Reports emerged in late July that the Pentagon has devised a plan to arm Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists with defensive weapons, such as Javelin missiles.
But many Ukrainian soldiers on the ground believe the plan would give them more of a psychological edge than anything, according to The Daily Signal.
“The weapons themselves will not have a decisive impact on the course of combat operations,” Andrei Mikheychenko, a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army, told The Daily Signal. “Deliveries of lethal weapons, in my opinion, will primarily have psychological significance for both the Ukrainian army and the terrorists it fights.”
The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Russian Ukrainians proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
And since then, both sides have been engaged in a full-fledged psychological war.
In an effort to intimidate and vex their enemies, Ukrainian troops have at times pretended to be members of US Navy SEAL Team 6 and give orders over the radio in English, The Daily Signal said. Other times, they’ve even raised American flags above their lines.
In 2015, Ukrainian troops changed the name of a street in the village of Krymske, which is on the front lines near the LPR, from some old Soviet hero to “John McCain Street,” The Daily Signal said.
A few months ago, one journalist with Ukrainian troops received a text message, as did all the soldiers with whom she was embedded, saying “Ukrainian soldiers, they’ll find your bodies when the snow melts,” according to the Associated Press.
“Leave and you will live,” other text messages will say, or “Nobody needs your kids to become orphans.”
Russian-backed separatists have also been known to use more brutal psychological tactics.
A Ukrainian soldier is forced to eat his own army badge by Russian-backed separatists. Screenshot from YouTube user PavelDonbass
In early 2015, videos emerged of rebel commanders forcing captured Ukrainian troops to kneel on the ground and eat their own army badges.
While many Ukrainian soldiers believe that the US supplying them with defensive weapons would help them in the psychological war, they also believe it will give them a combat edge and help deter attacks, The Daily Signal said.
Russian-backed separatists currently have about 478 working tanks, The Daily Signal said, and most of these can be taken out by the Javelin.
However other European nations, such as France and Germany, are worried that supplying Kiev with such lethal weapons would only increase the fighting.
While fighting slightly increased in July, the three-year old war, for the most part, has ground to a stalemate in which the two sides lob mortars and grenades from afar and trade sniper fire.
At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.
President Donald Trump has yet to approve the weapons deal, and is expected to make a decision in coming months.
In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.
That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.
Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.
But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.
“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”
Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.
“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.
While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.
These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.
Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.
In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.
“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.
While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.
“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”
Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.
For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.
“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.
“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”
While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.
“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”
A new focus
For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.
Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.
The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.
Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.
“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”
There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”
Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.
Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.
The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.
But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.
“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.
As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.
Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.
“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”
The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.
“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”
Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.
During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.
“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.
But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.
“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”
This article by James Clark and Michael Lane Smith was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.
For anyone who has worn the uniform, there’s a fundamental truth of service that never makes it into the commercials and recruiting ads: It can be boring as all hell.
Sometimes, either due to good intentions gone awry, frustration, or someone drank too much, service members and veterans make some bad decisions. In many cases, this ends with a hangover or a moment of public embarrassment. Occasionally, these choices lead to sprains and maybe a broken bone or two, like when a Marine decided to jump three stories onto a stack of mattresses.
But sometimes, someone does something so dumb and outrageous that it makes the news. Here are five of those moments.
1. The soldier who stole a puppy to save it from being neutered
In early June 2015, U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Duvel of the Missouri National Guard was caught on video stealing a mixed-breed puppy from the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri with his fiancée, according to ABC affiliate KSPR News.
Having heard from a veterinary hospital that it is unhealthy for dogs to be neutered within the first year of their lives, the couple wanted to make sure this puppy was protected from such an operation. After being denied the opportunity to adopt the puppy, the couple thought the best course of action was to take him anyway.
“Really, the criminal part never really came in mind at all to be honest,” Duvel told KSPR with a seemingly amused grin. “It’d gotten pretty serious so it was pretty much past the point of dropping off some money and saying I’m sorry.”
