This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

When thinking of countries that have the strongest militaries in the world, giants like the US, Russia, China, and the UK come to mind. In Asia — and Southeast Asia in particular — China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand are usually mentioned.

But the country that boasts the best air force and navy in the region, and a military that is considered one of the most powerful in the world, is a tiny island city-state with a population of only 5 million — Singapore.


Strong since independence

The concept of a strong military has been ingrained in Singapore since it gained independence from Malaysia in 1965.

“Historically, Singapore had rather tumultuous relations with its immediate neighbors, namely Indonesia and Malaysia,” Collin Koh Sw ee Lean, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Maritime Security Programme, told Business Insider. “This was quite the case back in the early decades of Singapore’s independence.”

As a result, Singapore needed to invest in its security forces. “There was a sense in Singapore that they were extremely vulnerable to coercion being so small,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.

But with a small population and hardly any territory to train on let alone fight, it became clear that the only way they could secure their country was by out-competing their potential rivals through high-end technology.

‘A poisonous shrimp’

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
A Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Formidable-class Frigate.
(Singapore Ministry of Defense photo)

Singapore’s air force boasts 60 US-made F-16C/D and 40 F-15SG that were designed specifically for the the Singapore Air Force. They also operate 20 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, one of the best gunships currently in service.

Singapore’s navy has six Formidable-class stealth frigates, licensed Singaporean-made versions of France’s La Fayette-class frigate, a number of high-end submarines both in service and in development, and five Endurance-class landing platform docks than can carry 18 tanks and hundreds of troops.

The army is small compared to some of its regional rivals, with only 72,000 active personnel. But it has some of the best equipment in service, and much of it was either entirely produced or improved on by domestic companies.

This includes the Leopard 2SG, Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle. The country also has compulsory military service, and can quickly mobilize its army for war at a moment’s notice.

All of this high-end equipment is, unsurprisingly expensive. But despite its small size, Singapore has managed to become a global economic and military powerhouse.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Singaporean soldiers dismount a Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle, February 23, 2013.
(Singapore Army / Facebook)

In 2017, Global Finance magazine ranked Singapore as the 4th richest country in the world in terms of GDP, and it has been able to stay high on that list for decades.

The city-state has historically had a high defense budget, usually hovering around three to four percent of its GDP, though it has gone as high as 5% in the past. The 2018 military budget, $14.76 billion, makes up 18% of Singapore’s annual budget.

But what really sets Singapore apart from its neighbors in the realm of technology and equipment, is the fact that it is all integrated into a single cohesive fighting force.

“Not only do they have high-end equipment, they know how to operate it in a very high level of capability. It’s integrated as opposed to all the other country in Southeast Asia,” Brian Harding, the deputy director the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Southeast Asia Program, told Business Insider.

“They focus on making sure their systems work together, they have interoperability between the services. They are highly professional military,” Harding said. “A poisonous shrimp is the analogy that is made.”

Geographic difficulties

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Leopard 2SGs from the Singapore Armed Forces Mobile Coumn at the Singapore National Day Parade, August 9, 2015.
(154th Media Entertainment / YouTube)

But Singapore’s military does have a a big problem — geography. There simply isn’t enough room on the island to train its fighting forces.

“If you’re in a fighter jet that is taking off at three or four hundred miles an hour, you very quickly leave Singaporean airspace,” Harold said.

As a result, Singapore has sent some of its soldiers and much of its equipment overseas. Its military has personnel and air squadrons in the US, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, and Taiwan to name a few.

While the main purpose for these deployments in for training, it does offer another advantage — the ability to stage an effective counter-strike.

“The idea of distributing manpower and assets abroad … also provide a recessed type of backup reinforcements, a form of insurance, in case forces deployed within Singapore got wiped out in an enemy onslaught,” Koh said.

“These assets could therefore be mobilized as a follow-on force, possibly reinforced by friendly partners,” he added.

Singapore’s relations with its immediate neighbors have actually improved remarkably. In Koh’s words, they “have never been as good as now.”

Singapore has also contributed to international operations like Afghanistan and disaster relief missions to affected nations.

But Singapore is still cautious. Chinese actions in the South China Sea have not been encouraging, and its continued support of a US military presence in the region is not popular with some.

“Singaporeans are the ultimate realists and understand that things can change quickly,” Harding said. “They know that they need to be prepared for the future and not just hope for the best.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Nylon: the reason we won World War II — and started shaving our legs

True story.

