The Christmas Day crash of a Tupelov Tu-154 off the coast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort town in Russia, killed all 92 people on board. Among the dead are 60 members of the Red Army Choir.
The Red Army Choir had a viral moment when they sang backup to a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” done by the Leningrad Cowboys. One Youtube video is below:
The choir members killed were part of the Alexandrov Ensemble, according to a CNN report. The choir was slated to perform for Russian military personnel at the Khmeimim air base in Syria.
According to the choir’s iTunes page, the group took first place at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, and features a male chorus, with dancers and an orchestra.
The impact of this crash on Russia could be compared to the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash that killed rock-and-roll artists Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, or the loss of band leader Glenn Miller in unexplained circumstances while en route to Europe on Dec, 15, 1944.
A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons)
In a statement on Facebook, the director of the MVD’s Red Army Choir, Gen. Victor Eliseev, said, “Today we are in the shock of the catastrophe in which our colleges of the Alexandrov Choirs and Dances disappeared. Not only were they our colleagues, but a very important military art company, and I am shocked to learn of the disappearance of their leader, my fellow student and friend General Valery Khalilov, with whom we studied and professed together at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It is a terrible loss for Russian music and art.”
“All members of the Red Army Chorus MVD of the Russian National Guard join me in expressing their friendship to the families of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble and the families of all the victims of this tragedy and to address our feelings to them more affectionate in this dramatic moment,” Eliseev added.
As the Army steadily grows its space force with current Soldiers, a path is now being offered to help cadets quickly become Functional Area 40 space operations officers.
Since its inception in 2008, FA40 has “developed billets and found technically qualified individuals to fill them,” said Mike Connolly, Army Space Personnel Development Office director.
The Army currently has approximately 3,000 billets in its force of space-qualified professionals, including 285 active component FA40 space operations officers. The increased need for space operations expertise within Army formations is resulting in further growth of Army’s space force, officials said.
As the core of the Army space force, FA40s provide in-depth expertise and experience to leverage space-related assets. They also deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, according to a news release.
The goal is to recruit and fill a rapidly increasing demand for Army officers into the FA40 career field each year, Connolly said, with initially 10 of these officers transferring as cadets through the Assured Functional Area Transfer program.
ASSURED FUNCTIONAL AREA TRANSFER
A more guaranteed route for officers to transfer into the Army space force begins before they commission under the A-FAT program. Upon commissioning into their operational basic branch, selected cadets with STEM degrees — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — will be assured a transfer into FA40 Space Operations at the four-year mark in their career.
While in their basic branch, the officers must remain in good military standing, and if selected, sign a contract to transfer into the Army space force as a space operations officer.
Once selected, FA40 officers attend the Space Operations Officer Qualification Course, which includes the National Security Space Institute, the Space 200 course, and seven weeks of Army-focused space training provided by the Space and Missile Defense Command’s Space and Missile Defense School.
The Army is steadily growing its space force due to an increased need to deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, officials said.
(Photo Credit: Catherine Deran)
VOLUNTARY TRANSFER INCENTIVE PROGRAM
The Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program is also accepting applications from eligible officers for a branch transfer into the Army space force at the four-year mark in their career. VTIP is the primary means of balancing branches and functional areas within the Army.
Once applications are received, officers are vetted from the current career field into the Army space operator career field. Subject-matter experts within the respective careers determine the best fit for the Army, by deciding which career best suits the applicant. In addition to technical abilities, applicants are vetted based on their values and leadership abilities.
Due to the needs of the Army, the VTIP program is not a guaranteed process for all applicants hoping to transfer into the Army’s space force, Connolly said.
The Army remains the largest user of space-based assets within the Defense Department, and nearly every piece of equipment Soldiers use “on a day-to-day basis” such as GPS devices and cell phones are space enabled, Connolly said.
In the future, he said, the Army’s prevalence toward space and need for more officers within Army’s space force will continue to grow.
Individuals interested in becoming an FA40 officer should visit the Space Knowledge Management System for additional information.
