Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.


In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.

Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.

These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.

The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.

Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.

A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.

Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs

Cyber Monday might not be as fun this year, since we’ve all been shopping online all year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some seriously steep discounts available on everything from new gear to new tech. Tackle your holiday shopping list or just treat yourself to something new with this list of discounts every veteran needs. 

Clothing and Apparel

Cozy up with new jeans, sweaters or socks to keep you warm through the long winter. Or, treat yourself to a new gym outfit so you don’t feel too guilty about that second slice of pie. Round out your shopping spree with a new pair of sneakers or dream big and buy a pair of heels for when the world reopens. 

7 for All Mankind: up to 40% off sitewide 

Amazon: Up to 30% off women’s seasonal trends, sunglasses and Sperry boots 

Gymshark: Take up to 50% off select collections

Happy Socks: 60% off select styles 

Zappos: up to 50% off sneakers, backpacks, and winter apparel

Fitness and Wellness

New Year, New You deserves new gear! Grab a subscription to Audible and get the latest books delivered right to your device. Crush your at home workout goals with a set of weighted bangles. Step up your steps with a new Fitbit. Then, when you’re ready to relax, snuggle in with a weighted blanket while your new air purifier makes the air crisp and clean. 

Audible Plus: 38% off first 6 months

Bala Weighted Bangle Set, $8 off

Fitbit sale: up to $50 off 

Dyson Pure Hot + Cold Air Purifier, up to 30% off at Bed Bath and Beyond 

Gravity Weighted Blanket, $30 off select styles 

Theragun Mini Therapy Massager, 10% off 

Tech 

Cyber Monday is all about the tech deals, and with good reason. This year, retailers are offering everything from steep discounts on gaming consoles to laptops. Work from Home just got a whole lot better with a brand new device. Speaking of devices, Verizon is offering crazy good deals on Monday on all of their phones and tables. Check out their website for full details. 

Alexa devices: all Alexa devices now from $9 at Amazon

Chromebooks: deals from $129

Dell: laptop deals from $349

Galaxy S20/Note 20 sale: up to $250 off 

HP sale: up to 65% off all laptops 

Lenovo: ThinkPad sale from $799

Microsoft: up to $900 off Surface, Xbox, more

Mixbook: 50% off all photo books via “REVHLDY20”

Newegg: up to 50% off gaming, mobos, storage, more

Samsung QLED TVs: up to $3,000 off all models

Walmart: big-screen TVs, laptops, more from $278

Just because you’ve been shopping from your couch since March doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Cyber Monday in style.

popular

5 places where dueling to the death is not a crime

So, you’ve found yourself in a disagreement and, to prove your honor and chivalry, you’ve challenged someone to a duel, just like in the days of old. Of course, mutual combat, such as fist fighting, fencing, and even non-lethal, “stun gun” duels have their own rules, but let’s assume we’re talking about a pure, Hamilton-versus-Burr, to-the-death style duel.


Sadly, most countries and jurisdictions consider it murder these days, regardless of the circumstances. To define dueling, we’re going by the 1777 Code Duello, which states that if two individuals can’t reconcile their differences, they can meet in the field of honor, but only if they both consent, each has witnesses and doctors, and both agree to use one bullet at ten paces. By modern standards, these concessions simply complicate things. Now, by agreeing to terms beforehand, the possible death is “premeditated,” which isn’t smiled upon in the eyes of the law, and duels aren’t covered by variations of “stand your ground” laws.

Thankfully, you two can still put your honor on the line, but you’re both going to have to travel.

1. Afghan tribal areas

In the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the laws aren’t governed by the respective nations, but by local tribal laws.

Honor plays a huge role in tribal life and nothing is more honorable than a duel. If you’re willing to travel to the war-torn region, have at it. They probably won’t stop you.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
You’d probably have a few more people wanting you dead than just your dueling opponent, though. (Photo By Cpl. Reece Lodder)

2. Pitcairn Island

In the south Pacific lies the world’s smallest nation. So small that it only has two police officers and not a single lawyer.

