What started as a pilot project in Kabul making sandals has now become a major lifestyle brand that employs thousands of local craftsmen and women in conflict zones all over the world. After serving, Matthew Griffin and fellow airborne Ranger Donald Lee recognized that the factories producing military gear in Afghanistan were going to become obsolete. During the seven tours between the two of them in the region, the founders of the company were constantly astonished by the creativity, respect, and determination of the Afghani people.
Griffin and Lee agreed that extremism finds easy prey in areas that are starving for resources. Rather than heading home upon completion of their duty, they went back unarmed. Combat Flip Flops was born from the idea of transitioning from war to peace.
Griffin and Lee enlisted Griffin’s brother, designer and co-founder Andy Sewrey, to come to Afghanistan develop their flagship product: a comfy, durable sandal, referred to the AK-47. Sewrey looked around him and realized he had no shortage of inspiration: poppies, tuck-tucks, bullet casings, and combat boots. They took the raw materials from the boots and redesigned them into flip-flops. Having almost no budget, the small team had to get scrappy about material and funding.
“We sold a car and a few other things and we came up with samples and we literally threw all our samples in a duffel bag and went to a Vegas to a trade show,” Griffin recalled. “People thought they were cool and bought them and we sold thousands right out of the gate.”
It became apparent that their model and philosophy were working, and when one factory became two, they added new products and pumped the money back into the communities, providing local citizens with jobs and opportunities.
Combat Flip Flops’ main production hub is in Bogata Columbia, where women-owned and operated factories make shoes and scarves. They have also partnered with makers all over the world and worked with displaced Syrian refugees in Beirut. In these factories, creative repurposing of bomb casings into bracelets and necklace charms made from recovered mines helps reduce the environmental impact from the after-effects of war.
Every pair of AK-47s sold — and in fact every single item on the website — funds an Afghani girl’s education for up to seven days. Since the literacy rate for girls in Kabul hovers around 15%, that is a significant infusion of education investment. Early education provides kids with upward mobility and makes them less vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.
Combat Flip Flops is a great example of soldiers taking their know-how and big hearts and using their powers to enact good after they have left the battlefield. These guys are committed to reducing the threat of war by trying to stabilize local communities one by one. “Employ the parents, educate the children” is the company’s informal motto.
You can check out the many fine products under the Combat Flip Flops brand here and because it’s a veteran-owned and operated nonprofit organization, all the proceeds go directly to educating young people in conflict zones.
Support soldiers — and the communities that they work so hard to protect.
But the GMD has a bad track record. It recently had a successful test that may have calmed the fears of some in the U.S. amid nuclear tensions with North Korea, but a recent paper on the test shows it was unrealistically generous.
Laura Grego and David Wright, leading experts in the field of ballistic missiles, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that the so-called intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the GMD knocked down was flown on a favorable trajectory, slower than the real thing, and without any of the tricks or savvy North Korea might use in an actual attack. The paper concludes the U.S. has no reliable ballistic missile defense capability for the homeland.
To be clear, the U.S. can defend against some, shorter-range missiles. Aegis-equipped ballistic missile destroyers at sea have a good track record of defending themselves, but they’re not meant to go after ICBMs. Patriot missiles have saved some lives from short-range missile attacks on the battlefield, though that has been historically over-hyped or just lied about.
BMD kind of works on a theoretical level, but is that worth $40B?
Missile defense plays into the complicated and highly theoretical world of nuclear deterrence. For an adversary like North Korea, maybe even the single-digit percent chance a missile would be intercepted by the U.S. would dissuade them from attacking.
But much more likely, North Korea wouldn’t attack the U.S. because of the U.S.’s ability to return the favor tenfold.
It’s entirely unclear, and no expert can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that BMD has ever deterred anyone, or done anything beside line pockets of defense contractors.
For the U.S. taxpayer, who has contributed billions to the cause of missile defenses while enriching the world’s biggest defense contractors, a fair question might be: Where is the capability? Why don’t these systems work?
The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local to Beruit):
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Islamic State group in eastern Syria has suffered a “complete defeat.”
Putin, speaking on a visit to Nizhny Novgorod, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to him earlier December 6th that operations against the IS on both the western and eastern banks of the Euphrates River had been successfully completed.
Putin said some isolated pockets of resistance could remain in the area.
