That said, the military’s got gear that might give Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston) some inspiration.
1. M1A2 Abrams tank
This is one tough vehicle. In “Armored Cav,” Tom Clancy related the tale of how one Abrams tank survived being hit multiple times by T-72 main gun rounds from as close as 400 yards!
The Abrams also has superb firepower in the form of its 120mm main gun, a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and two M240 7.62mm machine guns. In essence, this tank is already a Zord in many respects.
Might as well make it official.
2. B-1B Lancer
This plane carries a lot of firepower – 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs – and that is considering that its external weapons carriage was disabled as a result of the United States signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The plane is also fast, and capable of flying at treetop level.
3. A-10 Thunderbolt
There is no reason why the A-10 – and its ability to BRRRRRT the bad guys with the GAU-8 — shouldn’t be a Zord. It is very tough (remember how Kim Campbell brought back a busted-up A-10?). It also carries a lot of bombs.
Put it this way — even a skyscraper-sized minion of Rita’s would be hard-pressed to stand up against a squadron of baseline Warthogs, but against an A-10 Thunderbolt Zord?
4. M270 MLRS
This vehicle gets the nod for its firepower. The various rockets it fires can spread bomblets or a unitary charge. That ruins the day for infantry and enemy vehicles, but when it uses the MGM-140 ATACMS – or the Army Tactical Missile System – it could probably put the hurt on one of the skyscraper-sized monsters as well.
5. M50 Ontos
This is more a blast from the past. That said, the six 106mm recoilless rifles provide a huge punch. The rifles could fire anti-personnel or anti-tank rounds.
In Vietnam, the Ontos was deadly against enemy infantry – and given that the fighting against Rita’s minions is likely to involve a lot of hand-to-hand fighting (until she calls in her big guns), the Ontos makes sense.
6. M1097 Avenger
A lot of this has been focused on the air-to-ground aspect. But it never hurts to be ready for some ground-to-air action. DefenseNews.com notes that Boeing is proposing some upgrades to the baseline Avenger, notably the AIM-9X Sidewinder and the Longbow version of the AGM-114 Hellfire.
Now, we have no idea what any Megazord from these vehicles would look like, but given their firepower – would they need a Megazord configuration? We doubt it. We’d also like to know, what military vehicles do you think Zordon should use as the basis for his next generation of Zords?
As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.
The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.
“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.
Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.
“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.
Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.
“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”
Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.
“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”
A situation that started with students protesting the government evolved into a failed coup d’etat and, consequently, the decimation of a once-thriving tourism industry. Protesters, feeling powerless in the face of violence, turned to the dark side for help, accepting aid from narco-terrorists sponsored by oligarchs.
The Sandinista Government, also known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), is a revolutionary ideology and organization that was created on July 19, 1961, to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. From an outside perspective, it looks like the government has come full circle in becoming what it was created to destroy.
U.S. Sanctions have influenced the Sandinista Government to change their strategy in restoring law and order to what was once known as the “safest country in Latin America.” Disregarding warnings from the embassy, I boarded a plane leaving the U.S. to Nicaragua to see it for myself.
No sh*t, there I was…
Did someone say, “communism?”
A History of Distrust
Historically, Nicaragua and the United States have not have an outstanding relationship due several political scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair. Long story short: We sold weapons to Iran through Israel in order to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages. The funds from the weapons sale were going to benefit the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization that opposed the Sandinistas. Needless to say, they weren’t so thrilled about it.
Today, the people of Nicaragua don’t treat U.S. citizens negatively because of our nations’ histories, but they do harbor a general distrust of American diplomats and government officials — this is especially true among the top brass.
It is important to note these specific examples of the past because there are similar accusations heading our way once again.
Not your best pitch, Don.
The Reason for the Sanctions
In Nicaragua, a country that has served as a physical barrier in our ongoing War On Drugs in Central America, was developing all the telltale signs of an impending coup.
Local police responded with extreme force against what they believed was a new arm of the criminal underground created to overthrow the government. Their aggressive pushback was interpreted by outside news outlets as a wanton wave of human rights violations. The ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach backfired — as it tends to.
Jacinto Saurez, the International Secretary of the FSLN, told the Havana Times of a conspiracy theory of a U.S.-sponsored coup. Oldtimers were quick to believe this because of our nations’ turbulent recent history.
As capitalists, we would never take a metaphorical cow producing milk behind a barn and shoot it, so the idea of a U.S. coup doesn’t hold water against facts.
The harsh reality is, sadly, that Nicaragua killed that cow themselves. The entire economy is reliant on the United States but old revolutionaries in power, blinded by pride, resent that the U.S. is essential to the country’s stability. The old, stubborn leadership resents any foreign influence — even if it is beneficial.
Taxes? No habla ingles.
