How soldiers push their limits to stay fit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

How soldiers push their limits to stay fit

Some soldiers physically push themselves, compete against who they were yesterday, and train above and beyond meeting the minimum requirements of an Army physical fitness test. As motivation to be physically active can vary, some Maryland Army National Guard soldiers conduct their regular exercise routines in innovative ways.

Soldiers like Capt. Meghan Landymore, an ultra-marathoner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team; Sgt. Donita Adams, a basketball coach and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member; and Capt. Ben Smith, an avid obstacle course racer and American Ninja Warrior participant, are passionately competing in high levels of sports and maintaining their personal fitness.

Soldiers are required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. The annual Army Physical Fitness Test requirement for soldiers gives commanders an indication of the overall fitness of the soldier. The Army is now transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event, age and gender neutral test, designed to assess a soldier’s physical fitness and readiness for physically demanding combat situations. Staying active can help prepare individuals to maintain a level of fitness for the physical demands of military service.


Runner for life

Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon team. Each year, Army and Air guardsmen compete for a position on the All Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Trials. The trials take place during the Lincoln Marathon, a traditional 26.2 mile marathon race, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Landymore placed third in her age group, sixth overall, and qualified for the national team with a time of 3:23:09.

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Landymore first moved off the starting block as a competitive runner in high school, where she was required to participate in a sport. As a kid who grew up performing gymnastics, running wasn’t her initial choice. However, after some encouragement from her father, she found her path – cross country.

On her first day of practice where every single person raised their hand in response to the question “who trained over the summer?” Every person except for her. The feeling of being behind the curve wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But, after working hard with her new coach, Landymore quickly became one of the top athletes on the team after just a couple short months.

Once she started, no one could stop her stride. Landymore ran all throughout her years in college and ran her first marathon, the 2010 New York City Marathon, while in graduate school. In 2012, she placed ninth overall for her first ultra-marathon, the Golden Gate Trail Run Winter 50K, with a time of 5:02:34. Ultra-marathons are anything over the traditional 26.2 mile marathon and sometimes through challenging trails that require hiking or climbing. With more than 30 ultra-marathons under her belt, this July she competed in the 106-mile North Dakota Maah Daah Hey Trail Run with the All Guard Marathon Team.

For ultra-marathon athletes like Landymore, training for a race becomes more than just a form of physical fitness, it becomes a lifestyle.

“It affects everything,” said Landymore. “It becomes your personality and becomes what you talk about, and who you hang out with.”

Training includes a combination of all types of running, from lengthy distances, overnight trail runs, tempo runs on a track, to hitting a strength training session in the weight room. However, training extends beyond the track or gym, needing to balance nutrition and family life can be a challenging task.

“It takes a lot to try and eat enough calories that are not junk calories,” says Landymore. “Other than nutrition, you’re fatigued. Just getting through daily life is actually really hard as an ultra-runner. I think we overlook it because it’s just what we do. It’s exhausting, I have two young kids. It affects my husband. Though they are supportive and understanding as much as they can be.”

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

On race day, her family often plays an impactful role of supporting her through the experience. Her husband will sometimes pace her for portions of her runs or act as a support crew providing various supplies like dry shoes or socks at each stop throughout the race. Her 4-year old son even ran with her through the finish line during the 2017 Patapsco Valley 50K.

Landymore explains that the supportive community of ultra-marathoning is what the experience is all about. Ultra-marathon racing is more than simply running, it gives other invaluable attributes.

“I think a big part of people [competing in any sport] is being able to be in pain and to handle it for any given time whether that’s a few seconds or few minutes,” says Landymore. “You have to know how to be uncomfortable. I think that’s necessary for most of life.

Nothing but net

Sgt. Donita Adams, a MDNG chaplain’s assistant and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member, connects her faith and the love she has for the game of basketball. She is the only National Guard member selected for an all-star team to compete at the 2016 Conseil-International-Du-Sport-Militaire World Military Women’s Basketball Championship.

“Basketball is a way that I can cope with a lot of things,” says Adams. “If I’m stressed out, I know I can go play basketball and clear my mind from anything. It’s my peace. God has given me a way to escape and go into an element where him and I can connect. Basketball is almost like that connection that I have with God. It ties us together because it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

Both basketball and her faith have been pivotal elements in Adams’ life. At 5-years old she picked up a basketball for the first time and by 8-years old started playing on a team. It wasn’t until high school that Adams found her love for coaching.

At 16, Adams landed her first coaching gig at a summer camp. Unbeknownst to her, one of the girls she would coach that summer was the daughter of an inspiring teacher Adams had in the sixth grade. This teacher saw the potential in Adams and made a point to push her to succeed. It was at this camp that her passion for mentorship and coaching ignited.

