Venezuela has descended into a political crisis after years of economic turmoil and a note from National security Adviser John Bolton has floated the idea of sending 5,000 U.S. troops there to help end the political standoff by backing one of the claimants to the presidency, Juan Guaidó. So, what’s exactly going on? And what could 5,000 troops actually accomplish?
Let’s start with the recent history of the country. If you vaguely remember a lot of protests on your TV as well as a lot of social media commentary around whether or not socialism was bad, chances are you’re remembering Venezuela.
Basically, Venezuela was a U.S.-aligned democracy for much of the Cold War, but a movement towards socialism was championed by populist Hugo Chavez (you’ve likely heard of him) who was elected president in 1998 and took office in February 1999. Chavez’s populist priorities immediately ran into trouble as low oil prices and other economic problems made his socialist overhaul of the country unaffordable.
Chavez cemented his hold by training up a paramilitary loyal to him, issuing decrees, and spreading propaganda, all of which eventually triggered protests and uprisings against him. Chavez survived a coup attempt in 2002. Allegations that the U.S. assisted in the coup persist to this day, even though Chavez, senior coup leaders, and the U.S. have all either denied it or said it was unlikely.
After the coup, rising oil prices allowed Chavez to finally follow through on many of his campaign promises and buy loyalty.
So, the Chavez era was rocky, to say the least, but it became worse when he died in 2013 and Nicolás Maduro took over.
Nicolás Maduro. The usage rights for this photograph require that it not be used in a way that would disparage the coat of arms or flag, so we can’t comment on how humorous it would or would not be for a chubby man, famous for eating on public TV while his country starved, dressed up in the Venezuelan colors and posed in front of a lean Simón Bolívar.
(Government of Venezuela)
Maduro lacks the charisma and the political history that Chavez enjoyed, and he ran right into the same fallen oil price problems that had plagued Chavez. His attempts to hold onto power amid growing unrest and economic scarcity failed, and uprisings, extreme scarcity, and starvation have plagued the country in recent years.
And all of that has led up to the 2018 elections which resulted in Maduro carrying all 23 states and about 68 percent of the vote; but there were tons of irregularities in the election, and less than a third of the population trusted the government to hold a free and fair election.
After the elections, continuing protests led to National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaidó declaring himself acting president. America reportedly voiced support for the move secretly ahead of time, but the U.S. definitely voiced public support after the fact, with Vice President Mike Pence recording a video addressing the Venezuelan people.
March for peace in 2015. Peace has struggled a bit in the years since.
(Carlos Díaz, CC BY 2.0)
So, yeah, people have different ideas of who the proper president of Venezuela is, but the U.S. is officially backing Guaidó as interim president, and National Security Adviser Bolton showed off a legal pad with a note about sending 5,000 troops to the country, ostensibly to back up Guaidó.
We won’t get into the politics of the discussion, but what could 5,000 troops do successfully in the country when the actual military has 515,000 personnel, counting the national guard and militia? After all, America sent 26,000 troops to Panama to oust Noriega, and Panama had around 15,000 troops at the time. Fewer than 4,000 were actual soldiers.
U.S. Marines are less welcome on some doorsteps than missionaries. Our guess is that Maduro would rather see the missionaries.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker)
The quick answer is: not much. 5,000 troops would be more a show of support than an actual military deterrent. At most, the troops could secure a few buildings or key locations. But, given the political fracturing in the country, that actually might be enough to tip the scales in Guaidó’s favor, hopefully without triggering a major conflict.
First, Maduro’s control of the military appears to be quite fragmented. There are still supporters of democracy and capitalism in the country as well as a larger base of support for true socialism instead of the crony socialism under Maduro, who has eaten pies on TV while his people starved. The Venezuelan military seems to have a quiet minority that would support a change in leadership even though most high-level military leaders are in place due to appointments made by Maduro.
So, 5,000 U.S. troops combined with the hollow support in the ranks for Maduro might give Maduro supporters pause before they use force to put down Guaidó’s bid.
You really don’t want these guys to show up in the plains near your capital city.
If the U.S. followed up its recognition of Guaidó by recognizing the tribunal, it could bolster support for Guaidó and give legitimacy for the court. And 5,000 troops are more than enough to protect the court if it returned to Venezuela.
Finally, the presence of 5,000 U.S. troops, regardless of their deployment and stated mission, always ups the ante. Attacking the 5,000 risks American retaliation from warships and submarines that could be lurking off coast or quickly deployed nearby. Fun fact: the U.S. Navy could hit wide swaths of Panama from the Atlantic or the Pacific, provided the ships firing from Pacific side have the permission of Panama and/or Colombia.
