How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

The following is an interview with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ford, one of the soldiers entrusted with maintaining the tank capabilities at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.

Look through the pictures to see how Ford and a team of contractors reattach a turret on an Abrams M1A2. Ford also recently passed the board for entry into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and he talks about what he learned.

With nine years of service, Ford is on his third overseas deployment, having served in both Afghanistan and South Korea. (The interview was edited for clarity and length.)


How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Abrams M1A2 tanks stored at an Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 warehouse at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 10, 2019. APS-5 is a massive amount of ground force equipment positioned to provide strategic planners options to win in the US Central Command’s area of responsibility.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What is the most important thing to know about maintaining the Abrams M1A2?

Ford: The most important thing to know about the maintenance of tanks is that they are very big and very expensive. Even the smallest components can cost a lot more than the average military vehicle, which means it’s that much more important to get the maintenance on them right.

For example, the operation we recently did to put a turret back on a tank had to be completed with extreme care and precision as not to damage the vehicle. The cost of error is one of those things you can’t help but to think about when planning maintenance on these.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, watches as contractors at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 work to lift a 30-ton turret at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

I noticed a huge team effort in putting the turret back on the tank. Is that a special event for people here?

Ford: We rarely pull turrets off or put them on, so every time it does happen it seems like it becomes a bit of a spectacle. That’s because we are lifting a 30-ton piece of equipment and moving it around with no room for error. It’s definitely something to see and experience.

It takes a lot of eyes to ensure that turret is coming out and going in straight. The turret is a machine fit — only just big enough to get into the hole of the tank. If anything is off to the left or right, there is a possibility of damaging equipment and that equipment is very expensive. In this case, the turret was level and fit well into its proper place.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, stands in front of an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Oct. 6, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What is your role in a maintenance operation like this?

Ford: I fill the quality inspection role while [the contractors] are doing the majority of the work. As the contracting officer’s representative, I ensure the terms of the contract are fulfilled. I also verify and accept the completed work on behalf of the government.

As you can see there [in the third photo], the guy on the tank is in charge of the crane. I’m just there for safety reasons and then just to ensure it’s put together properly and safely. That’s all I’m looking for. But, if they need my advice as an expert on the vehicle, then I’ll interject when I feel it’s necessary. I try to stay back and let them do the job.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A contractor with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 directs a crane operator to briefly stop lowering a 30-ton turret onto an Abrams M1A2 so others could check its alignment to the mount at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, September 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

I noticed you jumped in a few times to help give directions. Is that typical?

Ford: There were a couple instances where they were unsure on how to move forward on that operation and, you know, time is always of the essence. That’s when I stepped forward to provide another set of eyes. But this was their operation, and I was mostly just watching it come together.

Some of the contractors have more familiarity with older tank models because they used those when they served. Sometimes I have to help fill the knowledge gap they have to help things along. But they have familiarity with each other — using hand signals they worked out that I don’t know, and that’s important for working as a team.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Ernie Boyd, work center supervisor at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5, provides positioning guidance as a crew lowers a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

Can you tell me a little about the team doing the work?

Ford: I think the team takes their role very seriously. Take Ernie Boyd for example. He is a retired Marine with 14 years of experience working on tanks. He is one of my go-to guys for tanks and for solving work center issues.

He definitely takes his work seriously — you can tell. He’s a supervisor for the work center, but during this turret operation, he was doing a lot more than supervising. He was extremely hands-on in ensuring that operation went according to plan.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, provides another set of eyes for a maintenance operation to place a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What is Army Prepositioned Stocks-5?

Ford: APS-5 is a massive set of equipment placed here to make rapidly deploying units faster. We give the warfighter the material capability they need to complete their missions.

Looking at the big picture, our job is to ensure APS-5 continues to provide viable strategic options to win.

All of our tanks are stored inside our warehouses ready for issue. They are configured for combat, meaning a unit can come in, hop in a tank, and drive it off the lot. They’re quick and ready to roll out for any mission.

This mission is important because there will come a day when a deploying unit will need this equipment, and if it’s not ready, then it could slow their mission down. It can be a life or death situation. Being able to provide the warfighter with the most ready equipment is our focus every day.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A maintenance crew at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 reattaches a 30-ton turret to an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

Tell me about the first time you saw Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.

