Members of the military and veterans the world over have a dark sense of humor. Given the nature of our lives, we can either think about the gravest consequences of what we do or we can choose to laugh about it. We spend so much time joking about dark things, it bleeds into the rest of our lives. For one Irish veteran, it carried on into his death.
Shay Bradley died on Oct. 8, 2019, of a long illness, one “bravely borne” in Dublin, Ireland. Bradley was a veteran of the Irish Defense Forces, the all-volunteer military forces of the Republic of Ireland. He was laid to rest just four days later in a beautiful funeral that would have been at the same time solemn and sad. That’s when someone started knocking on the casket door.
From the inside.
“Hello? Hello. Hello? Let me out!” the funeralgoers heard. “”Where the f*ck am I? … Let me out, it’s f*cking dark in here. … Is that the priest I can hear? … This is Shay, I’m in the box. No, in f*cking front of you. I’m dead.”
Bradley wanted his wife to leave the funeral laughing instead of crying. According to his daughter Andrea, Shay recorded the audio about a year before his passing, knowing full well how his illness would end. No one knew about the recording that would be played at the funeral except Shay’s son Jonathan and his grandson, Ben. Jonathan let the cat out of the bag two days before the funeral, though, telling the immediate family about the recording.
It was Shay’s dying wish to play the prank at his own funeral. His wife was laughing as she left the cemetery, just as Shay had hoped.
“[It was his] way of saying not only goodbye, but to also say, ‘OK the sadness is over now here is a laugh so you can go and celebrate my life with a smile on your face.'”Bradley’s daughter told the Huffington Post. “This prank was one in a million, just like my dad.”
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan revealed July 12 he’s been using new rules of engagement that allow his command to deploy American and NATO forces to aid Afghan troops who are on the attack.
The new policy marks a sharp departure from previous authorities for the use of force that restricted U.S. and allied combat power to last ditch efforts to save Afghan troops from defeat.
Afghan mission commander U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson said in a press briefing in Kabul that now U.S. and NATO forces can use airpower and other troops “so that the Afghan Army can assume the offensive against the enemy.”
“As we focused on it this year, we used our in-extremis authorities that we had at the time to help prevent a strategic defeat. … It was in a defensive, reactive kind of manner,” Nicholson said. “With the new authorities that we have now, as of June, we’re able to then provide combat enablers to assist the Afghans … taking the initiative against the enemy and their staging areas.”
The new authority comes on the heels of a stinging Pentagon report that showed special operations forces trying to help Afghan troops fight off a Taliban takeover of Kunduz in 2015 were hamstrung over rules of engagement that left them confused over when they could fight.
According to the report obtained by Reuters, commandos who radioed back for clarification of the ROEs were left hanging by superiors in the rear.
“Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire,” one special operator said in the Pentagon report, according to Reuters.
Nicholson launched a reassessment of the Afghanistan operation, dubbed “Resolute Support Mission,” when he assumed command in February. And in June he was given new authority to help Afghan troops on offense.
In one battle, Nicholson explained he was able to sortie F-16s to strike Taliban positions outside Tarin Kowt to help Afghan forces clear roads cut off by insurgents.
“Since that operation … we’re using our new authorities so that the Afghan army can assume the offensive against the enemy in Maiwand District, Band-e-Timor area, which is a well-known staging area. So it’s offensive,” Nicholson said.
President Obama announced last week he would keep about 8,500 American troops assigned to Afghanistan to fight the continued Taliban insurgency and fight terrorist groups.
Nicholson said during his press conference that about 3,000 U.S. troops would be assigned to continue training and advising Afghan troops, with another 3,300 “enablers,” including helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crews, assigned to give the Afghans a little extra combat punch.
The force also includes about 2,150 troops dedicated to the counterterrorism mission and about 400 troops based in other countries but helping with the Resolute Support mission.
Based off the book, “The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau,” written by Alex Kershaw and produced by A+E Studios for Netflix, is the story of Captain Felix Sparks (Bradley James) and the Thunderbirds’ incredible battle against the Axis Powers in Nazi controlled Europe. Using state of the art Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation, the story is coming to life this Veterans Day, November 11, only on Netflix.
War movies have always been a bastion of innovation when it comes to experimental new styles and effects that, when successful, influence the film industry for years to come. Every tink, bang and boom draw us closer in an attempt to push the limits of movie magic. Between the rounds and dirt, the audience and characters, leave home behind to experience something greater than themselves.