The Russian military says it has provided air support to Kurdish forces and local tribes in the oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria and helped coordinate their offensive against the IS.
Russia launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2015.
Syrian activists say airstrikes have killed at least 12 civilians in an eastern Syrian village held by the Islamic State group.
Deir Ezzor 24 says Tuesday’s attack targeted the village of al-Jarthi. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 21 civilians were killed, among them 9 children. It says Russia carried out the strikes, in support of U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces driving to capture IS territory on the Euphrates River.
US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.
The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.
“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.
MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 24-year-old North Korean defector who successfully made it across the North Korean border and into South Korea under a hail of gunfire was reportedly involved in a crime “that led to a death,” according to South Korean intelligence officials cited in Donga Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, on Jan. 23.
Chung-sung Oh reportedly confessed to the alleged crime, according to intelligence officials who are investigating his background as part of the standard procedure involving North Korean defectors. The National Intelligence Service, the primary intelligence agency in the country, was said to be looking into all circumstances of the alleged death, including whether it was a murder or an accidental death.
A reporter from Chosun Ilbo, another South Korean news organization, also said he received a similar unconfirmed report in December, in which Oh is believed to have been involved in a vehicle accident involving another person and may have defected in fear of being punished.
Oh, who has been recovering after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, is said to have a carefree personality, according to government sources. But those sources noted that his testimony seemed to change depending on his mood. The investigation is expected to extend beyond February.
If reports of Oh’s statement proves to be true, it could complicate the proceedings and exclude him from benefits for North Korean defectors, according to the South Korean newspaper. But because the government does not have an extradition treaty with North Korea, Oh does not appear to be at risk of being sent back to the North.
Meanwhile, South Korean intelligence officials have publicly denied Oh’s testimony and said those involved with the matter had “never made a statement of that kind.”
The Ministry of Unification, the government body responsible for inter-Korean relations, said that it could not confirm the account because the investigation was still ongoing.
News surrounding Oh has become a hot-button subject in Korea after footage of his dramatic escape in November was captured in stunning detail. Following Oh’s rescue, those involved in the recovery, including his physician, have been the center of media attention in the country.
Within the worlds of politics, business, advocacy, and media there are veterans who continue to serve in a wide variety of ways. Men and women who once fought the nation’s wars now shape the American landscape by doing everything from building cars with 3D printers to creating fashion trends, from making major motion pictures to passing laws.
The editors of WATM (with inputs from a proprietary panel of influencers) scanned the community and came up with a diverse list of those with the highest impact potential in the year ahead.
Here are The Mighty 25 for 2016:
1. STANLEY McCHRYSTAL — Co-Founder, The McChrystal Group
After a legendary career as an Army special operator, highlighted by effectively re-organizing JSOC and leading the war effort in Afghanistan, General McChrystal accelerated into the normally pedestrian world of business consulting. The same drive that made him an effective leader has informed the McChrystal Group‘s innovative approaches to the problems facing their clients. The company’s offices outside of DC feel like those of a Silicon Valley tech startup rather than a traditional Beltway firm, more Menlo Park than K Street, and he’s aggregated a hyper-talented team — including a number of veterans — who are changing the way consulting is done. McChrystal also serves as the Chair of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, advocating for a “service year” as an American cultural expectation. Watch for him to keep the press on there this year.
Seth Moulton’s reluctant entry into politics was spurred primarily by his experiences as a Marine across four tours during the Iraq War – a war he didn’t believe in. After getting his MBA at Harvard and working for a start-up for a while, he decided to run for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts’s Sixth District. His first year in office was punctuated by efforts to improve veteran health care through the VA. He also opposed attempts to block Syrian refugees from entering the country. Expect more impact from this veteran lawmaker as his comfort level goes up in 2016.
3. LOREE SUTTON — New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs Commissioner
Retired Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton was appointed as New York City’s VA commissioner just over a year ago, and she hit the ground running, leveraging her experiences at places like the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury and the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood to solve the immediate issues facing Gotham’s veteran community. Her approaches to resilience, using a “working community” model that scales problems at the lowest level, have proved very effective in dealing with issues like claims backlogs and appointment wait times. Her successes in 2016 could well inform how other cities better serve veterans going forward.