Ford: I walked into one of our warehouses and saw an entire battalion worth of tanks. They were in lines all facing each other as far as I could see — 72-ton vehicles all the way down from wall to wall.

You don’t often get to see something like that. Usually tanks are scattered out in fragmented lines waiting for operations or maintenance.

When I first saw it, I definitely felt excited about our mission and my part in it because I am the only tank [quality assurance] soldier here. All those tanks sitting there embodied my reason for being in Kuwait.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Contractors with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 watch closely as a crane lowers a 30-ton turret back onto an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019. The turret is machine-fit to the tank, and must be placed carefully to avoid costly damage.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What do you think of DFAC food?

Ford: Um, keeps me alive. I haven’t died or anything yet (laughter). Dry chicken and rice are great — just be sure you have plenty of water so you can swallow the chicken.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in lots maintained by the 401st Field Support Brigade at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2016.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

I know you will soon be inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Why did you decide to go to the board and what did you learn?

Ford: Sergeant Audie Murphy Club provides continuous opportunities to serve throughout a career and beyond. The club’s mission is to develop and build professional noncommissioned officers and to provide community service to every Army community. So every duty station I go to from here forward, I get to go out to do good things for people while representing the Army and the NCO corps.

I learned it’s a big challenge, and with big challenges like that you don’t succeed on your own. I had to seek out a lot of mentorship and leadership scenarios from my leaders and all the way up through brigade. I had to expose my flaws and weaknesses; that way, they could help me correct those weaknesses. It’s just not enough to go in having read a book. You have to have real-life application of regulations and policies.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Trucks bring in APS-5 equipment from Camp Buehring back to Camp Arifjan during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team turn-in, Feb. 5, 2019.

(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)

Of the Army values, which stand out most to you?

Ford: I think loyalty is a big one for me. Your loyalty is always being tested. You have to constantly be loyal to your seniors, your peers, your subordinates, your unit, the Army, and the nation. You have to buy into that mission to really give it all that you have – you can’t waver on that.

Respect is another huge value for me. Without respect, you can’t have trust. Without trust, you can’t be a leader and you can’t be led. That’s our primary job, and you can’t be a good leader without first being a good follower.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Soldiers assigned to the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team prepare to move 22 M1A2 Abrams Tanks from an Army Prepositioned Stock-5 warehouse to a remote staging lot during a large-scale equipment issue at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 29, 2019.

(US Army photo by Justin Graff)

What advice would you give to young soldiers?

Ford: Don’t be afraid to fail, just put yourself out there. You never really know how much support you have until you are out there asking for support, so put yourself out there and allow people to help you.

We have a lot of good leaders in the military. They see you taking initiative and they see your desire to better yourself, they’re going to pick you up and provide you with what you need.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite last minute reprieve, US and Iran still on the brink of war

President Donald Trump called off airstrikes last minute against Iran, but the reprieve is likely only temporary from a clash that has brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.

Iran’s economy is sputtering under mounting US sanctions that it’s called “economic war” and said it will start enriching uranium and increasing its stockpile beyond the limits set by the nuclear treaty, which the Trump administration walked away from a little over a year ago.

Experts largely believe Iran’s military and its proxy forces, which Tehran supplies and trains, will continue to seek confrontations against the US and its allies across the region due to the sanctions that are damaging Iran’s economy.


“The enemy (Iran) believes it’s acting defensively in light of economic strangulation, which it views as an act of war,” Brett McGurk, the former special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, wrote on Twitter. “That doesn’t justify its acts but makes deterrence via one-off strikes harder perhaps counter-productive.”

Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, which the US has blamed on Iran. The incident prompted anxiety from the UN and US allies, who’ve all preached restraint.

Iran has denied striking the tankers, in the face of a US military video showing what appears to be an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded limpet mine, and claims the downing of the US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone came after warnings it had entered Iranian airspace.

The Iranian attacks aim to raise the political costs of Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran, and Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute previously told INSIDER she expected Iran to “up the ante” against the US, even by kidnapping Americans in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly told Iran that the US will respond with military force if Iran kills any Americans, and so it is unclear how the US would respond to a kidnapping.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

With the US taking no action against Iran for the drone attack other than condemnation, and possibly added sanctions, many experts think Iran has little reason to abandon its attacks.

