This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

Tony Wells’ journey from Marine to leading USAA’s brand wasn’t easy. But his diverse career after his service made him the perfect person for the job. 

“I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and obviously there is a very heavy military presence there,” Wells explained. His mother was a teacher and his father a pharmaceutical representative, both successful in their own right. “I was very fortunate to have a number of family members that either served or had connections.” 

Although he eventually became a proud Marine, it wasn’t always the plan.

Recruited by the Naval Academy to play basketball as a senior in high school, it was the first time Wells really considered a career in the military. His maternal grandfather served during World War II as a Steward and Driver for a Navy captain. As a Black American, it was one of the few jobs they were allowed to hold within the military during that time period. “For him, it was an absolute moment of pride when I graduated from the Naval Academy many years later,” Wells shared. “The idea that his grandson would be a Marine officer was just a dream come true.”

So, why did Wells choose becoming a Marine over a sailor? As a midshipman during his junior year, he was assigned to a Marine unit. “We went to Bridgeport, which is where Marines do mountain warfare training. I just had an unbelievable time and seeing the relationship between the staff NCOs and officers, for me it was just a different experience…It felt more like what I wanted to embody as a military leader,” Wells shared. 

In 1986, Wells commissioned as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer and headed to the fleet. Wells shared that being an “Officer of Marines” was the greatest job he’s ever had. “Being of service to country and for me, having those basic leadership philosophy foundation approaches ingrained early has served me well,” he said. 

Wells deployed with the 1st Battalion 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune to the Mediterranean. He was a rifle and weapons platoon commander during this time. He then had the opportunity to become a company commander. “It was a very unique opportunity for me as a 1st Lieutenant,” he said. Wells served under Michael Hagee, who would go on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

After PCSing to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Wells had the opportunity to take on a secondary MOS and was trained to be a Public Affairs Officer. When he returned to San Diego after completing his training, the first Gulf War began. Wells found himself on the evening news…Wells found himself on the evening news, briefing the nation on how recruits were handling training as they prepared to deploy. “It was a great leadership experience and a great practical opportunity for me to transition. That became how I ended up transitioning to civilian service,” he explained. 

Tony Wells
Tony Wells (LinkedIn)

Wells dove into his new civilian career with Nissan, working as their Corporate Communications Manager and eventually an Advertising Manager. After almost six years with Nissan, he moved on to other various marketing roles for different companies and industries. While working for one of them about 20 years later, he had a conversation with USAA.

“It was like coming home. I’ve been a USAA member since I was at the Naval Academy,” Wells shared. “It’s just been a tremendous experience around this idea of how important the mission is. I would say my whole business career I haven’t experienced the pull of the mission and alignment since the Marine Corps.”

Although Wells said he’s worked for some truly great companies, purpose is inherent within USAA. So is perspective. “When I have a tough day or think it’s been rough. I know that somewhere there is a cold, wet and hungry Marine who is in danger while protecting our country and our way of life,” he said. 

As he looks back on his life, Wells is quick to recognize what he called deep blessings and great opportunities. “For me, Black History Month is about paying homage to the folks who have come before and the great sacrifice and accomplishments that Black Americans have had that may have gone unrecognized,” Wells explained. 

Not only did his grandfather serve in the Navy, his cousin was a Montford Point Marine, one of the first Black Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring fair employment practices and banning discrimination. 

“The last year has been a very interesting time in America. I think the murder of George Floyd really caused folks to reassess race relations. I think it’s very interesting that the military has such a long history of being the first to integrate but at the same time recognizes there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. Military leadership spanning across every branch of service was quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd and begin a deeper examination of their own houses for racism. 

USAA joined them, issuing their own statement and commitment to fighting racism.

“Despite the discord and division we often see in America right now, I still remain hopeful…there are many, many more people committed to being on that journey to get back to the Constitution, which is just this idea that all are men created equal,” he shared. “I just think that the best is yet to come and I continue to believe that the military will play an instrumental role in making that transition a reality.”

This Marine spent his life living and breathing a servant-leadership mentality, honoring all who came before him. Although Wells may have left the Corps behind years ago, he found his new home in USAA by serving them and all other service members. 