4. TM GIBBONS-NEFF — Reporter, The Washington Post
TM Gibbons-Neff served as a rifleman in 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and participated in two combat deployments to Helmand Province, Afghanistan before entering Georgetown University to pursue his English degree. He graduated this year and went from working as an intern at The Washington Post to earning a spot as one of their full-time reporters. As part of the Post’s national security staff, TM has reported on everything from the ISIS threat to the San Bernadino shootings. Watch for his reach to grow in 2016 as he continues to hones his already substantial journalism skills.
5. NICK PALMISCIANO — Founder, CEO, Ranger Up!
After serving as an Army infantry officer, Nick Palmisciano came up with the idea of creating a military-focused clothing company while earning his MBA at Duke University. He founded Ranger Up! in 2006, and since that time he has led the way in leveraging the power of user-generated content and social media to create a brand that is as much identity as apparel to the company’s loyal consumer base. Nick also walked the walk by deliberately hiring veterans to staff Ranger Up!. Watch for his star to rise this year with the release of “Range 15” — an independent horror-comedy produced in collaboration with fellow military apparel company Article 15 — hitting theaters in May.
6. MAT BEST — President, Article 15 Clothing
Article 15‘s motto is “hooligans with a dream,” and that atmosphere permeates all of the company’s products and productions. Mat Best brought the same attributes that made him an effective warfighter to the marketplace and those have made him a successful entrepreneur, but even more important to the military community is how his unapologetic brio has shaped attitudes around the veteran experience. Mat and his posse are the antithesis of the “vets as victims” narrative; these guys live life on their terms and that lesson has been prescriptive for legions of their peers looking for fun and meaningful ways to contribute at every level. Mat has meteoric impact potential this year as the star of the movie “Range 15,” which Article 15 co-created with Ranger Up!.
After graduating West Point and studying as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, Craig Mullaney served in the Army for 8 years as an infantry officer, including a combat tour in Afghanistan. After he got out he was on the national security policy staff of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He also served as the Pentagon’s Principal Director for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia Policy and later on the Development Innovation Ventures team at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is the author of the 2009 New York Times bestseller The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education. This year he’ll continue his influence in his role as strategic partnerships manager at Facebook, and among his duties is convincing global influencers and business executives to maintain personal Facebook pages.
8. DAVID CHO — Co-founder, Soko Glam
This West Pointer and artillery officer took his Columbia MBA and joined his wife in the cosmetics business. Their company, Soko Glam, specializes in introducing Western customers to Korean cosmetics, beauty trends, and skincare regimens. David’s wife Charlotte Cho scours the market for the best and most trusted selection of products to bring to the U.S. while he handles the details around the business including biz dev and accounting. Together they have built Soko Glam into an international player in a very short time. Soko Glam also contributes to the veteran community by donating a percentage of profits to the USO.
9. SARAH FORD — Founder, Ranch Road Boots
Texas born and bred, Sarah Ford was a Marine Corps logistics officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving active duty she received her MBA from Harvard and used that knowledge (along with a Kickstarter campaign) to launch Ranch Road Boots, a company founded on, as their website states, “love—for freedom, West Texas and a hell-bent determination to craft good-looking, well-made footwear.” Sarah continues to honor the branch in which she served; Ranch Road Boots donates a portion of all sales to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
10. TAYLOR JUSTICE — Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer, Unite US
Taylor Justice honed the grit he now brings to the business world during his days on the football team at West Point. Along with co-founder Dan Brillman, an Air Force tanker pilot, he’s created software that helps organizations to navigate the “Sea of Good Will,” the 40,000 organizations dedicated to helping veterans that have historically presented a challenge because of their sheer number and dizzying overlap. The Unite US site uses what the company describes as “interactive, proximity-mapping technology” to match vets to the services they need — sort of like Yelp for the military dot-org ecosystem. As the Sea of Good Will continues to grow in 2016, the demand on Unite US’s expertise is sure to increase.
11. BOB McDONALD — Secretary of Veterans Affairs
This year Secretary McDonald continued his attempts to leverage his successes in the private sector to solve the daunting problems facing the VA. As he promised at the outset of his tenure he has remained very visible, even going so far as to broadcast his cell phone number to large crowds during his speaking engagements. In 2016 watch for his leadership to be focused on the West Los Angeles VA campus where a recent settlement in favor of improving veteran healthcare in the region has introduced as many challenges as it has created the potential for real change across the entire agency. (For more on that issue check out vatherightway.org.)
