What's at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Venezuela’s government has been in a state of constant unrest as opposition leaders, especially Juan Guaidó, have accused Nicolás Maduro of rigging elections, mismanaging the government, and causing the starvation of the Venezuelan people. Now, Guaidó has emerged from hiding and is attempting to rally military and civilian support in an apparent uprising.


There’s a lot at stake, and the result of this uprising will determine the state of great power competition in America’s backyard. People on both sides are already dying from gunfire and vehicle charges from government forces.

As most journalists take this time to report on the minute-by-minute developments (the AFP news agency has a lot of quick facts and quotes as the situation develops, CNN International is posting amazing photos, and the overall Twitter stream has a mix of everything), we thought we would take a moment to remind everyone what the stakes are, here.

Venezuela is a socialist country, but, more accurately, it’s a dictatorship with a socialist system. That means that the government has direct control of significant parts of the economy, and that the government is controlled by one person. Right now, that’s Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has used short-term strategies to hop from one crisis to another since taking power.

Maduro and Guaidó have clashed for more than a year about whether or not Maduro rigged elections in his own favor. And the clashes between their supporters have become increasingly violent, but Maduro has always held the advantage because the military was largely on his side. But today, Guaidó appeared in a video saying that he has military support and is using it to trigger an uprising.

This is tragic for the Venezuelan people. Regardless of who wins, the violence will likely result in the deaths of at least dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds more. But it will also decide the balance of power in Venezuela, and Maduro and Guaidó have very different international backers.

Guaidó has the support of the U.S., U.K., and other Western powers. But Maduro is one of Vladimir Putin’s most important allies in the Western hemisphere.

That’s not because Russia and Venezuela are especially close. They’re not. But Venezuela, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Maduro, has historically been a socialist thorn in America’s side. And Putin knows that he needs friends in this hemisphere if he ever wants to directly pressure Washington like Stalin was able to during the Cold War.

He has few natural allies in this hemisphere, especially as Fidel Castro has died and Raúl Castro has grown old in Cuba. Raúl has stepped down as president and is 87.

Putin showed his support for Maduro last year by deploying two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela and sending heavy investments of Russian money into the Venezuelan oil industry. That second action is larger than it sounds: Russia and Venezuela are both heavy oil exporters that need the money to fuel their economies. Russian money that supports Venezuelan oil sales necessarily cuts into Russian profits.

But the foreign policy stakes were too high in Venezuela for Putin to ignore. Russia wants influence in the west, and Venezuela is one of its few toeholds. As then-U.S. Southern Command Commanding General John Kelly said in 2015:

Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President [Vladimir] Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War-tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Those actions in Venezuela have not always produced great fruit, but Venezuela is a resource-rich country that’s leadership leans towards Putin.

Meanwhile, America has historically supported true democracies, preferably capitalist ones, in South America for obvious reasons. A capitalist democracy would necessarily share more values with the U.S. than Venezuela did under Chavez or Maduro. And the Trump administration has signaled its support for the April 30 uprising. Not a big surprise since Vice President Michael Pence also recorded a video in January supporting Venezuelan opposition and Guaidó.

And, for what it’s worth, those Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela have the range to bomb any point in the U.S. without refueling including Alaska and Hawaii. (But, if they’re landing in Venezuela on the same tank of gas, they would be unable to hit much of Idaho, Nevada, or California.)

So this coup in Venezuela will decide the balance of power in America’s backyard. Russia has already said that Putin has met with his top generals to discuss the situation, though there is no sign yet of the large military deployments they sent to Syria to prop up his boy there.

While all of us should care about the crisis because of the real human suffering under Maduro, who are now caught in the crossfire, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is strictly a foreign problem. The effects of the uprising attempt will be felt here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 moments when you know the mess hall is about to serve the good stuff

Being a meal card holder has its benefits. It’s awesome to have the perfect excuse to get out at 1730. It’s food you get to enjoy without having to cook it. All you have do is overlook the fact that the meals are deducted from your pay when you’re assigned a barracks room and the fact that there’s barely any chow left by the time you get there —but outside of those details, it’s great!

