5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

The three Russian journalists who were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) had arrived in the war-torn country to investigate the reported presence there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary force whose units are said to have fought in Ukraine and Syria.

Colleagues of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko say the trio were making a documentary about the private Russian military company Vagner, which French and Russian media reports had previously reported to be operating in the CAR.

CAR officials say the journalists were ambushed and killed by unidentified assailants.


The Russian government has never officially confirmed the presence of Vagner employees in the African country and denies that the firm’s contractors act on Moscow’s orders. The private military firm is reportedly controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Prigozhin has previously denied that he is linked to the company.

Here are five things you need to know about Russian military contractors working in the CAR.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

Anti-Balaka militia in Gbaguili.

1. Why are Russian contractors there?

The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been subjected to a UN Security Council arms embargo since 2013, when an armed, mainly Muslim coalition known as Seleka seized power. Christian armed formations fought back, and the violence saw thousands killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

In 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president of the CAR, but much of the country remains controlled by various armed formations, primarily ex-Seleka fighters and the Christian alliance known as Anti-balaka. The UN established a peacekeeping mission in the CAR in 2014.

In December 2017, Russia secured an exemption to the Security Council arms embargo, allowing Moscow to deliver arms and training for what a UN panel of experts describes as part of a multinational effort — including the European Union Military Training Mission — to boost the capabilities of the CAR’s military and security forces.

“Our only request was that the Russian delegation submit additional information on the serial numbers of the weapons…so that we can track weapons going into CAR,” AFP cited an unidentified U.S. official as saying at the time.

2. How many are there, and what are they doing?

In December 2017, Russia notified the Security Council committee overseeing the CAR arms embargo of the involvement of 175 Russian “instructors” in a training mission, according to a report by a UN panel of experts issued in July 2018. Of those personnel, 170 were identified as civilian instructors, while the remaining five were from the Russian military, the report says.

According to the panel, Russian instructors have been involved in a range of tasks, including: escorting convoys of building materials for hospitals; providing security for hospitals donated by Russia; and training police officers as a requirement for equipping them with Russian weapons.

The panel also said that a Russian national had been appointed as a national security adviser to Touadera and that the Russian is “engaging with armed groups” to discuss issues including “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, national reconciliation,” and the sharing of revenue derived from the exploitation of natural resources.

In June 2018, two government soldiers and one Russian instructor were wounded in an attack by militia fighters while traveling to the south of the country, the panel said.

3. Why is Vagner said to be operating in the CAR?

Several media reports over the past year have indicated that Vagner contractors may be working in the CAR. In March 2018, a reporter for the Russian news site Znak.com visited a facility reportedly operated by Vagner outside the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. The reporter cited a military veteran who lives in the town where the facility is located as saying that Vagner mercenaries were set to be sent “to Africa” for a “training” mission.

Two weeks later, the Russian Foreign Ministry publicly discussed the 175 Russian “instructors,” saying they had been sent to the CAR in “late January-early February,” but without indicating whether the civilian personnel were employees of Vagner or another military contractor.

The Russian investigative journalism news site The Bell in June 2018 cited an unidentified source as saying that Vagner employees were training CAR forces. And in July 2018, Yevgeny Shabayev, a leader of a Cossack organization who says he visited Vagner fighters injured in a deadly February 2018 clash with U.S. forces in Syria, published a letter stating that private Russian military contractors have operated in the CAR and “an array of other African and Arab countries.”*

An editor at the Investigation Control Center, the outlet funded by billionaire Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky that financed the investigation conducted by the three journalists killed in the CAR, said on August 1, 2018 that the team had reached the facility where they believed Vagner operatives were stationed but were told they needed accreditation from the country’s Defense Ministry.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

The president of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera.

4. What is Russia’s interest?

Russia says it is seeking to restore peace in the CAR with the provision of arms and training to government forces.

“Russia’s assistance is carried out as part of the common efforts of the international community to strengthen the national security units of CAR,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said in a March 22, 2018 statement.

But Moscow has also made no secret of its economic interests in the country’s natural resources.

“Russia is exploring the possibilities of the mutually beneficial development of Central African natural resources,” Kozhin said. “The prospecting-mining exploration concessions began in 2018. We believe these projects will help stabilize the economic situation in CAR, promote the construction of the infrastructure, and serve as a basis for drawing additional investment to the country’s economy.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Touadera in the Russian city of Sochi in October 2017, with the ministry saying that the officials “reaffirmed their countries’ resolve” to bolster bilateral ties “and pointed to the considerable potential for partnership in mineral resources exploration” and energy.

