Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet's Purple Heart story - We Are The Mighty
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Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The body of the first female veteran of the Revolutionary War is now missing

Remains believed to be of a Revolutionary War hero buried at West Point don’t belong to a woman known as “Captain Molly” after all, but to an unknown man.


The U.S. Military Academy said Dec. 5 the discovery stems from a study of skeletal remains conducted after Margaret Corbin’s grave was accidentally disturbed last year by excavators building a retaining wall by her monument in the West Point Cemetery. Tests by a forensic anthropologist revealed the remains were likely those of a middle-aged man who lived between the Colonial period and 19th century.

Corbin was known for bravely stepping in to fire a cannon in 1776 during a battle in New York City after her husband was killed. She was severely wounded during the Battle of Fort Washington, but lived another 24 years. She became the nation’s first woman to receive a pension for military service.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

The location of Corbin’s remains is a mystery. Ground-penetrating radar around the gravesite failed to turn up any signs.

The Daughters of the American Revolution received approval in 1926 to move Corbin’s remains from nearby Highland Falls to the hallowed ground of West Point’s cemetery. The leafy lot near the Hudson River is the resting place for thousands, including Gulf War commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander in Vietnam Gen. William Westmoreland, and Lt. Col. George Custer.

The DAR used records and local accounts from the community to locate the remains believed to be Corbin, according to the Army.

“The remains were verified back in 1926. And you have to consider the gap between 1926 and today. Technology has changed tremendously,” said Col.Madalyn Gainey, spokeswoman for Army National Military Cemeteries.

Read More: Meet the badass Revolutionary War heroine who mowed down Redcoats with a cannon

The remains of the unknown man were reinterred at West Point’s cemetery. A re-dedication ceremony for the Corbin monument at the cemetery is scheduled for May.

“Nearly 250 years after the Battle of Fort Washington, her bravery and legacy to American history as one of the first women to serve in combat in the defense of our nation continues to transcend and inspire women in military service today,” said ANMC Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.

Articles

Watch the Navy blow up some of its obsolete ships

When most ships are decommissioned, they eventually will head to the scrapyard. Mostly, their fate is to become razor blades.


Others become artificial reefs, providing a tourist attraction for divers and a home for fish. But some vessels escape these fates for a more noble end: They are sunk as targets.

And that’s not new.

Back in the early 1920s, the United States used old battleships as targets to test how well air-dropped bombs could sink ships. In fact, since the end of World War II, ships have been sunk as targets – often to test how well current or new weapons work, or to provide crews with training that is quite realistic in using their anti-surface warfare systems.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

The 1946 Operation Crossroads was perhaps one of the most dramatic examples. In two tests, the Navy detonated atomic bombs amongst a fleet of obsolete ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3). A total of 14 ships sank outright, while the Prinz Eugen sank five months later.

Perhaps the largest ship to be sunk as a target was the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). This ship displaced almost 85,000 tons when fully loaded, and had a 31-year career, including service in the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Desert Storm.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

On May 14, 2005, the America was sunk after the testing by controlled scuttling, which included remote systems monitoring the effects of underwater explosions that took place over four weeks.

The video below shows the sinking of a pair of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and a Newport-class landing ship. Often smaller systems will be used before they unleash the really powerful missiles – and last, but not least, the torpedoes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPT0isrCIUE
Articles

Why the M-60 ‘Pig’ remains one of the best US machine guns ever

Just a few feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a life-size statue called “Three Soldiers.”


Crafted in bronze by sculptor Frederick Hart, he portrayed the men garbed in uniforms representative of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, carrying weapons of the Vietnam War era and facing the memorial wall. The man on the left, his body draped with ammo belts, carries an M-60 general purpose machine gun.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Other than the M-16 rifle, perhaps no other firearm is as closely associated with the Vietnam War as the M-60. Portrayals of the M-60 in the hands of Vietnam War soldiers range from the sublime dignity expressed by the “Three Soldiers” statue to the over-the-top destruction of the fictional town of Hope, Washington, by Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo, in the film “First Blood.”

