The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
The Air Force announced new policies on dress and appearance with regard to tattoos Jan. 9. (Courtesy graphic)


The Air Force announced new policies on dress and appearance with regard to tattoos, as well as changes to service medical accession policy Jan. 9.

These changes result from a review of Air Force accessions policies directed by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in 2016.

“As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified Airmen as possible we periodically review our accessions policies,” she said. “In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality. As a next step in this evolution, we are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms.”

Authorized tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs will no longer be restricted by the “25 percent” rule, while tattoos, brands or body markings on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and/or scalp remain prohibited. Hand tattoos will be limited to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand. The hand tattoo change ensures the ability to present a more formal military image when required at certain events and/or with dress uniforms. Current Airmen with existing hand tattoos that were authorized under the previous policy will be grandfathered in under the old policy standards.

A recent review of Air Force field recruiters revealed almost half of contacts, applicants and recruits had tattoos. Of these, one of every five were found to have tattoos requiring review or that may be considered disqualifying; the top disqualifier was the 25 percent rule on “excessive” tattoos. The new policy lifts the 25 percent restriction on authorized tattoos to the chest, back, arms and legs, opening up this population for recruitment into the Air Force.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
Ooooh. Almost, guys. Can’t get in with those face tattoos, and none of them can be gang affiliated. (Meme: Sh-t my LPO says)

Tattoos, brands and body markings anywhere on the body that are obscene, commonly associated with gangs, extremist and/or supremacist organizations, or that advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination remain prohibited in and out of uniform. To maintain uniformity and good order and consistent with Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” commanders will retain the authority to be more restrictive for tattoos, body ornaments and/or personal grooming based on legal, moral, safety, sanitary, and/or foreign country cultural reasons.

The new tattoo policy is effective Feb. 1, 2017. Further implementation guidance will be released in an addendum to the policy guidance.

The Air Force’s periodic review of medical accession standards and advancement of medical capabilities prompted policy changes with respect to waivers concerning common conditions that have routinely disqualified prospective Airmen from service: eczema, asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Waivers for eczema, asthma and ADHD currently constitute the highest volume of requests from Air Force recruiters. Additionally, current Air Force accession policy with respect to pre-service marijuana use is not reflective of the continuing legalization of marijuana in numerous states throughout the nation.

“We are always looking at our policies and, when appropriate, adjusting them to ensure a broad scope of individuals are eligible to serve. These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody.

While medical accession standards are standardized across the Services, the Air Force has modified some of its more restrictive service policy, or established specific criteria to streamline and standardize waiver processes to increase the number of qualified candidates entering service. These changes include:

• Eczema: Select candidates medically classified as having mild forms of eczema will be processed for a waiver. Certain occupational restrictions may be applied to secure personal and mission safety.

• ADHD: Candidates who do not meet the standard of never having taken more than a single daily dosage of medication or not having been prescribed medication for their condition for more than 24 cumulative months after the age of 14 will be processed for a waiver if they have demonstrated at least 15 months of performance stability (academic or vocational) off medication immediately preceding enlistment or enrollment and they continue to meet remaining criteria as outlined in Defense Department Instruction 6130.03.

• Asthma: The Air Force will use the Methacholine Challenge Test to provide an objective measure of candidates with an ambiguous or uncertain history of asthma. Candidates who successfully pass this test will be processed for a waiver.

• Pre-accession marijuana usage: The revised policy will remove the service prescribed numerical limitations on prior use of marijuana when determining accession qualifications. In accordance with DOD standards, a medical diagnosis of substance-related disorders or addiction remains medically disqualifying for service. Additionally, any legal proceedings associated with pre-service use will continue to be reviewed and adjudicated separately and may be disqualifying depending on the nature of the offense(s). The Air Force will maintain a strict “no use” policy. An applicant or enlistee will be disqualified for service if they use drugs after the initial entrance interview.

The waiver process changes are effective immediately. The Air Force continues to work with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the other services to review existing medical accession standards to allow the highest number of qualified individuals possible to serve.

