The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition) - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Here’s your Hump Day news lineup:


Now: 5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy 

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Japan snaps surveillance pics of Chinese navy carrier battle group

China’s deployment of the Liaoning, an Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier, has not seen anything equivalent to the Kuznetsov follies, but it is a note that China’s navy is becoming more capable by the year.


The carrier recently conducted flight deck tests of Chinese PLAN fighters and is cruising through parts of the disputed South China Sea, worrying allies in Japan and Taiwan.

Here are some photos that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force took of Beijing’s latest show of force.

Smile, Chinese Navy, you’re on candid camera!

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Liaoning. (JMSDF photo)

According to a release by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Liaoning was sailing along with two Luyang II-class destroyers (Zhengzhou and Haikou), a Luyang III-class destroyer (Changsai), and two Jiangkai II-class frigates (Yantai and Linyi).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Zhengzhou, a Luyang II-class destroyer. (JMSDF photo)

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Luyang II-class destroyer Haikou. (JMSDF photo)

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Changsha, a Luyang III class destroyer. (JMSDF photo)

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Luyang-class destroyers carry the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, which is comparable to the SA-N-6 Grumble used on the Kirov-class battlecruisers and the Slava-class cruisers. The Jiangkai II-class frigates carry the HHQ-16 missile, a knockoff of the SA-N-7 – the naval version of the SA-11 Gadfly.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Yantai, a Jiangkai II-class frigate. (JMSDF photo)

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Jiangkai II-class frigate Linyi. (JMSDF photo)

The Liaoning can carry roughly two dozen J-15 Flankers — knock-offs of the Su-33. The carrier also will have a variety of choppers as well, most for anti-submarine warfare or for search-and-rescue missions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Amid Russian threats, Marines conduct exercise in Syria

US troops are conducting a major live-fire exercise at At Tanf in Syria, US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported Sept. 7, 2018, just one day after Russia accused the US-led coalition forces operating in the area of harboring terrorists and threatened to launch strikes in the deconfliction zone.

Russia informed the US on Sept. 1, 2018, via the deconfliction line that Russian, Syrian, and other pro-regime forces intended to enter the At Tanf deconfliction zone to pursue ISIS terrorists, CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider on Sept. 7, 2018, confirming an earlier report from CNN. The Russians then warned the US on Sept. 6, 2018, that they would carry out precision strikes in the area, a risky move that could easily spark a larger conflict.


More than 100 US Marines supported by M777 artillery are conducting live-fire drills to send a “strong message” to Russia, Lucas Tomlinson at Fox News reported, citing US officials.

“Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces, and conduct a rapid exfiltration anywhere in the OIR combined joint operations area,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in an official statement prior to the start of the exercises.

The combat exercises involving US troops, as well as Operation Inherent Resolve forces, are being held to send a clear message to Russia: The US does not need their help to take on terrorists in the area.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” Brown explained, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.

“The Russians agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison to avoid accidental conflict between our forces, and to remain professionally engaged through deconfliction channels,” he added, “We expect the Russians to abide by this agreement. There is no reason for Russian or pro-regime forces to violate the confines of that deconfliction zone.”

Were Russia to violate the agreement, it could lead to a serious escalation in an already war-torn region.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown told BI, “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

In early 2018, roughly 40 US troops held off around 500 Russian mercenaries and pro-Syrian regime forces, reportedly killing hundreds.

Featured image: US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Medal of Honor recipient Ronald Shurer dies at 41, remembered for how he lived

On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.


Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.

9/11 changed them.

In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.

Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.

The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.

But he didn’t stop.

Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.

He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

upload.wikimedia.org

In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.

On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.

On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

www.army.mil

Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”

www.instagram.com

Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week…”

Two days later he was gone.

Shurer was the embodiment of devotion, courage and sacrifice. He leaves behind his wife, two children, and a devastated country that is forever grateful for his service.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.


Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.

Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.

Asked what threats US officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”

Also read: Mexican cartels may have used a ‘homemade cannon’ to fire drugs over the border

The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong US backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.

‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.

Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.

But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.

“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.

After a decade of Mexico’s drug war, several large cartels are thought to still be operating in Mexico, though two — the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel— are believed to be the most powerful. But smaller groups, often splinters of larger cartels, have proliferated. (Sinaloa cartel infighting caused violence to spike in northwest Mexico in 2016 and early 2017.)

