These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Larry Yake, an Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was one of several “Vets in Vettes” at the front of the Oct. 28 Meadville Halloween Parade.


When the Corvettes provided by Community Chevrolet pulled over alongside the stage erected in front of the Market House, Yake thought it was just part of the parade. Little did he know that he would be going home with one of the cars in the parade — not one of the Corvettes, but a car that promises to go a long way toward improving Yake’s quality of life.

Also read: Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

“I was surprised,” Yake admitted from in front of the Market House, where he had returned after finishing the parade. His daughter, who he’s raising on his own, and friends and family members were there, as they had been for the presentation moments earlier — they had known of the surprise presentation, but none had let on to Yake.

“I was almost emotional,” the disabled vet said. “I had to choke it back a little bit.”

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
Army veteran Larry Yake (center, leather jacket) accepts a vehicle from Operation Build Up. Video still from Operation Build Up Facebook.

Yake is the fourth Meadville-area veteran to receive a refurbished car from Operation Build Up, a nonprofit based in Lima, New York. Representatives of the organization rode in the parade behind the Corvettes, pulling a trailer with the white 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer that would be given to Yake.

Justin Cogswell, CEO of Operation Build Up, said the organization had recently started a Pennsylvania hub.

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Cogswell knows firsthand the challenges vets can face upon returning home, especially if those challenges include transportation. Soon after he returned from serving with the Marines in 2009, his vehicle became disabled and before he knew it, he had been evicted and had lost his job. For nine months, he bounced from one living situation to the next.

“When I actually got a vehicle,” he said, it only took me a couple of weeks to get my life back in order. I realized the main thing that was preventing me from establishing a solid civilian life was not having a vehicle.”

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
Operation Build Up’s logo, from Facebook.

“I feel that once veterans lose transportation,” he added, “they lose the ability to prosper.”

Jim Severo owns RANZ Bar and Grill, a veteran himself and has served on the Operation Wounded Vetz organizing committee for the past five years. Over the summer, Severo hosted an earlier car presentation at RANZ and helped arrange the surprise for Yake, even scheduling “chance encounters” so that Yake was in the Corvette Severo was driving in the parade.

“This town has really embraced them,” Severo said of Operation Build Up. “These guys are very passionate about what they do and there’s definitely no shortage of struggling vets.”

Yake was similarly passionate about his appreciation as he watched the tail end of the parade march past the Market House.

“This car is really going to help me take care of my daughter and meet my VA appointments,” Yake said.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
Paratroopers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. US Army Photo by Pfc Liem Huynh.

After entering the Army in 2005, Yake served as a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, serving in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. After returning home, he served again in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008.

It’s been about five years since he had a car, Yake said, and he already knows what he wants to do first with the car Operation Build Up is giving him.

“I’m going to my parents’ house and show them the car,” he said, “because they’ve always been there for me through everything.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

No one will stand the heat like a soldier in the kitchen

 

Consider the values that military service instills. Honor. Purpose. Prestige. Service members wake up with a daily mission to embody those values and while on active duty, they are provided the means and the circumstances to do so.


But when they leave the service, does the drive to live by military values diminish? Veterans across the country will assure you, it does not. That’s why the transition back to civilian life is such a hot topic. Finding a new outlet for warrior values is a bear that every veteran has to wrestle and tame.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
From fighting Fascism to fighting Fast Food: veteran chefs of the Culinary Institute of America. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

So what if there was a school whose founding mission was to teach returning veterans the skills necessary to put those values to work? As it turns out, that school exists. It’s the Culinary Institute of America and it was founded to teach returning WWII vets the fighting arts of gourmet cooking.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
The troops, lined up for inspection. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl visited Hyde Park, NY, to get a first hand taste of daily operations at CIA.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
It sure beats latrine duty. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

What he found there was an atmosphere of rigor, discipline, and sky high expectations — in other words, a culinary boot camp. And why not? A busy kitchen is its own kind of battlefield and cooks are the troops who serve there. At CIA, students, including notable veterans, learn what it takes to become a new generation of American chefs.

 

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis speaks out on failures to prevent Texas shooting

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI.


Mattis says we have to “find out what’s going on.”

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
The shooter in the Texas church massacre allegedly used a Ruger AR-556 similar to these shown. (Image Ruger)

Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman in the Nov. 5 attack, was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.

