US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching - We Are The Mighty
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US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.


Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.

The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.

The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti

Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.

“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.

The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.

But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.

Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.

“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.

Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.

But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.

“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Vetpaw operates primarily in Limpopo, the northern-most province of South Africa (in red). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.

Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.

“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.

The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.

There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.

A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.

The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.

“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s Navy Day is wrecked by a landing craft accident

Russia celebrated its Navy Day on July 29, 2018, with a naval parade on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, a day of pomp and military power that Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.

The parade, which involved 40 warships, 38 aircraft, and about 4,000 troops, was unfolding when a Serna-class landing craft collided with a bridge. Oops.


The video below shows the Ivan Pas’ko going about 8 to 10 knots as it collides with the bridge, jolting and even knocking over some of the crew members who had been standing at attention.

It’s unclear how the incident happened, and there were no reports of injuries, but the bridge and ship were partially damaged, according to Defence Blog, which first reported it. Some egos were most likely scraped up as well.

The Russian navy “will get 26 new warships, boats and vessels, four of them equipped with Kalibr missiles,” Putin said during a speech at the parade, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

To be sure, Moscow has a history of making predictions about its new platforms that don’t always come to pass. For example, despite several claims to the contrary, Russia’s army is unlikely to be purchasing its new T-14 Armata tank anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the Russian navy appears to have just received a new capable-looking stealth frigate, the Admiral Gorshkov, the first of Moscow’s new class of stealth frigates.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US military should focus on the Taliban and not ISIS

A number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan towards the end of January 2018 were claimed by competing terrorist groups ISIS and the Taliban — putting the spotlight back on a country that has been at war for over a decade.


An attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 20 that killed at least 40 people and an ambulance bombing in Kabul on Jan. 27 that killed 103 were claimed by the Taliban.

An attack on Save the Children’s Jalalabad office on Jan. 24 that killed six people and an attack on Kabul’s military academy on Jan. 29 that killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers were claimed by ISIS’ Afghan branch — known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS has pushed to have a bigger presence in Afghanistan. The recent attacks, and the fact that ISIS-K has proven to be stubbornly resilient, have made some in the West more worried about the group.

Seth G. Jones, an expert on Afghanistan and a senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the Taliban and ISIS have been “at each other’s throats” since day one — but there is no question who the more threatening group is.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Michael “Doc” McNeely with the Georgian Liaison Team – a joint Coalition Patrol Team – carries one of the children whose life he helped save after a Taliban suicide bombing attack Nov. 22, 2017.  (DVIDS Image from Master Sgt. Sheryl Lawry)

“The Taliban is a much larger organization, controls roughly 10-12% of the population of Afghanistan, has conducted a lot more attacks, and has some support among Afghanistan’s conservative rural population,” Jones said.

“ISIS-K, on the other hand, is shrinking in size, controls virtually no territory, has conducted far fewer attacks, and has virtually no support among Afghanistan’s population.”

ISIS declares the ‘Khorasan Province’

ISIS first came to South Asia in 2014, using the group’s substantial funds and weak local governments to co-opt high-ranking members of the Pakistani Taliban and disaffected members of the Afghan Taliban.

But almost as soon as it was founded, ISIS-K began suffering losses, as they found themselves fighting the Pakistani and Afghani governments, the NATO Coalition, and the Taliban all at the same time.

Angry that ISIS had taken some of their members in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban hit back and essentially wiped out ISIS-K in Helmand and Farah provinces.

ISIS has also suffered major losses in its fight against the Afghan government in NATO. All three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) have been killed since the group was founded, and, according to Jones, their numbers have almost been halved since their founding.

ISIS-K is now more of a deadly nuisance than a strategic threat to Afghanistan.

“ISIS-K controls virtually nothing other than a small segment of territory. They’re not competing in any meaningful way,” Jones said. “It’s in a bad situation. It has got everybody against it.”

Jones said ISIS-K has been so surprisingly resilient because it mostly operates in parts of Nangarhar Province, particularly the Achin District, where neither the Taliban or the Afghan government have much control. Instead, the region is mostly controlled by local tribes and clans.

Jones believes, however, that ISIS-K will eventually become a transnational movement — forced to move into Pakistan or Bangladesh as operations against them continue.

Also Read: ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

“They’re down in numbers, it looks like they are down in recruitment, they’ve stuck around but it looks like under most accounts they are probably weakening,” he said.

Taliban remains the dominant jihadist force

All of this is in stark contrast to the Taliban,  where “there is absolutely no comparison,” according to Jones.

Recent reports suggest that the Taliban has tripled in size since 2014 to up to 60,000. This is compared to ISIS-K’s 1,000-2,000.

The Taliban have complete control of some areas in Afghanistan’s countryside, have their own court systems and governmental structures in place, a military structure based in Pakistan, and, according to a recent BBC report, threaten 70% of the country.

They also, as Jones points out, have support from state actors; most notably Pakistan and possibly even Russia.

ISIS-K and the Taliban are likely to continue attacks like the ones that plagued Afghanistan in January 2018. Those high-profile attacks are important because even though neither ISIS or the Taliban control any urban territory, they gain international media attention and put them in the spotlight.