Putin met Touadera in St. Petersburg in May 2018, with the Russian leader saying that Moscow “will be happy to consider various plans to boost our relations, first of all in the economic and humanitarian fields.”

5. What impact is Russian presence having?

While Russia touts its weapons shipments and training efforts in the CAR as an effort to stabilize the country, the report by the UN panel of experts released in July 2018 said that new weapons obtained by government forces have motivated rebel militias to boost their own stockpiles.

“The recent acquisition of weaponry by the Government has created an incentive for the active rearmament of ex-Selaka factions,” the report said.

The panel added that armed militia representatives had told them that “since the government had opted for the military option (training, rearming, and attacking) instead of the political process, armed groups needed to be prepared.”

The experts’ report noted a worsening of the security situation in Bangui and Bambari, citing “serious outbreaks of violence, including in areas where the situation had previously improved.”

*Correction: This article has been amended to clarify that Yevgeny Shabayev’s letter stated that private Russian military contractors, not necessarily Vagner, have operated in the Central African Republic.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ‘Burn Pit Registry’ is for more than just post-9/11 vets

For Veteran and VA employee Martin Allen, the Burn Pit Registry has been both an inspiration and a way to help other Veterans. For six months, he has been charged with eliminating the backlog of Veterans waiting for confirmation of their eligibility to join the Burn Pit Registry through a manual check of their deployment history.


“It wasn’t until I became familiar with the registry and saw other Veterans who served in the same deployment areas as myself and served during the same time that I realized I was eligible for participation in the registry,” said Allen. “I had heard of the registry but didn’t think much of it because I thought it was primarily for the Veterans serving after 9/11.”

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Allen is a Navy and Air Force Veteran who deployed to the Persian Gulf on a naval ship in 1990. He admits the shortened, everyday name of “Burn Pit Registry” reinforced the erroneous idea that the Burn Pit Registry wasn’t for Gulf War Veterans like him. The full name of the registry is the “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.”

Also read: 5 of the worst things to put in a burn pit

“Once I found out that I could join, I really wanted to be a part of the registry so I could understand the Veteran participant experience,” said Allen. “Joining the registry has been really helpful. Not only do I help Veterans with their eligibility checks, I sometimes walk them step-by-step through the process of signing up.”

Many Veterans who deployed after 1990 can join the registry. The registry is a way for these Veterans to document their concerns about exposures to burn pits and other airborne hazards. For Post-9/11 Veterans, joining the registry is easier than ever. The registry is linked to more current and complete DoD deployment records. This enhancement reduces or eliminates possible delays in joining the registry resulting from the performance of manual checks of deployment histories for Pre-9/11 Veterans by VA to confirm a Veterans’ eligibility to join the registry.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
(USAF photo by A1C Jason Epley)

The Burn Pit Registry is also a way for Veterans to be evaluated for any concerns that they might have related to exposures. Despite the opportunity of a free medical evaluation after completing the registry questionnaire, less than four percent of registry participants have been evaluated by a provider. The reasons for the low uptake are unclear, but may indicate Veterans are waiting to be contacted by VA.

Related: Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than three million calls

“Don’t wait. Once Veterans have submitted their questionnaire, they can immediately schedule a medical evaluation for the registry,” said Allen. “This evaluation is different than a compensation and pension exam for disability claims. Veterans shouldn’t confuse the two.”

Participants who wish to have an exam should contact a local Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule an appointment. These coordinators will guide registry participants through the next steps and work with VA’s environmental health clinicians to address any exposure-related health concerns.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

In many ways, the initial in-person registry evaluation is similar to any encounter between a clinician and a Veteran. The evaluation is tailored to each Veteran. To help you prepare for your visit, use these tips:

• Bring a copy of your completed Registry Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) to your visit;

• Have your questions written down;

• Tell your provider and team why you are in the clinic;

• Be prepared to discuss:

◦ Important deployment history and exposures of concern

◦ Important symptoms and health history

◦ Current symptoms-intensity, duration, onset, what makes them better or worse

◦ How the symptoms interfere with daily life

◦ Established health conditions, including onset and work up to date

◦ Concerns about the possible causes

◦ Other factors that may affect the management plan or overall health or mental health concerns such as tobacco, alcohol, or other substance use and family history

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wife kept dead husband’s body in freezer for 10 years

When the police arrived at a retirement community in Utah to conduct a welfare check last month, they were disturbed to find not only the body of the elderly woman who lived there, but a man’s corpse tucked inside a deep freezer in her utility room.