Related: Husband and wife veterans are among dead in Texas shooting

Mattis says the Pentagon must make certain it’s got “the right direction.” And he says he must “define what the problem is.”

Mattis says, “if the problem is we didn’t put something out, we’ll correct that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

American pilots are being targeted by lasers in the Pacific

Pilots of US military aircraft operating in the Pacific Ocean have reportedly been targeted by lasers more than 20 times in recent months, US officials told The Wall Street Journal.

All of the incidents occurred near the East China Sea, the officials said, where Chinese military and civilians often operate in part to buttress their nation’s extensive claims.

This report comes not long after the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US pilots in Djibouti. The pilots suffered minor eye injuries as a result, but China denied any involvement.


It’s unclear who is behind these activities in the Pacific and the officials said the lasers used were commercial-grade, such as laser pointers often used for briefings and even playing with cats, as opposed to the military-grade lasers used against the US pilots in East Africa.

The lasers were reportedly pointed at the US aircraft from fishing boats, some of which were Chinese-flagged vessels.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, practice air-to-sea maneuvers over the Pacific Ocean Jan. 25, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards)

The US officials said they do not currently believe the Chinese military is behind these incidents, but also couldn’t totally rule it out given the recent issues in Djibouti.

They added it’s possible Chinese fisherman or people from “other countries in the region” could simply be doing this to harass American pilots.

It’s also not clear what type of aircraft were targeted.

After the incidents in Djibouti, the Pentagon in May 2018 issued a formal complaint to China and called on its government to investigate.

In response, China’s Defense Ministry said, “We have already refuted the untrue criticisms via official channels. The Chinese side consistently strictly abides by international law and laws of the local country, and is committed to protecting regional security and stability.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added that the government had performed “serious checks,” adding: “You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russians may be testing ‘low yield’ nuclear weapons in violation of treaty

A top U.S. military official has said that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia may be conducting low-yield nuclear testing that may be violation of a major international treaty.

Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said in a speech on May 29, 2019, that Russia could be doing tests that go “beyond what is believed necessary, beyond zero yield.”

The problem, he said, was that Russia “has not been willing to affirm” they are adhering to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


Asked specifically whether U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley, who is director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said, “They’ve not affirmed the language of zero yield.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbIgtTfPYQw
U.S. Accuses Russia Of Conducting Low-Level Nuclear Tests

www.youtube.com

“We believe they have the capability to do it, the way that they’re set up,” Ashley said during an appearance at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is the Defense Department’s main in-house intelligence organization.

There was no immediate comment by the Kremlin or the Russian Defense Ministry about the conclusions, which were first reported on May 29, 2019, by The Wall Street Journal.

But Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the defense committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, called Ashley’s statement “irresponsible.”

“It would be impossible to make a more irresponsible statement,” Interfax quoted Shamanov as saying.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Vladimir Shamanov.


“These kinds of statements reveal that the professionalism of the military is systemically falling in America,” said Shamanov, a retired colonel general and a former commander of Russia’s Airborne Troops. “These words from a U.S. intelligence chief indicate that he is only an accidental person in this profession and he is in the wrong job.”

The U.S. assertion comes with several major arms-control treaties under strain, largely due to the toxic state of relations between Washington and Moscow.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an agreement that eliminated an entire class of missiles.

Another treaty, New START, is due to expire in 2021 unless the United States and Russia agree to extend it for five years.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The Army just picked this new semi-auto sniper rifle

The Army has chosen a new semi-automatic sniper rifle, replacing the M110 which entered service in 2008.


According to reports by the Army Times, the winning rifle was the Heckler  Koch G28. According to the the company’s website, the G28 is a version of the HK 417 battle rifle — itself a variation of the AR-10 rifle.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment with a M110 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin)

This came after a 2014 request for proposals for a more compact version of the M110. The M110 is being replaced despite the fact that it was named one of the Army’s “Best 10 Inventions” in 2007, according to M110 manufacturer Knight’s Armament website.

So, what is behind the replacement of a rifle that was widely loved by soldiers after it replaced the M24 bolt-action system? According to Military.com, it was to get something less conspicuous as a sniper rifle. The M110 is 13 inches longer than a typical M4 carbine, something an enemy sniper would be able to notice.