“My Amateur Athletic Union coach was a big influence in my life, a father that I didn’t have,” said Adams. “I knew that I wanted to give back to my community and this [coaching] was my way to give back.”

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Prior to enlisting in the Army, Adams took on a head coaching job at Watkins Mill High School, the school she attended prior to transferring to Damascus High School. For four years, she taught and developed nearly 100 female student athletes on and off the basketball court. She taught the importance of mentorship and being a role model as an athlete.

“Sometimes you don’t sign up for this stuff,” said Adams. “But when you put on that jersey, or when you sign up for a sport, it comes along with it.”

Adams recently resigned from her head coaching position to give herself the opportunity to impact young athletes beyond the walls of Watkins Mill High School. Now she coaches the young men and women of Truth Basketball, a personal venture dedicated to teaching, coaching, and mentoring young athletes. Truth Basketball holds fundraisers to cover much of the fees associated with playing basketball. Adams hopes to turn the venture into a non-profit in the future to continue making basketball accessible and providing more resources to young men and women.

In addition to coaching, Adams is in her third year of playing for the All-Army Women’s Basketball team. October 2019, she’s headed to Wuhan, China to play with Team USA in the Military World Cup Games. For the second time, Adams will have the opportunity to play with Team USA representing the Maryland Army National Guard on an international stage. However, this will be the first time she will play in an Olympic-level event.

Leaping over obstacles

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, an avid obstacle course runner and a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior, a show where contestants demonstrate their agility and strength through challenging obstacle courses.

Through his training for the Toughest Mudder races, an overnight, eight-hour version of the Tough Mudder races, Smith realized while he was adequately conditioned to run the course, his technique work in tackling obstacles needed to be strengthened. This is where Smith was introduced to the world of American Ninja Warrior.

“I began Ninja Warrior training to increase obstacle course proficiency,” said Smith. “From there, I fell in love with the sport.”

Each year, ANW hosts city qualifying and final competitions in different cities throughout the nation including Baltimore. Each qualifier race consists of six obstacles testing competitors’ ninja skills including grip strength, lateral transversing, static or dynamic balance, and explosive movement. Competitors will need to efficiently and cohesively use all of these skills to complete an ANW course.

“The principles are the same as the preparation for any school, task, or mission,” explains Smith. “I worked through minor obstacles and adjusted my plan for major ones. The first key was to assess the skills I would need to develop. This is a challenge as no two ninja courses are the same. I set out a plan to identify weaknesses and train them in lieu of improving only my strengths.”

To be selected, Smith competed for one of around 600 slots against about 60,000 applicants. The selection decision rested entirely on his submission video. Once he was selected, his ANW training began.

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Smith explains simply being physically fit will not carry an athlete far in ANW and a more well-rounded approach to training is required. To prepare for his competition, Smith’s physical training and conditioning focused on improving endurance, speed work, functional strength, balance, and active recovery. This often resulted in late nights at his obstacle course gym multiple times a week. Smith would also incorporate ninja training into his regular physical training for the Army by including exercises focused on grip strength, balance, or running on curbsides for portions of his regular runs.

However, the biggest obstacle for Smith’s training was the unknown. The day prior to the competition he was able to see the course but wasn’t able to touch any of the obstacles prior to competing.

Though challenging, tackling the ANW course helped Smith identify areas he could improve upon including his speed and fluidity between the different obstacles. His training leading up to the race focused on individual skills. In practice, it was a struggle to apply them cohesively on the course.

Unfortunately, Smith did not successfully complete his run of the Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers and was stopped short at the second obstacle of the race, the double twister. This obstacle involves two free-spinning pendulums where competitors must leap from a springboard to the first pendulum and use their momentum to move from each pendulum and finally to the landing platform. An unexpected stopper restricting the movement of the second pendulum caused Smith to ultimately plummet into the water.

While his run was not aired on this episode of ANW, a short clip of his entrance was aired of Smith ripping off of a modified level A vapor protection suit. Vapor protection suits are crucial for protection against dangerous chemicals encountered in Smith’s job with the 32nd Civil Support Team.

Despite recently sustaining a broken ankle, he is determined to work through his injury and get back to training and sharpening his ninja skills for the next round of applications.

The MDNG athlete

For every Maryland National Guard soldier, “game day” may not come in the form of an ultra-marathon, basketball game, or obstacle course race. Instead, the training, conditioning, and physical readiness of each and every soldier is tested by the APFT or fast-approaching ACFT.

