Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

It all started when she was stationed in Virginia 12 years ago. That’s when Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra Butler saw everyone training for the Marine Corps Marathon and decided to give the 26.2 mile race a try.

As a soldier, running was already a part of her daily life and physical fitness routine. She had ran several other shorter races to include the Army 10-miler and a few half marathons, so the challenge of a full marathon appealed to her. She wasn’t even afraid of the dreaded “wall” that everyone told her she would hit around mile 20 when her body would start shutting down as energy stores ran low and fatigue set in.


“I had never experienced the wall and was feeling pretty great,” recalled Butler. “I saw the mile markers for mile 19, then mile 20, then 21. I was feeling good and thinking to myself that maybe I avoided the wall. Then at mile 22, everything from my waist down locked up — it felt like I really did hit a wall. My muscles were in knots, my toes were cramping and every time I took a step it just hurt.”

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

Beofra Butler running in the 2018 Tunnel Vision Marathon in North Bend, Wash., Aug. 19, 2018. She set a personal record, finishing the race with a chip time of 3:34:11.

A lady tapped her on the shoulder and encouraged her to move off to the side and stretch before resuming the race.

“I wanted to cry,” she said. “I knew it was just four more miles. I wobbled to the finish along with a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing.”

After the race later that night, with ice bags on her legs and a computer on her lap, Butler signed up for her next marathon.

“I just had to do it again for myself so I could figure out how to do it without pain,” she said.

Butler ran her second marathon during a deployment, followed by another and another and another. She’s preparing to run her 100th marathon in Boston on April 15, 2019. The race will be her sixth Boston Marathon and she says that it is fitting because it’s her favorite event.

“There’s something special about running in Boston,” she said. “It’s the only race you have to qualify for to get in and after working so hard to be a part of it, you really enjoy the moment when you get there. The support of the crowd is amazing and it’s just a great place to be.”

She got there by figuring out how to avoid that wall of pain.

“For the most part, I don’t hit a wall anymore,” Butler said. “Now I know what that feels like and I never want to feel it again.”

How does she do it? The way anyone in the Army does anything — with an abbreviation. According to Butler, the key to running a successful marathon comes down to the 3P’s: pacing, patience and practice.

She says that you need to control your pace throughout the entire marathon and exercise patience as those around you start out fast or crowd the track. To refine your pacing and patience, you need to practice.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra K. Butler, administrative executive officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, poses with her five Boston Marathon marathon medals.

(Photo by Eve Meinhardt, FORSCOM)

“It comes down to having time on your feet,” said Butler. “You have to put in the time and stay positive.”

Her time comes from running at least five days a week. She averages 10 miles a day with Saturdays being her long run day of anywhere from 13 to 20 miles. She does speed work on Wednesdays, often bringing others along with her to help them train to meet their goals.

As the administrative executive officer to the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, her work schedule can often be hectic and conflict with her training time. To mitigate this, Butler is a conscientious meal planner, preparing all her meals, to include snacks, on the weekends. She says she often hits the pavement at 3 a.m. just so she can ensure she gets time to run.

“I just love the feeling of running,” she said. “It’s freedom. I don’t listen to music. I listen to my heartbeat. My footsteps. My breathing. It’s a meditation and I’m always trying to get better.”

Butler says that running is wonderful because you can do it wherever you are and with no special equipment. For those aspiring to run in races of any distance, she said that it’s important to find a training plan.

“Training is a part of learning yourself,” she said. “It helps you become more comfortable when you’re out there. You need to trust your training and just enjoy the moment.”

Despite the fact that Butler says that she could probably roll out of bed and run an impromptu marathon, she still finds ways to challenge herself. Five of her marathons were ultra-marathons ranging from a 50K to a 100 mile race.

Butler’s most recent race was her third All American Marathon here at Fort Bragg. She led the 4:15 pace group. Her pacing was right on point with her crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds and still placing first in her age group.

Her personal record is 3 hours and 34 minutes and she says that she would like to get that down to 3:30.

“After Boston, I’m not racing again until August,” she said. “I’m going to be training for my PR and I’m going to get it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel just asked for their spy back

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked President Donald Trump to allow Jonathan Pollard — a convicted spy — to immigrate to Israel, according to Channel 2 news.