And the U.S. Air Force could quickly muster planes for strikes out of Puerto Rico if necessary. The U.S. has an Air National Guard base only 560 miles from Caracas, meaning F-22s could hit the capital as long as they could top off on gas from a tanker flying over the Caribbean Sea.
But, the best thing could be 5,000 troops as a sort of threatening token never deployed. Bolton can exert pressure on Maduro and his government just by showing up at a press conference with two lines of ink on a legal pad. If that gives National Assembly supporters enough ammo to push Maduro from power without more violence, great.
But it does raise the specter that the threat of a U.S. troop deployment will make an actual deployment more necessary.
The Marines will be the first to tell you they have “fought in every clime and place” from the “halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” The history of the Corps is steeped in legendary heroism and ferocious battles. From Chapultepec to Belleau Wood to Fallujah, the Marines have made a name for themselves throughout our country’s history.
But there is one battle that stands out.
Ask any Marine about Iwo Jima, and you will see instant reverence in their eyes. “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” was the phrase used to describe the spirit of the men that fought that battle.
The landing on Iwo Jima took place 75 years ago today. Located about 750 miles from mainland Japan, Iwo Jima was a volcanic rock that both sides viewed as an important objective of the American’s island-hopping campaign. For the Americans, the airfields there meant both easier and shorter routes to mainland Japan as well as helping clear the air of fighters that would intercept such bombers.
The Japanese simply knew that the capture of Iwo put the Americans one step closer to their homeland.
What followed next was one of the most ferocious battles man has ever waged.
Much has been written about the battle and its effect on history. Here are some of the more interesting things about the battle of Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima was first discovered by Spanish explorers.
In 1543, a ship located the island and landed to explore the newly found land. They gave it the name “Sulphur Island.” When translated roughly to Japanese, it was called Io To, or Iwo Jima. The Japanese didn’t arrive at the island until the end of the 16th century.
The Japanese knew they were going to lose the battle.
As historians poured over Japanese war records after the war was over, they found that the Japanese knew the battle was a sure loss. The Japanese Imperial Navy was all but vanquished in the Pacific. The Japanese Air Force was almost obliterated as well. The Japanese had lost quite a few planes and had to keep as many as close to their mainland as possible. Even worse than the lack of planes was a shortage of pilots. The Americans would send experienced pilots back home to train more pilots. The Japanese didn’t do that. They kept their experienced pilots out, and as they suffered heavy losses, there was a shortfall in experience and numbers.
As a result, the Japanese changed the strategy of the defense of the island to be one of attrition. They figured the Americans would win. They just wanted to make them pay dearly for it. Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister of Japan, summoned Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi to his office and told him to defend Iwo Jima to the last man as a means to buy time. Kuribayashi, who came from a Samurai family, accepted the mission and set off for the island to set up a unique defense that the Americans had not seen yet.
The Japanese wanted to dissuade the Americans from attacking the mainland.
Kuribayashi changed the way the island would be defended. Instead of fighting the Americans on the beaches, he would allow them to land uncontested on the island. He knew the black volcanic sand, which had dunes up to 15 feet tall, could bog down the Americans, so he figured to let them all on before opening fire. He had the beach zeroed in by artillery and mortars to the last inch. On the island’s interior, he set up defensive positions in a new way. The fortifications and tunnels allowed the Japanese soldiers to retake positions that had already been overrun. On an island that was just eight square miles, there were over 11 miles of tunnels the Japanese could use.
The intended effect was to inflict as much damage as possible to the American forces. By dragging out this conflict and inflicting casualties, the Japanese hoped that the carnage would dissuade the U.S. from attacking the Japanese mainland.
The US thought the battle would last only a week.
It’s not that the Americans thought less of the Japanese. It was at this point they thought they knew what they were going to do. After victories through the South Pacific from Guadalcanal to the Philippines, the U.S. military thought they had a winning plan. Start with a devastating naval bombardment, get the men on the beach, provide them with close air support, and take the airfields quickly. They did that but realized way too soon that the naval bombardment didn’t do much damage, the Japanese actually wanted the Americans to land, and that they had to fight for every square inch of the island. The initial weeklong projection turned out to be five weeks of some of the worst fighting the Americans had seen to that point.
The beach was hell on earth.
After taking the naval and air bombardment, the Japanese allowed the Marines to congregate on the beach. Many thought that the Japanese were killed in the immense bombardment, but unfortunately, they were wrong. Kuribayashi told his troops to wait one hour before opening fire. When the Marines were massed on the beach and started to move forward slowly through the volcanic ash, they were shocked to learn the hard way that the Japanese had every inch of the beach sighted in and had to race off the beach while under intense artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire.
