The top 15 military stories of 2015 - We Are The Mighty
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The top 15 military stories of 2015

It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:


1. The “American Sniper” controversy

The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused  a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
That baby though.

As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.

2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa

In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A local worker walks past rows of boots and aprons drying in the sun after being decontaminated at an active Ebola treatment unit built as part of Operation United Assistance in Suakoko, Liberia. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brien Vorhees)

“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial

The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

See Also: Where are they now? An update on the ‘Taliban 5’ exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.

4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record

Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”

“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:

“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015

See Also: John McCain learned two big things as a prisoner of war

The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe shortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.

“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”

5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again

In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy  flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.

One of the Marines, then-Master Gunnery Sergeant James Tracy told CNN he thought the freeze would last only three years. It lasted for 54. In August 2015, Tracy and the two other Marines, then Gunnery Sgt. Francis East and Cpl. Larry Morris, who lowered Old Glory from its Havana post, returned to the site to raise it up again after a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations saw the two nations exchange diplomats again for the first time in decades.

6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train

In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards the Soldier’s Medal to Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard, the Airman’s Medal to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and the Defense Department Medal for Valor to Anthony Sadler, at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 17, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)

As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.

7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs

The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Pew Pew! (Photo from Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.

9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units

The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Sgt. Julie Nicholson, Female Engagement Team leader, Marine Headquarters Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, works with infantry units and coalitions forces to work with Afghan women throughout Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Nicholson is on her second combat tour here and searches women and children for contraband during missions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

See Also: The Marine Corps says it’s not trying to keep female Marines out of combat

The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”

10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart

The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.

11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Capt. Richard Olson gets off an A-10 Warthog at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017

They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017.  When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.

The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.

13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data

In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.

One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.

14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.

15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS

In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
It’s really weird that they pose like this.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.

See Also: Pentagon releases name of Delta Force soldier killed by ISIS in Iraq

MIGHTY TRENDING

India is the latest US ally making arms deals with Russia

Despite US efforts to convince other countries not to make deals with Russian defense firms, India’s defense minister told US lawmakers in July 2018 that New Delhi will go ahead with its purchase of the Russian-made S-400, one of the most advanced air-defense systems on the market.

“With Russia, we have had a continuous relationship of defence procurement of seven decades. We told the US Congress delegation, which met me in Delhi, that this it is US legislation and not a UN law,” Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the press on July 13, 2018, referring to the US’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which seeks to prevent foreign deals with Russian defense or intelligence firms.


“We have had this relationship, an enduring relationship with the Russians, and are going ahead with buying the S-400,” Sitharaman said, adding that the US secretaries of defense and state “have taken a position understanding of India’s position.”

Sitharaman said the S-400 deal was at an “almost conclusive stage,” and the system is expected to arrive within two and a half to four years of signing. Officials are expected to announce the deal in October 2018, before an annual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Russian S-400

The agreement to buy the S-400 was part of weapons deal between Moscow and New Delhi in late 2016. Delhi sees it as a way to bolster its air defenses amid a growing rivalry with China, which has already bought the S-400.

India currently fields a host of Russian-made weapons systems, including the S-300 air-defense system, an overhauled Kiev-class carrier-cruiser, and squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

India’s defense ties with Russia are longstanding, but the US has sought to expand its relations with the South Asian country for years. Since 2008, Washington has sold Delhi billion worth of arms, and the Pentagon recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command to reflect India’s growing role in the region.

For India, the decision to buy the S-400 system was likely made out of practical concerns rather than for geopolitical motives, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow focused on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation.

“Simply put, the S-400 is considered a more affordable, albeit highly capable, missile-defense system when compared to competing US systems,” Smith said in an email, noting that the S-400 had attracted interest from other US partners, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. (Turkey’s S-400 purchase has caused tension with NATO.)