The M-60 is a weapon that has faithfully served American soldiers in many battles since 1957. Far from perfect, the early model of the M-60 had so many design flaws that soldiers jerry-rigged fixes using everything from wire coat hangers to empty C-ration cans. The M-60 is also heavy — the machine gun weighs about 23 pounds, and those belts of ammo aren’t exactly lightweight, either.

No wonder the M-60 earned an unflattering nickname: The Pig.

But one thing is certain. Even with its flaws, a soldier armed with an M-60 can lay down a lot of lead, whether he is fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the badlands of Afghanistan.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
U.S. Marine Corps M-60 in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

The M-60 is an air-cooled, disintegrating belt-fed, gas-operated general purpose machine gun. It fires the 7.62 mm round with a cyclic rate of about 550 rounds a minute — a rate of fire that requires the crew to change the M-60’s barrel about every minute. In addition, the M-60 has an integral, folding bipod, but it can also be mounted on a folding tripod.

The M-60 was — and is — a fixture in the U.S. armed forces, serving as a squad support weapon, vehicle-mounted machine gun and as a “flex gun” mounted in the doors of helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook.

Development of the M-60 started after World War II. American generals held a grudging admiration for the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.

Ordnance experts took the best Germany had to offer and developed a prototype machine gun. Some argued it wasn’t an ideal machine gun compared to foreign models such as the FN MAG—but it could be domestically produced, which made congressmen with defense industries in their districts very happy.

In 1957, the Defense Department adopted the machine gun and dubbed it the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. It’s been in the arsenal ever since.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
A Navy SEAL fires an M-60 lightweight machine gun from the shoulder, because that’s how SEALs roll. (Photographer’s Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Mussi)

But the three-man crews who served the M-60 during the Vietnam War discovered the machine gun had its idiosyncrasies.

First of all, no one designing the M-60 remembered to put a wire carrying handle on the barrel. That made barrel changes an agonizing affair—in order to remove the red-hot steel, an assistant gunner was expected in the heat of battle to don asbestos gloves that looked like oven mitts. Also, ammo belts would sometimes bind in the weapon. Then, some G.I. got a brilliant idea: just lash an empty C-ration can to the left side of the receiver so the belt would flow smoothly over the curved surface.

By the 1980s, the military adopted the M-60E3, a version of the machine gun with added improvements and (most of) the bugs worked out.

Although the Defense Department ordered the phase-out of the M-60, it is still used by U.S. armed forces personnel. SEALs favor the M-60, the Navy and the Coast Guard often have it on board their ships, and Army reserve units frequently have an M-60 in the weapons room.

And 45 nations — many of them NATO or East Asia allies — continue to use the M-60 as their heavy-hitting general purpose machine gun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US good at ‘taking down’ small islands, general hints to China

The US issued a stark warning to Beijing on May 31, 2018, as Chinese militarization of the South China Sea creates a potential flashpoint in a longstanding battle for control of the Pacific.

For years, Beijing has dredged the South China Sea to build artificial islands in waters it claims as its territory.

Six of China’s neighbors also lay claim to conflicting patches of the South China Sea. The body of water is home to natural resources, and trillions of dollars’ worth of trade passes through every year.

In 2016, an international court ruled that China’s claims to the precious waterway were illegal, but Beijing made a show of ignoring that ruling.

It upped the ante in 2018, by breaking a promise not to militarize the islands with missile deployments and with landing nuclear-capable bombers on the islands.

On May 31, 2018, the US reminded China of a “historical fact.” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

“We have a lot of experience, in the Second World War, taking down small islands that are isolated,” McKenzie said. “So that’s a — that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.”

‘Orwellian nonsense’

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
South China Sea

The US has been the main challenger to China’s maritime claims and in doing so has provoked the bulk of Beijing’s rage, which is often expressed in a kind of doublespeak common for the Chinese Communist Party.

On May 31, 2018, China’s foreign ministry called US claims that Beijing was militarizing the islands “ridiculous” and compared them to “a case of a thief crying ‘stop thief’ to cover their misdeeds.”

But on the same day, the Chinese state media detailed plans to prepare a military response to US interference.

The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, wrote: “Aside from deploying defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands, China should build a powerful deterrence system, including an aerial base and a roving naval force and base.”