That optimism starts to wane, however, after eight months of eating the same seven entrees ad nauseam. Then, one glorious day, the cooks throw you a curve-ball by turning what’s normally a grab-and-go dinner into an elaborate, fine-dining experience.


You’ll rarely hear the lower enlisted complain when they’re about to get something that’s not just decent but actually really good. (In reality, lower enlisted troops would probably complain about being given a brick of gold because it’s “too heavy,” but that’s beside the point).

It might seem like random chance, but there’s a method to the madness.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Also, your chain of command will usually pop in to serve the food on the line. Savor that moment.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian Lautenslager)

Holidays

No one likes being stuck on-post during a holiday. If your leave form got denied or you just didn’t feel like putting in for a mileage pass, it often means your ass will be stuck on staff duty.

Thankfully, the cooks also get screwed out of block leave and work holidays with us. Even if it’s not a big holiday that revolves around a massive meal (we’re look at you, Thanksgiving), the cooks will still serve something festive.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

If you thought Air Force dinging facilities were leagues above the rest during the rest of the year…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lan Kim)

The lead-up to best-chef competitions

In the service, there’s a competition for cooks in which they’re expected to deliver a gourmet meal to a judge that has the emotionless vile of Gordon Ramsey with the knife-handing ability of a Drill Sergeant.

They don’t want to mess it up and will prepare the only way possible: by practicing. And that practice tastes delicious.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

“Can we get you anything else, Specialist? Steak sauce? Another drink? Another three months in this god-forsaken hellhole? How about some cake? We got cake!”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)

Right before the unit is about to get bad news

It’s basic psychology. If you outright tell the troops that their deployment got extended, they’re going to flip the tables over. If you break it to them gently over a steak-and-lobster dinner that somehow found its way to Afghanistan, they’ll take it slightly better.

This is so common in the military that any time the commander shows up and asks for a crate of ice cream bars for the troops, the Private News Network and Lance Corporal Underground buzz with rumors.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

You think they’ll serve the same scrambled eggs that they serve the average boot to the Commandant of the Marines? Hell no. Especially not if they get some kind of warning. That’s you cue to grab food and dash.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

When high-ranking officials make the rounds

Not even the cooks are exempt from the dog-and-pony show that comes with a general’s visit. In fact, while the other lower enlisted are scrubbing toilets in bathrooms the general will never realistically visit, the cooks know that the mess hall is the go-to spot to bring the generals to give them a “realistic” view of the unit.

If you’re willing to stomach the off-chance of being dragged into a conversation with a four-star general about “how the commander and first sergeant 100% absolutely always treat you like a real human being and that, oh boy, do you definitely love the unit,” then you’re in for one of the best meals the cooks can offer.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Everyone loves the cooks on Taco Tuesday.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

Taco Tuesday (and any other themed meal days)

There’s no way in hell any troop would willingly miss Taco Tuesday at the DFAC. Even if you don’t post flyers about it, troops will magically crawl out of the woodwork if it means they’re getting free tacos.

As much as everyone in the unit uses their cooks as punching bags for jokes, they can deliver some mighty fine meals when they try.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the Army is replacing the Hummer

The famous HMMWV’s days are numbered. The Army has made its fifth order for the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, officially coming in four versions: the M1278 Heavy Guns Carrier, the M1279 Utility, the M1280 General Purpose, and the M1281 Close Combat Weapons Carrier.