U.S. sanctions aimed towards the Sandinista government have hit the tourism industry hard and they’ve hit the private sector even harder, yet the upper class has felt nothing. Investors have almost completely pulled out of the country and major corporations tied to the government have fired half their staff.
Mom-and-pop shops are running at max capacity to fill the void left behind by the departure of major department stores, restaurants, and franchises. Larger businesses have to raise their prices to keep up with taxes that the smaller businesses dodge. In short, we’re seeing a great dying of big business but an exploding entrepreneur market.
Small businesses are unaffected by the sanctions because they do not report their income. Hell, most small businesses down here don’t even have the proper licenses to operate legally.
The moment the new national strategy was implemented.
According to the Institute of Nicaraguan Tourism (Intur), U.S. tourism makes up a 24% market share in the country. A new national strategy has been implemented to try and regain American confidence and ensure visitors’ safety. They have increased police presence day and night, all barricades have been removed, and criminals have either been arrested or have fled the country. Regardless, I would highly recommend against traveling here without a guide or prior experience until the political situation improves.
Despite safety precautions, there are more ‘demonstrations’ planned for the near future that pose a security risk. It is unknown if the anti-government forces are going to return en masse.
A deflationary trend has developed for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO) from 32.24 to 31.70 (at the time of writing). This may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s actually a pretty severe drop. The exchange rate is currently id=”listicle-2598140554″ USD to C.70 and, though the jump in U.S. buying power is good news for us, it has had devastating consequences for the local population.
Adam Hayes of Investopedia does a great job of explaining it:
“Deflation typically occurs in and after periods of economic crisis. When an economy experiences a severe recession or depression, economic output slows as demand for consumption and investment drop.
This leads to an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin holding onto liquid money reserves to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand.”
Normally, Nicaraguans are paid in U.S. dollars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The employees prefer to be paid this way because the dollar is less volatile. Corporations are lobbying for a new law that changes the payout to workers to Cordobas instead of dollars because of deflation. So, now that the local currency has deflated, the prices on everything have gone up. Unfortunately, corporations want to pay people “technically” the same amount — but by that logic, when the economy recovers, they’re “technically” paying people less.
These colors don’t run.
Americans living in Nicaragua
So, what’s the situation like for Americans in the country?
Many foreigners have left, but one thing is for certain among Americans who have remained: They will not be intimidated. Surprisingly, the Americans give no f*cks. They have stockpiled supplies, ammo, and alcohol. Those who have property out in the countryside have opted to weather the storm away from the cities. Those living within the cities have installed electric fences, cameras, and are even flying personal drones when things get hairy.
Nicaragua may be dangerous at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s no Afghanistan. Fortunes are made in times of chaos and it’s a buyers market. Right now, residential and commercial properties are practically being given away.
Americans aren’t turning tail. When I attended a bullfighting competition in the city of Juigalpa, a city saturated with Sandinista loyalists, I took a picture of this warrior:
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds on Jan. 25, pushing humanity’s proximity to disaster at a symbolic and alarming two minutes to midnight.
The organization has adjusted the Doomsday Clock yearly since 1947. Though the Bulletin bases its clock’s position on multiple global threats, this year, it highlighted the bellicose behavior of President Donald Trump toward North Korea and his administration’s nuclear weapons posturing.
“To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin, said during a press briefing. It’s “the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday,” she added. “As close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.”
One of the Bulletin’s major concerns is about an “oops” moment of nuclear proportions involving the evolvingnuclear arsenal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” the Bulletin said in a statement.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, echoed this concern in an interview with Business Insider earlier in January.
“I don’t think the North Koreans would ever deliberately use the nuclear weapons unless they thought they were being invaded; that we might invade them, or they might think — wrongly — that we were invading them,” said Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.
Here’s how Lewis and others think North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., and possibly Japan could stumble into a limited nuclear exchange.
The dangerous and fuzzy math of miscalculation
Lewis, who has deeply studied East-Asian nuclear history, and especially that of China’s, points out that the apparent growing competence of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs has likely made Kim and his advisors feel more secure on a day-to-day basis.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a greater risk of panic within the isolated nation — and a grievous error.
“It’s called miscalculation, where one side makes a calculation that war is inevitable,” Lewis said. “They don’t think that they’re starting a war, they just think they’re getting a jump on the other.”
War history is peppered with instances of miscalculation and preemptive attacks, including Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor during World War II.
“The Japanese thought that they would probably lose. So you think, ‘Why in the hell are they doing this?'” Lewis said. “They thought war was inevitable, and that their best chance of surviving was to go first.”