In fact, nylon would earn the moniker “the fiber that won the war.” Let’s talk about how.

In the 1930s, the United States imported four-fifths of the world’s silk — and 90% of it came from Japan. 75-80% of that was used for women’s hosiery — specifically, silk stockings.

Because, as hemlines grew shorter, the need to cover scandalous lady skin with something — anything — grew larger, but we won’t get into that now. Suffice it to say that American women were wearing silk stockings. Unfortunately, they didn’t stretch, they were delicate and ripped easily, and they often required an extra garment, like a garter belt, to hold them up.


Enter Harvard-trained scientist, Wallace H. Carothers, hired by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company to conduct research on synthetic materials and polyblends. In 1939, Carothers invented Fiber 6-6, or what would become known as Nylon.

DuPont astutely recognized the economic value of Nylon as a silk replacement and concentrated on manufacturing nylon stockings. Within three hours of their experimental debut, 4,000 pairs of nylon stockings sold out. Later that year, they were displayed at the New York World’s Fair. The next year, 4 million pairs of brown nylons sold out within two days, making a total sales figure of million.

In 1941, the company sold million worth of nylon yarn — that’s nearly 0 million today. In just two years, DuPont earned 30% of the women’s hosiery market.

But all of that was about to change.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Used stockings were repurposed into war materials.

(Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)

Because stockings weren’t the only thing made of silk. Military parachutes and rope were also made from the Japanese import. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States went to war against Japan and, suddenly, the production of nylon was diverted for military use.

It was used to make glider tow ropes, aircraft fuel tanks, flak jackets, shoelaces, mosquito netting, hammocks, and, yes, parachutes.

Eventually, even the flag planted on the moon by Neil Armstrong would be made of nylon!

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Buzz Aldrin salutes Old Glory ON THE MOON.

(Photo by Neil Mother F*cking Armstrong ON THE MOON, people.)

This is because nylon is a thermoplastic polymer that is strong, tough, and durable. It is more resistant to sunlight and weathering than organic fabrics are and, because it is synthetic, it’s resistant to molds, insects, and fungi. It’s also waterproof and quick to dry.

By utilizing it during World War II, we were better-equipped than our enemies and more able to weather difficult conditions.

Back home, women missed their stockings. At the time, they were made with a bold seam up the back. After experiencing nylon stockings, women didn’t want to go back to silk, so they did the next best thing: they shaved their legs, carefully applied a “liquid silk stocking” (otherwise known as paint), and lined the backs of their legs with a trompe l’oeil seam.

A bold, new revolution was happening: leg hair removal to replicate the appearance of stockings. After the war, the trend continued to spread, inflamed by the beauty industry’s marketing.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Beauty standards: poisoning women’s bodies since the invention of paint…

After 1942, the only stockings available were those sold before the war or bought on the black market. One entrepreneurial thief made 0,000 off stockings produced from a diverted nylon shipment.

Which is very messed up — everyone in America was coming together to support the war effort, including women!

In fact, it was Adeline Gray — a woman — who made the first jump by a human with a nylon parachute. The Pioneer Parachute Company of Manchester, working in concert with the DuPont company, developed a parachute made of material that combined “compactness with lightness, resiliency, and strength.”

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Girl crush.

(Oxford Historical Society)

On June 6, 1942, 24-year-old Gray was the only licensed female parachute jumper in Connecticut. Her jump, performed before a group of Army officials, was a success.

During the D-Day invasion, airborne troops jumped with nylon parachutes while the stealth Waco gliders were quietly towed by nylon ropes. Nylon’s strength, elasticity, weight, and resistance to mildew came through when we needed it the most.


After the war, nylon stockings made a resurgence. On one occasion, 40,000 people lined up for a mile to compete for 13,000 pairs of stockings. They remained standard in the industry, and still to this day “nylons” are synonymous with “pantyhose” or tights. In many fields, they are required for women — including the military. If a female wears a skirt, she must wear stockings or hose underneath.

Articles

See how the Sri Lankan navy rescued this cute elephant

On July 11, 2017, the Sri Lankan navy was conducting operations nine miles out to sea and spotted something surprising: an elephant swimming in the deep ocean.


Elephants are actually excellent swimmers for land animals, using their powerful legs to propel themselves forward and breathing through their trunk. But they aren’t true endurance swimmers or deepwater experts.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
(Photo: Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to Avinash Krishnan, a research officer for conservation group A Rocha who spoke to the Guardian, swimming out nine miles isn’t horribly rare for elephants. But saltwater bothers their skin and they burn a lot of energy while swimming, making rescue necessary.

