The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Taliban bases in Pakistan pose a “big challenge” to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.


Stoltenberg told reporters Nov. 7 at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels that he regularly raises the issue in meetings with Pakistani leaders and will continue to do so.

“We have to address the big challenge that [the] Taliban, the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan. And we have raised that several times. It is extremely important that all countries in the region support efforts of the Afghan national unity government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists,” said the NATO chief.

Stoltenberg insisted if regional countries deny sanctuaries to insurgents the fight against the Taliban and terrorist groups in Afghanistan “will gain so much.”

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. (Photo by Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

He spoke just hours after a top Pakistani Foreign Ministry official again rejected allegations terrorists are operating out of her country.

Pakistan denies presence of safe havens

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, while briefing a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said Islamabad told Washington in recent high-level bilateral talks that all areas in Pakistan have been cleared of terrorists.

Related: Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Janjua reiterated Pakistani forces will take immediate action if the United States provides “actionable intelligence” regarding the presence of terrorists in the country. She went on to assert terrorists are operating not out of Pakistan, but from across the Afghan border.

“In Afghanistan, 45 percent of the country is not under government control, which is why the Haqqani network and other terror groups do not need a safe haven in Pakistan,” Janjua said.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
Afghan National Police working in Kandahar Province’s Maruf district participate in training with members of Special Operations Task Force – South in Maruf, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2011.

NATO to boost support for Afghanistan

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO will continue and strengthen its financial and military training support to Afghanistan, saying the number of foreign troops in the country will be increased from currently around 13,000 to a new level of around 16,000 troops.

“We will not go back in combat operations, but we need to strengthen the train and assist and advise mission, the Resolute Support mission, to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a clear message to the Taliban, to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground,” asserted Stoltenberg.

The only way the Taliban can achieve anything, he noted, is by sitting down at the negotiating table and be part of a peaceful negotiated political solution to the Afghan war.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
US, Czech, and Georgian soldiers receive a mission brief before conducting a security patrol led by Afghan soldiers in Parwan province, Afghanistan, May 8, 2015. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Wheeler)

The Islamist insurgency, however, has refused to engage in talks until all foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The Taliban has instead intensified its attacks against Afghan security forces, particularly since US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan.

Insurgent attacks on Afghan forces have killed hundreds of army and police personnel in recent weeks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two-time testicular cancer survivor goes balls out at 2019 Warrior Games, bringing awareness to the program that helped him

When A1C (Ret.) BJ Lange enlisted into the Air Force Reserve on his 35th birthday, he didn’t expect he’d fall in love with being a medic about as much as he didn’t expect he’d be diagnosed with cancer, get retired, and discover Stand Up comedy as a means to fight depression. But, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program helped him serve in a different ways.

If you’ve been watching the 2019 DoD Warrior Games in Tampa (hosted by SOCOM at MacDill AFB) you’ve likely seen a very energetic comedian bringing up-to-date facebook live videos at sports, interviewing athletes, DV’s (like USAF’s Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Wilson and Jon Stewart) or hosting various feature stories on the Air Force’s team athletes. You probably couldn’t tell that he was diagnosed with cancer and struggles with PTSD almost took away all hope for this Hollywood actor.

BJ Lange is no stranger to being in the limelight, but how did this retired E-3 go from hosting Spring Break to teaching comedy classes for the Air Force?
The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF

Like most military veterans, BJ attributes his interest to service to his military family and his years of volunteer service as a public affairs officer and aircrew in Civil Air Patrol (USAF Aux). Even with a flourishing Hollywood acting career underway, BJ felt he “needed to do it before he spent years wishing he had” so he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve with the 452 AMDS at March ARB, CA – a decision that likely saved his life and provided an unexpected avenue of continued service.

While on orders at Lackland AFB, TX in 2016 BJ was diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and recovery. He thought this was all over, unfortunately BJ’s MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) proved unsuccessful, and against BJ’s wishes, he was placed on TDRL (temporary medical retirement) in July of 2016. However, this was a blessing in disguise. Aside form likely saving BJ’s life, BJ was enrolled into the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) a DoD congressionally mandated program (AF’s akin to Army’s AW2, USMC’s WWR, Navy Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor) for wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families.