Experimental visuals, cutting edge sound design and a strong narrative backed by a best selling book about a bad ass warrior?
Yeah, I’d watch that.
Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation looks similar to the art style of Telltale Games used in The Walking Dead video game series. The Walking Dead Telltale series was cancelled due to behind the scenes changes but the audience demanded the series finished – and it was. Unprecedented proof that a strong story and this captivating style choice is enough to keep fans demanding for more.
GLENN ASAKAWA Getty Images
Felix Laurence Sparks
Felix Sparks was born on August 2, 1917 in San Antonio, Texas, and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1935. His leadership would guide him and the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, through a literal odyssey across Nazi controlled Europe from Sicily to stepping through the threshold of the Dachau concentration camp.
There are no words for Dachau, and even the pictures of its horrors are pale beside its realities. Veterans of six campaigns to whom death was commonplace, sickened and vomited at Dachau. Not the sight and smell of death did this, but the decaying evidence of human cruelty that was beyond the understanding of the normal mind. Dachau was rot and stench and filth. Dachau was Hitler and the SS. And, deny it though its people did with every breath, Dachau was Germany of 1933-45. Let Dachau live in our memories. – Personal account by Felix L. Sparks Brigadier General, AUS(Retired)
Captain Felix Sparks is played by Bradley James whom you may recognize as Giuliano de’ Medici in another of Netflix’s powerhouse TV series Medici: The Magnificent. His portrayal of Captain Sparks stays true to the book. Historical accuracy has always been important to our warrior community and Bradley’s performance lands it.
45th Infantry Division, Thunderbirds
When you hear about the 45th Infantry in WWII as a history buff you know you’re in for a wild ride. First of all, the Division’s symbol used to be the a Swastika before the war. It was an ancient Native American symbol and used to honor the population of the South Western United States. However, once the Swastika was affiliated with the Nazi Party, it was charged to the Thunderbird we know today.
Second of all, the battles. The 45th goes through it all, from being on the sidelines as a National Guard Unit in Oklahoma to kicking down the doors of the Reich in Germany. I will not mention them here as to not risk any spoilers but if you’re a history buff like me, you know which parts I’m looking forward to.
Lastly, this is definitely something to curl up with a MRE and a beer to watch on Netflix on Veterans Day. ‘Murica!
Your division is one of the best, if not the best division in the history of American arms.” – General George S. Patton
Don’t miss the premiere on Veteran’s Day November 11th, 2020!
Before he was teaching folks how to paint beautiful landscape sceneries, the late artist Bob Ross served in the U.S. Air Force. In fact, it was where he gained his inspiration for future paintings.
While working as a first sergeant at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Ross is said to have been acquainted with snow-capped mountains that made regular appearances in his paintings. He began painting them during work breaks, where he was able to create a fast technique that allowed him to make art, even with little downtime.
One of the things Bob Ross is known for is his calm and quiet demeanor. This can also be traced back to his time serving in the military. He said, with his role of keeping others in line, he had to be mean. “[I was] the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work.” Because of this, he vowed to raise his voice once retiring from the military. This, of course, led to his signature of speaking softly.
The beginning of a military career and a love for art
At 18 years old, Ross enlisted. It was 1961 and after basic training, he was given a job as a medical records technician. He served for 20 years, retiring as a master sergeant.
After going to a U.S.O class in Anchorage, Ross began painting as a hobby. However, he soon found that his style differed from his instructors, who were more apt to create abstract pieces. He later found a television show called The Magic of Oil Painting. The show’s unique style, led by Bill Alexander, a German painter, taught Ross to paint quickly. The method is commonly known as “alla prima” or “wet on wet,” allowing the artist to create an entire painting in 30 minutes. This is the same method that Ross would become famous for in his own right.
With the help of the show, Ross studied the technique and began adding his own skills, creating an entire style of landscape painting. He began selling his paintings and quickly found success, even making more from his paintings than he did from his Air Force salary.
In 1981, he retired from the service and turned to painting full time. Ross soon returned to his home state of Florida and joined his mentor, painting coach Bill Alexander, as a salesman and tutor for his brand, Alexander Magic Art Supplies Company.
Eventually, Bob Ross founded his own painting company.