Luckily for the little pachyderm, the Sri Lankan sailors were happy to assist. They used ropes, divers, and their ships to pull the elephant close to shore over the course of a 12-hour rescue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVZPLVkzt-c
Oddly enough, this wasn’t an isolated event. The very next week, the navy spotted two elephants in distress 1.5 miles from the coast. The animals were barely keeping their trunks above water when a patrol craft spotted them. They were also rescued by boats pulling them to shore with ropes attached by divers.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Father and son strengthen bond while deployed together

Most fathers are happy to receive a tie or some other type of keepsake from their children for Father’s Day — especially once their children are grown.

For Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, he will have something far more valuable to see while he is forward deployed to Qatar this Father’s Day. He serves alongside his oldest son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, and both are members of Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.

“It’s a satisfying feeling with your children being in the military and seeing their accomplishments,” said Robert, who is the Base Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge for Area Support Group-Qatar. “If anybody has an opportunity to do it, do it. If you could, give it a shot because it’s nice to have somebody around.”


The Scott’s family history of military service extends back to World War II. Robert’s father, and John’s grandfather, was drafted into the 114th Infantry Regiment for World War II service. Robert first enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a military police officer. After serving for six years in assignments in Panama, Korea, California and Missouri, he returned to civilian life and eventually became a police officer.

John, who is now the headquarters platoon sergeant and operations noncommissioned officer for Centurion Company, first enlisted at 17, while still a senior in high school, in 2006. This led to a fateful question John asked his father.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment.

(SGT Zach Mott)

“He was active duty long before I even joined, then he decided to get out,” John said. “When I joined, I can only remember me looking at him and saying, ‘don’t you miss it?'”

With that simple question, the ball began rolling and shortly thereafter Robert again found himself at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, this time training to become a 74 Delta: chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist.

“He went in the Guard so I had him recruit me,” Robert said. “At the time, they had a little bonus program so it made him a little extra money.”

In addition to Robert and John’s military service, Robert’s second oldest daughter Jamie is a National Guard military intelligence officer and youngest son Robert is currently serving on active duty in Germany. Robert has four other children, one who manages a bar and restaurant in New Jersey, another who is a firefighter in New Jersey, one who recently finished high school and one more who is still in school. In total, their ages range from 32 to 15.

Robert, a Brick, New Jersey native, is proud of all of his children and happy to see that they’ve applied the discipline and structure that his military training instilled in him.

“He always had that military mentality that everything needs to be dress right dress, everything needs to be lined up perfectly. We grew up with it,” said John, a Toms River, New Jersey native. “Him being a cop didn’t help.”

This is the second time the Scott’s have been deployed at the same time. The first time, in 2008 to 2009, Robert was at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and John was at Camp Cropper, Iraq. While the two were separated by more than 300 miles then, they now have only about 300 feet between them.

“We would talk to home more than we were able to talk to each other,” Robert said of that 2008 to 2009 deployment. “This is kind of like we’re both at home. We’ll run into each other. The communication here is a lot better. It’s face-to-face. It’s good to see everything’s going good. I can tell by the way (he’s) looking at me that something’s up.”

John, who is also a police officer in New Jersey, likes to spend his off time, or “overtime” as he calls it, visiting with his dad in the BDOC, sharing a meal together at the dining facility, smoking cigars or doing typical father and son type games.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment

(SGT Zach Mott)

“The other day we were just talking and we just started tossing a roll of duct tape around, just catching back and forth,” Robert said. “If there was a ball there we probably would have picked it up and just started playing catch. We were both standing there throwing it back and forth to each other, he looks at me and he goes, ‘This turned out to be more fun than I thought.'”

Whether it’s the father-son relationship or the military rank structure, John remains deferential to his father when it comes to off duty activities.

“I don’t know, he outranks me so whatever he wants to do,” said John, who is on his fourth tour in the Central Command area of operations. Once to Iraq in 2008 to 2009, once to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2011, Qatar in 2014 to 2015 and again to Qatar now.

What the future holds for both remains open — and competitive. Robert said he wants to finish out his current contracted time of two years and see what options are available. John, who has 13 years of service, is looking for a broadening assignment as an instructor in the New Jersey Army National Guard next.

“He’s hoping I either die or retire because my brother was a retired sergeant first class,” Robert said. “I’m going to stay in. I’m going to drive him into the dirt. He’ll have to shoot for E-9 first.”