The stimulus checks have started to appear in everyone’s bank accounts and we’re sure they’re on the way if they’re going through mail. On one hand, it’s fantastic news for the folks that have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus. Hell, we all kind of need it after paying rent last week.
But there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that not everyone’s going to spend it on rent, utilities, essential groceries or whathaveyou, and wonder where it all went. Maybe it’s because I saw way too many young troops look at their clothing allowance as beer money…
Don’t worry if you’re like 99% of lower enlisted seeing a comma in their bank account. At least these memes won’t cost you a cent!
Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called OperationTenzing Nepal.
The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.
Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.
Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.
Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.
Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.
Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.
Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to take stock of the war and the prospects of drawing some elements of the Taliban into peace talks with the Afghan government.
The March 13, 2018, visit, which was not announced in advance due to security concerns, comes as the United States is putting new resources into the more than 16-year-old war.
Before landing in the Afghan capital, Mattis told reporters that the United States was picking up signs of interest from groups of Taliban fighters in exploring the possibility of talks to end the violence, adding that the signs date back several months.
“There is interest that we’ve picked up from the Taliban side,” Mattis said. “We’ve had some groups of Taliban — small groups — who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking.”
As part of its new regional strategy announced in August 2017, Washington has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military in a bid to break the stalemate and force the militants to the negotiating table.
During a meeting with Mattis, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the new strategy allowed Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness.
“It has been a game changer because it has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions,” Ghani said.
Ghani offers incentives
On Feb. 28, 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.
But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with the Western-backed government, which they say is illegitimate.
The group has insisted it would only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a “foreign occupying force.” The Taliban also says that NATO forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.
Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the U.S. position that the talks should be led by Kabul.
“We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort,” he said.
The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down almost immediately.
As part of its new strategy for Afghanistan, the United States has boosted the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000, and stepped up air strikes in the country.
Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they cannot win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation.
“We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” he said. “Not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation.”
Taliban fighters control large parts of the country, and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians are being killed every year.
In a report published late on March 12, 2018, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that more than 30,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict in Afghanistan.
Russia is looking to expand its amphibious assault capability by building two ships comparable to the large-deck, amphibious vessels common in Western navies.
According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the first of these vessels will begin construction in 2020, the second in 2022. The plan is for both ships to be in service by 2026. While the exact details of the ships are not yet available, this isn’t the first time that Russia has sought to add powerful amphibious assault capability to their arsenal.
Russia had hoped to acquire two such vessels from France, which built three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships in the 2000s. However, the deal was canceled when the ships were nearly ready for delivery in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Egyptians later bought the vessels with some help from the Saudis.
Most of these big-deck amphibious assault ships are capable of carrying a battalion of troops (usually marines) in addition to at least a dozen helicopters. In the case of the Russian vessels, the onboard helicopters will likely be a mix of Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters as well as Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, Ka-29 Helix troop-carrying helicopters, and Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning helicopters.
An aerial starboard bow view of the Soviet amphibious assault transport ship Ivan Rogov underway. (U.S. Navy photo)
During the Cold War, Russia did develop three unique amphibious vessels. However, these ships, Ivan Rogov-class amphibious vessels, have since been removed from active service. GlobalSecurity.org notes that these vessels could carry a battalion of Russian Naval Infantry and 25 tanks. We expect the new ship to have equal, if not greater capacities.
Watch the video below to learn more about Russia’s planned amphibious ship:
Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”
So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.
Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.
And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.
The most comprehensive study yet made of veteran suicide concludes that on average 20 veterans a day are taking their own lives.
The average daily tally is two less than the VA previously estimated, but is based on a more thorough review of Defense Department records, records from each state and data from the Centers for Disease Control, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“One veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better-informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, VA Under Secretary for Health. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero.”
The VA said in a statement that the report will be released at the end of July.
The study found that veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults in 2014 — a decrease from 22 percent in 2010.
Veteran suicides increased at a rate higher than adult civilians between 2001 and 2014. The civilian rate grew by 23 percent while veteran suicides increased 32 percent over the same period. “After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for veterans,” the VA said.
