November is Military Family Appreciation Month. Of course, our nation owes military families a debt of gratitude: Their sacrifices and stressors should not go unnoticed. We do try to honor them, with thanks and praise, but during this month set aside to appreciate military families, we should consider practical ways we can do more to address the challenges they face. Fortunately, such efforts are underway.
In August, the White House hosted a listening session of military spouses, and the common themes were disruptions in career development and employment.
Ninety-two percent of military spouses are female, but the unemployment rate for military spouses (16 percent) is four times higher than the rate for all adult women in the U.S. (4 percent). About half of military spouses who are now working part-time report that they are underemployed; they would prefer full-time work.
Both the private sector and the public sector are making efforts to address the needs of military families.
First, because military life often requires moving from state to state, varying occupational licensing and a continuing education programs can keep military spouses from working, or slow them down and impose additional costs after a move. Unbelievably, today in the U.S., nearly one in three workers need a license to work. Scaling back these requirements, or offering state-to-state reciprocity, is one way governments can help. A trio of bills (the Restoring Board Immunity Act, the New HOPE Act, and the ALLOW Act) are currently under Congressional consideration. Each would encourage states to dial back oppressive licensing laws.
Second, private companies can work to foster more workplace flexibility. In industries where this is possible, employers should allow flexible hours, telecommuting and work-from-home options. These flexible workplace practices are helpful to any spouse (or single parent) who has to juggle the lion’s share of childcare duties. This particularly applies to military spouses.
The government can help to foster more workplace flexibility as well, simply by staying out of employment contracts and reducing regulations promulgated under the Fair Labor Standards Act that actually restrict employer’s ability to offer flexible arrangements. In May, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow workers to elect to take comp time instead of overtime pay. This would be one good step toward greater flexibility. The bill is now with the Senate.
Finally, thirdly, many military spouses have found that the best way to become and stay employed is simply to work for oneself. Many run Etsy shops or otherwise operate their own small businesses. Pursuing a pro-growth economic policy, including tax reforms that make it easier to comply with the tax code and reducing the tax burden that small businesses face, would greatly help these military families. Congress is hard at work trying to pass such tax reforms now.
More good news: New technologies—and the growth of tech-related industries—are making more flexible, work-from-home positions available, and some companies, like Amazon, are committed to hiring military spouses in these jobs. These efforts are welcome and help combat the bias that some other employers may exhibit toward military spouses, whom they may see as a “flight risk” due to the frequent moving associated with military life.
Our economy is changing rapidly. Thanks to cultural and technological changes, the workplace can be more flexible than ever. By reducing barriers like occupational licenses and outdated labor and tax laws, we can do more to provide better economic opportunities for military families. Our debt to them can never be repaid – but fostering better employment options would be a good start.
The battle for ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq has kicked off this week.
But if it’s not handled well, the long-term consequences could be severe.
“If handled successfully, Mosul could mark the beginning of the end of the Islamic State; if handled poorly, it could be yet another pause before an inevitable resurgence of terror,” said an online intelligence briefing from The Soufan Group, a strategic security firm.
The Iraqi Security Forces don’t have enough troops to retake and hold Mosul and the surrounding area without help. So other factions — including Kurdish forces and Shia militias (known as Popular Mobilization Units) backed by Iran. If left unchecked, these other factions could use the battle for Mosul to further their own agendas.
Shia militias have been accused of reprisal killings, torture, and kidnappings when they have assisted in liberating other areas from ISIS. And Kurdish forces have been known to displace Sunni Arabs from their homes as they take control of areas they help liberate from ISIS. Turkey is also participating in Mosul operations.
“The military challenges of removing an entrenched foe in an urban warfare environment, while simultaneously protecting as many as one million civilians caught in the cross fire would be daunting in the best of circumstances,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing. “But lacking unified combatants and commands, Iraqi military considerations must always include every level of sectarian and ethnic concerns that could turn a military victory into a strategic defeat.”