Since there aren’t many laws governing all of 50 inhabitants, there’s only one law that covers assaulting another person. If they do take offense to your duel, just pay the $100 fine and carry on.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
It’d still take you around two weeks and a couple thousand dollars to get there. The $100 fine is probably nothing at that point. (Image via NOAA)

3. Western Sahara

The laws of the Western Sahara technically fall under Moroccan jurisdiction, but no one really gives a damn because, well, there’s nothing there but desert. The region’s laws are more concerned with maintaining religious customs, which has lead to a rise in terrorism.

When you’re out in the desert, it’s practically lawless — but legality of dueling is probably the last thing you should be concerned about.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
Just you, the desert, terrorists, and your dueling opponent. (Image via Flickr)

4. International waters

It’s actually a misconception that anyone can do anything on the high seas. When you’re 12 miles offshore, the laws of the ship are of whichever country the ship is registered to. This is why cruise ships don’t become lawless hellscapes when traveling.

But, if you were to travel to an unclaimed island that doesn’t have bird or bat poop on it, both participants renounce their citizenship. Travel from that island on an unregistered ship and hope that your duel isn’t noticed by the international community. If you’re willing to go that far, however, you might as well talk your differences out.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
And yet, the Coast Guard could still rain on your parade. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

5. Uruguay

While everywhere else on this list leaves dueling in a sort-of gray area, Uruguay made it a national law in 1920. Surprisingly enough, the last duel took place in 1971 between two politicians after one was called a coward. Another came close in 1990 between a police inspector and newspaper editor, but the inspector backed down.

It has since been made forbidden in 1992. However, since dueling played a huge role in their politics and culture, if you could get the consent of their congress and president, you can still take your ten paces.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
They’ll probably say no to keep up positive relations with the US and it wouldn’t look good if an American died there. (DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Bonus facts

After it was wrongly added to a book of “facts,” there was a common misconception that you could legally duel in Paraguay if both participants were blood donors. This falsity was quickly shot down by their government.

Also, the last official duel following the rules of Code Duello was in 1967, in France.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Do people really have repressed memories?

Astryx_x asks: Do suppressed memories actually exist?

We’ve all seen it in movies — a character will be going along in their lives blissfully unaware of some extremely traumatic event in their long distant past… that is, until a bit of syrup dribbles onto their cheek and they are transported back in their mind to that time they were abducted by aliens. Suddenly, they remember everything. But do such repressed memories actually exist?

It turns out that while only a few decades ago the idea of repressed memories was an extremely popular notion among psychologists, including many a person being thrown in prison when someone would randomly recover such a traumatic memory from their childhood after undergoing psychotherapy to retrieve it, the issue is a fair bit more controversial today.


According to a study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science in 2013, approximately 60%-90% of psychologists (varying based on therapist type) who are clinicians still believe that repressed memories exist in some cases, though generally considered to be rare. Further, 43%-75% think these repressed memories can be retrieved with proper methods. In stark contrast, approximately 70% of research psychologist believe there is no such thing as repressed memories. So what’s going on here?

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

(Photo by Hal Gatewood)

To begin with, on the research psychologist side, their stance is largely backed by the fact that, as noted by famed psychologist Chris French of the University of London, “There is no convincing evidence to support the existence of the psychoanalytic concept of repression, despite it being a widely accepted concept.”

Despite this, many clinicians still believe it is. As to why, Lawrence Patihis of the aforementioned study illustrating the divide between clinicians and researchers speculates:

clinicians are more apt to trust clinical experience, while researchers tend to trust experimental research… there are many anecdotal reports of cures coming from retrieving repressed memories, but at the same time, credible experimental evidence of it does not exist…

Further stacking the evidence on the side of the researchers, it turns out that traumatic events that induce a strong emotional response, which are so often the subject of supposed repressed memories, tend to be the ones we remember the best.

That said, traumatic events can, and often are, ultimately forgotten, particularly when said events don’t actually induce a significant emotional response — for instance, if a child and not really understanding the event was of what would normally be categorized as the traumatic variety and thus there isn’t an associated strong emotional response. These tend to be forgotten at much higher rates, similar to what you’d expect from any given memory.

In fact, in one study Recall of Childhood Trauma: A Prospective Study of Women’s Memories of Child Sexual Abuse, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, it’s noted that 38% of the adults studied who had a high probability of being abused as children based on documented evidence had forgotten about it as adults.