When Wells was asked if had any last words for readers, he smiled. “Semper Fi.”

Humor

What it’s like having a submarine crash into your ship

A U.S. Marine stationed aboard any Naval vessel enjoys a lifestyle very similar to that of cargo. Marines are often sequestered to their color coordinated quarters (ours were red) where they sleep in coffin racks, are given a small window of time to utilize the gym, and in some cases even have separate hours for chow.


All of these measures actually have a purpose, and that is to keep green side (Marines) and blue side (Navy) separate.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
USS New Orleans. Not pictured: Sailor and Marine rivalries.

However, there are jobs Marines can be volunteered for, jobs involving laundry, trash, and foodservice. Lucky enough for this young leatherneck, having a culinary degree puts you to work aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans in the galley.

So there I was, a twenty-two year old Corporal with a culinary degree being put to work as leader of the night shift aboard a navy vessel. There were no sailors under my charge, which I found to be slightly condescending, but that’s of no consequence. On my team there were no less than three infantry Marines with zero cooking experience and one supply Marine from Baton Rouge, LA, which is plenty of cooking experience on its own. We were tasked with prepping the next days lunch and dinner meals, baking fresh bread, and preparing and serving breakfast.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
USS Hartford (the villain of this story).

Unbeknownst to my crew and me, a U.S. submarine submerged at periscope depth in the straight of Hormuz was soon to make its move. The U.S.S. Hartford is a Los Angeles class Navy submarine that had a date with destiny in the form of a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship, the U.S.S. New Orleans. After 63 days at sea, it would seem that the crew of the Hartford had had enough and decided to break up the monotony with a little fender bender.

Related: This is what life is like for sailors on a US Navy submarine

Meanwhile aboard the New Orleans in the ship’s galley were five Marines working diligently. I remember quite vividly the jarring vibration of a f**king submarine crashing into a war ship, causing a mess. I was making pancakes at the time (and none were lost — not bragging just saying).

An infantry Corporal came running in asking if I could spare one of my guys, who happened to be one of his junior Marines. I calmly approved and the Corporal decided to start screaming at his young troop to get his weapon and gear because we were under attack. The young Marine yelled back, “Yes Corporal!” before running to his quarters.

He soon returned, showcasing his, “I thought I was finally going to get to shoot my rifle in combat” face of disappointment. The rest of the crew replied with laughter and taunts.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
Hartford vs. New Orleans

One of our battalion’s intel Marines informed us that our theories — we hit a whale, we ran aground, we were attacked by pirates — were not only incorrect, but the hapless ramblings of the simple-minded. He then told us we would not be allowed to call out or use the internet, that all coms were being controlled, and that we were hit by our own submarine. We took him seriously until that last part.

After breakfast was ready and the crew sat down to eat in the ship’s mess area, we turned on the television for some news. We were surprised to see that not only was everything intel said true, but also that we had leaked around 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the straights. We ended up dry-docking the ship on an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia known as Bahrain.

Beautiful location, lots of black flags — if you’ve never been, I don’t recommend it.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
Dry docked Hartford.

After six weeks of dry dock repairs, the New Orleans was back in the ocean ready for duty. It was determined that the incident was solely the fault of the Hartford and its Captain, who was relieved of command along with others. Damages to the New Orleans totaled $2.3 million dollars, which may seem like a lot until compared with the $120 million dollar price tag attached to the Hartford repairs.

I actually had a beer with one of the crew of the U.S.S. Hartford. We compared stories of the incident in which he shared with me that the submarine spun like a football — nearly 90 degrees in the water (a lot for a sub). The collision trashed the entire ship and administered one of the most jarring wake-up calls in U.S. naval history.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army and Navy deploy to support Tyndall rebuild

While Hurricane Michael created catastrophic devastation to most of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the relief efforts were a reminder of the symbiotic relationship between military branches.

In the days following the storm, the Air Force came in droves to provide support, with the Navy and Army not far behind. Engineers from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Gulfport, Mississippi, and the 46th Engineer Battalion, Fort Polk, Louisiana, hit the ground running.


They traveled in convoys bringing with them construction vehicles and equipment. Unable to bring everything they would need, they also arranged to have contracted vehicles meet them at Tyndall AFB.

