West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Each year, USAA and the NFL award one person with the Salute to Service Award. This year, the winner is Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment. Cannon leads all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer, Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, PGA TOUR Superstore and Mountain Sky Guest Ranch.

Salute to Service is a year-round effort spearheaded by the NFL and USAA to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. The Salute to Service Award presented by USAA recognizes the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community who have gone above and beyond to honor the military community. 

A United States Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Cannon was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, earning All-State honors in football and All-County honors in wrestling. He lettered two years in wrestling at the United States Military Academy and scored a perfect score on every Army Physical Fitness Test for four years. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training and later earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment, placing 1,000 cadets under Cannon’s leadership.

US Army Lieutenant Steve Cannon, who won the Salute to Service award

Cannon, who graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Point, passed U.S. Army Ranger School and officer training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German-Czech border. He was on the border when the Cold War ended in 1989.

US Army Lieutenant Steve Cannon, who won the Salute to Service award

We Are The Mighty had the chance to sit down with Steve and talk about him winning this award, his military service and his commitment to military service members and veterans in Georgia. 

WATM: This isn’t your first time being recognized. Last year, you were a finalist, too. Other than your prior service, what motivates you to help your fellow veterans and what does winning the Salute to Service award mean to you?

SC: Well, it is personal to me. I lost my brother to PTSD. I serve on the board of TAPS, which is a network of people that takes care of those who are left behind. I also had a West Point classmate, John McHugh, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. I am on the board of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund which was set up in his honor. So far, we raised over $28 million to help take care of children of the fallen.

It has been 30 years since I have taken off the uniform, but we still have obligations to help those who served. 

WATM: Tell us about the USO tour the Falcons went on (the first NFL team to ever do that). What about that tour do you think really resonated with the military?

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders talk to U.S. and coalition service members, during a meet and greet in the gym on Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, June 17, 2018. Members of the Atlanta Falcons conducted a tour hosted by the USO to U.S. military camps throughout Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Horace Murray)

SC: It was amazing that we got to do it. Going over there to Iraq, in harm’s way in 110 degree heat and seeing all the soldiers there really was amazing. We took our coach (Dan Quinn), several players and a couple of cheerleaders. It really gave us perspective to see how our troops were over there. 

We were really blown away by how grateful they were to us. They were really happy we came all the way out there, but the gratitude they had toward us for coming was so impressive. I mean, we were the ones who were grateful. Here these men and women are out here protecting us, and they are thanking us for being there? It was really humbling. And, it speaks more to the Falcons franchise. Four out of the last five winners of the Salute to Service award winners were from the Falcons. I am really proud of that. 

WATM: You and the Falcons raised $250,000 to help homeless veterans in Georgia.  As a veteran yourself, what do you tell people about homeless veterans and what advice do you give on how to help them?

It is a big problem here in Atlanta, and I am often troubled that so many can go from serving in the military and they fall through the cracks and go to sleeping under a bridge. When you see veterans under a bridge in the wintertime, you have to do something. 

Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO) is a group that is doing amazing work in Georgia to tackle that problem. They do everything from getting out from under those bridges, giving comfort, helping them find jobs and helping address any mental health concerns. We were proud to partner with them. It’s the right thing to do. 

WATM: Tell us about your time in the service. How did serving in the military shape your career path?

After I graduated from West Point, I was an artillery officer and got to go to Ranger School. But then I ended up being stationed in Europe during the Cold War. I was doing border patrol duty and I was right on the Czechoslovakian border when the Iron Curtain came down. To be right there, at that point in history was pretty amazing. But being a lieutenant, I learned that it was about service to the organization first. I wasn’t going to go anywhere telling people I was the boss and they had to do what I said. I had to serve first and that’s what led me to make the decisions I did. And I still do. The importance of servant leadership is a lesson I will take with me always. I have been a CEO (for both AMB Sports and Mercedes Benz USA before that) and a lot of the decision making steps I make come from the time in service. 

WATM: Last question. You are a West Point guy.  How do you feel now that Army finally has the upper hand on Navy in football? 

SC: [Laughs] It feels good for once. Things are finally correcting themselves like they should. There was that 14-year span where things didn’t go so well, but to win four out of the last five means a lot, especially when talking to Navy guys. A few of them got really high and mighty during their win streak so it’s good to finally have the upper hand. 

