Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.


The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
A U.S. Army soldier exits an Army Air Force Post Exchange at Steel Castle camp ground near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. | US Army photo by Spc. Emmanuel Samedi

The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.

The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.

Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.

“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”

Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.

About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.

“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”

Lists

4 ways you can tell the firefight in Afghanistan is over — for now

There are two types of firefights that ground troops experience: fun ones and others that suck.


The fun ones consist of taking enemy contact, maneuvering in on them, and clearing them out with tons of firepower without any good guys injured.

The ones that suck are the few that we don’t see coming — the ones where we take casualties. Although predicting when a firefight is going to happen is semi-possible, it’s a different skill altogether to know when they’re about to end.

Related: 14 images that portray your first day on a field op

So, check four ways you can tell when the firefight in Afghanistan is over — for now.

4. After an A-10 performs a perfectly executed gun run

During a firefight, it’s common for the platoon sergeant to call for air support if there is “air-on-station,” especially when the enemy is firing at you from a well-fortified position.

Witnessing the power of the A-10 nose-diving toward the enemy with its guns blazing is an excellent way to end the firefight for a while.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
We love that song.

3. When the local kids come back out to play

We’re not exactly sure how this one works, but right before rounds start flying, the locals tend to seek cover. Again, we’re not sure how it happens, but somehow the kids know when the area is clear and they come back outside and resume playing.

It’s crazy!

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Afghan children play soccer with multinational service members outside the Bazaar School at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy Hohman)

2. When the intel troops arrive to conduct a BDA

Most of the military’s intel offices have access to satellites and view enemy activity from space. Typically, when a grunt unit is assigned to conduct a BDA, or Battle Damage Assessment, after a firefight, that means the coast is clear.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
U.S. Army Capt. DeShane Greaser stands in a crater caused by a bomb dropped during an air strike conducting a Battle Damage Assessment outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Also Read: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

1. When it’s getting close to prayer time

Islam is a beautiful religion and the men and women who loyally follow the practice pray five times. Since prayer takes place throughout the day, ground troops commonly schedule missions and patrols according to those times.

It’s been frequently noted that firefights come to a quick halt if they overlap with prayer schedules.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Muslim Soldiers bow down in prayer during the celebration of Eid-Al-Fitr Sunday at the Joe E. Mann Center. Eid-Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims worldwide. (Photo from U.S. Army)

MIGHTY TRENDING

As Iran’s missiles get better, US presses for new sanctions

The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, calling it a “grave and escalating threat.”

Brian Hook made the call on Dec. 3, 2018, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.


The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation.

The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which in 2018 imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s economy.

The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Remains of Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles seen at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.

Speaking aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington “would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program.”

The U.S. envoy said that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May “can be effective if more nations can join us in those [sanctions].”

“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” Hook said.

He also said that “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.

European countries have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.

In a Dec. 1, 2018 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” and called on the country to “cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as “provocative and destabilizing.”

Iran’s military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will “continue to both develop and test missiles.”

“Missile tests…are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, as saying on Dec. 2, 2018.

Shekarchi said such activity “is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Quadruple amputee Travis Mills wows the crowd with appearance on ‘Ellen’ show

Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.


David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.

In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.

“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.

“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.

When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”

Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”

His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.

Vobora combined his research into the training he’d done with professional athletes with Mills’ experience at Walter Reed to build two non-profits: The Travis Mills Foundation and The Adaptive Training Foundation.

Both men were gifted with generous checks from Ellen and Walmart for their foundations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pilots’ close calls with Russian aircraft are likely to continue, experts say

The U.S. Navy last week watched a single-seat Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E come within 25 feet of a P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft while at high speed and inverted, causing wake turbulence and putting the U.S. “pilots and crew at risk” over the Mediterranean Sea.

Days later, another Flanker mimicked the move over the same waters, zooming in front of a P-8 and exposing the sub hunter aircraft to its jet exhaust.


