Each individual symptom as a result of a TBI can be filed as a VA disability claim
The US Navy’s Arctic muscles have atrophied over the years, so the service is working to relearn how to operate in this increasingly competitive space.
One way the Navy is doing that is by working with US allies and partners with the necessary knowledge and skills, picking their brains on how best to operate in this unforgiving environment.
Lt. Samuel Brinson, a US Navy surface warfare officer who took part in an exchange program aboard the Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec as it conducted Arctic operations, recently talked to Insider about his experiences.
Although he declined to say exactly where he went, Brinson said that he “didn’t know anyone who had been as far north” as he traveled on his Arctic mission.
The US Navy’s 2nd Fleet was reactivated last summer to defend US interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic waterways, as great power rivals like Russia and even China are becoming increasingly active in these spaces.
But there’s a learning curve.
“2nd Fleet is a newly-established fleet, and we just haven’t been operating in the Arctic as a navy much recently,” Brinson told Insider.
HMCS Ville de Quebec.
“We need to get up there. We need to practice operating. We need to practice operating with our allies. We need to get up there and experience it for ourselves as much as possible.”
That’s exactly what he did. He went on a one-month fact-finding mission in the Arctic.
Brinson, who had previously deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations (Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf), was approached by 2nd Fleet for this opportunity, which involved reporting on how the Canadian navy carries out its activities in the Arctic effectively.
“The most striking difference [between the Arctic and other deployment locations] is how remote it is,” he explained to Insider. “There are just not many towns. You go forever without seeing other ships. You go forever without seeing other establishments. The distance is a lot further between the places we were operating than it looks on a map.”
From an operations perspective, that makes logistics a bit more difficult. “The biggest challenge for going into the Arctic is logistics,” Brinson said.
“You have to have a plan where you are going and really think about where you are going to get fuel, where you are going to get food, and if you need to send people or get people from the ship, how and where you are going to do that. Everything is pretty far apart.”
“You don’t have a lot of refueling points, resupply stations,” he added. “When you get up into the Arctic, there is not really anything there, and if someone had to come get you, like if they had to send tugs to come get us, it was going to take days, like lots of days.”
The emptiness of the Arctic isn’t just a problem from a resupply standpoint. It also creates navigational problems.
“Because it’s less developed up there, it’s also been less charted,” Brinson told Insider. “We spent a lot of time switching between electronic charts, paper charts, you know, Canadian charts, Norwegian charts, etc. to navigate around where we were going. You have to use whichever chart was most complete and most up to date.”
“There’s a lot of headway that could be made on that in the future,” he added. “The more we operate up there, the more we know that, but before we send ships in to some of these places, we probably need to just survey it first.”
Views of a U.S.-Canada joint mission to map the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean in 2011.
There’s also frigid temperatures and ice to worry about.
Brinson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was in the Arctic in August, a warmer period when the daytime highs were in the low 30s. “It was cold to me, but [the Canadians] all thought I was being silly,” he said.
In the spring, fall, or winter, the temperatures are much lower, and there is a risk of getting iced in while at port. “Right now, you pretty much only want to be up there June, July, August, and then as it starts getting into September, it starts getting too cold,” Brinson told Insider.
Even though the temperatures were higher when Brinson was there, ice was still a bit of problem. “There is enough around that you need to be extra careful, especially if it’s nighttime or foggy. There were icebergs that were bigger than the ship,” he said.
“If you were to hit something like that, it’s a huge problem,” Brinson added, recalling that he saw a polar bear roaming about on one of the icebergs with plenty of room to move around.
Polar bear and two cubs.
From the Canadians, Brinson learned how to deal with cold temperatures and ice, how to keep your water supply from freezing, which side to pass an iceberg on if there are pieces coming off it, and how to sail through an ice flow, among other things.
“Working with partners like Canada is key because they’ve never stopped operating up there,” he said. “They know things like that.”