Being conspicuous is a good way to attract enemy fire.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
Lance Cpl. Thomas Hunt, a designated marksman with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, looks through the scope of his M110 sniper rifle while concealed in the tree line during the II Marine Expeditionary Force Command Post Exercise 3 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michelle Reif/Released)

The new M110A1 does provide some relief in that department, being about 2.5 inches shorter than the M110. More importantly for the grunt carrying it, it is about three pounds lighter than the M110.

Both the M110 and the M110A1 fire the NATO standard 7.62x51mm cartridge, and both feature 20-shot magazines. The Army plans to spend just under $45 million to get 3,643 M110A1s. That comes out to $12,000 a rifle, plus all the logistical and support needs for the Army, including the provision of spare parts.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car
A German soldier fires a Heckler Koch G28 during a NATO exercise. (NATO photo by Alessio Ventura)

The Army has long made use of semi-automatic sniper rifles. During the Vietnam War, a modified version of the M14 known as the M21 was used by the service’s snipers. One of those snipers, Adelbert Waldron, was America’s top sniper in that conflict, scoring 109 confirmed kills.

By comparison, the legendary Carlos Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are a few ways the ‘storming of Area 51’ could end

If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen news regarding the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It started out mostly as a joke – if you couldn’t tell by the name of the group that’s hosting it being called “Sh*tposting cause im in shambles” and the only actual plan set forward is to “Naruto run faster than their bullets.” Even the date of September 20th is a reference to the anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins storming Upper Blackrock Spire by himself in World of Warcraft.

That was until, at the time of writing this article, 1.6 million people clicked “Going,” another 1.2 million are “Interested,” and a four-star general at the Pentagon had to be debriefed by some poor lower-enlisted soldier about the intricacies of a 1997 Japanese manga series about a teenage ninja with a fox demon inside him.

Which begs the question: “But what if it wasn’t a joke?” Well. It’s really circumstantial.


Something tells me that this place will probably undo most of the plans to storm Area 51.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Absolutely nothing happens

Anyone who’s ever thrown a party using Facebook’s Event page can tell you that not all people are going to show up. Of the supposedly millions that said they’d be willing to attend, I can safely say that it will be nowhere near that number in reality.

In case there are those people that ordered a plane ticket to Nevada and are too stubborn to cancel, it doesn’t look likely either. It’s still going to be a logistical nightmare. The meet-up location at the Area 51 Tourist Attraction is still 72.4 miles from the actual “Area 51.” Unless you drove there or are renting a car, there’s no way in hell anyone is willing to walk that distance in the Nevada desert for a joke.

Everyone gets there, makes a few videos for YouTube, and goes their merry way and this all becomes a funny joke that we reference every now and then. For reference on where this meet up is supposed to happen, the video below is where “millions” of people are supposedly going to congregate. Good luck with that.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Imagine wanting to raid Area 51 to see all the futuristic alien tech just to come face-to-face with a row of these…

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Lauren Main)

They can, in fact, stop all of them

This possibility is also semi-broken down into ways that it would end in complete failure. The only difference is where the raid is stopped.

My personal guess for most likely scenario on this list is that local law enforcement would probably break up the unlawful gathering outside of a middle-of-nowhere gift shop/brothel long before anyone made a move to storm the actual installation. Given the potential crowd gathering with the sole intent on committing a federal crime, the police will probably be on scene with riot gear ready.

If, by some stretch of the imagination, the raid manages to not get stopped somewhere in the desert or single road onto the installation, they’ll be greeted by armed guards along the way. The defense contractors currently guarding the site would probably have their numbers bolstered from troops at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, and more.

The same rules of engagement that govern military operations would still likely apply. Violently engaging with a crowd of American citizens would be the absolute final resort if this line in the sand had to be reached. The “cammo dudes” today normally shoo away would-be onlookers without the use of deadly force. Anyone who’s made it this far would more than likely be detained without trouble.

But, you know, the use of deadly force IS authorized for just such an occasion…

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Face it. The Fermi Paradox is real. If intergalactic aliens exist out there, they wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about stopping by Earth. Would you care about stopping by an anthill lifetimes out of your way?

(Image Credit: NASA)

Full and official disclosure (of how boring Groom Lake actually is)

Okay. Let’s finally get this out of the way because the mystery surrounding Area 51 is so enticing that it’s spawned countless conspiracy theories about what actually happens over there. Here goes…

There’s no way in hell that this could work as advertised. No amount of Kyles to punch the drywall out of the fence or Karens to speak to the managers will get you a Banshee from the Halo series. And I hate to break it to the other anime fans out there, but even by the show’s standards, if they’re still are able to casually have a conversation with each other while running at top speeds – they haven’t broken the sound barrier (at 1,125 ft/s.) Most calibers of ammunition probably used by any guard are still much faster.