“Additionally, the Indian military has great familiarity with their Russian counterparts,” Smith added. “The majority of India’s legacy platforms are Soviet origin, and Russia continues to be India’s top supplier of defense equipment, although by a shrinking margin.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Russian S-400

The deal has nevertheless run afoul of US attempts to isolate Russian companies with the CAATSA, which Congress passed in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018.

US officials have cautioned India about making deals with Russian firms. Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, said in early 2018 that the US was disappointed with Delhi’s purchases of Russian-made weapons.

The S-400 deal in particular “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future,” Thornberry said at the end of May 2018, around the same time India and Russia concluded negotiations over the sale.

The CAATSA would force President Donald Trump to put sanctions on actors that make a “significant transaction” with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors, which the legislation does not define, Smith said.

But it would likely cover India’s S-400 contract — thought to be worth .5 billion for five S-400 regiments, totaling as many as 240 of the system’s four-tube launchers, plus fire-control radars and command systems.

“For reasons beyond my comprehension Congress did not envision this would become a point of contention with Delhi, or foresee that it would be impractical to demand India immediately halt all defense trade with its top defense supplier for the past half-century,” Smith said.

Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have asked Congress to make exceptions for US partners using Russian-made weapons.

Mattis told lawmakers in Apri 2018 that there are countries “who are trying to turn away from formerly Russian-sourced weapons and systems” but need to keep supply lines open to maintain those weapons.

“We only need to look at India, Vietnam, and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” with strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis said at the time.

Congress has denied a Pentagon request for an expansive waiver for CAATSA-related sanctions, Smith said, but others on Capitol Hill are looking for ways to insulate Delhi and others who may get caught up.

“Among other things, the House of Representatives version of the National Defense Authorization Act included an amendment that would expand the president’s authority to delay or terminate CAATSA sanctions,” he said. The versions of the NDAA passed by the Senate and House of Representatives are now being reconciled.

“India watchers are eager to see whether the provision survives the conference committee,” Smith added. “If it doesn’t, I expect the Hill to contemplate additional legislative remedies in the months ahead.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US to establish its first permanent military base in Israel

Israel and the U.S. inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil on September 18th, which will serve dozens of soldiers operating a missile defense system.


The move comes at a time of growing Israeli concerns about archenemy Iran’s development of long-range missiles. Together with the U.S., Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The base’s opening is largely symbolic and isn’t expected to bring operational changes. But the Israeli military says that along with other measures, it sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies.

“It’s a message that says Israel is better prepared. It’s a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the commander of Israel’s aerial defense.

The base is located within an existing Israeli air force base and will operate under Israeli military directives.

Israeli and U.S. military officials cut a ribbon at the base Monday, where the American and Israeli flags flew side by side and soldiers from both countries commingled.

Israel’s multi-tier missile defense system includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip. David’s Sling is meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its development of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.

Israel is worried that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is bombing South Korean F-15K dummies

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo news reports that North Korean jets are bombing targets that appear to be life-sized renderings of South Korean F-15K Slam Eagle fighter jets.

The targets appear to be cut into grass near Sondok Military Airport in North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province. What appear to be bomb craters surround the mocked-up South Korean air base, which also show cutouts in the shapes of radars and missiles.

The range is designed for North Korea’s AN-2 jets, Chosun Ilbo reports, which carry North Korean special operations troops to infiltrate enemy territory and typically fly at low altitudes.


“The AN-2 is capable of carrying air-to-surface rockets or bombs to carry out bombing missions,” an unnamed South Korean intelligence officer told Chosun Ilbo. “It’d be very threatening if it avoids radar detection and drop bombs on our air bases while sending some dozen parachute commandos down to the ground.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Satellite imagery showing the Korean People’s Army testing site.

(Google Maps)

Chosun Ilbo reports that the targets were not there in 2017; they only appeared during denuclearization talks with the US and South Korea last year, suggesting that while North Korea was touting its nuclear strength, it was also sharpening its conventional combat capabilities.