“Among the fundamental qualities required of our Airmen is being ready to fight and win our nation’s wars. These accession standards ensure we maintain our high standards while bringing more consistency to our policies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “As medical capabilities have improved and laws have changed, the Air Force is evolving so we are able to access more worldwide deployable Airmen to conduct the business of our nation.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s ‘best tank’ is stuck on mothballs

The Armata family of vehicles, with the flagship T-14 main battle tank, were supposed to be the future of armored warfare, tipping the balance of conventional forces in Europe back towards Russia and ensuring the country’s security and foreign might. But now, Russia has announced that it will be buying only 100 of them, far from the 2,300 once threatened and a sure sign that crippling economic problems are continuing to strangle Putin’s military.


The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank was supposed to put Russian armor back on top, but the design and tech are still questionable and Russia is only buying 100 of them, meaning very few of them will be available for operations at any one time.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

All of this will likely be welcome news for U.S. armored forces who would have faced the T-14s in combat if Russia used them against American allies and NATO forces.

The signs of trouble for the Armata tank were hidden in the project’s debut. It’s always suspicious when a tank or other weapon project seems too good to be true. Snake oil salesmen can profit in the defense industry, too. And there were few projects promising more revolutionary breakthroughs for less money than the T-14.

It is supposed to weigh just 70 percent of the Abrams (48 tons compared to the Abrams’ 68) but still be able to shake off rounds from enemy tanks thanks to advanced armor designs. Its developers bragged of an extremely capable autoloader, a remote turret, and an active protection system that could defeat any incoming missile.

When something sounds too good to be true, maybe check the fine print.

Still, it wouldn’t have been impossible to come up with a breakthrough design to shake up the armored world. After all, while the Abrams was expensive to develop, it featured some revolutionary technology. Its armor was lighter and more capable thanks to ceramic technology developed in Britain, and its engines, while fuel-hungry, delivered massive amounts of power. These factors combined to create a fast, agile beast capable of surviving nearly any round that enemy tanks could shoot at it.

But the T-14 doubters gained fuel when one of the tanks broke down during preparations for a Victory Day parade.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

The Russian T-90 tank is good, but few people believe that Russia went through all the trouble of developing a new tank but doesn’t want to buy it.

(Photo by Hargi23)

Still, the advanced systems on the T-14 might work. Drive trouble in a single prototype doesn’t mean the entire program is a failure.

Whether the tank works or not, Russia has discovered that it overreached. Officially, Russia is buying only 100 of the new tank because the T-90 it has is already so capable, but experts doubt it. Russia gave a similar rationale for severely scaling back orders of the Su-57 fifth-generation aircraft. It has ordered only 12.

That project, like the T-14, had been plagued by doubts and setbacks. India was originally a co-developer of the jet but backed out of the project after 11 years of sunk costs over concerns about the plane’s stealth characteristics and engine performance as well as economic concerns about how large a role Indian manufacturers would have in production. India is still vetting bids for its next jet purchase.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Russia’s Su-57 has design flaws and under-strength engines, causing many to wonder if it would really rival American fifth-generation fighters if it even went into serial production.

(Photo by Anna Zvereva)

None of this money problem is a surprise. Russia is subject to a slew of international sanctions resulting from actions like the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and meddling in European and U.S. elections. While sanctions generally act as a minor drag on healthy economies, they have a compounding effect on weak economies.

And make no mistake: Russia’s economy is weak. It is heavily tied to oil prices which, just a few years ago, would’ve been great news. From 2010 to 2014, oil often peaked above 0 per barrel for days or weeks at a time and was usually safely above a barrel. Now, it typically trades between and a barrel and has slumped as low as .

Russia has attempted to maintain military spending through the tough times but, in 2017, something finally gave and spending dropped 17 percent.

Keep in mind that, typically, military strength trends with economic strength; more money, more might. But Russia has struggled to maintain its world-power status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its annual GDP is actually smaller than that of Texas, California, or New York. That’s right. If Russia was a state, it would have the fourth largest economy in the country.