That man was eventually identified as Paul Mathers, who was 58 years old when he was last seen in 2009. He was the husband of the 75-year-old woman also found in the home, Jeanne Souron-Mathers.

“I’ve been here 13 years — this is one of the strangest cases,” Tooele City Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Hansen told news outlets, adding, “We’ve never had anything like this.”


He said police officers had opened Souron-Mathers’ fridge and freezer hoping to find food that would indicate “some type of a timeline” for when she died. But when a detective opened a deep freezer in the utility room, he “immediately finds an unidentified deceased adult male in the freezer,” Hansen said.

The police made the discovery on November 22 and initially called the incident “very suspicious.”

But after several weeks of investigating, the police announced on Monday that they’d found several equally bizarre clues that might help explain the incident.

Video: Police investigate body found in freezer during welfare check

www.youtube.com

Hansen said investigators searching through Souron-Mathers’ home found a notarized letter from December 2008 that appeared to be from Mathers, declaring that he was not killed by his wife.

“We believe he had a terminal illness,” Hansen told KSTU, adding that Mathers likely died sometime between February 4, 2009 — the date of his last appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital — and March 8, 2009.

Hansen also told The Salt Lake Tribune that experts had not yet verified whether the signature on the letter truly belonged to Mathers. He added that the woman who notarized the letter in 2008 told the police she never read the document before stamping and signing it.

Investigators also discovered that Souron-Mathers had collected roughly 7,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits after her husband’s death and are still looking into whether she continued to receive Mathers’ Social Security benefits, Hansen said.

Hansen told The Tribune that they were still awaiting an autopsy report to confirm the cause of Mathers’ death but that detectives were “wrapping up” their investigation.

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

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

popular

Why the Japanese knee mortar terrified Marines

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Army quickly mobilized to engage with Japan in the Pacific Theater. Fortunately for America, we had a few advantages on the ready. Not only did we have the semi-auto M1 Garand to face up against Japan’s bolt-action Arisaka. We also had the M1911 paired against the Japanese Nambu. For the most part, our weapons were far superior to the Japanese – with one major exception. Japan had the Knee Mortar and that was pretty scary. 

Don’t let the name mislead you. The knee mortar was really a grenade launcher. Japan called it Type 89, since it was introduced in the 2,589th year of Japan’s existence. 

The Knee Mortar makes its appearance

The Knee Mortar was created so Japan’s soldiers stood a chance facing off with the US. Even though their Army included some well-trained infantrymen, the Knee Mortar was definitely their back pocket weapon. 

A little history

The short version: Japan had pretty crappy tanks. Their artillery was not much better. When it came down to anti-tank weapons, they didn’t have much there, either. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy got a lot of the RD priority for new ships and planes. Japan figured – correctly – that their best course of action was to try to ensure naval dominance.

According to a U.S. Army manual, the Type 89 fired a 50mm round and weighed ten pounds. Depending on the round used, it had a maximum range of just under 750 yards. It could fire incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds. Think of it as kind of an M79 grenade launcher on steroids. You didn’t want to fire it from your knee, unless you wanted to be on a medevac flight or ship home. Instead, you braced it on the ground.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

Two Marine Corps legends, “Chesty” Puller and Merritt Edson, both came away very impressed by this weapon. Edson, who lead the Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal, noted that a Japanese soldier could carry that weapon and ten rounds with no problem. The weapon was issued in large quantities to Japanese troops and had a high rate of fire. As a result, it was believed to have caused 40 percent of American battle casualties in the Pacific.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

Today, the knee mortar is out of service, but the concept is alive in the form of “commando mortars” like the British L9A1, the South African M-4, and the Iranian 37mm “marsh mortar.” In short, grunts have options for lightweight firepower.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the top issues facing military families this election

Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.

To better understand the issues paramount to our military families, WATM spoke with Military Family Advisory Network’s Executive Director, Shannon Razsadin, to talk about the results of MFAN’s 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey.