Lewis added this is the canonical case of miscalculation: “Where one side says, ‘I don’t want to do this, and I’m probably even going to lose if I do this, but I’m certainly going to lose if I do nothing. If I do nothing, I will certainly be attacked and I will certainly be destroyed. Whereas if I take this opportunity now, maybe I have only a 10% or a 20% or a 30% chance of getting out alive … and then he pushes the metaphorical button.”
The scenario that Lewis, the Bulletin, and others who watch North Korean tensions with the U.S. — as well as allies South Korea and Japan — deeply worry about is if Kim and his advisors incorrectly interpret military activity around the Korean Peninsula.
“The North Koreans, when they write official statements about what their nuclear posture or doctrine is, the phrase they use is ‘deter and repel.’ So ‘deter’ means deter,” Lewis said, noting that the country’s nuclear arsenal is becoming its primary deterrent for conflict. “But ‘repel’ means if the deterrent fails, and the United States launches an invasion, they will use nuclear weapons to try and repel the invasion — to try to destroy U.S. forces throughout South Korea and Japan, rather than letting the United States … build up an invasion force and then roll in.”
Lewis says the trigger to such a crisis has become more likely with the election of President Trump and his use of bellicose tweets and statements targeting Kim.
Let’s say we’re doing a large military exercise with South Koreans, which always — to the North Koreans — looks like preparations for an invasion, where you’re flooding forces in,” Lewis said. “If that occur against a crisis, where the North Koreans actually think an invasion is likely, and the Trump says something that they misinterpret, you might get into spot where it’s not that they wanted to use the nuclear weapons, but they concluded an invasion was likely, and this was their last best chance to repel. And that’s what scares the shit out of me.
The move would likely trigger a powerful U.S. military response. To illustrate the consequences of a return attack, consider a different and “best-case” scenario of limited conflict with North Korea, where the U.S. and its allies try to neutralize Kim’s nuclear and conventional weapons — and no nukes are used.
“[Suppose] in the space of, say, three hours, we could destroy all of the 8,000 to 10,000 hardened sites of North Korean artillery that Seoul, South Korea, is in range of,” Kori Schake, who studies military history and contemporary conflicts at the Hoover Institution, said on a Nov. 17 episode of the Pod Save The World podcast. “Even in that [scenario] — which would be a level of military virtuosity unimaginable — you’re still probably talking 300,000 dead South Koreans.”
Other estimates suggest millions could die, since Seoul (South Korea’s capital) and its 25 million residents, including tens of thousands of U.S. forces, are just 35 miles from the North Korean border.
How to step back from the brink
Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said Thursday that there is still time to turn back the clock.
“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said.
The Bulletin makes a few recommendations to ease tensions with North Korea and avert a nuclear disaster:
First and foremost, it said: “U.S. President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, recognizing the impossibility of predicting North Korean reactions.”
Second, the U.S. should preemptively open military and diplomatic lines of communication with North Korea — not to signal weakness, but to show “that while Washington fully intends to defend itself and its allies from any attack with a devastating retaliatory response, it does not otherwise intend to attack North Korea or pursue regime change.”
And finally: “The world community should pursue, as a short-term goal, the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years. Over time, the United States should seek North Korea’s signature on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — and then, along with China, at long last also ratify the treaty.”
Paradoxically, Lewis says the advent of a proven and substantial North Korean nuclear arsenal itself could open communications channels and opportunities for diplomacy.
The deterrence it provides could prompt the U.S. and its allies to relax military activity and reduce the chances of a deadly mistake.
“That is generally a good bargain, but if it goes wrong, the consequences are tremendous,” Lewis said.
On the other hand, Lewis said, North Korea could use its deterrence “and spend it on being awful” by “sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises” and continuing its history of horrifyinghuman-rightsabuses.
“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive. But we should wait and see,” Lewis said. “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”
Russia is doubling down in its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In an effort to prop up the Syrian government, and secure its own interests in the region, Russia is establishing its “most significant” military foothold in the region since the days of the Cold War.
As part of this push, Russia has taken over the main international airport in Damascus and is airlifting tons of supplies, soldiers, and armaments including tanks into the country.
At the same time, Russians are building another base in Latakia, the ancestreal heartland of Assad.
So far, Moscow has deployed around a half dozen T-90 battle tanks in Syria, The New York Times reports citing American military specialists. The tanks are currently being stationed at airfields throughout the country.
Reuters reports that Russia has placed seven T-90s by an airfield in Latakia. The tanks are currently defensively deployed, but that could change as Russia continues to fly more equipment and personnel into the country.
The T-90 tank is Russia’s second-most recent tank. It first entered service in the Russia military in 1992, and Russia began exporting the vehicle in 2004. As of 2007, Russia only had around 200 T-90 tanks within its armed forces. As such, the deployment of over a half dozen of the tanks to Syria is a fairly large move.