Still, Russia can’t be written off. It’s either the second or third most powerful military in the world, depending on who you ask. And the other slot is held by China, another rival of American power. With thousands of tanks and fighters in each country’s arsenal, as well as millions of service members, both countries will remain major threats for decades or longer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATM President Mark Harper featured on Suit Soldier podcast

This week, We Are The Mighty’s President Mark Harper sat down with the Suit Soldier podcast to talk about his time in service with the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Camera, and how that prepared him to lead a global company. From photographing the front lines to running a business that tells engaging stories about the military, Harper’s path wasn’t quite as unconventional as other transition stories. That doesn’t mean it was easy.


In this episode, Harper shares some of his tactical tips for transitioning, helpful recommendations for resumes as well as other practical guidance for the service member getting ready to leave active duty. But more than that, Harper tells his story. How his dad’s time in the Army instilled a deep calling to serve, how he captured poignant portrayals of life on the front lines through the lens of a camera, and why he moved to L.A. without a job to pursue his dream.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

The Suit Soldier podcast is created by Chris Coker, a Business Architect and Career Coach who talks with today’s top veterans to get their story on transitioning from the military so you can understand the path from military service to business success. Discover the traits you already have within yourself that you can deploy into your career and business to achieve your own definition of success.

MIGHTY TRENDING

According to a US official, South Korea’s military is ‘among the best in the world’

The South Korean military is among the best in the world, and it is the largest part of the force that will “fight, tonight” if North Korea attacks, said a US Forces Korea official speaking on background.


The official spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford is here to participate in the Military Committee Meeting with his South Korean counterpart Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with South Korea Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the 42nd Military Committee Meeting at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

‘Fight, Tonight’

Much of the discussion in the Military Committee Meeting is on the military capabilities and capacities that the United States and South Korea bring to the ability to “fight, tonight.”

By itself, the South Korean military is an excellent force. When it is combined with US forces it is world class, the official said.

North Korea is a dangerous state, the official said, noting the North Korean military gets the lion’s share of resources in the country. And, while North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is working to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, North Korea’s conventional forces are a worry, as well, he said.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. USAF photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld.

The North has much of Seoul — South Korea’s capital city with 25 million people — within range of artillery over the demilitarized zone, the official said. The North has 950,000 service members on active duty and another 600,000 reserve personnel.

South Korean Military

The South Korean military is extremely capable, the official said. The United States and South Korea are strongly tied to one another with US assets aiding the South Koreans and vice versa. The two nations train to the same standards, the official said, and use the same battlefield tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Related: South Korea trained commandos just to kill North Korea’s dictator

“From a person who has worked with a lot of different countries, I put them at the high-end of capability,” the official said of South Korea’s military. “I wouldn’t stretch it to say it is an absolute replacement for a US capability, but combined it is very strong.”

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
Cadet Huh Choong-bum (left), a third-year cadet at the Korea Military Academy, pulls a guard around his fellow soldiers as they examine the map during the land navigation training at Camp Casey, South Korea, March 27. Photo from DOD.

South Korea has a formidable force of its own with about 625,000 service members on active duty and about 3 million in reserve, he said. South Korea has military conscription.

The South Koreans also have an economy to buy and maintain modern military equipment, the official said.

North Korean Military Capabilities

North Korea’s conventional military capabilities “are in the decline,” the official said, “because of the economy, because of their austerity.”

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
South Korea’s Gen. Sun Jin Lee, Republic of Korea Army chairman and joint chiefs of staff visits Guam’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site Nov. 1, 2016, along with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the combined US forces in South Korea. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

North Korea’s aircraft are old, as are its tanks and armored personnel carriers, the official said. North Korea’s navy has a number of submarines, but it is uncertain how capable they are, he added.

Just comparing capabilities, the official said he’d South Korea’s military capability “way above that of the North.”

But the North has the numbers and “quantity has a quality all its own,” the official said.