The annual Salute to Service Award is presented during Super Bowl week and recognized at the NFL Honors awards show the night before the Super Bowl. Teams submit nominations in October, which are evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment. Steve Cannon will officially receive the award during the NFL Honors broadcast on Saturday night. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Cannon’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL Foundation will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to Cannon’s military charity of choice and Atlanta Falcons’ owner, Arthur M. Blank, will also match with a $25,000 donation from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

The other finalists this season for the Salute to Service Award were New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and NFL Legend/San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch. 

Congratulations, Steve!

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 14 edition)

Here are the headlines you need to know about going into the weekend (whatever that is. Around WATM we call it “two working days until Monday”):


Now: 11 weapons from pop culture we could totally use right now

MIGHTY CULTURE

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

On Sept. 11, 2019, the Global War on Terrorism turned 18. The GWOT is by far the longest military conflict in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous contender (the Vietnam War) by at least eight years. In 2014, a group of like-minded individuals — veterans, spouses of veterans, and civilians — felt it was time to pay formal tribute to those who have served, and continue to serve, in the GWOT. These patriots formed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, which officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on May 15, 2015.

The foundation’s mission is to become the Congressionally designated entity authorized to build a permanent GWOT memorial in Washington. According to the GWOT Memorial Foundation website, the memorial will “… honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in support of our nation’s longest war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice … as well as their families and friends.”


West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Signing of HR873.

(Photo courtesy of GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Unfortunately, the effort encountered an obstacle right out of the chute. The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 imposed a 10-year waiting period after the end of a conflict before it could be memorialized in our nation’s capital. Therefore, one of the first tasks was to lobby Congress for an exemption. In early 2017, two GWOT veterans, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., led the effort to do just that. They introduced HR 873, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which proposed the GWOT memorial as a commemorative work on federally owned land in the District of Columbia and exempted the project from the 10-year moratorium. Furthermore, the act authorized the GWOT Memorial Foundation as the organization with exclusive rights to commission the work.

In just six months’ time, despite a polarized political climate dominated by gridlock, the legislation swept through Congress with unanimous support — a testament to the project’s worthy goal. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of the same year. GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said he and his leadership were certainly pleased with HR 873’s speedy trip through Congress, but they weren’t surprised.

“[The fast turnaround] just speaks to the broad support that exists,” he said. “This really is a nonpartisan issue. We introduced the legislation shortly after President Trump’s inauguration — we weren’t really worried about it because there are no politics behind what we’re trying to do.”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rodriguez, who took the reins in 2018, shortly after the bill was passed, refers to himself as the man who has the “undeserved honor” of leading the project. However, he is immensely qualified to do so. The 21-year U.S. Army veteran is a former Green Beret with multiple post-9/11 deployments under his belt. Rod retired in 2013 as a result of injuries sustained in combat.

In addition to being the longest war in U.S. history, the GWOT also represents the first multi-generational conflict — which means we are now seeing soldiers who are the children of veterans who deployed early in the conflict. Rodriguez’ wife is also a 21-year Army veteran, and their son is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. The three have 16 deployments between them.

“My son patrolled the same areas of Afghanistan in the Helmand province that my wife and I did,” Rod said. “I was there in 2005, she was there in 2006, and our son was there in 2017.”

Looking ahead to the completion of the memorial project, the foundation has narrowed down the location to three pre-established sites in the “reserve” — an area of the National Mall that stretches north/south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial and east/west from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. The construction of anything within the reserve requires Congressional approval.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez with President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of the project.

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

The reserve is a logical choice for the GWOT Memorial because it’s home to many of the existing war memorials in Washington. However, the foundation still did a great deal of research before settling on that location.

“This memorial does not belong to any one individual,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s to all those who served. So, in 2018, along with our architectural firm, we began conducting discussion groups across the country … to determine what the American people wanted. We talked to hundreds of people, [including] Blue Star families — families of those who are actively serving — and Gold Star families, obviously families who lost a loved one to the Global War on Terrorism. We spoke with veterans from all our country’s wars since World War II. We spent three days on Fort Bragg, sponsored by FORSCOM, talking to peer groups. We spoke to faith leaders to get their thoughts. And we also spoke to the greater part of our population — those who never wore the uniform.”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rod and his team took great care to educate the groups, explaining the GWOT Memorial project and showing the location and topography of the National Mall and its surrounding area. These groups were asked to complete surveys, not only to gather input on site selection but also ideas about the physical design of the memorial itself — hard structures, water features, shrubbery and other vegetation, etc. After synthesizing the qualitative and quantitative data collected in the surveys, the foundation confirmed that America overwhelmingly supported a plan to select a site within the reserve.