12. MARTY SKOVLUND — Freelance writer and film producer
Marty Skovlund has made his mark in media by bridging the gap between compelling content and deserving veteran causes. His company, Blackside Concepts, spawned six subsidiary brands — all high impact — in only three years. The sale of Blackside in 2015 has freed him to focus on his third book and various film and video projects, including a show idea that involves veteran teams racing across the world for charity. With the luxury of bandwidth, watch for this talented former Ranger to continue to build his portfolio in 2016.
13. BLAKE HALL — CEO, ID.me
Blake Hall’s company, ID.me, first came to light among the military community as an easy way for veterans to verify their status to obtain discounts and services, but his ambitions live well beyond that utility. “We want to become an inseparable part of Internet identity,” Hall told The Washington Business Journal last spring. His strategy focuses on the twin prongs of identity: portability and acceptance, and if he continues his path of cracking those codes, ID.me has the potential to be ubiquitous in e-commerce, national security, and inter-agency coordination in 2016.
14. JIM MURPHY — Founder and CEO, Invicta Challenge
After serving as a Marine Corps infantry officer in Iraq, Jim Murphy earned his MBA at the University of Southern California. During his studies he interned at Mattel, and that exposure sparked an idea. The Invicta Challenge combines online gaming, action figures, flash cards, and graphic novels to create a one-of-a-kind learning experience. The prototype, called “Flash & Thunder,” profiles Turner Turnbull’s actions on D-Day, but it’s not just a history lesson. It’s an interactive leadership challenge that brings history to life. While the Invicta Challenge is a natural for school-aged audiences, its unique presentation could also prove effective around military centers of excellence. With more games in the hopper, 2016 could be a year where Jim shifts into the next gear.
15. JARED LYON — Chief Development Officer, Student Veterans of America
Jared Lyon went from a life beneath the waves as a Navy submariner and diver to a life of the mind as a student and academic. In the process of making that transition he became an ambassador for other student veterans. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill is arguably the best military benefit in history, trying to use it can present roadblocks — both academic and environmental — that can keep qualified veterans from earning their degrees. As Jared enters his second year on SVA‘s professional staff watch for him to continue to make life easier for those who’ve followed him back to school.
16. TYLER MERRITT — Co-founder, Nine Line Apparel
Tyler Merritt founded Nine Line Apparel with his brother Daniel, also a former Army officer. From the start Savannah-based Nine Line was built with a specific purpose in mind, as expressed in the company’s mission statement: “It’s about being proud of who you are, what you wear, and how you walk through life . . . We don’t apologize for our love of country. We are America’s next greatest generation.” After one of Tyler’s West Point classmates lost three limbs fighting in Afghanistan in 2013, Nine Line added a foundation that gives a portion of proceeds to severely wounded veterans and their families.
17. AMBER SCHLEUNING — Deputy Director, VA Center for Innovation
After five years and multiple tours to Iraq as an Army Engineer focused on counter-IED ops, Amber Schleuning returned to school to study post-conflict mental health. She’s held a wide variety of consulting and advisory roles with both public and private organizations including the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict and COMMIT Foundation. As VACI‘s Deputy Director, Amber is in charge of building a portfolio of partnerships with creative, innovative, and disruptive organizations to ensure effective services are available to veterans.
18. NATE BOYER — Philanthropist, media personality
After multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Green Beret, Nate Boyer left active duty in 2012 and made the unorthodox move of returning to college to play football. His success as the Texas Longhorn’s long snapper led to a pre-season bid with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Although he was ultimately released by the team, the exposure helped him with other elements of his Renaissance Man portfolio, specifically Waterboys.org, a not-for-profit dedicated to providing clean drinking water to remote regions of Africa. This year Nate is poised to increase his impact with “MVP,” an organization formed with Fox Sports personality Jay Glazer that partners professional athletes with special operators to deal with the common challenges of career transition.
