer tied by the isolationists, President Roosevelt could now back Great Britain with all of the military might at his command.
When Hitler’s attempt to take the city of Stalingrad failed in February 1943, the German advance against Russia was halted completely. For the rest of the war, the Russians pushed the Nazis relentlessly back toward Germany. The Allied invasion of Italy followed in July 1943; then on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the long-awaited Allied invasion of France began.
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
With Great Britain’s survival no longer in question and the defeat of Germany just a matter of time, in the spring of 1944 Winston Churchill opted against putting Operation Vegetarian into action. At the war’s end in 1945, all five million cattle cakes were fed into an incinerator at Porton Down and destroyed.
Any doubts as to just how deadly an anthrax attack over thousands of square miles might have been were laid to rest in the one place where the British actually did use anthrax during the war: Gruinard Island, a 520-acre island less than a mile off the coast of northwest Scotland. Early in the war, the British requisitioned the island, and in 1942 and 1943 they used it as a test site for anthrax bombs. In one such test, 60 sheep were tethered in a line and an anthrax bomb was detonated upwind from them. The sheep inhaled the anthrax spores, and within a few days all of them were dead.
Gruinard Island, Scotland, was a testing site for Anthrax (Image Père Ubu Flickr)
If you had to dispose of 60 anthrax-infected sheep without getting yourself killed in the process, how would you do it? The Porton Down scientists dumped them at the bottom of a cliff on the island, then buried them (or so they hoped) by dynamiting the cliff. But one of the sheep was blown into the water and floated to the Scottish mainland, where it washed ashore on a beach. There it was partially eaten by a dog. The dog died, but not before spreading anthrax to seven cows, two horses, three cats, and 50 more sheep, all of whom died as well.
Quick payments to the farmers who owned the animals hushed up the incident, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the truth about what killed their dog, cows, horses, cats, and sheep finally became known.
When the British government requisitioned Gruinard Island at the start of the war, it planned to return the island to its owners once the war was over and the anthrax spores were removed. But several attempts to clean the spores failed, and in 1946 the government gave up. It bought the island outright and ordered the public to stay away. To drive the message home, it posted scary signs on Gruinard’s beaches that read:
THIS ISLAND IS GOVERNMENT PROPERTY UNDER EXPERIMENT THE GROUND IS CONTAMINATED WITH ANTHRAX AND DANGEROUS LANDING IS PROHIBITED BY ORDER 1987
The government promised to sell the island back to its owners for £500 (about $620 today) if a way to render it “fit for habitation by man and beast” was ever found. For decades afterward, Porton Down scientists visited the island regularly and took soil samples to see if the anthrax spores were still there. They were.
Finally in the 1980s, the government gave up on waiting for the spores to disappear naturally. It hauled away tons of the most contaminated topsoil and injected 280 tons of formaldehyde into the island’s groundwater to see if that would kill the remaining spores. They also reintroduced sheep to the island. In 1990, when those sheep failed to die and fresh soil samples showed no signs of anthrax, the scary signs were removed and the descendants of the original owners were permitted to buy the island back for £500, just as promised.
So is that the end of the story? The British government believes (and certainly hopes) so, but the Ministry of Defence has set up a fund to compensate any future victims of anthrax on Gruinard Island…just in case.
North Korea says its seriously considering a plan to fire nuclear-capable missiles at Guam, according to state-run media.
A spokesman for North Korea’s military told KCNA that it would carry out a pre-emptive operation if there were signs of US provocation.
The warning comes after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it would be met with “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US in a marked escalation of rhetoric.
The statement from North Korea mentioned using the Hwasong-12, the intermediate range missile tested in May. North Korea said at the time the missile can carry a heavy nuclear warhead, and independent analysis seems to fit with their statement.
The US military keeps a continuous presence of nuclear-capable bombers in Guam, which would make it an attractive target for a nuclear strike. North Korea specifically mentioned these bombers “which get on the nerves of DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above Korea.”
CNN’s Jim Sciutto says that the US flew two B1-B bombers over Korean Peninsula Mon out of Anderson AFB in Guam, part of “continuous bomber presence.”
But the US maintains a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile interceptor in Guam specifically made to protect from medium-range missiles. THAAD has performed well in test conditions but never intercepted a shot fired in anger.
Earlier, Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any US military action.
When Christine Hassing looked at the suicide statistics of U.S. military veterans, she was drawn to learn more about the experiences of veterans suffering from PTSD and military sexual trauma (MST). Through her research, Hassing learned the remarkable impact service dogs played in veterans’ journeys towards healing and recovery from the deepest emotional wounds.
The Michigan-based author and inspirational speaker was working on her master’s degree when she met a veteran and his service dog.