Although apprehensive because he was not combat wounded and mainly dealing with invisible wounds, BJ attended his first AFW2 CARE event at JBLM in August of 2016 and soon discovered the camaraderie, service, and pride he had lost so that his healing could begin. He took to the adaptive sports getting him on the high performance track and soon found himself completing their mentor and ambassador programs to help others coming into the fold. Unfortunately, in July of 2017 just one year in remission, BJ’s cancer relapsed into his lymph nodes, and he had to undergo weeks of radiation therapy leading him to become very sick, but BJ didn’t let that stop him – even after doctors pulling his medical clearance which meant he couldn’t go to Air Force Trials at Nellis AFB the following year. This led to another very rough period of BJ’s life full of depression, anxiety, and physical pain.

Though BJ’s chances of competing at the next Warrior Games (and subsequent Invictus Games) looked low another door opened. BJ expressed his interest in teaching his one-true love, improvisation. Specifically applied improv. Dr. Aaron Moffett, PhD., resiliency program manager and sports psychologist for AFW2, jumped on the chance, and in July 2018 BJ, who had already begun teaching the Improv For Veterans Program at The Second City Hollywood, became the Air Force Wounded Warrior’s comedy coach teaching hundreds of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their caregivers how to use improv comedy as an applied resiliency tool. In July BJ will be teaching at Ramstein AB Germany as well as Scott AFB, IL in August.
The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF

“When fellow wounded warrior Maj. Stacie Shafran called to ask if I wanted to come to Warrior Games, I jumped at the chance to be there with my brothers and sisters” Lange said. Lange was asked to attend the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa to use his hosting experience during competitions via Facebook Live and other social media outlets as well as co-hosting the Fisher House Family Program for athletes and their families with fellow Air Force Wounded Warrior 1Lt (Ret.) Rachel Francis. “I can’t think of a better way to use my talents then to help share the stories of my fellow wounded warriors and the program that has and continues to help me heal”. Lange hopes to be able to compete next year at Warrior Games and go onto Invictus Games although sharing laugh via improv comedy games is just fine with him as he embarks on one-year in remission from relapse.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Three ways playing football for the military is nothing like playing in college

There’s something about football that just lends itself to the melodramatic emotions of our youth. It’s the closest socially acceptable approximation to gladiatorial combat young men in our modern civilized world can pursue, and as such, it tends to hold an honored place in our hearts. The gridiron is where we proved our mettle; Where we found that toughness within us we always hoped was there.


And then, just like that, it’s gone. For most of us, football ends right around when real life begins, and you’re left with no choice but to trade in your pads and passion for a steady job and a pile of bills. Although I once had college football aspirations, an injury cost me that opportunity, and I found myself working as a race mechanic alongside a dozen other “coulda beens”–if only we’d made that one last tackle, dodged that one block, or chased the dream while our knees were still strong enough to hack it.

I joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old and with no intention of finding my way back onto the field. I had found my way to rugby after my college football “career” ended, but as I checked in to my first duty station at 29 Palms, California, neither was on my mind. That is, until I noticed the battalion team practicing just a few blocks away from my barracks room.

The next season, I earned myself a starting spot on the battalion team, which led to a spot on the base team, and eventually, to the first of two Marine Corps championships. Those successes, however, were hard earned… as playing ball for the Corps wasn’t quite like it had been back home in the hills of Vermont.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
Playing pulling guard meant I at least got a running start before I tried to smash these dudes.

 

You’re playing against Marines, some of whom are battle-hardened veterans.

As Al Pacino once so eloquently put it, football is a game of inches. For all the strategy, practice, and technique involved, football is one of the few places left that sheer toughness remains a high-value commodity. Sometimes, when everything else is even, it’s the guy that’s willing to hurt that’ll get the job done. Sometimes you have to choose between the game and your safety. Knowing that reaching for that ball thrown across the flats against a zone defense will almost certainly mean taking a helmet to the sternum and choosing to do it anyway isn’t something you’re taught. It’s just who you are.