Brinson told Insider that the US Navy has fallen behind and lost a step when it comes to Arctic operations. “What we need to do is just get back to doing it,” he said. “We need to start getting the level of knowledge back.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the prospect of a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan is closer than it has ever been, the peace process with the Taliban could be derailed by competing agendas.
Longtime rivals Russia and the United States have backed separate negotiations with different stakeholders, muddling the complex process.
To highlight the confusion, the Taliban first sat down for talks with American negotiators in Qatar before meeting a delegation of powerful Afghan power brokers in Moscow for “intra-Afghan” talks.
Why two simultaneous negotiating processes?
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a series of direct talks with Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, culminating in the basic framework of a possible peace deal.
Meanwhile, Moscow has organized two peace conferences — the latest on Feb. 5-6, 2019 — that have drawn representatives from Afghanistan’s neighbors, opposition politicians, and the same Taliban negotiators that met with the American delegation in Doha.
Both processes have frozen out the Afghan government, which the Taliban has refused to meet. The militants see the Kabul government as a Western puppet and have said they will negotiate directly with Washington.
Analysts say Moscow is trying to promote itself as a power broker to challenge the U.S.-backed peace process.
Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul, says the Russian peace talks are fueled by “Russian political sniping against the [United States].”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 4, 2019, that the United States was trying to “monopolize” peace talks with the Taliban and was conducting talks in secrecy while keeping regional countries “in the dark.”
Haroun Mir, an Kabul-based political analyst, says it has been the Taliban’s strategy to have two simultaneous tracks for negotiations.
“The Taliban has insisted on negotiating first with the United States and then bypassing the Afghan government and initiating a dialogue with different Afghan political groups,” says Mir. “Thus far they have been successful in dividing the Afghan political elite who have supported the constitutional process in the past 18 years.”
What are the consequences of having two tracks?
Analysts say a major consequence is deepening divisions inside Afghanistan between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and a host of powerful opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Among those who attended the Moscow meetings were key power brokers who have announced their candidacy to run against Ghani in the July presidential election.
Ruttig says for Moscow not to include the Afghan government was an “affront” and has the strong feel of election campaigning and Russia taking sides.
“A united ‘Kabul camp’ would be better, but maybe this is an illusion anyway,” says Ruttig. “But [unity] was clearly not the desire of the Russian government: this is divide and interfere.”
Ghani is reportedly furious about his administration being left out of both the U.S. and Russian talks.
The president’s office criticized the meeting in Moscow, saying that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.” Meanwhile, Kabul fears Washington will make a deal in Doha with the Taliban behind their back.
Analyst Mir says by keeping the Kabul government out of the U.S.- and Russia-backed talks the Taliban wants to “reduce the legitimacy of the Afghan government to a minimum and thus further strengthen [its] bargaining position vis-a-vis the United States and extract maximum advantage.”
Who are the likely winners and losers?
Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan analyst and a consultant for the International Crisis Group, says no one has won or lost because all of the actors have stakes in the outcome.
“If these talks give birth to an inclusive intra-Afghan process, the people of Afghanistan could finally gain relief from the world’s deadliest war,” says Smith. “If the talks fail to include all sides and no durable peace results [from them], the people could suffer another collapse into civil war.”
Sidelined and frustrated, the weak, deeply unpopular Afghan government may feel it is the biggest loser so far.
Mir says it’s not just the government that stands to lose, but “all of those who have defended the constitutional process for the past 18 years.”
Analysts say the talks have given Russia the chance to burnish perceptions of Moscow’s global significance while dealing a fresh blow to Western influence.
Ruttig says Moscow’s role is another assertion that it is “back in the strategic game.”
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Detroit, with a ceremony in the city that bears its name.
The Detroit is a Freedom-class LCS and is designed to operate near the coast with different modules that can essentially plugged into the ship depending on the mission.