According to Army Technology, the T-90 is heavily armed with a wide variety of rounds. The tank comes with one main turret that can fire armor piercing rounds, high-explosive anti-tank rounds, and shrapnel projectiles. In addition, the vehicle has an anti-tank guided missile system and a mounted machine gun.
Defensively, the tank has both conventional and reactive armor shielding as well as various jamming tools that make it difficult to enemy’s to lock onto the tanks position.
Altogether, the T-90 is an extremely capable vehicle. Aside from Russia’sbrand new T-14 Armata tank, which has yet to enter mass procurement, it is Russia’s latest and most capable battle vehicle.
In addition to the T-90s, the Times reports that Russia has also moved in howitzers, armored personnel carriers, and artillery into Latakia.
The maintenance team from the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment has been working nonstop in Puerto Rico since they flew in from Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 9. The crew maintains six CH-47 Chinook helicopters that deliver humanitarian supplies daily to some of the hardest-hit and most remote areas of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Soldiers need to do 90 percent of the maintenance work at night to allow full usage of the helicopters during the day for essential humanitarian missions, said Army Lt. Col Chris Chung, the battalion commander.
“At first, night shift was running from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.,” said Army Sgt. Jason Gonsalves, a CH-47 helicopter repairer. “We were working long days, only stopping to take a break for thirty minutes.”
When the unit arrived, the maintenance team had to reassemble the Chinooks, which they had only recently disassembled to fit on C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft for the trip from Texas, Gonsalves said.
In order for two Chinook helicopters to fit aboard a C-5, their rotor systems and housings must be detached and disassembled.
The maintainers had the helicopters back together and ready to fly within 48 hours, said Army Pfc. Zachariah Ingram, a CH-47 helicopter repairer.
In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance, the crew has to be vigilant for other problems that come with the operating environment. For example, the salt air and humidity inherent with operating in tropical environments can lead to corrosion, Gonsalves said.
When not working on the helicopters, the maintainers volunteer to help with the humanitarian airlift.
“I’ve gone on a flight to help pass out supplies and talk to the populace,” said Army Spc. Juan Betancourt, a CH-47 maintainer.
Betancourt, a native Spanish speaker, uses his skills to help other soldiers communicate with the island’s residents.
“There was a younger girl, maybe 12 or 13, who came up and gave me a hug and said ‘Thank you,'” Betancourt said. “It was heartwarming.”
The work of the maintenance crews has not gone unnoticed.
“Our maintainers have done a phenomenal job keeping the Chinooks … up and running at the mission-capable status that we need to continue to achieve missions that are requested of us and to be on standby for those that are not,” Chung said. “It’s not a small task and it’s not a small feat.”
Australia has completed the laying of undersea cables for its high-speed internet project in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, a snub to Chinese tech giant Huawei, which had previously competed for the deal.
Australia on Aug. 28, 2019, laid the final piece of cable as part of its $A137 million ($92.5 million) infrastructure effort, known as the Coral Sea Cable, which links Sydney to its island neighbors.
Australia agreed to front most of the cost of the construction project in 2018, shutting out a competing offer by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. According to WA Today, the project spans 4,700 kilometers (2,920 miles) and is linked to Sydney’s Tamarama Beach using cables which feature optic fibers thinner than human hair.
The paper added that less than 11% of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands residents have internet access, making the project important to their future social and economic development.
Walter Diamana, Acting High Commissioner for Solomon Islands, said the project would “secure hope and bring a predictable future for our people,” WA Today reported.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told reporters Aug. 28, 2019, that the project was key to fortifying Australia’s connection to the Pacific as China has begun expanding its efforts in the region. She said the goal was to have the cables in operation by December 2019.
Several countries have voiced concern that Huawei technology could be used by China for spying
The US has long voiced concerns that Huawei’s technology — along with that of its fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE — could pose a security risk, fearing that the company’s technology could act as a backdoor for the Chinese government to spy on the West.
The US banned federal agencies and their contractors from using equipment or services provided by Huawei, which prompted harsh blowback from the Chinese tech giant.
In recent months, Australia has banned Huawei and ZTE from supplying tech for their networks, citing major security risks.
New Zealand has also turned down a proposal for one of its major telecom carriers to use Huawei gear in its planned 5G mobile network, but the country has not ruled out using the tech giant in future internet network upgrades if security risks are addressed.
Huawei’s CEO pushed back on concerns about its 5G network in March, saying: “Cyber security and user privacy protection are at the absolute top of our agenda. We are confident that the companies that choose to work with Huawei will be the most competitive in the 5G era.”
“The easiest way to bring down a fortress is to attack it from within. And the easiest way to reinforce it is from outside.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps’ top future warfare planners say the days of an Iwo Jima-style beach assault — with hours of shore bombardment, waves of amphibious vehicles lumbering through the surf and Leathernecks plodding to shore through hails of gunfire — are long gone.
