Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.
An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.
This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.
This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”
Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.
He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.
“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”
Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.
Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.
“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”
Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.
“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”
As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.
“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.
On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.
“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”
The line of cocaine the Air Force and Joint Interagency Task Force-South seized last month in the Caribbean would stretch “from the Pentagon to the center of Philadelphia.”
The Air Force’s top civilian shared that detail with reporters Wednesday when describing how the service is working harder to train pilots in the Southern hemisphere while aiding the global anti-drug war.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service is looking for ways to use more assets in the Southern Command region that would be “of training benefit to our forces, but also contributing to counter drug and counter transnational crime commission.”
“The idea of all of this was to see if we could get more of a double ‘bang for your buck,’ ” James said at a Pentagon briefing.
And during a five-day training operation, they did.
Led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, commander of the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, the service and the Key West, Florida-based task force seized 6,100 kilograms (13,448 pounds) of cocaine between Aug. 22-26, James said.
The large-scale air operation in the Caribbean included a number of U.S. aircraft, including HC-130s, DH-8s, B-1Bs, B-52s, AWACS, JSTARS, Global Hawks, KC-135s and KC-10s, James said. Space and cyber assets “were also brought into the mix,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.
The use of airpower as well as the other partners in the interagency effort led to the seizure of as much as $500 million worth of the cocaine and the arrest of 17 drug traffickers by appropriate authorities, James said.
In March, a B-1B Lancer flew a low pass over a drug smuggling boat in the Caribbean Sea, prompting those onboard to dump 500 kilos of cocaine into the deep blue.
The secretary visited command units in April to discuss the potential for more training operations in Latin America.
Melissa Stockwell has another busy day at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where she’ll swim, run, bike, and go through strength training for hours on end.
Then, like most moms, it’s a rush to fit in as much family time with her husband and 2- and 4-year-old children as the clock allows: pick up the kids, take them to swim lessons, grab dinner, read them a story, and get them tucked into bed.
In between, she might send an inspirational photo or tweet to her 7,000-plus social media followers.
It’s not just the mom-athlete thing that makes Stockwell special.
She does it all with one leg.
Stockwell was an Army officer in Iraq when she lost her left leg in a roadside bomb. She competed in swimming in the 2008 Paralympic Games, won the bronze medal in triathlon for the 2016 Games, and is currently training with hopes of making the U.S. team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
And people think she’s pretty rad.
Melissa Stockwell shows her Purple Heart certificate while still recovering in the hospital. She said there were others in the hospital worse off than her, so she didn’t feel sorry for herself.
“To the mailman who yelled out ‘you’re an American badass’ as I was on #6/10 of my hill repeats, thank you. You sure lit that fire for the last 4,” she tweeted out Aug. 16, 2019.
“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days. I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.” — Melissa Stockwell, discussing her recovery after losing her leg in Iraq
Stockwell is just as likely to post a video of herself training in the gym, a poolside photo with her prosthetic leg, or a poignant goodbye letter to her service dog, Jake, she lost last year. Plus, there are plenty of posts about her children and mom life.
“I just saw a mom grocery shopping with 2 sets of twins, and another boy who all looked to be under 6 years old. If I ever get overwhelmed with momming for two, I’ll remember her. Her and my sister with 5 kids. Ah, perspective… ” she tweeted recently.
Or this inspirational burst first thing in the day: “This morning I took a moment to look around and just appreciate being alive. Take some time to do that today, it’s a day changer.”
Army Veteran Melissa Stockwell typically posts photos of herself and her love of the American flag on her Twitter feed. “This is me,” she said. “This is the beauty of America.”
“I’m proud of our country, that’s all,” she said. “This is me. This is the beauty of America. We all get to think and choose what we want, whether or not we agree on what everyone says or how they express it. I’m going to choose to express myself this way, but that’s the beauty of our country.”
Whatever she posts, she said, it’s not for ego.
“I do the things in my life because I enjoy them,” Stockwell said. “I like to be busy. I like having dreams. I don’t do anything to impress anybody. I guess I do it so I can inspire someone else — if not for those who came before me, but those who came after who can think, ‘I can do this, also.’