Here are 6 of the top issues facing military families this election:


Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367

Mental Health Care

The need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.

Finances

Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)

Moving

Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.

Housing

Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.

Employment and Entrepreneurship

MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.

Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.

Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)

Child care and education

Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.

In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.

Razsadin said:
In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.

In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.

The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.

To learn more about President Trump’s stance on military issues, visit: https://veterans.donaldjtrump.com/issues

To learn more about Vice President Biden’s stance on military issues, visit: https://joebiden.com/militaryfamilies/#

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea snubs Trump on returning Korean War dead

North Korean officials did not show up to meet US officials to discuss returning the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War on July 12, 2018, and it’s essentially a slap in the face to President Donald Trump.

When Trump made history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June 2018 under the stated aim of denuclearizing the rogue state, Trump didn’t get many concrete promises out of Pyongyang.

But one thing Kim agreed to in writing was “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”


“The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations,” Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University told Business Insider. “It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic. “

But North Korea did not immediately repatriate any bodies. By blowing off the meeting, as South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, North Korea has shown it can be difficult even over symbolic gestures of kindness.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

Thousands of 100-year-olds asked Trump to get the bodies back?

After the summit, Trump really pressed the idea that returning the bodies was a significant achievement by making some dubious claims.

Trump said “thousands” of parents of Korean War soldiers asked him to get the remains back, but the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, meaning those parents would have been born around the 1920s, and approaching 100 years old today; it seems likely this figure includes surviving relatives of the deceased who are still seeking closure.

Later in June 2018, he claimed 200 bodies had been returned, but provided no evidence. North Korean officials have said they have identified the remains of about 200 US soldiers, so it’s unclear why North Korea would still be meeting if it had returned the bodies.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.

(KCNA)

North Korea sticking it to Trump

North Korea’s latest snub follows Kim Jong Un electing to go to a potato farm rather than meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean media bashing the US’s stance on denuclearization as “gangster-like.”

While Trump likely played up the demand by living US parents of Korean War veterans for their remains, returing the bodies would undoubtedly improve relations and build trust.

Kim has not agreed to take any steps towards denuclearization, and there’s ample signs that North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear weapons.

But Kim did agree to bring back the bodies. Sending the bodies back would demonstrate that North Korea can be trusted to some degree, and cost Pyongyang nothing in terms of military posture.

North Korea called for a US general to negotiate with them the return of the remains of US soldiers as soon as July 15, 2018, Yonhap reported.

If North Korea drags its feet on making good on an explicit promises to deliver a symbolic and kind gesture, it doesn’t bode well for the larger goal of denuclearization.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wait, now there’s an Army Space Force?

As the Army steadily grows its space force with current Soldiers, a path is now being offered to help cadets quickly become Functional Area 40 space operations officers.

Since its inception in 2008, FA40 has “developed billets and found technically qualified individuals to fill them,” said Mike Connolly, Army Space Personnel Development Office director.

The Army currently has approximately 3,000 billets in its force of space-qualified professionals, including 285 active component FA40 space operations officers. The increased need for space operations expertise within Army formations is resulting in further growth of Army’s space force, officials said.


This is what the Space Force would actually do

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This is what the Space Force would actually do

As the core of the Army space force, FA40s provide in-depth expertise and experience to leverage space-related assets. They also deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, according to a news release.

The goal is to recruit and fill a rapidly increasing demand for Army officers into the FA40 career field each year, Connolly said, with initially 10 of these officers transferring as cadets through the Assured Functional Area Transfer program.

ASSURED FUNCTIONAL AREA TRANSFER

A more guaranteed route for officers to transfer into the Army space force begins before they commission under the A-FAT program. Upon commissioning into their operational basic branch, selected cadets with STEM degrees — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — will be assured a transfer into FA40 Space Operations at the four-year mark in their career.

While in their basic branch, the officers must remain in good military standing, and if selected, sign a contract to transfer into the Army space force as a space operations officer.

Once selected, FA40 officers attend the Space Operations Officer Qualification Course, which includes the National Security Space Institute, the Space 200 course, and seven weeks of Army-focused space training provided by the Space and Missile Defense Command’s Space and Missile Defense School.

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

The Army is steadily growing its space force due to an increased need to deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, officials said.