Rodriguez said that respondents were aware that Congressional approval would be required to build within the reserve. “I told them not to worry about the extra work,” he said. “It was the foundation’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the American people.”

To obtain the required approval, the GWOT Memorial Foundation partnered with For Country Caucus, a bipartisan alliance of 19 veterans dedicated to finding areas of compromise to move the country forward. With a mantra of “policy over politics,” the caucus was an ideal group to champion the cause. On Nov. 12, 2019, the day after Veterans Day, House Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., introduced the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, seeking permission to commission the GWOT Memorial on one of three sites near the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Proposed GWOT Memorial locations in the National Mall in Washington.

(Graphic by Tim Cooper/Coffee or Die.)

Fundraising is ongoing, with a present goal of million. This is a modest number considering that the World War II Memorial cost more than 0 million and the final tab for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was approximately 0 million. The actual design process for the GWOT Memorial has not yet begun, but Rodriguez and the foundation established the million goal as a starting point. Once the site is selected, he acknowledged that the price tag could potentially increase. Assuming Congress passes a GWOT Memorial Location Act bill quickly, the foundation hopes to dedicate the memorial by 2024.

Some critics might point out that the U.S. has never built a national memorial for an active war — so why start now?

“The Global War on Terrorism is old enough to vote, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” said Gallagher. “Honoring the service, as well as the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Global War on Terrorism, is overdue.”

“Just like this war has no precedence, this memorial has no precedence either,” Rodriguez added. “We really want to avoid what happened to the Greatest Generation. [Many of those veterans] never saw the World War II Memorial. They passed before it was completed. Furthermore, parents of fallen GWOT service members are in their 60s, 70s, and even older. If we don’t do this now, when is the right time? We share a sacred duty to honor all those who have selflessly served in our nation’s longest war. This is a charge [the foundation] does not take lightly — a charge we will remain loyal to and a charge we intend to keep.”

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Scott Eastwood thinks It’s time you start buying goods that are Made Here, in America

We’ve all seen the labels on our clothes, our cars and everything in between. As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes it’s cheaper (and easier) to buy products that aren’t made here in the good ole’ U.S. of A.

Actor Scott Eastwood (The Outpost, Fury) and his business partner, serial entrepreneur Dane Chapin, are on a mission to change that story. Along the way, they’re highlighting some amazing American workers, companies and veterans.

“Supporting the American worker is not a political issue. It’s just what we should do,” Chapin said in an exclusive interview with We Are The Mighty. Chapin’s latest venture? Partnering with actor Scott Eastwood to cofound Made Here, a company dedicated to selling American-made goods.

“Made Here exists to celebrate the excellence of the American worker by exclusively partnering with American manufacturers to make, market and license the best goods this country has to offer,” Chapin explained. Eastwood echoed his comments, adding, “The feeling of pride in our country that we share is something that is expressed in our products.”

And just like its incredible mission, Made Here has one hell of a story.


A commitment to service is more than a nice sentiment or a long-lost ideal for Chapin and Eastwood. For both men, it’s personal. Chapin’s father served in the Army and spent much of his time helping injured veterans before he passed away. Chapin continues to honor that legacy in his work and in personal projects, such as supporting the Encinitas VFW. Eastwood’s father (you might have heard of him – Clint?) was scheduled to deploy to Korea when he was in a plane crash, returning from a visit with his parents. The plane went down in the ocean en route from Seattle to Eastwood’s then duty station, Fort Ord. The Independent Journal from Oct. 1, 1951, reported:

Two servicemen, who battled a thick gray fog and a strong surf for almost an hour last night following a plane landing in the ocean near the Marin shore, are returning to their service units today uninjured.
Army Pvt. Clinton Eastwood, who wandered into the RCA radio station at Point Reyes after struggling in the ocean, told radio operators he and the pilot were forced to land their AD-2 bomber in the ocean and left on life rafts.”

While that grit and resilience is certainly what Clint is known for, perhaps lesser known is that he instilled those qualities in his son. Scott is bringing that same passion and determination to Made Here.

Made Here Brand

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“When Dane approached me about this idea a few years ago, I was automatically and immediately all in,” Eastwood shared. “For hundreds of years, ‘American-made’ has been synonymous with high quality,” he said. “It’s all the hard-working folks across the country that make our brand possible. I want to honor the iconic heritage of American manufacturing and let people know it’s very much alive and well.”

