This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

Sitting across the table from Remi Adeleke is a pretty powerful experience. This is a man who exudes charisma and excellence.

You’d never know that he was born into African royalty, lost his father and everything his family owned, relocated to the Bronx, got caught up in illegal and dangerous activities, and found his way out not just in the military but as a United States Navy SEAL — one of the most elite military programs in the world.

Now, he gives back, helping at-risk youths the same way he was once helped: by believing in them.


This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

“If you’re not uncomfortable when you’re training, you’re not training.”

(Photo courtesy of Remi Adeleke)

Unsung Hero

In his new book Transformed, Adeleke details his unlikely journey where he is both unflinching while admitting his mistakes and unsparing while reflecting on the people who helped him. As we spoke, he observed that many of the critical guides in his life were women — starting with his mother and his military recruiter.

In his book he details how Petty Officer Tiana Reyes managed to help a poor kid from the Bronx — with a record and an outstanding warrant for his arrest — qualify for the Navy SEALs. I don’t mean to spoil one of my favorite moments, but Reyes personally accompanied Adeleke to multiple court hearings to advocate for him.

“She knew that no one would take a chance on a kid from the Bronx,” he told me when I asked why she did it. It turned out that Reyes was from the Bronx, too, and she knew the obstacles facing families there. He promised her that he wouldn’t let her down and that promise guided him through boot camp, into BUD/S, and beyond.

The assistance she gave him would also inspire him to return to inner cities to help others.

“Strategic mentorship is how we can improve inner city environments. If military veterans, doctors, or successful actors came to the inner cities to mentor children, we could change their lives,” he said when I asked how we can make a difference for at risk youths.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

Behind-the-scenes on ‘Transformers: The Last Knight.’

(Photo courtesy of Remi Adeleke)

Taking on a broken system — one kid at a time

“Honor, courage, and commitment were instilled into me by the Navy, as well as excellence. In SEAL training, just meeting the standard wasn’t enough. Now, my character is built on excellence: keeping my word, being on time, and pushing myself.” After his military career, Adeleke pursued writing, speaking, and acting, notably including a role in Transformers: The Last Knight.

He has climbed high but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

“If make a mistake as a youth, you get marked,” he noted, adding that African American males who grow up in single-parent households are nine times more likely to drop out of high school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison than any other demographic. This becomes a cycle for these families — but it doesn’t have to be.

Now, the message he gives to inner-city youths is that they can be whatever they want to be — if they do the work. He tells them his own story, sharing the deficiencies he had to overcome. “You have to do the extra hard work. You have to. And if you do that, you really can be anything you want to become.”

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BxQf9p-HkTt/ expand=1]Remi Adeleke on Instagram: ““M-J, Him J, Fade-away, Perfect.” All my #hiphop heads know where that line is from. . My @cityhopenow boys challenged your boy to a 3 on…”

www.instagram.com

“Everything that happens in our lives leads us to where we are today.”

He began with the drive to help and he hasn’t stopped.

“Ten years ago, I was living in San Diego and I decided to go find kids who needed help. I went to ministries and non-profits and asked if there were kids who needed to hear my message.” Now, Adeleke partners with non-profits like La Mesa City Hope, continuing to serve after his service.

His book details his incredible journey, but ultimately, it is about overcoming the odds — any odds, for anyone, anywhere. He has embodied that message and now he encourages others to do the same.

Transformed comes out on May 14, 2019, and is now available for pre-order.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

New report shows the depths of the Army’s deployability problems

The US Army sent 62 of its generals to an “executive health program” at a military hospital in Texas, where they spent three days undergoing medical examinations and receiving healthcare, according to a new report obtained by USA Today.

The program followed a military-wide sweep of the Army’s top brass and reportedly showed that only one in five of its generals was ready to deploy during 2016.


The report highlighted the Army’s struggle to get its troops ready to deploy, which has become one of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ top priorities. Conducted at the order of former Secretary Chuck Hagel, the report was completed in 2017 after Mattis had taken over.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.

(DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)

The generals and admirals who lead the US military have also seen their reputation suffer after years of scandals, corruption and ethical lapses. An investigation, also by USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook, found that military investigators documented 500 cases of serious misconduct by admirals and generals over a four-year period.

Only 83.5 percent of Army soldiers were able to deploy, USA Today reported. Other service branches reported higher numbers around 90 percent, the report showed.