The study also found that the suicide rates among veterans — male and female — who use VA services increased, though not at the rate among veterans who did not use the services.
Overall, the suicide rate since 2001 among all veterans using VA services grew by 8.8 percent versus 38.6 percent for those who did not. For male veterans, the rate increased 11 percent and 35 percent, respectively. For female vets, the rates increased 4.6 percent and 98 percent, according to the study.
In its last study, the VA noted that its figures probably were underestimated, in part because it relied on state records that were not always complete or accurate. Another shortcoming with the earlier report is that it used information from only 21 states.
“The ability of death certificates to fully capture female Veterans was particularly low; only 67 percent of true female Veterans were identified,” the report stated. “Younger or unmarried Veterans and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to be missed on the death certificate.”
The increasing rate of female suicides prompted Congress to pass the Female Veterans Suicide Act, which President Obama signed into law last month.
The VA’s announcement does not offer an explanation why older veterans are more likely to commit suicide, though Dr. Tom Berger, a Navy corpsman in Vietnam and now executive director of the Veterans Health Council at Vietnam Veterans of America, previously told Military.com that sometimes veterans reach an age where they’re not as active with work or other commitments that may have been coping mechanisms for post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues.
The VA said in its announcement on Thursday that over 1.6 million veterans received mental health treatment from the department, including at more than 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers. Veterans also enter VA health care through theVeterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points.
The VA anticipates having 1,000 locations where veterans can receive mental health care by the end of 2016.
Efforts to address the high suicide rates among veterans also include predictive modeling — using clinical signs of suicide — to determine which vets may be at highest risk, the VA said in its statement. This system will enable providers to intervene early in the cases of most at-risk veterans.
The VA is also expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA health care system, hiring more than 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line, and building new partnerships between VA programs and community-based programs.
The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.
He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service.
The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.
He was on his way back to Iran.
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.
The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army.
After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.
But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.
Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.
The Marine Corps’ top leaders are wishing Marines everywhere a happy 240th birthday in a new video released on Oct. 23.
Though the nearly 10-minute video is a bit early — the Marines’ birthday isn’t until Nov. 10 — the video message from the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps have become a staple of the Corps in recent years.
This year is no different, with a message from new Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green filmed at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
“We hope each of you will have a chance to reflect on our history, remember those who sacrificed and reaffirm your commitment to the strengthening of our Corps,” Neller says in the video.
The video features interviews with other Marines, along with historical footage from past battles, including The Battle of Iwo Jima, which was fought 70 years ago.
“Happy birthday Marines, wherever you are. … We must continue to uphold the legacy of those who have gone before, and we remain Semper Fidelis,” Neller says in closing, using the Marine Corps Latin motto, meaning “Always Faithful.”
China is working hard to bring new stealth fighters and bombers online, and the US is preparing to push back with its F-35 stealth fighter, a US general commanding US air assets in the Pacific region told Bloomberg.
The Chinese military, according to US intelligence, is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to provide penetrating strike capabilities. China’s new J-20 stealth fighter could be operational this year, and the country is also considering turning its J-31 stealth fighter into a stealthy carrier-based aircraft for the Chinese navy’s future carriers.
China’s air force is the largest in the region and the third largest in the world with 2,500 aircraft and 1,700 fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft. China is one of only three nations to develop a fifth-generation fighter, and if it successfully fields a nuclear-capable stealth bomber, it will be one of only three countries with a complete nuclear triad.
Gen. Charles Brown told Bloomberg this week that rising F-35 deployments will be needed to counter these developments. Talking about his observations of the way the Chinese operate, the commander of US Pacific Air Forces said, “They’ll continue to push the envelope to figure out does anybody say or do anything.”
“If you don’t push back it’ll keep coming,” he added, noting that the J-20 represents a “greater threat” in the Pacific.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) transits the waters of the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
Brown recently told Japanese reporters he expects the US and its allies in the Pacific to have as many as 200 F-35s operating in the region by 2025.