“I do not dismiss the conventional threat from the North,” he said. “But the [North’s] unconventional threat — the nukes, the missiles, cyber capabilities, special operations forces — are growing.”

Articles

This Navy SEAL will receive posthumous promotion

The Navy announced Thursday that a SEAL killed in action last week will be posthumously advanced to senior chief petty officer.


The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, died Jan. 29, 2017, in the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen, of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaida.

The Navy approved an exception to policy request for Owens’ posthumous advancement, effective the day of his death.

Owens was eligible for the fiscal year 2018 active duty Senior Chief Petty Officer Selection Board, which will convene in April.

Also read: US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.

Articles

This Corpsman saved a Marine suffering from a sniper head shot

On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.


He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.

“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”

Related: This is how a military death can affect generations of families

Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.

“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.

The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.

He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.

Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.

He now shares his wisdom and life-saving resiliency lessons he learned in the Corps with all Americans via his “Veteran Calendar” and uses a portion of the proceeds to support the Semper Fi Fund, The Medal of Honor Foundation, and The PenFed Foundation.

Watch Constantine tell his incredible story in this TED Talk video:

Justin Constantine, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia can’t be trusted after Ukraine aggression, says Mattis

Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov in contradiction to signed treaties and the Law of the Sea show that Russia cannot be counted on to keep its word, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018.

The secretary spoke to reporters while awaiting the arrival of Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis for a meeting.

Over the weekend, Russia barred the Kerch Strait at the mouth of the Sea of Azov off the Crimean Peninsula. Russian sailors opened fire and wounded at least three Ukrainian sailors in the seizure of two armored naval vessels and a tugboat.


Mattis noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned the action on behalf of the 29 NATO allies and called for “calm and restraint.” The NATO official also called for Russia to release the ships and sailors immediately.

“It was obviously a flagrant violation of international law, it was I think a cavalier use force that injured Ukrainian sailors,” Mattis told reporters. “It was contempt, really, for the traditional ways of settling these kinds of concerns if they had any. When you think there is a treaty between the two countries that prohibits exactly what happened, it just shows that Russia cannot be counted on now to keep its word.”

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

During a Nov. 26, 2018 news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance members “expressed their full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

“We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports and allow freedom of navigation for Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,” he added. The secretary general’s statement came after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

Latest escalation

The incident is the latest escalation in the war between Russia and Ukraine that started when Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. NATO’s position since the annexation has been consistent: The United States and all NATO allies condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said Russia must end its support to militant groups in eastern Ukraine and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.

The escalation is the latest in Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “The Russian move poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO provides support to Ukraine and its people. The United States and the other NATO allies sanctioned Russia for its moves.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A brief history of US Army snipers

Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.

Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.


Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.

Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)

Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.

The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.

It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.

(U.S. Army photo)

Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.

“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”

The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.

In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”

Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”

The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.

(U.S. Army photo)

Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.

U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.

The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”

With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Russia held large-scale military exercises with troops from Belarus earlier this year, during which Moscow claimed more than 12,000 soldiers took part in a variety of drills in both countries.


The Zapad 2017 exercises fell short of many of the sinister elements observers thought they might include, but one aspect of the electronic-warfare component of the drills elicited surprise among NATO officials.

“The amount of jamming of their own troops surprised me. It was at a level we haven’t seen,” the chief of Estonia’s military intelligence, Col. Kaupo Rosin, told Defense News. “And they did it in the different branches, so land force, Air Force. That definitely surprised us.”

Rosin said Russia has an advantage in that its forces can switch to civilian electronic infrastructure within its own territory should their military electronic networks get jammed or become compromised.

“They tested [their own troops] to learn how to switch into their own cable network and not to emanate anymore, but to deal with the problem,” he said.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
Zapad 2017, at the Luzhsky training ground during the main stage of the Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, have warned about increasingly assertive Russian action along their shared borders. Estonia in particular has noticed increased Russian espionage activity.

