Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac are a couple of modern bad asses in their own right. Greg is a C-17 pilot for the U.S. Air Force and Eli just shredded the 2018 San Diego Supercross. I hate to go all Top Gun on you, but these guys obviously have a need for speed.
“Motocross and Supercross, you’re just in it. We race in rain or shine. The noise from the four-stroke, and you’re in the dirt — it pushes you in every area, whether it’s physically or mentally, it’s the real deal.”
In 2010, Eli was the first rider in history to win his professional debut — since then, he’s continued to prove himself to be one of the fastest riders in the sport. In early 2018, he won his first Monster Energy Supercross, and his brother Greg was there to watch.
“I’m here to support Eli. If it’s a good day or a bad day, the overall goal is to just be a big brother to the guy in the track.”
Greg pointed out the connection between a pilot in his aircraft or a rider on the bike — they’re both about a man and his machine, but neither can do it alone. Pilots and riders require a crew to get their machines going.
“I’m out there as an entertainer [but with] the military…you can’t just go into work and say ‘Oh I’m tired, I’m not gonna ride today.’ You gotta get it done no matter what if you’re in the military so that’s something that I’ll never know…and that’s where I have the utmost respect for everyone that’s in, and that’s for my brother as well.”
Check out the video above to watch Monster’s coverage of Eli’s victory and hear the brothers talk about how they support each other.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the vet who needs his stocking stuffed:
~ .50 cal bottle openers to start the round (and the reminiscing) off right ~
Sometimes getting things rolling is the easy part. Like many entrepreneurs with a good idea, former SEAL Eli Crane found out that success, especially when it comes in a rush, can be a much more difficult hurdle to clear.
In Nov. 2014, Crane, along with his wife and co-founder, Jen, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch for investment in their boot-strapped company, Bottle Breacher. They went into it boasting a homemade (but sturdy) garage manufacturing set-up and $500k in sales of their flagship product, a bottle opener fashioned from recycled, authentic decommissioned .50 caliber bullet shells.
Impressed by their story (and all a’flutter with the patriotic warm’n’fuzzies), Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary went halvsies on a $150k capital investment for 10% equity each. The Cranes had aced the most public version of an entrepreneurial rite of passage. Happy days all the way to the bank, right?
Well, yeah, but also some rough weeks ahead as the instant publicity they received from their appearance flooded their fulfillment queue with some 20,000 orders, drastically overmatching their output capacity. Bottle Breacher was in for a brutal bout of growing pains.
Happily, the same grit that got Crane through BUD/S on his second try – along with the smarts that led him to switch to business after 5 overseas deployments – came together in a massive Bottle Breacher systems overhaul. In just over a month, the Cranes identified and busted through their production bottleneck (yeah, sorry) and caught up on all their outstanding orders.
And that was good news because Crane is a genius at product iteration and the production backlog had also made it impossible for him to release a bunch of his newest designs. These days, Bottle Breacher sells Freedom Frags, Breacher BBQ Tools, Wine Bottle Breachers, Whiskey Bullets and much, much more in their quest to be the #1 supplier of patriotic party ammunition to a grateful and thirsty nation.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
We first learned of the Yautja when Arnold Schwarzenegger went toe-to-toe with one in a South American jungle in the 1987 sci-fi action-thriller, Predator. Since then, these aliens have become a lauded piece of nerdy pop-culture. The latest installment in the franchise is coming out later this year, so now’s the time to learn as much about these interstellar hunters as possible.
You might know that these aliens are efficient trackers and killers — hence the name Predator. You might even know about their active camouflage, energy blasters, and cool nuke wristbands. But if you didn’t know the proper name for this species before now, then you’ve got a lot to learn.
We’re here to lead you down the rabbit hole. Here are a few things you should know about these badasses before checking out The Predator later this year.
There are two main tribes of Yautja — who are at constant war with each other.
(Twentieth Century Fox)
They have a warrior culture
Despite being capable of interstellar travel, the Yautja’s civilization is built around a tribal structure and a warrior culture. They value experienced warriors and the only way to earn respect is through battle.
They hunt for sport
You may have picked up on this in the original Predator when the mercenaries come across skinned corpses and shrines made of skulls. They don’t hunt for survival, they hunt for trophies. We mentioned above that the Yautja earn respect in battle — what better way to command respect than by weaving a vest of your enemies’ skulls?
They respect opponents who choose to face them head on.