The LCS ships can focus on anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-mine missions depending on which mission module is installed. The ship always carries defensive missiles to shoot down incoming enemy munitions, and all modules support either an MH-60 helicopter or two Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.
“This ship represents so much. It represents the city of Detroit, the motor city. It represents the highly-skilled American workers of our nation’s industrial base, the men and women who built this great warship; and it represents the American spirit of hard work, patriotism and perseverance,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Detroit’s commissioning ceremony.
“The USS Detroit will carry these values around the world for decades to come as the newest ship in our nation’s growing fleet.”
The Detroit’s anti-submarine mission package and its ability to operate in shallow waters make it especially capable of hunting diesel submarines, a major part of both Russia and China’s area-denial arsenal. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear subs and are therefore much harder to detect.
Barbara Levin, the wife of the retired Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, sponsored the USS Detroit.
Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles at the Islamic State group’s positions in Syria, the Russian defense ministry said on May 31.
The announcement came as Syrian government troops pushed ahead in their offensive against IS and militants in central and northern Syria.
Moscow said in a statement that the Admiral Essen frigate and the Krasnodar submarine launched the missiles at IS targets in the area of the ancient town of Palmyra. There was no information on when the missiles were launched.
Syrian troops have been on the offensive for weeks in northern, central and southern part of the country against IS and U.S.-backed rebels under the cover of Russian airstrikes, gaining an area almost half the size of neighboring Lebanon.
Most recently, Syrian troops and their allies have been marching toward the IS stronghold of Sukhna, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Palmyra.
The strategic juncture in the Syrian desert aids government plans to go after IS in Deir el-Zour, one of the militants’ last major strongholds in Syria. The oil-rich province straddles the border with Iraq and is the extremist group’s last gateway to the outside world.
Russia, a staunch Damascus ally, has been providing air cover to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive on IS and other insurgents since 2015. Moscow had fired cruise missiles from warships in the past, as well as from mainland Russia against Assad’s opponents.
As the fighting against IS militants is underway near Palmyra, Syrian troops clashed with U.S.-backed rebels in the country’s south on May 31, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Mozahem al-Salloum, of the activist-run Hammurabi Justice News network that tracks developments in eastern Syria.
The fighting came days after the United States told Syrian government forces and their allies to move away from an area near the Jordanian border where the coalition is training allied rebels.
The warning comes less than two weeks after the Americans bombed Iranian-backed troops there after they failed to heed similar warnings.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on May 30 that the U.S. dropped leaflets over the weekend telling the forces to leave the established protected zone.
In the northern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of IS, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition destroyed the main telecommunications center in the city, the IS-linked Aamaq news agency said. The Sound and Picture Organization, which documents IS violations, said land telecommunications were cut in most parts of the city after the center was hit.
The bombing came a day after U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached the northern and eastern gates of Raqqa ahead of what will likely be a long and deadly battle. The city has been subjected to intense airstrikes in recent days.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia that is fighting IS in northern Syria had struck a deal with the IS offering it a safe corridor out of Raqqa. He added that soon after the Russian Defense Ministry had spoken about the agreement, some IS fighters started moving toward Palmyra.
The SDF has denied reports that it allowed IS fighters to leave the city.
“The Russian military spotted the movement and struck the convoy so it never reached Palmyra,” Lavrov said. “And so it will be in all situations when the IS is spotted anywhere on the Syrian territory. It’s an absolutely legitimate target along with all its facilities, bases, and training camps.”
“The current situation shows gaps in coordination between all those who are fighting terrorism in Syria,” Lavrov added, voicing hope that the U.S.-led coalition wouldn’t allow the IS to escape from Raqqa.
Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes captured Palmyra in March 2016 and Moscow even flew in one of its best classical musicians to play a triumphant concert at Palmyra’s ancient theater. IS forces, however, recaptured Palmyra eight months later, before Syrian government troops drove them out again in March 2017.