U.S. Army Sgt. Donita Adams, assigned to the Md. Army National Guard attempts to score during a basketball game. The 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championship is held at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.The best two teams during the double round robin will face each other for the 2017 Armed Forces crown.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emiline Senn)

It’s important to note that the ACFT will not be an easy test and must be approached with a well-rounded training program personalized for each individual soldier to build them up from where they are starting to where they need to be, explained Landymore.

Competing at a higher level of sports is not the only option for soldiers preparing for the ACFT. A voluntary program called “Fit to Serve” is available to soldiers for coaching in fitness and offers technology to track physical activity and sleeping habits. The program also provides physical therapy resources which focus on overall health wellness and resiliency.

“The best advice I can give is to use the resources around you,” says Adams. “There are people in your circle or even in your unit who are experts, like trainers or athletes, so use those resources. They are very knowledgeable. Take time during your drill weekend to do the exercises and workouts because it’s going to help you. Because as soon as it’s implemented we are expected to perform.”

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

Featured

New video shows Kim Jong Un in South Dakota

In this brand new video created by the very talented and quarantined folks here at We Are The Mighty, we showcase our exclusive footage of North Korea’s Supreme Leader all over the world. From atop the Taj Mahal to smooching the Big Buddha, we’re wondering if he was just on a vacation this whole time, not dead like this senior executive in China stated for her 15 million fans to hear. After making an appearance on Monday, no one really knows where Kim has been.


Where is Kim Jong Un? It’s kind of like a game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Or Where’s Waldo? Except it’s not fiction. Or a suitable game for children. Also, why doesn’t anyone know?

The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing were circulating for weeks before he allegedly made an appearance at a ribbon cutting on Monday.

When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 was another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and again, Kim was noticeably absent. People across the world started saying he was, indeed, dead.

But then, plot twist: According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Mr Kim was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his sister Kim Yo-jong at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday.

The North Korean leader cut a ribbon at a ceremony at the plant, in a region north of Pyongyang, and people who were attending the event “burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader who is commanding the all-people general march for accomplishing the great cause of prosperity,” KCNA said.

In the absence of any information about where Kim’s been the last month, we drew our own conclusions. And made our own video.

Where in the World is Kim Jong Un?

www.youtube.com

Where in the World is Kim Jong Un?

New video surfaces showing that Kim Jong Un was just on a worldwide vacation this entire time.

Articles

Red Army Choir wiped out in tragic Black Sea plane crash

The Christmas Day crash of a Tupelov Tu-154 off the coast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort town in Russia, killed all 92 people on board. Among the dead are 60 members of the Red Army Choir.


The Red Army Choir had a viral moment when they sang backup to a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” done by the Leningrad Cowboys. One Youtube video is below:

The choir members killed were part of the Alexandrov Ensemble, according to a CNN report. The choir was slated to perform for Russian military personnel at the Khmeimim air base in Syria.

According to the choir’s iTunes page, the group took first place at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, and features a male chorus, with dancers and an orchestra.

The impact of this crash on Russia could be compared to the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash that killed rock-and-roll artists Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, or the loss of band leader Glenn Miller in unexplained circumstances while en route to Europe on Dec, 15, 1944.

A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons) A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons)

In a statement on Facebook, the director of the MVD’s Red Army Choir, Gen. Victor Eliseev, said, “Today we are in the shock of the catastrophe in which our colleges of the Alexandrov Choirs and Dances disappeared. Not only were they our colleagues, but a very important military art company, and I am shocked to learn of the disappearance of their leader, my fellow student and friend General Valery Khalilov, with whom we studied and professed together at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It is a terrible loss for Russian music and art.”

“All members of the Red Army Chorus MVD of the Russian National Guard join me in expressing their friendship to the families of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble and the families of all the victims of this tragedy and to address our feelings to them more affectionate in this dramatic moment,” Eliseev added.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

A sudden flash. A mushroom cloud. A sudden expanding pressure wave. In the event of a thermonuclear attack, seeing these things means its probably too late to survive. So the U.S. developed warning systems to give Americans a heads up before the bombs landed. But that begs the question: What do you do if you have just an hour or so until your city blows up?


Coordinating protection and relief for civilians in war falls to civil defense workers, and America’s civil defense program underwent an overhaul after World War II. Many of the funding and legislative changes were focused on responding to atomic and nuclear threats.

But hearings in 1955 revealed that civil defense was, uh, let’s say, far from robust. How far?