The company did a soft launch last month on their website and are ecstatic to be partnering with Amazon to launch a Made Here store front later this month. While Made Here is currently limited to apparel, Eastwood and Chapin have hopes to expand their product line as they move forward. “We’d love nothing more than to showcase all types of products,” Chapin said. “And the more veteran-owned and military-spouse owned businesses we can highlight, the better. We can never repay the debt of service we owe our veterans and military families, but American workers and manufacturers are what make our country the best in the world. We want people to know what they’re buying and feel good about their purchases, and what a benefit to be supporting those who have served us.”

While Made Here in and of itself is incredible, equally impressive is their “In a Day” series they launched, showcasing what Americans can accomplish in just 24 hours. Eastwood and Chapin couldn’t think of a better place to start than 24 hours on the USS Nimitz. “I couldn’t believe how down to earth, humble and hard-working those people were,” Eastwood said. Chapin added, “We joked about how they’re all working ‘half-days,’ recognizing that their 12 hour half-day is more than most people do in a full day. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

IN A DAY | AIRCRAFT CARRIER – Scott Eastwood and the Made Here team aboard the USS Nimitz

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Made Here is here to stay and WATM couldn’t be more excited to cheer this company on as it promotes American workers and American ideals. “At a time when the country is so divided,” Chapin said, “we can all get behind supporting one another and buying goods that are Made Here.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This boot camp helps veterans grow tech start-ups

Basic Training — often called boot camp — introduces new service members to military life and customs. Boot camp “accelerates” a citizen’s transformation to a soldier, sailor, airman or marine.

A Colorado-based company, Techstars Accelerator, created Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) to help service members transition out of the military. More importantly, PBC helps transitioning service members and entrepreneurial veterans turn their business ideas into tech start-ups.

The 15th installment of Patriot Boot Camp was held in Lehi, Utah on Aug. 23-25, 2019. Veterans, active duty service members, and military spouses with business ideas or existing businesses gathered for three days to learn from industry leaders. The event was hosted MX Data, and sponsored by MetLife Foundation, USAA, and Jared Polis Foundation.


The PBC connected the event’s attendees to a community of over fifty mentors — many of whom traveled from across the nation to make entrepreneurship tangible. A testament to the dedication and belief in this program was that the mentors all volunteered their time, at their own expense, to provide one-on-one mentoring.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Patriot Boot Camp founder Taylor McLemore address the veteran entrepreneurs.

More than 850 veterans have gone through the program, and they have hired over 1,600 employees and raised 0 million in venture capital while generating millions in revenue.

By the numbers

  • Jobs created: 1,600+
  • Hours of mentorship: 2,500+
  • Alumni entrepreneurs: 850+
  • Entrepreneurs attending PBC Utah: Coming from 23 states, one from Austria
  • Capital raised by alumni: 0 million
  • Diversity: 50% service-connected, disabled Veteran-owned business
  • Female founders: 23%

According to an article in TechCrunch, PBC graduates show “…that startups aren’t the sort of crazy risk that they first appear. Indeed, after what many of these men and women have just been through, it may not be all that daunting of a next mission after all.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA’s $16 billion electronic health records modernization plan is failing, IG says

A $16 billion effort to give veterans lifetime electronic health records that meshed with the Pentagon’s has been marked by repeated delays and oversight failures that could have put patients at risk, according to reports from the VA Inspector General.

The IG reports released Monday detailed confusion in the overall implementation of the plan and failures to train staff and put in place adequate equipment for the pilot program, such as new laptops.


The first IG report, titled “Deficiencies in Infrastructure Readiness for Deploying VA’s New Electronic Health Record [EHR] System,” looked at how the Department of Veterans Affairs went about implementing the initial billion, 10-year contract with Cerner Corp. of Kansas.

The VA now estimates that the contract, awarded in May 2018 by then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie without competitive bidding, will now cost at least another billion for management and equipment.

The second report focused on delays and failures in the pilot program, even after it was scaled back from three test sites to one at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington.

One of the main findings of the second report was that patient safety at the Spokane facility could have been put at risk due to poor preparation for the planned switchover to the Cerner system in the pilot program.

The IG’s report found that the VA and the Spokane leadership failed to hire and train adequate staff to handle the transition, and overlooked the impact on how the hospital would continue to function while the inevitable kinks in the system were worked out.