In short, even if Iraqi forces manage to win the battle against ISIS in Mosul, they’re in danger of losing the war if there isn’t a solid plan in place to govern effectively and inclusively after ISIS leaves.
“Given the sheer size of Mosul — and its experience of savage rule at the hands of the Islamic State—revenge killing will likely be an issue in the days and months ahead,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing.
“The level of atrocities and outrages perpetrated against minority communities such as the Yazidi and Christians, as well as to the population at large, rank among the worst war crimes in recent history. A massive effort will be required to begin to heal what is a truly fractured city and society.”
A local Mosul historian who blogs about life in the city under the pseudonym Mosul Eye explained the stakes of the ongoing battle in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“The people of Mosul cannot trust what will happen during and after the liberation, and our concerns grow bigger every day,” the historian wrote. “The upcoming dangers are no less than ISIL. There are many factions who are trying to divide and to tear down our city, and turning it into parts where each part would be given to an ethnicity group, separating it from the rest.”
He continued: “History tells [us] that Mosul has always built its civilization upon an ethnically and religiously diversified population. It is impossible to imagine Mosul without its rich and diversified heritage, culture, history, and ethnicity.”
Mosul Eye recommended that the city be placed under international trusteeship with joint supervision from the Iraqi government and the US.
“We, the civilized people of Mosul, don’t want to hand our city over, after liberation, to the tribes or to the Kurds, or the Popular Mobilization Units, or any other faction that is out of the Iraqi government,” he wrote on Twitter. “We also believe that the Iraqi government alone is not capable of managing Mosul after liberation.”
The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.
Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms May 8. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.
The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”
While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.
The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision the evening of May 8.
The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. trains Kurdish forces in the Middle East to help with the fight against terrorist groups in the area.
The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.
Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists’ state-building project. Raqqa is far smaller than Mosul, which is still not fully returned to Iraqi control after months of combat.
Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.
In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.
“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”
Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington in the third week of May. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on May 9 with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.
And in Denmark earlier May 9, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.
“That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.
“We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”
Tensions escalated in April when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.
The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.
“We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.
The bodies of two old helicopters sit uncovered on Bob Fritzler’s property. They tower over him as he walks by them on his way to his large garage.
He had to use a giant trailer to haul them out to his farm with his truck. He imagined it felt a lot like driving a semi. He doesn’t worry much about what the weather might do to the old birds outside. He’s just using them for parts.
Fritzler’s real treasure sits in that large garage on his land near Keenesburg. He’s working to restore a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky H-34 helicopter, which was flown during Operation SHUFLY, a Marine helicopter operation that primarily ferried troops in Vietnam between 1962 and 1965. Fritzler said it was one of the first helicopters built to drop off troops in combat.
Back then, Fritzler said, helicopters were a huge game changer for Marines. Pilots could drop soldiers off anywhere. Before, they relied on ships, which required a coast.
Fritzler, now 82, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years. He flew the helicopter when he was a pilot. Several other squadrons flew it, too. He hopes to fix it up and eventually put it into the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Fritzler went to a Marine reunion a couple years ago. There, he met Gerald Hail from Oklahoma who restored old planes back to flyable conditions. Hail invited him out to fly and Fritzler accepted. While out there, Fritzler noticed the H-34.
“I saw bullet hole patches,” Fritzler said. “I knew I could count over 100 bullet holes.”
The bird had aged, with much of the Marine Green paint had worn down to the aluminum. Fritzler’s old squadron number had been painted over with a different squadron’s number, but he still recognized the helicopter as the one he flew.
“I had a real love affair with it,” Fritzler said.
He asked Hail if he could buy it from him so he could restore it. Hail said he’d think about it. About a month later, Hail called Fritzler and told him he’d donate the helicopter if Fritzler would fix it up.