In most leagues, you’ll be lucky to find a few players willing to throw their bodies into the grinder for a “W.” In the Marine Corps, we already live in the grinder. Infantry units field teams between combat deployments, Marines attend football practices between training rotations in martial arts and on the rifle range. Mental and physical toughness is a prerequisite to success in the Corps, and as such, the playing field is ripe with men willing to hurt in order to achieve their goals.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
The things we do to have a Sergeant Major hand us a wooden football. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Schmidt)

 

Service members thrive on competition (and that can really suck).

Playing football in the Marine Corps comes with a level of competitive social pressure that can really only be compared to some high-level college teams. When you’re on a squad with a shot at some trophies, you’re representing more than the team itself, you’re representing your unit. The commanding general may not give a sh*t about your last inspection, but he does about the score of this week’s game. A slew of wins can make you feel like a celebrity, but a bad loss can make you ashamed to show your face at work… or in front of your commanding officer.

Marines, perhaps more than other services, are in a perpetual state of competition. Like Ricky Bobby, if we aren’t first, we’re last… and nobody’s going to let you forget it.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
We’re all here with a job to do. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Albert F. Hunt)

 

The Corps always comes first.

If you play football for a successful college program, you’re expected to keep up with your grades, but otherwise, the sport is your job. Marine Corps football can be a lot like that–with the obligations of the sport occasionally taking precedence over other duties (like when you go TAD/TDY for away games), but at the end of the day, the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution.

Infantry units, for instance, often had their seasons cut short by field requirements or combat deployments. Players on your team would be pulled from the roster to augment a deploying unit. Last season’s star quarterback may miss this season because he has to travel for training or worse, because he’s been injured or killed since we last took the field. Football is a way of life for most that love the sport, but nothing supersedes the Corps. We’re Marines first, football players second, and if we’re lucky, we eventually get to be old men writing stories about our days with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on our helmets.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These vets hunt down paranormal forces on Army posts

Logically speaking, there’s almost always a valid explanation for those bumps in the night — but there’s a sense of adventure that comes along with investigating the unexplained. The thrill of finding an explanation for the unexplainable (even if that explanation is otherworldly) is what brings together paranormal enthusiasts in the hunt for answers.

Veterans tend to be strong-willed people who have long immersed themselves in a culture in which death is never far from the mind. From battlefields to bases, many locales in the military world are home to the world’s most ghostly tales — and if you’ve ever been on an installation at night, you know there’s something undeniably eerie at work.

These veterans banded together over their love of the paranormal and have decided to look into the many oft-ignored (and never explained) supernatural military mysteries.


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Yep. Still looks exactly like pretty much every S-6 shop in the Army.

(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)

The Military Veterans Paranormal (or MVP) are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The group came together over a shared love for all things spooky and, today, have a legitimate operation going on. They catch word of possible paranormal activity, plan an investigation as if it were a conventional military operation, and then head out to find answers.

But to them, it’s far more than just the pursuit of ghosts — it’s also about the camaraderie that comes with operating as a unit. Founding member of the Military Veterans Paranormal, Mellanie Ramsey, told We Are The Mighty,

“We hope to show other veterans that there are other ways we can deal with PTSD and that just because you’re no longer in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find a hobby, the more unique the better. We found a hobby that enables us to use the tools and skills we learned in the military and apply it to paranormal investigation. You can still have a mission, though it may no longer be combat related. We still matter and as long as we stick together to support one another, we can work to reduce the number of veteran suicides while still helping others and having fun. We’re proof the mission doesn’t have to be over just because you get out of service. It just changed.”
The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)

One of their recent investigations brought them to “The Birdcage” at Fort Campbell. It’s a part of the base that’s been abandoned since the Cold War — and if you believe the rumors, it’s the Army’s equivalent to Area 51. Of course, they don’t do anything without getting proper permission from the authorities and they do plenty of historical research ahead of time.

On record, The Birdcage was where the Army stored nuclear warheads — but countless paranormal sightings have been reported in the area. Everything from ghosts to aliens to magical forces have been attributed to this site. Naturally, the paranormal investigators had to check it out.