After listening to their story, she knew that she wanted to spotlight the struggles of fellow veterans like him who are healing from trauma with the support of their furry friend. From sensing a nightmare and waking a veteran before terror takes hold, to placing a comforting paw on someone’s shoulder to ward off a panic attack, these dogs provide immeasurable support day and night.
Wanting to share their perspective, she collaborated with twenty-three veterans and compiled their unique stories in her recently published book, “Hope Has A Cold Nose.”
“When my path intersected with the first veteran and his service dog that you can meet in ‘Hope Has a Cold Nose,’ I asked if I could write his life story for a class assignment,” Hassing told We Are The Mighty. “Our class had been given the challenge to do something creative that was outside our comfort zone. As a volunteer life story writer for a local hospice, writing life stories was not new to me. Writing a life story for someone who was not knowingly dying was.”
Statistics show that 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide per day.
“In writing this veteran’s life story, I learned not only how effective canines are as a healing modality for PTSD, [but that] twenty-two lives a day have lost hope,” Hassing shared. “I was inspired to be a voice for the twenty-three co-authors of ‘Hope Has A Cold Nose’ who desired to inspire hope for 22 lives a day with a goal of reducing the suicide rate to zero.”
Each chapter shares the story of a different human-canine pair as they explore their life changing relationship. The compelling testimonies from each and every storyteller in the book reminds readers of the importance of compassion and community during the recovery process for veterans.
“It’s important to increase awareness about the healing impact that service dogs have on those journeying with PTSD and the power of listening that helps people heal,” she shared. “To foster hope for anyone who struggles with pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair and to foster compassion and community. This year may become one in which many will mark 2020 as a traumatic year. The co-authors in Hope Has a Cold Nose understand grief, sorrow, fear, isolation, anxiety, depression, and loss of hope. These stories can foster empathy and understanding in addition to inspiring hope.”
For Hassing, working to share these individual veteran stories stretches far beyond publishing a book.
“It is my hope that the readers will learn about the effectiveness of service dogs as a healing modality for those who struggle with PTSD,” Hassing said. “That increased understanding will foster the ability to listen to others experiencing pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair with the same kind of unconditional acceptance as those with fur do and that if the reader is undergoing significant pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair, may they find compassion and understanding for their own story. May they find hope.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.
Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.
The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.
I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …
Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.
In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.
Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.
And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.
After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.
If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”
When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”
He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”
When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”
In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”
He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.
Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.
Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.
The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.
Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.
On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.
Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.
Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.
Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.
On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”
Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.
The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.
At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)
Mattis put on spot over attacks
In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.
They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.
At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”
The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.
“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.
“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”
At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.
“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”
“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.
“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.
“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.
“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.
For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.
Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’
“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.
Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.
Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.
Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.
Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.
Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)
In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.
“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.
“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.
Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.
In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”
Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”
Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.
“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”
The strategy — what strategy?
In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.
“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.
The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.
The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”
“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.
“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”
In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”
“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.
“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.
“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”
Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress
The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.
In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.
“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.
At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.
The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”
In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.
“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.
“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.
‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’
As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.
Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.
In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.
“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.
Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.
Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.
The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.
Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.
“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”
Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.
“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.
The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.
Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.
In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.
“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.
Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.
First active-duty spouse in Congress?
If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.
Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)
Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.
“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”
On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.
If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.
Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)
With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”
Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”
Serve where you want to see change
Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.
Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)
“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”
It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.
“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”
Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.
Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)
“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”
Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.
“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.
Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.
Where do I start?
Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.
“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”
Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.
All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.
Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:
Easy next steps
Register to vote.
Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
Go to school board meetings.
Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
Sign a petition for a cause you support.
Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.
One look at their pin curls, painted red lips and A-line dresses in patriotic hues, and you’re instantly transported back to the 1940s.
But then you hear the Blue Anchor Belles sing. Just a few notes, and you can’t help but tap your toes.
The “Belles,” as they’re known, is a 1940s-style female singing trio in the Pensacola, Florida area. The group is made up of Naval aviator spouses.
The group takes inspiration from The Andrews Sisters, the best-selling harmony group of the early 20th century, famous for their song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
“We’re bringing boogie-woogie back,” Goldie Lahr, who started the singing trio in 2016 while stationed in Oklahoma City, said.
Lauren Martin, a member of the group, notes that the song is a crowd favorite.
“I missed singing, so I decided to start [the group],” Lahr said.
Lahr began arranging unique, three-part harmonies for beloved songs from the World War II era. She held auditions to find additional singers for the group, inviting fellow military spouses to be a part of her vision. Before she knew it, the Blue Anchor Belles was born.
Like for many military families, new orders eventually came. So rather than leave it behind, the Blue Anchor Belles PCS’d to Pensacola in 2018, a move that’s been a great fit.
“Coming to Pensacola has been like coming home for us. Not only is the rich history of Naval aviation here close to our hearts, but the military, veteran and civilian communities have welcomed us with open arms. Not to mention, people in Pensacola love live music,” Lahr said.