“He’ll retire, I’ll outrank him. Then I’ll rub it in his face,” John said.

The jokes continue and the smiles grow as father and son talk about the unique opportunity to serve together while deployed.

“How many other people get to go overseas with their father? I don’t hear much about it,” John said. “I’d say it’s a rare case. I get to have family support while deployed. I don’t have to reach back home to see what’s up.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

‘Timbuktu’ Is One Of The Most Important Movies Ever Made About Terrorism

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Photo: Youtube/screenshot


Violent jihadism as a governing ideology has been a significant feature of the global scene for nearly two decades.

There are certainly differences between say, the nature Al Shabaab’s control over Somalia in the early 2010s, the Taliban state’s governance of Afghanistan from 1996 until the US-led invasion in 2001, and ISIS’s “caliphate” in the present day.

But militant groups spurred by a combination of religious radicalism, violent disenchantment with the existing state system, revisionist philosophies of Islamic history, and a rejection of secularism and Enlightenment value systems have morphed into territorial political units with alarming frequency in recent years.

One such instance was in Mali in early 2012, when jihadists piggybacked on a long-simmering Tuareg autonomy movement — itself empowered by the collapse of Mali’s government in the wake of a shocking military coup — in order to take control of several population centers in Mali’s desert north. Among them was Timbuktu, a legendary center of trade and Islamic scholarship.

The jihadist occupation of Timbuktu was brutal but thankfully brief: In early 2013, a French-led coalition liberated the city after 10 months of militant control. Now, the rule of Al Qaeda-allied militants over the city is the topic of what might be the important movie of the past year.

The hypnotic and visually overwhelming “Timbuktu,” the work of Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako and an Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, is an intimate and terrifying inquiry into one of the defining authoritarian ideologies of the 21st century, as told from the perspective of the people who are actually suffering under its yoke. (The film is currently playing in New York and LA and will open in various other US cities in February and March.)

US movie audiences have usually met jihadists through the lenses of American sniper rifles, or lying prone in front of CIA interrogators. “Timbuktu” is hardly the only movie that’s portrayed them as political and social actors. “Osama,” a multi-national production about a girl living in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan that won the 2004 Golden Globe award for best foreign-language film, and Iranian director Moshen Makhmalbaf’s highly regarded “Kandahar,” about a Afghan woman who sneaks into Taliban Afghanistan to try to stop her sister from committing suicide, succeed in giving viewers a first-hand look at the societies that jihadists create and the horrors this visits upon the people trapped in them.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Photo: Youtube/screenshot

In the wake of ISIS’s takeover of a Belgium-sized slice of the Middle East, “Timbuktu” has more immediate resonance than either of those films. The movie opens with a pickup truck of fighters flying a black flag nearly identical to ISIS’s. As the opening credits roll, the fighters eviscerate a row of traditional figurines in a hail of machine-gun fire.

But the firmest sign that jihadist rule is something external, alien, and deeply unwanted comes in the next scene, when gun-toting fighters enter a mud-brick mosque without taking their shoes off. They tell the imam that they have come to wage jihad. The imam replies that in Timbuktu, people wage jihad (which has the double meaning of spiritual reflection and self-purification, in addition to earthly holy war) with their minds and not with guns.

The next hour and a half is a grisly survey of what happened when this 1400-year-old precedent was inverted.

The jihadists ban music — one of the most celebrated aspects of Malian culture — and then whip violators in public. They ban soccer, and then break up a group of children miming a game in silent protest. The jihadists speak a smattering of local languages and broken Arabic; their leader bans smoking only to sneak cigarettes under the cover of the town’s surrounding sand dunes.

In one of the more illustrative scenes, a female fish seller is told by one jihadist that women can no longer appear in public without wearing gloves. She explains to him that she can’t work unless she’s barehanded and then dares the fighter to cut her hands off on the spot.

In “Timbuktu,” the jihadists are power-tripping, thuggish and hypocritical. They are in the city to create a totally new kind of society and revel in their own insensitivity to local concerns.

But crucially they are not entirely outsiders, and some of the film’s most affecting scenes involve a Tuareg who joins with the jihadists occupying the town, a reminder that there are local dynamics at play. Just as importantly, the film hints at the context of state collapse and social chaos that allowed the jihadists to take over in the first place.