But the mission to enter an adversary’s country through a ship-to-shore assault is not.
The problem, they say, is coming up with innovative ways to take that beach without exposing U.S. forces to a World War II-esque bloodbath.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment prepare a newly developed system, the Multi Utility Tactical Transport, for testing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 8, 2016. The MUTT is designed as a force multiplier to enhance expeditionary power enabling Marines to cover larger areas and provide superior firepower with the lightest tactical footprint possible. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
That’s why the Corps has teamed with the Navy’s top research and development office to come up with technologies that can help with its future warfare plan. Service officials are asking industry for solutions to spoof enemy radars and sensors, mask the U.S. forces going ashore from overhead surveillance and keep manned platforms well out of harms way until the enemy’s defenses are taken out.
Planners are increasingly looking to unmanned systems like drone subs, robots and autonomous ships to do much of the amphibious assault work for them.
“Why put men at risk when we can have autonomous systems do this for us?” said Marine Corps Combat Development Command chief Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh during an interview with defense reporters Oct. 19. “We’re looking for technologies that can help us do ship-to-shore maneuver differently.”
Walsh imagined robotic boats flowing inland with cannon or mortars on them helping suppress enemy defenses; drones and electronic jammers that tell enemy sensors Marines and Navy ships are in one location, when they’re actually in another; drone submarines that find and destroy enemy sea mines so SEALs and other manned systems don’t have to do the dangerous work of clearing beaches — all in an effort to keep the Corps’ primary mission of amphibious assault intact, but giving it a 21st Century twist.
Engineers with the Navy’s research and development office alongside MCCDC are asking civilian companies and DoD labs to provide new systems and technologies that can be tested in a wide-ranging wargame set for next year.
Officials are looking for new gear to help Marines get to shore quicker and from farther out to sea; fire support systems that will hit targets both at sea and on land; new mine and obstacle clearing systems; jam-proof communications systems; and “adaptive uses of proven electromagnetic warfare techniques and decoys that lengthen the enemy’s targeting cycle, forcing them to commit resources to the decoys and incite an enemy response.”
“This concept of prototyping and experimenting at the same time is something totally new,” said the Navy’s Assistant Sec. for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Dr. Richard Burrows. “Industry is doing a lot of good things out there and we want to take a look at them.”
It’s not every day that you can say “Today I got a personalized tweet from someone claiming to be with ISIS.” And that’s probably a good thing.
It happened like this: The Twitter account of a military spouse who owns a spouse-focused non-profit was hacked by a group apparently affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The hackers then tweeted messages aimed at specific military spouses, including myself.
“Amy Bushatz! You think you’re safe but the IS is already here, #CyberCaliphate got into your PC and smartphone,” is, I’m told, what the tweet said (I did not actually see it before it was deleted, presumably by Twitter).
Not long thereafter I received a friend request from someone named “Gasper CyberCaliphate Sadz.” When I viewed their profile it was clear that they were not the sort of person I wanted to let into my social life. Within a few seconds the profile had been deleted. And yes, it was really creepy. The same photo and images were used in this account as were used during the CENTCOM hack.
You might be thinking “that’s what you get for being stupid enough to be quoted by name in a CNN article about ISIS and cyber threats.” However, the decision to have my name used in that story wasn’t a hard one. My name is everywhere — here, on Military.com and in other national publications. I am a public person. That ship has sailed.
I’m told the FBI is investigating the situation, and all the proper military officials have been notified by those of us involved. My husband suggested I not let anyone dressed as a terrorist into our house.
I want to face this whole situation with a resolute jaw and a loud “being afraid means the terrorists win.” I’m not the type of person to live in fear or change my life just because some person on the internet wants to scare me. I’ve never done that before and I have no intention of doing it now.
Personal attacks bring up a variety of feelings. On the one hand, I’m super pissed. How dare they threaten me and my friends? Then there’s the maniacal laughter and the semi-inappropriate jokes about not opening the door for anyone in a bomb vest. I’ve got lots of those.
But then, underneath all of that somewhere deep in my core, I am trying to shake off the tiniest bit of what feels an awful lot like fear.
Because being singled out by someone claiming to be with a fairly terrifying terrorist organization? That’s scary. Knowing that, thanks to my job and public profile, my town of residence, spouse’s name and occupation, base, kid’s names and more wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to locate online? More than unnerving.
But I don’t think it’s the fear itself that matters. I think it’s what I choose to do about the fear that is the key. Do I let it change my habits? Do I ignore it completely and hope nothing bad happens?
Do I use it as a cautionary tale to be more vigilant — much like you would react to a story of a home robbery in your neighborhood?
Or do I completely change my life, delete my social media presence and lock down my family because I am afraid?