Fritzler’s been working on the restoration project here and there for a couple years. He has experience fixing up machines. He grew up on a farm in Windsor and spent much of his life making farm equipment run again. He thinks that made him fairly handy.
But it’s a lengthy process. It takes time to track down parts that are no longer in production. He bought an old blue and white Marine helicopter for the parts. The previous owner had it certified for commercial use and used it to lift large air conditioning units. Fritzler bought an old Army helicopter, too.
“Both of these (helicopters) are pretty complete,” Fritzler said. Now he just has to figure out which parts the H-34 needs and which ones to take from the others.
He’s not a teenager anymore, either, Fritzler said, so his energy has a limit.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I bit off more than I could chew,” Fritzler said. “I’ve had some help from other guys.”
He works on it for a couple hours a day, sometimes more. He’s mostly working on deconstructing old pieces and finding the new ones to replace them.
Sometimes when Fritzler looks back on his life as a pilot, he wonders if he really did all the things he remembers. It was a long time ago. He did two tours in Vietnam and did some airline flying, too. But his last flight in the cockpit was more than 20 years ago.
“I still love to fly,” he said.
He might not be able to pilot planes anymore, but this may be the next best thing.
Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”
I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.
But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.
The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.
And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”
“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”
At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.
But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.
In December 2017, three men pleaded guilty to causing the largest internet outage in history – a distributed “denial of service” attack that blacked out the web across most of the US and large chunks of Northern Europe for about 12 hours. They had disabled Dyn, a company that provides Domain Name System (DNS) services — the web’s directory of addresses, basically — to much of the internet.
“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes
Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.
Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers
Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.
“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”
The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”
CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.
2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”
The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.
Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.
Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”
A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon
Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).
During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.
The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.
Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.
“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”
“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”
“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”
But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.
Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.
National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”
So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.
IWI US Inc.’s new Tavor TS12 semi-auto shotgun was definitely the most radical-looking weapon design at SHOT Show 2018 Range Day.
This new 12-gauge design is the company’s first foray into the tactical shotgun market and looks like it would be right at home on the set of the sci-fi classic, Starship Troopers.
I know many KitUp! readers are not fans of the bullpup design, but I have to say it was pretty nice to shoot.
The gas-regulated, semi-auto shotgun feeds from one of three rotating magazine tubes, each capable of holding four three-inch shotgun shells or five two-inch shotgun shells, for a total potential magazine capacity of 15 +1 rounds.
We were only able to load two shells in each tube because of safety rules at range day, so I didn’t get a feel for how much buckshot the TS12 is capable of sending down range.
It measures 28.34-inches overall and weighs eight pounds. The TS12 is bulky-looking, especially when you compare it to standard semi-auto and pump shotguns.
The Army is working on a future Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights, and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.
Also designed to be lighter weight, more mobile, and much better protected, the emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrade is already underway — as the Army works vigorously to ensure it is fully prepared if it is called upon to engage in major mechanized, force-on-force land war against a technically advanced near-peer rival.
As the Army pursues a more advanced A5, engineered to succeed the current upgraded A4, it is integrating 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared sensors for Commanders and Gunners sights, spot trackers for dismounted soldiers to identify targets and an upgraded chassis with increased underbelly protections, and a new ammunition storage configuration, Col. James, Schirmer Project Manager Armored Fighting Vehicles, said earlier this Fall at AUSA.
BAE Systems, maker of the Bradley, told Warrior the platform’s modernization effort is designed in three specific stages. The first stage in the modernization process was the Bradley Track Suspension to address suspension upgrades, BAE statements said. The subsequent Bradley A4 Engineering Change Proposal, soon to enter production, improves mobility and increases electrical power generation. More on-board power can bring the technical means to greatly support advanced electronics, command and control systems, computing power, sensors, networks, and even electronic warfare technologies.
Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, described the upgrades in terms of A3 and A4 focusing upon the Bradley from the turret ring down — leading the A5 effort to more heavily modernize Bradley systems from the turret up. This includes weapons sights, guns, optics, next-generation signals intelligence, and even early iterations of artificial intelligence, and increased computer automation.
