The internet is a powerful tool for veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.
Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.
“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.
Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.
Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.
How to protect your information
Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:
Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.
VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In October 2018, Bloomberg published a bombshell report about how Chinese spies managed to implant chips into computer servers made by SuperMicro, an American company.
If true, the report raised questions about whether sensitive US government and corporate data may have been accessed by Chinese spies, and whether it’s all data stored on PCs is essentially at risk.
But since then, a series of statements from government officials and information security professionals — including some named in the stories — have cast doubt about the report’s main claims.
On Oct. 10, 2018, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security denied the report in a Senate hearing — the strongest on-the-record government denial yet.
“With respect to the article, we at DHS do not have any evidence that supports the article,” Kirstjen Nielsen said on Oct. 10, 2018. “We have no reason to doubt what the companies have said.”
(During the same hearing, FBI Director Chris Wray said that he couldn’t confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation into compromised SuperMicro equipment, which was claimed in the Bloomberg report.)
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
(photo by Jetta Disco)
Nielsen’s denial comes on the same day as a senior NSA official said that he worries that “we’re chasing shadows right now.”
“I have pretty great access, [and yet] I don’t have a lead to pull from the government side,” Rob Joyce, perhaps the most public-facing NSA cybersecurity official, said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former head of security, called Joyce’s denial “the most damning point” against the story that he had seen.
The increasing doubt about Bloomberg’s claims come as lawmakers demand additional answers based on the series of reports. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Marco Rubio asked SuperMicro to cooperate with law enforcement in a sharply worded letter on Oct. 9, 2018. Senator John Thune also sent letters to Amazon and Apple, which Bloomberg said had purchased compromised servers.
But government officials aren’t the only people who are now having second thoughts about the stories.
One prominent hardware security expert, Joe Fitzpatrck, who was named in the story, ended up doing a revealing podcast with a trade outlet that’s more technical than Bloomberg, Risky Business.
Journalists who write stories based on anonymous sources often call up experts to fill out some of the more general parts of a story and improve the story’s flow.
But Fitzpatrick said that’s not what happened.
“I feel like I have a good grasp at what’s possible and what’s available and how to do it just from my practice,” Fitzpatrick explained. “But it was surprising to me that in a scenario where I would describe these things and then he would go and confirm these and 100% of what I described was confirmed by sources.”
He went on to say that he heard about the story’s specifics in late August 2018 and sent an email expressing major doubt. “I heard the story and it didn’t make sense to me. And that’s what I said. I said, ‘Wow I don’t have any more information for you, but this doesn’t make sense.'”
Several notable information security professionals used Fitzpatrick’s quotes as a jumping-off point to express their doubts with the story:
Bloomberg sticks by its story
Bloomberg’s report was obviously explosive and had immediate effects.
Super Micro lost over 40% of its value the day of the report. Apple and Amazon, which the report said had bought compromised servers, fiercely denied the report in public statements.
While Bloomberg put out a statement that said that it stood by its reporting shortly after the first story, the loudest institutional support for the story came in a followup story by Bloomberg that said new evidence of hacked Supermicro hardware was found in a U.S. telecom.
Bloomberg didn’t name the affected telecom.
“The more recent manipulation is different from the one described in the Bloomberg Businessweek report in October 2018, but it shares key characteristics: They’re both designed to give attackers invisible access to data on a computer network in which the server is installed; and the alterations were found to have been made at the factory as the motherboard was being produced by a Supermicro subcontractor in China,” according to the Bloomberg followup report.
But even the source for the followup now says he’s “angry” about how the story turned out.
“I want to be quoted. I am angry and I am nervous and I hate what happened to the story. Everyone misses the main issue,” which is that it’s an overall problem with the hardware supply chain, not a SuperMicro-specific issue, Yossi Appleboum told Serve The Home.
But everyone says it’s possible
But the tricky thing about Bloomberg’s story is that nearly everyone agrees something like it could happen, it just didn’t happen the way the report suggests.
Security experts agree that the security of the factories that make electronics is an ongoing issue, even if no malicious chips have been found yet.
“What we can tell you though, is it’s a very real and emerging threat that we’re worried about,” Sec. Nielsen said shortly after saying she had no evidence in favor of the story.
And as one manufacturing expert told Business Insider, “I don’t actually think it’s hard to inject stuff that the brand or design team didn’t intentionally ask for.”
Chinese industrial espionage has been an issue for many years, and it’s a talking point for President Donald Trump, who accused Chinese exchange students of being “spies” in a conversation with CEOs including Apple CEO Tim Cook.
But there is evidence that Chinese spies do spy on American companies. In October 2018, a Chinese officer was extradited to the United States to face espionage charges related to stealing secrets from companies including GE Aviation.
A House-Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out differences in separate versions of the defense authorization bill has rejected Senate-passed provisions that would have sharply increased TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-pays for a million retirees under age 65.
Lawmakers who in recent weeks shaped a final $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (HR 5515) also voted to allow disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, and caregivers of veterans severely injured in war to shop on military bases, paying slightly more at checkout than current patrons. They also will be able use base recreational facilities.
Expansion of access to on-bases services, which the Department of Defense endorsed in part to make commissaries more self-sustaining, is to occur Jan. 1, 2020.
Conferees also narrowed the scope of Senate-passed reforms to officer accession and promotion practices so officers will continue to be considered for promotion as part of the same year group they were promoted to current rank.
Also shelved was the Senate plan to repeal use of authorized officer strength tables to instead require that Congress annually authorize number of officers allowed to serve in the ranks of O-4 through O-6 across all the services.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Thurston )
Officer promotion law long has required consistent promotion timing and promotion opportunity across officer year groups. The Senate wanted to replace those requirements by grouping officers based on competitive categories — similar qualifications, specialties, occupations or ratings. Conferees also rejected that idea.