Being afraid doesn’t mean the terrorists won — it’s the living in fear that gives them the victory. I’m not giving them the victory.
When military members and their families begin contemplating retirement locations after active service, LA doesn’t typically come up as a possibility. But the veteran led leadership of the city is aiming to change that.
Retired Navy Captain Larry Vasquez was originally from New York before becoming a pilot for the Navy. After spending half of his 30 years in service stationed in California, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
Inspired by the movie Top Gun, Vasquez knew he wanted to be a pilot in the Navy from an early age. He received his commission in 1988 and retired in 2018. “I was the first in my family to graduate from college and next thing you know, I am in Navy flight school. It was hard and a tough couple of years but I was able to qualify to be helicopter pilot,” Vasquez said. He also shared his vivid memories of responding after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 and the impact it had on his life and service going forward.
Vasquez currently serves as the Director of Military and Veteran Affairs within the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. What sets this office apart is that Mayor Eric Garcetti was an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. His deputy Mayor is still serving in the Navy Reserves. “This opportunity presented itself but I don’t know if I would be here if my mayor was not a veteran,” Vasquez explained. He was brought onto the team in 2018. “It demonstrates to me that he is committed to veterans…for me this is really about understanding the veteran space and I didn’t know before I got here that we have the largest concentration of veterans in the country.”
In 2013 the mayor created the Office of Veteran Affairs, the first for the city since World War II. The goal of the office is to work collaboratively with other government agencies and organizations in order to strongly advocate for veterans and their needs. “I don’t think I have it all right and I don’t think anyone ever will,” Vasquez shared. But with leadership commitment and an established council of military veterans advising the mayor and his administration, they are on their way to bridging the divide and creating meaningful solutions for veteran related issues.
Since the Mayor has taken office, his administration has been able to house 11,000 homeless veterans. This is done through a range of partnerships and programs aimed to support the veterans in wrap-around care they desperately need for success. By working directly with the VA they were able to coordinate a 14,000 bed housing facility for veterans.
The city and its administration is also committed to tackling issues like employment, where they are working with the Call of Duty Foundation to build on the mayor’s promise to connect 10,000 veterans with employment. They met that goal in 2017 and will aim for 22,000 by the end of the mayor’s term in 2022. With the Super Bowl and Olympics coming to LA, the administration is admanent that veterans benefit from it. “We want to make sure that veterans have a voice, especially veteran-owned small businesses,” Vasquez explained.
For those who are skeptical about California having high ratings from being veteran friendly, they’d be surprised. Irvine was number two in WalletHub’s list of big cities, which is a neighboring city to Los Angeles. High ratings in health care, employment and quality of life were among the reasons for the rating.
When asked what the biggest lesson learned from the military was, Vasquez was quick to answer. “Never quit,” he stated. “One thing the military taught me and the mindset to have is that it is a can’t fail mission…You have to be able to pivot, flex and go to other options.” He went on to explain that a misconception of veterans is that they are rigid, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Vasquez highlighted the fact that veterans are lifelong learners and will always give you 100 percent, all they need is to be valued and have a shared mission.
For veterans looking to settle down and transition out of military service, Los Angeles wants you. The mayor and his administration want your talent, values and commitment to excellence as a citizen and resident of their city. In return, Vasquez and the others on the team remain dedicated to ensuring that the heroes that are ready to come home, have everything they need to do it well.
Retired Air Force Colonel Merryl Tengesdal was the first and only Black female U-2 pilot. For her, it’s all about finding opportunity and seizing it.
Born in the Bronx and raised by a single mother, Tengesdal was obsessed with Star Trek. “When I was 7 years old I decided I wanted to be an astronaut and be like Kirk exploring space,” she said with a smile. That show would be a pivotal moment for her life, leading her to set what she called her framework. “I knew I needed to do well in math and science, go to college and become a pilot.”
But she didn’t want to become just any kind of pilot, either. “I wanted to go high and fast with weapons, that’s just how I roll,” Tengesdal said with a smile.
While still in high school, she attended college level programs for science and electrical engineering, which is what she would major in. When Tengesdal graduated, she was only one of three women in the program. “I did ROTC in the Air Force for two years but thought it probably wasn’t the best fit for me. It’s funny how that comes back full circle,” she laughed.
Instead of the Air Force, Tengesdal started talking to a Navy recruiter. Although she was told there were no pilot slots by them, that didn’t stop her. She’d end up on a five-day bus trip to San Diego where she took the required test to become a pilot. Tengesdal was picked up for Officer Candidate School in 1994. “I got wind in ‘96 and picked up helicopters, H60 Bravos and did that for four years. Deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabyian Gulf, doing missions out there,” she explained.
Tengesdal did two more years with the fleet before becoming a T-6 instructor. When that was finished, she went back to where it all started. The Air Force.