Top U.S. officials in Europe and the Defense Department said the incidents involved Russian pilots behaving in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. Experts argue that, while the intercepts expose a pattern of behavior from the Russian military, they also show that Russia is willing to capitalize on the publicity the aerial maneuvers bring, even during a global pandemic.

The Russian military “feels as if it’s necessary to let everybody know that they’re still on the world stage, that they’re still on the scene, and that they have pretty good military power,” said retired Gen. Frank Gorenc, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Gorenc, an F-15 Eagle pilot, headed the command during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, when the U.S. sent sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor to the theater in show-of-force missions to deter Russian aggression.

“It’s not only the pandemic, which obviously is keeping the western countries occupied, but also the oil [crash] too,” he said in an interview this week.

In recent weeks, Russia, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, was also hit by the unprecedented collapse in the market for crude oil.

“Declining powers have to do [something],” Gorenc said.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Opportunity to Go Viral

Unlike the Cold War, when pilots would return to their squadron and file a debrief of an aerial intercept, then simply move along to their next mission, being buzzed or barrel-rolled is gaining more visibility with the help of social media, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.

“You know, it goes kind of viral,” Barrie said. “So you wonder if there’s an element of that, of how it plays on social media and in wider Western media, whether or not if it’s valuable.”

Notably, the recent incidents involved Russia’s multi-role Su-35 fighter jet, which has received improvements over the last few years — a significant upgrade from other aircraft used in past intercepts, such as the Su-27 Flanker or the Su-24 Fencer, Barrie said.

“It’s perhaps unsurprising that these aircraft have been bumped into [the rotation] more often than we’ve previously seen them; the imagery of the Flanker is great,” he said.

“The Su-35 is a highly capable airplane that they produce,” Gorenc added. “They’re obviously … trying to sell it. And this is a good way to show it off.”

Predictable Response

Gorenc stressed that, while these incidents tend to flare up once in a while, pilots need to stick to the rules of engagement and try to be as predictable as possible.

The 1972 bilateral Russia-U.S. agreement “Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas,” followed by Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), are accords that establish basic “rules of the road” for both countries to safely navigate near one another.

Holding Russia accountable for its behavior in international airspace can be tricky, Barrie explained. “To some extent, these things are difficult to kind of legislate around because it really comes down to the units, the pilots [and their behavior],” he said.

More often than not, intercepts are conducted in a safe manner, but errors happen because of a loss of communication or a human or technical mistake, officials have said.

For example, then-Gen. Petr Pavel, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in 2018 that most aerial scrambles are seen as “routine.”

“From time to time, we can see some measures as provocative, especially in the areas that we exercise … both to the ships and in the air,” he said. “But it’s up to the captain [or pilot] to judge if it’s dangerous or not.”

Last week, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, described the first incident on April 15 as the result of “unprofessional” conduct by a Russian fighter pilot acting on his own, rather than a deliberate attempt by Moscow to provoke an incident.

“My conclusion at this point is that it was probably something more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate,” Wolters said April 16.

“Given the unpredictability, you have to make sure that you maintain a safe distance and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that they even see you, because they may not see you,” Gorenc said.

Not Backing Down

Like the U.S., it’s unlikely that Russia will back down from what it sees as military priorities despite the pandemic, Barrie said.

“We’re not completely dissimilar. … You can see the messaging coming out of these NATO nations, including the U.S., which says, ‘OK, we recognize a pandemic is an enormous problem … but [we’re still] taking care of the day-to-day national security needs,'” he said.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military should be mindful that rivals like Russia will look to test any weaknesses among the U.S. and its allies during the coronavirus crisis.

“We are postured and maintain that ability to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper renewed the message. “Our adversaries are not standing down,” he said. “We will continue to make sure that the [Defense Department] is ready to protect the USA.”

Barrie added: “The Russian Su-35 incident, in part, is simply a reflection of that [response]. It is simply a reflection of Russia doing what it does.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 killer photos of Marines taking on the heat in 29 Palms

Accompanied by nothing but sand, rocks and the desert sun, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division continue to prepare for the unrelenting forces ahead by training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 15-July 19, 2019.