“For example, online prescription refills, the most popular form for refilling prescriptions at the facility, was identified as a capability that would be absent when going live,” the IG’s report said of the pilot program at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. “The OIG determined that the multiple work-arounds needed to address the removal of an online prescription refill process presents a patient safety risk.”

In addition, the IG found that the VA’s expanded program to allow veterans to choose community care — made policy by the Mission Act of 2018 — had suffered as the Spokane facility focused on the switchover to EHR.

“The OIG identified that facility leaders addressed recent in-house access to care challenges within primary care, but a significant backlog of 21,155 care in the community consults remained as of January 9, 2020,” the report said.

Outrage on the Hill

In May 2019, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie identified the transition to EHR as one of his top priorities, noting its potential “to change the way our veterans are treated, but also change the way we do business, to make the delivery of our services more efficient, make it more timely.”

In that same month, then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan took a beating during a hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee when he projected a possible four-year delay in implementing the transition.

“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan.

“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”

Veterans were suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he added.

Over the years, previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems of the VA and DoD have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and about id=”listicle-2645875913″ billion spent.

The goal of the new effort to integrate the records was to overcome the track record of failure by the VA and the DoD to meet a congressional mandate to bring their separate medical records systems in line with one another, ensuring a seamless transition for service members to civilian life.

In its overview of the VA’s latest attempt, the IG report noted that “there are tremendous costs and challenges associated with this effort.”

The Merger

Under the current plan the VA’s legacy information system — Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) — would be replaced by Cerner’s commercial off-the-shelf solution called “Millennium.”

The plan was to have VA’s Millenium mesh with DoD’s electronic health record system — Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS — which at its core also consists of Cerner’s Millennium, the IG report said.

The ultimate connection of VA and DoD’s electronic health records “will result in a comprehensive, lifetime health record for service members,” the report said, improving health outcomes by giving providers more complete information.

However, the indefinite hold put on the pilot program in Spokane underlines the huge challenges ahead in implementing the transition as the nation seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the IG said.

The report found widespread failure in VA’s preparations to start up the new system in Spokane.

“The lack of important upgrades jeopardizes VA’s ability to properly deploy the new electronic health record system and increases risks of delays to the overall schedule,” the report said. “Until modifications are complete, many aspects of the physical infrastructure existing in the telecommunications rooms [such as cabling] and data center do not meet national industry standards or VA’s internal requirements.”

The VA’s response essentially concurred with the findings and recommendations of the IG’s overview and the separate report on the pilot program in Spokane.

In his response, Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said that the VA was working to correct the problems with infrastructure and staffing noted by the IG.

“I appreciate the concerns regarding mitigation strategies and capabilities of the new electronic health records [EHR] system,” Stone said.

He said that as the target date was approaching for the launch of the pilot program in Spokane, “Secretary Wilkie received feedback from clinical and technical staff.”

“He decided to postpone the Go-Live so that the system can provide the greatest functionality at Go-Live and VHA staff are confident in providing care with the new system with the least mitigation strategies,” Stone said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China passes Russia’s weakened military to be the US’ top rival

Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, always possessed an outsized military and grew quickly into the role of the US’s chief rival after World War II, but despite prioritizing nuclear and military power above social welfare for decades , the Kremlin has been surpassed.

Russia still wields enviable cyber warfare prowess, tremendous conventional military strength, the world’s most dangerous nuclear weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities among the best on earth.


But nobody is talking about Russia as the US’s top military threat anymore. Today, it’s China.

Under President Donald Trump, the US has introduced a new National Security Strategy that lists China and Russia as its main strategic threats, rather than terrorism or climate change. China is listed first, and mentioned more often throughout the report.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

The T-14 Armata, another great idea that never really happened.

The culprit behind Russia’s decline? Stagnation

The Russian threat is a known quantity. NATO exists to counter Russia in Europe. Besides Russia’s 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, its constant aggressive behavior towards its neighbors hasn’t really changed much over the decades.

Russia’s newest generation of nuclear weapons promises to evade and trick all existing US missile defenses, but that’s also old news. Even the US’s 1970s Minuteman III nuclear missile can likely evade Russian defenses. In any case, nuclear war has been a moot point since the establishment of mutually assured destruction.

Russian systems near Eastern Europe can out-range and in some cases overwhelm its NATO counterpart, but Russia stands to gain little in conventional conflict, and under President Vladimir Putin it’s mainly chosen to engage in hybrid warfare and to push its foreign policy goals with hacking and other nefarious plots.