The movie’s primary narrative follows a Tuareg herder who accidentally kills a fisherman from a different ethnic group during an argument over his cows’ access to drinking water along a disputed riverbank. The film’s central conflict encapsulates the unresolved questions of ethnicity and resources that kept northern Mali in a state of crisis that the jihadists later exploited.

The herder’s treatment at the hands of Timbuktu’s new overlords depicts the imposition of an an outside ideology. But the killing is itself is a pointed example of how social turmoil can feed into a violent, totalitarian mania seemingly without warning. It harkens back to ISIS’s swift takeover of Iraq this past summer, a national-level instance of the dynamics that “Timbuktu” manages to boil down to an intimate, dramatic scale.

“Timbuktu” has a happy ending. Even if it isn’t part of the movie, the city was eventually liberated from jihadist control. The film depicts a now-extinct regime.

But the nightmare of “Timbuktu” is far from over. The liberation of the areas that ISIS rules will come at some indeterminate future date, and parts of Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria are still under the control of extremists whose ideologies are not categorically different from what appears in the film.

“Timbuktu” is maybe the best cinematic depiction ever made of what millions of people around the world are suffering through.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how you can watch an astronaut perform an enlistment ceremony from outer space tomorrow

Everyone remembers their oath of enlistment ceremony, but how many people can say theirs was truly out of this world? Tomorrow, over 800 soldiers participating in a ceremony spanning more than 100 locations around the country will be able to say theirs was. What makes this ceremony so special? It’s being administered by Army astronaut Col. Andrew Morgan from the International Space Station.


“This is an incredible opportunity for us to partner with Space Center Houston to recognize future Soldiers across the nation with a truly unique experience,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, USAREC deputy commanding general in a press release. Michaelis will facilitate the ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan. “This is the first event of its kind and will allow us to show the nation the breadth and depth of opportunities the Army offers today’s youth.”

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

According to USAREC, Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. He is an emergency physician in the U.S. Army with sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine and was selected to become an astronaut in 2013.

Morgan is also a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and also has served as a combat diver. He’s clearly conquered land and sea, and now space. He’s completed seven spacewalks and one flight to the International Space Station. In addition to the enlistment ceremony, he’ll be sharing his stories and experiences with program attendees on a 20 minute live call from outer space.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Michaelis said, “We need qualified and innovative people to help us continuously adapt to the changing world. The young men and women who will begin their Army story with the incredible experience with Col. Morgan are part of our future. They will perform the traditional jobs most people associate with the Army, like infantry and armor, but they will also take on roles many people don’t realize we do – highly technical and specialized careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

The oath of enlistment ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan will stream live on NASA TV, DVIDS, and U.S. Army Facebook and YouTube pages beginning at 12:50 pm eastern time. We’re over the moon about this event.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army soldier tests positive for COVID-19 in South Korea, marking the first time a US service member is confirmed to have the disease

A US soldier stationed in South Korea has “tested positive” for COVID-19, the military said in a statement on Wednesday morning.


The 23-year-old unnamed male soldier is in self-quarantine at an off-base residence, the US military added. Health officials are investigating whether others were exposed, as the soldier had visited several US bases in the country, including Camps Walker and Carroll, in the past week.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

The incident marks the first time a US service member tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

United States Forces Korea “is implementing all appropriate control measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 and remains at risk level ‘high’ for USFK peninsula-wide as a prudent measure to protect the force,” the military said in a statement.

A 61-year-old widowed US military dependent was previously found to have tested positive in the country on Monday, prompting US forces to raise the risk level to “high.”

The woman visited a post exchange, the military’s shopping center, at Camp Walker in Daegu, where South Korean health officials have cautioned there was a “high possibility that COVID-19 could spread nationwide.”

“We are going to begin to limit all soldier movement,” US Army Col. Michael Tremblay, the garrison commander of Camp Humphreys, said on Tuesday.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

South Korea is addressing an influx of confirmed coronavirus cases, which have passed 1,100 in the country. At least 11 people there have died of COVID-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued a travel advisory warning that people should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.

The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.


“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.

But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.

“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.

And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.

“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.

www.facebook.com

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

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.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

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.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

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

‘High-risk’ Marine colonel warmed burrito on aircraft exhaust duct

The ousted commander of a Marine Corps air station rearranged his pilots’ flight schedules to give himself more time in the cockpit and had a reputation of being a “big, angry colonel,” according to an investigation into complaints about him.

Col. Mark Coppess, the former commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, abused his staff and officers for months “so he could achieve his personal objectives to fly,” a 351-page report into his behavior states. A copy of the investigation was obtained by Military.com on Aug 6, 2018.