According to a release by OshKosh Defense, this order consists of 748 vehicles and over 2,350 installed kits. The vehicle is currently in Low-Rate Initial Production, and the first units are expected to be equipped with the vehicle by the middle of Fiscal Year 2019,with a planned Initial Operating Capability by the end of 2020.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
Computer image of a JLTV rolling out. (Youtube Screenshot)

The HMMWV has served for over 30 years, but like the Jeep it replaced in the 1980s, it was proving to be incapable of meeting the demands of a modern battlefield. For the Jeep, the problem was keeping up with armored fighting vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank and the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

During the War on Terror, the HMMWV proved it could keep up with vehicles, but it was also very vulnerable to a favored tactics of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan: the improvised explosive device. Up-armored HMMWVs were developed, but they still proved vulnerable and eventually the military bought Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, including the M-ATV from OshKosh, for use on many missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production model is displayed by Oshkosh on the floor of the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition in the Washington Convention Center Oct. 4, 2016. | US Army photo by Gary Sheftick

OshKosh notes that the JLTV is 33 percent smaller and 33 percent lighter than the M-ATV. The company stated that the program remains on time and “on budget” in the release. A decision on full-rate production is reportedly pending.

It will still take a long time for the JLTV to replace the HMMWV: Over 281,000 Humvees have been built since it entered service in 1985. This order represents less than one half of one percent of the total Humvee built.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Special Operations Command now wants its own light attack aircraft fleet

The U.S. Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.


According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.

“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.

If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.

The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.

In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.

The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.

The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.

He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”

But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.

The service first held a series of light attack experimental fly-offs and maneuvers at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in 2017 in a two-phase approach. The experiment involved four aircraft: The AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine. The second phase of the experiment was canceled following a fatal crash in June 2018.

A draft request for proposal was issued in August 2018. The service was then supposed to RFP in 2018 for a light attack aircraft, but it never came until the recent October 2019 solicitation.

The slowed pace angered some lawmakers.

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, introduced a measure into the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation that would put the propeller-driven planes under U.S. Special Operations Command’s purview, taking it away from the Air Force.

“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said during a September Mitchell Institute event, as reported by DefenseOne.

“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

MilSpouse and NASA’s last living ‘Hidden Figure,’ Katherine Johnson, dies at 101

NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.

We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW

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Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.

According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

upload.wikimedia.org

Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.

Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.

Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”

If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

NASA photo

Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”

Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

live.staticflickr.com

Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.

“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.

Rest in peace, Ms. Johnson.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
Articles

Guess which branch of the military a new poll shows Americans like best

All five branches of the U.S. military have earned high marks from American adults, according to a Gallup poll.


More than three in four of Americans surveyed who know something about the branches have overall favorable views of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, according to Gallup. More than half have a strongly favorable opinion.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll released May 26, at least 72 percent of participants expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military in the past eight years.

“This Memorial Day, Americans will once again have the opportunity to honor those who fought and died in service of their country,” Gallup’s Jim Norman said. “It comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who are military veterans continues to shrink, even as the nation moves through the 15th year of the Afghanistan War — the longest war in U.S. history.”

Broken down by branch, Air Force had the highest favorability rating of 81 percent — 57 percent “very favorable” and 24 percent “somewhat favorable” rating. Other branches were Navy and Marines each at 78 percent, Army at 77 percent, and Coast Guard at 76 percent.

Differences exist by political party, race, and age.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
The Air Force had the highest ratings according to the Gallup poll – US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard

The biggest gap is among Republicans and Democrats with about a 30 percentage point difference. The largest is for the Navy with 74 percent favorability rating by Republicans and 39 percent among Democrats.

Republicans, non-Hispanic whites, and those aged 55 have more favorable views of each of the five branches than Democrats, non-whites, or those younger than 35.

Those surveys also were asked to list the most important branch. Air Force was No. 1 (27 percent) followed by the Army (21 percent), Navy and Marines (20 percent each), and 4 percent say the Coast Guard is the most important branch to national defense.

Gallup conducted telephone interviews April 24-May 2 with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened to most of Saddam’s blinged-out weapons

It’s no surprise that psychotic despots and drug lords who came to power through violence and intimidation would be fascinated with gold-plated and diamond-encrusted weapons. The most well-known collector was Saddam Hussein.


After his fall, his weapons seemed to be scattered in every direction. Exactly how many weapons were in Saddam’s arsenal is not public knowledge, so it’s unclear how many have just “fallen off the books” throughout the years. The ones that have been accounted for, however, are often placed in museums and presidential libraries around the world as historical artifacts.