19. BRAD HARRISON — Founder and managing partner, Scout Ventures
The same drive that got Brad Harrison through Airborne School and earned him his Ranger tab has served him well in the private sector. After honing his tech chops while working as AOL’s Director of Media Strategy and Development, he pivoted into the venture capital space where he’s been able to use his passion for technology, media, entertainment and lifestyle to assist fledgling businesses. His company, Scout Ventures, has quickly blossomed into one of the premier angel-to-institutional investment firms in New York.
20. BRAD HUNSTABLE — Founder and CEO, Ustream
Brad Hunstable started Ustream in 2007 to connect service members to family and friends, but his vision has grown since then to include everybody, everywhere. Ustream is now the largest platform for enterprise and media video in the world with clients including Facebook, NBC, Cisco, Sony, Intuit, NASA and Salesforce. Ustream’s product suite is evidence of a company that intends to be a tool for both broadcast networks and citizen journalists. As more and more organization turn to video for effective impact, look for this West Pointer’s company to grow even more in 2016.
21. JESSE IWUJI — Professional racecar driver
Jesse Iwuji started racing cars on a whim during his last semester as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, once Division I football was over for good. Since that time he’s moved up the ranks of American stock car racing, balancing time commitments at the track and juggling sponsors with his duties as a Navy surface warfare officer. Most recently he’s partnered with the Phoenix Patriot Foundation. “We dedicate each race weekend to a wounded veteran and his family,” he said. Jesse plans on getting out of the Navy at the end of his current tour to pursue bigger things as a NASCAR driver. He hopes to move up to the K&N Pro Series soon, driving a bigger car in front of bigger crowds. After that he wants to make it to the Xfinity series and, finally, the Sprint Cup.
Evan Hafer always cared about a good cup of coffee regardless of where his Army duties took him, even when serving with the Green Beret in a variety of hostile regions. He founded Black Rifle Coffee — a “small batch roasting” company — this year with a simple motto: “Strong coffee for strong people.” In a commerce ecosystem known more for hipster baristas and progressive causes than unflinching patriotism and weapons expertise, BRCC is unique. (It’s doubtful any other coffee company would call a product “AK-47 Blend,” for instance.) BRCC’s attitude has caught on with the veteran audience; look for more warfighting grinds as well as a growing inventory of merchandize with a similar type-A tone in 2016.
23. BRIAN STANN — President and CEO, Hire Heroes USA
Brian Stann has been labeled a “hero” in a couple of phases of his life, most notably when serving as a Marine Corps platoon leader in Iraq — actions that earned him the Silver Star — and winning titles as an ultimate fighter, including the WEC Light Heavyweight Championship in 2008. After announcing his retirement from the UFC in 2013 the Naval Academy alum assumed the role of President and CEO of Hire Heroes USA. Hire Heroes focuses on three different elements of the veteran hiring equation: empowering vets to find great jobs by building their confidence and skills, collaborating with military leaders and transition coordinators to build awareness of the company’s capabilities, and partnering with more than 200 companies, like Comcast and Deloitte, to find vets great jobs. This year Hire Heroes could emerge as the vet job board of choice as the company works to improve on its already impressive metric of 60 hires per week.
24. JEREMY GOCKE — Founder and CEO, Ampsy
There are veterans who work in the tech sector, and then there are veterans like Jeremy Gocke who carve the leading edge of the tech sector. After getting an “Accelerator Finalist” nod at SXSW in 2014, the West Point grad and former Army Airborne officer founded Ampsy to slow the rate at which content falls into what he calls the “social media abyss.” Ampsy has a suite of social aggregation tools designed to improve a brand’s reach across the Twittersphere by solving what the company website calls “a major leakage problem in the customer acquisition and retention funnel.” Look for Jeremy to continue to stay ahead of the digital pack in 2016.
25. JOHN B. ROGERS, JR. — CEO and Co-founder, Local Motors
Former Marine Corps infantry officer John B. Rogers, Jr.’s love of automobiles is only rivaled by his hatred of inefficient processes, which is why he created Local Motors, a company that uses Direct Digital Manufacturing (a.k.a. “3D printing”) to build cars. “Car manufacturers have been stamping parts the same way for more than 100 years,” he said. “We now have the technology to make the process and products better and faster by linking the online to the offline through DDM.” With the upcoming launch of the LM3D — the company’s first 3D printed car model — 2016 has the potential to be huge for Local Motors. Can you say “microfactory”?