This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

UC-35D in flight

(NAVAIR)

Coppess was relieved of command June 5 by Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, head of Marine Corps Installations Pacific. Rock lost confidence in the colonel’s ability to lead, the service reported at the time.

Some believed Coppess, an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter pilot, was aggressively trying to earn flight time in a UC-35 Cessna Citation business jet. Coppess, who could not immediately be reached for comment, requested that he be scheduled to fly three times per week, according to the investigation.

“Colonel Coppess would remove pilots from the flight schedule and replace them with himself,” one witness said, according to the documents. “… This looked like Colonel Coppess was trying to receive more fixed-wing time to set himself up for a career post-Marine Corps.”
This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

A Super cobra flies past USS Fort McHenry during a Search and Seizure (VBSS) drill

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson)

One witness said Coppess put his own time in the cockpit ahead of more junior pilots, adding that the colonel once said, “the captains can fly less. I’ve done my time.”

Others cited a poor command climate under Coppess and alleged abuse of authority and undue command influence. Five pilots interviewed during the investigation reported “personally being pressured to produce certain outcomes not in accordance with orders, [standard operating procedures] and directives” for Coppess’ benefit.

“He creates an atmosphere of fear and reprisal,” a witness told the investigating officer. “He is using his position, title, and rank to get what he wants for himself.”

Coppess denied using his position to unduly influence flight operations at Futenma, but acknowledged that he’d heard about the accusations from Rock.

A former operations officer at Futenma said scheduling staff had to route the weekly flight schedule through Coppess’ office before producing the daily schedules.

“He inserted himself into the schedule writing process,” the officer said. “… There is a perception of a ‘self hook-up’ concerning Col. Coppess’ flying.”

Coppess also told his Marines there was “no rank in the cockpit.” But those under his command didn’t always find that to be the case.

The colonel showed an unwillingness to accept constructive feedback from junior personnel, one witness said, adding they feared some might be unwilling to “correct procedural deviations and potential flight safety concerns due to apprehension about retribution from Col. Coppess.”

Pilots weren’t comfortable flying with Coppess, according to the investigation, and he was identified as a “high-risk aviator.” He had a reputation for being “difficult in the cockpit,” one witness said. Others said he was not experienced flying a fixed-wing aircraft.

www.youtube.com

Coppess once “rose his flaps at a non-standard time,” according to a witness, and on another occasion “warmed a burrito on the exhaust duct of the aircraft.”

While there aren’t any Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization [NATOPS] prohibiting pilots from doing either, the witness said the acts were considered “different enough” for the aircraft commanders to raise the issue to a party whose name was redacted in the report.

Coppess did not address those incidents in the investigating officer’s documents, but did say that he supports naval aviation’s constructs for safety and standardization.

In a memo for a May command meeting, he urged other aviators to be straight with him about his aviation skills, despite his rank and position. The memo was included in the investigation, though it’s not immediately clear whether the meeting was held.

“It will help me in knowing and owning my weaknesses and seeking improvement,” Coppess wrote in the meeting memo. “… I fully intend to know and own my shortcomings as an aviator.”

Despite the deficiencies some witnesses described, several people told the investigating officer that Coppess was pressuring people in the command to make him a Transport Aircraft Commander, or TAC. One in particular said he was under “constant pressure” to make Coppess a TAC in the UC-35D.

“[He] is not ready and is a below-average copilot,” the witness said. “I was specifically told by him a few months ago that he will be a TAC, will be dual [qualified to fly both our UC-35 and UC-12], and that he will be an instructor in at least one of the planes.”

Coppess addressed those issues in an April 27 letter that was included in the investigation. Writing to a redacted party, Coppess said he recognized the standardization board’s role in nominating pilots for additional designations and qualifications. He did “not intend to influence members of the Standardization Board in their responsibilities,” he wrote.

“I apologize for the unintentional perception of undue command influence on the [board’s] role of nominating pilots for designations and qualifications,” he said. “That won’t happen again. When the [board] determines I’ve progressed in proficiency and I’m nominated, I will be ready for the TAC syllabus.”

He also invited the person to bring any fears of reprisal to his attention.

While at Futenma, Coppess racked up more flight hours than any other air station commanding officer in the Marine Corps during the same period, according to the investigation. His command did not immediately respond to questions about his current assignment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

The Air Force’s ongoing pilot shortage has been a cause for concern. This summer, the Air Force announced that they were increasing bonuses in an effort to keep pilots. How has that worked out?