 

One of his most famous golden weapons was the golden Tabuk, an Iraqi variant of the AK-47. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division discovered it near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The weapon was given as an official “thank you” to the Australian troops that helped them in the area. The weapon traded hands a few times before Australia’s Deputy Chief of Army, Major General John Cantwell, accepted it and placed it in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in 2007.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
(Australian War Memorial)

 

You might wonder why more weapons weren’t taken as trophies by troops in Iraq. Well, having weapons that are not cleared and are without their paperwork properly done breaks countless UCMJ, Interpol, UN, and Geneva Convention laws. Getting the proper rights to take home war trophies may be a headache, but it’s not impossible. This hasn’t stopped idiots from becoming war criminals in pursuit of riches, though.

In 2014, two men from New Jersey were caught in a sting by the FBI trying to sell over $1 million worth of Hussein-family weapons. Later that same year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Miller had his conviction overturned after being framed and sentenced for smuggling home a chrome-plated AK variant in 2005. As it turns out, another Marine had planted the weapon on him after Miller threatened to expose his affair. Nonetheless, he was still given a bad conduct discharge after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.

 

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?
As much hell as this AK variant caused this Marine, it’s whereabouts are still unknown after it was seized by the Hemet, CA Police Department. (Hemet Police Department)

But at least two of Saddam’s weapons have been known to make their way to auction legally. The M77 rifle that Saddam held during a 2000 military parade was given to an unnamed agent after 29 years of service to the CIA. Although it wasn’t flashy like the rest of Saddam’s armory, it still put up and sold at auction for $48,875.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A look at one of the most inspiring speeches in history

Throughout World War II, Winston Churchill gave a number of speeches that galvanized the British public in the face of extreme hardship and convinced them to keep fighting that good fight against Adolf and his cronies.

Perhaps the most famous speech Churchill ever gave was the one he spent the longest time agonising over — “This was their finest hour,” where he stated in part,


What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The speech was delivered just a month after Churchill became Prime Minister and at a time when the UK was reeling from the news that France had fallen (effectively leaving the British Empire to fight the Nazi war machine alone, until Hitler turned on the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Yanks joined in about six months after that). The speech had to somehow rally the entire country during what Churchill would eventually come to call “The Darkest Hour.” This is a goal the speech is generally accepted as having accomplished and then some, with Churchill’s words deeply resonating with the British public. In particular, Churchill’s sentiments about the British Isles standing strong in the face of what appeared to be impossible odds.

THEIR FINEST HOUR speech by Winston Churchill [BEST SOUND]

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The speech, which lasted around 36 minutes, was first given in private to Parliament on June 18, 1940, and later to the British public via radio and it’s noted that Churchill was making revisions to it until quite literally the last possible moment. For example, when the Churchill Archives Centre dug up the very same copy of the speech Churchill used when he addressed Parliament, they found that it was covered in random annotations, some of which appear to have been made leading right up to just before he gave the speech.

Impressively, some of these literal last minutes additions ended up being amongst the most memorable lines from it. For example, the line “All shall be restored” which was noted as inspiring many a Britain to do their bit for the greater good of Europe, was a line Churchill scribbled in the margins of the speech when he sat on a bench in the House of Commons waiting to be called to speak.

It’s also noted that Churchill simply winged it at some points, making up some of the lines in the speech on the fly. This was something that was facilitated by Churchill’s insistence on printing the speech in blank verse format, which some experts believe allowed Churchill to read and visualise the speech as a piece of poetry, allowing him to better improvise and more comfortably find a natural rhythm when speaking.

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Winston Churchill

Of course, no matter how good something is, even in the days before internet comments there’s always someone to criticize and, despite “This was their finest hour” being considered one of the finest oratory performances ever given, Churchill’s own secretary, Sir Jock Colville, was wildly unimpressed. Among other things, he noted in his diary that the speech was too long and that Churchill sounded tired when he read it. Given that the speech is often ranked alongside things like the Gettysburg Address, Sir Colville’s opinion evidently wasn’t one shared by many others, however.