According to North Korea Leadership Watch, there is a similar testing site near Pyongyang. “A few years back a KPA [Special Forces] unit practiced urban warfare on structures meant to like a [South Korean] neighborhood.”

“There is a tit-for-tat dynamic as the ROK [forces] have put up and opened fire on some of their own interesting sites meant to look those in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

North Korea has the fourth-largest conventional military force in the world, and has been ramping up its conflict with both South Korea and the US in recent months. Since July, North Korea has performed six weapons tests as US President Donald Trump hopes to restart peace talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green beret dies after IED blast in Afghanistan

A Washington-based Special Forces soldier has died from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him during a recent combat patrol in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, died Aug. 12, 2018, as a result of injuries he suffered in Helmand province on Aug. 7, 2018, according to an Army news release. Transfiguracion was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.


He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, according to the news release. It was Transfiguracion’s second Purple Heart.

No additional information was immediately released about the incident that caused his injuries. It remains under investigation.

Transfiguracion, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, was born in the Philippines. He enlisted as a motor transport operator in the Hawaii National Guard in 2001 and deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Purple Heart Medal.

In 2008, Transfiguracion joined the active duty, deploying again to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. From there, he spent six months supporting Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines from 2010 to 2011.

After attending Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Transfiguracion was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, as a horizontal construction engineer. There, he was selected for Special Forces.

After completion of his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Transfiguracion joined his last unit as an engineer sergeant. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan since March.

His other awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Achievement Medal (third award), Army Good Conduct Medal (third award), Combat Action Badge, Army Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantry Badge and Air Assault Badge.

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

Articles

Here is the video of MOAB’s combat debut

The Department of Defense has released video of the combat debut of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb.


FoxNews.com reported that the April 13 air strike which killed 36 members of the Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also called ISIS-K or the Khorasan Group, targeted a cave and tunnel system in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Heavy fighting between Afghan government forces and the terrorist group has been reported, and local residents were eager to see more bombings.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (USAF photo)

“I want 100 times more bombings on this group,” Hakim Khan told FoxNews.com.

On April 8, a Green Beret died of wounds suffered in a firefight with ISIS in that province. Pentagon officials denied that the use of MOAB was in retaliation for the loss.

“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using [improvised bombs], bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan said in a Department of Defense release. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II from the 1st Special Operations Squadron flies over Kadena Air Base, Japan, shortly after takeoff May 14, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel)

The GBU-43 is a 21,700-pound bomb that uses GPS guidance to hit its target with over 18,000 pounds of high explosive. The bomb replaced the BLU-82, a 15,000-pound bomb used since the Vietnam War. Both bombs are dropped from the back of MC-130 cargo planes modified for use by Special Operations Forces.

Below is the 30-second video of MOAB’s combat debut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These really smart people say bigger is better when it comes to building aircraft carriers

After soaring costs and years of delays with the Navy’s new Ford class of supercarrier, Congress wants the service to pursue lower-cost carrier options for the future fleet.


But a new Rand Corp. report commissioned by the service and published this month concludes the Navy cannot build cheaper, more modest carriers without significantly limiting capability or overhauling its current air acquisition plan.

The study, which was provided to the Navy in a classified version last July and made publicly available Oct. 6, assesses four potential future styles of carrier, taking into account key capability factors such as aircraft sortie generation rates, as well as comparative costs for acquisition and midlife refueling.

The first option, CVN 8X, is by and large similar to the new Ford class of carrier that saw the first of its class, the Gerald R. Ford, commissioned in July.

Like the Ford and the two follow-on carriers in the class, this variant would be 100,000 tons and keep the same dimensions.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
170722-N-WS581-072NORFOLK (July 22, 2017) Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Ford is the lead ship of the Ford-class aircraft carriers, and the first new U.S. aircraft carrier designed in 40 years. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer/Released)

But the CVN 8X, as envisioned by Rand, would incorporate a few improvements that lean heavily on emerging technology, including a 40-year life-of-the-ship nuclear reactor that would eliminate the need for a midlife refueling period, and three catapults in its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) instead of four.