Where are the real innovations in Russia’s military hardware? Russia introduced the Su-57, supposedly a stealth jet that could take on the US’s F-35 and F-22 fighters , but it couldn’t get the money together to order more than 12 of them. Likewise, Russia’s T-14 Armata tank, framed as a NATO tank-killer, will not see serial production.

For the T-14 and Su-57, economic stagnation caused by flat or falling oil prices and US sanctions likely struck the final blow.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16.

China running wild

China used to buy and reverse engineer Russian weapons systems, which provided it a healthy base to start building its military, the largest in the world, but now it’s clearly surpassed Russia in terms of high-end warfighting.

China, not Russia, provided the first foreign answer to the US’s total dominance in stealth aircraft with the Chengdu J-20 . China has also leapfrogged ahead in software and computing, pursuing both quantum computing and artificial intelligence at a break-neck place.

Just as Putin has changed Russia’s geography by taking Crimea, Beijing changed the very seas they border on by building up military strongholds across the South China Sea and steadily enforcing claims there with a firmer and firmer hand.

China has created a new run of missiles set to give the US Navy a run for its money . China once bought a used Soviet aircraft carrier as a training vessel. Now it has plans to build three or more carriers to project power across the seas. Russia, on the other hand, has had to shelve its sole carrier until 2022, and before that it couldn’t sail without a tug nearby. China has made a show of beating the US in technological races , even when they’re mostly superficial.

China, not Russia, has become the US military’s boogeyman despite sitting half a world away. And with ten times Russia’s population, and an economy set to displace the US as the world’s top, it’s unlikely Russia will hang around much longer in the conversation of top-tier militaries.

Russia can achieve many of its foreign policy goals by spreading its own brand of information in Western democracies and leaning on its smaller satellite states. But China is building an all-aspect military capable of fighting the US military head-on.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Aircraft carriers will not join exercises in Korea this year

The US will reportedly hold back aircraft carriers from joint military drills with South Korea as North Korea’s stance softens and its leader Kim Jong Un seeks talks with both the US and South Korean president.


“While US aircraft carriers have taken part in joint South Korea-US exercises in the past, it has been decided that none will be coming for the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises,” a US military official told Korea’s Hankyoreh website on March 8, 2018.

Also read: Why the US will never recognize a nuclear North Korea

“There is a possibility no nuclear submarines will be coming either,” the source added.

In 2017, the US raised eyebrows by deploying three aircraft carriers and two nuclear submarines to Korea for different exercises. Both aircraft carriers and submarines have been viewed as high-end platforms the US would deploy in the event of an actual war.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
A North Korean anti-aircraft missile drives through Pyongyang. (Photo by Stefan Krasowski via Flickr)

The carrier deployments also may have spooked North Korea, as it released a propaganda video if its missiles destroying a carrier and other key US weapons systems.

But Hankyoreh’s source said the upcoming drills’ lack of carriers had been planned long in advance, and didn’t coincide with the recent thaw in North Korea relations.

Related: The US can survive a nuclear North Korea — but a first strike could start World War III

Potentially, the lack of big, headline-making naval assets to the Korean Peninsula during the US and South Korea’s regularly scheduled military drills could ease tensions as the sides move towards Kim’s first-ever meetings with heads of state.

A Pentagon spokesperson decline to confirm what military assets would take part in the drills, but US officials have said that the US will continue its strategy of flexing its military muscle towards North Korea until Kim shows he’s serious about giving up his nuclear ambitions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China will keep growing because it can do what the West can’t

China’s biggest advantage is that other countries have left giant opportunities wide open that Beijing was able to easily fill, according to John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Garnaut, who spoke to the US House Armed Services Committee on March 21, 2018, was giving national-security advice on state influence operations when he pointed out a common thread of China’s influence operations. Namely, that the US, Australia, and other leading nations stopped investing in Chinese education and global development, allowing China to take control.

Also read: The FBI director called out China on its massive espionage effort

“China is really filling a service we are failing to provide — that is a China capability, linguistic capability, understanding of Chinese contemporary politics and history,” Garnaut said, before putting a spotlight on China’s state-run cultural institutes around the world.

“Confucius Institutes have found a great black hole that they can fill,” he said.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
John Garnaut

There are over 1,500 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, which aim to promote Chinese language and culture, in universities, primary schools, and high schools in 142 countries around the world.