“Look, I have hard days, too,” she added. “Not everyone is perfect. I post pictures of my kids and dreams because that makes it more real. If someone is having a hard day and sees my posts, maybe they’re a mom, maybe they’re having trouble with their kids, I want to inspire them that there’s always tomorrow.”
That’s pretty much been her attitude since April 13, 2004, when she lost her leg.
“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days,” she said. “I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.”
Melissa Stockwell fits a lot into her day between family life and training. She posts regularly about her life for more than 7,000 followers on Twitter.
Getting into adaptive sports
Despite countless surgeries and infections, she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg 52 days after getting injured. Stockwell started adaptive sports and hasn’t looked back. She focused on the Paralympics after meeting fellow athlete and veteran John Register in 2005. She made the 2008 team, but didn’t medal.
“I learned that in life, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination,” she wrote on her web site. “And as I carried that American flag into that sold out Bird’s Nest Stadium at the closing ceremony, I had never been so proud. A proud American. And a proud Paralympian.”
Her friend, Keri Serota, said the Melissa Stockwell people see online, is the same in person.
“You know, I think what she does is amazing,” Serota said. “It’s hard not to be motivated, moved and inspired by Melissa. I always considered myself a proud American, but I learned more about what that means from Melissa. She makes you pause and realize what it means to be an American and why we have that freedom.
“But she’s also my best friend and I get to spend a lot of time with her and she has no ego. It’s this relatability. She has been in the room with all the living presidents, but she doesn’t take that for granted or have an ego about it. It’s very much Melissa. She can be with President Bush one day and buying ice cream for her kids the next day. She shares all of it — the highlights, lowlights, successes and losses. People, whether they know her or not, have that relationship with her because she is so impressive and exciting, but humble and grateful.”
She first met Bush after he invited her and other wounded Veterans to his ranch, and got to dance with him, a moment caught in an iconic photo shared around the world. She also gave the Pledge of Allegiance at his library opening.
“He’s amazing,” she said of the former president. “He is accountable for the actions taken while he was in office, and he has always gone above and beyond to show he has not forgotten the lives he impacted. I think that’s wonderful. That’s a pretty great man.”
Besides training, she also started the nonprofit Dare2Tri along with Serota and another friend, and signed endorsement deals with Toyota and Under Armour.
Back on the home front, beyond the training center and social media spotlight, Stockwell focuses on raising her son, Dallas, born in 2014; and daughter, Millie, born in 2017.
Melissa Stockwell posted a tweet of thanks to Barbie after her daughter got a doll with a prosthetic leg for her birthday.
“Sometimes I forget she is an amputee,” said her husband, Brian Tolsma. “She doesn’t let it define her, and she is so driven and motivated. She does a lot of things people with two legs can’t do.
“But it always goes back to the kids for me,” he said. “I know the regiment she does during the day, beating up her body daily to get faster, to reach that goal. Then she comes home and it’s just an abundance of energy and patience with the kids. She’s always going, and always has time for the kids, always coming up with new activities. That’s the most impressive thing about her.”
Millie recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. She received a Barbie Doll with a prosthetic leg from Serota, which also made its way to Stockwell’s Twitter page.
“It just shows kids we are just like anybody else,” she said. “Why can’t we have parties and dolls? Kids can play with them and see we are normal, no different,” Stockwell said.
And that’s why she doesn’t mind posting photos online or showing off her red, white and blue, American-themed prosthetic in public.
“If I can educate, I will,” she added. “I am proud to have worn the uniform. I’m proud of how I lost my leg. Plus, it’s really cool to look at. Technology has come so far, even in the past 10, 15 years. Veterans are coming back home and they’re young, they’re active.
“They’re going to continue to help advance the field of prosthetics because they aren’t going to take no for an answer.”
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
On June 25, 1950 all-out war broke out when Communist North Korea invaded Capitalist South Korea after a series of clashes on the border. The devastation was insurmountable and the war has never officially ended between the two nations, even after a UN enforced partition along the 38th parallel. Kim Il-sung shut his nation from the world and established a cult of personality every despot could only dream of having. His nation either feared him because of his iron fist or worshiped him as a god-king.
Sidestepping entirely away from American politics and news outlets, the Korean Central News Agency is so fake even your gullible relative who falls for every Onion or Duffle Blog article would shake their head.