“How can anyone argue with a straight face?” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. “How can anyone say this is not militarization? It’s a patent lie.” She said the ranges and functions of missiles China placed on the islands pointed to a clear military utility.

The White House has addressed this kind of speak from China’s Communist party before, calling it “Orwellian nonsense.”

War is here, if you want it

Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea isn’t just a potential threat to the region. Beijing is already using hard power to force out other countries and assert its dominance.

Most recently, on May 11, 2018, a Philippine navy ship was harassed by two Chinese vessels while trying to resupply Filipino marines in the disputed waters. A helicopter reportedly got dangerously close to the small, rubber Filipino ship and chased it off.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
(U.S. Energy Information Administration)

“If the Chinese start blocking supply operations,” the Filipino marines “could starve,” Glaser said.

The Philippines are a longtime US ally. The US has massive military bases there and a duty to protect it.

Glaser said this was the first time the actual Chinese navy had announced involving itself in a patrol of the waters, marking an escalation of conflicts.

“The other night, the president said if his troops are harmed, that could be his red line,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s national security adviser said of the South China Sea.

It’s unclear whether Duterte would enforce that red line, but the legal case and practical need for military conflict in the South China Sea are there.

The US reminding China that it can destroy its islands there could be a sign of things to come as the Chinese Communist Party increasingly tries to flex its muscles against freedom of navigation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it’s like to jump into an NFL stadium with SOCOM Para-Commandos

USAA and the NFL are displaying military appreciation across the league through Salute To Service.


Fox Sports host Jay Glazer interviews SOCOM Para-Commandos as they prep for a jump into Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These professionals train day after day, jump after jump, to perform better as a team and execute with precision.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want artificial intelligence to help counter mines

After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps is looking to reorient toward its specialty, amphibious operations, while preparing for the next fight against what is likely to a more capable foe.

Peer and near-peer adversaries are deploying increasingly sophisticated weaponry that the Corps believes will make amphibious landings a much more challenging proposition in the future.


The Corps is looking for high-tech weapons to counter those looming threats, but it’s also looking for a sophisticated system to counter a persistent, low-tech, but decidedly dangerous weapon — mines hidden close to shore.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

(U.S. Marine Corps Facebook Page)

According to a recent post on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps Rapid Capability Office is looking to autonomous and artificial-intelligence technology to “increase Marines’ ability to detect, analyze, and neutralize Explosive Ordnance (EO) in shallow water and the surf zone” — two areas where amphibious ships and landing craft would spend much of their time.

“Initial market research has determined multiple technically mature solutions exist that can assist Marines ability to achieve this capability,” the notice says.

Potential systems envisioned by the Corps’ request for information include autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with sensors and other gear to detect and evaluate explosive devices.

“Some solutions may provide the ability to neutralize detected ordnance, which is desired but not required,” the RFI states.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Marines conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the West Coast, Dec. 8, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo)

The Corps wants contractors to submit up to three prototypes from a single family or multiple families of systems.

Requirements outlined in the RFI for contractor-submitted systems include being able to detect and identify explosive devices in waters ranging the surf zone, where depths are less than 10 feet, to very shallow waters, which range from 10 feet to 40 feet in depth.

The proposed system must also be able to navigate and avoid obstacles in the littoral zone, which includes shorelines out to coastal waters of 200 feet in depth or more.

The system submitted to the Corps must also be able to use geolocation information to “mark” explosive devices to within a meter in environments where communications and GPS are contested or denied.

The Corps is also looking for systems that are man-portable and can be launched and recovered by one- or two-man teams in a small boat, like the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A US Marine Corps medium tactical vehicle replacement drives on shore during exercise Baltic Operations 2018 at Ustka, Poland, June 7, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

While mines have grown more sophisticated in recent decades, even rudimentary ones are still a potent threat.

An Iranian sea mine that almost sunk the US Navy frigate Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device. Since the end of World War II sea mines have destroyed or damaged more US Navy ships than any other weapon.

Mines have become a cornerstone of anti-access/aerial-denial strategies adopted by countries like Iran and China, which have plans to deploy them in important maritime areas like the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea.