In November 2018, I completed a grueling three-day training for journalists and aid workers heading into countries with tenuous security situations and war zones.
I learned a ton during the training — what worst-case scenarios look like, how to avoid them, and, perhaps most important, how I might act when it hits the fan. But the most important thing I picked up was an easy-to-learn tactic anyone could use.
Held at a nondescript warehouse in suburban Maryland, the training was led by Global Journalist Security, an organization founded in 2011 to help people going to dangerous places acquire what it calls the “physical, digital, and emotional aspects of self-protection.”
I had some vague idea of what I was getting myself into. I’m traveling to Egypt, Nigeria, and Ethiopia over the next couple of months, and fellow journalists had recommended the course as preparation for the worst-case scenarios: kidnappings, terrorist attacks, active-shooter situations, and war zones. How a three-day course in suburban Maryland could credibly do that was anybody’s guess.
Training prepares people not to freeze or panic in worst-case scenarios
The chief trainers Paul Burton and Shane Bell, a former British Army sergeant and a former Australian Armed Forces elite commando respectively, are experts at putting people in distressed mindsets. The two have accompanied journalists and aid workers in the world’s most dangerous places, been kidnapped, and negotiated kidnapping releases. They know what they’re talking about.
Female war correspondents during World War II.
Over the course of the training, Bell, Burton, and the rest of the GJS team thrust attendees — yours truly, included — into simulations designed to trigger your adrenaline.
“You want to give people skills to stay in the moment and not freeze or go into panic mode,” Smyth told Columbia Journalism Review in 2013. “Some people will forget to yell, ‘Hey, she’s being dragged away — we have to help her!’ [The training] plants seeds, things to remember.”
I had to save a fellow aid worker from an “arterial puncture wound” that was squirting a fountain of (very real-looking) “blood” from a gaping “flesh wound.” Hooded actors interrupted PowerPoint presentations firing blanks into the class as we scrambled to find cover and escape. There was a kidnapping during which I was told to “slither like the American snake that I am.” And finally we were put through a final course across fields and hiking trails designed to mimic a war zone with grenades thrown, artillery shelling, landmines, and snipers.
My 13-year-old self thought it was pretty wicked. My 28-year-old self was shook. By the end, I was praying I would never have to use any of it, particularly after I “died” in the first active-shooter scenario.
But that scenario came before I learned the most valuable skill Burton, Bell, and company imparted upon us: tactical breathing.
U.S. Army Spc. Chad Moore, a combat medic assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dustin Biven)
Combat troops, police officers, and first responders are trained in tactical breathing
The idea behind it is simple: When you enter high-stress situations, your sympathetic nervous system throws your body into overdrive. Adrenaline kicks in, your body starts to shake, and your mind races to solve the problem.
It doesn’t just happen in war zones. If you hate public speaking, it’s likely to happen before you get onstage. If you’re nervous about an important exam, it may kick in as the timer starts.
What Burton and Bell hammered home is that you can’t prevent this response. It’s instinctual. Your brain’s three options are fight, flight, or freeze. And while you may know enough about yourself to know how you’ll react when you have to make the big speech, you probably have no idea what your reaction will be during an active-shooter situation or in a war zone.
Usually, in that state, you aren’t thinking logically, if you are thinking at all. Flubbing the speech may not be a big deal, but if you enter that state in a war zone, it could get you killed.
Tactical breathing overrides that stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate and calming you down so you can make a rational decision.
It works like this: Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat as necessary until your heart rate slows and your mind calms. Yes, it is very similar to yogic meditation breathing.
Once your mind calms, you can make a rational decision about whether it is best to keep hiding or whether you need to run, rather than flailing in panic.
In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.
Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.
In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.
Three of Australia’s warships were “challenged” by the Chinese navy in the South China Sea early April, 2018, according to an ABC report.
Defense sources told ABC that Australia’s navy was en route to Vietnam when it encountered polite but “robust” challenges from the People’s Liberation Army, but the specific nature of the challenges is not described. HMAS Toowoomba had departed from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, while HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success travelled through the South China Sea after leaving the Philippines.
It’s believed the interaction happened around the same time China was conducting its largest-ever naval parade on April 12, 2018. The massive show of force involved 10,000 naval officers, 48 naval vessels, submarines, the country’s only aircraft carrier.