Once you’ve gone on air and state that “unicorns exist and are North Korean” or that “the North Korean famine has ended because Kim invented the hamburger,” your journalistic integrity flies out the window.
4. Their “history” and text books
History is always written by the winners, right? It also helps when you close yourself off from the rest of the world so no one can fact check every bullsh*t claim you make.
The lies even slide into math problems for their kids. Such as: During the Fatherland Liberation War, the brave uncles of Korean People’s Army killed 265 American imperialist bastards in the first battle. In the second battle, they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many American imperialist bastards did they kill altogether?
3. Film and television
The state news isn’t the only thing that is slathered with anti-Americanisms. Surprisingly enough, they have a full-fledged film industry that is either Anti-West or a cheap knockoff of something Japanese. In 1985, the North Koreans kidnapped a South Korean film director and forced him to make Pulgasari — an over the top knockoff of Godzilla set in feudal Korea. The link to watch it on YouTube with subtitles is right here, but be warned. It’s bad. Not like, The Room, where it’s so absurd it’s hilarious. Pulgasari is just… bad…
Keeping up with the indoctrination of children…holy crap are their cartoons ridiculous. One such cartoon is about how even you can help fight the American imperialist wolves (because we somehow get depicted as wolves a lot. Which is cool with me. Wolves are cool.) by learning to use a protractor and a compass to launch missiles at us.
But what about the youngsters eager to play video games like their South Korean cousins? Well. There’s “Hunting Yankee.”
This supposedly “very popular” game with graphics on the same level as a Playstation One puts you in the role of sniper and you shoot Americans. Yep. That’s it. Game of the Year quality content right there.
1. Staged photos
Of course everything is alright! There are photos that prove things aren’t bad in North Korea!
Almost every photo of Kim Jong-un touring his country that the previously mentioned state media runs is laughable. Sure, he and his cronies are laughing and enjoying themselves, but not a single soul outside of the regime seems to have an actual smile.
*Bonus* Boasting that they can stand a chance against America
Let’s just look at the stats for a quick second from what was considered the 5th greatest military in 1990, Iraq. They had the numbers, they had the skill and experience, they had the funding, they had the tech and then they messed with a nation we are cool with, Kuwait. America wafflestomped their asses in about four weeks.
Sure. North Korea boasts an impressive number of infantrymen; however, they’re malnourished and diseased, untrained, and under-equipped. Their planes, armor, and artillery are well over sixty years old. Their military consists of defectors, meaning they’re not willing to fight. And to top it all off, South Korea (North Korea’s main target) is America’s closest friend.
For centuries, friends and foes of Russia marveled at the fierce fighting skills of their Cossack Warriors. The Cossacks fought to defend the Russian Czar against any manner of enemies – from Ottoman Turks to Napoleon’s Grande Armée, through a World War, and even against the Bolshevik Red Army.
They expanded the borders of the Russian Empire, conquering Siberia and the Caucasus regions for the Czar, all the way to the Bering Sea – capturing one-sixth of the Earth’s land area. Their martial prowess was unmatched in the region for a long time and they refused to be tied to any master. Even the name “Cossack” in the Turkic languages of the time and area meant “free,” “adventurer,” or “wanderer.”
Cossack loyalty to the Russian Czar was earned over centuries of fighting to maintain that independence. Many Czars were faced with Cossack uprisings and were forced to deal with them in their own ways, from putting down the rebellion or forcibly moving the population to another area of the Russian Empire.
From a young age, Cossacks raised their children to be elite warriors and ethnically Cossack in every way possible. Training could begin in infancy and only ever stop in an actual pitched battle.
Eventually, the Russian nobility came to accept the Cossacks, endowing them with certain rights and privileges in the Empire for their continued service in defending Russia’s borders. And they earned those rights, too. After his Grand Armée was forced out of Russia, the Cossacks harassed them all the way back to France. It was the Cossacks who captured Paris and unseated the French Emperor.
When the Empire fell during World War I and the Czar abdicated, the Cossacks were divided between the Red and White factions of the Russian Civil War. They fought primarily for the White (anti-Communist) Russians, which earned them persecution when the Bolsheviks won the war and founded the Soviet Union.