Jones said the attacks “may give an impression that groups like the Taliban are omnipresent,” even though they are not. “That’s really a psychological impact.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

With the Islamic State group almost defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria and its territorial hold dramatically reduced, the terror group and its sympathizers continue to demonstrate their ability to weaponize the internet in an effort to radicalize, recruit and inspire acts of terrorism in the region and around the world.


Experts charge that the terror group’s ability to produce and distribute new propaganda has been significantly diminished, particularly after it recently lost the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital and media headquarters.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
ISIS fighters have been surrendering en masse after the fall of Raqqa.

But they warn that the circulation of its old media content and easy access to it on social media platforms indicates that the virtual caliphate will live on in cyberspace for some time, even as IS’s physical control ends.

“Right now we have such a huge problem on the surface web — and [it’s] really easy to access literally tens of thousands of videos that are fed to you, one after the other, [and] that are leading to radicalization,” Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College and adviser for the group Counter Extremism Project (CEP) in Washington, said Nov. 20.

Little headway

Speaking at a panel discussion about the rights and responsibilities of social media platforms in an age of global extremism at the Washington-based Newseum, Farid said the social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have tried to get radical Islamist content off the internet, but significant, game-changing results have yet to be seen.

Farid said social media companies are facing increasing pressure from governments and counterterrorism advocates to remove content that fuels extremism.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had developed new artificial intelligence programs to identify extremist posts and had hired thousands of people to monitor content that could be suspected of inciting violence.

Twitter also reported that it had suspended nearly 300,000 terrorism-related accounts in the first half of the year.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
February 15, 2015 – Libya: A group of 21 Egyptian Christians, who were seized by ISIS fighters while working in Libya, shown in a new video before they were purportedly killed. ISIS (Daesh), released a video claiming to have killed 21 Egyptian Christians who were captured in Libya. (News Pictures/Polaris)

YouTube on Nov. 20 said Alphabet’s Google in recent months had expanded its crackdown on extremism-related content. The new policy, Reuters reported, will affect videos that feature people and groups that have been designated as terrorists by the U.S. or British governments.

The New York Times reported that the new policy has led YouTube to remove hundreds of videos of the slain jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki lecturing on the history of Islam, recorded long before he joined al-Qaida and encouraged violence against the U.S.

The World Economic Forum’s human rights council issued a report last month, warning tech companies that they might risk tougher regulations by governments to limit freedom of speech if they do not stem the publishing of violent content by Islamic State and the spread of misinformation.

IS digital propaganda has reportedly motivated more than 30,000 people to journey thousands of miles to join IS, according to a report published by Wired, a magazine published in print and online editions that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy and politics.

An ongoing struggle

Experts say measures to restrict cyberspace for terrorist activities could prove helpful, but they warn it cannot completely prevent terror groups from spreading their propaganda online and that it will be a struggle for some time.

According to Fran Townsend, the former U.S. homeland security adviser, terrorist groups are constantly evolving on the internet as the new security measures force them onto platforms that are harder to track, such as encrypted services like WhatsApp and Telegram and file-sharing platforms like Google Drive.

Read Also: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

She said last month’s New York City attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, used Telegram to evade U.S counterterrorism authorities.

“This guy was on Telegram in ISIS chat rooms. He went looking for them, he was able to find them, and he was able to communicate on an encrypted app that evaded law enforcement,” Townsend said during the Nov. 20 panel on extremism at the Newseum.

U.S. officials said Saipov viewed 90 IS propaganda videos online, and more than 4,000 extremism related images were found on his cellphones, including instructions on how to carry out vehicular attacks.

As the crackdown increases on online jihadi propaganda, experts warn the desperate terror groups and their lone wolf online activists and sympathizers could aggressively retaliate.

Last week, about 800 school websites across the United States were attacked by pro-IS hackers. The hack, which lasted for two hours, redirected visitors to IS propaganda video and images of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Similar attacks were also reported in Europe, including last week’s hacking of MiX Megapil, a private radio station in Sweden where a pro-IS song was played for about 30 minutes.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Image from VOA.

A global response

Experts maintain that to counter online extremism and terrorism, there is a need for a coordinated international response as social media platforms continue to cross national borders and jurisdictions.

Last month, Facebook, Twitter, Google and the Group of Seven advanced economies joined forces against jihadi online propaganda and vowed to remove the content from the web within two hours of its being uploaded.

“Our European colleagues — little late to this game, by the way — have come into it in a big way,” Townsend said.

She said the U.S-led West had given more attention to physical warfare against IS at the expense of the war in cyberspace.

“We have been very proficient in fighting this in physical space. … But we were late in the game viewing the internet,” she said.

Townsend added that the complexity of the problem requires action even at the local level.

“The general public can be a force multiplier,” she said, adding, “As you’re scrolling through your feed and you see something … it literally takes 50 seconds for you to hit a button and tell Twitter, ‘This should not be here and it’s not appropriate content.’ And it will make a difference.”

Articles

Here are 64 restaurants offering veterans free food on Veterans Day

You’ve served your country, now these restaurants want to serve you. Check out the deals they’re offering, what you have to bring to prove your veteran status, and come on out (if you like what they’re offering).