In teams, totaling more than 130 personnel, they worked to clear trees and debris.

“We are going full force getting trees removed, so we can help people access their buildings,” said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Zachary Bunter, MNCB 133. “Our main focus is 30 feet around buildings and roads.”

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

Navy Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Vance Winecke, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., cuts branches off of trees as they are cleared away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

His team was successful in clearing the area around the base clinic.

“We are hoping to clear up enough that when the permanent party are returning it may be less of a shock,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Klein, 46th Engineer Battalion commander. “We want to restore hope that the base is going to come alive again.”

The Army has also taken on clearing out Fam Camp, which will be used as a staging area for rebuild efforts.

“We are all here to take care of each other,” said Klein. “We take care of our brothers and sisters on our right and left and that is what this mission is. I told (the Soldiers) to remember that they are helping their own and that is what is most important.”

For many, it is also about putting their training to work.

“For some of them, this is their first time seeing a disaster like this and doing first response,” said Bunter. “These type of missions, humanitarian and disaster recovery, are what we really shine at – being able to go out and help people whether it is here in the U.S. or overseas.”

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

Sailors from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., work clearing trees away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

Klein echoes his sentiment.

“We have stood up to do hurricane response three times in the past two years and this is the first time we have actually been called out to help,” he said. “The soldiers are getting to experience what the Army does, what the military does and what the Department of Defense does.”

At the end of the day, the Army and Navy have the same end goal – to return normalcy to the base and surrounding community.

“Contractors have thanked us for helping because the base is a huge source of revenue for the local community,” said Bunter. “Hopefully this base recovers and hopefully what we do is a big help to everything.”

Getting the mission up and running is also a priority.

“We have to get it right so they are able to go out continue what their mission is,” said Klein. “They run a very important mission out of this base, so it is important for the nation and DoD to get it up and running as quick as possible.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This military-friendly adult actress is starting a project just for veterans

When it comes to the economics of adult entertainment, things are pretty similar to its Silver Screen counterpart. There’s a lot of money spent behind the scenes to make the films. Locations, production crews, and other associated costs can really make a dent in even the most well-prepared budget.


“It’s a process,” says adult actress Mercedes Carrera in an interview with We Are The Mighty. “And sometimes it’s not as fun as people think it is.”

Time is money. There’s no room for errors, no time for first-timers to start in the mainstream adult film world. And not just anyone can get their foot in the door.

Also read: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

So when Carrera tweeted to her fan base about the idea of casting average-joe veterans to co-star in her upcoming project, the response blew her away.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
Also staggering is her knife-hand ability.

“I just threw a tweet out like two days ago,” Carrera recalls during a February 2017 interview. “It said ‘contact me, I’m gonna do this whole vet only thing. It’s gonna be its own site.’ ”

Carrera’s tweet was part of her plan to launch a new adult entertainment website that is veteran focused — including using vets as actors.

While some may question whether the star’s use of veteran “free talent” is taking advantage of former service members — even using words like “exploitation” — she insists that is both an oversimplification and simply untrue.

“I’m not going to be making money off of vets,” Carrera says. “The numbers just don’t work out for me in that. I still have to pay for some locations, I have to pay my production staff. This project will be a sub-site from my website, but I already know that no one is gonna buy 80 percent of these scenes.”

The tweet was picked up by one website and her inbox was soon flooded with a thousand emails. To say she’s a big deal among veterans is an understatement, in her eyes. She gets messages and emails all the time from servicemen and women, just to tell her that her work helped get them through a deployment, despite General Order Number One, which prohibits work like hers in the CENTCOM theater.

“It’s probably two thousand by now,” she adds. She gets three new emails every minute. And answering them has become a sort-of full-time job, one she says she truly enjoys.

Her outreach to the veteran community is nothing new. In 2016, she took Army Sgt. Anthony Berg to the Adult Video News Awards, one of her industry’s biggest nights.

To her, wasn’t a publicity stunt, she still keeps in touch with Berg and his wife, and both attended the awards with her.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
(via Instagram)

The reasons for her devotion to vets is simple, she says. Carrera is a military brat — her father served in Vietnam and he, like many other returning Vietnam veterans, did not get the homecoming Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive today.