Presumably Duvel’s chain of command didn’t appreciate seeing “guardsman steals puppy” in the news either.
2. The drunk soldier who defected to North Korea
On the night of Jan. 4, 1965, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins crossed the heavily mined Korean demilitarized zone 10 beers deep and defected to North Korea.
According to Business Insider, Jenkins decided to get drunk and then defect because his unit was being ordered to lead increasingly provocative patrols, and he heard they might be heading to Vietnam. His time in North Korea involved 24-hour surveillance, making it more akin to imprisonment than defection.
Instead of continued service in the military fighting communism, Jenkins spent the next 40 years learning the works of Kim Il-Sung by heart, teaching English to presumed spies in training, and acting in movies as the villain. Needless to say, Jenkins quickly regretted his decision.
In a 2005 interview on “60 Minutes,” Jenkins described being constantly watched and told when to eat, sleep, and even when to have sex. According to Jenkins, the North Korean government eventually brought him an abducted a woman from Japan to teach North Korean spies Japanese, and before long, they were married. Not exactly the most beautiful love story, but it did yield the pair two daughters.
Upon being freed in 2004, Jenkins reported for duty in Japan and was swiftly court-martialed, receiving a significantly reduced sentence for the almost four decades of internment in North Korea. He now sells crackers at a historical museum in Japan.
3. The soldier who landed helicopter on the White House lawn
In the early hours of Feb. 17, 1974, U.S. Army Pfc. Robert Preston buzzed commuterson the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in a stolen Huey, and then approached the White House, landing briefly before Maryland State Police arrived in two choppers of their own.
Preston led them on an aerial chase, leading one officer to say afterward that he was “one hell of a pilot.” He proceeded to hover near the Washington Monument, nearly colliding with it, before returning to the White House, where he hovered 100 meters away on the South Lawn.
After taking shotgun and submachine gun fire, Preston put the Huey down and attempted to escape on foot, but was tackled and arrested. President Richard Nixon, who was in the middle of the Watergate scandal, was not at the White House during all of this.
Even though he led two police choppers, and scores of other law enforcement personnel on a high speed chase, broke a host of laws and military regulations, Preston only served six months in the military stockade, before receiving a general discharge.
4. The drunk Marine who set off the fire suppression system in a hangar
At about 1:45 a.m on May 23, 2015, a Marine drunkenly triggered the foam-based fire suppression system at an Air Force hangar on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Marine Corps Times reported that it’s unclear how the Marine entered the hangar, what specific punishment he may have faced after his arrest, and just what his level of intoxication was.
5. The British soldier who stole an armored vehicle, crashed it, stole another
In February 2009, an 18-year-old British soldier went for a drunken joy ride, stealing not one, but two armored vehicles before running a military police patrol off the road, reported Daily Mail.
German authorities said that the unnamed soldier was “highly intoxicated” when he stole an armored command car, swerved through the entrance at Hoehne Barracks in Northwest Germany, before careening off the road minutes later, reports the Daily Mail.
Astonishingly, the soldier crept back on base, which was now on high alert, and stole another armored vehicle — a tracked ambulance this time — and sped off again. A military police patrol tried to stop him, but was forced off the road before the driver crashed the second vehicle into a tree.
North Korea plans to destroy a nuclear test site in front of a handful of foreign journalists on May 22, 2018 — a move that lets it shape a narrative of cooperating with the US without actually removing its nuclear capabilities.
Foreign journalists from the US, China, and Russia arrived in North Korea on May 22, 2018, to report on the destruction of an underground site that Pyongyang has repeatedly rocked with nuclear detonation tests.
At the same time, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are meeting behind the scenes to discuss what to make of Kim Jong Un’s new, aggressive tone.
The planned destruction of the test site, in Wonsan, represents denuclearization North Korea’s way, meaning it isn’t permanent, verifiable, irreversible, or complete.
North Korea intends to make a big show of dismantling its test site by collapsing access tunnels, but it can always build more tunnels, dig the tunnels back out again, or test somewhere else.