(Twentieth Century Fox)
They only hunt formidable prey
They don’t just hunt something easy and say, “I killed a cricket, respect me.” No, they only target opponents who present a real threat to them, like Dutch’s mercenary team in the original film.
Any human who defeats one in single combat earns their respect
Compared to the Yautja, that humans are weak, fragile creatures. So, it’s pretty obvious why an alien race that prides itself on hunting and killing extremely dangerous creatures would respect a human who can survive a one-on-one fight.
Comrades of a fallen Yautja have been known to even award the human with a rare weapon as a sign of respect.
Humans can only hope they hunt each other into mutual extinction…
(Twentieth Century Fox)
They hunt Xenomorphs as a rite of passage
Remember the aliens from, well, Alien? When a Yautja is coming of age, they must endure a ritual in which they hunt a Xenomorph, which are considered the ultimate prey in their culture. If one can defeat a Xenomorph, they earn the respect of their tribe.
To signify their success in hunting a Xenomorph, a Yautja will mark their helmets using the alien’s acidic blood.
Let’s face it, nobody likes a tattletale. This is especially true in the military. No, we’re not talking of the folks around your office that snitch on you for not dotting every I or crossing every T. We’re talking maritime tattletales, ships that cruise just off the coast, collecting intelligence. Russia has one loitering near our eastern coast last year, according to Fox News. This ship has been around before and it’s back to its same old tricks.
Sick of it? We are, too. These are our suggestions for how the United States can have a little fun with this tattletale.
4. Buzz ’em.
The Russians have been buzzing American planes and ships for a while. I’m sure there are some Navy aviators dying to dish out some payback. It just so happens that cruising just off the East Coast makes for a very convenient opportunity. Furthermore, why does it just have to be just one buzzing? A P-3 Orion here, a couple of F/A-18E/Fs there — maybe get the F-35C Lightning or P-8 Poseidon in on the action as well. The Russians have run up quite a tab, and it’s time they started paying.
A F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 25 flies supersonic over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. Maybe it’s time to do this in close proximity to a Russian tattletale. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Benjamin Stevens)
3. Follow it around.
Have an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, littoral combat ship, or a Coast Guard cutter just follow the tattletale around. This sort of stuff will undoubtedly make it harder for the tattletale to get what it came for.
2. Give it a little nudge.
The Russians did this to a pair of American ships, the USS Yorktown and the USS Caron, in 1988. It might not be a bad idea to get a little payback for this… with thirty years’ interest, of course.
1. Board them.
Since this Russian ship is hanging around some American ports, the U.S. Coast Guard can get in on the fun. It wouldn’t be too hard for some enterprising CO to come up with an excuse — we mean probable cause, of course — to board and search the tattletale. Maybe they’re responding to an anonymous tip that there are drugs on board. Or perhaps it’s overdue for a safety inspection. If the CO of the Russian ship mouths off to the Coasties, we’re in for some good times. After all, they can’t be given a pass for contempt of Coast Guard, can they?
So, how would you like to have some nice, non-lethal fun with this Russian tattletale?
There are so many terrifying weapons that have come out in the last few years or are going through testing now that make it seem like the next war, no matter where it happens, will see friendly troops fighting a “War of the Worlds”-type conflict against unstoppable foes.
But many of these new weapons are either over-hyped, impossible to make work, or prohibitively expensive. In no particular order, here are seven of them you can probably stop worrying so much about:
Russia’s new Burevestnik will be the scariest doomsday weapon in the world if it can ever fly more than 22 miles.
That new nuclear-powered missile
The Burevestnik is Russia’s splashy, new, nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed missile announced in a March press conference. In theory, this weapon would spew nuclear waste over a large area as it swiftly maneuvers past enemy air defenses and levels an unknown enemy capital (that’s obviously Washington, D.C.).
China’s Shenyang J-31 fighter will murder all the things.
China’s stealth jets, J-31 and J-20
The J-31 and J-20 would challenge the F-35 and F-22 for control of the skies, downing American fuel tankers at will and beating back flights of fifth-generation fighters too dumb to realize they were outmatched. Unfortunately, Chinese designers can’t get the engines, as well as some other details, right.
So, while the newest J-fighters are still a threat (fuel tankers will be vulnerable when the planes carry their longest range air-to-air missiles), American fighters will still hold a firm edge against them in nearly all conditions, especially knife fights and stealth battles where the Chinese fighters’ weak engines will make them have to choose between stealth and speed. Meanwhile, the American fighters can enjoy both at once, especially the F-22.
The tank can kill you without even breaking stealth. Or something.