People actually spit and hurled things at him as left the airport, she said.

“It was a different time, and he was getting out as the war was very unpopular,” Carrera recalls.  “And he was coming back to Los Angeles at the time so you can imagine the social climate.”

Aside from her family connection to veterans, Carrera says she genuinely loves them and connects with the community. She has a lot of respect and admiration for a community who cares more about their friends than themselves, and that includes the vets who respond to her her contests.

“They take care of each other,” she says. “This happened when I took a date to AVN last year, too. These guys are, instead of submitting themselves, they’re submitting their buddies.”

Veterans interested in her veteran movie project will have to provide their own time and travel and pay for industry-standard disease screening. The adult film industry is one with inherent health risks and is regulated by state government.

Related: 9 important things you realize when dating a veteran

“When I perform, I always pay my own travel expenses and for my own tests,” she said. “We all [in the adult industry] pay for our own tests all the time. That’s the nature of the industry.”

Carrera hasn’t always been an adult video actress. She began her career as an aerospace engineer. Though she still loves to “build sh*t,” Carrera recalls her move to the adult industry as a natural one for her.

While there are a few veterans who have transitioned from the military to the adult industry, there aren’t many. And though some may want to join the ranks of her world, Carrera can tell you that breaking in isn’t easy.

“The failure rates for new men are 80-90 percent,” she says. “Producers don’t even want to audition new guys. It’s too much of a risk to the production cost. For those veterans who do want a break in the industry, I’m offering them a chance to see if they can do it.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
Carrera spends a lot of time interacting with her fans, veteran or not.

She doesn’t see veterans as victims she can take advantage of, she just wants to give aspiring veterans the opportunity they may not have had otherwise.

In Mercedes Carrera’s mind, we all give back to our veterans in our own way. This project will be her way.

“I’m at a point in my career in the where my recommendations carry weight and I’ve earned that by earning my stripe in the industry,” she says. “Veterans have reached out to me for years asking me how to get started, and now I have the chance to help them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now the Chinese Air Force is provoking Taiwan

Taiwan is facing a new source of pressure from rival China as the communist government increasingly often sends military aircraft to skirt the island, a challenge to the local armed forces.


Planes from China flew near Taiwan in November and December, raising concern last week at the presidential office in Taipei. Over the past two years, Chinese military units have sent planes 10 times just outside the Taiwanese air defense zone, former Taiwan defense minister Andrew Yang estimates.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory that must eventually be unified. Officials in Beijing resent Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for not accepting their “one-China” principle, which would bind the two sides under one flag, as a condition for any talks.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
A US supplied F-16 fighter takes off from Chiayi Airbase in Southern Taiwan. These jets patrol the boundary in the strait across from China. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

China is conducting the long-range flights in part to warn Taiwan against moving toward formal independence at the risk of a military strike, analysts say.

“They will try to test Taiwan’s government’s will to defend itself,” said Shane Lee, political scientist at Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “They believe that continued threats will really bend Taiwan to its claim.”

The two sides have been separately ruled since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war, but the government in Taipei has never declared official independence. Surveys in Taipei show most Taiwanese oppose unification.

Also Read: China is freaking out at the White House over a $1.4B arms sale to Taiwan

Show of strength

China runs the world’s third most powerful military after the United States and Russia. Taiwan’s armed forces rank 18th, according to the database GlobalFirePower.com.

The flights send a message to multiple countries, scholars say. Some of China’s aircraft fly near outlying Japanese islets and on over the Pacific Ocean.

China wants to prove it can send ships and planes past the “first island chain,” said Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review in Washington.

The U.S. Navy and its allies, all leery of Chinese expansion, have normally dominated the waters east of that chain, which runs from Russia to the Philippines. The chain includes Taiwan.

China said in its official news media it had “fulfilled its long-held dream of breaking through” the island chain after ships passed in 2013 between Japan and Russia.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
China’s second aircraft carrier is making steady progress. | Chinese state media

Exercises near Taiwan

A year ago December and into January, China sent an aircraft carrier, its only one at the time, around Taiwan.