The country’s intelligence service noted in its most recent annual report that:

The Russian special services are interested in both the collection of information and in influencing decisions important for Estonia. The Russian intelligence and security services conduct anti-Estonian influence operations, including psychological operations — in other words, influencing the defense forces and the general population of a potential enemy.

Rosin said NATO forces had a record of good communications, pointing to the bloc’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he noted that Russia is more capable than opponents faced in those countries, so NATO needs to look for new solutions and different ways to train its military leaders.

“We have to approach the problem as a complex problem — not just jamming, but also what other means can we use in order to disrupt the Russian communication system,” he told Defense News. “It probably includes some cyber activities.”

Baltic and British officials have said there is evidence of persistent Russian hacking efforts against European energy and telecommunications networks, as well as disinformation campaigns. Estonia itself hosted NATO’s biggest cyber-defense exercise this week, where “fictional scenarios [were] based on real threats,” a Estonian army officer said.

Rosin also said a foe with more robust electronic-warfare capabilities would require new ways of training officers to approach their commands. “If you have some limitations in communications, for example, how do you deal with that?” he said.

The military-intelligence chief cited Estonia’s military’s rapid troop call-up abilities and its relatively small size as potential advantages in a conflict, but, he added, communicating and coordinating with troops from other NATO members countries would complicate operations.

“When we are talking about the NATO command structure or different staff,” he told Defense News, “then I think the problem will kick in.”

Also Read: This is how Russia could sweep NATO from the Baltic Sea

NATO has itself assessed shortcomings in its command structure. An internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegal concluded that the alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe had “atrophied” since the Cold War ended.

The report recommended forming two new command centers: One to oversee the shipment of personnel and supplies to Europe, and another to oversee logistics operations in Europe. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in early November that the bloc’s defense ministers were set to approve a plan to create those commands.

Despite that change, Rosin said there remained operational and strategic challenges to NATO capabilities as well as questions about the bloc’s ability to deter threats.

Russia has advantages in time, personnel, and territory in which to operate, and Moscow would try to thwart a NATO military response, he said, noting vulnerabilities created by the Suwalki Gap and sea lines of communication.

“So the danger for us is if the Russians for some reason come to the conclusion that they might get away with some type of action in our region, then there is … [the possibility that they] might do some miscalculation and start something, which we don’t want,” he told Defense News. “In order to keep that under control, then our military posture must be adequate and the plans must be adequate. [Russia is asking]: Is really NATO coming to help or not?”

Russian action in Ukraine in 2014 and its continued involvement there — and NATO’s response to it — have been cause for concern in Eastern Europe, the Baltics in particular.

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
Ukrainian internal police at a massive pro-EU rally in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Ivan Bandura.)

Earlier this year, Lithuania’s defense minister told The Guardian that his country was “taking very seriously” Russian threats to Batlic stability, drawing parallels between propaganda about Lithuania emanating from Moscow and events preceding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

NATO has increased its troop and equipment deployment to the region in recent months to reassure allies there. (Lithuania has said it wants a permanent U.S. troop presence there.)

In June 2016, US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced takeoffs and landings on an Estonian highway for the first time since 1984. Russian and NATO aircraft have also come into increasingly close contact in the skies over the Baltics in recent years.

Overall, Rosin said, NATO had improved is posture in relation to Russia. Asked about his 2015 comments that Moscow was playing hockey while everyone else was figure skating, he struck an optimistic tone.

“I’m not sure if we are in the same hockey league with the Russians. Definitely not yet,” he told Defense News. “We are in a good way, but there is a lot of room for improvement.”

Articles

6 ceremonial military units that are actually badass (when they aren’t wearing funny hats)

Honor guards are an important part of the pomp and circumstance surrounding official state events. Many guard units are mostly for show, serving only to drill perfectly and impress crowds.


But some honor guards are filled with active soldiers who continue to practice killing people when they aren’t all dressed up in tall hats and shiny breastplates. Here are 6 of them.