She was actually contemplating getting out, her goals still being on getting into space. But then she heard about the U-2. “The mission was beautiful, the aircraft was tough. I wore a pressure suit going above 70,000 feet. All of that was very appealing to me,” Tendesdal shared.
The Lockheed U-2 is actually nicknamed the “dragon lady” and used to be the aircraft of choice for the Central Intelligence Agency. Pilots are required to breathe in pure oxygen for the hour prior to takeoff and wear partially pressurized space suits before they board for missions over 10 hours long. It is so challenging and difficult that it comes with a suicide needle, should the pilot opt to take it. Tengesdal was only one of ten women in around 1100 pilots in the aircrafts history. She is still the only Black woman to fly it.
“I was driven toward a goal and flying. I didn’t say I wanted to be a first because no one else had done it, I didn’t even think of it that way. I looked at the U-2 community as a brother and sisterhood that I wanted to be a part of,” Tengesdal explained. “The progression of myself as a Black American during my time on this earth has been a very good one…I saw opportunity, my mom made sure there was and then I would take advantage of it.”
Her advice is to take everything as if it’s the only shot you have and make the best of it. “I try to create those opportunities for people regardless of what they look like or who they are, based on their skillset. I think that’s how I went through life. People saw something in me, I had the skill and aptitude and it’s worked out…All you have to do is look at it and not limit yourself,” Tengesdal shared.
“When I was deployed with the Navy, I saw what poverty could really look like. It gives you that perspective of ‘we don’t want that here,'” she explained. With her time in service, she’s witnessed how bad it can be and although recognizes America is far from perfect – it’s a beacon of hope for so many for a reason. Tengesdal remains hopeful that American resiliency will shine through.
Promoted to Colonel, she eventually retired in 2017. These days she’s wearing the hats of personal trainer, motivational speaker, wife and mom. She’s also fostering to adopt, in an attempt to give a child a starting opportunity, like she had.
We can also add reality TV star to the mix now, too.
You’ll find Tengesdal on the CBS reality series, Tough As Nails. It’s a show featuring every day Americans who don’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get the job done; a mantra deeply familiar to her. Things like mental toughness, strength, life skills and endurance will be tested. Basically, it was a show made for Tengesdal.
For a woman who’s accomplished so much already and continues to strive for even more, she has some shockingly normal hobbies and enjoyments. “I am above level 8,000 on candy crush and I play Pokemon go,” she laughed.
Her message to women or anyone who feels underserved wondering if they should go for something because it’s going to be too hard, Tengesdal says yes. “You may struggle and even struggle really hard. Do it anyway.”
For more amazing Black veterans, check out this post.
Since President Donald Trump assumed office, there has been an intense focus on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But eight other countries, including the US, have stockpiled nuclear weapons for decades.
A few years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan during World War II — the only time nuclear weapons have been used in combat — Russia began developing its own nuclear capabilities. The United Kingdom, France, and China followed soon thereafter.
By the 1960s, it was becoming apparent that a future in which dozens of countries build and test nuclear weapons would not be safe for the world. This led to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, which was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. A handful of countries, including Israel and North Korea, have not signed on to the agreement.
The treaty has been largely successful. But the potential use of nuclear weapons between hostile nations continues to threaten international peace.
Here’s how many nuclear weapons exist and which countries have them, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists:
9. North Korea: 60
For years, the US tried to negotiate with North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons program. The Agreed Framework, signed in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, ultimately failed. North Korea was cheating.
In 2003, Pyongyang officially withdrew from the NPT. Three years later, the country conducted its first nuclear test. North Korea has since continued building weapons, despite efforts by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump to slow its progress.
Today, North Korea most likely has up to 60 nuclear weapons, though that number is an estimate.
8. Israel: 80
Israel’s government will neither officially confirm nor deny it has nuclear weapons. But it’s an open secret that the Middle Eastern country has been building nuclear weapons for decades.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician and whistle-blower, revealed the existence of Israel’s program.
Western allies, like the US and the UK, have supported Israel’s policy of keeping its program “secret.”
The Guardian reported that in 2009, when a reporter asked US President Barack Obama whether he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, “he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to ‘speculate.'”
7. India: 130
To put it mildly, India has a hostile relationship with its neighbor Pakistan. That tension is compounded by the fact that both countries possess nuclear weapons. For nearly two decades, however, the two nations have avoided any escalating nuclear conflict.
In 2003, India, which is not a party to the NPT, declared a no-use-first policy, meaning it vowed to never use nuclear weapons in combat unless first attacked by another country with nuclear weapons. China maintains a similar policy.
India first began developing nuclear weapons in an attempt to counter Chinese aggression in the 1960s. It has since tested multiple nuclear devices, which caused the US to impose, then later lift, various sanctions.