The Navy has dedicated mine-countermeasures systems, including specially designed and equipped Avenger-class ships that are deployed around the world and rapidly deployable MH-53H Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany Avenger-class ships.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A US sailor lowers a mine-neutralization vehicle from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief into the water to track mines and simulate delivering an explosive package, Nov. 27, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Crouch)

Those systems are aging, however, and the Navy has been working on a slew of remotely operated and unmanned mine-countermeasures systems that would be deployed aboard the service’s littoral combat ships, with the goal of “taking the man out of the minefield.”

While there has been recent progress with LCS-based anti-mine systems, the LCS program and those mine countermeasures have encountered delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns that have hindered the program and its implementation.

The Corps has also made progress with countering mines that Marines would encounter on shore.

In December 2017, Marines conducted the first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype, which was attached to an assault breaching vehicle and sent ashore on during an exercise on the West Coast.

The regular full-width plow was too big to fit aboard the Navy’s landing craft utility boats. The modified version is easier to transport and safer to use, a Marine Corps Systems Command official said earlier this year, and it gave commanders more flexibility with their ABVs.

Once ashore, the plow supplements the ABV’s other mine-countermeasure systems, helping clear a path for Marines to advance off the beach.

“This plow prototype makes the ABV transportable and gives the commander options to accomplish his tasks on the battlefield,” Alvin Barrons, an assault breaching vehicle engineer, said in a release at the time. “The capability makes the force more lethal because it helps keep other combat vehicles intact and saves the lives of Marines.”

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

Humor

11 sniper memes that will make you laugh for hours

Trained snipers are some of the most dangerous warfighters ever to hit the battlefield. The history books have been inked with the legends of the most talented, deadliest snipers. Their methodical, near-surgical approach is the stuff of nightmares for the enemy and many live in constant fear of being placed in their crosshairs.

Snipers will lay still for hours as they stalk their target, waiting for that perfect shot. When you look through a scope for hours at a time, it’s hard not to entertain your brain by coming up with some dark humor. So, we’re here to show the world the humorous side of snipers.


Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

(Navymemes.com)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Articles

Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

Articles

Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.


But did you ever think about where they all might be today?

Well, we look into it and here’s what we found:

Related: 7 ways to prove your spouse is a spy

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Joker

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Joker on patrol. (Source: WB)

After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Animal Mother

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
A man of few words (Source: WB)

This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.

Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4”  Fox)

After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Gomer Pyle

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Hey, Joker. (Source: WB)

You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.

After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.

She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.

Nobody liked him anyway.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Gunny Hartman

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Gunny’s classic stoic look. (Source: WB)

After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.

Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 27

It’s nearly Halloween. You know what that means…


Just a few more weeks until the Veteran’s Day free food extravaganza.

Until then, tide yourself over with the best military memes your veteran buddies could muster.

1. American and British vets went to Meme War this week. (via Fill Your Boots)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Sick burn. No, really…

2. Maybe red uniforms weren’t the best idea. (via The Salty Soldier).

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
When you plow the fields by 6 but have a battle for independence at 8.

3. We were Facebook once… and young. (via Pop Smoke)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
I don’t like to talk about my time on MySpace.

4. How long can sick call put a superhero on quarters?

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Is that curl in regs?

5. To be fair, Amazonians get better training. (via Decelerate Your Life)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Americans don’t join the IDF because they’re Jewish.

6. I’d like to see blueberries fool Snoop.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
I’m shook.

7. Marry that girl. (via Disgruntled Decks)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
#relationshipgoals.

8. The military, where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

9. But I’m not bitter. (via Pop Smoke)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
I might be a little bitter.

10. Time is a flat circle.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
I’d rather deploy to Mars than go back to Iraq.

11. Why would you buy a can of Army?

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Shoulda bought a bottle of Air Force.

12. Always ready… for your deployment.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Low blow, Coastie.

13. Come at me, fam. (via Disgruntled Decks)

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
Except the Coast Guard. That meme was savage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this new Russian doomsday device can create huge tidal waves

During Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, he described a plethora of nuclear weapons Russia is developing.

One of these proposed weapons — an autonomous submarine — stood out among the depictions of falling warheads and nuclear-powered cruise missiles.