1. The Queen’s Guard (U.K.)

The Queen’s Guard is probably the most iconic ceremonial guard unit in the world, but the men outside Buckingham Palace aren’t just a tourist attraction.

They are real soldiers and are allowed to use violence to protect themselves, their post, and the Queen. Some tourists have learned this the unpleasant way.

2. The Swiss Guard (The Vatican)

Dating back to the 1400s, the Swiss Guard are the primary protective force for the Pope. When the guardsmen aren’t wearing their funny uniforms, they’re training to kill those who threaten the Holy Father. Skip to 2:13 in the video to see members of the Swiss Guard training with their assault rifles.

3. Old Guard (U.S.)

The Air Force just announced an awesome tattoo policy
Photo: US Army Sgt. Luisito Brooks

The 3rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army are the official honor guard of the President as well as the ceremonial guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All members are active duty infantry soldiers who also deploy to combat and train for fights in the national capital.

(Note: The 3rd Infantry Regiment is the official honor guard for the president, but the president is much more commonly seen with the Marine Sentries, four Marines assigned to guard his person in the West Wing of the White House.)

4. Republican Guard (France)

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Photo: Wikipedia/XtoF

Part of the French Gendarmerie, a military police force, the Republican Guard serves as the guard of honor for many official events and the French president, but it also guards key government installations in Paris, protects the French prime minister and president, and engages in military exercises.

5. Corazzieri Regiment (Italy)

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Photo: Wikipedia/Jollyroger

Commanded by a colonel in the Italian Army, the Carazzieri Regiment performs ceremonial duties as the honor guard of the Italian president, but they’re also an active police force. During times of war, they can be organized under the Defense Ministry.

6. Presidential Guard (Fiji)

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Photo: Republic of Fiji Military Forces

The Presidential Guard of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is the honor guard of Fiji’s president. However, they are also in charge of the physical security of the president’s residence and nearby installations.

NOW: Here’s the intense training for Marines who guard American embassies

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Diabetes education and training

When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?

Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.


Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.

  • Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
  • Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.

According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.

Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch F-15s make insane turns through the UK’s ‘Mach Loop’

The “Mach Loop” in northwest Wales provides a perfect vantage point to watch fighter jets and other aircraft blitz through steep-sided valleys at almost eye level.


Amateur photographer Elwyn Roberts caught what appear to be U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath — home to the U.S. Air Force in Europe’s only F-15 fighter wing — making some thunderous passes through the Loop’s snow-capped mountains.

Aviation enthusiasts and photographers flock to the area, nicknamed the Mach Loop after the town at the southern end of the circuit, Machynlleth, where roughly 1,000-meter-tall mountains make it possible for all kinds of aircraft to make low-level passes.

 

 

The Loop, officially called Low Flying Area 7, is one of several sites in the U.K. where aircraft can make passes at altitudes as low as 250 feet.

Fighters and other aircraft are a regular sight.

In January 2018, Roberts caught a pair of C-130J Hercules zipping through the circuit — their wings flexing in strong winds. In August, he filmed a trio of F-15s roaring through as observers looked on.

The Mach Loop had several first-time encounters with U.S. aircraft in 2017.

Also Read: Watch Air Force F-15s intercept Russian Navy jets

In April 2017, F-22 Raptors, a stealthy 5th generation fighter that is rarely deployed overseas, were on the scene making passes through the Welsh mountains.

That was followed in May 2017 by F-35As from Hill Air Force Base in Utah passing through for the first time while deployed to Europe.

In August 2017, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III lumbered through for several low-level passes, its wings briefly trailing condensation as it raced by photographers.

Articles

5 reasons Canada might be the most powerful country on Earth

The stereotypical Canadian is nice, polite to a fault, and humble.


But those who have seen Canadians in combat have another point of view. This is where the Viking streak in Canadian history comes out in full force.

Also: 5 unbelievable missions of Canada’s most legendary native soldier

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Yes, Canada enjoys a lot of protections the United States offers, but let’s be honest: If Canada weren’t right next to us, it wouldn’t need those protections. The only country who was ever a threat to Canada was the United States.