The persecution got so bad, many Cossacks fought for Nazi Germany during WWII.
The US has reportedly made a bold move in countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea by flying B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over disputed islands — and it shows how the US and China may rapidly be approaching a showdown.
“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping swore at the White House with former President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the islands, and continues to claim the islands have not been militarized despite the obvious presence of military equipment.
“The placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” said Mattis.
The B-52s reportedly flew within 20 miles of the Spratly Islands, which China claims for itself and has built military facilities on. But Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan also claim the islands, and China has repeatedly made a show of refusing to let international courts settle the matter.
The US has a lot of experience taking down small islands
(U.S. Navy photo)
Earlier in June 2018, a top US general asserted the US military’s power to act against threats to international order, saying “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”
In another rhetorical shift, the US military renamed its Pacific command “Indo-Pacific command” to emphasize India and advance a vision of the Pacific not dominated by China.
The Thai boys saved from a flooded cave endured dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour. In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the U.S. contingent involved in the operation, calling it a “once in a lifetime rescue.”
Derek Anderson, a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, said the dozen boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks before being rescued, were “incredibly resilient.”
“What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive,” Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview on July 11, 2018.
The scale of the challenge confronting rescuers from Thailand, Britain, Australia and other countries only truly dawned on the U.S. team after it arrived at the cave in the early hours of June 28, 2018, as rain poured down on the region in northern Thailand. The Thai government had requested U.S. assistance.
“The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out,” said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador.
“That was just in the very beginning of the cave and at that point we realized this problem is going to be much more complex than we thought,” he said.
Thailand’s decision to dive the boys out despite their weak condition and lack of diving experience was made when a window of opportunity was provided by relatively mild weather. A massive operation to pump water out also meant air pockets were created at crucial points of the cave, making a rescue possible.
Falling oxygen levels, risk of sickness and the imminent prospect of more rain flooding the cave complex for months meant “the long-term survivability of the boys in the cave was becoming a less and less feasible option,” Anderson said.
Divers practiced their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in the cave.
The aim, Anderson said, was to make each of the boys “tightly packaged” so divers could keep control of them and adjust their air supply as needed. The process lasted hours for each boy, and involved them getting through long passageways barely bigger than an adult body.
Buoyancy compensators that establish neutral buoyancy underwater, hooded wetsuits, bungee cords and special face masks were carried by divers to the cramped patch of dry elevated ground where the boys were huddled.
The positive pressure masks were “really crucial,” Anderson said. Their use meant that even if a boy panicked — perhaps because of getting snagged in a narrow passage — and got water inside his mask, the pressure would expel it.
The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on July 8, 2018, when four were extracted. Four more were brought out on July 9, 2018, and the operation ended July 10, 2018, with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.
The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world — from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.
The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.
Initial attempts to locate the boys were twice unsuccessful because the force of cold hypothermia-inducing floodwaters rushing into narrow passages made them unpassable. Even as conditions improved, and divers began laying life-saving rope guidelines through the cave, it was perilous.
“In this type of cave diving, you have to lay line, rope, that’s your lifeline. You have to ensure when you go in you have a way out,” Anderson said. “They were making progress, but it was very little progress and they were exhausting themselves spending maybe five or six hours and covering 40 or 50 meters (yards).”
There were about a hundred people inside the cave for each rescue operation, Anderson said, and each boy was handled by dozens of people as their perilous movement through a total of nine chambers unfolded.
In some phases they were guided by two divers. In some narrow passages they were connected to only one diver. In caverns with air pockets they were “floated” through with the support of four rescuers. Some sections were completely dry but treacherously rocky or deep.
“We had to set up rope systems and high-lines to be able to safely put them in a harness and bring them across large open areas so they wouldn’t have to go all the way down,” Anderson said.
Cylinders placed at locations throughout the cave for replenishing the boys’ air supply were “jammed” with 80 percent oxygen instead of regular air because “that would plus up their oxygen saturation levels and that would be really good for them, their mental state,” he said.
“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue that I think has never been done before,” Anderson said. “We were extremely fortunate that the outcome was the way it was. It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together.”