That doesn’t mean this could all be a waste. Even by some strange miracle they actually do manage not to get turned into paste on first sight, they’d probably be in the exact same boat as if one of the many Freedom of Information Act requests got approved. They’d learn that it’s not that interesting.

It’s officially known as Groom Lake, and it’s just a testing ground far enough away from any civilian interference for top-secret aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Logically speaking, the timelines match up with “suspected” UFO sightings. Through the use of Google Satellite, you can also see countless craters in the ground still leftover from missile testing. The only reason they’re out there is because it’s one of the most remote locations in the continental U.S.The U.S. military is still developing new top-secret aircraft and missiles, and the area is still marked off for that reason. CIA documents released in 2013 showed this.

However, the large crowd outside their gates (or the possibility of a large crowd) could be enough for the government to go on record to say that there’s nothing extraterrestrial going on.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”


“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.

There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.

Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.

Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.

“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”

The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.

Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.

Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.

Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.

“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.

But for the men and women conducting these high-stress operations or deploying, the pressure is mounting as they go without paychecks, not knowing how they can provide for their families back home, said Steven Cantrell, who served as the 12th master chief petty officer for the service.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.

“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”

Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.

While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.

Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.

“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)

Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.

“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.

While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.

But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy cruiser seizes huge Iranian arms cache in Arabian Sea

Boarding parties from the Navy’s guided-missile cruiser Normandy stopped a dhow in the Arabian Sea earlier this week and confiscated a cache of Iranian-made surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weaponry bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.


A video released by CENTCOM showed a small boat from the Ticonderoga-class Normandy approaching the dhow on Feb. 9 as crew members of the traditional Mideastern vessel gathered at the bow with arms raised in surrender.

In addition to three surface-to-air missiles, the arms cache included 150 “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles, Iranian thermal imaging weapon scopes, Iranian components for aerial drones and unmanned small boats, “as well as other munitions and advanced weapons parts,” CENTCOM officials said in a statement.

The arms cache was similar to one seized in the Arabian Sea by the guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman in November, CENTCOM said.

The weapons seized by the Sherman “were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen” in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution barring weapons transfers to the Houthis, CENTCOM said.

The CENTCOM statement did not address the fate of the dhow’s crew, but past practice for seizures of Iranian arms has been for the crews to be released after questioning.

The action by the Normandy in seizing the arms cache was the first publicly announced haul haul for the U.S. Navy since a Jan. 4 drone strike at Baghdad’s International Airport that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.

Iran responded to Soleimani’s killing with ballistic missile strikes on Al Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province on Jan. 8. The Pentagon said earlier this week that a total of 104 U.S. troops at Al Asad have since been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury from the concussive effects of the missile strikes.

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) boards a stateless dhow in the Arabian Sea and interdicts an illicit shipment of advanced weapons intended for the Houthis in Yemen, Feb. 9, 2020.

(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman)

The seizure by the Normandy suggested that Iran has not been deterred in what the U.S. calls its “malign activities” to spread influence in the region.

Iran has long backed the Houthis, who last week claimed more missile strikes against Saudi Arabia, in Yemen’s civil war, which has resulted in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

The Houthi uprising in 2015 seized control of much of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Since then, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been fighting to restore Hadi to power. Periodic international efforts at brokering a ceasefire and peace deal have been unsuccessful.

The U.S. has supported Saudi Arabia with refueling flights and training for Saudi pilots in avoiding civilian targets.

In Nov. 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the effort to bring peace to Yemen was a reason to maintain close military ties with Saudi Arabia, despite the murder of Washington Post contributor and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.

In an informal session with Pentagon reporters at the time, Mattis said he was working closely with United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to arrange for peace talks, but that effort also failed.

According to the UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the conflict in Yemen has killed at least 100,000, displaced 4.3 million people and left an estimated 80% of a population of 24 million in dire need of basic necessities.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Can a pandemic turn the tide of war?

As the Coronavirus continues to dominate media coverage and outbreaks keep all of us on edge, I’m reminded of the effects pandemics have had on history –specifically how they shaped history.