According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation’s gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, participated in Red Flag Alaska, a national exercise aimed to provide high-intensity combat training for pilots in a controlled environment at Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, in May 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Jordyn Sadowski)

It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn’t to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.

“Surge has become the new normal,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.” A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

“The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”

To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ballsy way the DEA took down ‘El Chapo’

By 2010, when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent named Drew Hogan arrived in Mexico City with his family, the Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had been on the run for nine years.

The Sinaloa cartel chief had slipped out of a prison in southwest Mexico during the first weeks of 2001 — some say while hiding in a laundry basket.


Once on the ground in Mexico, Hogan picked up the trail “by looking at the details,” he said.

“It was in the details — in the numbers,” he told NBC’s Today show in an interview on April 4, 2018, about his latest book, Hunting El Chapo.

“The phone numbers don’t lie,” Hogan said. “And I was able to pair up with a crack team of Homeland Security investigative agents, and we began intercepting members of Chapo’s inner circle and starting to dismantle layers within his sophisticated communications structure until we got to the top, where I had his personal secretary’s device, who was standing right next to him, and I could ping that to establish a pattern of life to determine where he was at.”

The search for Guzman led authorities to his home turf in Sinaloa state, in northwest Mexico.

Sinaloa, where Guzman was born and got his start in the drug trade, is considered a cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, producing figures like the Guadalajara cartel chiefs Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Rafael Caro Quintero; the Sinaloa cartel chiefs Guzman, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, aka “El Azul”; and others, like the Juarez cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “the Lord of the Skies,” and members of the Arellano Felix family, who ran the Tijuana cartel in the 1990s and 2000s.

Hogan’s search eventually led to Mazatlan, a resort town in southwestern Sinaloa state. There, Guzman had lived what Hogan described as an unremarkable lifestyle.

“I was surprised with the way that he lived,” Hogan said. “He almost afforded himself no luxury — same plastic tables and chairs in every safe house that was designed the same way.”

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Drew Hogan, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, on the ‘Today’ show.

(NBC)

After 13 years on the run, however, Guzman had begun to let his guard down, venturing out of the rugged Sinaloa mountains to relax in Mazatlan and nearby Culiacan, the state capital.

Several of his associates were captured or killed in the first weeks of 2014.

Near the end of February 2014, Mexican marines stormed a house belonging to Guzman’s ex-wife, but they struggled to knock down a steel-reinforced door, allowing Guzman time to escape.

A few days later, they launched another raid targeting the elusive kingpin.

“We were at the Hotel Miramar,” Hogan said, and Guzman was on the fourth floor. “The Mexican marines went inside and started banging down doors. I was standing outside. I was worried about our perimeter. I was worried about him escaping us again. And I heard excited radio chatter: ‘They got him. They got him. They got the target.’

“My vehicle was first in. I drove it down to the underground parking garage, and that’s where they had him,” Hogan continued. “They were just standing him up. I got out of my vehicle, ran right up to him, I’m wearing this black ball cap that I had taken out of his closet … in Culiacan — my only souvenir of the hunt — wearing a black ski mask, and I ran right up to up to him, jumped into his face, and said the first thing that came to my head.

“I screamed, ‘What’s up, Chapo?!'”

Guzman’s capture was heralded in Mexico and abroad and held up by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as a hallmark achievement of his efforts to combat criminal groups and drug-related violence in the country.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia
Enrique Peu00f1a Nieto, President of Mexico.

But Guzman’s time in prison was short-lived. In July 2015, the Sinaloa cartel chief again slipped out, this time through a mile-long tunnel dug from a partially constructed house to the Altiplano maximum-security prison and right up to the shower in Guzman’s cell.

“It was pretty predictable,” Hogan said of Guzman’s escape. “This tunnel that went underneath the prison was the same types of tunnels that went underneath the safe houses, were the same types of tunnels that are at the US-Mexico border.”

Numerous security lapses were discovered in the aftermath.

Altiplano had the same layout as the prison Guzman broke out of in 2001. (A former Mexican security official who joined the Sinaloa cartel is suspected of stealing the prison plans.)

Reports indicated that a geolocation device Guzman had to wear may have been used by his associates to locate him within the prison. Guzman told Mexican officials his henchmen were able to build two tunnels under the prison after the first one missed the cell.

Sounds of digging under his cell were detected but not investigated, and about 30 minutes passed between when Guzman went out of sight in his cell and when jailers responded to his absence.