“Unfortunately it sends a dangerous signal to Iran,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy wrote on Twitter. “US aversion to escalation doesn’t deter Tehran from escalating. And they have every incentive to continue until they get what they want: sanctions relief.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ned Price, former senior director of the National Security Council under President Obama, told INSIDER.

Jon Wolfsthal, who served as the nuclear expert for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, told INSIDER, “Conflict between Iran and US can erupt at any time.”

Wolfsthal said he’s not aware of any new guidance given to military officials to “de-engage or avoid possible actions that could lead to provocations.”

“In fact, I expect drones are flying the same course today,” Wolfsthal added.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to hostilities remains elusive.

Trump warned Iran of the impending, and ultimately halted, military strike via Oman on June 20, 2019, Reuters reported. The president also extended yet another offer to hold talks with Tehran.

An Iranian official told Reuters that a decision on whether to speak to the US would be made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has so far rebuffed Trump’s proposals to hold talks.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Armistice Day became Veterans Day

Growing up, learning about World War I usually involved learning about three things: trench foot, poison gas, and bloody stalemate. Right before the history teacher moves on to World War II, we learn the old mnemonic device — on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, ‘The War to End All Wars’ ended with an armistice.


Then, there was one kickass, worldwide party.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
And then…u00a0the sequel.

Obviously, glossing over one of the deadliest, most expensive, and most avoidable wars in American history does the Doughboys of the American Expeditionary Force an injustice. We need to remember that World War I was more than just a prelude to World War II. The horrors of WWI led to the annual recognition of those the who had to fight it. The day The Great War ended came to be remembered thereafter as Armistice Day.

But, when the 11th day of the 11 month rolls around, we all celebrate Veterans Day. What happened?

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

This is what Armistice Day 1938 looked like in Omaha, Nebraska.

The first public celebration of Armistice Day came in November, 1920. Much like how we celebrate Veterans Day today, the occasion was marked by speeches, parades, and exchange of drinks and stories between veterans of the war. The exception came when that 11th hour rolled around. For a moment, there was a pause in all activities across the country.

In that moment, mere years ago, millions of armed men stopped butchering each other over control of several yards of No Man’s Land.

In 1926, Congress made Armistice Day official, resolving that the “recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918, should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace between nations.” In 1938, Armistice Day became a Federal Holiday.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Literally.

As we all know, the “War to End All Wars” didn’t actually end all wars — or any wars. It actually led very directly to the next war, World War II. Which led to the next war, the Korean War, which was part of a greater war, the Cold War. You get the point. By the time the Korean War ended, there was a whole new generation of war veterans who felt deserving of recognition for a job well done.

Veterans of those war lobbied Congress to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954, in order to honor veterans of every war. Congress agreed and President Eisenhower signed on to it, too.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Gerald Ford, the voice of reason.

In 1968, Congress acted again. This time, they wanted to give federal employees a couple of three-day weekends throughout the year, so they changed the dates of some major holidays to fall on certain Mondays. Columbus Day, Memorial Day, and Washington’s Birthday were all given Mondays. And Veterans Day was moved from the historic date of November 11 to “the fourth Monday in October.”

The states rightly thought that was a stupid idea and refused to recognize the movement of Veterans Day until President Ford changed it back in 1975.

Veterans Day is currently celebrated nationally on November 11, as it has been for decades. When the day was originally changed to Veterans Day in 1954, it was just in time for then-104-year old Albert Woolson, the last surviving veteran of the Civil War, to celebrate it. With him were two veterans of the Plains Wars, veterans of the Spanish-American War, and vets from the Philippines War.

States, local municipalities, and other governments have declared their own Veterans Days, some dating as far back as the end of World War II, recognizing the courage and sacrifices of every U.S. citizen who answered the country’s call to arms.

Articles

North Korea blasts US arsenal in fresh propaganda video

A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.


In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.

Also read: The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.

The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
Screenshot via uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.

The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.

Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.

popular

The hater’s guide to the US Marine Corps

This is the second in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The military branches are like a family, but that doesn’t mean everyone always gets along. With different missions, uniforms, and mindsets, troops love to make fun of people in opposite branches. Of course when it counts in combat, the military usually works out its differences.

Still, inter-service rivalry is definitely a thing. We already showed you how everyone usually makes fun of the Air Force. Now, we’re taking on the U.S. Marine Corps.

The easiest ways to make fun of the Marine Corps

One of the quickest ways to make fun of Marines is to call them dumb. Plenty of acronyms and inside jokes have been invented to harp on this point, like “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential” or even referring to them as “jarheads.”

The interesting thing about calling Marines names however, is that somewhere along the line they just decide to own that sh-t. Many terms used in a derogatory fashion — jarhead, leatherneck, and devil dog — eventually morph into terms that Marines actually call themselves. It’s like a badge of honor.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
Don’t give people excuses now. (Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

The thinking that Marines are not intelligent often stems from it being the smaller service known more for fighting on the ground, and the thinking that shooting at the bad guys doesn’t take smarts. There is some truth to this — they don’t call them “dumb grunts” for nothing — but the Marine Corps infantry is actually a very small part of the overall Corps, which also has many more personnel serving in admin, logistics, supply, and air assets.

In a head-to-head battle of ASVAB scores (the test you take to get into the military), the Air Force or Navy would probably come out on top, due to these services having many more technical fields. But plenty of Marine infantrymen (this writer included) know that being in the Marine infantry — or at least being really good at it — takes plenty of brainpower paired with combat skills and physical fitness.

Other common ways to make fun of the Corps are to go after their gear or barracks, since they usually get the hand-me-downs from everyone else, or to focus on their insanely-short and weird-looking haircuts.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
Stop trying to make the horseshoe happen. It’s not going to happen. (Photo: YouTube)

Then there are people who tell Marines they aren’t even a branch, they are just a part of the Navy. To which every Marine will inevitably reply, “Yeah, the men’s department.”

This brings us to an important point to remember that in every insult on the Marine Corps, there is at least some truth behind it. But Marines are masters at spinning an uncomfortable truth into something positive, a point not lost on a Navy sailor writing a poem in 1944 calling them “publicity fiends.” Here are some examples:

When a new Marine comes to the unit, he or she might be told, “Welcome to the Suck.” Basically, a new guy is told that his life is going to suck and that’s a good thing.

“Retreat hell! We just got here!” and “Retreat hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.” — Even when the Marines are pulling back from the front, they aren’t retreating. They are attacking in a different spot, or conducting a “tactical withdrawal.”

“If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, you’d be issued one.” — Forget about married life. Just focus on shooting and breaking things.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

But if you want a real taste of the Marines, this quote from an anonymous Canadian (via The Marine Corps Association) just about sums it up:

“Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshiping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird noises like a band of savages. They’ll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOBs I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man’s normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, of the United States Marines I’ve come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”

Why to actually hate the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps is the smallest branch of the military, and it has a reputation for getting all the leftovers. This means everything: weapons, aircraft, and gear have traditionally been hand-me-downs from the Army.

Let’s start with the barracks: Usually terrible, though for some it’s getting better. There’s a rather infamous (thanks mostly to Terminal Lance) barracks known as Mackie Hall in Hawaii, which most Marines refer to as “Crackie Hall,” since it’s in a dark, desolate part of the base that’s right near a river of waste everyone calls “sh-t creek.” While the Corps has been building better housing for Marines, it’s still nowhere close to what the other services can expect.

Then there are the weapons and gear. Go on deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and you’ll see even the lowliest Army private with top-shelf uniforms, plenty of “tacticool” equipment, and the latest night vision. And on their brand new M4 rifle, they’ll have the best flashlight, laser sights, and whatever brand new scope or optic DARPA just came up with. But here’s the plot twist: That soldier never even leaves the FOB.

All of this “gee-whiz, that would be awesome if I had that” equipment will usually end up in the hands of Marines eventually. It’s just going to be a few years, and only after it’s been worn out by the Army.

That’s not to say the Marines don’t have their own gear specifically for them. The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was designed with the Corps in mind, along with amphibious tractors and others, like the Marine version of the F-35 fighter.