Within a minute a mortar shell exploded among the group … his left foot and ankle hung from his leg, held on by a ribbon of flesh … Within minutes a second round landed near him and fragments tore into his other leg. For nearly an hour he wondered where the next shell would land. He was soon to find out as a shell burst almost on top of him, wounding him for the third time in the shoulder. Almost at once another explosion bounced him several feet into the air and hot shards ripped into both thighs … as he lifted his arm to look at his watch a mortar shell exploded only feet away and blasted the watch from his wrist and tore a large jagged hole in his forearm: “I was beginning to know what it must be like to be crucified,” he was later to say.
By the end of the first day, over 30,000 Marines had landed, and the island was cut into two. However, upon seeing the initial casualty lists from the day’s carnage, General Howlin’ Mad Smith remarked, “I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese general running this show is one smart bastard.”
For the only time in the war, the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese.
The Marines went into Iwo Jima with a 3:1 advantage in terms of troops. At the end of the five-week battle, they would have 26,000 casualties versus 18,000 for the Japanese. One of the men killed on the beach was Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. Basilone was a hero on Guadalcanal who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions there. As the intense bombardment came down, Basilone was last seen yelling for men to move off the beach. He was among the many killed that day. By the end of the battle, many more would die. While the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese, they had about one third less killed. Of the 18,000 Japanese soldiers who fought on the island, only 221 were captured. Most of the captured were either knocked unconscious or incapacitated.
There were few banzai charges so the Americans improvised.
The Americans factored in banzai or human wave attacks when they did their initial estimate of the length of the battle. In fact, the Japanese general prohibited such attacks as he knew that they didn’t work. He wanted his men to fight to the death, but he wanted to take as many Americans out as they could.
The Americans wouldn’t deal with that. Realizing quickly that firearms and close air support weren’t cutting it, the Marines adapted on the fly as they have throughout their history. They started using flamethrowers, (badass men as well as on modified tanks) to eradicate the Japanese. Once they realized the tunnel system allowed the enemy to reoccupy positions that had been overtaken, they just started flame-throwing everything that they saw… over and over again.
It worked. The Japanese tunnel system ended up becoming the graves of countless Japanese soldiers. Only toward the end, when food and supplies were low, did Kuribayashi allow banzai charges so his men would die “with honor.”
Americans at home thought the battle was over fast.
The iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal, which showed Marines hoisting the flag on Mt. Suribachi, was the American people’s first view of the battle. It was taken on February 23, four days after the initial assault. The picture was released by the AP two days later, where it was published by virtually every newspaper in the free world. In an age, before social media, television, and satellite feeds, many assumed the battle was over based on the picture. It wasn’t.
As the battle raged on and the casualties mounted, Americans at home wondered why so many boys had to die for a small piece of rock.
How important was Iwo Jima and the effect of the battle?
Even before the battle’s conclusion, the U.S. military started using the airfields on Iwo Jima for bombing runs on Japan. Planes that were damaged during their runs now had a shorter trip to base, so they had a better chance of surviving. Fighters could now use the base to refuel, and accompany their bombers to Japan. However, people wondered if the same things could have happened had the Americans attacked elsewhere. The Americans also found out that the radar used by the Japanese on Iwo was not really beneficial as the Japanese already had other radar installations that did the same job. The battle’s need was a contentious matter as early as the end of hostilities on Iwo Jima.
One effect the battle did have was on the end of the war. After Iwo Jima, another horrible battle took place on Okinawa. By this point, the Japanese realized that Kuribayashi’s strategy worked. They could inflict major losses on the Americans and turn public opinion against the war. The Americans learned too and proceeded to unleash longer more devastating bombardments on Okinawa in the lead-up and more aggressive use of flamethrowers and incendiary devices on Japanese soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire, to horrific results.
When the final obstacle to the Japanese mainland fell, Americans looked at other ways to end the war and avoid the bloodbath that Iwo Jima and Okinawa wrought.
They found it in recently developed atomic weapons.
Uncommon valor was a common virtue.
Regardless of if Iwo Jima was strategically worth it, the Marines still viewed the battle as a badge of honor. They were not part of the planning or strategy but were told to take the island. They did.
They asked for a 10-day bombardment and got three. They adapted to a terrible situation and came out ahead. They looked death in the face and, as Marines usually do, didn’t even get fazed.
Eighty-two Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines during World War II. Twenty-two of them (28%) were earned on Iwo Jima alone. There is only one awardee alive today, Woody Williams, who earned the medal for using his flamethrower to wipe out numerous enemy emplacements.
On this 75th anniversary, to those who fought in that terrible battle and to the families left behind, We Are the Mighty salutes you.