The autonomous drone would quietly travel to “great depths,” move faster than a submarine or boat, “have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit,” and “carry massive nuclear ordnance,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks (PDF).

“It is really fantastic. […] There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them,” he said, claiming Russia tested a nuclear-powered engine for the drones in December 2017. “Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.

“Putin did not refer to the device by name in his speech, but it appears to be the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system” — also known as Kanyon or “Putin’s doomsday machine.”

The Russian government reportedly leaked a diagram of that weapon in 2015, which suggests it’d carry a 50-megaton nuclear bomb about as powerful as Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear device ever detonated.

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Nuclear physicists say such a weapon could cause a large local tsunami, though they question its purpose and effectiveness, given the far-more-terrible destruction that nukes can inflict when detonated above-ground.

Why Putin’s ‘doomsday machine’ could be terrifying

A nuclear weapon detonated below the ocean’s surface can cause great devastation.

The underwater US nuclear weapons tests of the 1940s and 1950s — including operations “Crossroads Baker” and “Hardtack I Wahoo” — demonstrated why.

These underwater fireballs were roughly as energetic as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In the tests, they burst through the surface, ejecting pillars of seawater more than a mile high while rippling out powerful shockwaves.

Some warships staged near the explosions were vaporized. Others were tossed like toys in a bathtub and sank, or sustained cracked hulls, crippled engines, and other damage. Notably, the explosions roughly doubled the height of waves to nearby islands, flooding inland areas.


“A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 MT to 50 MT near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami, and perhaps much more,” Rex Richardson, a physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher, told Business Insider. The 2011 event he’s referring to is the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan.

“Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible,” Richardson said.

Richardson and other experts have also pointed out that a near-shore blast from this type of weapon could suck up tons of ocean sediment, irradiate it, and rain it upon nearby areas — generating catastrophic radioactive fallout.

“Los Angeles or San Diego would be particularly vulnerable to fallout due to the prevailing on-shore winds,” Richardson wrote, adding that he lives in San Diego.

The problem with blowing up nukes underwater

Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledges that a 50-megaton weapon “could possibly induce a tsunami” and hit a shoreline with the energy equivalent to a 650-kiloton blast.

But he thinks “it would be a stupid waste of a perfectly good nuclear weapon.”

That’s because Sprigg believes it’s unlikely that even the most powerful nuclear bombs could unleash a significant tsunami after being detonated underwater.

“The energy in a large nuclear weapon is but a drop in the bucket compared to the energy of a [naturally] occurring tsunami,” Spriggs previously told Business Insider. “So, any tsunami created by a nuclear weapon couldn’t be very large.”

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story
(Brookings Institution; Madnessgenius )

For example, the 2011 tsunami in Japan released about 9,320,000 megatons (MT) of TNT energy. That’s hundreds of millions of times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and roughly 163,000 times greater than the Soviet Union’s test of Tsar Bomba on October 30, 1961.

Plus, Spriggs added, the energy of a blast wouldn’t all be directed toward shore — it’d radiate outward in all directions, so most of it “would be wasted going back out to sea.”

A detonation several miles from a coastline would deposit only about 1% of its energy as waves hitting the shore. That scenario may be more likely than an attack closer to the shore, assuming a US weapons-detection systems could detect an incoming Status-6 torpedo.

But even on the doorstep of a coastal city or base, Spriggs questions the purpose.

“This would produce a fraction of the damage the same 50 MT weapon could do if it were detonated above a large city,” Spriggs said. “If there is some country out there that is angry enough at the United States to use a nuclear weapon against us, why would they opt to reduce the amount of damage they impose in an attack?”

Is the Doomsday weapon real?

Putin fell short of confirming that Status-6 exists, though he did say the December 2017 tests of its power unit “enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon” to carry a huge nuclear bomb.

The Trump administration even addressed the weapon’s possible existence in its 2018 nuclear posture review.

In a 2015 article in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis — a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies — dubbed the weapon “Putin’s doomsday machine.”