Despite their sometimes decrepit gear and weapons, Marines also spin this as a point of pride — they are so good at this — rationalizing the terrible by saying they can “do more with less.” But if an airman or sailor is thinking this one through, they are saying to themselves, “but I’d rather do more with more” from the comfort of their gorgeous barracks rooms that look like hotel suites.

There’s also the Marine language barrier. Especially in joint-command settings, service members from other branches might be scratching their heads when they hear stuff like “Errr,” “Yut,” or “Rah?” in question form.

And as for what Marines hate about the Marine Corps: Field Day. Everyone can all agree on field day being the worst thing in Marine Corps history. The top definition of what “field day” is in Urban Dictionary puts it this way:

“A Thursday night room cleaning to prep for a inspection Friday morning that is required to go way beyond the point of clean to ridiculous things like no ice in your freezer, no water in your sink, no hygiene products in your shower. Most of the time you truly believe that someone woke up one morning, sat down with a pen and paper and just came up with a bunch of ridiculous things to look for in these “inspections”. Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis.”

That’s basically all true. Which leads some to count down the days until they get out, the magical, mystical day of E.A.S. (End of Active Service):

Why to love the Marine Corps

There are many reasons to have pride in the Marine Corps, and it usually comes down to its history. Since 1775, the Marine Corps has had a storied history of fighting everyone, including pirates, standing armies, and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
Photo by Pfc. Devan Gowans/USMC

And knowing history and serving to the standard of those who came before is a big part of what it means to be a Marine. A Marine going to Afghanistan today was likely told at boot camp about the Marines who were fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — with the idea that you definitely don’t want to tarnish the reputation they forged many years ago.

While there were many negatives aspects highlighted about the service here, many Marines see these instead as ways the Marine Corps operates differently. Marines see the bad as a way of thinking that “we don’t need perks” to do our job, which comes down to locating, closing with, and killing the enemy. The Marines even have a longstanding mantra to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

Other things to be proud of: Marines can get stationed in some pretty awesome spots like Hawaii and southern California for example, although some are sent to the dark desert hole that is 29 Palms. And besides the combat deployments, peacetime Marines enjoy awesome traveling and training in places the Army usually doesn’t go: Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, or the famous and beloved “med floats.”

And hands down, the Marine Corps has the absolute best dress uniforms and the best commercials.

For male Marines (as far as what your recruiter tells you), the dress blue uniform is like kryptonite to females in a bar. Interestingly enough, that same uniform is like kryptonite to young impressionable men who are interested in being among the “Few and the Proud.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 23 issued a strong rebuke of Turkey’s offensive against a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria, saying it is distracting from the fight against Islamic State militants.


“The violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria. It distracts from international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS, and this could be exploited by ISIS and al-Qaida,” Mattis told reporters in Indonesia.

Turkey, the week before, began bombing and has sent troops into northern Syria’s Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin along the Turkish border, in an attempt to drive out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint in their military actions and rhetoric and ensure its operations are limited in scope and duration,” said Mattis, who is meeting with his Indonesian counterparts in Jakarta.

On Jan. 21, Mattis said Turkey, a member of NATO, had alerted the United States ahead of the attack. But at that point, Mattis did not criticize the Turkish operation. His tone changed.

“In the Afrin area, we had actually gotten to the point where humanitarian aid was flowing and refugees were coming back in. The Turkish incursion disrupts that effort,” Mattis said.

Also Read: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

The YPG is a key U.S. partner in the war against the Islamic State group, and makes up a large portion of the Syrian Democratic Forces — a coalition that has forced Islamic State militants from virtually their entire so-called caliphate. But Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and accuses it of having links to Kurdish separatists.

The U.S. decision to back the YPG has been a source of rising tension between Washington and Ankara, and Turkey repeated its calls on the United States to end its support of the militia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korean propaganda blasts news about the defector to the North

South Korea is broadcasting news of a North Korean soldier’s defection into North Korea, Yonhap News reported Nov. 26.


The broadcast, transmitted via loudspeakers installed near the Demilitarized Zone, began shortly after news broke of the soldier’s Nov. 13 defection, military officials said.

South Korea’s loudspeaker system at the DMZ is used as a type of psychological warfare against North Korea, working to demoralize troops.