The second option, CVN LX, would be a carrier in the style of the Forrestal-class, built in the 1950s for the Navy as the first class of supercarriers. It would be 70,000 tons and feature an improved flight deck and a hybrid integrated propulsion plant with nuclear power.

The third, CV LX, would be a carrier akin to the new America class of amphibious assault ship.

At 43,000 tons, it would not incorporate the catapult launch system at the center of modern carrier operations, but would support short takeoff and vertical landing, or STOVL aircraft, including the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

Rand envisions the Navy requiring two of these smaller carriers for every legacy carrier it needs to replace.

The final option, CV EX, is a 20,000-ton miniature carrier akin to escort carriers used by some international navies.

This option, which would run on conventional power and could accommodate STOVL fighters, is undoubtedly the cheapest of the bunch. But its capabilities would be so limited, and require such a dramatic departure from current Navy operations, that analysts spend little time considering its merits.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

The Forrestal-style carrier, or CVN LX, has several major advantages, according to the study. Though it would have a more modest footprint, a slightly reduced sortie generation rate would not significantly decrease its ability to meet the Navy’s needs underway, analysts find.

However, the requirements of redesigning an older style of ship to meet contemporary needs, they found, would result in a still-expensive ship: $9.4 billion to build, compared with the Ford’s $12.9 billion.

“The CVN LX [Forrestal carrier] concept would allow considerable savings across the ship’s service life and appears to be a viable alternative to consider for current concept exploration,” study authors Bradley Martin and Michael E. McMahon write. ” … However, CVN LX would be a new design that would require a significant investment in non-recurring engineering in the near-term to allow timely delivery in the 2030s.”

There are other downsides that might give the Navy pause, including reduced survivability compared with today’s supercarriers.

With the CV LX [USS America-style carrier], essentially a helicopter carrier that can accommodate the Marine Corps version of the new Joint Strike Fighter, analysts envision the Navy needing 22 ships in lieu of today’s 11 carriers.

Even at a two-to-one replacement rate, the Navy would realize significant savings, spending an estimated $4.2 billion on each ship.

However, the fact that this carrier could not accommodate the Navy’s brand-new F-35C aircraft, which are designed for catapult launch and tailhook recovery, means this option is at best an incomplete solution, and would require either a complete reimagining of future Navy aviation, or significant investment in other, complementary platforms.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
f35An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. | Lockheed Martin

“The concept variant CV LX [America carrier] … might be a low-risk, alternative pathway for the Navy to reduce carrier costs if such a variant were procured in greater numbers than the current carrier shipbuilding plan,” the analysts write.

“Over the long term, however, as the current carrier force is retired, the CV LX would not be a viable option for the eventual carrier force unless displaced capabilities were reassigned to new aircraft or platforms in the joint force, which would be costly,” they add.

A practical option, the study suggests, might be investing in future carriers like the Ford, but slightly cheaper to produce.

By equipping a future carrier with a 40-year life-of-the-ship reactor (a technology, the study notes, which does not yet exist) and cutting back from four EMALS catapults to three, which assumes the emerging technology will be proven reliable, analysts estimate the Navy could shave off $920 million in recurring ship costs.

However, the study concludes that evolving operational needs and acquisition decisions could easily alter the calculus.

“It is worth noting that the timeline for these arriving in service is still decades away, and it is very likely that threats and capabilities will evolve during that time,” the analysts write. “Any of these paths could be feasible assuming changes in air wing or escort mix.”

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This video game company has pledged to help 50,000 vets find jobs

It’s a video game series beloved by troops deployed to recent battlefields and has become as common in squad bays as dip and energy drinks.