Information obtained from the Mexican attorney general in 2017 by journalist Nancy Flores indicated there were nine large cartels with 36 smaller related groups present in Mexico — fewer than the 88 total groups the attorney general’s office identified in 2014, and even fewer than the 200 drug-trafficking cells identified by Mexican political scientist and crime analyst Eduardo Guerrero-Gutierrez. Such groups are fluid and hard to define, making an exact number hard to determine.

Read more: A US citizen was arrested as a ranking member of a drug cartel

Smaller groups are also less capable of transnational drug trafficking and rely on local-level crimes, like kidnapping and extortion, which drives up crime levels and increases insecurity.

This dynamic can be seen throughout Mexico, especially in places like Tamaulipas, where factions of the Gulf cartel are competing for control of drug trafficking and other criminal rackets, and in Guerrero, a hotbed for heroin production that is home to a plethora of local and regional criminal groups and larger groups like the Sinaloa cartel that are involved in the cultivation and transportation of drugs as well as local criminal enterprises.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
Official photograph of the President of México, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.

“What’s happening, it’s like ants,” a Tamaulipas state police officer told Vice of the kingpin strategy’s effects in late 2016. Taking out the “queen ant” without following up, he said, means they can regroup and return — or others take the queen’s place.

‘To recover peace and calm’

But the fragmentation and proliferation of criminal groups aren’t the only trends contributing to insecurity in Mexico.

A lack of economic opportunity for marginalized communities creates amenable operating conditions for criminal groups, which also thrive on high profit margins created by drug prohibition. Corruption, particularly of local government officials and police forces, is rampant, inhibiting efforts to crack down on criminal groups and undermining the rule of law.

Related: A US citizen was arrested as a ranking member of a drug cartel

Deep-seated impunity allows many crimes to go unpunished. According to the 2016 Global Impunity Index, only seven of every 100 crimes in Mexico are reported, and just 4.46% of reported crimes actually result in convictions. All told, “less than 1% of crimes in Mexico are punished,” the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies, which calculated the index, estimated.

Despite its failings, the Mexican government has not scrapped the militarized approach to fighting crime. A controversial law formalizing the military’s role in domestic law enforcement was signed late last year, though it is being evaluated by the supreme court.

And at the end of January 2018, days after final crime data showed just how violent 2017 had been, Mexico’s national security commissioner said more soldiers would be deployed to crime hotspots — “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans.”

Articles

15 important and surprising differences between the Navy and Coast Guard

Every Coastie has at least once been called a sailor, asked if they aren’t just a part of the Navy, or otherwise been compared to the Navy. Just as siblings don’t care to be compared to one another, the Coast Guard works to set itself apart in many ways, from uniforms to missions to rates.


In case you were wondering, here are 15 very important differences between the seaborne branches.

1. They have different bosses

The major difference between the Navy and the Coast Guard comes from the very top of either branch – the Navy is part of the Department of Defense, while the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security. This allows the missions and structure of both branches to best serve the needs the country.

2. Their roster sizes are significantly different

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

U.S. Coast Guard Ensign Joshua Kitenko, boarding officer from the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, climbs down a ladder to board the cutter’s small boat, after a joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding on a fishing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Annie R. B. Elis.)

In the battle of Navy vs. Coast Guard, the Navy wins the heavyweight title. The Navy boasts 325,000 active duty and 107,000 reserve sailors, while the Coast Guard has just over 40,000 active duty personnel and 7,600 reservists.

3. Comparatively speaking, it rains money at the Navy Department

The Coast Guard’s entire budget for Fiscal Year 2015 was $9.8 billion, while the Navy’s was $148 billion.

4. They have different roles in combat

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

The Coast Guard’s role in combat has changed vastly over time. Since the early 1990’a and during the Gulf War, the Coast Guard’s combat role evolved to mostly port, maritime, and other asset security, as well as search and rescue. The Navy has a primarily defensive mission, prepared to fight back against a land-based or maritime enemy when called on.

5. The Coast Guard has more ships than you’d think (and more than the Navy)

The Coast Guard has nearly 200 cutters and 1400 small boats, while the Navy has 272 ships.

6. The Coast Guard paints operational aircraft orange

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
And operators know how to dangle.

The Coast Guard is proud of its more than 200 aircraft, mainly consisting of the iconic orange and white helicopters. The Navy, on the other hand, has a fleet of more than 3,700 aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world, second only to the US Air Force. (And the only orange Navy airplanes are trainers.)