In one case, one of the participants who was adamant she was never sexually abused, was asked a follow up question if she knew anyone that had been “in trouble for his or her sexual behavior”. Eventually the woman did remember her uncle had. She stated: “I never met my uncle, he died before I was born. You see, he molested a little boy. When the little boy’s mother found out that her son was molested, she took a butcher knife and stabbed my uncle in the heart, killing him.”

In fact, that is exactly what happened, except in this case, the woman being interviewed was one of three children the uncle had allegedly done this to, resulting in the mother of one of the children murdering him with a knife. The now adult woman in the study had only been four years old then — a time when few remember anything of their lives, traumatic or not.

Similarly, in a case study reported by The Recovered Memory Project, a woman named Claudia was involved in a group therapy session to help with weight loss when for whatever reason she began remembering being sexually abused by her older brother when she was little. Her brother had died in Vietnam approximately 15 years before, and their parents had essentially left his room and belongings alone. When she returned home, Claudia searched the room and found not only a set of handcuffs in his closet, but a diary in which he supposedly recorded his, to quote, “sexual experiments with his sister.”

From many such cases as these, as should come as no surprise to anyone — humans forget things all the time, and later sometimes remember them. It’s just that studies to date don’t really demonstrate that the brain is actively repressing these memories as is so widely believed among the general public, and to a lesser extent clinical psychologists.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

(Photo by jesse orrico)

While this might otherwise be a mundane issue only worth psychologists arguing over, it turns out it’s actually a pretty pernicious one thanks to the way clinicians classically tried to recover these memories, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s when the idea of recovering repressed memories was en vogue. This was often done in cases when forgotten traumatic events were thought by the therapists as the cause of things like depression and anxiety in a given client.

It turns out, many of the methods used by psychologists came to be discovered as textbook ways to get people to create false memories.

To begin with, to illustrate how easy it is to plant a false memory, in one early study, now famed memory researcher Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and co. decided to see if they could implant a false memory into people of having been lost at a shopping mall when five years old. Their method here, as explained by Dr. Loftus was,

We prepared a booklet for each participant containing one-paragraph stories about three events that had actually happened to him or her and one that had not. We constructed the false event using information about a plausible shopping trip provided by a relative, who also verified that the participant had not in fact been lost at about the age of five. The lost-in-the-mall scenario included the following elements: lost for an extended period, crying, aid and comfort by an elderly woman and, finally, reunion with the family.

What they ultimately found was after asking people to recall the events with as much detail as possible (a question many a clinical psychologist would ask, among other methods), almost 1/3 of the people involved remembered this experience.

In yet another similar study at Western Washington University, parents of students reported various events that had happened to their children. The researchers then asked the students if they could give their version of the story to illustrate how people remember things differently. They also planted a false story within these real ones about either being hospitalized as a child or having had a birthday party with a clown and pizza at the age of 5. It was also confirmed with the parents that neither of those things had ever happened.

Illustrating the power of suggestion, not a single student remembered the false event the first time they were interviewed about it. Yet in the second interview 1/5th of them remembered it after thinking about it for a while. Some even eventually remembered the event in incredible detail, including specific people visiting them in the hospital, for instance.

In yet another study by that same research group, this time they went with the subjects having to evacuate a store as a child when the sprinkler system went off, drenching everyone, or having spilled a giant bowl of punch at a wedding directly on the parent’s of the bride. Once again, nobody remembered the false memory the first time. But the second time almost 1/5th did, including, again, with some remembering remarkably vivid and small details.

Going yet more traumatic and somewhat controversial, there have been studies where researchers implanted false memories of everything from people almost drowning as children to being demon possessed — all with similar results.

Of course, in many of these cases, the idea was fed to the subjects and some of them then created the detailed false memories based on that suggestion. So how did this correlate to methods used by clinical psychologists in the late 20th century and to a lesser extent now?

As one example, we have imagination therapy, where patients are asked to imagine an often traumatic event and not worry about whether it happened or not — a once very popular method for trying to draw out repressed or forgotten memories.

For example, as famed sex therapist Wendy Matlz once stated, she would tell her patients to “Spend time imaging that you were sexually abused, without worrying about accuracy proving anything, or having your ideas make sense …. Ask yourself … these questions: What time of day is it? Where are you? Indoors or outdoors? What kind of things are happening? Is there one or more person with you?… Who would have been likely perpetrators? When were you most vulnerable to sexual abuse in your life?”