Russia’s defense ministry said its statement that the strikes successfully hit IS heavy weapons and fighters whom the group who had deployed and moved to Palmyra from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Sunni militant group and its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Moscow said it had notified the U.S., Turkish, and Israeli militaries beforehand of the upcoming strike. It added that the Russian strike was promptly executed following the order, a testimony to the navy’s high readiness and capabilities.
Russia has been busy mediating between Assad and Turkey and the West who seek his removal. Earlier this month Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to establish safe zones in Syria, signing on to a Russian plan under which Assad’s air force would halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country. Russia says maps delineating the zones should be ready by June 4.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.
A top U.S. official has met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in New York to discuss “cooperative efforts against Russia’s malign influence,” among other things, the State Department says.
A statement said the Sept. 25, 2018 meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly also touched upon Russia’s “use of energy projects to extort and intimidate Ukraine and other European allies,” as well as Kyiv’s progress in implementing political and economic reforms.
Sullivan reiterated that the United States “will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and reaffirmed “strong U.S. support” for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to the statement.
Relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March 2018.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
Moscow’s support for the separatists and its illegal annexation of Crimea prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions over the construction of an underwater natural gas pipeline to deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing the traditional route through Ukraine.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Germany “will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course” on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an already existing pipeline.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to address the assembly later in the day.
Featured image: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
All too often the Arctic region is portrayed as an area on the cusp of military crisis. This is an easy narrative to sell; it harks back to the Cold War. Potent imagery persists of submarines trolling silently beneath the Arctic ice and nuclear ballistic missiles pointed across the North Pole.
During the height of the standoff between NATO and the USSR, the world feared a barrage of nuclear warheads streaming in from the frozen north – and this experience has imprinted on the collective imagination and created distinct ideas about the region. This fear, for example, motivated from the 1950s the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Lines, a system of radar stations across the northern US (Alaska), Canada, and Greenland. The DEW Lines were meant to give the US and its NATO allies an early warning of an incoming Soviet nuclear strike.
The Cold War was a significant period in history. But catchy headlines playing off the parallels between the region and a new “cold” war are misleading. There have, of course, been increased tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 due to the conflict over Ukraine and Crimea. The 2018 Trident Juncture exercises in the Arctic, featuring “50,000 personnel from NATO Allies and partner countries”, are evidence of this. But the tension is not Arctic-specific and militaries are diverse actors in the region. This nuance, however, is often overlooked.
Belgian and German soldiers of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train their weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.
Current military exercises and equipment acquisitions fuel old Cold War perceptions. And a certain militarization is indeed occurring in the Arctic. Russia, for example, has recently invested heavily in updating its northern military infrastructure. So too have other Arctic states, such as Canada and Denmark. But military activity has, to varying degrees, occurred for decades in the north – it was just largely ignored by those not living there until recently.
The Arctic states guard their land and waterways through aerial, submarine and surface ship patrols, much as they have done for years. This hardly constitutes an escalation of military tensions, even if the infrastructure is being updated and, in some cases, increased. Despite this, talk of a new Cold War is heating up.
A nation’s armed forces often play a range of roles – beyond their traditional responsibilities in armed conflict. They are useful for rapid response during disasters, for example, and provide a range of security roles that don’t necessarily mean an escalation to war. They offer search and rescue (SAR) services and policing support.
In Norway, for example, the coast guard is one of the branches of the navy, along with the armed fleet, the naval schools and the naval bases. In Denmark, meanwhile, the coast guard’s Arctic activities are managed by the Royal Danish Navy.
In Canada, the coast guard is a civilian organization. It “is the principal civilian maritime operational arm of the government of Canada“. But it also works closely with the Department of National Defense to provide Canada’s search and rescue services, including aerial support.
The US Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which “secures the nation’s air, land, and sea borders to prevent illegal activity while facilitating lawful travel and trade“. By law, however, the US Coast Guard is outside the Department of Defense “in peacetime and is poised for transfer to the Department of the Navy during war“.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420 ft. icebreaker.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Prentice Danner)
Because of affiliations such as these, the line between military and civilian activity can become blurred. But that doesn’t mean all military activity is hostile or equates to an escalation towards war.