Several defectors listened to the broadcasts before attempting an escape, and one man who defected in June said he became “enamored” with South Korea’s development from listening to the loudspeakers.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
The latest defector from North Korea dodged bullets as he crossed the DMZ.

North Korean soldiers have heard in detail how a 24-year-old fellow soldier — who has been identified only by his family name, “Oh” — was shot as he defected and is now being treated in South Korea.

“The news about an elite soldier like a JSA guard having fled in a hail of bullets will have a significant psychological impact on North Korean border guards,” a South Korean military spokesman told the newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

Last week, the United Nations Command released a video showing Oh crossing the border into South Korea as North Korean soldiers fired their weapons at him.

Read More: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

The soldier was found on the south side of the border village of Panmunjom, about 50 meters south of the Military Demarcation Line, having been shot five times.

According to Reuters, more than 1,000 North Koreans defect to South Korea every year via China, but it is unusual for defectors to cross the land border dividing the two Koreas, which have been in a technical state of war since 1953 when conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Loudspeaker diplomacy is popular on both sides of the DMZ

This is not the first time South Korea, or North Korea, has used a loudspeaker system on its border to spread propaganda — the DMZ is actually one of the world’s busiest regions for such broadcasts.

South Korea’s propaganda program has used giant loudspeakers periodically since the Korean War but has become more subtle in recent years, according to the BBC. Broadcasts include weather reports, news from both Koreas and abroad, and discussion of life in South Korea.

The speakers have also played hours of K-pop music from South Korean musicians and groups over the years.

According to The Diplomat, the system went unused for 11 years. It was used briefly in August 2015 after North Korea injured two South Korean soldiers and was fully reinstated in January 2016 after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

North Korea has indicated the broadcasts successfully demoralize its troops.

According to the BBC, North Korea also broadcasts content, but its broadcasts are usually harder to hear and usually blast strong condemnations of Seoul and its allies.

Yonhap News reports South Korea’s loudspeakers are loud enough to be heard up to 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles, inside North Korea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy humble-brags it has 7 carriers at sea

The US Navy bragged on social media Tuesday morning that it currently has seven aircraft carriers underway, a major improvement over the situation in late October, when half the carrier fleet was in a non-deployable state.

“The Navy has 7 aircraft carriers underway today. NBD,” the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) tweeted Tuesday in a humble-brag; “NBD” is an acronym for “no big deal.”


Less than two months ago, the Navy had that many carriers stuck pier-side due to maintenance issues, preparation for mid-life overhauls, unexpected malfunctions, and new construction challenges.

On the East Coast, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) was winding up to a deployment after an extended maintenance availability.

The USS George Washington (CVN-73) was in the yard for its Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) pier-side, apparently in preparation for its mid-life overhaul.

The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was in extended maintenance. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was down for an electrical malfunction.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was in an extended post-shakedown availability.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

And, on the West Coast, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was in maintenance, leaving only handful of the 11 carriers readily available.

Even with less than half of its carriers available, the Navy still had ready an unmatched carrier force, but the problem is that with that many ships in the yard, it makes it harder to meet the demand for carriers, important tools for the projection of American military power.

“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill. The combatant commanders want carriers,” Richard Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, said at that time.

Right now, the Truman is underway in the 6th Fleet area of operations while the Stennis, Ike, and Ford are all underway in the Atlantic. The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) are underway in the 3rd Fleet AOR, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) remains in the 5th Fleet AOR, the Navy told Insider.

The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is forward-deployed in Japan, but it is currently in port.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the US B-52 bombers flying around Europe have been up to

Four US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived in England with about 300 airmen on Oct. 10, 2019, for a bomber task force deployment.

The bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford to “conduct integration and interoperability training” with partners in the region and to “exercise Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location” in support of US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command.


Amid heightened tensions with Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea, bomber task force exercises over Europe are also meant to reassure US partners and to be a deterrent to Moscow — this deployment, like others before it, also saw US bombers fly close to Russia in Eastern Europe and the high north.

Below, you can see what US airmen and bombers did during the month they were in Europe.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Bomber Task Force 20-1 was “part of a routine forward deployment of bomber aircraft in the European theater that demonstrates the US commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance,” a US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman said.