But among Army generals, fewer than 80 percent were ready to deploy.

The report suggests this may be due to administrative rather than health reasons; most generals became deployable after receiving updated blood tests and dental exams, according to USA Today. The report recommended that generals take time to complete required examinations and necessary treatment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US met with the Taliban for peace talks in Doha

Perhaps unthinkable as early as just a year ago, diplomats from the United States met with representatives of the Afghan Taliban to discuss terms for ending the 17-year long conflict in Afghanistan. It all began when Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani and Taliban senior leadership agreed to a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. When it actually happened, not only did Afghans across the country rejoice, it legitimized the prospect of a permanent end to the fighting.

Of course, violence didn’t cease entirely for the most important holiday in Islam. Fighters under the flag of the Islamic State continued pressing attacks from the ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province, killing 30.


Related: The ISIS vs Taliban war in Afghanistan is heating up

Elsewhere in the country, however, Afghans were able to breathe a much-welcomed sigh of relief for the first time in over a decade, even if it was only temporary. Fighters from both sides even joined each other in some areas to celebrate the holiday, sharing a salat prayer or jelabi sweets. For a few days, their automatic rifle fire was directed into the air, instead of at each other. After the holiday, the fighters reluctantly returned to the routine of war they have endured for 17 years.

The joint celebrations made it apparent that many in Afghanistan are ready to see an end to all fighting in the country and that some kind of agreement could be reached between the opposing sides — including the U.S.-supported Ghani government. Now, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Alice Wells, a senior official for U.S. relations in Afghanistan, traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban.

Taliban officials were excited at the meeting, telling journalists it yielded “very positive signals,” in their eyes. Representatives of the Afghan government were not present at the talks. It was Ashraf Ghani’s central government in Afghanistan that first offered the Eid ceasefire agreement.

The two sides agreed to meet again in the very near future.

The biggest wrench in recent peace works is the rise of a relatively new force arising in Afghanistan, one the United States and the Taliban seem to deem a greater threat than one another: ISIS.

As a newcomer to the fighting in the country, ISIS is not as capable, having neither the technical and numerical superiority of the United States nor a force of battle-hardened Afghans who have been fighting for decades, some as far back as the 1979 Soviet invasion. The terror organization also does not have the entrenched backing of rural Afghans like the Taliban does in many areas.

The difference between this U.S.-Taliban meeting is that previous American administrations demanded that any peace talks be held between the Taliban and the Afghan government, whereas the Taliban would only agree to talk to the United States — and the biggest demand for peace in the country is that all foreign forces withdraw.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Army Veteran recalls his time as POW during Vietnam

On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.


David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Drafted

“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.

When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.

“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”

After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.

“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”

Heading to Vietnam

The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.

“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”

The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’

“They wished us well,” Harker said.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.

“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”

As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.

“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”

Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.

“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”

Capture

Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”

After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.

“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.

Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.

Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.

“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.

“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”

During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”

“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”

In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.

“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”

The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.

“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”

Moving day

On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.

“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”

“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”

In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.

“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”

Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.

“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”

Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

Repatriation

Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.

“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.

“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”

The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.

“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”

Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.

“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”

Life after war

After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.

His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.

While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.

“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”

In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.

“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy plans to buy this new Super Hornet with a deadlier sting

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has been the backbone of the US Navy’s carrier air wings for just over a decade, following the retirement of the legendary F-14 Tomcat. Reliable, versatile and thoroughly adaptable, the Super Hornet is everything the Navy hoped for in a multirole fighter and more.


But its age is starting to show quickly, especially thanks to increasing deployment rates due to a need to fill in for unavailable older “legacy” Hornets being put through service life extension programs. This has resulted in more wear and tear on these big fighters than the Navy originally projected.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

So to keep its fighter fleet relevant and as sharp as ever, the Navy has finally decided to give the go-ahead on picking up brand new Super Hornets from Boeing’s St. Louis, MO plant, while simultaneously upgrading older Super Hornets currently serving. However, these new fighters will come with a few new features that their predecessors don’t have, making them even more potent than ever before in the hands of the Navy’s best and brightest.

While Boeing previously pushed the Navy to consider buying a smaller amount of F-35C Lightning II stealth strike fighters in favor of more F/A-18E/Fs, the aviation manufacturer’s new plan is to develop a Super Hornet that’s capable of seamlessly integrating with the F-35C, making the combination extremely deadly and a huge asset in the hands of any Navy task force commander while underway.