And now thanks to efforts by its designer, Activision, the non-profit that bears its name has broken its own record, placing more than 25,000 unemployed, post-9/11 vets in good jobs two years ahead of schedule.

Established in 2009 by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, the Call of Duty Endowment has pledged more than $18 million to businesses and other service groups to help them place post-9/11 veterans in high-quality careers with a solid understanding of the benefits former servicemembers bring to the table.

The Call of Duty Endowment set a goal of placing 25,000 vets in partner companies by 2018. But after reaching that bar in 2016, the non-profit announced it will double the goal by 2019.

“The Endowment’s efforts have had a direct and positive impact on the lives of so many who have given so much,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Co-Founder of the endowment. “With U.S. veteran unemployment rates still well above the national average, we are committed to continuing our efforts and have established a new, ambitious goal to secure employment for 50,000 veterans by 2019.”

According to a statement, the Call of Duty Endowment uses a “performance-driven approach” to vetting potential partners and after earning a grant, the endowment works with grantees and employers to “provide an array of advice and support aimed at maximizing their impact.”

The non-profit says the average cost to put a veteran on the payroll of its company partners is less than $600, compared to $3,000 for government-assisted employment services for vets.

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“Finding quality, meaningful employment is essential for a veteran to successfully transition back to civilian life,” said former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones, Co-Chairman of the endowment. “The Call of Duty Endowment is truly making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of military veterans and their families.”

The endowment has already donated $18 million to get vets back to work and boasts an average $50,000 starting salary with 94 percent placed in full-time jobs.

“Twenty-five thousand veterans is equivalent to every individual recruited by the U.S. Navy in 2015, and we’ve achieved this goal by applying common sense business practices to philanthropy,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the endowment. “We’re grateful for the support from Activision Blizzard, our partners and the gaming community, and are proud of what our grantees have achieved in such a short period of time.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force personnel: Here’s how you can join the Space Force

The United States Space Force, America’s newest military branch, will begin accepting applications from Air Force personnel to join the Space Force as early as May 1. Enlisted and commissioned Air Force personnel that are eligible to apply for transfer can expect to receive an e-mail from the Air Force Personnel Center early next month to announce the opening of the application process.


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What is the Space Force?

The United States Space Force is a newly established military branch dedicated to the defense of America’s orbital assets and eventually even offensive space-based operations.

The United States maintains a massive satellite infrastructure relied on all over the world for everything from navigation to communications to early missile warnings. However, as former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson put it, “We built a glass house before the invention of stones.”

In recent years, nations like Russia and China (each with their own space-based military branches) have rapidly developed weapons designed to interfere with or destroy American satellites. Some of the primary responsibilities of the Space Force currently are tracking orbital bodies (including satellites and debris), mitigating threats to America’s orbital assets, and developing a new infrastructure around “hardening” American satellites or rapidly replacing any that become compromised.

The Space Force has inherited these responsibilities from the Air Force Space Command, making the Air Force personnel tasked with operating that command great candidates for transfer to the new branch.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey)

What Military Occupational Specialties are eligible to join the Space Force?

In all, 16 MOS’s from the Air Force have been listed as essential to the Space Force and therefore eligible for transfer. Of these occupational specialties, two are considered the most coveted by the new branch: space operations (13S) and space systems operations (1C6).

However, Airmen in any of the following occupational specialties are eligible to apply for transfer to the Space Force:

  • 13S Space Ops
  • 1C6 Space Systems Ops
  • 14N Intel
  • 17C Cyber Ops Officer
  • 17D Cyber Ops
  • 1N0 All Source Intel
  • 1N1 Geospatial Intel
  • 1N2 Signals Intel
  • 3D1N4 Fusion Analysis
  • 3D0 Cyber Ops
  • 3D1 Cyber Support
  • 62E Development Engineer
  • 62S Materiel Leader
  • 63A Acquisition Manager
  • 63G Senior Materiel Ldr-Upper Ech
  • 63S Materiel Leader
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(USAF Photo)

How do you apply to join the Space Force?