7. If the Coast Guard’s missions make them ‘jacks of all trades,’ the Navy is a master of one

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
A U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft prepares to drop supplies aboard the national security cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 14, 2012, during a patrol in support of Arctic Shield 2012. A(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Timothy Tamargo)

While the Navy serves to “maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.” The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has eleven missions ranging from marine safety to drug and migrant interdiction to icebreaking. Their missions range from saving someone in a sinking boat on the shores of San Diego to defense readiness in Bahrain.

8. USCG Rescue Swimmers are busier

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrates how they conduct a search and rescue during the 2009 Sea and Sky Spectacular. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sunday Williams)

 

While both the Coast Guard and Navy have a rate for rescue swimmers, the Coast Guard takes pride in having the unique ability for their Aviation Survival Technicians, also known as rescue swimmers, to save lives on a daily basis. ASTs serve with Coast Guard air stations, deploying with search and rescue operations to recover civilians from dangerous situations.

9. Coasties actually have more uniforms than the Navy

 

You can tell the difference just in looking at personnel – the Navy’s NWU are often made fun of for blending a sailor into the water, but the Coast Guard’s ODUs are no better. The Navy’s dress uniforms are also universally known, complete with the “Dixie Cup” cover, but the Coast Guard’s are primarily based off of the Air Forces, with a few exceptions including Officer Whites, based on the Navy’s. There are even Coast Guard units who wear the Navy’s Type IIIs.

10. Coasties are bit more specialized

Every branch has a different names for its occupational specialty – whether MOS, AFSC, or rate. The Coast Guard and Navy both share the name “rating” for their specialities. The Navy has nearly 90 specialized ratings, while the Coast Guard lumps theirs into just 21.

11. Basic Training for the Coast Guard is a lot harder than you think

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
Company Commander OS1 Tom Carella looks out at new recruits outside of Sexton Hall at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, NJ. (USCG photo by PAC Tom Sperduto)

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Great Lakes Training Center relies on a process called “Sailorization” to turn civilians into sailors over the course of eight weeks. The Coast Guard’s boot camp was based on Marine Corps boot camp, but shortened from twelve to eight weeks. Recruits are purposefully stressed to the maximum they can handle through intense and constant time pressure, sleep deprivation, and physical training. The process allows recruits to learn how to make the best decisions under the most pressure – something necessary when attempting to save a life on a sinking ship in foul weather.

12. The Coast Guard filled in for the Navy after it was disbanded

The history of the branches isn’t what it always seems – While the Coast Guard’s history occasionally seems to be shrouded in mystery, it was founded as the Revenue Cutter Service on August 4, 1790. It has since been the longest continuous sea service in the United States. “But isn’t the Navy’s founding in 1775?” you might ask – and you would be correct. But shortly after the Revolutionary War ended, the Navy was disbanded, and was not reestablished until 1799, leaving the USRCS to serve the newly formed nation.

13. The USCG gets passed around a lot

The Navy has also been steadfastly its own branch of the military, as well as under the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has been under the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, and yes, even under the Department of the Navy – five times.

14. Everyone has a chance to go to the Coast Guard Academy

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Shown is an aerial view of the Coast Guard Academy with Hamilton Hall in center. (USCG photo by PA1 David Santos)

To apply to the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as the other service academies, a prospective student must be appointed by a member of the US Congress in addition to applying to USNA. The Coast Guard Academy, on the other hand, does not require congressional nomination, instead opening the applications to anyone and letting applicants be admitted solely on their own merit – both personal and academic.

15. Navy ships keep a supply of Coasties to maintain civil law and order

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
Members of a Coast Guard Maritime Search and Rescue Team prepare to depart USNS Sisler via Coast Guard Seahawk after storming the ship as part of maritime security exercise Frontier Sentinel (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On many Navy ships throughout the world, a small Coast Guard contingent is placed with the crew to do maritime law enforcement. Because of the Posse Comitatus Act, the Department of Defense may not do any kind of civilian law enforcement. The Coast Guard, thanks to the 1790 Tariff Act and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, may conduct boardings of vessels both foreign and domestic without a warrant. On Navy ships stationed in waters where illegal drugs and migrants are common, the Coast Guard serves to assist the Navy where it cannot serve.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran-owned company gives back by turning discarded military items into fashionable accessories

The idea of turning “swords into ploughshares” — that is to say, converting military technology and/or equipment into materials with a peaceful civilian purpose — is a very old concept. The phrase comes from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah 2:3-4:


And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This is where Sword Plough draws its name. The company sells unique designer handbags and accessories made from discarded military surplus items. Co-founded by the daughters of a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, Col. (ret.) Joseph Núñez, Sword Plough is a veteran-owned-and-operated business, dedicated to hiring and supporting veterans.