He wrote that in part because of speculation that the underwater weapon might be “salted,” or surrounded with metals like cobalt. That would dramatically extend fatal radiation levels from fallout (possibly for years or even decades), since the burst of neutrons emitted in a nuclear blast could transform those metals into long-lived, highly radioactive chemicals that sprinkle all around.

“What sort of sick bastards dream up this kind of weapon?” Lewis wrote, noting that such “salted” weapons are featured in the Cold War parody and science-fiction movie “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

In Lewis’s eyes, it doesn’t necessarily matter if Status-6 is real or a psychological bluff designed to prevent the US from attacking Russia or its allies.

“Simply announcing to the world that you find this to be a reasonable approach to deterrence should be enough to mark you out as a dangerous creep,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

95-year-old grandmother makes masks for Veterans with hearing loss

When Meredith Willcox learned some Veterans had issues with comprehension because of COVID-19 masking policies, she did something about it.

Willcox, of Kirksville, Missouri, is the 95-year-old grandmother of a health provider at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital. She used the internet and her sewing skills to make specialized masks to help Veterans with significant hearing loss.


“Hearing aids are wonderful tools,” said Laura Jacobs, an audiologist at Truman VA and Willcox’s granddaughter. “We use them to treat hearing loss in our Veteran patient population.

“The VA offers our Veterans state-of-the-art hearing devices that utilize Bluetooth technology. Our devices are the best of the best in hearing aids. However, even with extremely high-quality aids, some of our Veterans have such significant hearing loss that this technology isn’t enough for them to comprehend speech.”

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Meredith Willcox, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kirksville, Missouri, displays some of the specialty hand-sewn masks she donated to Truman VA’s Audiology team.

Reading lips impossible with standard mask

Jacobs said that in extreme cases, some Veterans must rely on a combination of hearing aids and visually reading a speaker’s lips to understand conversations. This is extremely important during clinic visits with their providers. However, because clinicians must wear a mask, reading lips has been impossible ― that is, until now.

“After mentioning this issue to my grandmother, she went online and learned how to make masks that incorporate a clear mouth covering,” Jacobs said. “So far, she has made 40 specialized face masks for our clinic. I’ve always known that she was an amazing person. However, for her to take the ball and run with it as she’s done with these masks. Well, let’s just say I’m extremely proud of her!”

In the photo above, Jacobs wears one of her grandmother’s handmade masks while caring for a Veteran with profound hearing loss.

Generous support

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Truman VA has received an outpouring of support from the mid-Missouri community.

“I can’t put into words what it means to have this level of support,” said Patricia Hall, medical center director of Truman VA. “So many have come forward at a time of extreme uncertainty. I believe without a doubt that their generosity and support helped our team get through these dark times.”

“We truly appreciate everyone’s generosity,” said Ron Graves, Chief of Voluntary Services at Truman VA. “I especially want to thank Veterans United Home Loans. They provided daily meals for our front line staff for almost three straight months. They also made sure to use area businesses to help stimulate our local economy. I thought that was an amazing gesture.”

“There are too many individuals to name who have made reusable cloth face masks for our Veterans, visitors and staff,” Graves said. “But just to show you the level of support we’ve received in this area, Quilts of Valor, Central Missouri Mask Makers and Hanes Brands, Inc., together provided us with more than 3,000 donated cloth masks.”

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

Heather Black, LPN, Truman VA’s own Betsy Ross, displays just a few of the 623 masks she’s sewn for Truman VA Veterans, visitors and staff.

Nurse sewed over 600 masks…on her breaks!

Graves said Truman VA staff also should be recognized. Housekeepers, warehouse employees, frontline staff and other support personnel ― all have been important in the fight against COVID-19. However, he acknowledged one individual for going above and beyond in support of her colleagues and the Veterans that receive care at Truman VA.

“Heather Black, a nurse in Specialty Care Clinic, donated 623 hand-sewn masks,” Graves said. “She works full time on-site. She brought her sewing machine to work and makes masks before and after her shifts. Also, during her breaks. How can you not be awed by such dedication?”

“For those individuals who have made masks for us, provided meals or in any other way supported us throughout this global pandemic, we truly appreciate your efforts,” Hall said. “Each one of you has made such a positive impact on our team, and we thank you!”

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


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