Though the Super Hornet was originally designed in the 1990s to be able to fly against comparable 4th generation fighters, this new update, known as the Advanced Super Hornet or the Block III upgrade, will keep this aircraft relevant against even modern foreign 5th generation fighters today.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

Boeing has hinted at the Block III upgrade for the past few years, pitching it constantly with mixed results. Earlier this week, Navy brass confirmed that a plan to buy 80 more Super Hornets was in the works, fleshed out over the next five years.

These new fighters will likely be the first to carry the Block III upgrade, while older Super Hornets will enter overhaul depots between 2019 and 2022, returning to the fleet upon completion of their updating.

Among the most drastic changes these new Super Hornets will come with, as compared to the ones the Navy currently flies, is a completely revamped cockpit, similar to the one used in the F-35. Instead of smaller screens, a jumble of buttons, switches and instrument clusters, Advanced Super Hornets will have a “large-area display” which pulls up every bit of critical information each pilot needs to successfully operate the aircraft onto one big screen, reducing workload and strain.

Additionally, a new networking system will allow Advanced Super Hornets to communicate data more efficiently with Lightning IIs, EA-18 Growler electronic attack jets, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero
It’s likely that the Advanced Super Hornet will include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. (Photo from Boeing)

Block III will also include new infrared search and track (IRST) sensors that’ll allow Super Hornets to detect and engage low-observable threats from longer distances. Given that stealth has become an important factor in modern fighter design, it’s likely that the Block III update will also include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. The US Air Force and Marine Corps already use similar coatings on F-22 Raptors, F-35s, and select groups of F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The upgrade will also give Super Hornets the ability to fly with Conformal Fuel  Tanks (CFT) for the very first time, providing an extension in operating range without sacrificing space on weapons pylons beneath the aircraft’s wings. With more flexibility in terms of weapons carriage, the Navy hopes that Super Hornets will not only be able to fly air superiority missions, but will also function as a flying arsenal for F-35s, which (through data links) could launch and deploy munitions from F/A-18E/Fs while on mission.

The program cost for upgrading currently-active Super Hornets will be around $265.9 million, between 2018 and 2022, while the cost of the 80-strong order for new Super Hornets will come to around $7.1 billion. This massive upgrade also signals the Navy’s interest in investing more into assets it currently fields over developing brand new next-generation fighters as broader replacements, generally to save costs while still maintaining the ability to deal with a variety of potential threats America’s enemies pose today.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it is like to be a 16th century war reenactor

Kevin Baetz was born in Westwood, New Jersey and raised in Hollywood, Florida. He served with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines Regiment and deployed on the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit where he earned the Humanitarian Service Medal during the 2010 Haiti earthquake crisis. He also served in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2011 alongside We Are The Mighty’s interviewer Ruddy Cano. Upon relocating to St. Augustine Florida with an Honorable Discharge, he took up a job at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park as a Blacksmith, reenactor and grounds keeper. It was here that he got into reenacting the Spanish colonial life of the 16th century in the state of Florida.

Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is home to the first Catholic mission in the United States. The cross of coquina and other weathered documents were found in 1909 that verify that this site was contemporary with Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida in 1513. Dr. Luella Day MacConnell’s mission, the owner in 1909, was to prove that her property was the location of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. The archeological site has been a window into the past with findings such as the earliest known remains of Christian burials of indigenous people, artifacts, and even a prehistoric finds 500 years before the Spanish arrived.

war reenactor in costume

WATM: How did you first become interested in being a war reenactor?

I did reenactment before the Marine Corps. I got into the 16th century reenactment because I worked at the original 16th century settlement site that the Spaniards had here in St. Augustine. It is the longest continuous settlement since 1565, its part of the job and I’m really into it.

WATM: What kind of gear do you usually work with?

Well, it depends. A lot of the clothing is custom by this tailor we know out in Italy, Luciano. The clothing is really important but weapon wise; it’s matchlock arquebus, cannons, long swords – it all depends what we’re portraying for the day. As a job it’s either cannoneer or shooting off the matchlock.

WATM: What kind of historical training do you receive?

Training as a job is basically: show up and work with the other reenactors here at the site. For someone who’s new-new, like they want to get into it, they should do it for fun to see if they like it. For example, my buddies and I go downtown dressed up to drink. That part isn’t so much reenacting but reliving that style of life — we wear funny clothing, order wine, play card games. If someone comes up to us and wants to get involved and wants to hang out, just like anything else, we have loaner gear. If they’re serious enough they start to buy their own gear.