US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Related: These 7 tips will make your free Veterans Day meal more epic

Please note that not all franchise restaurants participate in the Veterans Day program. Be sure to contact your nearest restaurant for participation.

1. 54th Street Grill: The Kansas City-based chain offers veterans and active duty military a free meal up to $12. Dine-in only.

2. Applebees: Applebee’s has a special Veterans Day menu built for veterans and active duty military members. Vets can choose one item from that menu.

3. Arooga’sAll veterans and troops will receive one complimentary item from a fixed menu at Arooga’s. Although there is no purchase necessary, Arooga’s Veterans Day offer is for dine-in only and drinks are not included.

4. Bar Louie: Veterans and active-duty military will get a free appetizer or entrée on Veterans Day.

5. BJ’s Restaurant: Active duty military and veterans receive a complimentary entree under $12.95 and $5 beers.

6. Bob Evans: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free meal of choice menu options. From Nov. 12 – Dec. 31, vets will get a 10 percent discount.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

7. Bonanza SteakhousesActive duty and retired military get a free buffet.

8. Bonefish GrillAll active and retired service members with a valid military ID will receive a complimentary Bang Bang Shrimp at all Bonefish Grill locations.

9. Bruegger’s BagelsVeterans and active duty military members get a free small drip coffee on Nov. 11 at participating locations.

10. Buffalo Wild Wings: Vets will get a complimentary order of wings and a side of fries to veterans and active-duty military. Must present acceptable proof of military service, which includes: permanent or temporary U.S. military ID cards, veteran’s card, a photograph of yourself in military uniform, or dine-in at a participating location in uniform.

11. California Pizza Kitchen: Veterans and active military receive a complimentary entrée from a special menu. Please come in uniform or bring your military ID or other proof of service.

12. Cattlemens:  The California chain offers active, inactive, and retired military personnel get a free Small Sirloin Steak Dinner.

13. CentraArchy Restaurants: Veterans and active duty service members get a free entrée and 25 percent off to their accompanied family and friends at participating restaurants.

14. Cheeseburger in Paradise: Active and retired military personnel receive a complimentary burger with fries.

15. Chevy’s Fresh MexAll active and retired military personnel can select one complimentary item from a special Veterans Day menu.

16. Chicken Salad Chick: Veterans get a free Original Chick (a meal including a chicken salad scoop or sandwich, side, pickle and cookie) along with a drink (no purchase necessary).

17. Chili’s: Veterans and active military service members get a free entrée from a limited menu.

18. Chuck E. Cheese’sActive and retired military members can receive a free individual one-topping pizza

19. Cracker Barrel: Veterans get a complimentary Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert during lunch and dinner. Must show proof of military service.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

20. Denny’s: Active, inactive and retired military personnel get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5 a.m. to noon at participating locations.

21. Famous Dave’s BBQFormer and current military personnel will receive a free Two Meat Combo.

22. FATZ Café: Veterans and active military get a free World Famous Calabash Chicken meal.

23. Fazoli’sVeterans get a free Build Your Own Pasta Bowl.

24. Figaro’s Pizza: Veterans and active duty service members get a complimentary medium 1-topping pizza.

25. Fogo de Chão: Veterans and active duty personnel will receive 50 percent off their meal and up to three additional guests will receive 10 percent off their meals.

26. Friendly’s: Vets and military personnel are offered a free Big-Two-Do breakfast or All American Burger (with fries and a beverage) during lunch or dinner.

27. Golden Corral: On Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Golden Corral offers a free sit-in “thank you” dinner for Military veterans, retirees, and active duty members.

28. Gordon Biersch: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free appetizer.

29. Green Mill Restaurant and Bar: Veterans and active duty military get a free meal.

30. Greene Turtle: Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a select menu.

31. Hooters: All active-duty and retired military to stop in for a free meal from the Hooters Veterans Day Menu by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location nationwide.

32. Hy-Vee:  The Midwestern Grocery chain is offering veterans and active duty military members a free breakfast buffet.

33. IHOPVeterans and active duty military get free Red, White, and Blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating locations.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
In case you were wondering.

 

34. IKEA: Veterans get a free entrée from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.

35. Krispy Kreme: Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut and small coffee to all veterans at participating locations.

36. Krystal: Active and retired military receive a free Krystal Sausage Biscuit from opening to 11:00 a.m.

37. Little Caesars: Veterans and active military members receive a free $5 Lunch Combo from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

38. Logan’s Roadhouse: In addition to the 10 percent military discount offered every day, military and former military guests will also receive a free dessert.

39. Longhorn Steakhouse: Offers a free appetizer or dessert (no purchase required, no restrictions) to anyone showing proof of military service, plus 10 percent off for guests that dine with Veterans on Nov. 11.

40. Max Erma’s: Participating Max Erma’s locations are offering veterans and active military personnel a free Best Cheeseburger in America.

41. Menchie’sAll active and retired military personnel will receive a free 6 ounce frozen yogurt.

42. Mission BBQ: Free sandwiches and cake for active duty military members and veterans at participating locations.

43. O’Charley’s:  Veterans and active duty service members get a free meal at any location on Nov. 11. Additionally, O’Charley’s offers a 10 percent military discount all year long.