While playing a key role in, by their own admission, China’s soft-power and propaganda, they have also been deemed a “trojan horse” and a source of censorship. China’s Communist Party retains ultimate control over Confucius Institutes, their budgets, activities, and curricula.

Garnaut believes the US and Australia have essentially given Beijing this influence. He said that universities “need to work hard” to rebuild their Chinese expertise so they don’t have to rely on China’s government to fill the gaps.

Related: China’s president just gave a huge threatening speech

But education isn’t the only area where China has seized opportunities. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s plan to link 70 countries via railways and shipping lanes, has seen an outpouring of expensive loans to poorer nations to fund infrastructure.

“With BRI, obviously again they filled a vacuum,” said Garnaut. “If we’re — between us — no longer supporting development in the way that we used to in my part of the world, in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, it provides opportunities for others. I think there’s opportunity to do more there and also to again really focus on transparency.”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
The Belt and Road Initiative.

US legislators want Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents

On March 21, 2018, three US legislators, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced the Foreign Influence Transparency Act which would require Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents.

“This legislation aims to bring greater transparency to the activities of foreign governments operating in the United States,” said Rubio.

When asked about the proposed law, Garnaut said regardless of whether Confucius Institutes should be registered, “that’s the right direction.”

“What they do is partly propaganda, but even more importantly is their connection to the United Front’s Work Department system and that is they can potentially be used, and we need to stop them being used, as a platform for influencing decision-making in universities,” said Garnaut.

The United Front Work Department is the arm of China’s government that openly runs China’s soft power and influence initiatives internationally, particularly in regard to Chinese students studying abroad and the Chinese diaspora.

And the relationship between United Front Work and Confucius Institutes was made even stronger this week in a vast government shakeup. United Front Work’s role is being strengthened, and it will absorb the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and oversee international Chinese language education.

From now on, Confucius Institutes may very well be overseen by the United Front Work Department.

But countries should be more concerned about quieter initiatives

As much as the US and Australia should be concerned about overt instances of influence, such as the Confucius Institutes, Garnaut believes there are far more serious instances of influence that need to be tackled.

More: China accidentally posted its plans for naval domination

“One thing about the Confucius Institutes is, at least we know about them and people are talking about them. In a way, that degree of transparency goes a long way to curing the problem,” Garnaut said.

“What I’m personally more concerned about is things that don’t have a big flag over their building. We see other institutes and research institutes performing similar functions but without the attention, and I think that’s where we need to pay a lot more attention.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

One missing after Russian dry dock sinks around only carrier

Four people were injured and one remains missing after Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, suffered damage when a floating dry dock sank while the vessel was leaving it, officials say.

The waterborne repair station’s sinking at an Arctic shipyard early on Oct. 30, 2018, was the latest in a series of mishaps involving the Admiral Kuznetsov, which lost two military jets in accidents off the coast of war-torn Syria in 2017.


The PD-50 dry dock had “fully sank” by 3:30 a.m. local time at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in the village of Roslyakovo near the port city of Murmansk, regional Governor Marina Kovtun said on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, one person has not yet been found,” Kovtun said.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

The Admiral Kuznetsov.

She said that two injured workers were hospitalized and two were treated without hospitalization.

One of the injured was in very serious condition, said Viktor Rogalyov, the head of the local Disaster Medicine Center.

She said that rescue divers from the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet were working at the site and that it was “hard to say” what caused the sinking.

Authorities said at least one crane fell when the dry dock sank, damaging the aircraft carrier.

Aleksei Rakhmanov, head of the state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, said experts are assessing the damage but that “the vitally important parts of the aircraft carrier were not affected.”

The PD-50 was one of the world’s largest dry docks.

Russia sent the 305-meter Admiral Kuznetsov to the Eastern Mediterranean in 2016 as part of its ongoing military campaign in support of Syrian government forces in the Middle Eastern country’s devastating war.

An Su-33 military jet crashed while trying to land on the aircraft carrier there in December 2016, and a MiG-29 crashed a few kilometers from the vessel three weeks earlier.

A fire on board the carrier killed a sailor during a 2008-09 deployment, and an oil spill was spotted by the Irish Coast Guard near the vessel afterwards.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The newest military TV show makes all the mistakes you’d expect

Any attempt to make a network TV show about Marines feels forced. I mean, c’mon, if you’ve ever been around Marines for more than 5 minutes, they will already have: cussed 30 times, tried to talk you into day-drinking, and drawn a penis on something nearby. They can be hilariously fun.