As far as weapons training, it’s like any other weapons. Safety, this is how one of these things works. Carrying the weapon as a display, walking around downtown as a soldier. We do not shoot the weapons at people, we don’t do a lot of that. As reenactors, you give people the run down; how it works, how much powder you’re supposed to use, but in town you’re not going to do that.

WATM: What was your favorite battle to reenact?

A lot of the stuff we do out of here is two [main] 16th century battles. The big one is the recreation of Drake’s raid, [his English expedition] came into the town and burned it to the ground. One of [Francis Drake’s] guys got killed fighting the Spaniards, so, he took revenge. He came back and rebuilt it. It’s really the only true battle we recreate in the United States from this era and St. Augustine specifically.

The more intense ones are over in Europe. You have the Battle of Grolle in the Netherlands, That’s a massive one. You got some that go on in Spain…the anniversary of the Battle of Pavia in Italy is coming up. That one puts all other to shame – full contact, shock and smash, regal.

WATM: Is there anything you want to say to the military audience?

I don’t know, it’s fun! (laughs) I enjoy reenacting, it has put me in contact with a good number of veterans. Especially guys my age that miss the comradery and get the chance to put on funny clothing, drink, pretend gamble and have a good time. People should try it out, I enjoy it.

The park is open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm daily and has attractions such as the navigator’s planetarium, blacksmithing, Timucuan burials and village, Nombre de Dios mission, cannon firing, classical boat building excavations, the 1565 Menendez settlement, and drinking from the Fountain of Youth itself.

Be it known by this that I, Alonzo Soriano, shareholder and resident of Brillar, contributed and certify to the public that I was present at the beginning of the rising and setting of the Sun. By order of the Royal Crown of Aragon he made his description at the Fountain which is good and sweet to the taste. It was in the year 1513. – FROM THE SORIANO VELLUM AT PONCE DE LEON’S FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress wants to cyber attack countries who meddle in elections

As part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. to launch offensive cyber attacks in retaliation against Russia or any other country that tries to “significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government.”

The language appeared in the committee’s newly released conference report of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” a week after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized President Donald Trump for not taking a hard stance on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.


The NDAA “authorizes the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran in cyberspace.”

“Defense committees have long expressed concern with the lack of an effective strategy and policy for the information domain, including cyberspace and electronic warfare,” the document states.

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President Donald Trump

(Photo by Michael Vadon)

To assist the Defense Department in this challenge, the NDAA “establishes a policy that the United States should employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond when necessary, to cyber attacks that target U.S. interests with the intent to cause casualties, significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government, threaten the Armed Forces or the critical infrastructure they rely upon, achieve an effect comparable to an armed attack, or imperil a U.S. vital interest,” the document states.

Lawmakers became increasingly vocal in their concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections after Trump appeared to question his own intelligence agencies’ findings on the issue and take Putin’s word at the Helsinki summit that Russia had no part in interfering with the 2016 election.

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United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.


“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.

“He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be,’ ” Trump said.

He later clarified his comments, saying he told Putin the U.S. won’t tolerate any election interference in the future.

“I let him know we can’t have this,” Trump said, according to an AP report. “We’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

In addition to the new language, Senate lawmakers increased research and development spending on cyber, and other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and directed energy, by more than 0 million, the document states.

If signed by Trump, “the FY19 NDAA will help provide our men and women in uniform the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world,” according to a recent Senate Armed Services Committee press release.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 21-foot rule is more of a guideline (and may save your life)

As you walk out of a late movie with your date, a shady character steps into your path about ten feet in front of you. He produces a switchblade and demands your wallet. You know that in order to reach your wallet, your hand will swipe right past the concealed carry holster your trusty Glock 19 is nestled into, but could you level the weapon and fire before the assailant pokes you full of holes?

Chances are, you couldn’t.


There’s always room for debate within the tactical training community, as experienced (and often inexperienced) gunslingers develop their own unique approaches to engaging armed opponents. While many opinionated enthusiasts will subscribe to the idea that there’s only one right way to train or fight, the truth is that the right approach is often dictated by the user’s ability, training, and nerves.
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Military and law enforcement train frequently to ensure they can act quickly in life-or-death situations.