44. Old Country Buffet: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink all day.

45. Olive GardenAll veterans and current service members get a free meal from a limited menu.

46. On the BorderVeterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo” menu.

47. Outback Steakhouse: All active and former service members receive a free Bloomin’ Onion and a beverage on Nov. 11. Outback is also offering active and former service members 15 percent off their meals Nov. 12 through Dec. 31.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

48. Panera Bread: A complimentary You-Pick-Two with military identification or if wearing their uniform to the participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton area.  For a complete list of participating bakery-cafes, click here.

49. Ponderosa Steakhouse: Active duty and retired military get a free buffet from 4 p.m. to close.

50. Red Hot Blue: Veterans receive a free entrée with the purchase of two drinks and a second entrée of equal or greater value on Nov. 9 through 11. Coupon required.

51. Red Lobster: Veterans, reserve, and active-duty military personnel receive a free appetizer or dessert from a limited menu on Nov. 10 and 11.

52. Red Robin: All veterans and active-duty military members will get a free Red’s Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries. No purchase is necessary. Just show proof of service.

53. Ruby Tuesday: All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value).

54. Ryan’s: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink.

55. Shoney’s: Shoney’s will offer a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty service members. Shoney’s also offers a 15 percent everyday hometown heroes discount (military, fire, Police, EMT).

56. Sizzler: Active duty and veteran military members get a free lunch and beverage from a limited menu until 4 p.m.

57. Spaghetti Warehouse: From Veterans Day to Nov. 13 buy one entrée and get the second entrée free. Coupon required,  download it here.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Red Lobster’s Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms.

58. Starbucks: Veterans, active duty service members and spouses get a free tall coffee at participating locations.

59. Texas Roadhouse: Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

60. TGIFridaysLunch is on the house for all active and retired U.S. military service members on Veterans Day. Those with military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

61. Twin Peaks: Active duty and veterans get a free menu item from the Annual Veterans Day Appreciation Menu.

62. Village InnFree INN-credible V.I.B. breakfast for veterans and active duty military. Valid on 4 INN-credible items: Cheese Omelette, Strawberry Crepe, Hickory-Smoked Bacon or French Toast.

63. Wienerschnitzel: Veterans and active duty military receive a free Chili Dog with a small fry and a 20-ounce drink.

64. World of Beer: A free select draught beer or $5 off your entire bill. Bring proof of military service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Team TORN gives back to the community with ‘hands-on’ charity event

We recently had the chance to attend a veterans’ charity event with a new non-profit upstart. We’ve previously covered the Team TORN training facility in Issue 37 and on RECOIL TV. Now they’ve started an organization for wounded veterans they’re calling the TORN Warriors Foundation. The owners of Team TORN are both veterans with decades of service to this country who were looking for a way to give back to their brothers and sisters in uniform.

Earlier this year, President Trump awarded the Purple Heart to Marine Corps Master Sergeant Clint Trial. Clint lost both of his legs in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan. The award ceremony went viral on social media specifically because it was all but deliberately ignored by mainstream media. Despite the ability of news moguls to pick and choose what they think is worthy of people’s attention, Clint’s family continues to persevere in the face of grave adversity. We had the chance to meet him, as well as a tight-knit group of other vets, at the event Team TORN hosted at their training facility.


US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The goal of TORN Warriors is to help wounded veterans recover and rehabilitate through outdoor activities to include shooting and off-road driving. Their school-house is uniquely set up to provide these opportunities in-house, and we were honored to be asked to assist with the effort.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Held over a three-day weekend, TORN Warriors’ inaugural event started on Friday night with a social call at the TORN Team House. We got the chance to speak with Team TORN owners and reps from some of the companies who pitched in to make this event possible, including gear manufacturer First Spear and Black Rifle Coffee. The mastermind of the Work Play Obsession podcast and MMA fighter Kelsey DeSantis were also present. The veterans themselves, including several combat amputees, got the chance to mingle with this network of supporters and tell their stories. We all got a brief overview of the Team TORN facility and had the chance to watch MSgt Trial take a few laps in the TORN Racing off-road rig. He will be riding shotgun in this rig for the Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno off-road race, Aug.16-18, 2019.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for range day. We started on the flat range, running a whole slew of different pistols and carbines, allowing the vets and their supporters to run guns side-by-side. We love a good reason to shoot guns just as much as anyone, but we were also able to capture a moment that encapsulates not only the TORN Warriors mindset, but the crux of what makes the veteran community — and those who support them — so special. Watching veterans literally hold each other up so that they can succeed is what organizations like this are all about. The range session ended with a shoot-off between the wounded vets, with the winner taking home a new Springfield XDm.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