Six Chinese bombers flew through the Miyako Strait north of Taiwan in July. Bombers and other aircraft flew through the strait in November as well as through the Bashi Strait separating Taiwan from the Philippines. On December 11 the Taiwan defense ministry said Chinese fighter planes had made another round through the two straits.

“This year there are many drills and training missions taking place surrounding the Bashi Strait,” said Yang, also secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank.

“We have to watch very closely what kind of tactics or fighting capabilities they have possessed so as to come up with countermeasures,” he said.

China has also shown discontent with the 20-month-old Tsai government by scaling back tourist arrivals to Taiwan, according to travel agencies in Taipei. Analysts and government officials suspect Beijing as well of persuading two countries to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China over the same period.

Measured response

Taiwan, which sits 160 kilometers from China at its nearest point, has sent its own aircraft to monitor China’s movements and urged people on the island to stay calm.

Yang said the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei is probably now considering how to ensure Chinese aircraft avoid flying into its air defense identification zone. Neither side wants a mishap, he added, while both sides know how to avoid one.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
(Photo: ROC Navy via Flickr)

Taiwan is also developing its own naval ships and a trainer jet to keep its military up to date. Its chief foreign arms supplier, the United States, approves only occasional sales, such as a $1.42 billion package announced in June, to avoid angering Beijing too often.

On December 21, Tsai called China’s flights around Taiwan a conflict with regional stability. She ordered an air force command center to step up vigilance.

Taiwan’s armed forces will “just keep silent and then send their airplanes in the sky and send their ships watching,” predicted Liu Yi-jiun, public affairs professor at Fo Guang University in Taiwan. “Then probably we can make the point clear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 26th

I’m calling it now. This weekend will be one of the quietest weekends in recent history. Why? It has nothing to do with 2nd MARDIV’s insane level of micromanaging and everything to do with how lower enlisted troops think.

For starters, it’s a non-pay day weekend for the second time in a row. Less shenanigans when everyone is broke as Hell. Secondly, NCOs will know exactly where everyone is located at any given moment. Friday night? They’re all out seeing Avengers Endgame. Saturday afternoon? In the barracks playing the new Mortal Kombat game. Saturday night? Probably seeing Avengers again. Sunday? Too hungover (I said quiet, not uneventful) and Sunday night will be Game of Thrones.

If you’re an NCO trying to find a good reason to cheer up your sergeant major, pointing out the lack of blotter reports on their desk will surely help.


Here’s to a quiet, entertainment filled weekend. Enjoy some memes.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Not CID)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Lock Load)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Call for Fire)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme by Devil Dog Actual)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Private News Network)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme by Ranger Up)

 My ass is firmly in the “why leave a perfectly good aircraft” category. 

Call me a leg, but at least we use Air Assault these days.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

(Meme by WATM)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia accuses the US of trying to ‘partition’ Syria

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations has accused the U.S.-led coalition in Syria of trying to partition the country by setting up local governing bodies in areas seized from the Islamic State extremist group, Russian news agencies reported.


Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on November 29 complained that the coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters that recently liberated Raqqa from IS was discussing setting up governing bodies and restoring the economy without the involvement of Russia’s ally, the Syrian government, Russia’s Interfax and RIA news agencies reported.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
Syrian Democratic Forces march in Raqqa in 2016 (Image from VOA)

“We are receiving news that the coalition is directly involved in the creation of some local authorities in the areas freed from ISIL, with which they are discussing economic reconstruction measures,” Nebenzya was quoted as saying by Interfax.

“What the coalition is doing amounts to concrete steps to partition the country,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax and RIA Novosti.

Russia raised its complaint as representatives from Syria’s government and rebel groups gathered in Geneva for an eighth round of talks after more than six years of civil war.

Russia and Syria at the Geneva negotiations have trumpeted their recent success at reasserting government control over about 55 percent of Syrian territory, particularly by pushing IS out of some last remaining strongholds along with Syrian-Iraq border.

The key northern city of Raqqa, which was IS’s self-proclaimed capital and biggest bastion in Syria, fell to forces allied with the United States, however, not those allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Also Read: US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

The U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of mostly Kurdish as well as Sunni Arab fighters, has declared it wants to establish self-governing in the region it liberated. The Pentagon has tacitly backed that goal and has left U.S. forces in the area to support the coalition.