Pollard was released in November 2015 after serving 30 years of a life term in a US prison. During his time in prison, Israeli officials repeatedly sought to secure his release.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The former Navy intelligence officer pleaded guilty to spying for Israel from June 1984 until his arrest in November 1985.

Also Read: The most damaging spy in US history just walked free

Israel may be trying to capitalize on goodwill projects that have recently gone into effect to benefit the Palestinians.

Pollard’s parole terms, according to the Times of Israel, “require him to stay in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to submit any computer he uses for inspection, and to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times.”

Netanyahu reportedly told the Trump administration that Pollard would continue to be subject to the same restrictions if he was allowed to immigrate to Israel.

Articles

The Harrier will live longer as the Hornet falls apart

The problems the Marine Corps is having with its F/A-18 Hornet force have been a boon to one plane that was originally slated to go to the boneyard much earlier.


According to Foxtrot Alpha, the AV-8B Harrier has recently gained a new lease on life as upgrades are keeping the famed “jump jet” in service. In fact, the Harrier force has become more reliable in recent years, even as it too sees the effects of aging.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Levingston Lewis

One of the reasons is the fact that the Marine Hornet fleet is falling apart. The Marines had to pull 23 Hornets out of the boneyard at Davis-Monthan last year to address the issues they were facing – and even then, they needed some hand-me-downs from the Navy.

The Marine Corps is planning to replace both the F/A-18C/D Hornets and the AV-8B Harriers with the F-35B Lightning II, the Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35B has already been deployed to Japan, while the F-35A, operating from conventional land bases, just recently deployed to Estonia.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (USMC photo)

Originally, the Harriers were slated to be retired first, but the delays on the F-35 and a review that not only changed how the Marines used the Harrier, but also discovered that the Harrier airframes had far more flight hours left in the than originally thought gave them a new lease on life.

As a result, the Marines pushed through upgrades for the Harrier force, including newer AMRAAM missiles and the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound system that combined both GPS guidance with a laser seeker. Other upgrades will keep the Harriers flying well into the 2020s.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. 
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)

The Harrier has been a Marine Corps mainstay since 1971 – often providing the close-air support for Marines in combat through Desert Storm and the War on Terror. The Harrier and Sea Harrier first made their mark in the Falklands War, where the jump jets helped the United Kingdom liberate the disputed islands after Argentinean military forces invaded.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US officials blame Iran for using child soldiers

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Iran for its alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers in battlefields across the Middle East.

“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” Haley said Oct. 18, 2018, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Haley’s remarks came two days after the U.S.Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced new sanctions targeting businesses that provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).


“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad,” she said. “In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”

The latest sanctions are part of the U.S. efforts to pressure Iran economically for what the Trump administration has described as Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

The U.S. Treasury Department has listed a network of some 20 companies and economic entities that are believed to be funding the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the IRGC.

“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” Haley said.

The network providing financial support to the Basij is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences, and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” Mnuchin added.

Iran’s reaction

Tehran called the U.S. sanctions a violation of international law.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet on Oct. 17, 2018, that the latest U.S. sanctions violated two orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Utter disregard for rule of law human rights of an entire people. U.S. outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a tweet.

Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Oct. 18, 2018, it’s part of a psychological war waged by the U.S. against Iran.

“Such actions show the spitefulness of the U.S. government towards the Iranian people and are a clear insult to legal and international mechanisms,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Qassemi as saying.

Measures welcomed

Some Iranian rights activists have welcomed the U.S. move, however, and described it as a positive step to discipline the Iranian government for its actions in the region.

“Any action focused on children’s rights is important because it highlights the importance of protecting children’s rights and puts the issue of child soldiers under the spotlight,” Hamed Farmand, a Virginia-based children’s rights activist, told VOA. “Any international action with the purpose of condemning child soldiers is widely appreciated but it needs more action than just financial sanctions on some institutes involved in it.”

A 2017 Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria. The New York-based organization also has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria along Syrian regime troops.

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, also an Iranian human rights activist, said there should be an effective mechanism to force Iran to improve its human rights record.

“To change the behavior of the Iranian government, the international community needs a human rights-focused approach and must take multiple actions simultaneously,” she said during a recent Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.

Effects of sanctions

But Sadegh Hosseini, a Tehran-based analyst, said U.S. sanctions on the Basij force actually are indirect punishment inflicted on the Iranian people.