While there, they spotted a something in OD Green running. The description of their sighting exactly matches reports from a member of 5th Special Forces Group, who saw that very same something while running through the area. After a little more digging, MVP learned that a convicted soldier had died there while trying to escape the brig. During his escape, he accidentally crossed into The Birdcage, where a highly-electrified barricade ended his attempt — and his life.

Could the spirit of this convict still be roaming the area, long after his death? It’s hard to say for sure.

The group is very serious about their hobby, but they don’t pocket any of the money they raise through the investigations. To date, they’ve raised over ,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

If you’re interested in joining a paranormal investigation group — or if there’s something you think warrants checking out, visit Military Veterans Paranormal’s website.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 more comic book creators who served their country

If there’s any single artistic medium that draws in a remarkable amount of veterans, it’s comic books. Oftentimes, it takes the mind of someone who has served in the military to create a truly believable, relatable superhero.

It’s widely known that many of the godfathers of the comic book industry served in the U.S. military. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Syd Shores, for example, all fought in the Western Front in WWII. But many of the other writers and artists served, too — like these 6 creative minds.


The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

(Courtesy Photo)

Jim Starlin — Navy

Many of Marvel’s space-themed comics come from the mind of Vietnam War photographer and Navy veteran Jim Starlin. After returning home to Detroit, he initially made a living working on cars. Eventually, he broke into the comic book industry with many originals and revisions to existing cosmic characters.

Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Thanos were all co-created by him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ultimate MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones, and the much of the basis for the latest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, come from Starlin’s storylines.

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Humbly enough, she never wrote herself into a comic… even though she kinda earned it.

(Courtesy Photo)

Alice Marble — OSS

Before becoming one of the first women to play a prominent role in comic books, Alice Marble lived an insane life. Not only was she a world-class tennis player but, during World War II, she served as a spy for the American government. She recovered from being shot in the back by a German agent and started to share her life through the adventures of Wonder Woman.

She served as the associate editor for Wonder Woman and was the creator of the Wonder Women of History strips. These shorts were page-long bookends attached to the end of each Wonder Woman issue that showcased the badassery of one woman per issue.

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He’s also responsible for making superheroes jacked as hell under their spandex.

(Photo by Alan Light)

Curt Swan — Army

DC’s most respected artist of the Silver Age served in the Minnesota National Guard during WWII. Curt Swan was activated and deployed to Europe when his peers discovered his amazing gift for drawing. He was immediately reassigned by his superiors to make comics for Stars and Stripes.

After falling in love with a Red Cross worker (who he would eventually marry), Swan got a job at DC Comics, drawing Superman from 1948 until 1986. His ability to convey frenetic superpowers in print, like the iconic wooshings that show speed or the powerful impact bubbles that denote heavy punches, was heavily imitated.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

He worked on ‘The ‘Nam’ with the next entry on this list…

(Marvel.com)

Doug Murray — Army

Doug Murray served in Vietnam and later crafted what is considered one of the truest depictions of the war through his series, The ‘Nam. Remarkably, Murray was clever enough to stay true to the horrors and ugly sides of war while also keeping the Comics Code Authority happy.

The ‘Nam wasn’t pretty and touched on many horrific truths of war, but it cleverly hid its punches to get approved for publication. Outside of The ‘Nam, Murray also wrote the Weapon X series, which gave Wolverine his definitive backstory.

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The ‘G.I. Joe’ character Tunnel Rat is entirely based on him and his life.

(Courtesy Photo)

Larry Hama — Army

After fighting in Vietnam as a combat engineer and “tunnel rat,” Larry Hama began a career in acting before coming back to his childhood passion, comic books.

Not only did he work on The Warlord, Wonder Woman, and Batman for DC, but he earned his place as one of the Marvel greats when he took over the G.I. Joe comics and turned it into the deep franchise fans love today instead of just a line of generic military toys. He also co-created The ‘Nam, Wolverine, Punisher: War Zone, and Venom.

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Sgt. Rock’s service number was Kanigher’s in real life.

(DC Comics)

Bob Kanigher — Army

There was a drastic dip in comic book popularity in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the industry. Only kids and troops read comics — and kids started losing interest. The day was saved when an Army veteran by the name of Robert Kanigher burst onto the scene.