The Barksdale B-52s’ deployment to RAF Fairford was their first since this spring, the spokeswoman said, and comes not long after a B-2 Spirit bomber task force deployment in August and September that saw the stealth bomber accomplish several firsts over Europe.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana takes off from RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

US Air Force Senior Airman Sho Kashara, an Explosives Ordinance Disposal airmen from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, helps build inert BDU-50 bombs for practice use by B-52H Stratofortresses at RAF Fairford, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

US Air Force airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H for takeoff during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, a B-52 expediter with the 2nd AMXS.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes,” Crowe added.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

96th Bomb Squadron aircrew from to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana prepare to board a B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

When the bomber is scheduled to land somewhere that doesn’t have maintenance support for B-52s, a maintainer will go along as a “flying crew chief” to make sure the aircraft arrives safely and is ready to fly once it lands.

For a crew chief to qualify for that job, they must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging-harness training, a flight-equipment course, and go through the altitude chamber.

“We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, a communications navigations technician. “However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again.”

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron weapons system officers work in the lower deck of a 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in the Black Sea region in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Three B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in formation after completing missions over the Baltic Sea for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by SSgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.

NATO’s Baltic members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are between Russia proper and its Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, where ground and naval forces are based, as well as air-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and what are thought to be nuclear weapons.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

French air force Dassault Rafales fly next to a US Air Force B-52H over France in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 25, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Two Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons engage in a planned intercept of a US Air Force B-52H over Poland during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52 in formation with Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from 3 Squadron at RAF Coningsby over the North Sea, Oct. 28, 2019.

(Cpl. Alex Scott/UK Ministry of Defense)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana taxis toward the flight line at RAF Fairford in support of Global Thunder 20, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s next to a US Air Force B-52H in Norwegian airspace during training for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 30, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52H and Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles conduct a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron pilot flies a US Air Force B-52H during training and integration with the Royal Norwegian air force in Norwegian airspace in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

One flight-tracker showed the B-52s flying into the Barents, turning south near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic and then flying west near the Kola Peninsula. Both are home to Russian military facilities, including the Northern Fleet’s home base.

The Russian navy and scientists recently mapped five new islands near Novaya Zemlya that were revealed by receding glacier ice.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

“The mission in the Barents Sea region served as an opportunity to integrate with our Norwegian allies to improve interoperability as well as act as a visible demonstration of the US capability of extended deterrence,” the spokeswoman said.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52H takes off from RAF Fairford to return to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

A US Air Force 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

BTF “rotations provide us with a consistent and near-continuous long-range weapon capability, and represent our ability to project air power around the globe,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa.

“Being here and talking with [our allies and partner militaries] on their ranges makes us more lethal,” said Lt. Col. John Baker, BTF commander and 96th Bomb Squadron commander.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vets discuss VA home loan entitlement for 75th anniversary of the GI Bill

On June 22, 2019, VA will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the G.I. Bill. It was on that date in 1944 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act into law, which became widely known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. As veterans came home from the war, many started families and used their VA home loan entitlement to become homeowners. Through subsequent decades, new generations of veterans continued to use the VA home loan benefit that they earned through service to our nation, becoming a fundamental pillar of the U.S. housing industry and the building of communities.


In honor of this historic event, Army veteran Maxine Henry and Air Force veteran Mark Connors of the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service team sat down with Borne the Battle to discuss one of the best and most popular veteran benefits — the VA home loan entitlement.

Buying A Home with the VA Home Loan

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An outstanding benefit

The VA home loan guaranty has several advantages for veteran borrowers:

  • Veterans using the VA home loan are generally not required to have a downpayment.
  • Veterans using the VA home loan also aren’t required to carry any mortgage insurance, which saves borrowers hundreds of dollars on their monthly mortgage payments.
  • Veterans using the VA home loan benefit enjoy limited closing costs.
  • VA home loans have very competitive interest rates.
  • Veterans aren’t charged any prepayment penalty if they are able to pay off their mortgage earlier than required while using the VA loan.
  • VA provides assistance to help Veterans retain their homes during periods of temporary financial difficulty.
  • The VA home loan benefit can be used multiple times throughout the veteran’s life.