“Sanctioning the Basij could affect many Iranians who have voluntarily become members of it or have joined it in the past,” he said.

He told VOA “the purpose of this embargo is unclear but many Iranians who have bank accounts with those financial institutes could be affected, since many of them receive their employment salaries only through accounts at those targeted banks.”

Other experts say that following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. Treasury Department has stepped up its efforts on this front because it is the main pillar that can block Iran’s sale of oil and impose banking restrictions on the country.

“The latest move by the [U.S.] Treasury to sanction Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is an important part of that campaign,” said Farhang Jahanpour, a professor of international law at Oxford University.

“So far, other signatories to the [nuclear deal] have refused to go along with American sanctions on Iran, but many major European companies have cut back or have completely ended their dealings with Iran in fear of U.S. retaliation,” Jahanpour added.

Behnam Ben Taleblou, a researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the recent designations were different from previous measures “because they focused on the role of select financial institutions in generating revenue that was ultimately used to benefit the Basij.”

“The [U.S.] Treasury Department’s willingness to go after the entities in the Basij financial support network highlights the challenge of doing due diligence in Iran, as well as signals to the international community that the U.S. is serious about putting the squeeze on all elements of the Iranian economy tied to the IRGC,” Taleblou added.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

Articles

Take a closer look at the cinematic villain helicopter of the 1980s: The Mi-24 Hind

The Mi-24 Hind had a reputation as a cinematic bad guy in “Rambo III” and the original 1980s Cold War flick “Red Dawn.”


Helping the Mujahidin kill it was the focus of 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.” But how much do you really know about this so-called “flying tank?”

Let’s take a good look at this deadly bird. According to GlobalSecurity.org, this helicopter can carry a lot of firepower, including 57mm and 80mm rockets, anti-tank missiles, and deadly machine guns or cannon. But it also can carry a standard Russian infantry section – eight fully-armed troops.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
A left side view of a Soviet-made Mi-24 Hind-D assault helicopter in-flight. (DOD photo)

So, it’s really not a flying tank. It’s a flying infantry fighting vehicle.

There really isn’t a similar American – or Western – helicopter. The UH-1 and UH-60s were standard troop carries, but don’t really have the firepower of the Hind. The AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra have a lot of firepower, but can’t really carry troops (yeah, we know the Brits did that one time – and it was [very] crazy!).

While the Mi-24 got its villainous cinematic reputation thanks to 1984’s “Red Dawn,” and the 1988 movie “Rambo III,” its first action was in the Ogaden War – an obscure conflict that took place from 1977-1978. After the Somali invasion of Ethiopia, the Air Combat Information Group noted that as many as 16 Mi-24s were delivered to the Ethiopians by the Soviets.

It has taken part in over 30 conflicts since then.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Mi-24 Super Agile Hind, a modernized Hind by the South African firm ATE. At the Ysterplaat Airshow 2006. Photo by Danie van der Merwe, Flikr

The Hind was to Afghanistan what the Huey was to Vietnam: an icon of the conflict. GlobalSecurity.org reported that as many as 300 Mi-24s were in Afghanistan.

In the Russian war movie “The Ninth Company,” the Mi-24 gets a more heroic turn than it did in Red Dawn or Rambo III.

At least 2,300 have already been built, and versions of the Mi-24 are still in production, according to the Russian Helicopters website. This cinematic aviation bad boy will surely be around for many years to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.

“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.


Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.

Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.

“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(Flickr photo by Philipp)

Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”

“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.

The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.

The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”

Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.

Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”

Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Baby’s got a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

The first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) fielded in the Army began arriving on Fort Stewart in January 2019 and the first six trucks were delivered to their respective battalions Jan. 28, 2019.

“This program has been working towards fielding trucks to soldiers for ten years,” said Col. Shane Fullmer, Project Manager for the Joint Program Office, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. “The entire program office has been focused on getting soldiers improved tactical mobility, with better off road, better cross country, higher reliability, more comfort inside the vehicle, and significantly higher protection.”


Before the first of the brigade’s trucks arrived, Raider soldiers were already learning how to take care of and drive the Army’s newest vehicle during Field Level Maintenance and Operator New Equipment Training.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and the team from Oshkosh Defense pose in front of the first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) that were delivered to the battalions, Jan. 28, 2019.