He took over Wonder Woman after William Moulton Marston’s death and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. His works include nearly everything in DC that wasn’t created during the Golden Age. His artistic baby, however, is one of the military and veteran community’s favorite comics, Sgt. Rock.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Give the gift of remembrance

Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a national non-profit organization best known for remembering fallen veterans with wreaths placed each December at Arlington National Cemetery. However, the organization and its mission to Remember, Honor, Teach, is much more.

In the beginning, founder, Morrill Worcester, a 12-year-old paper boy in Maine won a trip to Washington D.C., where Arlington National Cemetery became an inspirational location. His pilgrimage served as a consistent reminder, through career and life, that opportunities stemmed from the values and freedom afforded to us by our nation’s veterans.

After years of hard work, Morrill founded Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. In 1992, Worcester Wreath had a surplus. Morrill saw this as his opportunity to honor our veterans with hopes of returning to Arlington. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (ret.), the first 5,000 wreaths were placed that year at Arlington National Cemetery. As plans were underway, other individuals and organizations shared Morrill’s spirit and working together built an annual mission that went unnoticed for many years.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

In 2005, a photo surfaced of Arlington covered in snow, adorned with wreaths. This picture became a viral internet sensation! After, thousands of requests poured in, from people wanting to help emulate the Arlington success on the local level, prompting the official formation of Wreaths Across America the national nonprofit in 2007.

The newly formed 501c3 began its national effort by sending seven ceremonial wreaths to every state (one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs). The ceremonies took place in nearly all of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., with a focus on family during the holidays. As the organization grew from volunteer support, a network of local groups and cemetery locations began to emerge.

Presently a small, but dedicated staff and more than 7,000 core volunteers across the country, work tirelessly on year-long programs that help accomplish this ongoing mission to Remember, Honor and Teach. That number grows to more than 2 million, a third of whom are children, who participate in the annual wreath laying events nationwide!

What does it mean to sponsor a wreath? It means you’ll honor an American hero at one of more than 2,500 locations nationwide this year on Wreaths Across America Day… a day that’s been set aside to pay tribute to their sacrifices.

This year, National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

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We can only do this with YOUR support. Your sponsorship will ensure that a wreath is hand- crafted of all-American balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow will be sent to one of our participating locations, where a volunteer will place it on the marker of a fallen hero. That volunteer will then “say their name” to ensure that the legacy of duty, service and sacrifice of that veteran is never forgotten.

Give the gift of remembrance this holiday season and join a grateful nation in saying “thank you” to our veterans. Visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org to sponsor a wreath for a participating location near you!

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

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Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

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Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

Articles

New Navy secretary welcomes ‘any patriot that wants to serve’

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer visited Naval Station Norfolk for the first time August 10, where he pledged that America would defend itself and its allies against aggression from North Korea.


Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated amid threats from Kim Jong Un to lob missiles near the American territory of Guam, which is home to naval and Air Force bases. President Donald Trump ramped up warnings of “fire and fury” should the dictator put his plan into action.

Spencer, who was sworn in as the Navy’s 76th secretary August 3, declined to comment on the Navy’s preparations in the Pacific.

“We just hope that Korea stops acting the way it does,” Spencer said. “We’re going to defend ourselves; we are going to defend our allies. They should know that, and we hope that we can have conversations and de-escalate.”

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US Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez (right), command sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Regions, greets Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay.

Spencer’s comments came after he toured the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner and named people, capabilities, and process as priorities for his new role.

Spencer joined the Marine Corps in 1976 after graduating from Rollins College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and flew the service’s H-46 helicopter. He attained the rank of captain before leaving in 1981 for a career in finance, according to a Navy biography. He most recently served as managing director of Wyoming-based Fall Creek Management, LLC.

Spencer follows Ray Mabus, whose nearly eight years as Navy secretary — the longest since World War I — was marked with criticism for decisions to name some ships after civil and human rights leaders and for dropping a more than two-century-old naval tradition of referring to sailors by their rate, or job title, in favor of rank. That decision was reversed after a storm of fierce opposition.

During his July 11 confirmation hearing, Spencer told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supports the use of alternative energy sources, growing the capacity and capabilities of the fleet, and protecting Navy bases against sea-level rise.