Saudi Arabia depends on the U.S. for its stability and military protection too, but you don’t see Canada out there exporting terrorism to its neighbors. Canada enjoys a (deserved) reputation for being peaceful.

But don’t make Canada angry. You wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

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Canadians on Canada Day. Probably. (photo by Imgur user TheMechanicalEngineer)

5. Their military history

Canada is small country, when you consider their population against how geographically big Canada really is. Theirs is a population akin to California, with surface area akin to the entire United States.

But when they mobilize for war, they really mobilize. In WWI, Canada contributed 620,000 troops from a population of 8 million – 8 percent of the population. At Vimy Ridge, an all-Canadian force overcame a heavily defended German position that had previously wiped the floor with British and French. Vimy Ridge is to Canadians as Derne is to the Marines.

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Canadians after winning at Vimy Ridge.

Also Read: This is Canada’s version of SEAL Team 6

For WWII, Canada formed a force of 1.6 million from a population of 11 million – more than 14 percent of Canadians. All this without a real draft. Pivotal moments in the Second World War were handed to Canada, and they didn’t disappoint. For example, Juno Beach was one of the most heavily defended places in Europe when Canadian Forces landed there on D-Day, and within 12 hours, it belonged to Canada.

That’s just the 20th Century. More on that later.

4. A country full of people who give a shit

One of the things I heard (and saw written on walls) while deployed as a combat cameraman was “the Marines are at war, America is at the mall.” And yeah, you might never know the United States has been fighting a series of wars for the past 16 years just by walking the streets.

Canadian war dead are flown into Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in Ontario. From there, they are driven to Toronto on Highway 401, a 100-mile stretch of road that has come to be called “The Highway of Heroes.” And when one of their own comes home in flag-draped casket, Canadians line this freeway waving flags and bearing salutes as the fallen troops’ procession drives by unimpeded.

Related: Canadians honor their fallen troops by lining the ‘Highway of Heroes’

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They just know to be there.

For every single fallen soldier.

3. Canadian snipers

I doubt anyone will argue with me on this one. Canadian snipers are incredible.

Americans can poke fun at the Canadian Forces all they want, but their military is a potent one, especially when it comes to snipers. Recently, a Canadian scored a kill and a distance record by hitting an ISIS militant from over two miles away.

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No joke here. That guy had to account for the rotation of the earth to make that shot.

Read: Canadian sniper sets new world record for a long-distance kill

That topped the previous record, held by a British sniper, who took it from – a Canadian. In fact, in the top five distance records, three are Canadian. It’s been a long time since a Western country has fought in large-unit combat. So the effectiveness of small units means a lot more.

And Canada’s got it where it counts.

2. Oil reserves

Power is not just about numbers of tanks, planes, and men. We still live in an age where militaries need oil to be successful. The future isn’t here yet. A whole lotta great hardware runs on fossil fuels and Canada has the third largest reserve in the world, dwarfing the United States.

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Oil aside, Canada is full of natural resources that could be exploited in case of an existential threat to the country or a need to mobilize for an all-out war. Add on a stable, growing economy and an industry that operates at 82.2 percent capacity and you have a pretty good home front for any conflict.

1. Being the only country to hand the U.S. its ass in a war

While technically, Canada was part of the British Empire at this point, the people living in Canada during the War of 1812 couldn’t rely on Crown to provide them with the backup troops needed to put a beat down on the Americans. Britain was busy with a guy named Napoleon in Europe at the time.

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Related: Here’s how the U.S. planned to invade Canada

The Canadian subjects of the British Empire did a pretty good job of not being annexed by the United States, even though they took significant losses. This is a gross oversimplification, but they were able to mount some significant offenses of their own.

And when we burned York – modern-day Toronto – they responded by doing something dictators, terrorists, and Communists can only ever dream about today: They marched on and burned Washington, D.C.

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Despite fighting with one hand tied behind their backs, they managed to fight us to a draw.