Finally, because we kind of have to mention this, when Churchill delivered the speech to the British public via radio, he reportedly did so while smoking a comically large cigar which he kept burning in his mouth for virtually the entire time he was speaking…

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

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a mortar system works

The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.

When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.

This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.


Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec

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A noble bloodline

The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.

COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire

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Where the metal meets the meat

A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.

The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.

The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.

The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.

Steel drizzle vs steel rain

The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.

Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force revokes bomb contract linked to Russian oligarch

The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.

The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.

Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.


However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.

By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.

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Viktor Vekselberg.

Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)

Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.

Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”

“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.

In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.

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Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.

(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.

US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.

That provision has worried US partners in countries like India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, who still use Russian weaponry and need to make future purchases to maintain their arsenals. India’s looming purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system has been a particular sticking point.

The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.

The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.


In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.

It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.

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Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.

Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.

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NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.

The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy prepared to counter favorite Russian tactic

The Russian military and its NATO counterparts have been increasingly active in Eastern Europe, as the West moves to counter what they view as Russian aggression in the region.

One facet of Russian military activity that has been well noted by Western military planners is the expansion of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, capability in strategically valuable areas.

Assets like the S-400 air-defense system — believed to be able to target aircraft from as far as 250 miles away, even the latest stealth aircraft — have been set up around Kaliningrad, which is Russia’s exclave on the Baltic Sea, further south on the Crimean Peninsula and around the Black Sea, and on the Syrian coast, which provides a base from which to reach into the eastern Mediterranean.


Surface-to-air missile systems deployed around Kaliningrad, which is tucked between Poland and Lithuania, were “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” retired Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc told The New York Times in January 2016, when he was head of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa.

Those systems could affect NATO operations in Poland and the Baltic States, Gorenc said. (Russian forces using Kaliningrad to block the Suwalki Gap and cut the Baltic States off from the rest of NATO is a particular concern for the alliance.)

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(Russian Defense Ministry)

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

“But the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force, Hodges said. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

Russian state media said another battalion of S-400 missiles had assumed combat duty in Crimea at the end of November 2018, amid a state of increased tension with Ukraine over a violent encounter between their navies in the Black Sea.

Other air-defense systems, including the less advanced but highly capable S-300, are deployed in the region, including in the Black and Baltic seas. Other deployed A2/AD assets include coastal missile batteries firing anti-ship missiles.

When those systems — long embraced by Moscow to counter NATO’s technical and numerical superiority at sea and in the air — are paired with electronic-warfare and radar systems, the concern is they could limit NATO’s freedom of movement, especially in situations short of all-out war, when offensive options are restrained.

But “the alliance is alive to these challenges” and would “be prepared to use all the different things that would be required” in response to them, Hodges said, without elaborating.

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Russian S-400 Triumph launch vehicle.

Navy Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who recently took over the Navy’s newly reestablished Second Fleet, which oversees the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean, echoed Hodges during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.

“Without going into things I shouldn’t talk about, I’m confident that we can operate in an A2/AD environment, in a contested environment,” Lewis said when asked about Kaliningrad and A2/AD. “In fact, I know we can.”

“I know we can with our carrier force. I know we can with our surface force. We have a very clear way of doing that. It is based upon maneuver,” he added. “It’s based upon physical maneuver. It’s based upon maneuver in the spectrum, and it’s based upon our ability to keep quiet when it’s time to keep quiet and talk when it’s time to talk.”

There was still room for improvement, Lewis said, but he was confident US forces could get there.

“That’s something that we’re really, really focused on, and we have been focused on for a number of years now, and we’re getting a lot better.”

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

Articles

This Ranger-veteran Santa granted a dying child’s final wish

An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.


Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.

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Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.

“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”

Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”

“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

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Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.

The first reference to this story that WATM has been able to find comes from Sam Venable at the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can learn more about Eric Schmitt-Matzen and his visits as Santa Claus there.

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