In studies looking at whether this type of imagination therapy increases the likelihood of implanting a false memory, one study’s subjects were asked a series of questions about a made up event of running toward a window as a child then tripping and breaking the window with their hand as they fell. It turns out the act of imagining that it happened increased about 1 in 4 of the participant’s confidence that the event had actually happened, vs. only about 1 in 10 reporting an increase in confidence when not asked to imagine the event had occurred.

Other studies have shown that the more frequently subjects were made to imagine a made up event, the more and more likely they are to later state that the event actually happened.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

(Photo by Robina Weermeijer)

In yet another study, using these type of guided methods as well as hypnosis, participants were made to supposedly recover memories from directly after they were first born. Of course, the researchers at Carleton University actually simply implanted specific memories. Incredibly, 95% of the people being studied using guided mnemonic restructuring came to remember some memories from directly after birth and on the other hand, 70% who were subjected to hypnosis also recovered these so-called “impossible memories”. Also important to note was that about half of both groups also remembered the specific memory from shortly after being born that the researchers had completely made up.

Dr. Loftus states of all this,

Research is beginning to give us an understanding of how false memories of complete, emotional and self-participatory experiences are created in adults. First, there are social demands on individuals to remember; for instance, researchers exert some pressure on participants in a study to come up with memories. Second, memory construction by imagining events can be explicitly encouraged when people are having trouble remembering. And, finally, individuals can be encouraged not to think about whether their constructions are real or not. Creation of false memories is most likely to occur when these external factors are present, whether in an experimental setting, in a therapeutic setting or during everyday activities.

This very unfortunately resulted in cases like Nadean Cool. In 1986, she went to see a psychiatrist who in turn used a variety of popular techniques including hypnosis to try to see if she had any repressed memories about being abused as a child. In the end, what surfaced were memories of being raped, being forced into bestiality, eating babies, watching her friend get murdered, being forced to be involved in a satanic cult, etc. At one point the psychiatrist in question even decided she had at least 120 distinct personalities, one of which was somehow that of a duck. And then to add to the bizarreness of the whole thing, the psychiatrist had an exorcism performed on her to get Satan out of her body…

Of course, after years of this, it ultimately became clear none of these things had actually happened to her and they were simply false memories inadvertently implanted by her psychiatrist over time using these various methods.

In another famous case, one Beth Rutherford’s therapists used similar methods to try to recover repressed memories in 1992, only to have her vividly remember her mother holding her down while her father, a minister, raped her countless times over the course of seven years, starting when she was just seven years old. This included twice getting her pregnant and then painfully aborting the pregnancies using a coat hangar…

Naturally, the whole thing ruined her father’s career and reputation, among other devastating effects on all involved. But it turns out none of that actually happened either, which Beth ultimately discovered, among other evidence, when she went in for an examination and it turns out not only was it very clear she’d never been pregnant, but it was also the opinion of her doctors that she was clearly still a virgin.

Naturally, in both the cases of Beth and Nadean, neither were too pleased at having been put through all that mental trauma, plus having put others they loved through similar stress and hardship, when it was eventually demonstrated that none of these recovered memories ever happened.

Perhaps the most famous case of all of these was that of Eileen Franklin, who would later go on to author a book called Sins of the Father documenting the saga as she saw it. In her case, when she was a child one of her friends, eight year old Susan Nason, was raped and murdered. Nason’s body was discovered two months later, but the killer never identified. That is, until Eileen was an adult and her own daughter allegedly turned to look at her one day and reminded her so much of her friend, that suddenly she remembered witnessing her own father, George Franklin, raping and murdering Nason right in front of her.

Soon enough, Franklin was arrested, tried and convicted, despite there being no real evidence other than this recovered memory.

Finally, six years after being imprisoned, the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court who, among other things, noted that the prosecutors’ entire case depended on the accuracy of repressed memories which were unreliable. Yet, in this case were taken as absolute fact, despite the lack of corroborating evidence. The appeals court also criticized the judge involved for not allowing the defense to introduce evidence that all of the pertinent facts of the case Eileen supposedly remembered had actually appeared in news accounts of the crime which Eileen was privy too.