US Marines of Invictus participated in a five-day field operation where they were evaluated as squads, based on how well they shoot, move and communicate toward their objective.


Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

US Marine Corps Pfc. Trevor M. Banks, fireteam leader, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, moves through a breach to attack an objective during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

A US Marine with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, attacks an objective during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

US Marines with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, prepare to breach an objective during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

A US Marine with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, performs leaders reconnaissance before conducting a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

A US Marine with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, engages a target utilizing the M240G during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

A US Marine with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, communicates with his unit utilizing an AN/PRC-152 during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Luis R. Martinez, left, and Staff Sgt. Karl R. Benton, right, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, fill out evaluation sheets during squad attacks at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Michael Campbell, Intelligence Specialist, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, prepares an unmanned aerial system during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

A US Marine with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, engages a target utilizing the M240G during a squad attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, July 15, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.


Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during the Vietnam war to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops.

Related video:

www.youtube.com

Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.

The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966, where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian task force.

Read more about these monster gunships here.

Articles

Recent layoffs indicate working for ISIS might be a risky career move

ISIS is facing severe cash shortfalls as NATO airstrikes take out their supply lines and cash reserves, forcing the so-called caliphate to slash salaries for all workers and fighters as well as cut back services.


The U.S. began targeting warehouses of ISIS cash in Jan. and NATO has been striking oil infrastructure and equipment for months.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
GIF: Youtube/Mike B

Other strikes against weapons and fighters have driven up the cost of waging violent jihad, and plummeting oil prices have further damaged ISIS’s bottom line. Now, the Iraqi government has decided to stop paying the salaries of government workers in ISIS-controlled areas, salaries ISIS had heavily taxed.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Photo: Youtube.com

The Commanding General of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, told CNN that ISIS has lost millions of dollars because of U.S. operations.

Back in Jan., it was revealed that money troubles forced ISIS to reduce fighters’ salaries by half, and new reports from the AP show that even that wasn’t enough to bridge the shortfall.

Civil servant salaries have now had their salaries slashed as well, and ISIS is cutting many perks. Fighters no longer get free energy drinks or candy bars (yeah, they were apparently getting those) or bonuses for getting married or having babies.

Some fighters are now going without pay while food and electrical rations have been reduced.

Between the money shortages, the airstrikes and raids, and the Internet trolling, it seems like working for ISIS might be a bad idea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran donated more than 2 feet of hair for wigs for cancer patients

Fernando Trujillo grew out his hair, like many sailors do when they retire. About six years later, he finally cut it — about 28 inches of dark, graying hair — and donated it to make wigs for cancer patients.

“I just decided to let it grow — one less expense,” Trujillo, 49, said in an Army news release. “In the military, I pretty much had to get my hair cut every two weeks to stay within regulations.”


The 24-year Navy veteran decided to part with his waist-length hair Jan. 18 so he could participate in his younger brother’s upcoming New Mexico National Guard promotion ceremony. But Trujillo, who was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2012, didn’t just want to throw his locks away.

“I’ve lost some friends and family over the years and also had some acquaintances that have had battles with cancer who lost their hair going through radiation,” he said in the release. “I figured my hair would be something that someone could benefit from.”

Currently a contractor at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Trujillo’s been in remission since an operation removed a 10-millimeter tumor from the roof of his mouth. While the treatment was fast, he said the initial cancer diagnosis scared him.

“Your heart just kind of drops and you have that bad feeling, like ‘Damn, how bad is it?'” he said in the release. “The first thing the doctor did was try to calm me down and let me know that everything should be fine. It was just a matter of how much they were going to have to cut out.”

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Trujillo lost about 20 pounds after the surgery because the only thing he could eat was pumpkin soup and protein drinks.

Other than some tenderness around the surgical spot in his mouth, he said his life has pretty much returned to normal, which is something cancer patients long for and wigs can help.