Additionally, if North Korea truly has completed its nuclear program, as it says it has, then it no longer needs an active test site anyway. The US has maintained nuclear weapons without testing them for decades.
While the world watches North Korea’s staged show of denuclearization, Trump and Moon will meet at the White House to discuss Trump’s coming summit with Kim as well as North Korea’s recent harsh words.
Chinese media recently released a video of a really intense military training exercise in which a 40-ton armored vehicle drives over troops laying on the ground, with the vehicle tracks passing dangerously close to the heads of the Chinese soldiers.
At the start of the video, an officer asks the soldiers: “Do you have confidence in the soldier beside you?” After shouting back “yes,” one soldier departs to climb aboard the armored vehicle as the others drop to the ground, awaiting their fellow soldier to run over them.
The tracked armored vehicle in the video looks like the HQ-17 surface-to-air missile transporter erector launcher. The HQ-17, which was publicly revealed in 2015, is a reverse-engineered Chinese variant of the Russian Tor-M1 system.
In two other related videos, soldiers involved in the demonstration talk about their experience. One soldier on the ground says he was “really nervous.”
Another Chinese soldier described the training exercise as a test of the armored vehicle driver’s skills and character, as well as an opportunity to boost trust and confidence between soldiers.
The exercise is unusual in that it has troops lying sideways, putting them at greater risk, but it is certainly not the first time China has had armored vehicles drive over troops in training.
But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.
Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.
The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.
In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)
Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on June 23 that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.
“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”
“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”
The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.
Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” if the reforms were not implemented.
The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368-55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, “In a nasty, partisan environment like we’ve never seen, veterans’ issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans.”
The bill was a rare Trump initiative that received Democratic support. Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill “will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation.”
The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the Senate-passed measure was seen as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version – 180 days versus 45 days. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
USMC Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Boling
The bill also turns another of Trump’s campaign pledges into law by creating a permanent VA accountability office, which Trump established by executive order in April.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the bill signing “a significant step to reform the VA with a renewed purpose and ability to serve our veterans.”
“The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible,” McCarthy said.
The VA has been plagued for years by problems, including the 2014 scandal, where employees created secret lists to cover up delays in appointments. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.
Military photographers in all the branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked among the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found.
An F-22 Raptor, from the 43rd Fighter Squadron, takes off in Savannah, Ga., during Sentry Savannah 16-3, Aug. 2, 2016. The F-22 is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
A B-52 Stratofortress, B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit sit beside one another on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug.10, 2016. The occasion marked the first time in history that all three of Air Force Global Strike Command’s strategic bombers were positioned to simultaneously conduct operations in the U.S. Pacific Command region.
A U.S. Army paratrooper drags his parachute toward a target during Leapfest 2016 in West Kingston, R.I., Aug. 4, 2016. Leapfest is an International parachute training event and competition hosted by the 56th Troop Command, Rhode Island Army National Guard to promote high level technical training and esprit de corps within the International Airborne community.
U.S. Army Spc. Mariah Ridge, a military working dog handler assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo’s Joint Security Forces, laughs at her military working dog, Jaska, during K9 hoist evacuation training at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 15, 2016. Although the MWDs and their handlers were training in 90 degree, 100 percent humidity weather, they managed to stay in good spirits.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Aug. 18, 2016) Deck Department Sailors haul in mooring lines during a sea-and-anchor evolution aboard the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), after returning from Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) testing at sea. The lines are used to secure the ship to the pier. Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force, which protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
EDITERRANEAN SEA (Aug. 11, 2016) A Sailor signals an AV-8B Harrier pilot assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) to stop aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) Aug. 11, 2016. The 22nd MEU, embarked aboard Wasp, is conducting precision air strikes in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord-aligned forces against Daesh targets in Sirte, Libya, as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning.
Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina. Companies competed against each other in sprint relays, pugil stick fighting, a pull-up and push-up competition, ground fighting and a high-intensity tactical training course. The field meet was organized to build camaraderie among the Marines and sailors.
Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina. Companies competed against each other in sprint relays, pugil stick fighting, a pull-up and push-up competition, ground fighting and a high-intensity tactical training course. The field meet was organized to build camaraderie among the Marines and sailors. BLT 3/6 is a part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
July 13, 2013 — U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Brendon Ballard, left, checks the dive rig of Petty Officer 2nd Class Dylan Baker prior to entering a diver decontamination station pier side at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during Rim of the Pacific 2016.
Sunset review is a graduation tradition at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The incoming second class lower the national ensign in honor of the first classes graduation and promotion from cadet to Ensign in the U.S.C.G.
Nuclear blasts create fallout, which can harm you with large doses of radiation.
Cars offer little protection from fallout.
A surer way to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion is to go indoors, stay put, and listen to the radio.
The first thing you’d see if a nuclear bomb exploded nearby is a flood of light so bright, you may think the sun blew up.
Wincing from temporary blindness, you’d scan the horizon and see an orange fireball. The gurgling flames would rise and darken into purple-hued column of black smoke, which would turn in on itself. As a toadstool-like mushroom took shape, the deafening shock front of the blast would rip through the area — and possibly knock you off your feet.
Congratulations! In this hypothetical scenario, you’ve just survived a nuclear blast with an energy output of about 10 kilotons (20 million pounds) of TNT. That’s roughly 66% of energy released by either atom bomb dropped on Japan in 1945.
No one could fault you for panicking after the sight and roarof a nuclear blast. But there is one thing you should never do, according to Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“Don’t get in your car,” he tells Business Insider — don’t try to drive, and don’t assume that the glass and metal of a vehicle can protect you.
Why vehicles and nuclear survival don’t mix
Avoiding driving after a nuclear blast is wise because streets would probably be full of erratic drivers, accidents, and debris. But Buddemeier says there’s another important reason to ditch the car: a fearsome after-effect of nuclear blasts called fallout.
Fallout is a complex mixture of fission products, or radioisotopes, that are created by splitting atoms. Many of the fission products decay rapidly and emit gamma radiation, an invisible yet highly energetic form of light. Exposure to too much of this radiation in a short time can damage the body’s cells and its ability to fix itself — a condition called acute radiation sickness.
“It also affects the immune system and the your ability to fight infections,” Buddemeier says.
Only very dense and thick materials, like many feet of dirt or inches of lead, can reliably stop the fallout.
“The fireball from a 10-kiloton explosion is so hot, it actually shoots up into the atmosphere at over 100 miles per hour,” Buddemeier says. “These fission products mix in with the dirt and debris that’s drawn up into the atmosphere from the fireball.”
Trapped in sand, dirt, cement, metal, and anything else in the immediate blast area, the gamma-shooting fission products can fly more than five miles into the air. The larger pieces drop back down, while lighter particles can be carried by the wind before raining over distant areas.
“Close in to the [blast] site, they may be a bit larger than golf-ball-size, but really what we’re talking about are things like salt- or sand-size particles,” Buddemeier says. “It’s the penetrating gamma radiation coming off of those particles that’s the hazard.”
Which brings us back to why a car is a terrible place to take shelter.
“Modern vehicles are made of glass and very light metals, and they offer almost no protection,” he says. “You’re just going to sit on a road some place [and be exposed].”
Buddemeier says he’s asked people what their knee-jerk response to a nuclear blast might be. It wasn’t comforting.
“There was actually a lot of folks who had this notion — and it may be a Hollywood notion — of ‘oh, jump in the car and try to skedaddle out of town if you see a mushroom cloud.'” he says.
However, fallout is carried by high-altitude winds that are “often booking along at 100 miles per hour,” he says, and “often not going in the same direction as the ground-level winds. So your ability to know where the fallout’s gonna go, and outrun it, are… Well, it’s very unlikely.”