With Syria now trying to consolidate its recent military successes and regain control over lost territory, Nebenzya told the UN council on Nov. 29 that Russia will no longer accept the delivery of UN humanitarian aid across borders and conflict lines because he said that “undermines the sovereignty of Syria.”

Nebenzya said the UN council’s previous authorization of cross-border aid convoys, which expires next month, “was an emergency measure which presently needs to be reassessed.”

Nebenzya said Russia is pushing for the change in aid delivery because “there needs to be order in the distribution of humanitarian assistance, for it not to fall into the hands of terrorists and for it not to then be resold to the Syrian people at higher prices.”

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
USAID Assistant Administrator Lindborg Interacts With Syrian Refugees. (USAID photo)

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock pressed the council to renew the aid deliveries, however, which he said are “essential to save lives.”

In the first 10 months of 2017, he said, “over 750,000 people on average each month were reached through UN cross-border activities.”

U.S. Deputy UN Ambassador Michele Sison said the aid program must be renewed.

“The consequences of this mandate are enormous,” she said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that renewing this mandate is a life or death question.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Venezuela in crisis as US-backed opposition attempts coup

The Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared a military coup against the government of President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, sparking a confrontation that escalated into an armed conflict.

In a message to supporters online, Guaidó announced the beginning of what he called “Operation Liberty” and called for supporters to rally at a military air base in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

Reporters for the news agency Reuters reported that the gathering at the military air base — called La Carlota — came under fire Tuesday morning and shot back. Reuters said both sides appeared to be using live rounds.


Part of the clash can be seen in this video, broadcast by the Latin American TV channel NTN24. A noise that sounds like gunfire can be heard:

The opposition leader then held a rally at Francia de Altamira square where he told supporters: “Today it became clear that the armed forces are with the people and not with the dictator.”

Maduro called for his supporters to maintain “nerves of steel,” tweeting that he still has complete loyalty from his commanders.

His government also said it was taking action against “a small group of traitors” in the military who had defected to Guaidó.

In his announcement Tuesday morning, Guaidó was seen surrounded by uniformed men whom he described as Venezuelan soldiers who switched their loyalty to him.

“People of Venezuela, the end of the usurpation has begun,” Guaidó said on Twitter. “At the moment I am meeting with the principal military units from the armed forces to start the final phase of Operation Liberty.”

He said the gathering at La Carlota would set in motion the “definitive end” to Maduro’s rule.

Guaidó was joined by Leopoldo López, another opposition leader who had been under house arrest for two years. López tweeted that he was freed by soldiers supporting Guaidó.

Venezuela’s government said it was working to stop the uprising.

Jorge Rodríguez, the Vice President of Communications, said on Twitter that the state was “confronting and deactivating a small group of traitors in our military personnel.”

Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, tweeted: “The armed forces are firmly in defense of the national constitution and its legitimate authorities.”

Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Maduro’s socialist party, urged Maduro supporters to rally in front of the presidential palace, according to the AP.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said President Donald Trump had been briefed. “We are monitoring the ongoing situation,” BBC News reported her as saying.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, tweeted that the US government “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy.”

Russian news agencies reported that President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Maduro, had scheduled a meeting to discuss the uprisings with his Security Council, according to the AP.

Guaidó has been trying to oust Maduro since January 2019, when Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. He cited emergency powers in the constitution that he argued gave him the right to rule.

More than 50 countries, including the US, the UK, and all the nations of the European Union, have backed Guaidó’s claim to power.

Besides calling for new elections, one of Guaidó’s main goals was to win support from Maduro’s power base: the army.

The power is especially concentrated among high-ranking officers who hold important government positions and run influential companies under the socialist government.

Though hundreds of soldiers have defected to neighboring countries and pledged allegiance to Guaidó, most of these are from the lower ranks.

Guaidó has said that he will offer amnesty to any member of the armed forces who has not committed crimes against humanity.

Featured image: andresAzp (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrifying video shows air force pilots flying through haze of smoke

Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.

Australia is currently battling its worst bushfire season in history, and over the last few months bushfires have razed over 6.3 million hectares (15.5 million acres) of land nationally as of Saturday. At least 24 people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and nearly 500 million animals are estimated to have been killed in the flames.