The Russian Bumerang can swim up behind you kill you, and then use your body as a raft.
(Photo by Boevaya mashina)
Russian Bumerang and Kurganets-25
Russia’s newest armored vehicles, designed to complement the T-14 Armata as Russian armored columns sweep through NATO formations like Han Solo flying through the Death Star (which, for the non-Star Wars fans, didn’t end well for the Death Star). And the Bumerang can do it while swimming.
China’s J-15 carrier-launched jet is a literal flying shark and Decepticon. It’s both of them.
(Photo by Garudtejas7)
China’s carrier jet, the J-15
The J-15 is only six years old would launch from carriers to enforce China’s will on any nation or region of the Pacific that dared stand up for freedom and justice. Too bad it’s too heavy for carrier operations, has flawed mechanics that keep failing, and is already being shelved for the J-31 (which, as noted above, has its own problems).
The Su-57 fighter jet is equal to the F-22, better than the F-35, and can carry cruise missiles, allowing it to fly up to the American seaboard, launch strikes against U.S. cities, and then down the late-arriving jets sent up to intercept it.
For those who haven’t heard, Russia is planning a supercarrier that is for-real going to happen and it’ll be the best carrier. Ever. But, if completed according to the little information released, it’ll be a little bigger than a Nimitz-class carrier and have similar capabilities.
So, still smaller and weaker than a Ford-class. Also, last time Russia attempted a supercarrier (or any carrier for that matter), they had barely laid the keel before their government collapsed and they took years to sell the thing off for scrap. Also, the guys who worked on that carrier and might have any idea how to build a new one are mostly retired and — this is even more important — Ukrainian.
Many Ukrainians haven’t been big fans of Russia for a few years. Something about “the Crime and Peninsula” and “the Dumbass Region” or something? Add to that all of Russia’s already-discussed budget issues and the fact that the carrier would cost 20 percent of the Russian military budget to build…
So, yeah, the carrier will either be imaginary or ridiculously underfunded. (Additional note: Their only current carrier needs a tug escort in case it breaks down and is filled with sewage and closed bathrooms.)
The short segments (each one is about five minutes) star characters from some of the year’s most popular children’s shows, like Super Monsters and Boss Baby, and end with a countdown to 2019.
And this year, Netflix is offering an even greater variety of countdowns for parents to choose from, including options for older kids and tweens. In 2018, there were only nine New Year’s specials, five fewer than this year’s record-high of 14.
Netflix’s annual tradition is backed by recent research, too. According to a statement made by the streaming service, “77% of U.S. parents actually prefer to stay in than go out for the biggest bash of the year.” The company added that over the last five years, an average of five million people watch the New Year’s Eve countdown shows each year.
To find the popular holiday specials, which are usually available through the first week of January, parents can simply enter “countdowns” in the Netflix search bar.
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.
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. with a .44-caliber single-shot derringer pistol to the back of the head. While Booth fled on horseback, the president was rushed to a boarding house across the street to await the surgeon general. Sadly, the 16th president of the United States died the next morning at the age of 56.
The assassination has maintained infamous throughout history for many reasons. First, the attack was public and led to a heated manhunt. Perhaps more significantly, after four years of civil war, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had just surrendered his army only five days before, effectively ending the conflict. Though Lincoln would not live to see his country recover, in death he kept the promise he made to the Union during his inaugural address “to preserve, protect and defend it.”
President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, were at Ford’s Theater that night to attend Our American Cousin, a comedy. The Library of Congress has preserved the contents of the president’s pockets on his final night. Here’s what he had:
Watch the video above to see details of the items in his pockets, which include a pocket knife and two pairs of spectacles. The president also carried on his person a watch fob and a linen handkerchief, stenciled with “A. Lincoln” in red. While these feel very simple, there are some more curious items as well.
First, the president carried newspaper clippings, including, according to the Library of Congress, several favorable to the president and his policies. It’s almost like the 19th Century version of checking out what Twitter had to say about the administration.
Even more curious was the fact that the only currency Abraham Lincoln carried the night he died was a five-dollar Confederate note in a brown leather wallet. “We don’t know with one hundred percent certainty but just a few days earlier, Richmond had fallen, and Lincoln did actually travel to Richmond and this was likely passed onto him as a souvenir,” shared Clark Evans, Head of Reference Services in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.
After his death, the contents of President Lincoln’s pockets were passed onto his son, Robert Todd, and they remained in the Lincoln family for more than seventy years. They were finally placed on display at the LIbrary of Congress in 1976, where they remain the most favored of all objects within the library’s collections.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.