The Air Force Personnel Center will send an e-mail on or around May 1 to eligible Airmen with instructions on how to move forward with your application.

If accepted, officers will need to commission into the Space Force, and enlisted personnel will need to re-enlist into the new branch.

Once accepted, the transfers will begin on September 1. Volunteers requesting to be transferred to the Space Force will be chosen based on the needs of the force.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Grim)

What if I’m being transferred to the Space Force but wish to stay in the Air Force?

If you are in a career field that is being transferred to the Space Force but do not wish to transfer out of the Air Force, you’ll have a few options. The Air Force recommends that you work with your existing chain of command to explore options available to you, such as retraining for a new occupational specialty, transferring to the guard or reserve, or applying for separation or retirement.

In the mean time, you will continue to be assigned to the Air Force but may be assigned roles that support the Space Force until the transition is completed sometime in 2022.

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)

Can I join the Space Force if I’m in the Air Force Reserve or Guard?

Currently, no. If you are already assigned to the support space operations alongside the Space Force, you will currently remain in your Air Force Reserve or Guard unit. Officials are currently trying to assess how best to manage guard and reserve assignments to the Space Force, and things may change eventually.

What if I think I’m eligible for the Space Force but I don’t receive an e-mail telling me how to apply?

If you have one of the occupational specialties listed above but you don’t receive an e-mail from the Air Force Personnel Center telling you that you’re eligible to request a transfer, you are advised to engage with your chain of command and then to contact either the Total Force Service Center or the Air Force Personnel Center.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill M. Sanders/Released)

What if I want to apply for transfer to the Space Force but I’m in a branch other than in the Air Force?

Currently, there is no new established process to request a transfer from the Army, Navy, or Marines, but that will likely change in the future. The Space Force is establishing a foundation for the branch through military personnel already trained for space operations, which is why the focus has been placed on the Air Force.

“There is a general authority for all members of other services to always ask to cross-commission; that’s an authority that already exists,” Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, said. “But before [the Space Force] actively engages with the Army and the Navy, we need to make sure through the secretary of defense, through the joint chiefs of staff and through the leaders of the services … how we’re going to take that approach, and who should be eligible to be directly asked or not.

“That’s work [that still needs] to be done,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Why the longest-serving Bond was the ultimate vet

Roger Moore, famous for his roles on the small screen and his seven films over 12 years as James Bond, died at the age of 89 in Switzerland on May 23, 2017. His family said that he died “… after a short but brave battle with cancer.”


He had previously defeated prostate cancer.

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Sir Roger Moore in London in 1973. (Photo: Allan Warren, Public Domain)

But while Moore is most famous for his acting career, a lot of soldiers could relate with the man’s little-known military service. Moore was drafted from a blue collar family in England in 1946, married his first of four wives while he was in the military, and then returned home to so little available work that he had to move to America.

In 1946 at the age of 18, Moore was an up and coming young actor and child of a police officer when his career was interrupted by conscription. He answered the call and married his friend, Lucy Woodard, who performed as an actress and ice skater under the name Doorn Van Steyn.

Moore was deployed to West Germany under the service ID number 372394 and rose to the rank of captain. After a short period, he was able to transfer into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, a morale-boosting initiative that allowed some Cold War-era servicemen to complete their service obligation entertaining the rest of the military.

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According to a June 2015 question and answer session on his website, it was in the CSEU that he really enjoyed his national service.

When he left the military after about three years, Moore returned to England to pursue acting once again. Despite his training before the service as well as his experience in the British Army, jobs were few and he wasn’t able to make much headway.

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The jobs were so lean that Moore decided to move to Hollywood and pursue work there. Before he left, he divorced his first wife who he later accused of domestic violence.

In Los Angeles, he did some modeling and bit parts before MGM signed him and put him into a series of movies, none of which were hugely successful.