(Photo Credit: Catherine Deran)

VOLUNTARY TRANSFER INCENTIVE PROGRAM

The Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program is also accepting applications from eligible officers for a branch transfer into the Army space force at the four-year mark in their career. VTIP is the primary means of balancing branches and functional areas within the Army.

Once applications are received, officers are vetted from the current career field into the Army space operator career field. Subject-matter experts within the respective careers determine the best fit for the Army, by deciding which career best suits the applicant. In addition to technical abilities, applicants are vetted based on their values and leadership abilities.

Due to the needs of the Army, the VTIP program is not a guaranteed process for all applicants hoping to transfer into the Army’s space force, Connolly said.

The Army remains the largest user of space-based assets within the Defense Department, and nearly every piece of equipment Soldiers use “on a day-to-day basis” such as GPS devices and cell phones are space enabled, Connolly said.

In the future, he said, the Army’s prevalence toward space and need for more officers within Army’s space force will continue to grow.

Individuals interested in becoming an FA40 officer should visit the Space Knowledge Management System for additional information.

Military Life

4 things you should never say to a military spouse

Words matter. And sometimes well-meaning words can sting. It’s been almost 2 decades since I said, “I do” and entered the military family — and its rather unique lifestyle.


Here is my list of the 4 biggest offenders in the “things never to say to a military spouse” category.

4. “You knew what you were getting into.”

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
A spouse kisses her husband prior to a welcome-home ceremony. (Ohio National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Actually, most of us did not. I would go as far as to say that even a military brat who grew up surrounded by the culture didn’t know exactly what it feels like to send their spouse off to war. We didn’t know what it would be like to move our own children across the country multiple times or to sacrifice our career goals for another person’s military service. It’s kind of like having your own kid — you can read all the books and take all the classes, but nothing truly prepares you for the moment when you’re the one rocking a sick child to sleep in the middle of the night.

This is mostly a veiled attempt to say, “stop complaining, you signed up for this.” I get it. No one likes a complainer. But venting is healthy and we all need to get things off our chest from time to time.

3. “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

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Jessica Rudd, Marine veteran and Armed Forces Insurance Marine Spouse of the Year 2017 presented by Military Spouse Magazine, with her children. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo)

Embracing the suck is sometimes a necessity. But frankly, a military spouse doesn’t need a reminder of how to do this. Just because he/she puts up a tough front doesn’t mean they aren’t scared, upset, worried, or a combination of all three at times. It’s normal to miss home. It’s normal to be scared about a deployment. It’s normal to be overwhelmed with everything.

If your milspouse friend is becoming isolated or seems to be negative constantly, it’s perfectly fine to reach out and offer resources or just show up and take them to get coffee. Wanting to help is wonderful, but telling someone going through something very real and challenging to “suck it up” is rarely helpful. Tough love in this situation is mostly just lacking in the “love” department.

Also read: 10 memes that pretty much describe life as a military spouse

2. “I could never be a military spouse.”

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Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew Underwood shares a first kiss with his wife after returning to Naval Base San Diego after a 7-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Abby Rader)

Yes. Yes, you could. I didn’t marry my husband because I wanted to be a military spouse, I married him because I love him. I haven’t stayed with him for 19 years because I adore the retirement check, I stay because I love him. I didn’t have two children with him because I think the term “military brat” is cool, we had kids because we love one another and wanted to grow our family.

Military families love each other, just like any other family does. And when we love someone, we do things for that person. Do you love your spouse? Then, yes. You could do it, too.

1. “Thank you for YOUR service.”

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Capt. Millie Hale and Capt. Ralph Hale pose for a photo on a T-38 Talon Aug. 13, 2017, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Alan Ricker)

I don’t know why this one bothers me so much — maybe it’s just me. I know where the sentiment is coming from and, on some level, I appreciate people who recognize that spouses and children also face challenges due to military service. Regardless, the word “service” always makes me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t step on those yellow footprints. I have not deployed. I haven’t sacrificed my own health for this country. I did not agree to die in defense of it.

So, for me, the word ‘service,’ while well-meaning, seems off. When a kind stranger says this to me, I thank them and gently say, “thank you so much. It’s been my pleasure to support my husband in his service.”

What are the phrases that bug you the most?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about today’s National POW/MIA day

Established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is an annual event held on the third Friday of September. This event is usually held at the Pentagon and is often observed at military installations around the country.