The Belles perform at military functions, community events and minor league sporting events. Still, their passion is singing for aging veterans and their families at assisted living centers and memory care facilities.
“This is music from their generation, and you can see how much joy it brings them. Plus, it brings us joy to keep this vintage music relevant,” Lahr added.
Since its beginning, nearly a dozen talented female singers have been a part of the Blue Anchor Belles.
“Once a Belle, always a Belle,” Lahr said.
But as most military stories go, their spouses eventually move on to new assignments in new duty stations. Each member takes a piece of the Belles along with them when they move.
“We’ve gotten pretty used to members coming and going,” Lahr said.
For that reason, auditions are held semi-regularly.
“The member that’s about to leave teaches the new member her parts.”
Lahr admits there’s a downside to having members move so frequently.
“But there’s an upside too,” she added. “We have this community of Belles all over the country. We’re in Washington state, San Diego, Virginia, and that community is constantly growing!”
Martin joined the group in 2019 when she moved to the Pensacola area with her husband for primary flight training at NAS Whiting Field.
“I saw a call for auditions and decided to give it a go. I did theater and music growing up and had really missed it,” Martin said.
She says she appreciated the opportunity to pursue her passion.
“Moving down here, I had a hard time finding a job. There weren’t many opportunities in the field I work in, and when employers realize you’re a military spouse and are going to move sooner rather than later, it just adds to the difficulty. It was disheartening. Then I found the Blue Anchor Belles, and it was so nice to have something for me. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love, which is singing and performing, and so lucky to be a part of this,” Martin said.
The Belles love being a part of a community of military spouse performers, which is exactly what Lahr was hoping to build in the first place.
“It’s a special thing in that it gives military spouses the opportunity to use their talents and a family to belong to,” Lahr said.
The new year will bring another PCS for Lahr, and she plans to bring the group with her, opening up the opportunity for new military spouses to join the Belles’ ranks.
“We brought the boogie-woogie to the gulf coast, and soon we’ll look to bring it to the west coast. And who knows where we’ll take the Belles after that,” said Lahr.
The Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) survived a little over a decade before the Air Force decided to get rid of it. Today, the United States Air Force announced that they’ll be switching to the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniforms.
According to a report by Military.com, the OCP will be available at four base exchanges: Aviano Air Base in Italy, MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, and Shaw Air Force Base and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. The OCP will fully replace the ABU by April 2021 at a total cost of $237 million. To put price that into perspective, that’s enough to buy roughly two and a half F-35A Lightning II multirole fighters.
Air Force personnel wearing the ABU in hot climates, like these Airmen in the Nevada desert, were often feeling the heat.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)
“The uniform works in all climates — from Minot [North Dakota] to Manbij [Syria] — and across the spectrum of missions we perform,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff said in an Air Force release. “It’s suitable for our Airmen working on a flight line in Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East.”
So, why spend so much money on a new look when you could spend it on couple extra F-35As? It turns out, the Airman Battle Uniform wasn’t quite hitting the mark in some areas. First and foremost, it’s fairly uncomfortable in hot climates. In fact, some Air Force personnel were already using the OCP over the ABU on deployment.
Airmen were already wearing the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern in a number of instances on deployment.
A few notes for Airmen with this rollout: It will take time for the OCP to be fielded across the entire Air Force. Additionally, as noted in the “frequently asked questions” document, mixing ABU items (like cold-weather gear) with OCP items is not authorized. Also, some ABU items must be returned, like flight suits and tactical gear. Uniform disposal boxes will be available and any items put in there will be burned or shredded, so dispose carefully.
The Air Force expects that all Airmen will be wearing the OCP by April 1, 2021.
Zimbabwe’s opposition leader has pledged to rid the country of investment from China if he wins the nation’s upcoming July 2018 elections.
Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told crowds at a rally in the capital city of Harare on May 1, 2018, that China was “asset-stripping” the country’s resources.
“I have seen the deals that Ngwena [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] has entered into with China and others, they are busy asset-stripping the resources of the country,” he said.
Chamisa promised to change the country’s current relationship with China pending a victory.
“I have said, beginning September 2018, when I assume office, I will call the Chinese and tell them the deals they signed are unacceptable and they should return to their country.”
The 2018 elections will be the first since the relatively-peaceful coup and subsequent resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in 2017. Mugabe was effectively ousted as president after serving for more than 30 years, with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa stepping in to take his place.
China has also heavily invested in projects including extensions to airports, construction of a new parliament building, and repairing water supplies between Harare and surrounding town, according to The Herald.
But China has faced growing criticism for its foreign investments projects.
China has spent billions in Africa as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and often seeks collateral in the form of natural resources.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.