During several previous interviews with Warrior, Bassett has explained that computer-enabled autonomous drones will likely be operated by nearby armored combat vehicles, using fast emerging iterations of artificial intelligence. These unmanned systems, operated by human crews performing command and control from nearby vehicles, could carry ammunition, conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy defenses or even fire weapons – all while allowing manned crews to remain at a safer stand-off distance. At one point, Bassett told Warrior that, in the future, virtually all armored vehicles will have an ability to be tele-operated, if necessary.
Also, while Army Bradley developers did not specifically say they planned to arm Bradleys with laser weapons, such innovation is well within the realm of the possible. Working with industry, the Army has already shot down drone targets with Stryker-fired laser weapons, and the service currently has several laser weapons programs at various stages of development. This includes ground-fired Forward Operating Base protection laser weapons as well as vehicle-mounted lasers. A key focus for this effort, which involves a move to engineer a much stronger 100-kilowatt vehicle-fired laser, is heavily reliant upon an ability to integrate substantial amounts of mobile electrical power into armored vehicles.
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on April 3, 2018, that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said, according to Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart. “That’s a big step.”
Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about “guarding our border with the military … until we have a wall,” according to David Nakamura of The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly so much before.”
Trump’s comments come after several days of comments about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.
Trump inveighed against the group, against what he perceived as Mexico’s failure to stop them, and against what he sees as weak US immigration policy that has led to such migration. Mexican immigration officials moved to break up the group on April 2, 2018, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on April 3, 2018.
“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on April 3, 2018. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.
(Photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)
“The caravan doesn’t irritate me,” Trump said. “The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States.”
“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said.
Trump has reference the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.
A few weeks after taking office, Trump described the removal of authorized immigration by his administration as “a military operation,” a comment that contrasted with other officials in his administration, who stressed that deportations would not be pursued en masse or in the style of a military operation. Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, later clarified that Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”
In late March 2018, Trump floated the idea of redirecting funds from the defense budget toward funding the wall he has promised to build on the frontier. The project is currently under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.
The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, however Pentagon and Congressional officials both said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September 2017, Mattis highlighted the US and Mexico’s close cooperation and mutual concerns, and, when asked about the border wall, said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.
A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.
At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.
According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.
According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.
At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.
Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.
Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”
“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.
Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.
Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.
“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”
‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’
Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.
Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”
Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.
During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.
(US Air Force photo)
The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.
It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)
Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.
“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”
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The U.S. Navy has released video of a Su-27, a Russian fighter, conducting an extremely dangerous maneuver against the crew of an EP-3 Aries plane taking part in Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games that have sent the Russian military into a tizzy.
The depicted aerial maneuvers, which included the Russian plane flying within a few feet of the U.S. aircraft with engines roaring, were seemingly conducted solely with the intention of threatening the unarmed plane. The intercept included two passes and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. According to a Navy statement,
On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second.
Article IV of the agreement specifically calls for commanders of aircraft to “use the greatest of caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party,” something that this November 5 incident seems to be a flagrant violation of. This follows a November 2 incident in which a Russian bomber flew nearly directly over a U.S. command ship, the USS Mount Whitney.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider that Russia failed to make radio contact with the plane before conducting its maneuvers, making this interaction especially dangerous.
This sudden increase in incidents is no accident. NATO’s Trident Juncture war games are a response to increasing Russian aggression, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and election meddling across the Europe and the U.S.
The military exercises have triggered a series of responses from Russia, which include the dangerous intercepts, a huge missile exercise announced and held in the middle of NATO’s training, and an increased naval presence in the waters in and around the exercise.
Russia’s concerns about the large exercise ring hollow, though, since Russia held the Vostock 2018 war games in September, which it claimed was its largest exercise since the Cold War. While Russia inflated the size of Vostock, claiming 300,000 troops where there may have been as few as 150,000, it was still much larger than Trident Juncture, which has only 50,000 participants.