Climate change and technological advances have begun to open up the Arctic. And this means that more policing is required in a region that is remote and often out of reach for traditional police forces.
Other issues are also arising from climate change, such as increased forest fires. In July 2018, Sweden suffered major forest fires. As part of its effort to combat the fires it deployed “laser-guided bombs to douse forest fires”. This initiative was led by the Swedish air force. By using laser bombs, the “shockwaves simply blew out the flames in the same way our breath does to candles”.
As the region’s economic activity expands, armed forces are also being asked to assist more with civilian issues. In 2017, for example, the Norwegian Coast Guard was called in by local police in Tromsø to help police Greenpeace protesters who had entered a 500-metre safety zone around the Songa Enabler rig in an effort to stop drilling in the Korpfjell field of the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Coast Guard vessel, KV Nordkapp, responded, resulting in the seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and the arrest of all 35 people on board.
Given the Arctic’s growing economic potential, military infrastructure is getting more attention. Russia, in particular, has made it clear that with economic potential on the line in the Arctic, a military build up is essential. For Russia, Arctic resources are central to the country’s economic security so the government line is: “National security in the Arctic requires an advanced naval, air force and army presence.” But issues of national security are wide ranging and are not solely a matter of building capacity to defend oneself from or in war.
Overall, it is vital to remember that while militaries are tools of war, they are not just tools of war. They also contribute to and provide a wide range of security services. This does not mean that increased military spending and activities should not be viewed with a critical eye. Indeed, they should. But discussing “a new Cold War” is sensationalist. It detracts from the broader roles that militaries play throughout the Arctic and stokes the very tensions it warns of.
Meet ‘the women beyond the uniform’ at the 2014 Miss Veteran America competition. Find out how walking the runway helps support homeless female veterans and their children.
The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.
But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.
The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.
Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)
As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.
Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.
The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.
A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.
“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.
The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”
The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.
The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.
Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.
In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.
“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.
Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.
During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.
UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.
Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)
During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.
The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.
RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.
The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.
Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.
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A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.
The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.
The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.
Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.
“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.
Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.
On a cold January day in Virginia, men and women of the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s (DDG 75) engineering department stood at attention both somber and quiet. The bitter cold chills of the wind broke the silence of their awards-at-quarters on the ship’s flight deck. While most service members eagerly await receiving awards, this was certainly not true for Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class John Chavez-Sanchez. This was the day he did not anticipate — being awarded for his bravery and assistance in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 12, 2000.
“You figure my first NAM [Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal] is that one that I am most excited for, but I didn’t smile,” said Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez-Sanchez, from Bay Shore, New York, now assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) engineering department. “Nobody smiled. Nobody clapped. Myself and the crew from the Cook didn’t want any type of praise. We played a key role, but we didn’t want to take any credit.”
On that fateful day, Cole pulled pierside in Aden, Yemen to begin refueling. It was mid-day when two suicide bombers pulled a small boat along Cole’s port side and detonated explosives leaving a 40 foot-by-60 foot hole at the waterline of the ship. Seventeen sailors died and another 39 were injured.
While on its maiden voyage, a mere two nautical miles away, USS Donald Cook got word on the events that had took place.
“We got sent to GQ [general quarters] and no one knew why at first,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I was going through my checklist as the repair locker electrician when the CO [commanding officer] came on the 1MC and announced that the Cole was attacked. He told us, ‘This is what we train for. Get ready for war’.”
Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez sanches and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Bradley Mcbrayer, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), tests the weapons elevator’s diagnostic server during a routine equipment check.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Ruiz)
Chavez-Sanchez said a quick prayer. Shortly after, the CO announced Cook’s air-wing was going to provide air support. A few more hours passed, now he and the engineering department were to muster on that same flight deck in which he was awarded his first NAM.
