Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

International law and American concerns

International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

Global trade and American national security

The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

The importance of chokepoints

But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

(US Department of Defense)

The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUK on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Check out these amazing uncovered photos of the great Ernie Pyle

On April 18th, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on Iejima* during the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of his death, Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was well-known for his intimate and personal storytelling that highlighted the experiences of the “average” soldier. Pyle was able to tell the stories of enlisted men because he embedded himself in their day-to-day lives; he didn’t just observe their work, he lived, traveled, ate, and shared foxholes with them.

In remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the Unwritten Record presents photographs and motion pictures that highlight his work as a roving war correspondent during WWII.


Marines

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
PFC. Urban Vachon of Laconia, NH, and Columnist Ernie Pyle, rest by the roadside on the trail at Okinawa.
(Photo by Barnett)


Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
(Photo by TSgt. J. Mundell)

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Mr. Pyle is shown here talking to Division Commander, Major General Graves B. Erskine. It is Ernie’s first trip into the Pacific. Previously he wrote about GI Joe from the European Theater of Operations. From left to right: Major General Erskine, Lt. Comdr. Max Miller, Col. Robert E. Hogaboom, Ernie
(Photo by Tsgt. Mundell)

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Columnist Ernie Pyle rests on the roadside with a Marine patrol.
(Photo by Barnett)

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle, noted columnist, on the trail with a group of Marines. He is fourth from the left. Okinawa.
(Photo by Barnett)

Navy

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle being transferred by breeches buoy from the USS Cabot (CVL-28) to the USS Moale (DD-693) / Date: February 23, 1945

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, interviewing Joe J. Ray S1/c and Charles W. Page S1/C on board the USS Yorktown (CV-10) / Date: February 5, 1945

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle visiting with Marines aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa /u00a0Date: March 20, 1945

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle watching Marine play Casino aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 29, 1945

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle and sailors listening to war reports over loud speaker aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawau00a0/ Date: March 29, 1945

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle with troops listing to PFC Johnny Maturello play accordion aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 1945

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Caption: L to R; Edward P. Krapse, Lt. Arlington Bensel Jr., Ernie Pyle, and Cpl. Edward M. Wrenne.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle center leaning on a Marine’s shoulder.

Army

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Bomb that hit PRO today also hurt some of the war correspondents, among whom was Ernie Pyle. He suffered a slight cut on the face and is here looking at his bed from which he had just left to watch the bombing, when the roof fell on it. Nettuno Area, Italy.
(Photo by Blau)

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Cpl. Jesse Cooper (of Powell Station, TN), Ernie Pyle, and Pvt. Willian Bennet (of Dunn, NC) at muzzle of a 155mm rifle. Fifth Army. Anzio Beachhead area, Italy.
(Photo by Bonnard)

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
At Nettuno, Italy, Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, and Major General Lucian Truscott, stand in front of Corps Headquarters.
(Photo by Blau)

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Ernie Pyle, preparing to cover the Pacific war front, gets a preview from enlisted men who have returned from the front. From left to right u2013 T/4 Al Levy (of Albany, NY), T/5 William Gharrity (of Chippewa Falls, WI), and Ssgt. Richard W. Bridenbaugh (of Toledo, OH)/ Date: January 1945.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Correspondent, Ernie Pyle, of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, Washington DC, interviewing Sgt. Ralph Gower (of Sacramento, CA), Pvt. Raymond Astrackon (left, of New York City), and 2nd. Lt. Annette Heaton, ANC (of Detroit, MI), attached to an evacuation hospital. North Africa / Date: December 2, 1942.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
The body of Ernie Pyle, who lost his life while serving with first line troops on Ie Shima, was laid to final rest on July 19th in the new Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Oahu. Pall bearers are pictured removing Ernie Pyle’s flag draped casket before the burial ceremonies / Date: July 1

Jack Lieb Collection

Jack Lieb was a newsreel cameraman who covered the end of the war in Europe (D-Day to Germany). Pyle appears in the following videos, which document preparations for the D-Day invasion in England and France.The records presented above were found in the following series:

The records presented above were found in the following series:

*Iejima is often referred to as Ie Shima. Additionally, at the time of Pyle’s death, some news outlets referred to Iejima as Ie Island.