For more on the top five benefits to using the VA home loan guaranty, check out the video below.

Top 5 Benefits of the VA Home Loan Program

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Additional Links:

#BtBattle veteran of the Week: Army veteran Arthur Lorelli.

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

MIGHTY FIT

4 health benefits of drinking the coffee in your MREs

Besides water, coffee is the most popular drink in the entire world. Countless people from around the globe wake up every morning to a beautiful cup of the brewed beverage and drink it to get that critical morning boost.

Now, when a service member is chilling out in the field and they rip open an MRE, there’s a little pouch of coffee just begging for some hot water. Since that pouch doesn’t look as appealing as that fruit-punch drink, we tend to chuck it back into the opened MRE bag, never to meet its hot-beverage destiny.


However, we’re here to tell you why that’s not the best option.

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Coffee lowers your chances of developing four major medical issues

According to Dr. Michael Roizen, drinking coffee lowers your chances of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, along with liver and ovarian cancer.

The board-certified anesthesiologist explains that those medical benefits come from the caffeine within the drink and polyphenols, a micronutrient found in the coffee plant that’s packed with antioxidants.

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That’s just creepy, right?

Staying on your toes

When we first wake up, our brains typically aren’t functioning as well as they do later in the day. Caffeine, the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, tends to take over the adenosine receptors in the brain, which are responsible for making you feel tired.

Now, when you’re feeling tired on post, drink that MRE coffee and block those sleepy receptors. The health benefit here comes with not falling asleep getting killed while you’re on watch.

That’s huge.

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Filter that instant coffee

Now, we know what you’re thinking, why would I filter instant coffee? Sounds stupid, right? Coffee contains over 1,000 compounds and some of those can elevate your cholesterol.

To help get the benefits without any of the drawbacks, pour instant coffee through a paper filter or a clean t-shirt. This will separate those cholesterol-raising compounds from the good stuff.

Drinking coffee can also reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. That’s also f*cking huge.

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It boosts your metabolism

Since caffeine is a stimulant, it raises all sorts of levels in your body, like blood pressure and heart rate. Because of that, your metabolism jumps and burns more calories to meet your body’s rising energy needs. Now, don’t think that drinking a lot of coffee will solve your love-handle problem — it won’t — but it will give you some extra energy while you’re in the gym.

MIGHTY TRENDING

More war talk as leaders tell soldiers to ‘be ready’ in event of North Korea confrontation

The chief of staff of the US Army says his troops must have a “laser-focused sense of urgency” on military preparedness, a day after the defense secretary told troops “to be ready” with military options to deal with North Korea.


Speaking at the US Army’s annual conference Oct. 10, General Mark Milley said improving readiness must be his military service branch’s top task, calling the present day an “inflection point in history.”

“It has never been more important than it is today,” Milley said in Washington. “We are more prepared today and a better Army for our efforts, but we are not there yet.”

Milley said the Army must continue to grow its numbers, develop a large-scale urban combat training center, and streamline acquisition processes, while improving technologies in cyber, combat simulation, and robotics.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
US Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, speaks to an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s 293rd Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Burden.

He also pushed Congress to pass a budget so the military can move forward with strengthening its force, noting if the US military doesn’t adapt to changes in the global threat, it will lose the next war.

“Preparation for war is very expensive,” Milley told troops. “But preparation for war is much cheaper than fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting and losing a war.”

Milley’s comments come a day after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US relationship with North Korea remains a diplomatic one, but that the military must be prepared in case the situation breaks down.

Speaking at the conference Oct. 9, Mattis noted the effort to turn North Korea off its nuclear path is currently “diplomatically led” and buttressed by economic sanctions.

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the US Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2017. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

“What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there is one thing the US Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed,” Mattis said.

Tensions with North Korea have escalated since the start of the year due to a series of missile launches from North Korea and a nuclear test last month.

The US has responded to these acts with military shows of force in international and allied air space. Last month, US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and F-16 fighter jets flew the farthest north of the demilitarized zone that any US fighter or bomber aircraft had flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.

American President Donald Trump has engaged in weeks of taunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling the dictator “Rocket Man” and saying the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea, if necessary, to protect itself and its allies if Pyongyang attacks.