After lunch, we went back out to the range. This time we were shooting longer-range targets from platforms, with combat vets both shooting and coaching to make sure everyone achieved repeat hits on steel out to nearly 500 yards. As part of the fundraising effort, TORN Warriors sold raffle tickets for a table full of prizes including everything from hoodies to custom pistols, some of which were handmade by veterans themselves. The drawing was live-streamed on the foundation’s social media, with all winning tickets being drawn straight from a prosthetic leg belonging to one of the vets on site.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Sunday morning had as back behind a long gun, running the Team TORN “Giffy Challenge” course. This rifle course is named in honor of fallen Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Gifford, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Afghanistan. This is a true run-and-gun course, with shooters having to navigate point-to-point across a high-altitude course of fire stretching over 7000 feet in elevation. There are no flat spots or shooting platforms. Every shot must be taken from field conditions against steel targets hidden in thick brush. While the course is often shot as a man-on-man exercise, we ran it in teams that once again paired vets with sponsors and supporters. The capstone event, after lunch, was a 20+ mile off-road ride that put us all on dirt bikes or in ATVs across open country.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

All in all, this was a fantastic experience and a true grassroots effort on the part of TORN Warriors. Their entire focus is going hands-on to help those among the veteran community who need it most. But make no mistake, those who are able to donate or support the effort absolutely have a place at the table here. Whether you are a veteran or a supporter of our nation’s defenders, TORN Warriors wants to get you involved in the action. If you are interested in trying to find a way to give back, please consider the TORN Warriors Foundation as a place to start. We know there are beaucoup organizations out there with similar missions, but the level of personal attention that this charity gives to both the veterans they serve and the companies who support them makes them worth a hard look.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is getting drones that fit in your pocket

Pocket-size drones are on their way to US Army soldiers, offering a better view of the battlefield and giving them a lethal edge over enemies.

The Army has awarded FLIR Systems a $39.6 million contract to provide Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones — next-level technology that could be a total game changer for US troops in the field — the company said in a recent press release.


US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

FLIR Black Hornet PRS.

(FLIR Systems)

The Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System

Measuring just 6.6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these “nano unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems” are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.

These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability day or night at a distance of up to 1.24 miles, covering ground at a max speed of 20 feet per second.

The “nearly silent” combat systems can provide constant covert coverage of the battlefield for almost a half hour, transmitting both live video and high-definition photographs back to the operator.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

FLIR Black Hornet PRS.

(FLIR Systems)

A life-saving tool for troops

FLIR said the drone’s ability to covertly detect and identify threats will save the lives of troops in combat.

Introducing the FLIR Black Hornet 3

www.youtube.com

The Army is looking at a number of technologies that will allow soldiers to spot and even fire on enemies without putting themselves in harm’s way, such as night vision goggles connected to an integrated weapons sight that allows troops to shoot from the hip and around corners with accuracy.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

FLIR Black Hornet PRS monitor.

(FLIR Systems)

On its way to troops

The new drones “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task and Purpose.

The drones will first be delivered to a single brigade combat team, but they will later be sent to platoons across the various brigade combat teams.

Deliveries will start early 2019 FLIR said in its recent press statement.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

It’s African-American History Month and a fitting time to recall the black soldiers of the New York National Guard’s 15th Infantry Regiment, who never got a parade when they left for World War I in 1917.

There were New York City parades for the Guardsmen of the 27th Division and the 42nd Division and the draftee soldiers of the 77th Division.


But when the commander of the 15th Infantry asked to march with the 42nd — nicknamed the Rainbow Division — he was reportedly told that “black is not a color of the rainbow” as part of the no.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Children wait to cheer the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment as they parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home. More than 2,000 Soldiers took part in the parade up Fifth Avenue. The Soldiers marched seven miles from downtown Manhattan to Harlem.

(National Archives)

But on Feb. 17, 1919, when those 2,900 soldiers came home as the “Harlem Hell Fighters” of the 369th Infantry Regiment, New York City residents, both white and black, packed the streets as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.

“Fifth Avenue Cheers Negro Veterans,” said the headline in the New York Times.

“Men of 369th back from fields of valor acclaimed by thousands. Fine show of discipline. Harlem mad with joy over the return of its own. ‘Black Death hailed as conquering hero'” headlines announced, descending the newspaper column, in the style of the day.

“Hayward leads heroic 369th in triumphal march,” the New York Sun wrote.

“Throngs pay tribute to the Heroic 15th,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.

“Theirs is the finest of records,” the New York Tribune wrote in its coverage of the parade. “The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Under fire for 191 days they never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground.”

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

For that day, the soldiers the French had nicknamed “Men of Bronze” were finally heroes in their hometown.

In the early 20th Century, black Americans could not join the New York National Guard. While there were African-American regiments in the Army there were none in the New York National Guard.

In 1916, New York Gov. Charles S. Whitman authorized the creation of the 15th New York Infantry to be manned by African-Americans — with white officers — and headquartered in Harlem where 50,000 of the 60,000 black residents of Manhattan lived in 1910.

When the New York National Guard went to war in 1917, so did the 15th New York. But when the unit showed up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to train, the soldiers met discrimination at every turn.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

New York City residents cram the sidewalks, roofs, and fire escape to see the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

To get his men out of South Carolina, Col. William Hayward, the commander, pushed for his unit to go to France as soon as possible. So in December 1917, well before most American soldiers, the men from Harlem arrived in France.

At first they served unloading supply ships.

But the French Army needed soldiers and the U.S. Army was ambivalent about black troops. So the 15th New York, now renamed the 369th Infantry, was sent to fight under French command, solving a problem for both armies.