Well, Administrator Val Peterson told Congress that Americans should learn to dig holes in the ground and curl up in them to escape nuclear fallout. But he did also offer that the government could dig trenches next to highways for about .25 per mile and then cover the trenches with boards and soil for additional protection. In some areas, the boards and dirt could be replaced with tar paper.

Even at the time, the public realized a huge shortcoming of this plan: Ditches don’t last. They have to be dug for a specific attack, and the diggers would need at least a few days notice to provide shelter for a significant portion of a city.

(Seattle Municipal Archives)

And people in the 1950s were also familiar with pissing and pooping. These trenches would have no sanitation, water, or food, and people would have to stay in them for days. At the time, it was believed that a few days might be enough time for the radioactivity to fall to safe-ish levels. We now know it’s a year or more for the longer-lasting radioactive isotopes to get anywhere near safe.

But meanwhile, even a few days in trenches is problematic. For the first few hours, radiation is at peak strength, and any dust that makes its way from the surface into the trench is going to have levels of radiation high enough to threaten imminent death. This dust needs to be washed off as quickly as possible, something that can’t happen in a trench surrounded by more radioactive dust with no water.

Oh, and, btw, canned food and bottled water will become irradiated if not shielded when the bomb goes off.

But there was another plan that, um, had many of the same problems. This called for laying long stretches of concrete pipe and then burying it in a few feet of dirt. Same sanitation and supply problems, worst claustrophobia. But at least less irradiated dust would make it into the civilians huddling inside.

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle

www.youtube.com

Most of this information was learned by the public in 1955 during those public hearings. Though, obviously, portions of the hearings were classified, and so the public wouldn’t learn about them for decades. One of the items that came out in closed session was that the irradiated zone from a hydrogen bomb would easily stretch for 145 miles with the right winds. A serious problem for the farmers who thought they were safe 40 miles from the city.

Things did get better as the Cold War continued, though. Government agencies, especially the Federal Civil Defense Administration, encouraged the construction of hospitals and other key infrastructure on the perimeters of cities where it would be more likely to survive the blast of a bomb (though it still would have certainly been irradiated if downwind of the epicenter).

Educational videos gave people some idea of what they should do after a bomb drop, though, like digging trenches next to highways, most of the actions an individual could take were marginal at best. Those old “Duck and Cover” cartoons from 1951? Yup, ducking and covering will help, but not enough to save most people at most distances from the bomb.

What you really need to do is find a nice, recently dug trench.

Articles

The US Army has big plans for its next-generation tank

The Army is now performing concept modeling and early design work for a new mobile, lethal, high-tech future lightweight tank platform able to detect and destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire –  all for the 2030s and beyond.


The new vehicle, now emerging purely in the concept phase, is based upon the reality that the current M1A2 SEP Abrams main battle tank can only be upgraded to a certain limited extent, senior Army officials explained.

Related: 17 reasons why the M1 Abrams tank is still king of the battlefield

The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is now immersed in the development of design concepts for various super high-tech tank platforms, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Bassett emphasized the extensive conceptual work, simulation and design modeling will be needed before there is any opportunity to “bend metal” and produce a new tank.

“We’ve used concept modeling. What are the limits of what you can do? What does a built from the ground up vehicle look like? We are assuming, if we are going to evolve it, it is because there is something we can’t do in the current vehicle,” Basset explained.

The new tank will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, participated in the annual Summer Heat training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., June 26 to July 2. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jeremy Fasci)

The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will also include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links and laser warning receivers.

However, although Army developers often maintain that while the latest, upgraded high-tech v4 Abrams is much more advanced than the first Abrams tanks produced decades ago, there are limits to how much the existing Abrams platform can be upgraded.

A lighter weight, more high-tech tank will allow for greater mobility in the future, including an ability to deploy more quickly, handle extremely rigorous terrain, integrate new weapons, cross bridges inaccessible to current Abrams tanks and maximize on-board networking along with new size-weight-and-power configurations.

Although initial requirements for the future tank have yet to emerge, Bassett explained that the next-generation platform will use advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor materials able to achieve equal or greater protection at much lighter weights.

“We will build in side and underbody protection from the ground up,” Bassett said.

Bassett said certain immediate changes and manufacturing techniques could easily save at least 20-percent of the weight of a current 72-ton Abrams.

The idea is to engineer a tank that is not only much more advanced than the Abrams in terms of sensors, networking technology, force tracking systems, an ability to control nearby drones and vastly increased fire-power – but to build a vehicle with open-architecture such that it can quickly accommodate new technologies as they emerge.

For instance, Bassett pointed out that the Abrams was first fielded with a 105mm cannon – yet built with a mind to potential future upgrades such that it could be configured to fire a 120mm gun.