“We were asked to volunteer to be a part of the first group to help assist with damage control efforts,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “Everyone raised their hand. Everyone wanted to help. It was the single most example of camaraderie I had ever seen.”
Ten hours after the attack Chavez-Sanchez was on the first rigid-hull inflatable boat to be sent to aid the vulnerable Cole.
“The waters were clear; there was no debris,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “You couldn’t tell an attack just happened until we passed right by the hole. I could see clear into the ship. That’s when I smelled it — the rotting, decaying, foul smell of death.”
Aboard Cole, Chavez-Sanchez and his group were asked if they could handle the situation. Again, everyone raised their hands in agreement. Some grabbed a flash light or a radio, but all of them applied a small amount of vapor rub right under their noses to combat the smell.
“We were making our way around to assess what we needed for the damages,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “The only light or ventilation in the ship came through that hole where the blast happened. We knew we were by the galley; it looked like crumpled up aluminum foil. Then I saw bodies, that’s when everything hit me.”
At that sight, the 21-year-old Chavez-Sanchez realized the magnitude of the situation. He responded with a sense of duty by volunteering for anything he could do — fighting fires, dewatering flooded spaces, standing shoring watch, and security watch. However, his primary mission as an electrician’s mate was to bring up the generators and restore power to the ship.
“Throughout the day and night, there was constant flooding,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We were getting woken up to combat the flooding. It was hard to sleep most nights.”
The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole prepares to moor in Faslane, Scotland.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lacordrick Wilson)
Chavez-Sanchez and the many who volunteered from the Cook began a watch rotation of 48-hours on, 48-hours off, serving time and standing watch on both missile-guided destroyers.
A week into his new watch rotation, Chavez-Sanchez and his engineering team restored power and ventilation aboard Cole. Two more weeks passed and Chavez-Sanchez and his Cook team finished their damage control efforts and headed back to the Cook permanently.
The Norwegian semi-submersible dry-dock ship Blue Marlin came to transport the Cole back to the United States after the on-site repairs. Alongside the Blue Marlin, Cook was again tasked to aid the ship — this time escorting Cole back to the U.S.
“The day we heard ‘USS Cole, underway’ was emotional for our crew,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We all celebrated because we knew we did our job for the ship to be ready to make her way back to the states.”
Once the Cole was home she began her intensive repairs and eventually became deployable again.
“After 18 years, I still remember that day, that time period,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I carry that story with me. It became a motivation to stay in the Navy and I continue to train everyone around me. ‘Train how you fight’ became personal to me.”
Within the same year of the 18-year anniversary, Chavez-Sanchez’s story came full circle.
“While in Norfolk, the Cole was moored on the same pier [as the Ford],” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I froze for about two minutes. In that time everything rushed back — the memories, the emotions. I saw it and I prayed. I didn’t want to tell my story because I didn’t want the recognition, so I had to keep moving.”
While Chavez-Sanchez may never forget, he is now ready to share his story so that it may inspire his newest shipmates on the Ford with the camaraderie and brotherhood he formed with his former shipmates in the wake of the Cole tragedy.
This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.
Rising above a sea of asphalt parking are the stubby turrets of Russia’s first-ever foray into the theme-park business. At first glance, the complex in Moscow bears a slight resemblance to Disneyland, the American amusement park that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was not allowed to visit in 1959, but hoped one day to reproduce at home. Now, after several false starts, Russia finally has its own amusement park: Dream Island.
With none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin on hand, joining Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, the park was opened to the public on February 29.
Officials are hoping millions of visitors from Russia and abroad will pass through the turnstiles annually, lured by Dream Island’s attractions scattered over its 30 hectares, all enclosed under glass domes to keep out the Russian capital’s notoriously harsh weather.