During the event President Xi Jinping was on board one of the destroyers, overseeing the parade.
When questioned about the incident, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t reveal any details.
“All I can say to you is we maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world,” Turnbull said. “In this context, you’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law.”
Numerous countries — including China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — have territorial claims, making the South China Sea one of the most disputed places on the planet. For its part, China has been criticized for building artificial islands in the region and militarizing them with missile sites and air bases.
This isn’t the only problem Turnbull has faced with China of late.
Ladies, a high-value al-Qaeda detainee at the U.S. prison facility in Guantanamo Bay is looking for love. Check out his profile on Match.com, because he can’t get on Tinder from his cell and Plenty of Fish asks too many questions.
“This is terrible news about Ashley Madison,” he writes. “Please remove my profile immediately!!! I’ll stick with Match.com, even though you say it is for old people. There is no way I can get Tinder in here.”
Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani was captured in Pakistan in 2007 and held by the CIA before his transfer to the prison. He keeps a robust sense of humor despite being tortured while detained by the CIA. Afghani actually does maintain a Match.com profile and comments on the latest news, trends, and pop culture in the United States through letters to his lawyer.
“Donald Trump is an idiot!!! Sen. McAin [sic]is a war hero. Trump is a war zero,” he wrote in a letter acquired by Al-Jazeera. “He bankrupted the USFL, and now he wants to bankrupt the U.S. At this rate, Hillary has a chance.”
Afghani was the last prisoner sent to Guantanamo Bay, arriving in March 2008.
He has access to news, magazines, and international television inside the facility. Referring to Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender reality personality who caused an online stir when she received ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award, he said he is “happy for her because people are born how they are.” He did question her political views, however. “How is she a Republican? They want to take her rights away.”
He had one bit of advice for Ms. Jenner: “Tell her to use spray tan for her legs.”
Afghani has never been charged with a crime. Retired General and former CIA director Michael Hayden says Aghani is detained because of his past and his continued threat to American interests. Afghani believes his high-value status comes because he was tortured in custody. He was sleep deprived for 138 hours in 2007, standing while wearing a diaper, and given only liquid ensure to eat.
He advised his civilian lawyer, Carlos Warner, a federal public defender, to take Obama “straight to the post” if he ever had the chance to play with the President. Afghani is an avid basketball and Cavaliers fan. He is happy about LeBron’s return to Cleveland.
“Miami is a good place to visit, but no one wants to live there. It’s too greasy and hot. But I feel this way: As the great Bret Michaels once said — ‘Although the wound heals, the scar Remains!!!”
While Afghani has access to news, the events he discusses may not always be current. Afghani once asked Warner if he could do the Gangnam Style dance for him, but needed some help first.
“I like this new song ‘Gangnam Style,'” he wrote. “I want to do the dance for you but cannot because of my shackles. Please ask to have this changed.”
In all seriousness, he repeats the need for a military lawyer, which may be why he enjoys displaying his knowledge of American popular culture, in an effort to stay relevant.
“Give me a trial. Let me be free,” he wrote to his civilian lawyer. Afghani request a military lawyer “How can I get justice without a military lawyer?” He had a military lawyer but that lawyer retired and was not replaced. When wikileaks released documents about the detainees left in Guantanamo, there were none about Afghani.
Afghani will likely be rejected by ChristianMingle and eHarmony.
The ship made famous in the book and subsequent film “The Perfect Storm” has been intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef.
The sinking of the Tamaroa, a 205-foot (62-meter) Coast Guard vessel, took place May 10. The sinking initially was scheduled to occur several months ago, but was repeatedly delayed by rough seas and other related issues.
The vessel was sent down about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers) off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. It was deployed in water more than 120 feet (36.5 meters) deep after patches were removed from holes that were pre-cut into its hull, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The pre-cut holes were part of the extensive work that had to be done before the ship could be sunk, including the removal of interior paneling and insulation as well as emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.
The ship turned on its side as it slowly went down in the calm water, then turned straight up as the bulk of the vessel went under water. It then disappeared from view as a person on board a neighboring vessel thanked the Tamaroa for its long service.
A tugboat had started hauling the Tamaroa from a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard on Monday afternoon and it slowly made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday without any issues.