Abrams Main Battle Tank platoons position themselves on the battlefield in order to lay suppressive fire during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. | US Army photo

“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Smith explained how, for example, Humvees were not built for the growth necessary to respond to the fast-emerging and deadly threat of roadside bombs in Iraq.

The new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people and ammunition.  As computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control nearby drones using its own on-board command and control networking, service developers said.

Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions while manned-crews remained back at safer distances.

Bassett, and developers with General Dynamics Land Systems, specifically said that this kind of autonomy was already being worked on for current and future tanks.

Active protection systems are another instance of emerging technologies which will go on the latest state-of-the-art Abrams tanks and also quite likely be used for the new tank. Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds.

The Army is currently fast-tracking an effort to explore a number of different APS systems for the Abrams. General Dynamics Land Systems is, as part of the effort, using its own innovation to engineer an APS system which is not a “bolt-on” type of applique but something integrated more fully into the tank itself, company developers have told Scout Warrior.

US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Haas

The use of space in the new vehicle, drawing upon a better allocation of size-weight-and-electrical power will enable the new tank to accommodate better weapons, be more fuel efficient and provide greater protection to the crew.

“If you have less volume in the power train, you can get down to something with less transportability challenges,” he said. “If you add additional space to the vehicle, you can take out target sets at greater distances.”

While advanced Abrams tanks will be using a mobile Auxiliary Power Unit to bring more on-board electrical power to the platform for increased targeting, command-and-control technologies and weapons support, mobile power is needed to sustain future systems such as laser weapons.

The Army cancelled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, some of the innovations, technologies and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.

Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for the new tank. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.

The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.

The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute, uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.

M1 Abrams tanks conduct a live fire range day. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Light Weight 120mm Cannon

The new tank may quite likely use a futuristic, lightweight 120mm cannon first developed years ago for the Army’s now-cancelled Future Combat Systems, or FCS; FCS worked on a series of “leap-ahead” technologies which, in many instances, continue to inform current Army modernization efforts.

The FCS program developed next-generation sensors, networking, robots and a series of mobile, high-tech 27-ton Manned-Ground Vehicles, or MGVs.

The MGVs included a Non-Line-of-Sight artillery variant, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, Infantry, Medical and Command-and-Control variants, among others. One of the key vehicles in this planned future fleet was the Mounted Combat System, or MCS.

The overall MGV effort was cancelled by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009 because Gates felt that the 27-ton common chassis was not sufficiently survivable enough in a modern IED-filled threat environment.

Also read: Abrams tanks to be updated with robotic attack drones

Although the MGVs were engineered with a so-called “survivability onion” of networked sensors and active protection systems to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire at great distances, many critics of FCS felt that the vehicles were not sufficient to withstand a wide range of enemy attacks should incoming fire penetrate sensors or hit targets in the event that the sensor malfunctioned or were jammed.

The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds. The lightweight weapon being developed for the MCS was two-tons, roughly one-half the weight of the existing Abrams 120mm cannon.

The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

In fact, the Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.

Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy

Bassett said the potential re-emergence of the XM360 is indicative of the value of prototyping and building subsystem technologies.

The MCS was test-fired at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., in 2009. The platform used an aluminum turret and three-man crew using an automatic loading system. Also, the MCS was engineered to fire 120mm rounds up to 10 kilometers, what’s called Beyond-Line-of-Sight using advanced fire control and targeting sensors, General Dynamics developers explained at the time.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

Smith added that a lighter-weight, more mobile and lethal tank platform will be necessary to adjust to a fast-changing modern threat environment including attacking RPGs, Anti-Tank-Guided Missiles and armor-piercing enemy tank rounds.  He explained that increased speed can be used as a survivability combat-enhancing tactic, adding that there are likely to be continued urban threats in the future as more populations migrates into cities.

“Never forget what it is you are trying to use it for,” Smith said.

Articles

This is the White House plan to play ‘chicken’ with Beijing in the South China Sea

President Donald Trump approved a plan to check Beijing over its continued militarization of and actions in the South China Sea.


Over the last few years, China has ambitiously built up islands on reefs and atolls in the South China Sea and militarized them with radar outposts, military-grade runways, and shelters for missile defenses.

Military analysts believe China hopes to expand its air defense and identification zone into the western Pacific and build a blue-water navy to rival the US’s, but six other countries also lay claim to parts of the region.

In 2016, an international court at The Hague deemed China’s maritime claims unlawful and excessive, but China rejected the ruling outright and has continued to build military installations and unilaterally declare no-fly and no-sail zones.