6. Pakistan: 140
Contrary to India’s no-first-use policy, Pakistan has not ruled out first-attack use of nuclear weapons.
The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War and the threat of India’s burgeoning nuclear weapons capabilities prompted Pakistan to start a nuclear program of its own.
In 2014, Pakistan began developing tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller warheads built for use on battlefields rather than against cities or infrastructure. These weapons are small enough to launch from warships or submarines, which makes them easier to use on short notice than traditional nuclear weapons.
Pakistan is also reportedly nearing completion of its nuclear triad, which would give the country the ability to launch nuclear missiles from the land, air, and sea.
5. United Kingdom: 215
Like all other nuclearized countries, the UK argues that it needs nuclear weapons largely for defense purposes.
Its nuclear weapons deterrent is called Trident and consists of four Vanguard-class submarines that can carry up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to eight nuclear warheads, The Telegraph reported.
From 2010 to 2015, the UK cut the number of its operational warheads by 40, to 120. It continues to work on nuclear reduction while maintaining its advocacy for minimum nuclear force — just the right amount of force to inflict devastation and achieve combat goals.
4. China: 270
Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.
China’s first nuclear weapons test took place in 1964. Like India, Beijing maintains a no-use-first nuclear policy, but some in the international community are skeptical of its intentions.
Beijing keeps its nuclear weapons count secret, so it’s impossible to determine exactly how many the country has. While the East Asian superpower is a member of the NPT, its increasingly ambitious military ventures have been a cause of concern for some countries.
Next year, for example, China plans to unveil its next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, which will be able to strike anywhere in the world and carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. In 2016, similar long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking Guam, a US territory, were revealed, sending shockwaves through the American defense establishment.
3. France: 300
France began developing nuclear weapons during the Cold War, when President Charles de Gaulle believed it needed defense capabilities independent of the US and NATO. De Gaulle feared that neither would come to France’s defense in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union or some other enemy.
While France possesses the third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, it claims it has no chemical or biological warfare weapons. It is a member of the NPT.
In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed that the country’s nuclear weapons were not “targeted at anybody.” Rather, they were part of a “life-insurance policy.” Sarkozy also announced a nuclear weapons reduction, cutting its stockpile to “half the maximum number of warheads [France] had during the Cold War.
2. United States: 6,800
The US ushered in the nuclear era under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 when the military launched the Manhattan Project, which led to the world’s first nuclear bomb detonation.
During World War II, the US forever changed the way the world would look at nuclear technology after dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, instantly killing tens of thousands of civilians.
The US is a member of the NPT but has refused to sign on to a no-first-use policy.
Earlier this year, former Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on major investments to boost America’s nuclear capabilities.
“So long as other countries possess nuclear weapons that could be used against us, we too must maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter attacks against ourselves and our allies,” Biden said. “That is why … we increased funding to maintain our arsenal and modernize our nuclear infrastructure.”
Quartz reported that the US would spend approximately $400 billion over a 10-year period to maintain and modernize its arsenal. Another purpose of this investment is to keep pace with Russia’s growing arsenal.
Trump has echoed Obama’s calls for a revamping of the US arsenal.
“I want modernization and total rehabilitation,” the president said. After calling for an increase in the US stockpile on the campaign trail, he said in October 2017 that would be “totally unnecessary.”
1. Russia: 7,000
The former Soviet Union began work on its nuclear weapons program in the 1940s after hearing reports of the US Manhattan Project.
After the Soviet-US arms race during the Cold War, nuclear weapons stored in former Soviet states were returned to Russia, where many were dismantled. But Russia still maintained a vast stockpile of weapons.
Today, Russia appears to be investing in nuclear weapons modernization — much like the US — and growing its arsenal. Last year, President Barack Obama criticized such efforts as impediments to global nuclear disarmament.
“Because of the vision that he’s been pursuing of emphasizing military might,” Obama said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have not seen the type of progress that I would have hoped for with Russia.”
In October, Putin said he wanted to help reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal and “will be striving to achieve that,” but he added that Russia would continue to develop its program so long as other countries continue doing so.
While Russia has the most nuclear weapons of any country, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most powerful.
“Russia built nuclear weapons that are incremental improvements,” or weapons that would need updating every decade or so, Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider.
On the other hand, Lewis said: “US nukes are like Ferraris: beautiful, intricate, and designed for high performance. Experts have said the plutonium pits will last for 100s of years.” Indeed, the US’s stocks of Minuteman III ICBMS, despite their age, are “exquisite machinery, incredible things.”
“Russia’s nuclear weapons are newer, true, but they reflect the design philosophy that says ‘No reason to make it super fancy because we’ll just rebuild it in 10 years,'” Lewis added.