It’s that wonderful time of year when veterans, their friends, and their families go out to enjoy a little spooky fun around town. They’ll have fun with the decorations, getting into goofy costumes, and, overall, just enjoying the spirit of the season — but there’s just one place veterans tend to avoid: haunted houses.
We don’t avoid these because of their intended scariness — far from it. Veterans just don’t seem to have the same reaction as most civilians. We tend to have one of three reactions to being put in what is, essentially, a guided maze filled with actors dressed like our favorite monsters: Either we’re way too in to how cool what’s going on around us is, we just can’t suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it, or, well, we’ll get to the last one in a minute.
Perfect for war! Terrible for Halloween fun…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justis Beauregard)
1. We aren’t scared the same way
Once you’ve spent some time in the military, certain things just don’t scare you the same way. I’m not saying that seeing someone dressed as a distressed clown brandishing a chainsaw (with the teeth taken out for safety) isn’t objectively terrifying — it definitely is.
But veterans spent years learning how to always switch their “fight or flight” response in one direction. Once you’ve done your time, that response never really shuts off. You may not be fighting every monster you see, but you’re not going to run through the haunted house like most guests.
Then again, having attention to detail is never fun…
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ronald Bailey, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Public Affairs)
2. Our attention to detail overshadows the rest of the “fun”
We keep level heads and analyze every tiny detail of what’s going on while others are cowering. We notice the tiny things. This works absolute wonders in haunted escape rooms — but that same cannot be said for haunted houses.
You’ll look for and find things that break the immersion. You’ll stop admiring/being spooked out by all of the scary stuff and simply get through the thing like there’s some kind of reward at the end — there isn’t. The experience of the haunted house was the reward.
You might also get asked to leave if you stack your family by sector of fire they’d take as they enter the room.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Tindle)
3. We will use room-clearing techniques as we go through
There’re only so many spots for actors to hide throughout a maze: behind that door, at the end of the hallway, behind all those curtains. Coincidentally, these are the exact same spots that most veterans remember from room-clearing drills.
The ideology is the same, but instead of jumping out to attack a squad of infantrymen, the haunted house actors are just trying to help you celebrate the Halloween spirit. It actually gets a bit disappointing when the veteran thinks to themselves, “if I were them, I’d totally set up an ambush point here at the funnel of death,” only to realize the actors didn’t get your memo.
“Want to see a real horror monster? You should see my old drill instructor when faced with an unsecured wall locker.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)
4. We will one-up creepy moments with real-life stuff
There’s a certain expectation that guests at haunted houses will suspend disbelief enough to allow themselves to be scared and enjoy the experience. That kind of goes out the window when you can’t help but notice that the “blood” splotches on the walls don’t really line up with how arterial blood would actually spew out of that “zombie’s” neck.
That’s fine and all, but it ruins the fun for the other people in your party. Nobody really wants to hear us say, “oh, you think this is scary? Try losing your weapon in a porta-sh*tty as your FOB is getting indirect fire! Now that’s scary!”
We know, bro. We know.
What’s actually a scary thought is that your MACP Level 1 isn’t going to do jack sh*t against a security guard who likes tasing people.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jensen Stidham)
5. We tend to get a bit… punchy… around the actors
You knew this one was coming. No, you can’t punch the actors that jump out at guests. They’re not allowed to touch you and you’re not allowed to feed them their teeth.
In fact, it’s against the law — and everyone will laugh at you if you try to say that some minimum-wage-earning teenager in a cheap costume at a haunted house that you knowingly and willingly paid money to visit is actually some monster.
Plus, most haunted houses have cameras and security guards in place for just such occasions. So, uh, just don’t do it.
The FBI announced on Monday that it has identified three individuals believed to have been spying for Russia in New York.
FBI agent Gregory Monaghan has charged the three alleged spies — Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy — with “willfully and knowingly” conspiring to commit an offense against the US as a member of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
Buryakov is in custody.
Monaghan, in a sealed complaint, outlines how the three individuals were primarily involved in gathering “economic and other intelligence information.” Within the sealed complaint, Monaghan also details how the SVR goes about carrying out its operations.
According to Monaghan, the SVR operates abroad through three classes on foreign agents.
The first class of agents the SVR deploys are “sent on ‘deep cover’ assignments, meaning they are directing to assume false identities, work seemingly normal jobs, and attempt to conceal all of their connections to Russia.”
The second class of SVR agents sent abroad do not attempt to conceal their connections to Russia. Instead, these agents “often pose as official representatives of the Russian Federation, including in positions as diplomats or trade officials.”
SVR agents in these positions have an added benefit, as they are “typically entitled to diplomatic immunity from prosecution.”
The third category of SVR agents operate abroad under “non-official cover — sometimes referred to as ‘NOCs.'”