“Hopefully, that little bit will be able to help them retain a little dignity out of the whole situation they are facing,” Trujillo said in the release about his donation to Hair We Share. “It’s more about not drawing attention from people who constantly ask questions and feel sorry for you.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

Experts may debate trajectories, payload weights, and re-entry shields, but North Korea’s claim that the entire United States is within range of its rapidly improving missiles just got a lot more credible.


The Nov. 29 launch of what the North called the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrated a greater range than other missiles it’s tested and showcased several capabilities the North must master if it were ever to actually try to unleash them at the United States.

Here is a quick look at the advancements made, the developments still to come, and the implications for the United States and its Asian allies:

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
The Hwasong-14 missile, the predecessor to the missile launched on Nov. 29, rockets into the sky. (Photo from KCNA)

The missile itself

According to North Korea’s announcements about the launch, the Hwasong-15 can be tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” and is capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. mainland. The North claims it reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) and flew 950 kilometers (600 miles) from its launch site just outside of Pyongyang. It was airborne for 53 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.

The launch data coincides with what foreign experts observed. U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, estimates the Hwasong-15 has an estimated range of more than 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) if flown on a standard trajectory — putting it within reach of Washington, D.C.

Pyongyang claims the missile has significant tactical and technical improvements from the Hwasong-14 ICBM it tested in July and is the North’s “most powerful” to date. KCNA also said Kim Jong Un “declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
(Photo from KCNA)

The repeated claim in the announcement that North Korea has now completed its “rocket weaponry system development” is new and important. It could be bluster, but might also suggest a shift away from tests — at least of these kinds of missiles — toward production and deployment.

The North’s arsenal is still a far cry from the quality and quantity of what the United States can field. The Air Force’s development of the Minuteman ICBM goes back to the late 1950s. It now has about 400 of the latest version, the Minuteman III, which also has a maximum range of about 13,000 kilometers.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

How it was launched

The timing and location are important. It was launched in the dead of night, most likely from a mobile launcher, near the capital. That indicates the North was trying to show it can launch whenever and wherever it pleases — a capability that makes it more difficult to take pre-emptive action. It’s impossible to blow up a North Korean missile on the launch pad if the missile can be moved and there isn’t any launch pad at all.

Interestingly, however, Japanese media reported on Nov. 28 their government had intercepted radio signals from the North suggesting a launch was imminent. It’s not clear if that was a first, since details on such intelligence are normally not made public. But it does suggest the North’s neighbors are having some success with surveillance efforts.

The trajectory of the launch is also significant. The missile was “lofted” at an extremely sharp angle and reached an altitude more than twice as high as satellites in low Earth orbit.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
The ballistic missile, launched from Sain Ni, near Pyongsong, North Korea, was launched at an angle so as to arch sharply and fall into the Sea of Japan, avoiding crossing over enemy countries. (Image Google Earth and We Are the Mighty)

North Korea needs to launch toward the Pacific because it would otherwise be shooting its missiles at Russia or China — a very unwise proposition. And lofting avoids flying over Japan, which could prompt Tokyo or Japan-based U.S. missile-defense facilities to attempt an intercept, and hits open seas instead of other nations.

But lofting doesn’t closely simulate conditions of a real launch. Experts can roughly gauge the range of the missile from its lofted performance, but a missile on an attack trajectory would fly a lower, flatter pattern that presents some different challenges, particularly in the crucial re-entry stage of the nuclear payload.

So what now?

North Korea claimed, as it always does, that the test is part of its overall strategy to defend itself against Washington’s “nuclear blackmail” and that its development of missiles and nuclear weapons does not pose a threat to any country “as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon.” DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Related: The US can survive a nuclear North Korea — but a first strike could start World War III

In an equally familiar manner, the move was immediately condemned in the strongest terms by Tokyo and Seoul. President Donald Trump said Washington “will handle it,” while giving no indication of how or what handling it actually would mean.

Clearly, however, the problem isn’t going away.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea participate in joint statements on Friday, June 30, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The launch broke a two-month lull in what has been a record pace of tests for the North. While some claimed that was the result of pressure from the United States and its allies, it’s common for the North to re-focus its energies to farming activities during the harvest season and for its military to shift into a lower-profile mode for its winter training cycle.