(US Air Force)

Put simply, two different people could be put into the same set of circumstances and may use the same approach to try to get themselves back out of it, but because of the innumerable variables at play in any fight (whether we’re talking fists or nuclear missiles), placing bets on a winner can be a crapshoot. That’s why, when it comes to training to survive a fight for your life, it’s often better to operate within training guidelines rather than the rules you may see published by those who assume it’s their way or the highway (to hell).

One such rule that is really more of a guideline is the often-debated “21-foot rule.” This rule was first posited by Salt Lake City police officer Dennis Tueller in an article he wrote entitled, “How Close is too Close?” Put simply, Tueller determined that an assailant armed with a knife or club could cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds, which is faster than most police officers could draw, aim, and fire their weapons from their hip holsters. This assessment produced two important tactical norms in the minds of many: the first is that a person may be justified in shooting an opponent armed with a knife or club within that distance, because there may not be time to adequately react if they chose to attack. The second is that once you’re inside that 21-foot radius, your approach to survival will need to shift.

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This dude probably should have drawn his pistol a while ago.

In the years since Tueller’s article was published back in 1983, this rule has been debated, “debunked,” re-debated, and incorporated into many training regimens… but it’s important not to get too caught up in the figures. That 21-foot figure was really meant to be a rule of thumb, rather than a hard-and-fast rule, because shooters of different skill levels respond at different rates of speed, opponents aren’t all the same speed either, and countless variables regarding the officer’s equipment and the environment the altercation takes place in can all affect how quickly and accurately a shooter can respond with deadly force.

Likewise, for those of us that aren’t members of law enforcement, relying on the idea that the rule is 21 feet can be pretty dangerous. Most casual shooters don’t have the same training and experience with their firearms as police officers tend to, and it often takes longer to draw a weapon from a concealed holster than it does from the open-carry hip holster position employed by most police officers.

So does that mean the rule is bunk? Absolutely not — it just means you need to use a bit of common sense in the way you employ it.

If you pride yourself on your Wild West quick-draw skills, your safe engagement distance might be notably shorter than 21 feet. If you do most of your shooting at a relaxed pace inside your local gun range with a stationary sheet of paper standing in as your opponent, your safe distance may actually be quite a bit greater than 21 feet.

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Casual range shooters are rarely as quick on the draw as trained police officers.

The exact distance isn’t as important as the understanding that a gun isn’t a guarantee of victory against knife-wielding attackers. In fact, inside the distance it takes to get a first down playing football, a knife can often be the deadlier option.

That information can help inform your approach to dangerous situations — like just handing over your wallet to that mugger that was inside of ten feet of you and your date. It can also help you prioritize targets in a multiple assailant situation.

If you want to know what your own equivalent of the “21-foot rule” is, it’s simple: have a friend time you the next time you’re training for rapid deployment of your firearm from its holster (in a safe and controlled environment). Slower than 1.5 seconds? Then your rule is further than 21 feet.

Articles

The Taliban are using ‘culturally sanctioned male rape’ as a weapon

“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.


In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.

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The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.

AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.

Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.

Related: Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.

“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”

The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.

 
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy SEAL who shot bin Laden just did stand-up

In case you haven’t heard, David Spade has a new show called Light’s Out with David Spade. And one of the bits on that show is “Secret Stand-up” where he feeds jokes to another person who performs on stage. And he got Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims the bin Laden kill, onto the stage at the world-famous Comedy Store.


The Navy SEAL Who Killed bin Laden Makes His Stand-Up Debut – Lights Out with David Spade

youtu.be

The video is available above, and Spade and Whitney Cummings give him some seriously edgy jokes to say, going from his sex life to the raid on Abbottabad to 9/11 with barely a beat. (And children probably shouldn’t watch the clip, but we don’t actually have the power to stop you. If you do watch it and don’t understand a joke, avoid image search when looking for the explanation.)

And you can tell that O’Neill really enjoys some of the jokes, because he hears them through an earpiece right before he has to deliver the line. He sometimes has to fight through his own laughter to deliver the punch line that he’s just heard from the real comedians.

O’Neill has 11 awards for valor and served on SEAL Teams Two and Four before being selected for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as SEAL Team Six). He left the Navy in 2012 after 16 years of service and having shot bin Laden. Everyone wants to end their career on that kind of high note.

Now, O’Neill is a media personality and public speaker, usually appearing on Fox News where he provides military expertise.