(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)

Sgt. Brian Wise, from B Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, was one of the first soldiers in the brigade to go through the operator training and said he enjoys the new features and capabilities of the JLTV and is looking forward to training the rest of his company.

“It will be different for soldiers, it’s something new and unique,” said Wise. “I see us getting stuck in the mud way less than we usually do.”

The JLTV program is a U.S. Army-led, joint modernization program to replace many existing HMMWVs. The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to provide a leap ahead in protection, payload, and performance to meet the warfighters needs.

Sgt. 1st Class Randall Archie, the JLTV fielding lead for the 10th Engineer Battalion, said he especially likes being able to adjust the vehicle ride height on the move to adapt to different terrain. Archie was also impressed by the numerous comfort features that make it easier for operators to focus on doing their job.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

The first of six Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) to be delivered to Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, departs for the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment motorpool.

(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)

“There is a ton of leg room and head room and it’s easier to get in and out of the vehicle,” said Archie. “You also don’t have to lean forward in the seat when you wear a CamelBak since the seat is designed with a spot cut out for it.”

A team from Oshkosh Defense has been working with Raider Brigade soldiers harvesting communication equipment from turn-in vehicles and installing them into the JLTVs. The first six to complete the process were signed over to battalion representatives after the final inventories and paperwork were completed.

While the fielding will continue through spring, Fullmer said that seeing the first JLTV in the unit’s hand was a significant moment that his team has been working towards for quite a while.

“We’re just so glad we’re finally going to have these in the hands of soldiers so we can improve some of their ability to do their job.”

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

Articles

Russia’s aircraft carrier has started launching sorties over Syria

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo


The US Naval Institute NewsSam LaGrone reports that armed fighters have flown from Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

As of yet, no strikes have been carried out. Only scouting missions involving the Su-33s and MiG-29Ks have gone forward, according to Lagrone.

Also read: Russia has a ‘pipe dream’ of replacing the US as the world’s dominant naval power

While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.

“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.

Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Su-35 pilot claims that he locked on to an F-22 in Syria

An Instagram account claiming to be of a retired Russian pilot of an Su-35, Russia’s top jet fighter, posted a picture purportedly of a US F-22 Raptor stealth jet flying above Syria, suggesting it was evidence that his older, bigger jet could outflank it.

The picture appears to show an F-22 in flight on what looks broadly like an image produced by an infrared search and track (IRST) system, which the Su-35 houses in its nose-cone area to look for heat, not radar cross section, potentially helping it find stealth aircraft at close ranges.


The author of the post claimed to have spotted the F-22, which has all-aspect stealth and is virtually invisible to traditional radars, during combat operations in Syria.

After describing at length how these encounters usually go — there are dedicated lines of communication used to avoid conflict between Russia and the US as they operate in close proximity over Syria — the author claimed to have locked onto the F-22.

A Business Insider translation of part of the caption reads: “F-22 was arrogant and was punished after a short air battle, for which of course it got f—ed.”

Russia has long mocked the US’s stealth jets and claimed an ability to defeat them in combat. But while Russia can spot US stealth jets by looking for heat and not radar signature, that’s very different from being able to shoot them down.

Even if the images are genuine, “it doesn’t alone suggest that the Su-35S is reliably capable of detecting and intercepting the F-22,” Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

“Furthermore, the F-22 will have been aware of the Su-35’s presence since the latter took off, so it isn’t really any indication of a diminishment of the F-22’s combat advantage,” he said.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

The Raptor’s thermal signature is no secret.

(NPAS Filton)

“IRST systems can be used to detect and potentially track stealth aircraft under specific conditions,” Bronk said. But that “doesn’t mean that they are anything approaching a satisfactory solution to the problem of fighting against such targets, as they have limited range compared to radar and are vulnerable to environmental disruption and degradation,” he added.

In essence, he said, an F-22 would have seen the Su-35 long before the Russians saw the American, and the S-35 most likely spotted the F-22 only because it flew up close in the first place.

Bronk previously described looking for fifth-generation aircraft in the open skies with IRST as like “looking through a drinking straw.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, told Business Insider that he was “unable to verify the claims made on Instagram” but that “Russia has been conducting a concentrated disinformation campaign in Syria to sow confusion and undercut US and allied efforts there.”

US pilots can tell when their jets have been targeted by enemy weapons, so they would know whether a Su-35 pilot established any “lock.”