“If you lose your cool in an environment like that, there is a lot of bad repercussions,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Years of war have rendered Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) service members with severe physical, mental and emotional scars that will likely impact them throughout their lives. The financial implications and consequences of these scars are well documented and can affect all aspects of their lives and lives of their family members to include housing, employment, and their financial well-being.
The PenFed Foundation’s Military Heroes Fund provides wounded veterans, military families, and caregivers with financial assistance and support that the Veterans Administration cannot offer due to budgetary and regulatory restrictions. These unmet needs are identified by VA advocates, National Guard case workers, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, and non-profit referral partners.
The Military Heroes Fund has two components:
Emergency financial assistance for OIF/OEF wounded warriors and their families facing short-term financial difficulties.
Family and Caregiver Transition Support
Child Care support provided for families of the wounded OIF/OEF families while receiving outpatient care at a VA medical facility, family visits, doctor visits, job-related.
Short term training or education expenses for job certification, licensure requirements and/or course materials such as course books technology fees, etc.
In-home health care for injured veteran to support caregiver respite needs.
The Military Heroes Fund gives grants to wounded veterans who:
Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
Have been wounded, ill or injured during your OIF/OEF service
Have received an Honorable discharge
Are facing a financial emergency which is short-term
Can provide a DD214 and VA Disability Rating Certification or have one in progress
Can help us confirm your status by being referred by your Army Wounded Warrior advocate (AW2), Recovery Care coordinator (RCC), VA doctor or social worker, or another nonprofit advocacy organization
The Military Heroes Fund also gives grants to caregivers who:
Are a Family member and/or caregiver of an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veteran
Can provide a DD214 and VA Disability Rating Certification for veteran, or have one in progress
Send copy of invoice or estimate for requested services from a licensed/certified individual, institution, or facility on official letterhead
Can help us confirm your status by being referred by your Army Wounded Warrior advocate (AW2), Recovery Care coordinator (RCC), VA doctor or social worker, or another nonprofit advocacy organization
The PenFed Foundation continuously examine potential grantees who meet all the above criteria. If you qualify, fill out and return the application form along with copies of your DD214, VA Disability Statement and the bill from the institution or creditor which you need assistance with. (From receipt of all documentation, it can take up to 10 days to process the grant. Grants are paid directly to the creditor.)
A solar power plant with energy-storage capability that went online in 2018 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and a biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, were among projects that helped the Army gain recognition in 2018 with an award from the Federal Energy Management Program.
“This was recognition for a tremendous amount of teamwork,” said Michael McGhee, executive director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives. His office oversees and facilitates privately-funded, large-scale energy projects on Army land.
OEI has facilitated 7 million in such projects on 17 Army installations over the past five years. Many of the projects allow utility companies to use Army land in exchange for developing electricity projects more affordably. Some of these projects will save the Army money over the long-term, states the Department of Energy award, but more importantly, they also improve energy security and resilience.
Energy resilience is a top priority for the Army, said Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.
“Uninterrupted access to energy is essential to sustaining critical Army missions,” Surash testified at a House energy subcommittee hearing Dec. 12, 2018. He went on to say such uninterrupted power is becoming more challenging “as potential vulnerabilities emerge in the nation’s utility-distribution infrastructure.”
This 1-megawatt utility battery that stores energy from Redstone Arsenal’s solar array in Alabama is the first of its kind for the Army.
(US Army photo)
Threats to the grid include more sophisticated cyberattacks and more frequent severe storms, earthquakes and tsunamis, McGhee said. In consideration of these threats, current Army policy requires critical mission activities to be provided with a minimum of 14 days of energy, which McGhee emphasized is focused on the mission-critical infrastructure that must anticipate the potential for long-term power outages. He added a couple of Army installations currently also have the ability to keep the whole base operating for more than three or four days if the grid goes down.
One of them is Schofield Barracks with its biofuel plant that became operational in May.
The Oahu project exemplifies a partnership with a utility company that helps maximize the value for another party’s investment while also serving the needs of the Army, McGhee said.
Hawaiian Electric needed to build a new power plant. The older ones were typically built along the coastline because most of the people lived there and that’s where the fuel shipments came in.