In March 1918, the 369th was in combat. And while the American commander, Gen. John J. Pershing, restricted press reports on soldiers and units under his command, the French Army did not.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

When Pvt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts won the French Croix de Guerre for fighting off a German patrol it was big news in the United States. A country hungry for war news and American heroes discovered the 369th.

The 369th was in combat for 191 days; never losing a position, never losing a man as a prisoner, and only failing once to gain an objective. Their unit band, led by famed bandleader James Europe, became famous across France for playing jazz music.

When the 369th arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Feb. 10, 1919, the New York City Mayor’s Committee of Welcome to the Homecoming Troops began planning the party.

On Monday, Feb. 17, the soldiers traveled by ferry from Long Island and landed at East 34th Street.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Sgt. Henry Johnson waves to well-wishers during the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

They marched up Fifth Avenue and passed a reviewing stand that included Gov. Al Smith and Mayor John Hylan at Sixtieth Street. The official parade route would cover more than seven miles from 23rd Street to 145th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem.

“The negro soldiers were astonished at the hundreds of thousands who turned out to see them and New Yorkers, in their turn, were mightily impressed by the magnificent appearance of these fighting men,” the New York times reported.

“Swinging up the avenue, keeping a step spring with the swagger of men proud of themselves and their organization, their rows of bayonets glancing in the sun, dull-painted steel basins on their heads, they made a spectacle that might justify pity for the Germans and explain why the boches gave them the title of the “Blutdurstig schwartze manner” or “Bloodthirsty Black men,” the Times reporter wrote.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Wounded Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment are driven up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

Lt. James Reese Europe marched with his band, the New York Tribune noted, while Sgt. Henry Johnson, who had killed four Germans and chased away 24 others, rode in a car because he had a “silver plate in his foot as a relic of that memorable occasion.”

“He stood up in the car and clutched a great bouquet of lilies an admirer had handed him,” the Tribune wrote about Johnson. “Waving this offering in one hand and his overseas hat in the other, the ebony hero’s way up Fifth Avenue was a veritable triumph.”

“Shouts of ‘Oh you Henry Johnson’ and ‘Oh you Black Death,’ resounded every few feet for seven long miles followed by condolences for the Kaiser’s men,” the New York Times reported.

Along the route of the march soldiers were tossed candy and cigarettes and flowers, the newspapers noted. Millionaire Henry Frick stood on the steps of his Fifth Avenue mansion and waved an American flag and cheered as the men marched past.

When the 369th turned off Fifth Avenue onto Lennox Avenue for the march into Harlem the welcome grew even louder, the New York Sun reported.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

“There were roars of welcome that made all the music of the day shrink into itself,” the Sun reporter wrote. And although the 369th Band had 100 musicians nobody could hear the music above the crowd noise, the reporter added.

People crammed themselves onto the sidewalk and into the windows of the buildings along the route to see their soldiers come home.

“Thousands and thousands of rattlesnakes, the emblem of the 369th, each snake coiled, ready to strike, appeared everywhere, in buttonholes, in shop windows and on banners carried by the crowd,” the New York Times reported.

“By the time the men reached 135th Street they were decorated with flowers like brides, husky black doughboys plunking along with bouquets under their arms and grins on their faces that one could see to read by,” the Sun reported.

At 145th Street the parade came to its end and families went looking for their soldiers.

“The fathers and mothers and wives and sweethearts of the men would no longer be denied and they swooped through police lines like water through a sieve,” the Sun wrote.

“The soldiers were too well trained to break ranks but when a mother spied her son and threw her arms around his neck with joy at getting him back again, he just hugged her off her feet,” the paper wrote.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The color guard of the 369th Infantry Regiment parades up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

With the parade over, the men were guided into subway cars and headed to the Park Avenue Amory, home of the 71st Regiment, for a chicken dinner and more socializing. The regimental band, which had begun playing at 6 a.m. and performed all day, finally got a break during the dinner and the men lay down to rest.

The New York Times noted that the band boasted five kettle drums presented to the unit by the French Army “as a mark of esteem.” They also had a drum captured from a German unit that had been “driven back so rapidly that they lost interest in bulky impedimentia.”

The New York Times estimated that 10,000 people waited outside the armory and “all the spaces about the Armory were packed with negro women and girls.” The soldiers inside ate quickly and came back out to find their families.

“I saw the allied parade in Paris and thought that was about the biggest thing that had ever happened, but this had it stopped,” Lt. James Reese Europe, the band’s commander, told the New York Sun reporter as the party ran down.

MIGHTY MONEY

5 GI Bill rates that will increase this year

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the Post-9/11 GI Bill rates for the 2019-2020 school year. These rates will be effective on Aug. 1, 2019. The Montgomery GI Bill and Dependents’ Education Assistance programs will see a rate change on Oct. 1, 2019.

By law, the GI Bill rate increase is tied to the average cost increase of undergraduate tuition in the U.S. For the 2019-2020 school year, that increase will average 3.4%.

More than 80 percent of those taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits are doing so through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.