Generally somber events, the observances at installations around the country mark the fact that the American military does not forget about our Prisoners of War or those Missing in Action. Here’s everything you need to know about this important day.


The first POW/MIA Recognition Day included a ceremony held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Air Force Base flew the Missing Man formation.

The Missing Man Formation

This formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a fly-past of aircraft at funerals and memorial events. There are several variations of this formation, but the most common is based on the “finger-four” aircraft combat formation, which includes two pairs of aircraft.

Aircraft fly in a V-shape with the flight leader at a point and his wingman on his left. The second set of aircraft replicates the shape, with a wingman on the right. The formation flies over the event low enough to be seen. Once seen, their airman leading the second set pulls out of formation, and the remaining three aircraft continue in level flight until all are out of sight.

You Are Not Forgotten

This is the central phrase belonging to all POW/MIA remembrances to remind family members that America still concerns itself with those who are missing in action or who are suffering as prisoners of war.

POW/MIA Recognition Day aims to ensure that every American remembers to support those who serve in the military and risk their lives for our freedoms.

POW/MIA by the numbers

A Congressional research service report on POWs showed that 37 service members had been imprisoned during conflicts since 1991. This includes both Gulf Wars. At the time of writing, none of the POWs are still in captivity. However, during WWII, 130,201 service members were captured and imprisoned, and 14,072 died.

During the Korean War, 7,140 service members were imprisoned; 2,701 of them died. Of the 725 service members imprisoned during the Vietnam War, 64 died.

Of all the service personnel who participated in these wars, there are still 83,114 missing Americans. This includes six from conflicts from 1991, 126 from the Cold War, 1,626 from the Vietnam War, 7,841 from the Korean War, and approximately 73,515 from WWII.

Roughly 75 percent of all missing American personnel are thought to be somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea.

There’s a little bit of hope 

Efforts to find these service members, identify them correctly and bring them home are constant. In 2019, 41 MIA service members from the Korean War were accounted for, and of them, ten were previously buried as unknowns. Remains turned over by North Korean authorities helped identify 26, one was a recovery operation and four were combinations of recovery operations and the return of remains.

Fly the POW/MIA Flag

WWII pilot Newt Heisley designed the very famous POW/MIA flag, which features a black background and white lettering. The black and white color scheme was selected by Heisley to represent the sorrow and anxiety that accompanies POW and MIA service members. The hope that we all must have is represented by the image of a gaunt man featured on the flag.

Since 1982, for every POW/MIA Recognition Day, the flag has flown just below the National Colors at the White House, and it’s the only flag ever to do so. The flag is also flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

Flying a flag at home helps remind us never to forget our POWs and those missing in action. No matter if you fly the colors or choose to wear a bracelet or piece of clothing to show your support, it’s important to remember the sacrifices that POWs and MIAs have made for our country and how we have to live up to our end of the bargain to help them make it back home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Strikes on Syria were a public spanking of the Assad regime

President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.

The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.


Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.

“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”

“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.

What did the strikes change on the ground?

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One of the US’s targets before and after the strike.
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.

Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.

The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.

Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.

Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.

Performative allyship in cruise-missile form

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
A poster of Bashar al-Assad at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus

Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.

But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.

The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.

MIGHTY CULTURE

15 photos show how visiting VIPs show honor at Tomb of the Unknown

The chief of police of Washington D.C’s Metropolitan Police Department, Peter Newsham, visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Aug. 14 with many of his senior leaders and police officers and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and other events, giving us a good chance to see how American and foreign dignitaries are allowed to show their respect for the tomb and all it represents. Here are 15 photos from that visit, all taken by Elizabeth Fraser, Arlington National Cemetery.


5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
MIGHTY CULTURE

How America’s top snipers fire from helicopters with deadly accuracy

It can be hard to take a precision shot on the ground. It can be even harder to do in the air. Helo-borne snipers are elite sharpshooters who have what it takes to do both.

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” veteran US Army sniper First Sgt. Kevin Sipes previously told Business Insider. When you put a sniper in a helicopter, that list can get even longer.

“Shooting from an aircraft, it is very difficult,” US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a native Texan who oversees an advanced sniper training program focused on urban warfare, told BI.

“Getting into the aircraft is a big culture shock because there are more things to consider,” he added. “But, it’s just one of those things, you get used to it and learn to love it.”