Bob Ross Inc. incorporated his signature permed hair into its logo. Because of the popularity, Ross kept his permed hair going forward. Through the company, he was able to gain popularity and star in The Joy of Painting, which aired for 12 seasons on PBS from 1983-1994. The show allowed Ross to teach his own style of painting, narrating how to achieve certain results while using the wet-on-wet technique. His son, Steve, also appeared on the show and eventually became a Ross-certified painting instructor.
Ross passed away in 1995 from complications of lymphoma, leaving behind a $15 million business in art classes and painting supplies. His shows still air on PBS reruns, continuing to teach the masses his landscaping techniques. To see him at work, check out the following video:
Two members of Marine Special Operations Command received valor awards for their heroism during a gun battle in 2017 with al Qaeda militants in Northern Africa, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed on Aug. 15, 2018.
While on a three-day operation to train, advise, and assist partner forces in the unnamed country — which the command withheld due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities” — the Marine Special Operations Team on Feb. 28, 2017, became engaged in a “fierce fight against members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to one of the award citations for the unnamed Marines, who are often referred to as “Raiders.”
The two award citations for the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with “V” distinguishing device for valor) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Task Purpose. Despite redactions of names and the specific Marine Raider team involved, the citations provide a glimpse of a battle between Americans and militants on the African continent that had not previously been made public.
While the specific country where the battle took place remains unknown, Northern Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, according to the United Nations.
Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Task Purpose in a statement that partner forces initially engaged and killed one al Qaeda fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to “return fire in self-defense.”
United States Military Achievement Medals.
According to one citation, the Raiders’ communications chief and assistant element leader — typically a sergeant or above — “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” The citation went on to say the Marine, while under accurate enemy fire, provided immediate trauma care for a fellow Raider who was wounded and helped evacuate him into a partner force helicopter that was hovering six feet above his position.
The second citation for an element member on the team — typically a sergeant or below — captures how the battle raged from the helicopter overhead. While onboard the partner force helicopter, the Marine fired at militants below, coordinated close air support, and directed the gunners and pilots on board the aircraft.
The militants responded with accurate fire, however, and a partner force soldier behind the helicopter’s M60 machine gun was shot twice in the foot, after which “[the Marine Raider] took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner,” the citation said.
“He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire,” the citation added.
The partner force ultimately secured the site of the battle and “assessed two enemies were killed,” Reho told Task Purpose. The wounded Marine was evacuated and has since made a full recovery.
The gun battle between Marines and al Qaeda militants took place seven months before a deadly battle between ISIS militants and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were advising partner forces in Niger. The Oct. 4, 2017 ambush resulted in the deaths of four American service members and led the Pentagon to conduct a major review of U.S special operations missions in Africa.
This article originally appeared on Task Purpose. Follow @Taskandpurpose on Twitter.
If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?
But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.
The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.
Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.
But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.
“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.
2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.
Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.
Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.
Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Do you have a plan for the catastrophe most likely to affect your area? Since the WATM staff is based in LA, our most likely natural disaster is either an earthquake or devastating mudslides. We wondered which one of us in the office (aside from
our office Green Beret) was most likely to survive such an event.
The surprise was that some of us have more skills than you might think.
Former Air Force intelligence officer Shannon Corbeil is an avid camper. As is Army veteran and radio operator Eric Milzarski. Veteran Corpsman Tim Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, is a borderline survivalist. As for me, Air Force combat cameraman Blake Stilwell, my plan is to get rescued as soon as possible — hopefully before my rations run out.
During an earthquake, you’re supposed to seek cover, duck, and protect your neck. Shannon Corbeil was raised in the Los Angeles area, and was in major earthquakes in 1987 and 1994. The WATM crew also has different ideas on what to do
after the crisis passes: account for resources or create a team of skilled party members, ready for adventure and initiative?
And then, like the real U.S. troops having a survivalism discussion that we are, we lay out our plans for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
But there are at least four very important general aspects of survival to talk about either after a disaster, in the wild, or yes, the zombie apocalypse. The most important is being prepared! Don’t wait until disaster strikes to try and get supplies. You’ll be food for the people who went to the Army-Navy surplus ahead of time.
Also, you need to figure out how to navigate through your new, post-apocalyptic world, either by the stars or the sun. Or perhaps you even made your own compass with a leaf and water.
In the wild, you need a little bit more. You need to figure out how you’ll filter water, start a fire, and identify edible food. Forget that most of us are bad at picking real food in our daily lives — the stakes are much higher when Taco Bell is closed for the end of days.