And while bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.

As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.

“This video shows how heavy smoke from bushfires has prevented some C27J C130J flights from reaching #Mallacoota #Merimbula,” Iervasi wrote, referring to the coastal holiday towns of Mallacoota in Victoria and Merimbula in New South Wales, which have been completed ravaged by the fires.

Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.

But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.

“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.

On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.

“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.

Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.

Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.

Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.

Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.

“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Republicans urge POTUS for a defense budget increase

Members of Congress are urging President Trump to begin rebuilding the U.S. military, starting with a 2018 defense budget of at least $640 billion, most of which would go to buying more aircraft, ships, and other hardware.


That ambitious number would be about $50 billion above the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which enacted the process called sequestration to enforce the limits.

But House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry and Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain are ready to lead fights to eliminate the BCA caps so they can pay for the hardware, the additional personnel and the maintenance needed to restore a defense they say has been badly weakened by six years of reduced spending.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
Thornberry and McCain’s plan calls for $640 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2018, a $54 billion increase.

At a media briefing Feb. 6, 2017, to preview the upcoming congressional session, Thornberry (R-Texas) first urged Congress to pass an appropriations bill to cover the six remaining months of the 2017 fiscal year “as soon as possible.”

The federal government currently is being funded under a continuing resolution that runs until April 28 and limits most spending to the prior year levels.

“There’s no reason in the world to wait until April,” Thornberry said.

The HASC chairman then urged Trump to send the supplemental funding bill he has promised to increase defense spending this year. “The sooner the better,” he said.

When asked what the supplemental should cover, Thornberry said it should start with “the things that were in the House-passed NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that were not in the final bill. I think they should be at the top of the list.”

The NDAA cut $18 billion that the House wanted to add, which would have gone mainly to increased weapons.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
The U.S. Air Force F/A-18F has an estimated flyaway cost of $98.3 million. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

The deleted add-ons included 14 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets, another Littoral Combat Ship, and an extra LPD-17 amphibious warship for the Navy, plus 11 more F-35s split among the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. It also would have bought the Army additional AH-64 attack helicopters and UH-60 utility choppers.

The deleted funds also would have allowed the services to hire even more troops than the 16,000 Army soldiers and the 3,000 additional Marines allowed by the final bill.

Funding the current fiscal year would clear the way for Congress to work on a fiscal 2018 budget, which should include an even bigger increase in defense spending, Thornberry said.

Asked what amount he wanted, Thornberry said, “Our view is about a $640 billion base budget to meet the increased end strength, the increased number of ships, to turn the readiness around, and deal with a lot of those problems.”

McCain (R-Arizona) used that same number in his opening statement at a Jan. 24 hearing of his committee.

“We have to invest in the modern capabilities necessary for the new realities of deterring conflict,” he said.

“We also have to regain capacity for our military. It does not have enough ships, aircraft, vehicles, munitions, equipment, and personnel to perform its current missions at acceptable levels of risk.”

“It will not be cheap,” McCain added. “In my estimate, our military requires a base defense budget for fiscal year 2018, excluding current war costs, of $640 billion.”

Both of the chairmen insisted the BCA caps must be removed, but only for defense, not for the domestic programs that also are limited.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force warns that space war is a very real possibility

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson spoke about the importance of modernization and innovation in space during a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5, 2017.


“Our mission is to organize, train and equip air and space forces,” said Wilson. “We are the ones, since 1954, who are responsible for everything from 100 feet below the earth in missile silos all the way up to the stars…that’s our responsibility and we own it.”

The Air Force faces significant challenges in space because America’s adversaries know how important space is to the U.S., Wilson said.

She added the Air Force is responsible for providing the world’s first utility, which is the GPS system. This global system which the U.S. military uses is the same system that industry relies on. Whether it’s the local ATM or the stock exchange, the GPS is at the center, Wilson said.

“A huge part of our economy is dependent on what’s done in space,” she said.

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

The Air Force must deter a conflict in space, and has an obligation to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence fails.