One daughter, Emily Núñez Cavness, is SP’s CEO, and is also an active duty Army 1st. Lt. serving with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Emily co-founded Sword Plough with her sister Betsy Núñez, who is the Chief Operations Officer.

 

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
Emily Betsy

“We have received such an incredibly positive and supportive response from our community,” Núñez Cavness says. “We’re still a young company, but we’re growing fast and we have a lot happening in the new year. In addition to expanding our product line, we have a number of exciting brand partnerships in the works and we’re planning to grow our wholesale business to brick and mortar shops throughout the country.”

See all of Sword Plough’s repurposed military surplus products

“What sets Sword Plough apart is our commitment to a quadruple bottom line,” she continues. “People, Purpose, Planet, Profit. This means that we are simultaneously focused on improving veteran employment and supporting American jobs, bridging the civilian-military gap, repurposing surplus material, and donating 10% of our profits back to veteran organizations.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Purchases of this “Urban Rucksack” from Sword Plough directly benefit Operation Finally Home

One of their biggest passions is supporting veteran entrepreneurship.

“Betsy and I grew up on Army posts across the country and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to give back to the military and veteran community,” Núñez Cavness says. “One of the most rewarding parts of both serving in the Army and leading Sword Plough is the ability I have to bring the knowledge of starting a business to the veteran community. Many soldiers and veterans approach me with exciting ideas and ask for advice on how to start. Mentoring aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is one of my favorite things to do. Veterans already have so many of the leadership and management skills necessary to be successful in entrepreneurship or business. It is such an energizing experience to help chart realistic pathways to bring their ideas to reality.”

Since launching in 2013, Sword Plough repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus, supported 38 veteran jobs, donated 10 percent of profits annually, and shipped over 10,000 products globally. Not a bad startup period.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
The Signature Tote was one of their first products and it continues to be one of the most popular bags.

Their father commanded Army forces at the company and battalion level, taught political science at West Point, and deployed to Haiti in 1994 in support of Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy. Their uncle, Kenneth Cameron, served in the Marine Corps. Cameron is a retired Colonel and was an aviator, test pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut who piloted three missions to outer space.

Being from such a strong military family, Emily Núñez Cavness is herself an ROTC graduate of Middlebury College. She recalls her introduction to the civilian-military divide, which happened as she walked to a military science class one morning.

“I was abruptly stopped when an upperclassman walked out of the fine arts building,” she says. “He meandered toward me and asked, ‘Hi there, What play are you in?! I’ve never seen you around here.’ I didn’t have a lot of time to talk since I’d be late for my class, so I quickly explained that my uniform was not in fact a costume, but my actual government issued uniform for Army ROTC.”

This would be the first of many instances to leave an impression on her. They would come to help influence Sword Plough’s mission to empower veteran employment and bridge that divide in any way they can. But it doesn’t stop there. The summer after her sophomore year at Middlebury, Núñez Cavness found herself at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“Even though I grew up in a military family on several Army Posts, this was the first time I was training next to Soldiers as a fellow service member rather than as a military kid,” she recalls. “We would spend almost every day quickly running from place to place in our helmets and boots, only to wait for hours under the hot sun until it was our turn to practice the parachute landing fall or how to properly pull a slip.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

1st Lt. Emily Núñez Cavness

“It didn’t take long for these periods of downtime to become some of my favorite moments of the course because it was then that the students to my left and right would open up to me about their past experiences in the Army and their goals and hopes for the future. Some expressed an interest in leaving the military in the near future but were seriously worried about their job prospects after talking to veteran friends who had been unemployed for a long time after leaving military service. At the time, I didn’t always know what to say, but I never forgot those conversations. It seemed like such an injustice to me that a group of people who had sacrificed so much and become such proven leaders would face this type of adversity.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
SP is dedicated to hiring veterans and making their products in the USA.

Fast forward one and a half years and Núñez Cavness is listening to Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, give her keynote speech during Middlebury’s first Social Entrepreneurship Symposium. She was talking about a business which incorporated recycling into its business model. The talk had young Núñez Cavness’ mind running 100 miles per hour.

“The way she described it immediately made me reflect on my own life,” Núñez Cavness said. “I asked myself, ‘what in my life is wasted on daily basis that could be harnessed and made into something beautiful?’ Having grown up on Army posts, I immediately thought back to the huge piles of military surplus I used to see that were going to be buried in a landfill or burned. As I looked around the audience, I noticed that every student had a backpack or bag of some kind propped up next to them. And then… it clicked! Why don’t I take the military surplus that would otherwise be discarded and turn it into stylish bags?”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Their newer Wool Handbag and Wool Crossbody are also very popular items.