“Unfortunately, that’s also where the strongest effects of a storm surge would be felt in a tsunami or other extreme-weather event,” McGhee said. So the company was looking to place its new plant on higher ground with more security and less risk.
Behind the secure perimeter of Schofield Barracks was an obvious choice, McGhee said.
The biofuel plant provides power to Oahu during peak-demand periods. It has the capability to be decoupled from the grid in case of a grid emergency, McGhee said, and Schofield Barracks has the first right to power from the plant in such an emergency.
The 50-megawatt power plant can provide 100 percent of the power needed to keep Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Field Station Kunia running during a grid power emergency, according to OEI.
Several days of biofuel are stored on site at the plant and 30 days are available on the island, McGhee said. The plant also uses regular fuel oil and could even be operated on liquefied natural gas, providing what he termed as even more resilience.
For emergency power design, a reliable source of fuel and the ability to use more than one type of fuel is the key to long-term sustainability of operations, he said. In the case of severe weather, resupply of fuel for back-up power often becomes a problem, he added, so having the ability to resupply from multiple sources with multiple types of fuel is desired.
“We need something more than just your standard backup of diesel generators, in order to have a more resilient solution,” McGhee said.
One of the problems with energy resilience from renewable-power sources, such as solar or wind power, has been the lack of ability to store the power for use when the wind stops or the sun goes down.
Until recently, storage options have not been affordable.
“It’s not so much the technology has gotten cheaper as it is that the manufacturing has gotten to be more extensive, lowering the unit cost,” McGhee said of large-scale battery storage units.
“It’s very exciting for us, because we’ve been looking forward to this moment to couple large-scale, utility-size batteries with our existing large-scale, energy-generation projects that we helped develop,” he said.
The Redstone Arsenal project was OEI’s first foray into large-scale utility batteries, McGhee said, but added several more “are in the works” and could be part of projects in the coming year.
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Jordan Gillis stands in the center of those who helped the Army earn recognition with a 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award, including to his left, Michael McGhee, director, Office of Energy Initiatives. Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, is to the right of Gillis.
(US Army photo)
“It’s happening very quickly,” he said, “Companies are better understanding the technology, but they’re also better understanding the value proposition.” More developers are now actively seeking partners for battery-storage projects, he said.
“That technology at an affordable price enables so many other technologies and so many design options that weren’t available before.
“Large-scale affordable battery storage … provides the most compelling new option paths available that are intriguing to improving resilience on Army installations,” he added.
The 1-megawatt battery that became operational on Redstone in February can provide power for 2 megawatt hours, McGhee said, and added that future battery projects are likely to be much larger
Additional components must be added to the Redstone project to enable long-term backup power, he said. But planning is underway for a potential microgrid that could provide sustainable power at the arsenal for a long-term emergency.
Large-scale batteries are being evaluated to possibly be added to existing projects at other installations, McGhee said.
For instance, 30-megawatt alternating-current solar photovoltaic power plants have been operating for a couple of years now on Forts Gordon, Benning and Stewart in Georgia.
Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama have 10-megawatt solar projects that are part of microgrids providing energy to the installations.
Fort Detrick, Maryland, has a 15-megawatt solar project with 59,994 panels that have been providing electricity to the post since 2016.
Fort Hood, Texas has both a 15-megawatt solar array on-post and a 50-megawatt wind turbine farm off-post that have been providing electricity to Fort Hood since 2017. All of these projects could potentially benefit from large-scale battery storage, according to McGhee.
“The batteries we are looking at have a relatively small footprint and require little maintenance,” he said, adding, “they’re a very low-touch kind of technology that has tremendous benefit.”
Natural Gas may be a trend for the coming year, McGhee said. The cost of natural gas has come down, he explained, making it more economical to build smaller utility electrical plants fueled by gas.
A utility company in Lawton, Oklahoma, is looking at investing in a natural gas plant along with a solar array on Fort Sill, he said. His office is working with the utility on a design and they are beginning environmental reviews. If approved, the project would utilize an “enhanced-use lease authority” where the utility company would be allowed to use the land for siting the natural gas and solar plants in return for providing a backup power capability to the installation.
This biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, became operational in May 2018 and in the case of an emergency can provide all the electricity needed to operate the installation.