This was particularly important as much of the confidence that Eileen’s memories were real came from the fact that many of the details she recalled did indeed match up with the evidence in the case.

Not long after Franklin was released after six years in prison, prosecutors were initially going to forge ahead to attempt to get Franklin thrown back behind bars. But then a few pertinent pieces of information came out that resulted in them moving to dismiss the charges.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

(Photo by Josh Riemer)

First, Eileen had alleged that she had recovered another memory of her father raping and murdering someone else, this time an 18 year old woman whose murder at that point was also unsolved. However, when a DNA test was done on the semen recovered in the case it didn’t match George Franklin’s DNA. Further, minutes from a meeting at his work at the time this particular murder took place showed Franklin had been at that meeting at the fire station he had worked at. Thus, unless he had discovered a way to be two places at once, he couldn’t have done it.

The nail in the coffin on the origin case was when Eileen’s sister, Janice, told the prosecutors that Eileen allegedly told her that she’d remembered the events of the case in question while being hypnotized, contrary to what Eileen and Janice had stated during the trial. If true, this made those memories unreliable in the eyes of the court thanks to a Supreme Court ruling on a similar case, and thus the prosecution finally decided to have the charges dismissed.

Eileen still, however, at least at that point, firmly maintained she remembered these things happening and was still convinced her father was guilty of this and other alleged crimes from later recovered memories she had of him raping her as well. But as the aforementioned psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who was called to testify in this particular case, noted during the whole ordeal,

I have little doubt that Eileen Franklin believes with every cell of her being that her father murdered Susan Nason. But I believe there is a very real possibility that the whole concoction was spun not from solid facts but from the vaporous breezes of wishes, dreams, fears, desires. Eileen’s mind, operating independently of reality, went about its business of collecting ambiguities and inconsistencies and wrapping them up into a sensible package, revealing to her in one blinding moment of insight a coherent picture of the past that was nevertheless completely and utterly false. Eileen’s story is her truth, but I believe it is a truth that never happened.

Illustrating the potential scope of the problem of false memories and court cases, Dr. Loftus would later state in her TED talk,

In one project in the United States, information has been gathered on 300 innocent people, 300 defendants who were convicted of crimes they didn’t do. They spent 10, 20, 30 years in prison for these crimes, and now DNA testing has proven that they are actually innocent. And when those cases have been analyzed, three quarters of them are due to… faulty eyewitness memory.

Of course, moving back to recovered memories, there really are people who were abused or witnessed or endured traumatic things as children and then later completely forgot about it, so few are willing to reject the memories of everyone who has such recollections later in life, even when “recovered” through therapy. It’s just that, as Dr. Loftus states,

The one take home message… is this: Just because someone tells you something with a lot of confidence and detail and emotion, it doesn’t mean it actually happened. You need independent corroboration to know whether you’re dealing with an authentic memory, or something that is a product of some other process.

She goes on, “…many people believe that memory works like a recording device. You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true. Our memories are constructive. They’re reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people.”

So to sum up — while some psychologists still think repressed memories are a thing, there really isn’t presently much data backing up the notion vs the simpler explanation that people have just forgotten things like they forget most of what happens in their lives. Further, given that it’s absurdly easy to get people to remember things, even of the extremely traumatic variety, that never actually happened, trying to distinguish between real and false memories is something of an effort in futility without outside hard evidence.

In the end, it turns out human memory is incredibly fallible, but few of us want to accept that so much of what we remember in life didn’t happen quite, or in some cases at all, like we remember it. This, unfortunately, occasionally leads to people being convicted of sometimes even extreme crimes that they didn’t actually commit.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Kurds just launched their ‘endgame battle’ against ISIS

The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.

It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.


In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.

No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.

Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.

Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.

At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why grunts should read books

So, you joined the grunts. From this day forward, everyone will make fun of you because some of your friends eat crayons and the others eat rocks. You, however, have never tasted the sweet nectar of Tide Pods and you’re out to break the mold. You’re on a mission to change the common perception that grunts’ brains are about as meaningful as Certificates of Appreciation.

So, how can you do it? How can a grunt convince another person that they’re actually intelligent and informed on the philosophies of the war-fighting profession? Easy: Read books.