A US Marine Corps F-35B squadron deployed to Japan at the start of 2017, and later that same year, a dozen US Air Force F-35As deployed to the Pacific for a six-month rotation.
The US military has also been experimenting with the “Lighting Carrier” concept, turning flattop Navy amphibious assault ships into light aircraft carriers outfitted with stealth fighter jets, and the US Navy is moving closer to fielding aircraft carriers armed with F-35Cs.
US allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia are all part of the F-35 program.
Chinese analysts, according to Chinese media, have argued the Chinese J-20 fighter will have “overwhelming superiority” over the F-35, giving it the ability to take on the so-called “US F-35 friends circle.”
While China’s new fighter has some advantages, range in particular, it is generally considered to be less capable than its fifth-generation counterparts in the US military.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A U.S. naval vessel collided with a South Korean fishing boat but no injuries were reported following the accident.
The USS Lake Champlain was taking part in joint naval exercises off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula when the collision occurred, Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday.
The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser hit the South Korean fishing vessel at around 11:50 a.m., local time.
South Korea’s coast guard said the accident occurred about 70 miles east of Gangguhang Port, a large harbor in Yeongdeok city, in South Gyeongsang Province.
“At the time of the collision there were no injuries, the front of the fishing boat was damaged, as was a part of the U.S. naval vessel,” the coast guard said.
The coast guard also said an accident at sea involving a U.S. naval boat and a Korean fishing boat was “unprecedented.”
The U.S. Navy and the South Korea coast guard continue to investigate the accident.
The USS Lake Champlain measures more than 560 feet in length, significantly larger than the South Korean boat measuring about 60 to 70 feet.
The South Korean fishing boat returned to Pohang port in the evening.
The accident occurred as the Lake Champlain was conducting exercises at sea with the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, and the USS Michael Murphy, the 62nd ship of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
Every year, more than 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life, joining more than 18 million Veterans to form one of America’s largest and strongest communities. But like most big transitions in life, this one is not easy. Since its inception in 2010, Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) has been helping Veterans stay active, connecting to their new communities and developing a resilient mindset. Today, Team RWB is 217,000 members strong, with chapters across the country. Volunteer leaders run these chapters, and collectively, they host nearly 40,000 events per year.
Providing Veterans more opportunities
Through a newly formalized partnership (signed memorandum of understanding) with the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA stakeholders will have access to Team RWB’s wide-ranging network of events, providing Veterans and supporters everywhere opportunities to connect at the local, regional and national levels.
In addition, Team RWB will work with local VA staff to bring the power of the Eagle network to communities across the country. Events range from hikes to yoga classes, to preparing care packages for deployed service members.
“Team RWB is a non-profit organization, but in that, we are so much more, ” says Mike Erwin, founder and Executive Director of Team RWB. “We are a movement and an identity, a mindset and a community that challenges and supports each other. We are accountable to each other, especially when it comes to creating healthy habits in our post-military lives. Through this new partnership with VA, Team RWB is positioned to engage every Veteran in our country—to help them re-discover the power of physical activity in their lives. And through that, a sense of pride, confidence, purpose and belonging.”
Last fall, Team RWB released a mobile app to engage Veterans wherever they are throughout the day. The Eagle app makes it even easier to discover nearby events and participate in virtual challenges like last month’s March Madness Challenge that had states competing with each other. In May, a new update will introduce social networking, the ability for members to create events and more.
Born for the Storm
As Team RWB prepares to celebrate its 10th year, the organization has rolled out a new mantra for its Veterans: Born for the Storm. It’s a virus now, but it could be something else by the fall. Life is unpredictable and adversity is certain. Team RWB knows that every Veteran has persevered through numerous physical and mental challenges while serving the nation, and reminds its Veterans that they have the character to weather whatever storms they may be facing.
Team RWB is fired up to partner with VA and wants you to explore the idea of joining the Team and becoming active in virtual challenges right away. You, the Veteran community and our country, will be better for it.