Private & foreign school GI Bill rates

Effective Aug. 1, 2019, those using the Post-9/11 GI Bill at a private or foreign school will see their maximum yearly GI Bill rate increase from ,671.94 to ,476.79.

Flight training

Those who are enrolled in flight schools will see their annual maximum GI Bill benefit increase from ,526.81 to ,986.72.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron returns to a training mission after refueling March 27, 2012, over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth)

Licensing/certification/national testing

You can be reimbursed up to ,000 per test for licensing and certification tests. For national testing programs, there is no maximum amount of GI Bill reimbursement. Your entitlement will be charged one month for every ,042.06 spent; currently, that trigger point is id=”listicle-2634152786″,974.91.

Correspondence courses

You can be reimbursed the actual net costs, not to exceed ,888.70 annually. That’s up from ,497.78 currently.

Monthly housing allowance

The Monthly Housing Allowance is also scheduled to change on Aug. 1, 2019.

If you are attending classroom sessions, your housing allowance is based on the ZIP code of the campus location where you attend the majority of your classes.

If you are attending classes at a foreign school, not on a military base, your maximum housing allowance will be id=”listicle-2634152786″,789.00. This is prorated based on the length of your active-duty service and how many classes you are taking.

If you attend all your classes online, your maximum housing allowance will be 4.50. This is also prorated.

Keep up with your education benefits

Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

In grand finale, Russia tests massive ICBM during European wargames

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on September 20th that it had successfully tested one of its newest intercontinental ballistic missiles.


The solid-fuel RS-24 YARS ICBM can be equipped with a nuclear warhead and was fired from Plesetsk and reached the Kura range site in Kamchatka Krai, the ministry of defense said.

“All … tasks have been fully accomplished,” the ministry of defense said.

The distance between the Plesetsk Cosmodrome and the Kura test range in Kamchatka Krai is more than 5,000 miles.

The launch was done in conjunction with the Zapad-2017 war game exercises, which Russia completed Wednesday, according to The National Interest.

Russia also test fired a silo-based YARS ICBM with an “experimental warhead” on Sept. 12, according to TASS, while Wednesday’s launch was from a mobile unit.

“It is not clear what these new ‘experimental’ Russian reentry vehicles (RV) are,” The National Interest reported, adding that it’s possible that it was a maneuvarable reentry vehicle designed to allude missile defense systems.

Despite Russia signing the New START Treaty with the US in 2010, which limited the number of nuclear warheads both countries could build, Moscow continues to increase its stockpile, according to Defense One.

“The aggregate data shows that Russia has continued to increase its deployed strategic warheads since 2013 when it reached its lowest level of 1,400 warheads. Russian strategic launchers now carry 396 warheads more,” Hans M. Kristensen, of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, wrote last year, according to Defense One.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
The RS-24 YARS ICBM from Russia travels through the streets on it’s first night rehearsal in Moscow in 2015. (Image Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Here’s what the RS-24 YARS ICBM can do.

  • Russia began developing the three-stage solid-propellant RS-24 YARS ICBM in 2004. It was first tested in 2007, and entered service in 2010.
  • The YARS was first launched from mobile launcher vehicles, but as of 2014, it can be fired from silos.
  • It’s equipped with 3 MIRV nuclear warheads, each with a payload of 2,647 pounds. A MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) is a ballistic missile with multiple warheads, all capable of hitting different targets.
  • Each warhead carries about 150-200 kT of energy.
  • The YARS has a maximum range of just over 6,500 miles and a minimum range of over 1,240 miles.
  • The diameter of the first-stage is believed to be about 6.5 feet. The second-stage is about 5.9 feet and the third-stage is about 5.25 feet.
  • It’s believed to be over 68 feet long.
  • It’s launch weight is believed to be nearly 109,350 pounds.
  • And it’s also believed to have a newer reentry vehicle that can elude missile defense systems.
Articles

China’s airpower may overtake the US Air Force by 2030

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
China’s J-20 stealth fighter | YouTube


In a stark assessment, the US Air Force chief-of-staff warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be poised to overtake the US Air Force by 2030.

On March 2, General Mark Welsh told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that currently it is estimated that the US has a “couple thousand more aircraft” than China, The National Interest reports.

The PLAAF is larger than the US Air Force in terms of personnel, and that size will be represented by the number of aircraft China has in the coming years.

“At the rate they’re building, the models they’re fielding, by 2030 they will have fielded—they will have made up that 2,000 aircraft gap and they will be at least as big—if not bigger—than our air forces,” Welsh told the subcommittee.

More importantly than just the number of aircraft and personnel in the PLAAF, though, is Beijing’s trend of acquiring and successfully fielding more and more advanced weapons systems. This drive by the PLAAF will also shrink the commanding technological advantage that the US currently holds over China.

“We are not keeping up with that kind of technology development,” Welsh said. “We are still in a position of—we will have the best technology in the battlespace especially if we can continue with our current big three modernization programs.”

Welsh also went on to warn that China “will have a lot of technology that’s better than the stuff we’ve had before.”

China is currently constructing prototypes for two different fifth-generation fighters that are specifically tailored to different mission sets. It’s J-20 is thought to be making quick development progress, while it’s J-31 is believed to be the equal of the F-35 due to espionage and Chinese theft of trade secrets.