US Navy and Republic of Singapore ships in the South China Sea. US Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 3rd Class Angela Henderson

When a country makes an excessive naval claim, the US Navy challenges it by sailing its ships, usually destroyers, close to the disputed territory or through the disputed waters as a way of ensuring freedom of navigation for all. In 2016, the US challenged the excessive claims of 22 nations — China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping passes, were the most prominent.

China has responded forcefully to US incursions into the region, telling the US the moves were provocative and that they must ask permission, which doesn’t align with international law or UN conventions.

“China’s military will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and regional peace and stability,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in response to US bombers flying in the region.

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

Under former US President Barack Obama, the US suspended freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea from 2012 to 2015. In 2016, the US made just three such challenges. So far, under Trump, the US has made three challenges already.

“You have a definite return to normal,” said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White

“This administration has definitely given the authority back to the people who are in the best position to execute those authorities, so it’s a return to normal,” she said.

The conflicting claims on territory in the South China Sea. Graphic from naturalflow Flickr

Freedom of navigation operations work best when they’re routine in nature and don’t make news.

They serve to help the US establish the facts in the water, but in the South China Sea, those facts all indicate Chinese control.

When Chinese military jets fly armed over head, when Chinese navy ships patrol the waters, and when Chinese construction crews lay down the framework for a network of military bases in the South China Sea, the US’s allies in the region notice.

An increased US Navy presence in the area won’t turn back time and unpave runways, but it could send a message to allies that the US has their back and won’t back away from checking Beijing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Philippines draw red line in already tense South China Sea

Amid a simmering trade war, the US and Chinese militaries have exchanged tit-for-tat measures with each other in and above the South China Sea.

In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.

During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”


“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.

The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.

The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.

Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.

Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.

Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.

That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.

Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.

Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.

While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.

“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.

Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.

‘What is our red line?’

After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)

Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.

Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.

The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.

More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.

“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.

Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.

In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.

“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.

The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.

It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”

“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”

That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.

While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”

That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.

“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

Military Life

Veterans can win cash in this new competition

Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.

There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:


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1. Cash prizes

Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.

Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.

youtu.be

2. Dancing is awesome AND YOU KNOW IT

Watch this video of Army vet and double amputee Noah Galloway performing and don’t get choked up. I dare you.

“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.

The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.

Plus, it’s fun. And sexy. ?

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh5OgNtlevc/ expand=1]

www.instagram.com

3. It celebrates Hispanic culture

Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.

Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.

Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.

The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.

Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.

For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.

Articles

Britain is looking to robots for resupply under fire

Britain is trying to get homegrown robots ready for service on the front lines of combat, but they’re not looking for Terminators yet. They’re looking for POGs.


Specifically, they’re looking for robots to handle “last-mile” logistics. While insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that a small force can slow down the movement of supplies across the entire theater, engineers and other route clearance assets can usually keep the roads open between bases.

But when troops need ammo, water, medical supplies, or other necessities under fire, there’s no guarantee that a route clearance asset will be available. That could lead to infantry losing fire superiority or cavalry forces who are unable to keep scouting enemy positions.

So, Britain wants drones, autonomous vehicles, or other technologies that could ferry supplies between friendly elements, say a group of riflemen in a firefight and their reinforcements who won’t arrive for 20 minutes. The supplies sent forward by the reinforcements could keep the lead element going long enough for backup to arrive.

To get the ball rolling, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced what’s called a “Defense and Security Accelerator competition.” These are similar to DARPA challenges where a government agency puts up a cash prize to spur civilian companies to innovate.

British forces may be able to asks robots for more ammo in the not-so-distant future. (Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

There are guidelines for the competition, but the Ministry of Defence also put forward two vignettes to show the battlefield challenges it wants technology to overcome.

In the first, a group of infantrymen in vehicles lacks the part needed for a vital repair while a nearby group of soldiers on foot needs food, water, ammo, and sleeping systems. Obviously, the logistics robots’ jobs would be to get the spare part to one group and the personal supplies to the other.

A new technology competition out of Britain wants to find ways to get supplies to troops under fire, making sure they always have enough ammo and medical supplies to get the job done. (Graphic: Crown Copyright)

The second vignette paints a more dire picture. A group of soldiers are in contact and running low on ammunition when they suffer a casualty. With a full ammo load, they would be able to eliminate the enemy or lay down cover fire and break contact to evacuate the wounded. But they don’t have a full load of ammo left.

The troops do have a group of friends on foot about 1.5 miles away. It would be the robot’s job to get ammo from the reinforcements to the troops in contact quickly. Preferably, the supplies would arrive broken down by weapon system and would be delivered as close to each shooter as possible.