NOCs typically pose as private business employees and “typically are subject to less scrutiny by the host government, and, in many cases, are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government.”
All three types of agent operate fully under the control of the SVR. Despite their differing cover stories, each agent has the same mission of gathering “information for Russia about the foreign country” as well as recruiting “intelligence sources that could assist in influencing the policies of public and private institutions in the foreign country.”
A U.S. Navy destroyer had a close encounter with an Iranian vessel Monday, just two days before a crucial Iranian presidential election.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessel came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan, forcing it to fire flares toward the IRGC vessel after attempting to turn away from it, according to the Associated Press. The encounter is the latest of the Navy’s close encounters with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, coming two days before Iran’s radical conservative faction attempts to retake the presidency.
“[The] Mahan made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship’s whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel’s intentions,” Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told the AP in a statement Wednesday.
Iran’s leading conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, is the supposed favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority over the IRGC. It is unclear if the two events are related, but the timing of the event is telling. The IRGC’s provocation could be an attempt to exhibit the hardline faction’s strength against the U.S.
The Mahan had a previous encounter with Iranian vessels in January, at which time it was forced to fire warning shots at two patrol boats.
The IRGC has drastically increased its encounters with U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. Many of the encounters occur near the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel through which 33 percent of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy recorded 35 “unsafe and/or unprofessional” encounters with the IRGC in 2016, up from 23 in 2015. Seven such instances have been recorded in 2017, including Monday’s incident.
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The Air Force has over the past few years grappled with operational demands that have drained its resources and strained its personnel.
Wars in the Middle East, ongoing tensions in Europe and Asia, and budgetary issues are a few of the issues that confront a leaner Air Force.
In recent months, the service, which celebrates its 70th birthday on Monday, is looking at personnel and administrative shakeups to streamline the way it recruits, trains, and deploys.
“We are a service that is too small for what’s being asked of us,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Air Force Times at the end of August.
“We have readiness issues at home already, and if we were to have to continue next year, either on a continuing resolution that [keeps Air Force funding] flat from last year or, even worse, under a sequester … it would be devastating, and [it would take] years to recover from it,” she added.
According to the Government Accountability Office, less than 50% of the Air Force’s units were at acceptable readiness levels. The highest-profile personnel issue facing the service may be its shortage of qualified pilots.
While the Air Force expanded its ranks during the 2016 fiscal year, as of April 2017 it was still short of its mandated 20,300 pilots by 1,555 — 950 of whom are believed to be fighter pilots. It also reported a shortage of 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, called the shortfall a “quiet crisis” in July 2016.
The Air Force is also outsourcing some of its “red air” needs by bringing in outside pilots to play the role of rival aircraft. It is also converting mothballed F-16s into training aircraft for manned and unmanned exercises.
But pilots are not the only Air Force members who find themselves taxed by a high operational tempo.
Air Force Special Operations Command has borne the brunt of 16 years of military operations. About 1,200 AFSOC personnel are deployed to over 40 countries at any given time, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb told Air Force Times. With only 14,461 active-duty officers and airmen in the the command, the scale of those deployments “can obviously create demands on them and their families,” Webb said.
“We have many airmen who have deployed more than a dozen times in the last 15 years. That’s a deployment rate our nation has not seen before,” Webb said, noting that his command has had to get waivers from the secretary of defense to allow more frequent deployments.
For regular airmen, demand is high as well. The pace of deployments was high in 2017 and is expect to remain the same in years to come.
“We can anticipate that the thickness of the training events and exercises that occurred in 2017 will be equally as thick in 2018, and we think those numbers of events are just about right,” Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, said on September 8.
The more than 30,000 Air Force personnel in Europe now are enough to meet the service’s needs, Wolters said. Despite concerns about pilot shortages and the amount of downtime, he added, “We certainly have the right number of airmen in theater at this time, when you take into account the ones we rotate in on an episodic, periodic basis.”
The Air Force is also looking to fill gaps in its ranks of officers and enlisted personnel through promotions.
This month, it said 2,001 enlisted airmen had been picked for supplemental promotions, which are typically given to airmen who face extended temporary duty assignments or are deployed to work on contingency operations.
In December, the Air Force will also offer 100% promotion opportunities to officers at captain rank.
As long as they’re qualified, recommended for promotion, and have an unblemished conduct record, the promotion is assured.
The sweeping promotion opportunity comes in response to mission demands requiring more field-grade officers, which includes majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. The Air Force is currently at 92% manning for field-grade officers and 74% manning for non-rated field-grade officers, who typically fill support roles.
“There have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a release announcing the promotion opportunity.