Russian media has since picked up the story, running it with analysis that suggests the Su-35 may be able to defeat the F-22.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Canned soup may be fueling North Korea’s air force

Is North Korea’s air force selling canned soup and taxi rides to upgrade its runways and airstrips?


Amid the toughest sanctions ever against the North and its nuclear weapons program, there are some compelling reasons to believe the answer may well be yes. The story of how — and why — offers some insight into how North Korea’s economy functions under Kim Jong Un.

There’s a fine line between North Korea’s military and its private sector. To augment the already huge share of the country’s limited national resources earmarked for defense, North Korean military units control everything from restaurants to farms to the flagship airline.

Also read: Aircraft carriers will not join exercises in Korea this year

Air Koryo is far more than just an airline.

Over the past several years, it has also become one of the country’s most recognizable consumer brands.

With only a dozen or so active-use aircraft operating on limited routes to China and the Russian Far East, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever been much of a money-maker for Pyongyang in the conventional, ticket-sales sort of way. But it is a symbol of national prestige and serves as a key lifeline to the outside world, transporting people and loads and loads of precious — and often not-very-closely-scrutinized — cargo.

Air Koryo runs at least one gas station and car wash in Pyongyang, has its own fleet of taxis, and operates several retail shops, including a boutique at the airport. At the relatively upscale Potonggang Department Store in central Pyongyang, whole aisles are devoted to Air Koryo brand products, from crates of liquor to row after row of Coke-like sodas and a half dozen varieties of canned goods, including pheasant soup and peaches.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Air Koryo about to push-back for Pyongyang. (Photo by Mark Fahey)

The airline’s moves mirror broader shifts in the North Korean economy, which is still socialist and technically centrally controlled, but under Kim has shifted rapidly toward capitalist-style entrepreneurialism.

At the grassroots level, street vendors and small, bazaar-style markets are common. Higher up, state-run enterprises are adapting to become more productive and profitable — quite possibly because the regime, pinched by sanctions and shrinking trade possibilities, can’t afford to prop them up anymore.

It’s not just Air Koryo: Naegohyang, a major producer of cigarettes including the luxury “7.27” brand reportedly favored by Kim himself, has begun pushing its own line of sporting goods. They’re sold alongside Nike, Adidas, and other pricey imports at its flagship stores near Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter and in the exclusive Scientists’ Street district, a neighborhood built to reward the country’s scientists and technicians.

Related: The bizarre way this North Korean movie came to be

Air Koryo got a big boost with Kim’s decision to completely overhaul the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, which opened a shiny new terminal in 2015. The next year, Air Koryo started its taxi service. The Air Koryo soft drink line was launched in 2016. A gas station and car wash followed in 2017.

It’s impossible to say how profitable those initiatives have been. But the swelling variety of the goods and their ready availability in the capital and elsewhere is undeniable.

The appearance of a subsidiary company, Korea Hanggong Trading, at recent trade fairs suggests Air Koryo may be considering an export business, something of a stretch in the current political climate and sanctions aimed at cutting off the North’s ability to fund its nuclear program.

Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the North Korean Economy Watch blog, describes the airline as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the air force, which is using its consumer goods business to help finance reconstruction of its own infrastructure, including runway renovations and new revetments at remote highway airfields.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
(Photo by Pon Pon Tin)

Selling Air Koryo-labelled products made by military factories can help the air force boost revenues outside of its official budget allocations, Melvin said.

A new headquarters for Air Koryo has been built near the international airport, he noted.

“For many years, North Korea has tried to turn its subsidy-dependent, state-owned enterprises into profitable operations that pay ‘taxes,'” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “Maybe Air Koryo’s time has simply come.”

Air Koryo’s connection to the military is not immediately obvious and is often overlooked.

But according to a 2014 United Nations Panel of Experts’ report, the airline, all airports, and airfields in North Korea are controlled by the Korean People’s Air Force through its Civil Aviation Bureau. The report added that the airline’s personnel are believed to be members of the air force and “all in-country maintenance is conducted by air force engineering staff.”

More: The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

That makes it a natural target for sanctions, another incentive for diversification.

Though Washington-backed efforts to blacklist the airline entirely have failed, the U.S. Treasury Department in 2016 slapped sanctions on Air Koryo for doing a flyover during a 2013 military parade and for transporting spare parts used in Scud-B missile systems, among other things.