What you should do instead of driving
Your best shot at survival after a nuclear disaster is to get into some sort of “robust structure” as quickly as possible and stay there, Buddemeier says. He’s a fan of the mantra “go in, stay in, tune in”.
“Get inside … and get to the center of that building. If you happen to have access to below-ground areas, getting below-ground is great,” he says. “Stay in: 12 to 24 hours.”
The reason to wait is that levels of gamma and other radiation fall off exponentially after a nuclear blast as “hot” radioisotopes decay into more stable atoms and pose less of a danger. This slowly shrinks the dangerous fallout zone — the area where high-altitude winds have dropped fission products. (Instead of staying put, however, a recent study also suggested that moving to a stronger shelter or basement may not be a bad idea if you first ducked into a flimsy one.)
“Try to use whatever communication tools you have,” he says. He added that a hand-cranked radio is a good object to keep at work and home, since emergency providers, in addition to broadcasting instructions, will be tracking the fallout cloud and trying to broadcast where any safe corridors for escape are located.
There is only one exception to the “no cars” rule, says Buddemeier: If you’re in a parking garage with your car, the concrete might act as a shield. In that case, you could stay there and listen to a radio inside your car.
If everyone followed these guidelines after nuclear blast, he says, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.
Afghan officials appear confident a planned deployment of about 300 U.S. Marines will help local forces reverse insurgent gains in the embattled southern province of Helmand.
Backed by airpower, the Afghan National Army has intensified offensive operations in the largest Afghan poppy-growing province, after the Taliban captured the strategically important district center of Sangin in late March, although government officials continue to dispute the claim.
Afghan forces in overnight operations are reported to have killed dozens of insurgents and destroyed several narcotics-producing factories in Helmand.
The provincial governor, Hayatullah Hayat, says national security forces are prepared and better placed this year to beat back the Taliban. They already have cleared areas around the provincial capital of Lashkargah and nearby districts.
“We have [also] started clearing pockets of [insurgents] in Garmsir district, in Marjah district, and also this will be done in Sangin district,” Hayat told Voice of America.
Hayat sounded upbeat about a planned deployment of Marines in Helmand, saying it will boost local efforts to evict the Taliban, which is currently in control of most of the province.
“I am quite sure they will have definitely lots of positives to bring in the frontline and also changing the security situation down in Helmand,” Hayat noted. He emphasized that Afghans will continue to lead the security operations, and U.S. Marines will serve in an “advise-and-assist” role.
The Pentagon announced in January it will send a task forces of about 300 Marines back to Helmand in the wake of rapid insurgent advances and heavy casualties inflicted on Afghan forces during the 2016 fighting season.
Marines will be returning to an area where they have engaged for years in intense deadly battles with the Taliban. This will be the first deployment since 2014 when the U.S.-led international forces combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
Peace talks offered
Governor Hayat again urged the insurgents to quit fighting and join the Afghan government-led peace process.
“I think the only solution [to the conflict] in Afghanistan is negotiations. It’s the land of jirgas (tribal dispute resolution councils) and it’s the land of talks. Any problems, even if they were big or small, can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said.
The Taliban has extended its control of influence across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces two years ago, and efforts aimed at encouraging the insurgents to come to the table for peace talks with Kabul have not yet succeeded.
Russia plans to host a multi-nation conference of Afghanistan’s immediate and far neighbors on April 14 to try to jump-start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and several former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to the talks in Moscow.
The United States also was invited to attend the meeting, but turned down the invitation, questioning Russian objectives and intentions for initiating the process.
A Taliban spokesman said late March it was not in a position to comment, and would not consider whether to attend the Moscow talks until the group received an invitation.
The F-35 has become notorious for its stratospheric price tag, along with the plane’s host of mechanical and software problems.
The cost of the US’s fifth-generation fighter has already risen to approximately $400 billion with a projected lifetime operating cost of $1.5 trillion. The Marines are still set on launching the F-35 in the near term despite its incomplete software package.