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Richard V. Spencer is sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy by William O’Donnell, Department of the Navy administrative assistant. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

Spencer also said he opposed the use of the services as “a petri dish for social experiments,” instead saying it should be left to the Pentagon to develop policy. A little more than two weeks later and in a series of tweets, Trump said he was banning transgender military personnel from service, stunning an unprepared Pentagon.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has reaffirmed current policies until additional guidance is given by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Spencer said August 10 he would follow policies developed by the Pentagon at the direction of the White House, adding context to his “petri dish” statement to mean that no service secretary “should go off and do experiments on their own.” But Spencer did not directly say whether the thousands of transgender service members on active duty and in the reserves should be kicked out.

“As I’ve said before, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military,” Spencer said.

Articles

This is how enemies hack America — according to a cyber warrior

The media’s craze surrounding possible Russian interference with the US election through hacking isn’t going away anytime soon. Though the hype is primarily political, it’s important to separate fact from fantasy.


Tangibly, the overarching processes that corporations and nation-states use to gain advantage over a competitor or adversary are quite common. It’s important to evaluate how these attacks are used in the world today. The two main vectors used to attempt to exploit our election were Spear-Phishing and Spoofing.

Spear-Phishing

Spear-phishing targets select groups of people that share common traits. In the event of the Russian hack, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, and affiliated non-governmental organizations (companies, organizations, or individuals loyal to Russia), sent phishing emails to members of local US governments, and the companies that developed the voting-registration systems.

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USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Their intent was to establish a foothold on a victim’s computer, so as to perpetrate further exploitation. The end-result of that exploitation could allow manipulation and exfiltration of records, the establishment of a permanent connection to the computer, or to pivot to other internal systems.

Spoofing

Spoofing is an act in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thus gaining an illicit benefit. Most people understand spoofing in terms of email, whereby an attacker spoofs, or mimics, a legitimate email in order to solicit information, or deploy an exploit.

As it relates to the Russian situation, spoofing a computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, system name, and more, could have allowed a successful spear-phisher to bypass defenses and pivot to other internal systems. This kind of act is so trivial, some techniques are taught in basic hacking courses.

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US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Ignore the Hype

What we know from reporting, as backed by unauthorized disclosures, is that defense mechanisms appear to have caught each of the spear-phishing and spoof attempts. Simply put, there is no information to suggest Russia had success.

For political reasons, politicians have worked hard to make this a major talking-point. However, these same politicos cannot speak in absolutes, because there simply wasn’t a successful breach—let alone one able to compromise the integrity of our national election.

One piece of information to note: these attacks are some of the most common seen in the cyber world. There is nothing revolutionary about these vectors, or how they are employed against government, commercial, and financial targets. This isn’t to suggest it is a moral or acceptable practice, rather the reality of life in the Information Age.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez

Hollywood Sucks

I would be remiss if I didn’t make a note about the way Hollywood (and media in general) portrays hacking in a way that is mystical and comical. The portrayals only serve to conflate an issue that is easily managed with thoughtful consideration and implementation of best-practices.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

(Kyle Buchanan | YouTube)
Articles

This female infantry Marine was born in a Siberian prison camp

The first of the Marine Corps’ three tenets is “we make Marines,” and in accomplishing that, young men and women from across the varied fabric of American society come together to undergo 13 weeks of intense mental and physical training to become basically-trained Marines.


Recruit backgrounds and experiences will vary, but the training is designed to ensure they come together as a single unit.

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Rct. Maria Daume, Platoon 4001, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, was born in a Russian prison and brought to Long Island, N.Y., at the age of 4 when she and her twin brother were adopted. Daume became interested in the Marine Corps around the age of 12 when she met Marine recruiters at an anti-cancer event. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas)

Daume was born in a Russian prison where her mother was incarcerated. She and her twin brother Nikolai lived in the prison for two years until their mother’s death, upon which they were transferred to an orphanage in Moscow for two additional years. The 4-year-old Daume twins were eventually adopted by an American family and grew up in Long Island, New York.

Daume is among the first female recruits to be sent to recruit training with contracts to become infantry Marines.