The listing does not ban Americans from flying on Air Koryo but restricts them from doing other kinds of business with it.

The U.N., meanwhile, has warned that “considering the control over and use by the air force of Air Koryo’s aircraft,” member states could be in violation of its arms embargo on the North should they engage with the airline in anything from financial transactions to technical training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Cards for Connection help veterans cope

Cards for Connection is a free resource that puts simple coping skills and VA phone numbers directly into veterans’ hands. Originally created for veterans who had experienced homelessness, the card deck has now been updated with information for all veterans.

The 52 cards in the deck have easy-to-implement coping skills and important phone numbers, such as the Veterans Crisis Line and the Help for Homeless Veterans line.

As a result, veterans playing a game of cards read positive affirmations, reminders to breathe, and encouragement to make a connection with others.


Developing Cards for Connection

VA received input by veterans and that helped inform the VA staff that works with them.

Some veterans reported great feedback. Many wanted to see phone numbers on the cards, whether to see a doctor, find a safe place to sleep, or ask about VA resources.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

Cards for Connection hopes to help Veterans cope with different situations.

“I like the feel of them. I was noticing the texture, it’s nice,” said one veteran.

Another veteran said, “I love this picture. If you’re in a [bad place], and you actually have a picture of something beautiful to look at, that’s something great.”

Veteran feedback will update future versions

VA will collect additional feedback on the cards via anonymous pre-addressed/stamped postcards. It will also collect from focus groups and anonymous staff surveys. VA will use this information to update future versions.

How do I get a deck of Cards for Connection?

There are about 8,000 decks available for any veteran who could benefit from using them. Requests for a deck from veterans can be sent to Katherine.Juhasz@va.gov.

For more details on PTSD and how to treat it, read 8 Things to Know About PTSD.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA’s next big project is an airplane-deployed drone swarm

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency plans to demonstrate an ability to launch and recover small drones from an Air Force C-130 aircraft as part of its continued development of the Gremlins program — a technical effort designed to deploy groups of small drones carrying 60-pound sensor payloads up to ranges of 300 nautical miles.


The program is expected to culminate in an air launch and recovery demonstration in 2019.

The drones are intended to perform a range of missions, such as testing enemy air defenses and conducting ISR missions for an hour on station before returning to an Air Force C-130, developers said. A key concept of the program is extending the mission range of aircraft, while allowing manned crews to operate at safer distances.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
The AC-130J Ghostrider will provide close air support, special operations armed airborne reconnaissance, and ordnance delivery to precise targets in support of ground forces. (Courtesy photo)

Gremlins moves beyond existing state-of-the-art programs able, which are able to launch, but not recover, swarms of mini-drones. The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, an initiative aimed at harnessing near-term emerging technologies for operational use, demonstrated an ability to launch small drones from the flare dispenser of an F-16. While able to blanket areas with ISR and perform significant mission-enhancing functions, they are expendable and not available for re-use.

“For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well,” said DARPA in a statement.

Read More: Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Gremlins could well be described as a technological leap in manned-unmanned teaming beyond state-of-the-art technology, as it enables drones to launch, perform missions and then return to a host aircraft. As algorithms for increased levels of autonomy advance, aircraft will be able to control drones from the cockpit with a pilot in a command and control role, service experts have explained.

At the moment, Army helicopters can used “manned-unmanned” teaming to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones, and the Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias has told Warrior that F-35 and F-22 fighter jets may soon have the technical ability to navigate multiple drones from the air. The idea is to use unmanned aircraft to perform ISR missions, delivery weapons or test high-risk air defenses or enemy formations without putting pilots in harm’s way. This day is fast approaching, given the pace of current progress developing algorithms enabling higher levels of autonomy, Zacharias has explained.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
(GIF created from DARPAtv YouTube)

As of earlier this year, DARPA has continued its contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Dynetics to move Gremlins into the next phase of development, an effort which involves testing and a Preliminary Design Review.

The Gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses provides significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, a General Atomics statement said.

“We see the potential for using this technology on our own Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® to offer our customers new mission capabilities,” David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI, said in a written statement.

Articles

How the Coast Guard is going to play a big role in preventing terrorism in America’s ports

Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.


As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.

“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
Port of Los Angeles. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.

Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.

“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston
USCG photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul Rios

As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.

Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.

“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.

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