For some, this epidemic probably brings to mind the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. Others who read books such as the Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John Barry are reminded of an even more devastating contagion from the last century.


But we can go back even further to learn how pandemics have shaped society and the outcomes of conflict.

So, let’s go back over 2400 years ago….

Pericles had the perfect plan! The Athenians moved behind the walls of the city, letting the Spartans attack across land. They would wait them out in a Fabian Strategy. Food would not be an issue because Athens could rely on its maritime imports to keep them fed. Money wasn’t a problem, because they had plenty in the bank. Meanwhile, their fleet projected combat power into Spartan territory, raiding coastal cities and shaming the Spartans. Not only would Pericles avoid fighting the Spartans on their terms, he would also sew doubt of Spartan superiority among the Peloponnesian League by attacking the “home front.” As Athens and Sparta finished the campaigning season in the first year of the war, Athens believed their strategy was working as evidenced by Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

As the second year of the war began, disease struck in Athens. The plague caught everyone by surprise, and as Thucydides points out, “there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head…” The plague swept through Athens killing men, women, and children, and with it came devastating effects on society. Thucydides wrote that lawlessness broke out as men watched others die and private property came up for grabs. The unforeseen disease affected Athenian will; they questioned the value of Pericles’ strategy and the war itself, ultimately sending envoys to Sparta to seek peace.

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The Athenian experience with the plague should remind us of the power of the unseen. Disease can reshape society. It can influence the outcome of war. And although we have not experienced the devastating effects of contagion on a mass scale in modern times, we may only be standing in the proverbial eye of the storm.

One can argue that microscopic parasites could be placed on equal footing with geography, war, and migration in shaping the world that we know today. In Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill, the author traces the history of mankind, pointing out how disease proved a major factor in the trajectory of our species. First, he points out that disease served to break down communities of people, enabling them to be absorbed by larger groups. He writes that,

“Such human material could then be incorporated into the tissues of the enlarged civilization itself, either as individuals or families and small village groupings… The way in which digestion regularly breaks down the larger chemical structures of our food in order to permit molecules and atoms to enter into our own bodily structures seems closely parallel to this historical process.”

He observes that the plague led to changes in European society in the 14 and 15 centuries. In England, the Black Death of 1348-1350 led to changes in the social fabric of society, increasing wages and quality of life for serfs. McNeil even suggests that diseases in Europe created enough social upheaval that it successfully set the conditions for Martin Luther’s Reformation.

He further argues that disease set the conditions for European expansion into the New World. For example, Hernando Cortez, who had less than 600 soldiers, was able to conquer an Aztec empire of millions in the early 1500s with the help of contagion. Within fifty years of his landing, the population of central Mexico shrank to a tenth of its size. This catastrophic drop in population levels had significant impacts on religion, defense, and their society in general, paving the way for European growth in the region.

McNeill is not alone in his argument. In Bacteria and Bayonets: The Impact of Disease in the American Military History, David R. Petriello argues that contagion played a major factor in the successful colonization of North America and the American experience with war. Smallpox and other illnesses depopulated the regions surrounding the colonies, giving the settlers the space to grow.
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Most Americans have heard the story of how an Indian named Squanto helped save the Plymouth settlers by teaching them planting techniques and guiding them through the peace process with surrounding tribes. However, it was disease more so than goodwill that saved the Pilgrims. The author writes, “When Squanto wandered into the Pilgrim’s’ world he did so as an exile. Had it not been for the epidemic visited his tribe…Squanto himself would not have been seeking out kindred human company.”

While the U.S. military responds to the threat of the Coronavirus, this isn’t the first time it’s battled contagions. Long ago, before we stood in lines to get way too many shots before deployments, commanders dealt with smallpox, influenza, dysentery, and venereal disease, as it affected 30% of armies up through World War I. These outbreaks, more than likely, had an impact on the outcome of key campaigns.

In the Revolutionary and Civil War, disease took important leaders out of important battles the eve of engagements. And it caused commanders to hold off on taking advantage of fleeting opportunities in both conflicts, as they had to wait for replacements to arrive. It has only been in recent history, that we have brought disease’s impact on war under control.

Vaccinations didn’t become common practice until World War II. As Petriello observes, “Whereas there were 102,000 cases of measles in World War I with 2,370 deaths, there were only 60,809 cases in World War II with only 33 deaths reported.”