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A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, provides aerial sniper coverage during a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)

“Eyes in the sky”

Helo-borne snipers are called on to carry out a variety of missions. They serve as aerial sentinels for convoys and raid teams and provide aerial support for interdiction missions.

“As far as taking the shot, it is not often that we do that,” Bernius explained to BI. “Our primary mission is reconnaissance and surveillance, just being eyes in the sky for the battlefield commander.” But every aerial sniper is prepared to take the shot if necessary.

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A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, tests his Opposing V sniper support system on a UH-1Y Huey aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) prior to a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of a ship, underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)

‘It can throw you off’

Helo-borne snipers typically operate at ranges within 200 meters, closer ranges than some ground-based sharpshooters, and they’re not, as Bernius put it, “shooting quarters off fence posts.” That doesn’t make hitting a target from a helicopter any less of a challenge.

Either sitting or kneeling, aerial snipers rest their weapon, a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) in the case of the Marines, on a prefabricated setup consisting of several straps the sniper can load into to reduce vibration. “We’re constantly fighting vibration,” Bernius said.

Like resting your gun on the hood of a big diesel truck while it’s running, the helicopter vibrates quite a bit, Bernius explained. “If you’re talking about a precision rifle, it’s substantial when you are looking through a small scope at a hundred meters. It can throw you off a few inches or even more.”

The vibration of the aircraft isn’t the only concern. Aerial snipers also have to take into consideration rotor wash (the downward pressure from the rotating blades impacting the bullet as it leaves the barrel), wind direction and speed, altitude, and distance to target, among other things.

Communication with the pilots, who often act as spotters for these elite troops, is critical. “Going in without communicating is almost like going in blind,” Bernius explained.

Before a sniper takes his shot, he loads into the rig to take any remaining slack out of the straps and dials in the shot, adjusting the scope for elevation and wind. Breathing out, he fires during a brief respiratory pause. If the sniper misses, he quickly follows with another round, which is one reason why the semi-automatic rifle is preferred to slower bolt-action rifles.

Helo-borne snipers can put precision fire down range regardless of whether or not the helicopter is in a stationary hover or moving. In cases where the aircraft is moving, the aerial snipers will sometimes use a lagging lead, counterintuitively placing the reticle behind the target, to get an accurate shot.

Scout Snipers – Aerial Sniper Training On Helicotper

www.youtube.com

‘Very familiar with being uncomfortable’

The urban sniper training that Bernius oversees is an advanced course for school-trained snipers, Marine Corps sharpshooters who have gone through the preliminary basic sniper training at Camp Pendleton in California, Camp Geiger in North Carolina, or Quantico in Virginia.

In the advanced sniper program, Marine Corps snipers go through four weeks of ground-based sniper training before transitioning to the air. “It’s primarily 600-meters-in combat-style shooting from tripods, barricades, and improvised positions,” Bernius told BI.

“The first three days is laying down in the prone, and then after that, they will never shoot from the prone again,” he explained. “These guys get pretty good at putting themselves in awkward situations. They get very familiar with being uncomfortable,” which is something that helps when the sniper moves into a cramped helicopter.

Nonetheless, moving from the ground to a helicopter is tough, and a lot of snipers get humbled, Bernius said. Fighting the vibrations inside the helicopter is difficult. “Some guys can really fight through it and make it happen, and some guys really struggle and they just can’t get over it and can’t make accurate shots,” he explained.

In many cases, Bernius told BI, aerial snipers have to rely more heavily on instinct than the guys on the ground. That takes repetition. That takes practice.

But once a sniper has mastered these skills, they can use them not only in the air, which is the most challenging, but also in any other vehicle. The skills are transferable.

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Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius, a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Lufkin, Texas native, shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)

‘I’m doing this for the love of my country’

Not everyone can be a Marine Corps sniper, and each person has their own motivations for serving. “I grew up in a small town in East Texas hunting, playing in the dirt, hiding in the woods. It was a lot of fun. I could do that all day, day in and day out,” Bernius explained to INSIDER.

That’s not why he joined up, though.

Bernius had the opportunity to play baseball in college, but in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he decided to join the Marines instead. “I don’t regret it one bit.”

“I’m very patriotic,” he said. “I’m doing this for the love of my country. I’ve been in 13 years. There’s been a lot of ups and a hell of a lot of downs. But, I would say love of the country is what’s keeping me around.”

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

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