Moore transferred over to Warner Brothers where he saw more success and got a role on the TV show “The Saint,” a spy series that helped lead to his being cast as the lead in “Live and Let Die,” his first James bond role.

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For the next twelve years, Moore would film another six Bond movies including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” and “Octopussy.”

He continued acting after leaving the Bond role but also expanded his work in charitable causes. It was his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that led to his being knighted and becoming Sir Roger Moore.

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The Marines are testing this machine gun-wielding death robot

The Marine Corps is actively testing a robotic system outfitted with sensors and cameras that can be armed with an M240 machine gun.


It’s called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, and it looks crazy.

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US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba

Just last week, infantry Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were taking the robot out on training patrols at Camp Pendleton. Later this month, they’ll head to the Marines’ desert training site at 29 Palms, California to fire off plenty of live rounds.

If it were actually fielded, MAARS would complement the 13-person infantry squad that typically carries small arms, offering up a tracked vehicle that can zone in on targets with a mounted M240B machine gun firing 7.62mm NATO rounds.

It can carry about 400 rounds, or it can be reconfigured to tote a 40mm grenade launcher instead. The Qinetiq-built robot only hits 7 mph for a top speed (which is fast enough for troops who are walking alongside it) and can run for 8 to 12 hours.

Of course, it does have some limitations. It’s not totally hands-free, since operators need to hand reload it, and it could be stopped by rougher terrain. But MAARS is just one of many technologies the Corps is testing for its Warfighting Laboratory in an effort to field the “Marine Corps of 2025.”

Among other technologies that the Corps is considering are a fully-autonomous ground support vehicle, multiple smaller scale drones, and a precision airborne strike weapon that a grunt can carry in a backpack.

The MAARS also has a big brother nearly five times its weight that can be outfitted with an M134 minigun.

This is the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, or MAARS for short. It’s an unmanned ground vehicle that can be outfitted with a medium machine gun or a grenade launcher.

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Qinetiq

Infantry Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were testing it out last week to see how it would mesh within their unit and work alongside them.

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US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba

They control it with the Tactical Robotic Controller, which lets them see what it sees, and target the bad guys. The TRC can also control a bunch of other gadgets, such as drones and ground sensors.

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US Marine Corps

Besides being an awesome death-dealing robot, it can also drag wounded Marines off the battlefield if they are injured.

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US Marine Corps

It also has a much bigger brother: The Robotic Vehicle Modular/Combat Area Robotic Targeting (RVM/CART). Besides its size, it can pack a lot more firepower with an M134 Minigun.

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US Marine Corps

With an insanely high rate of fire of 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, that makes it the grunt’s best friend. Marines can also mount a laser on top to target enemies for precision airstrikes.

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US Marine Corps

Here’s everything it can do right now.

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US Marine Corps

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congressman calls on Marines to relax haircut rules during pandemic

When Marine Corps family members in Maryland reached out to their congressman with concerns about crowded base barber shops, Rep. Jamie Raskin said that — of all the challenges the country faces during the coronavirus pandemic — this was an easy one to solve.

“The people who joined the Marines are protecting us and we have an obligation to protect them,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Military.com. “[Grooming standards] can be relaxed in a way that does not endanger our national security.”


Raskin, who wrote a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger on Tuesday, is the latest to question the service’s adherence to strict grooming standards during the global pandemic. A video shared on social media that showed Marines without masks lined up to get their hair cut prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ask, “What don’t you guys understand?”

In his letter, Raskin urged Berger to relax Marine Corps grooming standards temporarily “to protect both Marines and the barbers and hairdressers who serve them.”

Berger has received the letter but wishes to keep private his communication with lawmakers, Maj. Eric Flanagan, the commandant’s spokesman, said.

The commandant has left decisions about relaxing standards to stem the spread of coronavirus up to commanders, but Raskin said the massive health crisis the pandemic presents calls for top-down guidance.