As part of its dedication to giving back to veterans, Sword Plough makes financial contributions to veteran-focused organizations like Rocky Mountain Human Services, Feeding Our Vets, and Got Your 6. They support charitable organizations by donating their products for fundraisers.

These donations have helped recipients raise thousands of dollars through blind and live auctions. They also donate products to events which can raise general public awareness about veterans’ issues and the civil-military divide. To date, they have made more than $10,000 worth of product donations to organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation, the 3rd and Goal Foundationthe Headstrong Project, and more.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Find out more about Sword Plough’s quadruple bottom-line

Núñez Cavness designed the first three bags herself, but Sword Plough now has a creative director to design products. They also have a number of products designed by veterans.

“The military relies on cutting edge gear and technology to carry out its missions,” Núñez Cavness says. “This relationship with their equipment has definitely influenced the way we think about design and fashion. We repurpose military surplus equipment not only for the environmental benefits and vintage appeal, but also for its durability. Our team draws inspiration from cities that we live in, the people that we interact with, the feedback from the SP community of supporters, the history of the materials we use, and we try to honor tradition by constantly innovating and keeping functionality in mind.”

Articles

Photographer Michael Stokes brings sexy vets back with ‘Invictus’ photo book

The photographer behind the ultra-sexy “Always Loyal” coffee table book has created a sequel project featuring wounded and amputee veterans, and it’s even steamier than the original.


Michael Stokes’ newest work, “Invictus,” showcases 15 recent veterans baring (almost) all — flaunting prosthetics and rock-hard abs in a bold celebration of their post-war bodies.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

The photo book includes five British veterans and American vet-turned-comedian Bobby Henline, who was severely burned during a tour in Iraq.

Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”

“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”

Check out Henline’s pose below:

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”

Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns. 

This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”

“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.

Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.

“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”

Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.

The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.

“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”

Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.

MIGHTY TRENDING

France releases photo of terror suspect, want him dead or alive

French police released a photo of the suspected gunman in Dec. 11, 2018’s terror attack at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, as a 36-hour manhunt continues.

A lone gunman killed two people, left one brain dead, and injured 12 others in the attack, which took place when stallholders were preparing to close down around 8 p.m.

Police on Dec. 12, 2018, identified the suspect as Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old man born in Strasbourg. They released a photo of him on Dec. 12, 2018 in a call for witnesses.


They said that Chekatt is a “dangerous individual, do not engage with him.”

Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for the French government, told the CNews channel that “it doesn’t matter” whether police catch the suspect dead or alive, and that “the best thing would be to find him as quickly as possible.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

A wanted poster published online by France’s Police Nationale.

(Police Nationale / Twitter)

The notice was published in French, English, and German. Strasbourg sits on the border between France and Germany, and is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

Laurent Nuñez, the secretary of state for France’s interior ministry, said that authorities cannot rule out the possibility that Chekatt escaped the country.

Officers identified him after the suspected shooter jumped in a taxi after the attack and bragged to the driver about it, authorities said.

Police said Chekatt was armed with a handgun and a knife when he opened fire on the Christmas market in Strasbourg.

He allegedly yelled “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — and exchanged gunfire with security forces.

Chekatt is known to have developed radical religious views while in jail, authorities said.

Police detained four people connected to Chekatt overnight in Strasbourg. Sources close to investigation told Reuters they were his mother, father, and two brothers.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ships shadow Navy in tense Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam traversed the strait Oct. 22, 2018, US Pacific Fleet confirmed to Business Insider. The US Navy conducted a similar operation in July 2018, sending the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold through the tense waterway.


The pair of US Navy warships conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law,” Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr told BI, adding that the purpose of the mission was to demonstrate “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and to remind others that “the US Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The latest move comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have been fighting over a variety of issues ranging from trade to territorial disputes.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

The US Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Curtis Wilber.


China, concerned that US military actions around Taiwan will embolden pro-independence factions on the self-ruled island, has bolstered its military presence in the area in 2018. The Chinese military has sailed its aircraft carrier and accompanying escort ships through the Taiwan Strait and conducted “encirclement” exercises involving fighters, bombers and other military assets throughout 2018.

Beijing perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take military action if Taiwan attempts to declare independence.