Additionally, China is also developing a stealth drone as well as seeking to buy Russia’s highly capable Su-35S fighter aircraft.

All these measures taken together will cumulatively make China a significantly more capable military force that could project its will against US protest across East Asia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An American citizen fighting for ISIS has been captured in Syria

An American-born ISIS fighter has been captured in Syria by Kurdish forces, Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast report.


The Beast report cited multiple US military spokespersons as being “aware of reports” that a US citizen was captured, while a source familiar with the situation told the site the unnamed fighter had “surrendered.”

US military officials confirmed the capture to CNN and Fox News. CNN’s Ryan Browne reported the American was in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the US-backed militia spearheading the push into the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. Photo from SDF via Facebook.

“We are aware of that report,” a State Department spokesperson told Business Insider, referring to The Daily Beast. “We have no information to share at this time.”

A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military-led coalition leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

This would not be the first case of an American being captured while fighting for the terror group. Mohamed Khweis, 27, originally from Virginia, joined the group and later surrendered to Kurdish authorities in 2016, according to NBC News. He was later convicted of providing material support to ISIS and faces a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.

Articles

This Navy SEAL will help Americans catch ‘The Runner’ and win thousands in cash

Imagine attempting to make your way across the United States with the entirety of America and the Internet on the lookout for you. Now imagine there are a million dollars at stake: a half-million for the Chase Teams after you and almost a half-million for you if you can evade capture. These are the stakes for “The Runner,” an original series available on go90 and AOL.com and perhaps the most innovate audience-participation reality competition ever devised.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kcm78cj3Dw
“This new show is the most participatory, the most fun, and most exciting to watch,” says Vice News’ Kaj Larsen, a former Navy SEAL and one of the hosts of “The Runner.” “I think the really amazing part is that the audience has buy-in, all puns intended, in a fundamentally different way.”

The rules of the game seem complex, but in practice, they’re really very simple. One chosen Runner will attempt to cross the U.S. in thirty days, trying to go unnoticed through predetermined checkpoints by any means necessary. Meanwhile, five two-person teams of “chasers” will receive clues on mobile devices in an effort to track the Runner before the next checkpoint can be reached.

Kaj Larsen is just one of the hosts. He checks in on the progress of the Runner and the Chase Teams’ locations. His co-host, Mat “MatPat” Patrick, a YouTube star and self-proclaimed “Information Addict,” will ensure everyone understands how “The Runner” is played and what is currently happening in the game.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
CNN correspondent Kaj Larsen films a documentary segment in front of the sail of the attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) after the submarine surfaced through the ice in the Arctic Ocean during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ed Early)

“I’m really the boots on the ground guy,” says Larsen. “My role is to help the audience understand exactly what’s happening with the game of cat and mouse going on between the chasers and the runner. I’ll be watching the Chase Teams working towards their challenges. I’m the tactical, kinetic element.”

“The Runner” uses a proprietary technology that allows the Chase Teams to geotag The Runner within five feet. This is how they “capture” the Runner. Their reward starts at $15,000 and goes up every second of every day of game play, up to a half million dollars. The more the Runner evades the Chase Teams, the more money he gets. The chase teams are given a new challenge every day, a challenge both cerebral and physical which will give them clue to the Runner’s movements.

“We cast a really wide net in trying to find people who had interesting, diverse skill sets that could be applicable to hunting the Runner,” says Larsen. “For example, two guys known as Brother Nature, they’re a group of surfer kids from Hawaii with a large social following.”

That social media following actually matters in this game because their built-in audience will help them crowdsource the answers to these clues. “The Runner” is a more than a game for just the Runner and the Chase Teams. It’s a live game for everyone on the internet. Viewers on social networks will have the opportunity to help interpret the clues for the Chase Teams and get their own cash prize. $15,000 is awarded to viewers every day with a $20,000 bonus to the most socially active viewer.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

“The stakes are really high,” Larsen says. “But it’s a really fun game and Verizon is the perfect platform, given how exciting it is to play on mobile. The more people who play, the more exciting it is and the more money can be won.”

The show is the result of a decade and a half of collaboration and development between Executive Producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. It really is groundbreaking – From the core concept to the technology used to track the competitors to the inclusion of the nationwide audience, what we can expect is something truly unique.

“The truth is when Matt and Ben conceived it, the idea was so innovative that the technology didn’t really exist to make it work,” says Larsen. “That’s changed over the last decade. The ability to crowd-source, to use social media to unlock the clues, and to play the gamification side of the game, that’s all here and ready for prime time.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQt90iKs-a4
The Runner launches July 1st, 2016 on go90 and AOL.com. Don’t expect to just be voting every week for an idol or waiting for the show to return from a commercial break to find the outcomes of a segment. “The Runner” features real-time video and three episodes daily, including a recap of the previous day, live updates, current standings, and performance analyses.

“It’s exciting and different,” Larsen says. “We’re getting into new, super-competitive territory. I love competition in any form, but for me, it’s an easy day. I can’t wait to watch these teams compete.”

Access go90 by simply downloading the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Learn more about The Runner at therunner.go90.com

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