Those promotions come as the service is also reviewing and implementing other changes meant to adjust the administrative burden faced by airmen, as well as the strain service puts on their personal life.
“We strive across the command to encourage our airmen to achieve work-life balance,” said Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Air commandos are proud of what we continue to accomplish alongside our joint [special operations] partners, but we also know the importance of resiliency.”
US airmen “are doing some amazing things,” Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the Air Force’s top enlisted man, told Air Force Times. But they’re also dealing with manpower shortages, a lack of funding and resources, a high operational burden, and a plethora of extra duties, all of which has inspired frustration and stress.
“We can’t ask the world to calm down and not be so unstable,” Wright added. “Absent that, the best thing we can do to make our force more efficient and more effective and lethal is, with some of these additional requirements that we’ve levied upon them over the years, let’s slowly take them away, right?”
Wright said the Air Force is weighing the elimination with some performance evaluations and some units have pursued programs to improve mental health and resiliency. The Air Force has lost 62 airmen to suicide this year and looks set to match the 100 suicides seen in most years.
In addition to mental-health and professional-development initiatives, Grosso said the Air Force has started a broad overhaul of its personnel information technology systems.
The service’s personnel operations run on 200 applications using 111 different systems that date to the 1990s. Streamlining those operations will ease the manner in which airmen can handle personnel issues, like problems with paychecks that roughly 5,000 airmen deal with each month.
Grosso also said the service was looking at a two- to three-year overhaul of its performance management and evaluation systems.
“We’re not trying to speed through this,” Grosso told Air Force Times this month. “We need to get this right.”
The operational demands the Air Force faces look unlikely to ease in the near future. Despite a series of victories against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, partner forces there will need support going forward.
That, coupled with the potential expansion of Air Force duties in Afghanistan, will come as the US military faces heightened tensions in Eastern Europe and northwest Asia.
“Owning the ultimate high ground is continually going to be important as we go forward,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News.
“Air superiority is not an American birth right. It’s actually something we have to plan for, train for, fight for and win,” he added. “I see it as nothing short of a moral obligation that when any soldier or airman hears a jet noise overhead, they don’t look up. They know it’s us.”
As the confetti of the New Year celebration is swept away, love begins to take over. We watch the red and pink heart covered “things” fill the stores in anticipation of February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The history of this day is long and can be traced back to ritualistic goat sacrificing for fertility long before we heard the ruminants of “roses are red and violets are blue” poems and exchanged sweet cards.
Weird sacrifices aside, the modern-day Valentine’s Day is aimed at celebrating love. Gone are the days of it just being about the special someone in your life. Now, Americans are also buying gifts for family members, children’s classmates, coworkers, and even 27% of Americans are celebrating with gifts for their pets!
The National Retail Federation reports that 2020 will be the biggest spending year for Valentine’s Day; the average person is planning to spend upwards of $196.31 each this February 14. Although spending is definitely up, that same report showed that only half of Americans are actually celebrating the holiday down from 61% in years past. Those that are choosing to rebel against all things V-Day related in strong protest against what they feel is an over-commercialized and single person ostracizing holiday.
For a military spouse, this day can come with its own set of challenges, especially if their service member is deployed. When the service member is gone, military spouses are already fighting internal debilitating mental health battles and balancing already overloaded plates. The idea of celebrating a day which is traditionally aimed at couples – hurts. But who says love has to hurt?
Love has long been associated with kindness. Did you know that random acts of kindness have been found to increase heart health by lowering blood pressure for the person performing the act? That same study also found that it reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and increases happiness. This year, random acts of kindness week kicks off on February 13th – the day before Valentine’s Day! It’s a sign.
So, despite the disdain for cupid’s day – whatever your reasons – you can make it your own special kindness-filled day. Here’s are 5 ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day:
Go buy those annoyingly pink cards and candies, then leave them for strangers to find. Their smiles will make you forget how much you dislike V-Day, promise.
Give a valentine to your community
Remember that park filled with trash? Clean it up. That foul-mouthed graffiti on the wall? Scrub it off. Love doesn’t have to be directed at a person, go love on your community.
Visit a nursing home
Feeling blue about being alone? I promise the residents of your local nursing homes are even more lonely. Go spend some time with those that are forgotten, you’ll feel better for it. One study found that those that are kind to others have reduced feelings of depression.
Go serve a meal
The best way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Go feed a meal to those with next to nothing. Volunteers taper off after Thanksgiving and Christmas – shelters are desperate for help to continue their good work. Find your local homeless shelter and get to work.
The Humane Society is always in need of someone to love on the animals in their care. Did you know that when humans love on dogs, the love hormone oxytocin increases for both man and their best friend? Go walk some dogs and snuggle some kittens.