For anyone interested in learning more or submitting technologies, the performance thresholds are available here. The contest is looking for relatively mature technologies that could be demonstrated by early 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Has anyone seen the Turkmen president lately?

The big news from Turkmenistan in the last few weeks has been that the country’s mercurial president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has been absent from the news for large periods of time.

That’s unusual because he normally dominates the state-run broadcasts.

And the few times Berdymukhammedov has been on television since going on vacation nearly one month ago, his appearances have raised more doubts than offered evidence of his well-being.

While officially on vacation, that has never stopped Turkmen state media from following Berdymukhammedov around in previous years.


But his absence from nightly Turkmen television newscasts and daily reports in state print media have some people seriously considering rumors that Berdymukhammedov is in poor health or possibly even dead.

Berdymukhammedov had already been officially on vacation for almost one week when Aslan Rubaev, identified as the director of the Center for Monitoring Eurasian Problems, told the Russian radio station and Internet news site Govoritmoskva.ru that Berdymukhammedov had died of acute renal failure on July 20, 2019.

There was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why the president chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.

(Turkmenistan.gov)

The news spread like wildfire across Russian-language media and it was only after a few hours later that the Turkmen embassies in Russia and Kyrgyzstan issued statements rejecting stories that the Turkmen president had died.

Before the end of the day, Rubaev was making a public apology for his remarks, saying they were unfounded.

But Berdymukhammedov had still not been seen and the rumors persisted.

Finally, on July 24, 2019, there were reports Berdymukhammedov had spoken by telephone with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to wish him a happy birthday.

Later that evening, Turkmen television news aired footage of Berdymukhammedov inspecting plans for a new district in the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why the president had decided to break away from his vacation to look at drawings of new bus stops.

And then Berdymukhammedov vanished from local news again.

His next appearance in state media was not until Aug. 4, 2019, when state television showed a series of clips of Berdymukhammedov riding a bicycle, exercising, firing a rifle, bowling, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from an attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.

He also appeared on state television on Aug. 5, 2019, holding a video conference call with officials.

On Aug. 3, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s office released a statement about Medvedev’s impending trip to Turkmenistan to attend the Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza, adding that he planned to meet there with Berdymukhammedov.

Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat

www.youtube.com

Not very convincing

That is the proof that has been offered to show Berdymukhammedov is alive and well.

But there are still many reasons to think that something is wrong with him.

Berdymukhammedov’s appearances on state television on July 24 and Aug. 4-5, 2019, were not entirely convincing.

As mentioned, there was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why Berdymukhammedov chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.

And RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, noted that Berdymukhammedov was wearing exactly the same suit and tie as he wore in a May 10 broadcast on state television, which is strange because he never wears the same suit — or even the same clothes — twice in his television appearances.

Berdymukhammedov did not speak in the footage aired on July 24, 2019, for example, to say he had just spoken with the Uzbek president, as was reported.

The Turkmen president also did not speak in the Aug. 4, 2019 footage aired on Turkmen TV, and the clips seem to be a compilation of his usual bizarre antics that are regularly shown on the evening news, and of which there is almost certainly an abundance of archive material from the cutting-room floor.

His hair is gray in the recent appearances, but that only narrows down the time frame to anytime during the last year or so, when he stopped dying it black.

The headlines of the reports seemed aimed at quieting rumors of ill health or worse.

Turkmenistan Aug. 6, 2019’s headline said, “Turkmenistan’s President Dedicates His Vacation To A Creative And Active Life,” and the Golden Age website’s headline read “The Turkmen Leader’s Vacation: Active Leisure, Literary And Musical Creativity.”

The Aug. 5, 2019 footage showed Berdymukhammedov discussing the country’s economic performance, agriculture, preparations for the Aug. 11-12, 2019 Caspian Economic Forum and the Muslim holiday Kurban Bayramy.

Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

But again, Berdymukhammedov did not refer to any recent event that would have proven the footage was from sometime during the last two or three weeks. The conversations could have taken place several weeks or months ago.

Absent from the video conference was any criticism of officials’ work, or reprimands for shortcomings, which are typical of these video conferences. It was also unclear why he again interrupted his vacation to hold the video conference.

Similarly, state print media had an unusual gap in reports featuring Berdymukhammedov.

News about the Turkmen president has always dominated state media coverage, going back to the early days of first Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

A July 25, 2019 report about Berdymukhammedov congratulating new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the last news about Berdymukhammedov for more than one week on the Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) state website until a report appeared on Aug. 4, 2019, about the footage shown on state television. The same was true on state website Turkmenistan Today.