Finally, you need a game plan for a disaster. What would you do if a disaster struck your area? Find out what the folks at WATM came up with in this week’s episode.
What do you need to carry with you in case of an emergency.
If you don’t know any survival skills, you are not alone.
Use Krazy Glue for wounds; use Doritos for kindling.
Surviving in the wild is much harder than surviving a disaster.
Earthquakes don’t feel like earthquakes until they do.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
President Donald Trump’s flurry of tweets to kick off the new year lasted into the late evening Jan. 2, as he launched another fiery message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I, too, have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Kim, in a televised speech on Jan. 1, had spoken of a “nuclear button” that was “always on my desk.”
“This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said. “This year we should focus on mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Though Trump touted a “nuclear button,” a physical button that a US president can push to initiate a nuclear strike does not appear to exist. Instead, a briefcase — referred to as the “football” — carries authentication codes and is carried by a military aide wherever the president goes.
Trump’s threat comes amid another warning from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who on Jan. 2 seemed dismissive of proposed high-level talks between South Korea and North Korea.
“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” Haley said during a press conference. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime, we don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture.”
Though current U.S. officials have panned negotiations between North Korea and South Korea, former U.S. officials — including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — and many analysts appear to have accepted North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and have approved the call for negotiations.
“I can well envision a scenario where they would juxtapose a missile test and as well agree to talk with the South Koreans, which I think would be a good thing,” Clapper said. “It would do a lot, I think, to relax some of the tensions. I think negotiation is the only way ahead here — to me, there is no other realistic option.”
On October 1, 2020, the United States Marine Corps activated its first new base since 1952. Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz will host roughly 5,000 Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force on the island of Guam. The Marines will relocate from their current station in Okinawa, Japan over the next five years. 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed at Camp Blaz while the remaining 3,700 Marines will serve as a rotational force.
The new Marine Corps strategy in the Pacific calls for a smaller, more agile and lethal force. “We have to spread out,” said the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. “We have to factor in Guam.” Camp Blaz will allow the United States to distribute its premiere amphibious fighting force across the Pacific. Operating from Guam, the Marine Corps will be able to respond to a wider array of aggressive actions from China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) is officially the largest navy in the world. While the United States more than doubles the PLAN in tonnage and outclasses it in quality, the threat of numbers cannot be ignored.
Camp Blaz is named for the late Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro Marine to reach the rank of general officer. Blaz was born on Guam on February 14, 1928 and lived through the Japanese occupation of the island during WWII. After the war, he attended the University of Notre Dame on a scholarship and commissioned as a Marine officer in 1951.
Over his 29 years of service, Blaz earned the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat “V” for valor, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross for his service in Vietnam. Following his retirement from the Corps in 1980, Blaz worked as a professor at the University of Guam. In 1984, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the delegate from Guam. He served in Congress until 1983 when he retired. Blaz died in 2014 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The new base that bears this Marine’s name solidifies the union between the Corps and the people of Guam. “As the Marine Corps presence on Guam grows, I am confident that we will live up to our motto of honor, courage, and commitment,” said Col. Bradley M. Magrath, Camp Blaz’s first base commander. “We will honor the history of the island of Guam, we will have the courage to defend it, and we will remain committed to preserving its cultural and environmental resources.” The Marine Corps plans to hold a formal activation ceremony in spring 2021.
Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour. Over four feet of rain has been dumped on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and Houston is flooded — and it may be as bad as Katrina.
Below are some of the photos showing the rescue efforts by the National Guard, which has been, as you might imagine, very busy.
This is what they are dealing with: An aerial view shows severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)
Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron prepare to deploy from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Aug. 27 for Texas, where they will assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Airmen are specialists in swift-water and confined-space rescue. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)
U.S. Air Force 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawks take-off, Aug. 26 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The 23d Wing launched HC-130J Combat King IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks, aircrew and other support personnel to preposition aircraft and airmen, if tasked to support Hurricane Harvey relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)
In this aerial view, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovers over the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)
Texas National Guardsmen drive military vehicles down flooded streets while searching for stranded residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
Texas National Guardsmen work with emergency responders in assisting residents affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding during search and rescue operations near Victoria, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)
Texas National Guard soldiers aid a citizen in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD)
A Texas National Guardsman carries a resident from her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27. (National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
A Texas Task Force responder helps hoist a stranded resident to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during search and rescue near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)
A Texas National Guardsman shakes hands with a resident after assisting his family during Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999. The donation will be reflected in your next cell phone bill. You can also donate by going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of national charities assisting those whose lives have been altered by Hurricane Harvey.