David Spade is returning to TV. For anyone young enough to not remember him, you probably shouldn’t watch the clip. It includes a lot of adult language. But Spade is probably best known for his roles in Joe Dirt, Tommy Boy, and Saturday Night Live. He’s performed in dozens of other movies and shows including The Hotel Transylvania and Grown Ups series.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Feb. 3

Funny military memes from around the Facebooks.


1. They know the three Norths on a military map, but have no idea what their name is (via The Salty Soldier).

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In their defense, they probably didn’t practice their name.

2. It’s not often that the Coast Guard has the better equipment (via Sh-t my LPO says).

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But seriously, how nice of a shovel do you need to clean off a 15-foot boat?

ALSO READ: Here’s what it would look like if the modern Army fought the Battle of Gettysburg

3. Yeah, we were all surprised our first time, Marine (via Military World).

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But hey, you’ve got that sweet uniforms going for you.

4. Abstract art always looks like a Marine threw up after a crayon binge (via Maintainer Nation).

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So pretty ….

5. He forgot to put his knife hand on safe when he was raising his compass.

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I thought Mattis always just knew whatever azimuth he is currently facing.

6. Chiefs are the first, last, and only line of defense for the buffet (via Decelerate Your Life).

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Hey, they lift those coffee cups like a bunch of total bosses.

7. Hey, if I talk to them for an hour about wasting time, they won’t use all those minutes checking Facebook later (via Air Force Nation).

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Side note: Don’t use this meme as evidence that your command is wasting time. Proving that you’re reading memes lists during duty hours will not go well.

8. Hands in pockets is wrong for patrols, parades, and formations (via Air Force Nation).

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Shouldn’t really matter the rest of the time.

9. When the worn out Cost Guard cutters have to rescue your brand new warship:

(via Military World)

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Coast Guard is always ready to tow your ships.

10. We always get the exact same results from each Sergeant Major Day:

(via CONUS Battle Drills)

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Really not sure why we keep having it.

11. This may be a bad idea for city planners, but it’s a great one for movie producers (via The Geek Strikes Back).

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

12. Someone’s NCO, battle buddies, and common sense failed them (via The Salty Soldier).

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Maybe a quick Google search would help you out.

13. “Military grade” doesn’t sound so great after you’ve joined the military (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero
But hey, it sounds cool on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you should drop the new year’s resolution

We’re nearing the middle of January, and chances are your new year’s resolution is already feeling like a bit of a battle. Resolutions are a helpful tool for testing ourselves and improving our willpower, but if you’re having a really hard time sticking to your new vow, you might be better off giving up.

Psychologist Niels Eék, the cofounder of mental health and wellbeing app Remente, told Insider resolutions can offer us direction if we’re suffering from end of year anxiety about what we actually achieved in the previous 12 months, and making clear future goals can really help us focus.


“The extent to which resolutions can help you will depend on your personality, though,” he said. “Consider if having a deadline and an annual roadmap is a good motivator for you, or if it will make you procrastinate and stress. If it’s the latter, new year’s resolutions might not be for you.”

Walk before you can run

Bereavement and trauma specialist Terri Daniel, the author of “Grief and God: When Religion Does More Harm Than Healing,” told Insider for most people, new year’s resolutions are “more of a joke than a commitment.”

“The joke is supported by the advertising industrial complex, which sees a huge increase in the sale of diet products and gym memberships every January,” she said. “So if you make a resolution on New Year’s Day only to forget about it three weeks later, you are the rule, not the exception.”

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(Photo by Jonathan Borba)

Many people set resolutions that they’re simply not going to stick to, like signing up for a marathon when they’ve never put on a pair of running shoes in their life.

According to Statista, the most common resolutions include “exercise more” and “lose weight,” but only about a quarter of people are actually able to keep them. Eék said this is because it requires a lot of effort to change habits that are ingrained in us.

“To succeed, you not only need to keep your own motivation intact, you will also need to consider the environment you live in, the company you keep, and your day-to-day routines,” he said. “For instance, if your resolution is to ‘lose weight,’ going on a diet might work for a little while until your cravings take over.”

Being clear about why you’ve made certain resolutions also helps in the fight against losing interest. If it’s something based on what you want, not what other people and society think you should do, there’s a much better chance you’ll persist with it.

To give up or not to give up?

Daniel said if a resolution doesn’t come from the heart, it’s not going to stick.