Special thanks to Audrey Amidon, who provided links and context to the films included in this blog post.

Articles

Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.


What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.

“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.

Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:

“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”

Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.

Check out this Marine Corps Recruiting video to hear from Corps’ finest on who they think makes tougher Marines.

YouTube, Marine Corps Recruiting

Articles

Watch the F-35B execute a vertical landing in rough waters with ease

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on May 25, 2015. | US Navy Photo


ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.

The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.

Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.

Also read: Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

“There are smoother places that we could be,” Andrew Maack, government chief test engineer and site director of the naval variants at Patuxent River, Maryland said during a briefing aboard the vessel.

“But we are actually looking for increased deck motion so we asked for the ship to be here for the purpose of it being a little bit more challenging envelope for the airplane.”

Planners said the F-35B was testing in sea state 4 with swells of up to 6 feet accompanied with approximately 15 knots of wind.

The following 30-second video was shot from within an MV-22B Osprey and shows an F-35B hovering above the flight deck before executing a precise vertical landing.

Adjust the volume on your device before pressing play.


The jet is able to land perfectly and makes it look easy.

Ideal for the amphibious nature of the Marine Corps and unlike the Navy and Air Force variants, the F-35B is designed to perform short takeoffs and vertical landings.

The final round of testing aboard USS America is slated to conclude in mid-November.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

SOFREP recently published an exclusive piece covering the journey of the first female candidate set to graduate the Special Forces Qualification Course and earn her coveted green beret — an amazing achievement. Similarly, recent years have seen the services open their previously male-exclusive roles, including the opportunity to attend Ranger School and others, to women as well.

Women absolutely belong in Special Operations, and it would be narrow-minded to limit their opportunities to serve in special operations roles due to gender stereotypes: In SOF, this primarily refers to the different physical capacities between men and women, and the rigorous physical standards that must be met to serve in a special operations role.


It is the author’s opinion that there is a significant net benefit gained by reasonably adjusting female physical standards in a manner that accounts for the natural biological differences between men and women. What women physically lack in relative strength, vis à vis their male counterparts, they far compensate for in other unique qualities that SOF desperately requires.

For historical reference of the unique value proposition women offer, one only need to study the various exploits conducted by women such as Virginia Hall, a World War II-era Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative, who conducted clandestine special operations for the Allies in Nazi-occupied France. Often disguised as a peasant woman, Ms. Hall skillfully employed her feminine prowess against the Nazis, resulting in unfettered freedom of movement throughout the French countryside.

Other special operations units have long relied on the value of women to conduct operations, noting that the coupling of male and female operatives during missions greatly reduced scrutiny from security services during the conduct of sensitive activities abroad.

SOF assessment and selection processes must evolve to reflect this. While traditional physical standards certainly have their place in special operations, the opportunity cost of not adjusting physical standards is too significant for the SOF community to bear. Does this mean standards are removed, curtailed, or made “easy?” Certainly not. It simply implies a measured and scientifically relevant culture shift that better enables women to succeed in special operations, beginning with physical standards.

It is important in this discussion to also frame the understanding of the largest limiting factor in SOF “production” — time. The oft-quoted SOF truths identify that SOF cannot be mass-produced and that humans are more important than hardware. The reason SOF cannot be mass-produced is due to the specific, rigorous, and just plainly lengthy screening and RAST (recruitment, assessment, selection, and training) processes required to produce a special operations professional.

That said, the notion of gender should have little to no discriminatory role in special operations manning. There simply is not the manpower to exclude a large population that offers unique value to special operations missions. Countless units experience significant manpower shortages and are being asked to “do more with less” because their RAST process cannot keep up with demand and attrition. This leads to burnout, which perpetuates the increased demands and greater stress on an already taxed force. This ultimately leads to greater attrition.