Russian officials are quick to note that the id=”listicle-2645441716″.5-billion theme park is the largest in Europe and Asia and to predict it will be a key part of the legacy Sobyanin leaves behind. The opening was delayed twice: once in 2018 and again in December 2019.
Many Russians, not least those active on social media, are skeptical to say the least with many lampooning what they see as a boondoggle and a poor imitation of the Disney original. Many lament the forest that was chopped down to make way for the park and the enormous expanse of parking. Others note the shady background of those involved with the project.
Perhaps more than anything, ticket prices at the park have been a lightning rod for criticism.
Tickets on the weekend cost 11,000 rubles (3) for a family of four. The average monthly wage in Russia last year was just over 46,000 rubles (3). And inflation continues to take bites of that. Overall, in 2019, about 14 percent of Russians lived on less than 0 per month, the official poverty line.
“According to the official site of the new Moscow park: ‘Dream Island is a socially significant site for the Moscow region.’ An entrance ticket for anyone over 10 years old costs 2,900 rubles . That means, it costs at least 8,700 [rubles, or 1] for a family [during the week]. The mayor’s office has a strange idea of ‘social significance,'” lawyer and moderator for the nationalist Tsargrad television channel Stalina Gurevich wrote on Twitter.
Others have taken issue with the id=”listicle-2645441716″.5 billion price tag. Twitter user Sakt points out that the Burj Khalifa, the needle-shaped, 830-meter skyscraper that dominates the skyline in Dubai, cost roughly the same, suggesting the United Arab Emirates got more bang for its buck.
Some are aesthetically appalled with what they consider a poor rip-off of the American theme-park icon.
Vasily Oblomov, also on Twitter, juxtaposed Dream Island and Disneyland.
“Today in Moscow the amusement park Dream Island is opening. One photo shows the pathetic foreign version. The other, the unique, Russian original. I think it won’t be difficult to figure out which is which.”
Another Twitter user, identified as Kolya Shvab, also was less than impressed with Dream Island’s castle: “What a mess. One look is enough to know that the person who designed this blindingly ugly barn with turrets, never in his life saw a real castle.”
Another Twitter user gave builders credit for taking a bad idea and making it worse.
“It was horrible from the beginning, but the builders managed to screw it up even more. All the rounded elements were made square. It’s not a ‘Dream Island’ but an island of shame,” he writes.
That message of disgust with the design of Dream Island was echoed by Twitter user, Sofiya, who identifies herself as an “architect” and “designer.”
“Dream Island is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my architectural life. This is hell for an architect. But my son is 13 years old. That means I’ll probably go there soon as a loving mother, and while my son enjoys the attractions, I’ll be suffering.”
Others were perplexed by the massive parking lot stretching out for acres in front of the park entrance, wondering why it couldn’t have taken up less space by being built underground or as a multilevel complex.
“Are we correct in thinking that for the Moscow authorities Dream Island is parking in front and beautiful scenery in the background so that parking wouldn’t be so boring?” asked Twitter user Gorodskie Proekty.
Even before its opening, the theme park was targeted for criticism, not least from those living near the site, who were among the loudest complaining after a forest was chopped down to make way for the project.
Twitter user Interesting Moscow posted what appears to be satellite imagery of the area before and after the park was built.
Others couldn’t help but notice the opening just happened to coincide with a demonstration in the Russian capital to commemorate Boris Nemtsov, the Putin critic who was shot dead near the Kremlin five years ago. Many used the event to protest proposed amendments to the country’s constitution. Critics say the planned changes are aimed at extending Putin’s grip on power after his current presidential term ends in 2024.
Twitter user Borrelia persica said half of Moscow was at the Nemtsov march, the other at the opening of Dream Island.
The owners of the complex are Amiran Mutsoyev and his brother, Alikhan. The two are the sons of Zelimkhan Mutsoyev, a shady businessman and former State Duma deputy from the ruling United Russia party with alleged ties to organized crime figures.
Whether any of that will matter to Russians considering a visit to Dream Island remains to be seen.