To that end, the 2018 presidential budget proposed a 20 percent increase for space, which Wilson said is the next frontier of global innovation. The Air Force remains committed to gaining and maintaining space superiority across the spectrum of conflict in defense of the nation, she added.

“We need to normalize space from a national security perspective,” said Wilson. “We have to have all of our officers who are wearing blue uniforms more knowledgeable about space capabilities and how it connects to the other domains.”

Wilson added in the future, space will no longer be a benign environment, soon it will be a common domain for human endeavor. Accessibility to space is growing rapidly as launch technology evolves, the cost of launches will drop from thousands of dollars per pound of fuel to hundreds, the technology will get faster and smaller, and more nation-states and individuals will have greater access to space.

“Our most recent launch out of Cape Canaveral was a Space X rocket that launched, and then recovered using GPS guidance technology back on the pad from which that stage launched,” said Wilson. “That wasn’t possible 10 years ago, but it’s being done by American innovation. It’s an exciting time to be part of this enterprise.”

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Affidavit claims VA nurse was drunk during surgery

The Washington Post reports a nurse at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was allegedly intoxicated during a late-night emergency appendectomy.


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Hey, did you go to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College too?

A probable cause affidavit filed in the local court says Richard Pieri was drunk on call after a night at the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino. Pieri is charged with reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, and public drunkenness.

“Pieri admitted that he knew he was not supposed to be a part of a surgery while he was intoxicated,” the affidavit says. But he “claimed he had forgotten he was on call and did not want to have someone else come in.” The nurse carried his on-call pager to the casino, and whatdaya know, he got the call around 11:30 PM, after he consumed what he claimed were “four or five beers.”

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The hospital’s security camera footage shows the nurse stumbling through the parking lot, almost falling at one point. Once in surgery, he had trouble logging into his computer. A physician’s assistant told investigators Pieri smelled like alcohol. He struggled through his duties and then assisted with the surgery.

Medical staff at the hospital allowed that “taking part in a surgery with impaired cognitive ability can create a substantial risk to the safety of the patient.” The surgery went well, but the unnamed patient in question later returned to the hospital with stomach issues.

Pieri still has a job at the Wilkes-Barre VA but has been relieved of his direct patient care duties.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airborne soldiers host podcast on Army’s Cold War history

Soldiers assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps board a C-130 Hercules from the Rhode Island Air National Guard before an Airborne operation at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 23, 2017. (U.S. Army Photo by Hubert D. Delany III/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)ShareTweetEmailWhatsApp

The XVIII Airborne Corps, stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has released the first episode of its new podcast, “The Doomsday Clock.” “The Doomsday Clock” features stories from the U.S. Army’s Cold War history from the close of World War II in 1945 through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The podcast will include American and British historians as special guests each week. Some of the guests include:

  • Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and author of the 2020 book “Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization”;
  • Sir Max Hastings, British journalist, historian, and award-winning author;
  • American filmmaker Ken Burns;
  • Historian H.W. Brands;
  • Historian A.J. Bacevich;
  • Podcast legend Dan Carlin;
  • Actor Matthew Broderick, star of the 1983 film “War Games,” which influenced President Reagan’s national security policy.
  • Michael Dobbs, historian and author of the 2009 book “One Minute to Minute: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”

Col. Joe Buccino is the host of “The Doomsday Clock” podcast. He is also the XVIII Airborne Corps historian.

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA
This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

“Think of this as part of an ongoing conversation with really cool, interesting historians about a fascinating period in our history,” Col. Buccino said in a press release.

“This is a glimpse into the bizarre and the fantastic. This is very serious material; some of it’s dark and apocalyptic, but some of the anecdotes are so strange it’s almost humorous.”

The U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps is also known as “America’s Contingency Corps.” They are responsible for rapid deployments on short notice to any area of operations or joint area of operations to support large-scale combat operations. They are based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and are currently commanded by Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla.

In discussing why the XVIII Airborne Corps decided to start the podcast, host Col. Buccino said, “People crave stories … These are some of the best stories told by some of the best storytellers of our time.”

“The Doomsday Clock” podcast can be found on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Podbean. 

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

You can follow the XVIII Airborne Corps on Twitter at @18airbornecorps and on Facebook at @XVIII.Airborne.Corps

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