Thanks to technological advances in medicine, it has been almost a hundred years since disease sat in the front row of a national security conversation. However, things are changing. We’ve seen how the Coronavirus is affecting markets, diplomacy and even troops serving abroad. Maybe it’s time we reexamined our preparedness for these outbreaks.

In the end, Pericles succumbed to the plague, and Athens lost an important leader. Those who came after him chose a different strategic path for the city, which ultimately proved costly for the Delian League. This incident during the Peloponnesian War is worth making us pause and think about the role of contagions in human history and conflict. It has wiped out cultures and set the conditions for the successful expansion of others. It has served as a significant factor in wars of the past. Finally, it may yet play a major role in world affairs again.

While the Coronavirus may pass without any long-lasting effects, it’s worth asking military leaders an important question, “Are we really prepared?”

Articles

‘Timbuktu’ Is One Of The Most Important Movies Ever Made About Terrorism

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Photo: Youtube/screenshot


Violent jihadism as a governing ideology has been a significant feature of the global scene for nearly two decades.

There are certainly differences between say, the nature Al Shabaab’s control over Somalia in the early 2010s, the Taliban state’s governance of Afghanistan from 1996 until the US-led invasion in 2001, and ISIS’s “caliphate” in the present day.

But militant groups spurred by a combination of religious radicalism, violent disenchantment with the existing state system, revisionist philosophies of Islamic history, and a rejection of secularism and Enlightenment value systems have morphed into territorial political units with alarming frequency in recent years.

One such instance was in Mali in early 2012, when jihadists piggybacked on a long-simmering Tuareg autonomy movement — itself empowered by the collapse of Mali’s government in the wake of a shocking military coup — in order to take control of several population centers in Mali’s desert north. Among them was Timbuktu, a legendary center of trade and Islamic scholarship.

The jihadist occupation of Timbuktu was brutal but thankfully brief: In early 2013, a French-led coalition liberated the city after 10 months of militant control. Now, the rule of Al Qaeda-allied militants over the city is the topic of what might be the important movie of the past year.

The hypnotic and visually overwhelming “Timbuktu,” the work of Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako and an Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, is an intimate and terrifying inquiry into one of the defining authoritarian ideologies of the 21st century, as told from the perspective of the people who are actually suffering under its yoke. (The film is currently playing in New York and LA and will open in various other US cities in February and March.)

US movie audiences have usually met jihadists through the lenses of American sniper rifles, or lying prone in front of CIA interrogators. “Timbuktu” is hardly the only movie that’s portrayed them as political and social actors. “Osama,” a multi-national production about a girl living in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan that won the 2004 Golden Globe award for best foreign-language film, and Iranian director Moshen Makhmalbaf’s highly regarded “Kandahar,” about a Afghan woman who sneaks into Taliban Afghanistan to try to stop her sister from committing suicide, succeed in giving viewers a first-hand look at the societies that jihadists create and the horrors this visits upon the people trapped in them.

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Photo: Youtube/screenshot

In the wake of ISIS’s takeover of a Belgium-sized slice of the Middle East, “Timbuktu” has more immediate resonance than either of those films. The movie opens with a pickup truck of fighters flying a black flag nearly identical to ISIS’s. As the opening credits roll, the fighters eviscerate a row of traditional figurines in a hail of machine-gun fire.

But the firmest sign that jihadist rule is something external, alien, and deeply unwanted comes in the next scene, when gun-toting fighters enter a mud-brick mosque without taking their shoes off. They tell the imam that they have come to wage jihad. The imam replies that in Timbuktu, people wage jihad (which has the double meaning of spiritual reflection and self-purification, in addition to earthly holy war) with their minds and not with guns.

The next hour and a half is a grisly survey of what happened when this 1400-year-old precedent was inverted.

The jihadists ban music — one of the most celebrated aspects of Malian culture — and then whip violators in public. They ban soccer, and then break up a group of children miming a game in silent protest. The jihadists speak a smattering of local languages and broken Arabic; their leader bans smoking only to sneak cigarettes under the cover of the town’s surrounding sand dunes.

In one of the more illustrative scenes, a female fish seller is told by one jihadist that women can no longer appear in public without wearing gloves. She explains to him that she can’t work unless she’s barehanded and then dares the fighter to cut her hands off on the spot.