The last reports featuring Berdymukhammedov on the Russian-based pro-government website Turkmenistan.ru are from July 25, 2019; one congratulating Johnson and another about birthday wishes for Mirziyoev.

Even stranger, Turkmenistan.ru on Aug. 1, 2019 reported about the CEO of the Malaysian company Petronas, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, visiting Avaza and meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and gas-and-oil-sector chief Yashigeldy Kakaev.

Berdymukhammedov’s name is not even mentioned in the report.

Petronas has been doing business in Turkmenistan since 1996. Petronas developed and is still working Block 1 in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea, “the first PSA to be awarded by the government of Turkmenistan.”

Petronas has invested more than billion in Turkmenistan and was a sponsor of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that Turkmenistan hosted. When Berdymukhammedov visited Malaysia in November 2016, he made a point of meeting with Ariffin, as he had met with previous Petronas head Dato Shamsul Azhar in Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. Berdymukhammedov also met with Azhar’s predecessor, Hassan Marican, in Ashgabat in May 2009.

Despite the history of close ties to the heads of Petronas, Berdymukhammedov could not find even a few minutes to meet with Ariffin at a resort area in Turkmenistan.

On July 25, 2019, Afghanistan completed the Aqina-Andkhoi segment of a railway line that is to link Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via northern Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan has been facing hard economic times since 2015 and this should have been good news for the country. Turkmenistan sent a delegation to a ceremony launching the new line that was reported on by Turkmen media. But there was not a word attributed to Berdymukhammedov about the accomplishment and what it could mean for Turkmenistan.

Where is he?

The immediate denials of Berdymukhammedov’s death came, as mentioned, from Turkmenistan’s embassies in Moscow and Bishkek.

But how would they know? Both embassies reacted rather quickly, almost automatically, rejecting reports of bad news about Turkmenistan as they usually do.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has not issued any statements denying the rumors Berdymukhammedov is ill or dead. In fact, while Berdymukhammedov has been on vacation it is not clear who exactly is running the country, though it does appear Foreign Minister Meredov is acting as the host to visitors.

And even Berdymukhammedov’s vacation is unusual this year.

Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov cut the ribbon to open an exhibition.

As the Hronika Turkmenistana website pointed out, he usually only takes two weeks of summer vacation. This year, his vacation is from July 15 to August 15.

Berdymukhammedov has in the past often taken his ministers, or many of them, along with him on vacation. Some of the ministers were at Avaza playing various sports at the end of July, but Berdymukhammedov was never shown among them, which is very unusual, as he customarily is on TV instructing his ministers how to exercise properly.

Again, the media is not following Berdymukhammedov around and showing footage of him frolicking on the Caspian shores or inspecting Turkmenistan’s naval vessels or merchant fleet.

There was some footage at the very start of his vacation of him playing with his grandchildren and some kittens.

Turkmenistan has always been a unique, some would say bizarre, place, but in the last few weeks there is a feeling that things are not right. Established patterns of behavior are being ruptured without any credible explanation as to why.

It seems Berdymukhammedov has suffered some sort of problem, otherwise it would have been easy enough for him to appear on state television and say something — anything — about current events. On the other hand, Turkmen media is now devoting a great deal of effort to convince people that their president of the last 12 years is alive and healthy.

Although the first Caspian Economic Forum should be the focus of attention when it opens in Avaza on August 11, everyone will now be concentrating on whether Berdymukhammedov will make an appearance and, if he does, if he shows any signs of having suffered some illness or physical setback.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 19th

It looks like the Department of Defense is finally retiring the Cyber Awareness Challenge training. Sure, it’s outdated, uses graphics from the early 2000s, and barely scratches the surface of cybersecurity in a world where new threats emerge every other minute. But the campiness is what made it so ridiculous that it was enjoyable.

I just want to throw out there that everyone freaking hated that training when it came out. Eventually, everyone started to like it in spite of it being silly – kind of like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Then as soon as too many people started to actually enjoy the ridiculousness of it… They pull the plug on it.

Coincidence? I think not.


Pour one out for the dude who always believed in your cyber security abilities when you doubted yourself. Jeff, you’re never going to be forgotten. These memes are for you.

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

(Meme via Not CID)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme by Yusha Thomas)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme by Ranger Up)

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

BONUS: You guys have a good, safe, and UCMJ-free four-day weekend! Happy Easter. 

In the famous words of my old First Sergeant… “Don’t do dumb shit.”

Articles

Video shows just how operator AF Keanu Reeves can be

Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.


Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.

An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.

His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.

You’ve just got to see it to believe it.