The US Navy’s latest challenge to China comes just a few weeks after a showdown in the South China Sea, in which a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US Navy warship during an “unsafe” encounter following a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands. That incident followed a string of US Air Force bomber flights through the disputed East and South China Seas, flights Beijing characterized as “provocative.”

Chinese warships shadowed the US Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait Oct. 22, 2018, but the Chinese ships remained at a safe distance.

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

Articles

US government places sanctions against Syrian chemists after attack

The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.


In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.

The attack left 87 dead, including many children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun, provoking outrage in the West, which accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being responsible.

The sanctions will freeze all assets in the United States belonging to the 271 individuals on the blacklist, and block any American person or business from dealing with them.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based think tank, the SSRC is Syria’s leading scientific research center, with close links to the country’s military.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force pararescuemen awarded Bronze Stars for heroic actions in Afghanistan

Two Air Force pararescuemen assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor on Oct. 1 for missions supporting Army Special Forces teams in Afghanistan in 2019.

Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki earned the nation’s fourth-highest military honor during a ceremony at the Arizona base.


Both men were awarded for carrying out lifesaving rescues during raids against the Taliban.

While assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Fagan was attached to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces for a raid in Helmand Province on March 24, 2019. As the team approached a Taliban compound in Sangin, they were attacked by small-arms fire from a fortified position as well as an improvised explosive device, according to Air Force Magazine.

Fagan was recognized for his actions under fire in helping to save an Afghan commando who was wounded.

“The heavy small-arms fire, coupled with rocket-propelled grenade blasts and multiple [IED] detonations pinned down the Afghan Special Forces team and hindered access to the critically wounded casualty,” Air Force Magazine reported. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Fagan took immediate control of the dire situation and engaged the fortified enemy position, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy fire.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Two Bronze Stars with valor sit on a table at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, on Oct. 1, 2020. US Air Force Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki, 48th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen, were presented Bronze Stars with valor for their actions in Afghanistan. Photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens.

Fagan engaged enemy forces to allow the rest of his team to reach the Afghan commando, who Fagan then treated before calling for a medical evacuation and moving the commando to the helicopter landing zone under small-arms fire and grenade attacks. He also provided cover for the helicopters to land.

“The culmination of Sgt. Fagan’s exceptionally brave actions and speed of patient delivery led to the destruction of an enemy weapons cache, the elimination of five enemy insurgents, and ultimately saved the life of a coalition partner,” the award citation states.

At the ceremony, Fagan attributed his success to his extensive training in calling in and executing medical evacuations.

“I knew what I was physically able to do, I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark,” he said at the ceremony.

Brudnicki was also assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar when he was attached as a medic to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces on May 3, 2019, for a counterinsurgency mission in Helmand.

In a village known to be a Taliban stronghold, the commandos breached a compound and were engaged by enemy fighters.

“[Brudnicki] and his team utilized the Taliban’s own kill holes against them with decisive small-arms fire,” according to Air Force Magazine. “At distances of less than 5 feet, he engaged relentlessly with personal weapons and hand grenades, despite their cover being damaged with a rocket that failed to detonate.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Pararescuemen and Marine force reconnaissance members board a CV-22 Osprey at a training drop zone in Djibouti to conduct free-fall jump operations as part of joint training. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook.

When a civilian was wounded in the fight, Brudnicki braved “effective enemy fire from an adjacent compound” while running through an open courtyard to rescue and stabilize the individual.

When an Afghan commando was severely wounded and pinned down, Brudnicki “rushed to join the fight and engaged the enemy’s fortified position by again crossing the open courtyard and exposing himself to grave danger,” according to the award citation. “He successfully suppressed the enemy, allowing partner force commandos to remove the casualty from the courtyard.”

Brudnicki then set up a collection point for wounded troops and created a plan to transport blood and evacuate people.

“His actions resulted in seven enemies killed in action, including a Taliban commander, and saved the lives of two coalition partners,” the citation states.

“My team leader quickly led the assault as we eliminated the enemy with small arms fire and hand grenades at room distance,” Brudnicki said in an Air Force release. “I treated multiple casualties with advanced medical interventions and helped coordinate exfiltration while my team continued to eliminate the threat.”

Pararescuemen work under the motto “that others may live.”

“It is an honor to be recognized, however, the experience and brotherhood created with my team overseas is the most valuable piece for me,” Brudnicki said. “The Air Force best utilizes its special warfare assets when putting them to work in the joint environment, and I am proud to be a part of that.”

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


Articles

ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”

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