In “Timbuktu,” the jihadists are power-tripping, thuggish and hypocritical. They are in the city to create a totally new kind of society and revel in their own insensitivity to local concerns.

But crucially they are not entirely outsiders, and some of the film’s most affecting scenes involve a Tuareg who joins with the jihadists occupying the town, a reminder that there are local dynamics at play. Just as importantly, the film hints at the context of state collapse and social chaos that allowed the jihadists to take over in the first place.

The movie’s primary narrative follows a Tuareg herder who accidentally kills a fisherman from a different ethnic group during an argument over his cows’ access to drinking water along a disputed riverbank. The film’s central conflict encapsulates the unresolved questions of ethnicity and resources that kept northern Mali in a state of crisis that the jihadists later exploited.

The herder’s treatment at the hands of Timbuktu’s new overlords depicts the imposition of an an outside ideology. But the killing is itself is a pointed example of how social turmoil can feed into a violent, totalitarian mania seemingly without warning. It harkens back to ISIS’s swift takeover of Iraq this past summer, a national-level instance of the dynamics that “Timbuktu” manages to boil down to an intimate, dramatic scale.

“Timbuktu” has a happy ending. Even if it isn’t part of the movie, the city was eventually liberated from jihadist control. The film depicts a now-extinct regime.

But the nightmare of “Timbuktu” is far from over. The liberation of the areas that ISIS rules will come at some indeterminate future date, and parts of Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria are still under the control of extremists whose ideologies are not categorically different from what appears in the film.

“Timbuktu” is maybe the best cinematic depiction ever made of what millions of people around the world are suffering through.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The War in Afghanistan costs America $45 billion every year

Forty-five billion dollars. That’s how much the Pentagon says the Afghan war is costing American taxpayers, and, with no end in sight, they may have to keep footing that bill for years to come.


Lawmakers, skeptical about the prospects of victory, grilled the Trump administration Feb. 6 on the direction of the nation’s longest-running war, now in its 17th year. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing comes after a wave of shocking militant attacks in Kabul that killed more than 200 people.

Randall Schriver, the Defense Department’s top Asia official, said the $45 billion total for the year includes $5 billion for Afghan forces and $13 billion for U.S. forces inside Afghanistan. Much of the rest is for logistical support. Some $780 million goes toward economic aid.

The costs now are still significantly lower than during the high point of the war in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2012, when the U.S. had as many as 100,000 soldiers in the country, the price for American taxpayers surpassed $100 billion each year. There are currently around 16,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Both Republican and Democratic senators highlighted the scale of the continuing outlay from Washington. Six months prior, President Donald Trump unveiled his strategy for turning the tide in the war, setting no time limit on the U.S. military’s involvement in the war-battered country, saying it would be based on conditions on the ground.

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U.S. Soldiers conduct a patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers to check on conditions in a village in the Wardak province of Afghanistan Feb. 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, U.S. Army)

Tens of billions are “just being thrown down a hatch in Afghanistan,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. “We’re in an impossible situation. I see no hope for it.”

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts suggested that those funds could be more effectively spent in saving American lives by investing in treatment for those suffering from opioid abuse. He cited research that two months of Afghan spending could fund an opioid center in every county in the United States.

Painting a bleak picture of the Afghan political and security situation, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon complained that every couple of years, U.S. administrations claim the corner is being turned in the Afghan war. He listed problems with corruption, government dysfunction and Afghan security forces, and said U.S. hopes of using military pressure to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement were unrealistic.

Also Read: The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

“Why do the Taliban want a political settlement? They now control more territory than they did since 2001,” Merkley said.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who visited Kabul and met with President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan government members last week, conceded it wasn’t a “rosy situation.”

The attacks last month were a real shock to many people in the government,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to come here and say, Henry Kissinger-like, that peace is at hand … but we’ve got a policy that we believe in. We want to stick to it.

He said the U.S. remains committed to brokering peace talks between the government and the Taliban. When Trump declared that the U.S. would no longer talk with the militant group, Sullivan said the president’s thrust was that “significant elements” of the Taliban are committed to violence and not prepared to negotiate. Sullivan said Ghani shared that view.

But Sullivan added that the insurgent group isn’t monolithic and the focus is on peeling off “those elements of the Taliban that we can reconcile with.”