“I was driving when (my recruiter) called me,” Daume said. “He said, ‘Are you sure you want this?’ I said confidently, ‘yes.’ He then congratulated me and told me I got (the infantry contract.) I was so excited I had to stop the car and call my best friend and tell her.”

Daume said the experiences she’s had in life helped shape her desire to become a U.S. Marine. She said her early life in America made her hopeful for the future, but she said the shine quickly faded as it became clear she wasn’t always as welcome as she’d have liked.

“Other kids would bully me consistently from when I was four to my senior year of high school,” Daume said. “It would be for being Russian or being adopted. They would say things about my mom and why she was in prison even if no one knew why. Bullying was a big thing.”

As this adversity continued, she said she grew the mental toughness needed to avoid letting those actions get under her skin. Daume said she views those negative life factors as elements that will contribute to her future accomplishments in the Marines and School of Infantry.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
Rct. Maria Daume, Platoon 4001, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, yells orders to her team during the Crucible Jan. 5, 2017, on Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas)

Mental strength helps recruits through the physical rigors of recruit training and life in the Marine Corps overall. Walking miles with load-bearing gear and completing obstacle courses are frequent activities in the Marine Corps, and Daume said she sees her experiences as preparation for what lies ahead.

“I played a lot of sports in my life, like basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey,” said Daume. “I also did (mixed martial arts) and Jiu-Jitsu. With MMA it is all about staying calm and not getting angry. If you get angry you can make stupid mistakes. I know how to get hit and keep cool. With the team sports, you have to work together. When you’re a team, you’re a family.”

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all military occupational specialties to service members of either gender, and when infantry became an option, the two women, at this point Marine Corps poolees, jumped at the chance to apply. While they had already been in the Marine Corps DEP for some time, it was a fresh take on what they were preparing to attempt.

“At the end of the day, I just want to be like, ‘watch, I am going to prove it,'” said Daume. “I think my background has given me an edge to take criticism and keep going.”

Knowing what their choices meant and that all eyes were going to be on them, training was the priority, sometimes taking creative turns while waiting to ship to basic training.

“I would take my brother’s books and load them in inside of my bag and just start hiking with them,” Daume said. “I would walk everywhere around town.”

And what of the possibility for failure? The question couldn’t even be fully asked before it was answered.

“No,” Daume said. “It is not an option and will never be an option. And I don’t want it any easier just because I’m a female. I know my mental worth, and I know I can make it through this, but it’s not just about me. I hope the females that are there right next to me will take a picture together, saying ‘we did it.’ I don’t want to be like I’m the only female doing this and take all that pride. No, I want as many females to come and we will all get together with the guys and say we are all one team.”

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers hailed as heroes for saving crash victim from burning car

On Sept. 3, two Soldiers were working as volunteers and representatives for the “No DUI Program” coordinated by Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) and received a call asking for a ride home.


Spc. Basar Bozdogan, an automated logistical specialist, and Pfc. Jacob Kranjnik, an infantryman, both assigned to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, immediately jumped into action and drove their government vehicle to pick up a Soldier to ensure he made it home safely.

“After approximately 15 minutes into the drive, we called the Soldier saying that we were close by,” said Kranjnik. “He told us he found another ride.”

A little disappointed, they turned around and headed home. As they were driving southbound on Highway 24 on Fountain Boulevard, they saw a wreck.

“We noticed a three-vehicle collision,” said Kranjnik. “There was no one else around or on the road. I believed that the wreck happened maybe 30 seconds before we got there.”

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
Spc. Basar Bozdogan, an automated logistical specialist for Alpha Company, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, sorts through supplies Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor)

Bozdogan and Kranjnik quickly pulled over to see what had happened.

“We noticed one person who was helping people get out of their vehicle,” said Kranjnik. “We assisted as well. Once everyone was out of their vehicles, I looked back and noticed someone was still stuck inside. At first, I didn’t want to move him because he looked like he was injured pretty badly. Then, I noticed there were flames under the vehicle. It started to get bigger really fast. I screamed to Bozdogan and yelled that the vehicle is catching on fire.”

Bozdogan immediately recognized that there was a person in the vehicle as well.