We know, we know — you’d rather be getting drunk, but what are you going to do when you’re sitting in a burning-hot, metal tube for ITX? Or when you’re stuck on ship? We’re not tell you to take a book to the armory line with you, but you know damn-well there’s plenty of downtime to fill. These are the major reasons you should be reading, grunt.


Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Being good at your job is imperative.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

1. To get better at your job

Reading a good book, especially one from the Commandant’s Reading List, can help you learn new concepts and ideas that are relevant to your job in one way or another. Even if it’s not The Art of War, reading military-themed novels can help put you in the right mindset to perform at a higher level.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

You can learn quite a bit from the mistakes of the past.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. To learn from history

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. So, why not read up on past failures and get a sense of things you can do differently?

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

He probably read a new book every week.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Zachary Dyer)

3. To learn leadership skills

All the greatest military leaders read books. If you think that our Lord and savior, General Mattis (blessed be his name), spent his whole career playing Battlefield and drinking Natty Lights, you’re sadly mistaken. No doubt he read plenty of books.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

If you sound like Adam Sandler in Waterboy, your life will be difficult.

(U.S. Army)

4. To get better at articulating thoughts

When you eventually find yourself in a position where you have to write a five paragraph order (you know, a battle plan), being able to communicate your thoughts clearly in writing is of utmost importance. Reading the greats will help expand your threshold of written expression.

Plus, if you decide to push far and beyond the first four years, you don’t want to become that Staff NCO who can’t make it through the first paragraph of a promotion warrant or award certificate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pro-Putin Russians look to scrap presidential term limits

A proposal submitted to the Russian parliament would scrap the constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential terms, enabling Vladimir Putin to remain in power past 2024.

The proposal published on the State Duma website on May 18, 2018, would restrict presidents to three straight terms instead of two. It comes less than two weeks after Putin started a new six-year term as president — his second in a row and fourth overall.


It was submitted by the legislature in Chechnya — a region whose head, Ramzan Kadyrov, has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Putin and said he should rule for life.

Putin, 65, has been president or prime minister since 1999. Facing the limit of two straight terms in 2008, he steered ally Dmitry Medvedev into the presidency and served for four years as prime minister before returning to the Kremlin in 2012.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
Dmitry Medvedev

Elected again on March 18, 2018, in a vote that opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said deprived voters of a genuine choice, Putin would be barred from running again in 2024 under the existing constitution.

That barrier has led to widespread speculation about Putin’s future moves, with many analysts predicting he will seek a way to keep a hold on power after his current term. The most straightforward path would be to change the constitution.

When lawmakers in Chechnya announced plans for the proposal earlier in April 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue was not on Putin’s agenda and that Putin had made his position on changing the constitution clear in the past.

On the day he was elected, Putin said he had no plans to change the constitution “for now.”

He also laughed off a suggestion that he might take a six-year break before seeking the presidency again in 2030, when he would be 77 at the time of the vote.

“It’s a bit ridiculous. Let’s do the math. Shall I sit here until I turn 100? No!” Putin said at the time.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is holding a competition for the world’s best tank crew

Four-person tank crews from across the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations met at Fort Benning, Georgia, to take part in the Sullivan Cup April 30 through May 4, 2018. The Sullivan Cup is a biennial competition to determine the best tank crew through a series of scored tests.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Armor School, and the 316th Cavalry Brigade host the competition.


At a demonstration at Red Cloud Range at Fort Benning April 27, 2018, Col. Thomas Feltey, 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, talked about the competition, which began Monday, April 30, and to which the public is invited.

“You’re going to see a demonstration of our Army’s tank crews’ proficiency, conducting both live fire and maneuver exercises,” said Feltey. “What we’re putting together is a series of arduous testing — it’s both technical and tactical — to get the most out of our Soldiers in this competition.”

The crews are from the following units:

– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 11th Armored Cavalry Division
– U.S. Marine Corps
– 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, National Guard
– The School of Armour, Australian Army
– 35th Brigade, Kuwait Land Force

Feltey stressed the complexity of the tank crew’s performance.

“There’s a lot of activity that goes on inside these tanks, so they’ve got to synchronize the actions of the driver, the loader, the gunner and the tank commander,” he said. “Then they’ve got to understand the terrain so they can move their vehicle tactically … while taking into account what the enemy is doing.”