Separately, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended the decision to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan, saying it was to prevent “another 9/11” being hatched from there. He told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. regional strategy “puts the enemy on the path toward accepting reconciliation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Extremists and cheap drones are changing asymmetrical warfare

It is the definition of asymmetrical warfare: a fast-moving, lightly armed insurgency fueled by a radical doctrine uses simple weapons to attack a larger, seemingly more capable occupying force.


Taking inspiration from the doctrines of T.E. Lawrence, Sun Tzu, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, extremists in Syria have increased pressure on Russian forces in the region with another simple, innovative attack that heavily damaged at least one Russian aircraft and likely more. Previous similar attacks in the region around Jan. 4 were reported to have killed 2 Russian servicemen.

Recent photos surfacing on social media attributed to Russian military journalist Roman Saponkov show the tail of what appears to be a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft damaged by an attack earlier this month.

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Captured fixed-wing insurgent drone. (Photo from Russian Air Force)

A report that surfaced on Jan. 6, 2018 from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that was shared in several media outlets, including the BBC, says that Russian forces shot down several “unmanned aircraft” near Hmeimim base near the north-western city of Latakia Jan. 6 in what appears to be the latest attack attempt by insurgents. In this week’s latest attack, the Russians claim there was no damage to aircraft or personnel and their air defense systems were successful in intercepting the small, store-bought quadcopter drones, usually used for cameras.

There has been a recent increase in attacks by improvised air-delivered weapons from remotely piloted aircraft on Russian installations in Syria. Additional insurgent attacks have been attributed to mortars. Some of the remotely piloted aircraft, in some instances commercial-style, quad-copter drones, have been modified to carry mortar rounds or grenades. Some grenade-bombs even used badminton shuttlecocks for improvised tail fin stabilizers. While this is not new, the frequency of the incidents and adaptability of the insurgents does seem to have increased.

Related: 7 new weapons in the war against drones

This increase in insurgent attacks comes just after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian assets from Syria during a surprise visit to Hmeimim air base on Dec. 11, 2017. Hmeimim air base is the primary launch facility for Russian tactical air operations in Syria’s Latakia province. The political move by Putin is reminiscent of the May 1, 2003 political gaff by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. President Bush made a media event out of landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and speaking in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished,” acknowledging the progress of the U.S. in the Global War on Terror in Iraq. Although Bush never said the mission was accomplished in his remarks on the USS America, the event is historically regarded as premature to meaningful change in the ongoing Iraq conflict. Putin may face similar criticism if a meaningful victory in Syria does not happen soon.

The Russian success in intercepting improvised camera drones being adapted to carry weapons is at least partially attributable to what may be their most sophisticated air defense system, the Pantsir S-2 integrated missile and gun vehicle.

The Pantsir S-2, an advancement from the earlier Pantsir S-1, uses a combination of a high rate of fire anti-aircraft gun and surface to air missiles combined with advanced targeting radar to both detect aerial threats and target both the guns and the missiles on the Pantsir S-2.

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The heart of Pantsir: 12 SA-22 Greyhound missiles and two 30mm cannon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Pantsir S-2 is armed with two 2A38M, 30mm automatic anti-aircraft guns derived from the GSh-30 twin-barrel 30mm aircraft-mounted cannon. The cannon system on the Pantsir S-2 has a very high rate of fire from 1,950 to 2,500 rounds per minute depending on the length of the burst. The 2A38M cannon can engage targets up to 2,000 meters, over 6,000 feet, altitude. More importantly in the context of the improvised insurgent threats, the 2A38M can engage targets down to zero altitude effectively, a problem older Soviet-era Russian anti-aircraft systems like the ZSU-34-4 faced since the guns could not depress below a certain elevation making it impossible to hit very low altitude targets in close proximity.

The Pantsir S-2 also carries the new highly capable 57E6-E guided surface to air missile. The missile uses a bi-caliber body in tandem, one stage in front of the next, with a separate booster stage then in-flight stage. The newest versions of the 57E6-E are reported to have range of up to 20-30 kilometers with and reported engagement ceiling of 10,000 meters (approx. 33,000 feet).

While the new Pantsir S-2 provides significant protection from what appears to be the entire threat envelope from enemy fixed-wing aircraft to improvised quad-copter bombs the hallmark of the insurgent adversary is adaptability. While Russia appears to be emerging in the lead of the conflict in Syria as Putin announces their withdrawal, one has to wonder what shift in insurgent tactics will follow their drone attack campaign.