But Trident Juncture is still frightening for Russia as 30 nations are taking part. Vostock had only three participants: Russia, China, and a small Mongolian force. And Trident Juncture includes nations that are Russian neighbors and either members of NATO or friends of the alliance, posing a big threat to Russia’s ability to push around its neighbors.
Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.
Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.
Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.
Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.
Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.
(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)
Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.
The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.
It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.
Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.
(U.S. Army photo)
Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.
“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”
The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.
In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”
Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”
The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.
Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.
(U.S. Army photo)
Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.
Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.
U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.
The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”
With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro on Feb. 27, 2019, tweeted a 40-minute-long livestream on Periscope about the government’s carnival preparations as the country further spirals into crisis.
Carnival — or “Carnaval” as known in Venezuela — is a big celebration celebrated before Lent every year, in which people dress up in costumes, dance, and attend parades with floats.
Maduro’s video came after a weekend of violent clashes when state forces barred activists from bringing in aid through the Colombian and Brazilian borders.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro discussed plans for Venezuela’s upcoming Carnaval celebrations while the country continues to crumble.
Police fired tear gas and pellets on protesters, killing at least two and injuring at least 300, The Associated Press (AP) reported. More than 300 Venezuelan soldiers defected and fled to Colombia after the unrest, the AP added.
But in his lengthy stream, Maduro primarily focused on his plans for a “safe carnival” in 2019. The video showed Venezuelans in costumes dancing and celebrating, as the president calls on ministers, governors and mayors to explain how the government will ensure smooth festivities.
Maduro then mused about cute children in costumes before announcing that he will also dress up and join the celebration.
The leader is often criticized for organizing big celebrations and performances, like salsa dancing, as a distraction from the humanitarian and economic crisis plaguing the nation.
Feb. 23, 2019, he was slammed for dancing at a concert while government forces blocked the entry of food and medicine at the borders.
Maduro addressed his critics in his Feb. 27, 2019, livestream, saying: “The imperialists were mad that I was dancing. We [Venezuelans] always dance because we are a happy people and this is a revolution of joy.”
The video also showed images of pro-government rallies, with Maduro saying that the majority of Venezuelans oppose international intervention.
Maduro and his allies around the world — like Russia, China, and Syria — have opposed foreign support for his opponent Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim government in January 2019.
Maduro also mocked Guaidó’s slogan while discussing Carnaval plans. “Vamos bien,” he said — Spanish for “we are making progress.”
Venezuelan “interim president” Juan Guaidó.
Guaidó is currently exiled in Colombia, and has met with US Vice President Mike Pence and the Lima Group, a regional bloc established to end the Venezuelan crisis.
Guaidó told his supporters via video on Feb. 26, 2019, that he is currently planning his return to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to mobilize his supporters. The exact date of his arrival and next steps will be made public in the coming days, he added.
He said he refuses “this compromise of having to fight from abroad,” referring to Colombia, and said that Maduro is “alone and desperate.”
Guaidó also posted an audio message, urging his supporters to keep mobilizing and and announcing unspecified actions to garner support from military and government workers.
There was a study conducted recently by the CDC and the Delphi Behavioral Health Group that concluded that the U.S. Military beats out literally every other profession in days per year spent drinking. If you roughly equal out the days spent with the total number of troops, that puts us at 130 days on average, compared to the 91 day average for every other profession.
And, I mean, it makes absolute sense. No other profession has a culture around drinking like the military. It’s not “drunk like an interior designer” or “drunk like a software developer.” Toss a bunch of them into a barracks with nothing to do but drink after a long and stressful day, and you’ll see their numbers rise too.
So raise a glass, folks! I’m damn sure we’ve managed to keep that number one position since 1775 and won’t let go of it until the end of time!
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via United States Veteran’s Network)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales, meme by Justin Swarb)