In the author’s experience, it took a grand total of about three years to transition from conventional operations to special operations, not counting the years of personal preparation beforehand. That process included an extensive remote screening; chain of command vetting and recommendations; an invitation to attend a lengthy assessment and selection course; an extensive security screening; completion of inter-service manning adjudication at the service component level; assignment to the unit; completion of an almost year-long training course; and additional follow-on qualification training to reach “fully mission capable” (aka mission-ready/deployable) status.

If that sounds like a lot, that is because it certainly was. And it is critical that women have equal opportunity to attempt such journeys alongside their male counterparts. The crossroads at which equal opportunity and SOF production meet are the reasonable adjustments of physical standards for women.

Much of traditional SOF processes focused on largely physical and mental capacities. Long rucks, hours wearing kit, and the ability to manipulate one’s body over, through, and around tricky terrain were paramount. The Army appears to have a penchant for long, solo rucks through tough terrain; the Air Force limits your ability to breathe through liberal use of “water confidence training” (aka supervised drowning); and the Marines like to ingest large quantities of drawing implements (particularly crayons).

Joking aside, however, it is the author’s opinion that these physical standards do not need to be exactly the same for men and women. Indeed, while recognizing the intrinsic differences between men and women, standards should rather reflect the reasonable demands of the special operations role future SOF professionals are expected to fill. Furthermore, a greater emphasis on personality traits and attributes is required. We are reminded of the wisdom, “the final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental.”

As was recently identified (comically so) in the differences between Rangers and Green Berets, there are different folks needed for different strokes in special operations. If there ever was a “traditional” GWOT-era SOF image, it would probably include a tattoo-sleeved, Taliban-style beard-wearing Freedom Fighter wearing Oakleys, early-gen multi-cams, and riding a horse. Yet, that image is outdated and demonstrates but a snapshot in time. The error we now risk making is to project this archetype onto current and future conflicts.

The GWOT, while still ongoing in the form of counter-VEO missions across the globe, must also make room for Great Power competition. In this space, SOF are not calling for fire against insurgent positions in the mountains of Afghanistan. Rather, they are conducting sensitive, “low-visibility” operations across multiple domains and in low-intensity conflict regions that manifest themselves through multiple mechanisms of state power projection.

What does this mean?

Operating environments are evolving, and SOF must evolve along with these changes. This should include the evolution of certain norms and standards of what traditionally comprises a SOF professional. The target dictates the weapon, and the weapon dictates the tactics. Start with your desired end state and work from there.

In the realm of Great Power competition, it is less critical that an individual can carry a 65-pound rucksack through the West Virginia mountains at night using a map and compass: Rather, it is more critical that they be able to rapidly process vast quantities of complex datasets while performing real-time analysis of the ground truth before them.

Do those traditional methods have their place? Most certainly. The author would not significantly change them given the value of such experience. But do those methods need to be reasonably adjusted in order to increase opportunities for women to fill SOF positions and thereby add unique value to the SOF enterprise? Yes: We cannot afford inaction.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is making a comeback on all fronts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an alarming announcement on Aug. 20, 2019 – the Islamic State terrorist group is showing signs of resurgence in almost every place it still operates. While there are some caveats to go along with that statement, the “caliphate” that was all but squashed out just four years ago is making a dramatic comeback.


“It’s complicated. There are certainly places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago,” said Secretary Pompeo. While making that grim assessment on CBS “This Morning,” the Secretary of State also reminded viewers that the territory once held by the terror group has been recaptured and that making attacks in those areas would be terribly difficult for Islamic State fighters.

But guerrilla attacks have increased in Iraq and Syria in recent days, as ISIS retools its finances and recruits new followers from refugee tent cities across both countries. The statement came days after an Islamic State attack on a wedding in the Afghan capital of Kabul which killed 63 and wounded 182 others.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Pompeo was a guest on CBS This Morning when he acknowledged the resurgence of ISIS.