But they’re in a courtroom for this one, so maybe this one will feel… different — right?

Not so fast. Maybe it’s the out-of-regs hair, maybe it’s the hacky love storyline, or maybe it’s the fact that every Marine is portrayed as so serious — but something about The Code feels off, in the same way, many others before it have…

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

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The Code is basically if you put JAG and Law and Order in a blender with flat soda.

There have been a lot of shows about the military. As soon as one is dropped, another cookie-cutter copy is dropped in its place. It’s like one big hair-out-of-regs version of Medusa.

But some have been really good: M*A*S*H, Band of Brothers, JAG (for the first 8 seasons), even the under-appreciated The Unit. More have been not-so-good: The Brave, Valor (which ran walked alongside The Brave for the entirety of their short run walk), Combat Hospital, Last Resort, the last 2 seasons of JAG, and many more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyt-j9avxDo
The Code – Not Guilty

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Some people enjoy the “not-so-good” ones, and that’s fine, too. It would be an awfully boring world if everyone loved the same things.

But the “flyover state” blue collar audience is often overlooked by major networks. There is something irksome about the military shows that are churned out; they’re interchangeable and one-dimensional, and therefore come across as pandering. None of it feels real, it feels like someone giving a book report on something you know they didn’t read—and you can only stand to stomach someone BS-ing the same classroom about Catch 22 for so long.

The Code Trailer

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Yes, the show has to be dramatized for effect. Yes, some things are going to be “Hollywood” for the sake of a wider audience (at one point a judge literally declares “you will be held in contempt of court” like a Saturday Night Live cold open). I’m sure doctors are sick of the medical procedurals where everyone has lupus, but millions of people love and watch them.

But The Code has some inaccuracies that are particularly grating for a military audience that is worthy of something more dynamic.

One is obvious—get that man a damn haircut.

Also, it’s no surprise that the lead is a heartthrob with no discernible personality traits other than being uber handsome. Dude is literally a walking Ken doll. Not exactly an embodiment of the Marines I’ve met, many of whom are some of the zaniest and insanely crass men ever. They’re not a milk-toast copy/pasted trope—they’re fully dimensional people with faults and ambitions and shadows and humor. Reducing every Marine to a simple hardass archetype, (or worse, force an overly polished Marine without specificity) isn’t just hard to believe—it’s boring.

The uniform on the female captain does appear to be short for the military too. And private school. Maybe public school.

You could poke holes in the battle scene of any TV show, but this one is just annoying, you got the fore-grip man, use it! That’s like eating cereal with a fork, it works, but you look like you got some milk on your lip.

And lastly, you may be hard pressed to find someone who refers to the Uniform Code of Military Justice as “the code.”

Compile all of those, and it’s no wonder why it feels “off” to watch. But The Code does have redeeming qualities: it covers the increasingly significant issue of troops with traumatic brain injuries, it translates military-speak to a civilian audience in a seamless fashion, and it sidesteps being “preachy” or political.

So it’s not all bad. It’s just too familiar. We’ve seen this all before, and it leaves you with an itchy deja vu feeling.

Is the latest out-of-regs entry onto the head of Medusa. The Code? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bolton refused to press Putin on anything about Ukraine

White House national security adviser John Bolton says that he has discussed Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, told CBS’s Face The Nation that “President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.”

Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to hold their first one-on-one summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.


On June 29, 2018, Trump declined to rule out recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Asked by reporters on Air Force One whether reports about him dropping Washington’s longstanding opposition to the annexation were true, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US wants sea life to help hunt enemy submarines

The US military is supporting research focused on genetically-engineering marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.

Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common sea organism could be modified to react in a detectable way to certain non-natural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines, Defense One reports.

If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment,” Sarah Glaven, an NRL researcher, said at a November 2018 event hosted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, reportedly noting that the aim is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.


“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she further articulated. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.”

She said that hard evidence that this sort of biotechnology breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.

In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to harness marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

(US Navy photo)

“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, manager for the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, said in a statement.

“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”

As is, there is already a million tri-service effort among Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance US defense capabilities. “Our team is looking at ways we can reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms for generating molecules and materials beneficial for defense needs,” Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, explained in a statement.

There are apparently similar programs going on across the branches looking at everything from undewater sensing to living camouflage.

The US is once again in an age of great power competition, according to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. It faces new threats from adversarial powers like China and Russia beneath the waves. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.

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

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