“We didn’t want to pull the guy out of the vehicle unless we had to,” said Bozdogan.

Bozdogan and Kranjnik jumped into action, flung open the door, took the injured man’s seatbelt off, and carried him to safety.

Also Read: This drill sergeant saved 8 soldiers in the most heroic way

“As we were carrying him away, the whole car caught on fire,” said Kranjnik. “If we would’ve waited longer, it would’ve been a devastating situation. He could’ve also suffered burn injuries, or even died.”

Bozdogan said everything happened for a reason.

“That man would not have had a chance if it weren’t for us. In my heart, I knew right away that I was not going to watch him burn alive. We were meant to be on that road. We were trying to prevent an accident with a Soldier and ended up saving someone else’s life that night. What are the odds?”

Bozdogan and Kranjnik did not feel like heroes. They felt like they did the humane thing to help people who were in need.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
Pfc. Jacob Kranjnik, an infantryman, for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducts maintenance on his Bradley Fighting vehicle, ensuring its readiness for upcoming missions, Fort Carson, Colorado, January 9, 2018. Kranjnik and his fellow Soldier Spc. Basar Bozdogan are credited with saving a civilian from a burning car wreck, Sept. 3, 2017. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“I joined the Army to save lives here and abroad,” said Bozdogan. “It doesn’t matter where I’m at, I just have that instinct to react when I see someone who needs help. It’s not all about being a hero, it’s about making a split second decision at the right moment to ensure the safety of others.”

Bozdogan and Kranjnik, two Iron Soldiers, have been nominated for the Soldier’s Medal.

The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, the directive that outlines military awards and decorations, the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army tested its first transformer in 2017

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is experimenting with a hybrid, unmanned, aerial vehicle that transforms in flight and gives soldiers an advantage on the battlefield of the future.


Weighing in at just over half a pound, this UAV tilts its rotors to go from hovering like a helicopter to speeding along like a sleek airplane. The design has many efficiencies, but also provides many challenges to its creator, Dr. Steve Nogar, a post-doctoral researcher with the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

“In an aircraft, weight is everything,” Nogar said. “There are a lot of vehicles out there where designers take a quad-rotor and staple it to a fixed-wing aircraft. It may have extra propellers and actuators and it’s not very efficient. You have a lot of wasted weight.”

For testing, Nogar has temporarily attached a large paper half-circle to the prototype to slow it down. The final design will be less than 10 inches in length.

“The tilt-rotor design is kind of like the V-22 Osprey, where the motors tilt themselves,” Nogar said.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts
The future hybrid UAV is less than a foot in length, but for testing, its inventor has added a lightweight paper wing to slow it down. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The Osprey is a multi-mission, tilt-rotor military aircraft designed for both vertical takeoff and landing. The V-22 is more than 57 feet in length. Shrinking that capability to less than one foot has been a challenge due to the complex physics that govern the vehicle’s movement and the associated control methods, Nogar said.

With this hybrid UAV, transforming from hovering to horizontal flight offers speed, agility, and mission flexibility.

“Looking forward, we want to look at perching or landing on something in the environment,” Nogar said. “That means we have to be able to sense the environment.”

Imagine a future drone that knows how to land itself to conserve power while gathering situational awareness. The UAV will need to be able to detect walls, avoid obstacles, and rapidly understand its environment.

Read Also: Russia is designing a transformer to sucker punch the US

“If you’re going to land on something, you need to know very quickly how fast that’s coming up to you as you come in to land,” he said. “We will need to enable the UAV to sense and perceive its environment using visual techniques, such as machine learning.”

The next step is continuing to experiment, refine, and experiment more.

“These vehicles will better integrate with soldiers,” he said. “Soldiers are going to have to be able to interact with these vehicles all the time and they’re going to have to work as a team to achieve their objectives.”

That objective may be finding out what’s over the next hill or scouting out enemy forces.

“We cannot put a lot of sensors on this vehicle,” Nogar said. “It’s basically what we can do with just one camera. It takes a lot more work to do the control and study the dynamics of this vehicle, but we will definitely benefit from the effort once it’s finished.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

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High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

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