After President Trump declared a total victory over the Islamic State, the Pentagon has cut the number of U.S. troops supporting the fight against the “caliphate” by more than half, leaving the allies in the region to do the bulk of the fighting. As they departed, ISIS sleeper cells and other units began sniper attacks, ambushes, kidnappings, and assassinations against security forces and returning community leadership. The group even has an estimated 0 million in unaccounted for funds that it could use as a war chest.

Its main source of new recruits comes from a tent city run by allied nations that houses an estimated 73,000 people in poor, cramped conditions. The camp, called Al Hol – or “swampland”– houses refugees from 43 different nations, all crammed in together. It is said to have become a hotbed of ISIS ideology, a breeding ground for terrorists that CENTCOM and the United Nations both say will soon be a huge problem if not dealt with soon.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

An estimated 10,000 fighters are in Afghanistan already.

But the ISIS resurgence isn’t limited to Iraq and Syria. From Afghanistan to West Africa, the terror group is reminding the world that theirs is a global movement that has killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians alike. ISIS may have as many as 18,000 fighters still ready to go to work in Iraq and Syria, along with untold others elsewhere around the world. So far in 2019, ISIS and ISIS-supported attacks have targeted Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, Tunisia, and have even inspired attacks like the Easter bombing in Sri Lanka.

popular

5 insults only troops can say to their comrades

A defining trait among the military community is the ability to completely insult someone one minute and drink with them the next.


Troops can get down right heartless by civilian standards. But what keeps troops and veterans from being just pure assholes is that no one is mocking their brother out of hate. It’s just part of the culture — besides, our buddies are firing their own shots right back.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
You’re a piece of sh*t if you say they’re the lowest of the low. But if you say they eat crayons, well, that’s our joke. (Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

 

Branch stereotypes

The stereotypes are usually that Marines are dumb, airmen are primadonnas, soldiers are fat and lazy, sailors are gay, and Coasties don’t actually exist. Obviously, these aren’t 100% true. They’re jokes even if you have come across a handful dumb Marines or fat soldiers.

Want to know what happens to a civilian if they jump in and call Marines dumb? Ask that former teacher in Pico Rivera, California.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Soon, you f*cking squids. Soon…. (Meme via /r/Military)

 

Interservice “hatred”

You’ll see some outright “hatred” for the other branches, especially when it comes to our Academies playing each other in football. If your service loses the game, your entire formation is screaming, “Oh man! F*ck the [other branch]! At least we don’t focus on playing some stupid game!”

And that’s at it’s most savage. Generally, it’s kept at “Go Army, beat Navy!” and vice-versa. An attack on one branch by an outsider is treated as an attack on all branches.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
And that’s only because Jodie is the most hated fictional person in the military.
(Meme via /r/Military)

 

Deeply personal jabs

If you’ve spent nearly every waking second with the same people for god knows how long, you learn every detail about their personal life. Nothing remains a secret and nothing stays off-limits.

What better cure is there for a terrible personal tragedy, like an unfaithful spouse, than having your best bros mock you for crying?

 

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
This is honestly one of the hardest parts about leaving the service. Letting all of our creative swear words go to waste. (Meme via the Salty Soldier)

Expletive-filled (yet creative) rants

Expletives in conversation are like adding a bit of spice to a meal. It’s how you add some extra “uhmph” to a statement. “I don’t like you” has far less sting than “f*ck you” and it’s a sure way to get your point across to most people. Except vets and troops.

Obscenities lose their magic after you’ve been desensitized to them throughout you’re entire career. Telling your peer to “eat sh*t” just becomes a substitute for “hello!”

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
The age-old “we all bleed red” saying is known best by the troops. And we wouldn’t want anyone else by our side than our brothers. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Dan Yarnall)

 

Politically incorrect jokes

Once you’ve spent years in training, months in combat, and nearly a life time of brotherhood with someone, it’s only then can troops tell a joke to each other that would shock the average civilian.