Leno picked Laberge at random out of a number of wounded soldiers to show his appreciation for those who serve. The former late night host may not be able to do something for everyone in uniform, he said, but he wanted to introduce the world to just one of them.
“Hopefully it expresses what we want to do for all soldiers,” Leno said.
In the video, Leno takes Laberge and some of his fellow soldiers out and shares some common ground around cars. Then, he takes him for a ride in the insanely fast Hellcat. As you would imagine, it was a pretty fun ride.
But the drive doesn’t end there. Over lunch, Leno talks with Laberge about what led him to join the Army, and how his recovery is going. “I can’t imagine what it’d be like,” Leno said.
And then, the best part. Getting out of the vehicle, Laberge comments that he wouldn’t mind having the Hellcat, to which Leno responds: “It’s yours. It’s yours.”
“Really?” the shocked soldier asks. “Oh man. That is awesome. Thank you.”
“America loves you,” Leno tells him. “Thank you buddy. Have a lot of fun. Don’t get any tickets.”
Russia has begun massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, starting weeklong war games the Defense Ministry says will involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.
The Sept. 11-17, 2018 exercises, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018) and billed by Moscow as its biggest in decades — or in history — come amid persistently high tension between Moscow and the West and are being closely watched by NATO.
The war games demonstrate “Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in late August 2018, stating that the Western alliance had been briefed about Vostk-2018 and would monitor it.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the opening day of a Sept. 11-13, 2018 economic forum in the Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok, is expected to observe the exercises briefly during his trip.
Chinese and Mongolian troops are taking part, amid ongoing Kremlin efforts to pursue closer ties with Beijing and other Asian capitals.
“We have a trusting relationship [with China] in the spheres of politics, security, and defense,” Putin said at the start of his meeting with Xi.
At a news conference after their talks, Xi also touted the relationship between Russia and China, which has a far larger population and an economy several times the size of Russia’s.
Xi, whose country is locked in a tense confrontation with the United States over trade and tariffs, said that Russia and China should work together to oppose protectionism and what he called unilateral approaches to international problems.
He said that an increasingly unpredictable geopolitical climate made partnership between Russia and China particularly important.
Up to 3,500 Chinese military personnel will take part in the “main scenario” of the drills at the Tsugol proving ground, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sept. 4, 2018.
Alex Kokcharov, a Russia analyst at the London-based risk assessment firm HIS Markit, said that China has never before participated in war games on Russian soil that were not under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
“Fundamentally, the goal of this specific exercise is to project Russian military power in the Asia-Pacific region,” Kokcharov said. “If Russia had not invited China, that would have been viewed by Beijing as a potentially dangerous activity by Russia.”
President of China Xi Jinping awarded the Order of Friendship of the People’s Republic of China to Vladimir Putin, June 2018.
Russian officials have said that the war games are not meant as a threat to any particular country but are justified by what Putin’s spokesman described on Aug. 28, 2018, as a hostile international environment.
Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country, is justified, essential and without alternative,” Peskov said.
On Sept. 10, 2018, Peskov called Vostok-2018 part of “a regular, routine training process aimed at improving skills and coordination in our armed forces.”
“This is a very important exercise, but it is still part of the annual routine development of the Russian armed forces,” he said.
Relations between Russia and the West have been severely strained by Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.
The war games demonstrate “Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in late August 2018, stating that the Western alliance had been briefed about Vostok-2018 and would monitor it.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said.
Shoigu said that about 300,000 military personnel would take part, twice as many as the largest war games conducted by the Soviet Union: the Zapad-81 exercises in 1981.
“In some ways (Vostok-2018) will repeat aspects of Zapad-81, but in other ways the scale will be bigger,” Shoigu said.
He said it would involve more than 1,000 warplanes, helicopters, and drones; up to 80 combat and logistics ships; and up to 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles.
“Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said.
The drills are being held in Russia’s Eastern and Central military districts, which encompass more than half of the country’s territory.
Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.
All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this episode, US Army vet Katie Robinson riffs on her experience as a theater major serving in Iraq.