Most of the OEI projects have used either the enhanced-use lease authority or power purchase agreements to provide energy sustainability, but McGhee said he looking at other options to enhance microgrids. Controls that enable energy from plants to be more efficiently applied to installation facilities could merit direct Army funding he said.
Energy Savings Performance Contracts are another option. ESPCs involve privately-financed design and installation of equipment that provides energy savings over time and those savings then enable the government to pay back the private investment.
Utility Energy ServiceContracts, or UESCs, can also provide services to improve installation power equipment reliability, or McGhee said with more creative thinking, create microgrids.
“We’re weaving together a collection of authorities that very often are not considered in concert,” McGhee said. OEI helps garrisons that that may not have the experience or resources to be working with all the different types of authorities.
“Our office tries to bring a more integrated solution,” he said.
Teamwork for readiness
OEI actually received the FEMP Federal Energy and Water Management Award on Oct. 23 from the Department of Energy. McGhee said he accepted the award on behalf of the many commands and garrisons that helped coordinate the 11 projects above. The Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters and Districts and Centers of Expertise, Installation Management Command, Mission and Installation Contracting Command and Army Materiel Command, along with the Defense Logistics Agency, were among organizations that McGhee said deserve credit for the team award.
The award states the projects generate a total of 350 megawatts of distributed energy that help stabilize and reduce the Army’s costs while improving its security, resilience and reliability.
“Supporting Army readiness is the No. 1 priority,” McGhee said. “Our systems are being designed to improve the Army’s installation readiness.
“In addition we are helping to modernize the Army’s energy infrastructure, adding new technologies, and adding new protections that help us be ready for the needs of tomorrow, to include things like cyber intrusion.”
The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.
The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.
For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.
Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.
While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.
Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.
(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)
For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.
But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.
But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.
But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.
Roughly four years ago, ISIS shocked the world when it took over a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate in the process.
Fast forward to 2018 and the terrorist group is a shadow of what it was even a year ago. It has lost the vast majority of the territory it previously held and the number of fighters it counted among its ranks has dwindled exponentially to below 3,000.
Nevertheless, ISIS remains a threat in the Middle East, and a new report from the Soufan Center warns it’s attempting to make a comeback by resorting to a tactic it employed back in 2013 when it was still known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — the targeted assassinations of Iraqi security personnel.
“To get back to its heyday of 2014, the Islamic State first needs to get back to 2013, a year in which the terrorist group concluded one very successful campaign to free thousands of its detained members from Iraqi jails and started another campaign to assassinate and intimidate Iraqi security personnel, particularly local police officers,” the report stated.
In late June 2018, Iraq executed 12 ISIS members, which the Soufan Center says was in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.
‘A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past’
With fewer numbers, ISIS will be less inclined to focus on regaining territory and more likely to ramp up attacks on Iraqi police to sow the same brand of chaos it did back in 2013, according to the Soufan Center.
A masked man in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014.
“A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past,” the report noted.”Targeted attacks on police and government officials have risen in several provinces as the group has stopped its military collapse and refocused on what is possible for the group now.”
The report added, “Assassinations require few people and are perfectly suited as a force multiplier for a group that has seen its forces decimated.”
‘The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed’
Peter Mandaville, a professor of international affairs at George Mason University who previously served as a top adviser to the State Department on ISIS, backed up the Soufan Center report.
“I think it would be difficult for ISIS to retake significant territory given the ongoing presence and vigilance of [US-led] coalition forces,” Mandaville told Business Insider, adding, “They certainly have the capacity to engage in an extended insurgency campaign using the kinds of tactics highlighted in the Soufan Center report.”
Mandaville said the situation on the ground in Iraq — that led to the rise of ISIS in the first place — has not changed significantly even though ISIS has more or less been defeated militarily.
“The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed, with high levels of political polarization,” Mandaville said. “Until the central government succeeds in advancing key political and security reforms, many areas of Iraq will continue to provide a permissive environment for low intensity ISIS operations.”
David Sterman of the New America Foundation, an expert on terrorism and violent extremism, expressed similar sentiments.
David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, New America International Security Program; Co-Author, All Jihad is Local, Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
Sterman told Business Insider that the threat of ISIS returning to the strategy of breeding chaos on the local level by targeting Iraq security personal is “very serious.”