The only reason these kinds of (crass, insensitive, and hilarious) jokes are kept between the two is because there isn’t a shred of hatred in there. Not saying it’s right or even justifiable — only saying that if it’s between two people who’ve been to hell and back, it’s meant with the best of intentions. After what we’ve seen, gallows humor is the perfect coping mechanism.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best military discounts for troops

It can be a bit disheartening to pop out your military ID and ask “you guys offer a military discount?” only to have the cashier shake their head no and then ask you a couple awkward questions about your service before giving you your Slim Jim and 6 pack. Thankfully, we’ve wrangled up 10 solid military discounts all in one place!


Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Avis

Avis better have a deep stock of blacked-out Dodge chargers and unnecessarily lifted Ford F150s on hand–because they offer up to 25% total discounts for all military members and their families. Boots can use that little bit of extra savings and get a model with heated seats for that Tinder date they’re going to propose to in 3 months. Toss in a sunroof too, so the Oakley sunglasses eternally perched on your baseball hat can finally block something from the sun.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Jiffy Lube

Most military members don’t know this, but Jiffy Lube actually offers a 25% discount off most services. There are a couple of reasons why many troops don’t know this. For one thing, most folks in the military know how to change their own oil. For another—some might think that “Jiffy Lube” is just slang for finding 2 minutes of, ahem, private time in the barracks.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Kohl’s

As of April 2019, Kohl’s recently instated a 15% military discount. There’s a catch with this one—you can’t use it in addition to a pre-existing discount, or with select brands such as Levi’s, Uggs, Columbia, or Timberland. But it works with gift cards, so you’ll really be able to stretch that unused birthday present your aunt gave you in 2014.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Home Depot

Ahh Home Depot—home to the mysteriously intoxicating scent of sawdust and mulch. Home Depot gives 10% discounts to all veterans and active duty servicemen. This applies to anything in store, so go ahead and load up on a whole bunch of parts for that project you are (never going to finish) working on.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Foot Locker

Verify your military service through SheerID (which you should do anyway–tons of savings on there) and Foot Locker will give you 20% off all products in store. Walk around pensively holding a pair of Nike basketball kicks, knowing full well you’re just gonna buy another pair of grey Vans with those savings.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Sirius XM

Sirius XM offers a very significant 25% off their subscription price for all military vets, reservists, and active duty servicemen. This gives you the opportunity to listen to Howard Stern on the 4-minute drive from the base to the bar.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Disneyland & Disney World

Disneyland offers a 3-day reservation for only 8 or 4 days for 8 for military members. That’s a pretty solid discount that gives you plenty of savings to spend on the sweetest treat west of the Mississippi— Disneyland churros.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Microsoft 365

Microsoft offers 30% off its office software for all military members and their families. Use the excel spreadsheets to track how much money you lost playing Spades on deployment this year. Or use the word processor to type up a couple college essays. Or use powerpoint to fall asleep.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Eastbay

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Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is putting 3,500 more boots on the ground in Afghanistan

A US official has told ABC news that the Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized 3,500 additional troops to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop buildup associated with President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy.


Late last month, Trump announced his new strategy on Afghanistan which included an increase in the number of US troops to the country.

Reports in the past indicated that Mattis favored the Pentagon’s recommendation to send about 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

On Sept. 8, Mattis told reporters that he had signed deployment orders for some of the additional troops that would be sent, though he would not disclose the number.

No details have however been released on when these troops will deploy.

On Sept. 6, Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats briefed members of Congress about the new strategy in Afghanistan.

Last week, the Pentagon disclosed that the number of American troops actually serving in Afghanistan was 11,000 and not the 8,400 official numbers it had been providing for some time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kremlin denies arrested Marine vet being used as ‘Pawn’

Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in December 2018 in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the right to conduct counterintelligence activities.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28, 2018.


His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, in remarks about the case, that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.

Asked about Hunt’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov also said that he was not aware of statements on a possible swap of Whelan in exchange for Russian citizen Maria Butina, held in the United States.

Butina has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to speculation of a possible swap.

On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.

“As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort or another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.

The Russian outlet earlier reported that Whelan had been indicted on spying charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

popular

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Not many remember the Australians’ commitment to aiding the United States in Vietnam, but the Aussies were there, and they sent their best. Australia’s best troops included their very own Special Air Service, special operators in the mold of Britain’s SAS, formidable fighters capable of bringing the enemy’s method of irregular warfare right back home to Hanoi.