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
Winner of the 2016 Sullivan Cup Competition.

One of the goals of the Sullivan Cup, according to Feltey, is the demonstration of good doctrinal technique, which begins at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.

“We’re following our doctrinal foundation of our integrated weapons training strategy,” he said. “And we’re modeling exactly what these tank crews and these units can do back at their home station. So really, in our way, it’s Fort Benning leading the way and showing our Army what right looks like.”

Throughout the week, the crews are scheduled to perform a gunnery skills test, engage targets with their tanks’ weapon systems, call for fire, take written exams, perform tank-related physical fitness tasks, conduct a competitive combat maneuver exercise, conduct a timed stress shoot, and more.

The weeklong competition is open to members of the public, whom Felty welcomed so they might witness the difficult work that goes into tank operation.

“This is their Army, so it’s a great opportunity for them to come out and see what we do on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation that goes into being able to fire these tanks.”

The first big event of the Sullivan Cup was Operation Thunderbolt, which took place in the afternoon of April 30, 2018, at Red Cloud Range.

“If they come to the demonstration on Monday, they’re not only going to get to see a tank, but arguably they’re going to feel the power of the 120mm main gun and also our mortars that are out here,” said Feltey.

Children younger than 5 and pregnant women should not attend.

To keep up with the Sullivan Cup, visit the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Facebook page at www.fb.com/fortbenningmcoe. Family and friends are encouraged to tweet updates on their teams during the competition using @FortBenning and the hashtag #Sullivancup.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is still hitting 17 countries with cyber attacks

A North Korea-linked hacking group has been tied to a series of cyberattacks spanning 17 countries, far larger than initially thought.

A new report by McAfee Advanced Threat Research found a major hacking campaign, dubbed Operation GhostSecret, sought to steal sensitive data from a wide range of industries including critical infrastructure, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications.


Attackers used tools and malware programs associated with the North Korea-sponsored cyber unit Hidden Cobra, also known as Lazarus, to execute the highly sophisticated operation.

Operation GhostSecret is thought to have started with a massive cyberattack on several Turkish financial institutions and government organizations in early March 2018. The cyberoffensive then began targeting industries in 17 countries and is still active, according to McAfee.

Servers in the US, Australia, Japan, and China were infected several times from March 15 to 19, 2018. Nearly 50 servers in Thailand were hit heavily by the malware, the most of any country.

McAfee researchers noted many similarities between the methods used in Operation GhostSecret and other major attacks attributed to the group, including the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and 2017’s global WannaCry attack.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
(Flickr photo by Blogtrepreneur)

“As we monitor this campaign, it is clear that the publicity associated with the (we assume) first phase of this campaign did nothing to slow the attacks. The threat actors not only continued but also increased the scope of the attack, both in types of targets and in the tools they used,” Raj Samani, McAfee’s chief scientist, said.

The report indicates North Korea has been expanding its cybercrime beyond its usual focus of stealing military intel or cryptocurrency that can be used to funnel money to the heavily sanctioned government.

North Korean groups have been tied to increasingly high-stakes attacks in recent months.

In January 2017, researchers from the US cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said a hacking campaign targeting the South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinlink employed the same malware used in the Sony and WannaCry attacks.

The attack was attributed to the Lazarus group, which has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when it launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom.

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

Articles

US practices D-Day-like landing in Latvia amid Russia tensions

U.S. Marines engaged in a mock beach landing in the Baltics on June 6 in a scene reminiscent of the D-Day landings of World War II.


The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.

“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
U.S. Marines land in the Baltics for BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.

The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.

BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.

They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”

The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
Marines participate in BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.

NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.

Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.

 

 

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happened to all the old US F-14 Tomcats

There was only one foreign customer for the advanced F-14 Tomcat fighter during its heyday: Iran. The Shah chose to buy 80 Tomcats instead of the F-15 Eagle – and it was a good investment. Even after Imperial Iran gave way to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Air Force was still stacked with some of the best Tomcat pilots in the world.

And the U.S. doesn’t want any of them in the air again ever.