“It was coming if they didn’t have him on complete lockdown,” Hogan said.

Guzman’s freedom after the 2015 breakout was brief. He made his way back to Sinaloa, where Mexican authorities picked up the trail, conducting a search that frequently put civilians under fire.

But Guzman was apprehended in January 2016, spending another year in Mexico — a stint marked by more fear about another breakout — before his extradition to the US in January 2017, just a few hours before President Donald Trump took office.

Guzman is now locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. His trial is set to start in September 2018, in Brooklyn.

MIGHTY CULTURE

EXCLUSIVE: What Iran’s military training is like, according to an Iranian

Author’s note: The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States. In Iran, the media and the internet are closely monitored by the government. However, it’s impossible to keep track of everyone. And sometimes, despite the tremendous risk involved, an Iranian is eager to share their story and hit back at the pervasive propaganda that Iran’s government uses to control its people.

The vast military camp was on the outskirts of a small city. The soil was nearly frozen. There wasn’t a tree or any greenery in sight. Concrete buildings made up the complex where Farhad (a pseudonym for his real name) would receive his two months of mandatory military training. He wore light brown and dark green fatigues, a belt, and a pair of poorly manufactured combat boots.


First, Farhad marched for a while. After that, his picture was taken, along with the other conscripts. He then was shown to his barracks and bunk. While many training camps in Iran don’t permit leaving the base, he was allowed to go home every weekend.

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Iranian soldier in basic training barracks.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

“Soldiers need food. Their food was shitty — rice with little pieces of meat — and this helped to lessen expenses,” he said.

The food may have been bad but remaining connected to his family was one of the benefits. He and the others there were allowed to call home anytime after 5 PM using the phone booths set up on the grounds of the camp.

As for the training he received, Farhad called it a “joke,” especially the shooting portion.

The firearm he was issued — a Heckler Koch G3 — has been around since 1959. If he would have been part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, or Sepâh), he would have been issued an AK-47 instead. According to Farhad, you go out on the range one time and shoot a dozen bullets. Your results are written on a scorecard, and then it’s back to marching. “You march a lot,” he recalled.

Farhad further described what he learned about weapons: “Not much. Effective range. Pure fire range. Caliber. Rate of fire. Weight. How many bullets they take. How to discharge. How to aim. How to safely check a weapon. How to clean your weapon. How to carry it. How many ways there are to carry it. Different types of weapons in the military. Things like that.”

In addition, he didn’t receive any combatives or medical training. “They aren’t trying to make soldiers. They want a work force,” Farhad said.

More so than actually training in combat or tactics, the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in creating soldiers submissive to its religious ideology. Farhad said that religious indoctrination was a major part of his training experience, but he and many others didn’t take the sermons seriously. In fact, they would question and mock the mullah’s lecture whenever they had the chance.

“The mullahs really got frustrated with us,” Farhad said. “No one cared about them and made fun of them when they could and laughed and argued with them and put holes in their arguments all the time.”

This is the city-state with the best air force and navy in Southeast Asia

Iranian soldiers marching.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

When asked if this resulted in a consequence for him or anyone else involved, Farhad said no. “We didn’t get in trouble. Pretty much everyone was doing it.”

Even the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the camp didn’t follow the written rules that governed it.

One night on watch duty, Farhad smelled something weird. There was a little place outside of the chow hall that was mostly blocked from view, and when he looked out there, he saw two NCOs smoking. It didn’t take long to figure out they were smoking marijuana, which is a felony for a soldier in the Iranian military. He investigated further in the morning, finding remnants from dozens of marijuana cigars on the ground.

Farhad’s boots and the frigid cold gave him the biggest problems, though. In addition to the blisters all over his feet from marching, he also had an infection to keep at bay. And despite how cold it was, the military didn’t provide their conscripts with warm enough clothing. During a particularly cold watch duty assignment, he and the others on duty passed around a poncho, each using it for a few minutes to keep warm.

When training concluded, there was a ceremony where everyone dressed their best, but, unlike basic training graduation in America, family and friends were not permitted to attend. To his recollection, only one conscript failed to complete the training.

Farhad then spent two years in the Iranian military, which only solidified the negative impression he started with.

“It’s such a shitty, unreliable, broken system,” he said. “Whenever I see these websites talking about Iran’s military might, it makes laugh. They have no idea what they are talking about.”

Resistance Radio: Fighting ISIS Over the Airwaves

www.youtube.com

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information