This Valentine’s Day, try and check your automatic reflex to grimace as you walk through the stores covered in pink. Instead, make the day your own special day filled with love and kindness. What are you waiting for?
Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.
Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”
We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.
WATM: What prompted this?
Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!
I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.
Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.
One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!
So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.
And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!
Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana
WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.
Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!
So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.
Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana
WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?
Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!
Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.
WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?
Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.
The US Navy’s new supercarrier continues to face major problems that will delay its delivery to the fleet by at least three months as the service bets big on the troubled ship, Navy officials said March 26, 2019.
Following testing and evaluation with the fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford last July began maintenance and upgrades at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with the expectation that the aircraft carrier would return summer 2019.
The Ford is now set to spend at least another three months in dry dock because of unforeseen problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other areas, USNI News first reported on March 26, 2019, citing testimony by Navy officials before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.
The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time.
“October right now is our best estimate,” James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, told the committee, according to USNI News.
The weapons elevators, of which the Ford has only two of the necessary 11, have long been an issue, but the propulsion problem is reportedly less understood.
Problems with the ship’s main turbine generators, which use steam from the two onboard nuclear reactors to generate electricity for its four propeller shafts, appear more serious than initially indicated at sea trials, the report said.
Citing sources familiar with the extent of the repairs, USNI News said two of the main turbine generators “needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls.”
The issue appeared May 2018, when the ship was forced to return to port early.
“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” the service told Navy Times at the time.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The War Zone said that while the billion Ford has experienced numerous problems with things from the arresting gear and catapults to the radar systems, the Navy is pushing ahead with purchases of this new class of carrier while proposing early retirement for an operational Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
In its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, the Navy said it planned to retire the USS Harry S. Truman two decades early rather than refuel the ship’s nuclear cores to power it for another quarter century. The move is reportedly designed to free up billions for a block buy of two Ford-class carriers and investment in untested unmanned systems the service has determined necessary for future combat.
As the Ford faces developmental challenges, the service is moving forward with future Ford-class carriers: the USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise, and a carrier now identified only as CVN-81, the War Zone report said.
The embattled flagships are expected to play a crucial role in power projection, but setbacks have raised questions about when exactly it will be ready to do that.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Spouses in place of the member (not Civil Service or Contractor). Note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.
Unremarried Widows are entitled to their departed spouse’s discounts (not Civil Service or Contractor).
Foreign partners/Coalition partners stationed at a US base are eligible. They must have a permanent US Military issued ID (CAC card with blue stripe).
The Disney Armed Forces Salutes also offer outstanding discounts on Disney Resort rooms.
The Disney Armed Forces Salute is offered at both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California and may be used at both during the Salute offer.
Salute admission tickets for the Disney theme parks
The Disney Armed Forces Salute offers special military tickets. These tickets are for a specified number of days and come in several varieties.
Qualified individuals may purchase up to a maximum of 6* theme park tickets per military member during the 2019 Salute offer periods.
One ticket must be used by the member or spouse, the rest can be used by anyone else.
These tickets are non-refundable.
The tickets are valid for the entire length of the offer periods (with certain excluded dates):
2019 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019
2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 19, 2020
Days on the tickets do not need to be used consecutively. Any days left on the tickets will expire at the end of each offer period. Tickets from 2019 cannot be used in 2020!
Tickets purchased at all military resellers (except Shades of Green) and not directly from Disney must be activated prior to first use in person by the military member or spouse. See Salute Ticket Activation Procedures
Once the tickets are activated the party may split up. For example some go to one park and some to another, or even use the tickets on different days. The Military ID is checked only upon ticket activation.
Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets come and in two types at WDW:
The Theme Park Hopper Option, which allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day
Note These tickets need to be activated at WDW prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide
Linking your military tickets to your My Disney Experience account does not activate your tickets! You will still need to do so at Disney with a valid military ID!
FastPass Plus – All military discounted tickets including the Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are able to be linked to your My Disney Experience account. You can then make your advance FP+ reservations the correct number of days ahead based on where you are staying.
Disney Resorts (including Shades of Green, Swan and Dolphin, and Disney Springs Hotels) – 60 Days
Non Disney Resorts – 30 Days
Day Guests – 30 Days
Disneyland in Anaheim California
At Disneyland Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are Park Hoppers and come in 3-day and 4-day lengths.
Disneyland 2020 Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):
April 12, 2019
These tickets can be purchased at Your local Base Ticket Office, or Disneyland Ticket Booths and Resort Hotels (for registered guests).
If you do not have a base near you see this page for other options.
Note These tickets need to be activated at Disneyland prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide.
At Disneyland Salute Tickets are not valid for Magic Morning early entry admission.