“ISIS continues to show capability to conduct attacks in liberated areas, an issue seen also during the surge,” Sterman added. “Bombings in Baghdad in January 2018 illustrate this as well as the assassinations and smaller attacks discussed” in the Soufan Center report.
In short, ISIS is still in a position to create havoc, albeit in a more limited capacity, in an already troubled country that really hasn’t even begun to recover from years of conflict.
ISIS continues to operate underground across the world
From a broader standpoint, this does not necessarily mean ISIS poses a significant threat to the US.
“Even at its height, ISIS did not demonstrate a capability to direct a strike on the US homeland (as opposed to Europe),” Sterman said. “So the threat [in the US] predominantly remains homegrown and inspired. Of course that doesn’t mean the US should take its eye off of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s bursting onto the global scene is proof of that.”
Moreover, ISIS is also turning to Bitcoin and encrypted communications as a means of rallying its followers worldwide.
“If you look across the globe, the cohesive nature of the enterprise for ISIS has been maintained,” Russell Travers, the acting head of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently told The New York Times. “The message continues to resonate with way too many people.”
The Trump administration says there’s ‘still hard fighting ahead’ against ISIS
Speaking with reporters in late June 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis lauded the success the US-led coalition has had against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but added that “there’s still hard fighting ahead.”
“Bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead,” Mattis said. “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”
Meanwhile, US troops stationed near the Iraq-Syria border have been hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery in recent weeks.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Is the Chinese People’s Liberation Army learning more of a lesson from the U.S. military’s Millennium Challenge exercise than the United States? Judging from its new corps of communications pigeons, it could be.
In 2002, the U.S. military held one of its largest wargames ever, pitting the United States against a fictional Iran-like country. The U.S. was pretty surprised when its Marine Corps leader, retired Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper took control of the Iranians and soundly beat the United States with old-style tactics and communications that made America’s playbook useless.
Van Riper was as old school a Marine as they come. He knew the U.S. would target his communications infrastructure, so he planned to defend his fake Iran without it. Instead of microwave communications and cell phones, he coordinated his defense with motorcycle couriers and fake prayers broadcast over loudspeakers.
When it came time to fend off the attack, the U.S. lost in two minutes.
Instead of learning a lesson from Van Riper’s tactics, the planner just tied his hands and put him in a situation where he couldn’t win. In his opinion, nothing was learned from the exercise.
Maybe the United States didn’t learn anything from it, but China might have. China is pouring billions of dollars into new defense spending as tensions with the United States ramp up. Some of that might be going to its own version of a stealth fighter, but another portion is going to what Chinese state television calls a “reserve pigeon army.”
In 2020, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army purchased more than 10,000 military pigeons so it could bolster its internal communications abilities, in case its more modern methods suddenly, somehow became unusable.
“These military pigeons will be primarily called upon to conduct special military missions between troops stationed at our land borders or ocean borders,” Chinese military expert Chen Hong told China Central Television.
The earliest recorded use of pigeon messaging was in the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago, and pigeons have been vital to communication in peace and in war ever since. The only way to stop them is hawks, and later, shotguns.
Military pigeons are able to fly at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour while carrying a load of up to 3.5 ounces, as the Chinese have been breeding pigeons for racing sports for centuries. As for range, it could be virtually limitless, depending on how fast the message is needed to arrive. One pigeon sent by Emperor Li Shimin of the Tang Dynasty flew a message for 177 miles.
Messenger pigeons, also known as homing pigeons, are not only useful to Chinese military planners trying to maintain communications over oceans during wartime, they can also be used in the vast mountainous areas of the Himalayas, which have seen recent clashes with India along its border.
Homing pigeons are easily trained to fly between one or two locations by using food as an incentive for the animal. Changing the route is as easy as changing the food.
Using pigeons isn’t new to the Chinese. Chinese armies have been using messenger pigeons for centuries. Pigeons were among China’s earliest domesticated animals and were used as pets and messengers as far back as the Eastern Han Dynasty in 25 A.D.
They were also used to great effect during World War II — and the pigeons left behind by American aviators who flew against the Japanese in China are central to the PLA’s new communications backup plan.