“This calls for precisely the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that the Marines are famous for,” he said. “The commandant can act here to prevent high-risk situations from materializing.”

I’m asking the @USMC Commandant to temporarily relax grooming standards in the Marine Corps during the COVID19 pandemic to avoid putting Marines base barbers at unnecessary risk of infection. Our fighting forces protect us we must protect them (with no risk to nat. security).pic.twitter.com/meuZG9ToOv

twitter.com

Having Marines wait in lines for haircuts as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the military ranks is unnecessary, Raskin said. The ongoing public health struggle against coronavirus, he said, requires leaders to help reduce any unneeded close physical contact.

Each of the military services has issued its own guidance on how to enforce grooming standards during the pandemic. The Navy, the service hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, was the first to give commanders the authority to relax male and female hair-length rules on March 18.

The Air Force also issued guidance last month to commanders about relaxing grooming standards. Soldiers have been told to follow the service’s hair regulations, but not to be overboard with extra cuts to keep it super short during the outbreak.

In his letter, Raskin stressed that it only takes one infected Marine or barber to spread COVID-19. That could lead to a chain reaction of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, he warned.

The congressman acknowledged that military leaders have a lot to consider when it comes to new policies during the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But if family members are worried about their Marines’ safety, public leaders have an obligation to consider their concerns, he said.

“I hope the commandant can strike the right balance,” Raskin said.

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

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The Army has just declassified how the PT belt works (and it’s amazing)

In a stunning reversal after years of tight-lipped silence, Army officials have revealed the capabilities of the “physical training belt,” a reflective band soldiers wear around themselves to ward off everything from bullets to badgers to STDs.


“The Department of Defense has previously hidden the details of this lifesaving technology for fear of it falling into the wrong hands,” an Army spokesman said in a conference. “But our NATO allies and the American people deserve to know the simple fact: PT belts save lives.”

PT Belt

The PT Belt, also known as the “glow” or “reflective” belt, is worn around the chest or waist. According to newly released documents, it bends gravity. Here’s what it can do:

1. Fatigue

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Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The PT Belt’s ability to manipulate gravity allows it to reduce the weight of any item it is wrapped around. This means that soldiers carrying a 100-pound ruck and 40-pounds of armor can reduce that load to about 50 “effective pounds” if they use two reflective belts.

2. Bullets

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The gravity reduction from the combat load can be redirected into an extremely small black hole that guides the bullet away from the soldier. An incoming round headed for center mass won’t be pulled away, but can be guided to hit an extremity. A shot originally headed for an extremity will usually miss.

3. Healing

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This man is basically Wolverine at this point.

The reflective layer in a PT belt is actually a mesh of microscopic crystals that provide constant holistic healing and realign the service members’ chakras. Different PT belts align the chakra in different ways to allow for different benefits:

Yellow PT belts reduce upper brain function, allowing junior troops to act without question.

Green PT belts prevent the buildup of certain pathogens and parasites.

Blue PT belts increase muscular strength but reduce cardiovascular endurance.

4. Animal attacks

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PT Belts can reach into the primal part of animal brains to allow the wearer limited control of the creature. Typically this is just enough for troops to more effectively “shoo” animals away, but those with innate beastmaster powers may be able to command the forces of nature. They are typically recruited into the previously top-secret “Camel Spider Corps.”

5. Lasers

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The microscopic crystals in a PT belt reflect the laser beam and break it up, rendering it useless.

6. Vehicles

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Pretty straight forward, the belt increases the visibility of the soldier, allowing vehicles to avoid hitting troops.

7. STDs

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Does anything in this photo look attractive? Exactly. PT Belts! Photo: US Army

It’s a simple fact that military uniforms increase the chances that a citizen or fellow service member will approach an individual for sexual relations. Like the classic BCG eyewear, the PT Belt not only wipes out the increase afforded by the uniform but also erodes the original appeal of the soldier. Basically, it’s anti-sexy.