The Aussies weren’t content with the M-16, for a number of reasons, so they opted instead to do a little frontier mechanical work on their weapons. The end product became known as “The Bitch.”


Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
When you want to use an M-16 but your standards are higher.

 

When the M-16 first took over for the M-1 Garand as a standard-issue infantry weapon, the result was less than stellar. It jammed. A lot. Frustrated troops began leaving their M-16s at home and using AK-47s captured from the enemy instead. The Aussies preferred a weapon that worked. Even after the weapon was updated to fix its issues, the Australians still opted for a different solution. They liked how handy the M-16 could be, but they wanted the stopping power of a 7.62 round.

But the barrel of the S1A2 self-loading rifle was so heavy… what to do?

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
“Cor, mate… I ‘ave an idea…”

 

The Australian special operators lopped that heavy barrel and its tripod off at the end of the gas block. Then, the MacGuyvers from Down Under fashioned special flash suppressors for the new muzzle for those who wanted it. For those who didn’t, they just left the weapon without any kind of suppression at all. The new, shorter barrel was louder and produced a much bigger bang for the buck.

They wanted the Communists to know who was pulling the triggers and raining death on their Ho Chi Minh Trail parade. If that weren’t enough, sometimes the operators would put a pistol grip on the end so they could control the weapons in fully automatic settings. Others preferred a grenade launcher attachment.

Fun was had by all.


Feature image: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the real reason John McCain’s Liberty Medal speech was so epic

When all was said and done, all the American media saw was a presumed dig at President Donald Trump. But in the speech he gave while receiving the 2017 Liberty Medal, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said much more than that. He looked back on his life, his political career, the events that shaped America – and the events America shaped.


The next day, the headlines raved about McCain’s “half-baked spurious nationalism” dig at the sitting president.

The “half-baked, spurious nationalism” isn’t just a dig a President Trump. The world at large is consumed by the same kind of nationalism the senator from Arizona describes in his speech. A wave of far-right populism has especially swept Europe in the past few years.

French President Emanuel Macron just defeated Marine Le Pen, who wanted to ban any display of religious beliefs – including yarmulkes and turbans – which she considered “not French.” In the UK, far-right broadcaster and analyst Nigel Farage led a campaign that resulted in a vote forcing Britain to leave the European Union, for better or for worse. And across Europe – from Spain to Greece – a wave of far-right nationalist populism and isolationism has captured the interest of the population, each looking for a “scapegoat” of its own.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

The Senator didn’t mention Europe specifically. He did say that America, “the most wondrous land on earth,” still has a special role to play in the world and should rise above the urge to isolate itself from the rest of the world, that American leadership is going to be as necessary in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.

He also implied that Americans should leave the past behind, a not-so-subtle reference to the resurgence of Nazism and Confederate pride in the U.S.’ recent days.

“This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world,” McCain said. “And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on Dec. 7, 1941.”

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
John McCain after his release from a Vietnamese prison camp, with his father, Retired Admiral John S. McCain.

The 81-year-old Vietnam veteran and former POW went on to speak like a man who is looking back on his life and leaving us with the parting thoughts of a lifelong public servant. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, and his prognosis was not good.

“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t,” he said. “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

Presenting McCain with his medal was former Vice-President, erstwhile Senate opposition, and longtime friend, Joe Biden. The two most notably ran on opposite tickets in the 2008 Presidential Election where McCain lost to the Obama-Biden ticket.

Before Sen. McCain began his remarks, he commented on the multi-decade friendship between the two.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Then Vice-President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain share a laugh behind the scenes.

“We served in the Senate together for over 20 years,” McCain said, “during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.”

McCain was presented with the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center, a medal meant to honor “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

As he closed, McCain recounted the innumerable people he worked with in his 60 years of service in the Navy and in the U.S. government.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways
Senator McCain can’t fully raise his arms due to injuries he suffered as a POW.

“I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me,” McCain said. “I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

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

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