Iran is the United States’ ex-girlfriend that we just can’t stop thinking about. After the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. could just not leave Iran alone. A major sticking point for the United States was that our ex still had 30 of our best fighter aircraft, and they were using it to great effect against our new boo, Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranian Air Force was so skilled in the Iran-Iraq War that a lone tomcat could clear the skies of enemy aircraft without firing a shot. Many of the successful downings of Tomcats were at the hands of ground-based SAM batteries… Iranian SAM batteries.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Watching Iranian Tomcats fly is like watching your ex wearing the ring you bought her that she won’t give back.

But the United States eventually gets better stuff, no matter how iconic Top Gun is. Since the Tomcat, we’ve had the major advances in fighter technology that led us to develop the F-22 and F-35 fighters, technology so amazing it might seem like magic to some. So it made sense to retire our fleet of F-14s in 2007, given that we had an air superiority fighter that had the radar cross-section of a bumblebee and could take out enemy planes before it could physically see them. When Iran got wind of its retirement, you could practically hear the CEO of Northrop Grumman’s tummy growling at the idea of parts sales.

But nope. This was 2007 and Iran was still firmly placed in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with North Korea. The idea of selling Iran rare F-14 parts, so it didn’t have to cannibalize its own F-14 inventory was preposterous. It was this concern that led the Pentagon to shred every last leftover F-14 Tomcat.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Kinda like this, except with millions of dollars worth of metal and avionics.

Did the United States have to take a million plane and reduce it to scrap metal just so Iran couldn’t repair its aging fleet? No, according to many national security experts, it did not. They said the move was more symbolic than practical. F-14 parts were considered sensitive equipment just for this reason, so the U.S. ended all parts sales to anyone, not just Iran, for fear that Iran might get them eventually. But that doesn’t matter, there isn’t much Iran could do with their F-14s if they were airworthy.

“Those planes as they age are maybe the equivalent of Chevrolets in Cuba. They become relics of a past era,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Even if they can put them in the air, they are going to face more advanced weapons systems.”

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Goose is rolling around in his grave.

The decision to destroy all the surplus Tomcats was the defense equivalent of taking the house and the car despite not needing or wanting either – a purely spiteful move that makes Tomcat fans wish they would have just donated to museums.

popular

What happened when the Royal Marines ‘invaded’ Estonia

The Royal Marines piled into helicopters and boats and inserted into Estonian territory, hitting positions on the mainland and on an isolated island, doing their best to inflict maximum casualties on the Estonian Volunteer Defence Force during an exercise designed to see whether that countries tiny military can adequately defend itself against a top-tier foe.


48 Hours Deployed With The Royal Marines | ACCESS
www.youtube.com

And make no mistake about it, the Royal Marines are true commandos and are top-tier. But the local forces defending the island of Saaremaa included many members who had grown up on the island, and they fought the British to what referees called an Estonian victory. The Royal Marines called it a draw, according to an article in the British publication Plymouth Herald.

Also, in the Royal Marines’ defense, the Estonians were backed up by British Apaches and likely would have lost their key position, and maybe the whole ball game, without that crucial air support.

The Marines successfully landed reconnaissance teams unseen, and those teams were able to operate for 24 hours undetected. Then, dummy raids on one side of the island drew off defenders before the Royal Marines launched their main assault on the opposite side, allowing them to reach their main objective with little contact.

So each side did well. The Royal Marines were able to hit their objective almost undetected, and the Estonians were able to defend it anyway, and that’s good for both sides because, realistically, Estonia and Britain would more than likely fight on the same side in a war.

And the people Britain would liberate Saaremaa from would not be Estonian locals, they would be Russian commandos.

Under the surface of all European war games of the last few years sits the certainty that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine only faded because it became too costly. If former Soviet Bloc countries who want to remain democratic and free are to do so, they have to be ready to fend off a Russian “grey-zone” attack at any time.

Grey Zone describes hostilities across cyberspace and physical terrain that fall just short of war. The successful Russian seizure of Crimea and the attacks into the Donbas region were both grey-zone operations.

Britain is obligated to help defend Estonia under both European Union and NATO agreements, and so it’s good that their Royal Marines and Navy are getting more practice in the territory of the EU’s more vulnerable members. The fact is that the Russian military, though a ghost of its former Soviet power, is still large enough to roll over the most vulnerable countries on its borders. The rapid deployment of other European and Western militaries would be necessary to beat Russia back.

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