The Tamaroa was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1934 under the name Zuni and saw action during World War II when it helped tow damaged vessels across the war-torn Pacific Ocean. It was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed in 1946, then continued to serve until it eventually was decommissioned in 1994.
The vessel’s most notable mission came in October 1991, when three strong storm systems came together off the New England coast, generating 40-foot (12-meter) waves and wind gusts of more than 70 mph.
The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people aboard a sailboat that was caught in the storm. They also rescued four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission and had to be ditched in the ocean.
Both events were documented in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, “The Perfect Storm,” and a movie of the same name starring George Clooney.
While nuclear-powered carriers and submarines are all the rage in the U.S. Navy today, the sea-going service used to have a much wider nuclear portfolio with nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers that could sail around the world with no need to refuel, protecting carrier and projecting American power ashore with missiles and guns.
The USS Long Beach fires a Terrier missile in 1961.
The first nuclear surface combatant in the world wasn’t a carrier, it was the USS Long Beach, a cruiser launched in 1959. That ship was followed by eight other nuclear cruisers, Truxtun, California, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Arkansas was the last nuclear-powered cruiser launched, coming to sea in 1980.
During the same period, a nuclear-powered destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, took to the seas as well. Due to changes in ship nomenclature over the period, it was a frigate when designed, a destroyer when launched, but would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired.
The Navy launched Operation Sea Orbit where nuclear-powered ships sailed together in 1964. This is the USS Enterprise, a carrier; the USS Long Beach, a cruiser; and the USS Bainbridge, classified at the time as a destroyer.
The big advantage of nuclear vessels, which required many more highly trained personnel as well as a lot of hull space for the reactor, was that they could sail forever at their top speed. The speed thing was a big advantage. They weren’t necessarily faster than their conventionally fueled counterparts, but gas and diesel ships had to time their sprints for maximum effect since going fast churned through fuel.
That meant conventional vessels couldn’t sail too fast for submarines to catch them, couldn’t sprint from one side of the ocean to the other during contingency operations, and relied on tankers to remain on station for extended periods of time.
Nuclear vessels got around all these problems, but their great speed and endurance only really helped them if they weren’t accompanied by conventional ships. After all, the cruisers and destroyer can’t sprint across the ocean if that means they are outrunning the rest of the fleet in dangerous waters.
The Navy detonates an explosive charge off the starboard side of the USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered cruiser, during sea trials.
(U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Toon)
That’s why Rickover wanted a full nuclear battle group. It could move as a single unit and enjoy its numerous advantages without being slowed down by other ships.
And the ships were quite lethal when they arrived. Nuclear carriers at the time were similar to those today, sailing at a decent clip of about 39 mph (33.6 knots) while carrying interceptor aircraft and bombers.
The 10 nuclear cruisers (counting the Bainbridge as a cruiser), were guided-missile cruisers. Four ships were Virginia-Class ships focused on air defense but also featuring weapons needed to attack enemy submarines and ships as well as to bombard enemy shores.
The other most common nuclear cruiser was the California Class with three ships. The California Class was focused on offensive weaponry, capable of taking the fight to enemy ships with Harpoon missiles, subs with anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes, and enemy shores with missiles and guns. But, it could defend itself and its fleet with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.
Ticonderoga-class cruisers like the USS Hue City, front, and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers like the USS Oscar Austin, rear, replaced the nuclear cruisers.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Wilson)
But the nuclear fleet had one crippling problem: expense. Rickover knew that to ensure that the larger Navy and America would continue to embrace nuclear power at sea, the ships had to be extremely dependable and secure. To do this, ships needed good shielding and a highly capable, highly trained crew.
Also, the reactors took up a lot of space within the hull, requiring larger ships than conventional ones with the same battle capabilities. So, when budget constraints came up in the 1990s, the nuclear fleet was sent to mothballs except for the carriers.
And even at that stage, the nuclear cruisers cost more than their counterparts. Conventional cruisers can be sold to allied navies, commercial interests, or sent to common scrap yards after their service. Nuclear cruisers require expensive decommissioning and specially trained personnel to deal with the reactors and irradiated steel.
While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.
That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.
“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.
The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.
Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.
The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.
“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”
“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.
“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”
The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.
The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.
“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.
The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.
The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.
Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.
The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”
“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”
The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”
“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.
Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.
The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.
“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”
The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.
But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.
“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”