It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.
“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”
While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”
On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.
“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”
From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”
Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.
“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”
Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.
In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.
After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.
“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”
Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.
Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:
“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”
The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.
“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”
Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.
In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.
Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.
Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.
“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”
In the months leading up to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump in Finland, Moscow appears to have ramped up activity in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
Satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs and reported by Defense One shows activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, a town that hosts a major Russian port and two air bases.
Between March and June 2018, “the visible change … appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One.
Hall said other structures shown in the images appeared to have been reinforced over that period. Activity in a forested area was partially obscured by foliage, but there appeared to be more structures among the trees, some covered and some uncovered with different levels of fortification.
Aerial photo of Baltiysk
“In this area some of the structures have changed, potentially showing roofing structures or tarps that have since been removed to reveal caches of items,” Hall said. “Additionally, there appear to be new or redistributed items — potentially identifiable as shipping containers.” Hall also told Defense One a railroad line was visible in the photos.
Kaliningrad — 86 square miles of land bordered by Poland and Lithuania — was an important asset to the Soviet Union, and military activity there has grown amid Russia’s recent military buildup. It also hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet and its 11th Army Corps.
Russian weapons in Kaliningrad have been a point of contention with NATO. In late 2016, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the exclave “means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals.”
Iskander missiles have a range of about 310 miles and in the past were stationed in Kaliningrad on a temporary basis. But in February 2018, Grybauskaite said Russia had deployed more of the missiles there “for permanent presence.”
The head of Russian parliament’s defense committee confirmed that deployment, saying it was a response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe. A Kremlin spokesman said at the time that Russia had the “sovereign right” to station military forces on its territory.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Satellite imagery of another area within Kaliningrad showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, according to a June 2018 report by the Federation of American Scientists.
Images “show one of three underground bunkers near Kulikovo being excavated in 2016, apparently renovated, and getting covered up again in 2018 presumably to return operational status soon,” the report said.
The imagery provided few conclusive details, but “features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” the report 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.”
The missiles deployed to Kaliningrad have raised concern about threats to Western Europe, but the exclave also positions Russian forces near the Suwalki Gap, a weak point in the NATO alliance, according to a recent report from the Center for European Analysis, coauthored by retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who was head of US Army Europe.
The gap, stretching between eastern Kaliningrad and western Belarus, is the only land connection between NATO and its three Baltic member states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
“The Suwałki Corridor is where the many weaknesses in NATO’s strategy and force posture converge,” the report says.
“If Russia attempted to establish control over the Suwałki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment from within the borders of Kaliningrad and Belarus, it could cut the Baltic states off from the rest of the Alliance” and hinder reinforcement efforts. NATO forces did exercises focused mobility and interoperability in the Suwalki region early 2018
Suwalki Gap crossing
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Wang)
A dispute over the gap “could escalate with alarming speed,” the report says, though Hodges believes a Cold War-style Russian ground invasion is unlikely.
“I don’t think that Russia intends to invade Europe as though its 1991. They don’t have the capacity to do that anymore,” he told Defense One.
Moscow may instead look to use a crisis in the area to undermine NATO by showing it was unable to response effectively, or at all, to a threat.
“If you accept that premise, that they might do a limited attack to demonstrate that NATO cannot protect its members,” he told Defense One. “That would create a problem.”
Russia is believed to have a substantial military force stationed along NATO’s eastern border, and its ability to deploy it quickly could make it harder for Western forces to distinguish between a military exercise and an actual military operation.
During the Zapad war games in 2013 and 2017, Russian troops simulated advances on the gap, cutting off the Baltic states from the rest of Europe. There has also been an increase in close encounters between NATO and Russian aircraft in the skies over the Baltics.
In the years since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, Baltic countries have warned about possible aggression against them.
In 2017, Lithuania said it worried Russia was laying the groundwork for “kinetic operations” through propaganda and misinformation — a manner similar to what preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Lithuania, which is under pressure from Moscow to allow a permanent Russian-controlled transit corridor to Kaliningrad, has also called for a permanent US troop presence on its soil and started building a fence along its border with Kaliningrad.
The CEPA report lays out several scenarios through which Russia could provoke a crisis to justify action against Suwalki, using disinformation and hybrid-warfare techniques to deflect blame and confuse observers.
“If [Russian forces] ever tried anything, they would do it asymmetrically so that they could achieve whatever they wanted to achieve before the alliance caught on,” Hodges told Defense One.T
his article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.
Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.
But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.
There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.
There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.
The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.
The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
US special operations is researching how to counteract a new breed of warfare that Russia, China and Iran have been using quite successfully in recent years, Defense News reported.
Known as gray-zone conflict or hybrid warfare, it encompasses “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area,” according to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.
In response, US special ops is looking to develop “predictive analytic technologies that will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Theresa Whelan told Congress on May 2.
That’s because in hybrid warfare, aggressors will try to mask who they really are, such as Russia’s use of “little green men” in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine where its own special operations forces helped support an insurgency.
“Without a credible smoking gun, NATO will find it difficult to agree on an intervention,” according to NATO REVIEW Magazine.
The Pentagon study will help the US identify early evidence of unconventional warfare, Whelan said.
Many people in countries along Russia’s border, especially in the eastern part of those countries, have close cultural ties, like language and history, to Russia. Therefore public opinion about identity and Russia in these regions is oftentimes sharply divided.
No one yet knows how the US will actually try to counteract such warfare, but “technology will play a significant role,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider, specifically mentioning artificial intelligence, robotics and drones.
The presence and use of special ops will also increase, as they already have in places like Iraq and Syria. “More special ops died last year than conventional forces,” Lemmon said. “I think that points to the future of warfare.”
This new kind of warfare also brings up questions about the rules of engagement, and how the US can counteract it without triggering a full-scale conventional war.
“I genuinely think no one can answer that,” Lemmon said. “It is taking the idea of warfare into a totally different realm.”
While the results of the study are two years late, the Pentagon expects to have an “answer with our thoughts” before the end of June, Whalen told Congress.
Two female Infantry officers have completed U.S. Army Ranger School and are scheduled to be awarded the coveted tabs during their graduation ceremony on March 31 at Victory Pond, a Fort Benning spokesman confirmed.
The Army did not release the names of the women, who will be among 119 soldiers to receive their tabs in March. The Army did confirm that they were both graduates of the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course.
“The Maneuver Center of Excellence focuses on training leaders every day through an array of professional military education and first-class functional training that results in increased readiness in the operation of the Army,” said Ben Garrett, Fort Benning spokesman. “We provide our soldiers with the necessary tools, doctrine, and skill set so they are successful once they arrive at their units. This success is built on the quality of our instructions, professionalism of our instructors, and the maintaining of standards in everything we do. The Ranger Course is an example of that commitment to excellence.”
They are the first women to complete the Army’s most demanding combat training school in almost 17 months.
Griest, Haver, and Jaster were among 19 women who started the course in April 2015 at Camp Rogers on Fort Benning. Previously, Ranger School had been open only to men. After Haver and Griest graduated, the school was opened to all soldiers — male or female — who qualified to attend.
It is important moment and will lead to a time when there are now men and women, but just Ranger School students, said Jaster.
“Capable women are raising their hands to attend Ranger School,” she said. “Once they make it through RAP (Ranger Assessment Phase) week, I do not see why the graduation percentages would be any lower than males who attend the same preparatory events.”
The opening of Ranger School to all soldiers came about the same time then Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter officially opened all military jobs, including combat positions, to qualified men and women. Much of the training for those jobs in the Army is done at Fort Benning.
In October 2016, 10 women graduated from the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. They graduated with 156 men. The expectation for those who graduate from IBOLC is to attend Ranger School, which can be completed in about 60 days if a soldier goes straight through without having to repeat a phase.
“The April 2015 Integrated Ranger School class might have been the only time women would be allowed into that course — no one knew for sure,” Jaster said. “Therefore, every female soldier who wanted to try, thought she could, and met the basic criteria for attendance…threw their hat in the ring. Therefore, there was a mass push in April 2015. People who are attending Ranger School now knew the opportunity was open and could attend when it was right for them.”
That changes the game, Jaster said.
“For the newest graduates, they were still in training,” Jaster said. “With time, this will just be part of Ranger School. As women branch combat arms or are assigned to combat units, they will train for, attend, and then graduate from Ranger School.”
That will make the Army better, Jaster said.
“I cannot speak for Kris and Shaye, but I know that Ranger School prepares leaders for combat roles,” she said. “It’s a test of capacity and capability. Each female graduation is currently a singular and significant event. But, each female graduate went through the same grueling school as each male graduate. Integration success is when we stop counting the women and focus on the quality of military leader the school produces.”
Griest and Haver, now a captain, both have transferred branches since Ranger School graduation and are assigned as Infantry officers with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C.