These problems apply to the F-35’s helmet as well. Each F-35 helmet costs over $400,000, the Washington Post reports. And like the F-35, the helmet has had its own run of development setbacks and cost overruns.
Each visor is designed to function as a heads-up display that will work in conjunction with six high resolution cameras embedded in the skin across the F-35. Ideally, during flight the pilot would be able to see through the walls of the jet as images from the cameras are displayed in real time across the visor surface.
“When the helmet’s tuned correctly to the pilot’s eyes, you almost step into this other world where all this information comes in. You can look through the jet’s eyeballs to see the world as the jet sees the world,” Al Norman, an F-35 test pilot, told The Washington Post.
This enhanced situational awareness would allow the pilot to see enemy aircraft and targets on the ground that the sides of the cockpit might otherwise obscure. The visor also displays critical information about speed and altitude.
But the helmet, like the rest of the F-35, ran into operational problems.
According to testing from the Department of Defense, turbulence and buffeting of the aircraft could cause significant display issues within the helmet.
The report stated that during basic offensive and defensive maneuvers the conditions negatively effected the display, a problem that could have “the greatest impact in scenarios where a pilot was maneuvering to defeat a missile shot.”
In addition, the Post noted that the helmets suffered from night-vision and streaming issues that caused motion sickness among pilots. Fortunately these problems have largely been resolved, although the green glow associated with the night vision is still a persistent issue.
Humans are superstitious. We tend to come up with all kinds of ways to justify certain things we don’t fully understand. That same quality definitely has a home in military service. While some of these may seem ridiculous at first glance, there’s usually some kind of explanation underneath.
The Navy is easily the most superstitious of the branches — since their origins are tied to a history of life at sea, both military-related and otherwise, where imaginations ran wild after spending many months adrift. But, as a whole, the military has a wide array of superstitions that, when you take a closer look, are actually pretty creepy.
You don’t want one of these bad boys to drift right over a cliff.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Yarnall)
Don’t carry a white lighter… Ever.
This is a superstition held by a huge number of people, mostly because of the notorious “27 Club” — a club made up of famous musicians and artists (like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and others) that died at the age of 27 while carrying, you guessed it, a white lighter.
In the military, however, this superstition was given legs by a bad experience with an Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Rumor has it, the vehicle lost its brakes and went off a 100-foot cliff while one Marine carried a white lighter and another had a damn horseshoe. That horseshoe might have been good luck, but the lighter’s bad mojo was enough to disrupt the balance.
King Neptune doesn’t want to hear your sh*t.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Andrew Betting)
Neptune doesn’t like whistling
It’s a long-held belief in many cultures that whistling, especially at night, is an invitation to the spirits. There’s a home for this superstition in maritime tradition, too. Instead of spirits, however, the idea is that whistling will summon bad weather as it angers the King of the Sea.
So, if you find yourself on ship and you get the urge to whistle — don’t. Neptune seriously hates it.
When you hear the enemy eating apricots.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
A Stars Stripes article from 1968 explains a story surrounding Marines at Cua Viet who continuously found themselves under attack by enemy artillery barrages. What they started to notice, however, was that these barrages would start almost immediately after a Marine ate a can of apricots from their C-Rations.
Coincidence? You be the judge.
Maybe the “grandma’s couch” pattern wasn’t the best camouflage idea.
This superstition comes from the U.S. Army. If you look closely, you’ll see a pretty distinct key-shaped blotch within modern camouflage patterns. In what may be coincidence, several soldier took bullets right in the keys. It could just be that — coincidence — or it could be a deeper, like a spiritual omen.
Just don’t do it. Please.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.)
Saying the “R” word
You know the word. “Rain.”
Marines, soldiers, and anyone who has a job in the military that requires going outside believe that using the term will change the weather from anything to pouring rain. Infantry Marines will tell you that a bright and sunny day changes almost instantly when someone utters this word.
What’s worse is that it won’t stop until you head back to the barracks.