“Making extreme commitments on a specified holiday because popular culture prescribes it is not a firm foundation for that intention to take root,” she said. “Instead, consider making simple resolutions every day or every hour about small things that are easy to manage.”

This Navy SEAL went from Nigerian prince to the Bronx to hero

(Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters)

For example, try starting every day with the intention of counting to ten before you react to an annoying coworker. Or pick things you can improve at over time, like being a better listener, driving more carefully, or watching less tv news.

Resolutions are supposed to be a challenge, and when life throws you a curveball, it’s all part of the fun, Eék said.

“Expect setbacks and disappointments along the way,” he said. “If you stay focused and inspired, though, I’m sure you’ll achieve your goal before the year is over.”

Also, neuroscientific research has found that the brain struggles to distinguish between what we want and what we have.

“As such, setting a goal can have a powerful effect on the brain as it can trick the brain into believing it has already accomplished the goal, making your desired outcome part of the brain’s self-image,” Eék said. “This is what makes goal-setting such a powerful tool.”

On the other hand, this means your brain can be your harshest critic, he said, which makes it even more disappointing if your resolution isn’t going to plan.

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(Photo by Yukie Emiko)

“By not meeting your goal, your brain will react as if you have taken something away that it already had and, therefore, will become upset and react by cutting off your supply of dopamine [the feel-good hormone],” Eék said. “Feelings of anger, disappointment, and embarrassment may arise instead.”

It’s likely you’ll hit a wall at some point, which means it could be time to readjust. But if you’ve reflected on why you’re not succeeding, made some changes, and you still don’t feel any motivation whatsoever, then it might be time to throw in the towel.

These are some tell-tale signs you should give up on your resolution:

  • You’ve lost sight of why you decided to do it in the first place.
  • You keep thinking that you “should” instead of “want” to keep going.
  • Your plans have changed and your resolution no longer fits in.
  • It’s negatively affecting your mental health.

Essentially, if you’ve lost sight of the point of the resolution you made, it’s making you feel like a miserable failure, and it’s getting in the way of you achieving anything else, then you should give yourself a break.

“Remember, at the end of the day, a resolution is there to help you, not to cripple you,” said Eék. “If it’s continuously doing the latter, simply let it go.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 Bombers train to launch long-range anti-ship missile over Black Sea

It wasn’t a typical flight.

Two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, marked their first-ever flight with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums last week over the Black Sea. At the same time, the long-range bombers also trained in launching the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, known as LRASM, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials said Monday.


“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht of USAFE’s 603rd Air Operations Center.

“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Albrecht, also the Bomber Task Force mission planner, said in a release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”

Officials recently told Military.com that practicing deploying LRASM is part of a broader Air Force Global Strike vision: As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the service is not only making its supersonic, heavy bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes — especially in the Pacific — signaling a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.

During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview earlier this month.

The flight over the Black Sea with Ukrainian counterparts incorporated Turkish KC-135s, in addition to aircraft from Poland, Romania, Greece and North Macedonia for a “long-range, long-duration strategic #BomberTaskForce mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region,” USAFE tweeted.

The latest integration exercises over Eastern Europe have not gone unnoticed.

On Monday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense noted an uptick in NATO and U.S. activity in the region, to include the B-1 transiting through the Sea of Okhotsk on May 22, and near the Kamchatka Peninsula last month.

Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate for the Russian General Staff, said U.S. bomber flights alongside NATO partners have “increased sharply” over the last several weeks.

“Strategic bombers flew in April #B1B along Kamchatka, and in May, five such flights were recorded,” the MoD said on Twitter. Rudskoy also noted the first-ever B-1 flight over Ukraine, which prompted a Russian Air Force Su-27 and Su-30SM to scramble and intercept the bombers.

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Still considered a “strategic” bomber, the Lancer was originally designed as a nuclear bomber with a mission to fly at low altitude, sneaking into enemy territory in order to avoid Soviet early warning radars. However, in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the once-nuclear bomber has been disarmed of nukes.

Dawkins said countries should expect more Bomber Task Force missions.

The shorter flights — with two to three bombers — are not the same as a deployment, and are also part of the Pentagon’s larger “dynamic force employment” strategy for military units to test how nimbly they can move from place to place, he said.

“There is just so much of a bigger signal sent with a bomber than with a couple of [F-16 Fighting Falcons],” Dawkins said. “It just is what it is.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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