* For families larger than 6, Disney states “Exceptions should be made for immediate families larger than six people.” For example, if a family has five children, Disney will allow all members of the family to purchase Disney Military Promotion Tickets, for Mom, Dad, and the five kids.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Trust for Brian Williams, the most popular news anchor in America, has plummeted in one week after he admitted to embellishing a story from his war coverage.
Williams, who anchors “NBC Nightly News,” went from being the 23rd-most-trusted person in America a little over a week ago to falling to the 835th spot, The New York Times reports.
The list comes from the Marketing Arm, a research firm that creates a celebrity index for advertisers and media and marketing executives.
Before Williams admitted that he misrepresented an incident in which a helicopter ahead of his was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while he was in Iraq covering the invasion in 2003, his trustworthiness was on par with that of Denzel Washington, Warren Buffett, and Robin Roberts, according to The Times.
Williams has recounted the Iraq story several times over the past 12 years and has embellished his role in the incident over time. His coverage of Hurricane Katrina has also been called into question. In fact, NBC executives were reportedly warned that Williams was known to embellish stories.
Earlier this month, Williams said on NBC that the helicopter he was flying in was “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Crew members who were on the helicopter that was actually hit by a rocket-propelled grenade then came forward to say Williams was on another helicopter that arrived at the site later.
Whether Williams’ helicopter was hit with small-arms fire (as opposed to an RPG) is in some dispute.
Williams announced over the weekend that he would step down from anchoring “NBC Nightly News” for “several days” in light of the fallout over this story. NBC is now conducting an internal investigation into what happened.
Bush suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease and had been hospitalized several times in recent years. The former commander-in-chief was treated for pneumonia and was temporarily placed on a ventilator in 2017.
Bush served as president from 1989 to 1993. Before that, he served as vice president under Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989.
Bush’s death follows the passing of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died on April 17. Barbara, 92, suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. The two had been married for 73 years.He is survived by his five children, 17 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and two siblings.
Bush, a Massachusetts native, joined the US armed forces on his 18th birthday in 1938 and eventually became the youngest naval pilot at the time. He flew a total of 58 combat missions during World War II, including one where he was shot down by Japanese forces.
From the Ivy League to the oil business, and then public service
After graduating from Yale University and venturing into the oil business, Bush jumped into politics and eventually became a congressman, representing the 7th Congressional District in Texas. He made two unsuccessful runs for Senate, but would later serve in various political capacities — including as the US ambassador the United Nations, Republican National Committee chair, and CIA director.
Bush decided to run for president in 1980; however, failed to secure the Republican Party’s nomination during the primaries. Reagan soon chose Bush as his running mate and vice presidential nominee.He ran for president again with Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate, and won, in 1988.
During his time in office, Bush oversaw major foreign-policy decisions that would have lasting effects on the global stage.
As one of his first major decisions, Bush decided to remove Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega — a former US ally turned international drug lord — from power. Around 23,000 US troops took part part in “Operation Just Cause” and invaded Panama. Noriega eventually surrendered to the US and although the operation was seen as a US victory, it was also viewed as a violation of international law.
As the sitting president during the demise of the Soviet Union, Bush held summits with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and advocated for the reduction of nuclear weapons while cultivating US-Soviet ties. When the Soviet Union finally fell, Bush heralded it as a “victory for democracy and freedom” but held back on implementing a US-centric policy on the confederation of nations that emerged.
On August 2, 1990, Bush faced what was arguably his greatest test. Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait after accusing it of stealing oil and conspiring to influence oil prices. Bush formed a coalition of nations, including the Soviet Union, to denounce Hussein’s actions and liberate Kuwait in “Operation Desert Shield” and eventually “Operation Desert Storm.” Around 425,000 US troops and 118,000 coalition forces were mobilized for weeks of aerial strikes and a 100-hour ground battle.
Despite his achievements beyond the US border, Bush was less successful back home. He fell short in his bid for reelection in 1992, during a time of high unemployment rates and continued deficit spending. Bush pulled in only 168 electoral votes that year, compared to Bill Clinton — then the governor of Arkansas — who collected 370 electoral votes.
Following his presidency, the Bushes relocated to Houston, Texas, where they settled down and became active in the community.
Bush received several accolades after his presidency, including receiving a knighthood at Buckingham Palace, and having the US Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), named after him.
In 2017, several women accused Bush of sexual misconduct and telling lewd jokes. Bush’s representatives released a statement at the time, saying that he occasionally “patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.”
Bush is survived by his sons, former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Neil Bush, Marvin Bush, and daughter Dorothy Bush Koch.
“Some see leadership as high drama and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that,” Bush said during his inaugural address on January 20, 1989. “But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning.”
Bush continued: “The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so, today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.