North Korea still needs to conduct further missile tests, particularly of its submarine-launched missile systems, to improve its overall arsenal. But having now demonstrated what it claims to be the primary missile it needs to deter attack from the United States, Pyongyang may turn to more testing of its nuclear weapons.

So far, five of its six nuclear tests have been conducted in a series of tunnels under Mount Mantap, a 2,205 meter (7,200 foot) tall granite peak in the northeast part of the country. But Pyongyang has hinted it might attempt an atmospheric test over the Pacific Ocean.

That would be a far more provocative move than the Nov. 29 missile test and might prompt a military response.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: Confederate victory at Chickamauga

On Sep. 20, 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee defeated the Union Army at Chickamauga Creek — the “River of Death” according to the Cherokee.

The Union Army of the Cumberland, led by General William Rosecrans, fought the Confederate Army led by General Braxton Bragg out of Tennessee after capturing Chattanooga. 

He pursued Bragg’s army into Northern Georgia trying to force a complete rout of Confederate troops in the West. Instead, he would tuck tail back to Chattanooga.

Bragg started with a misinformation effort, allowing Confederate “deserters” to feed Rosecrans the idea that Bragg’s Army was a retreating mess. On Sep. 19, a Union corps moved to take on what it thought was a brigade of stragglers – by the next day, that skirmish engaged the entirety of both armies. 

Southern General James Longstreet arrived during the night of the 19th, with battle-hardened veterans straight from the fighting at Gettysburg. 

A union military blunder caused a hole to open in the Union lines; Longstreet’s veterans marched straight through it and Rosecrans was forced to retreat back to Tennessee.

Bragg would later move to retake Chattanooga but Union reinforcements would keep the city in Northern hands for the rest of the Civil War.

Articles

Russia built an armored vehicle like the American M113

The M113 armored personnel carrier is perhaps one of the best-known armored vehicles in the world. Fully-tracked, it has a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, a crew of two, and holds 11 troops.


This vehicle has been sold around the world – and has seen conflict since 1962. That’s 55 years of service, and with so many around the world (at least 80,000 were produced), it will be around for a long time and see a lot of future wars.

Russia, though, built its own version of the M113 dubbed the “MT-LB.” This vehicle was also tracked, had a crew of two, and could carry 11 people. However the MT-LB was never used for the purpose of carrying troops into combat – that was the job of the BMP and BTR armored fighting vehicles. As such, while the vehicle had a turret, the turret only had a PKM machine gun in it.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
A MT-LB Acquired by the United States on display. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

That gun is no slouch, but it’s only really good against troops in the open. Even jeeps and Humvees can last for a bit when a 7.62mmx54R round is being fired at them.

So, what was the MT-LB used for? Towing artillery, evacuating wounded troops, delivering supplies, and a host of the not-very-glamorous but critically-important missions on a battlefield, without which, the tanks and IFVs would be in a world of hurt.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
U.S. Marine Infantrymen from the 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are riding in two soviet bloc MT-LB Multi-Purpose Tracked vehicles. The Marines were acting as the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) during this exercise. (DOD photo)

Like the M113, the baseline chassis of the MT-LB was modified into other roles. The SA-13 Gopher vehicle is based on the MT-LB. So is the 2S1 122mm self-propelled howitzer.

The Russians even developed a version that could fire the AT-6 Spiral anti-tank missile, a laser-guided weapon that is usually used on attack helicopters.

While not produced in the numbers of the M113, the MT-LB has found its way into many battlefields often with countries once aligned with the Soviet Union. Like the M113, it will be a long time before the last MT-LB is retired.

Articles

Here’s how volunteers are stepping up to fight terrorism

Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.


They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
People’s Protection Units work towards peace. (Photo from KurdishStruggle on Flickr.)

Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.

Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.

“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”

Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.

On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.

Related: US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.

Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. (Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.

The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.

“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.

“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Raqqa, Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.

He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.

“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”

For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.

A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.

On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”

“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.

From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information