However, a host of other accession and promotion reforms survived the conference and will “begin to modernize officer personnel management to bolster the effectiveness, recruitment and retention of the all-volunteer force,” says a Senate Armed Services Committee press release.
“The 38-year-old Defense Officer Personnel Management Act requires all military services to manage their officer corps in the same general manner within specific constraints. By beginning to reform this system, the [2019 defense authorization bill] will provide for flexibility in the careers of commissioned officers [to] better serve the demands of the modern force.”
Officer personnel issues
Changes approved to better manage officers include:
Repeal a requirement that candidates for regular commissions not be older than 42, or at least have enough service years to complete 20 years by age 62.
Enhancement of services’ authority to award constructive service credit for special private sector training or experience to allow active or reserve officer appointments up to the rank of colonel or Navy captain in critically-needed fields.
Authorizing each service to award temporary promotions to the ranks O-3 through O-6 for specified positions. Only Navy has such authority today so this change would standardize it across all branches.
Authorizing promotion boards to recommend that “officers of particular merit” be placed higher on promotion lists than peers.
Allowing officers, when deemed in the best interest of the service, to have their names removed from consideration by a selection board for promotion to the next higher grade, and authorizing officers in certain military specialties to remain on active duty until reaching 40 years active service.
Authorizing use of an alternative promotion processes for officers in certain secretary-designated competitive categories, to include a term-based continuation process when certain officers are not selected for promotion. This would selectively end the traditional up-or-out requirement for officer management.
Conferees rejected House language that would have required the Air Force to assess the “feasibility and advisability” of allowing otherwise qualified candidates who are deaf or hearing impaired to be Air Force officers.
Military pay issues
The highlight of compensation provisions embraced by conferees was decided months ago: a 2.6 percent military pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2019, to match recent wage growth in the private sector. It also will be the largest percentage military pay increase in nine years.
On the other hand, conferees agreed to end a “personal money allowance” that, by law, has been paid to senior naval officers holding five prestigious positions. The titles impacted, and the size of allowances disappearing are:Director of Naval Intelligence (,200); Superintendent of the Naval Academy (,200); President of the Naval War College (id=”listicle-2590252146″,000); Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy (0) and President of the Naval Postgraduate School (0).
Military associations lobbied successfully against Senate language to repeal an unusual grandfather provision in current law that protects working-age retirees from a host of TRICARE fee increases that, for now, target only members who enter service this year or later and eventually retire.
Senators wanted the higher TRICARE cost-shares applied to all current and future retirees under age 65 and not disabled, as the Defense Department intended. Conferees blocked that but said they “remain concerned about the high cost of military health care, understanding that much of the cost has been driven by new benefits and benefit enhancements authorized by Congress.”
With the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimating the average military cost of providing health care to a typical retiree household at ,800 by 2021, conferees directed the defense secretary to update that estimates by February 2019 and to list policy options both to improve quality of health care and to better control costs.
The compromise bill also directs that a survey be conducted “to ascertain whether beneficiaries would be amenable to additional modest fee increases to maintain a fiscally viable, comprehensive health benefit.”
The sweeping fee increases blocked included a first-ever TRICARE Select enrollment fee and, for retirees who use non-network providers a new annual deductible. CBO estimated that retiree users of Select would have seen average out-of-pocket costs jump from id=”listicle-2590252146″,645 a year to ,800 for family coverage and from 0 to id=”listicle-2590252146″,160 for self-only coverage. Retiree households using Prime would have seen more modest increases. TRICARE for Life recipients would been spared.
Commissary & exchange
Commissaries and exchanges nationwide are expected to see a few hundred thousand more shoppers. Conferees accepted House language to open base stores and services, starting in 2020, to any veteran with a service-connected disability, as well as to Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war and veteran caregivers.
Defense officials supported the House-backed provision, to strengthen the military resale system and to reward deserving veterans with shopper discounts, if an extra user fee could be imposed on these “secondary” groups of store patrons.
A department study concluded that “a large influx of new patrons is necessary to continue efficiently providing commissary and exchange benefits into the future.” Military associations and veteran groups also had backed the move.
Conferees modified House language in support of the president’s call for a Washington D.C. military parade. The conference report says it’s “appropriate to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform.” But the bill “prohibits the use of operational units or equipment in the parade if the Secretary of Defense believes such use will hamper readiness.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Relatives of Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, spoke out in an interview with The Guardian published Aug. 3, 2018, about their family’s dark legacy — and they suggested that the family’s involvement with terrorism hadn’t ended with bin Laden’s 2011 death.
Living sheltered lives as a prominent but controversial family in their native Saudi Arabia, several of the family members opened up about bin Laden’s childhood and his eventual transformation into one of the most notorious figures in recent history.
But while bin Laden’s career as a terrorist and head of Al Qaeda came to an end at the hands of US Navy SEALs in a midnight raid on his hideout in Pakistan, his militancy seems to have taken root in his youngest child.
Bin Laden’s family believes his youngest son, Hamza, has followed in his father’s footsteps by traveling to Afghanistan, where the US, Afghanistan’s national army, and NATO have been locked in a brutal war with Islamic militants since shortly after the Twin Towers were destroyed.
The scene just after United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hamza, officially designated a terrorist by the US, apparently took his family by surprise with an endorsement of militant Islam.
“We thought everyone was over this,” Hassan bin Laden, an uncle of Hamza, told The Guardian.
“Then the next thing I knew, Hamza was saying, ‘I am going to avenge my father.’ I don’t want to go through that again. If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him: ‘God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father. You are entering horrible parts of your soul.'”
After the September 11 attacks, some members of bin Laden’s family remained in touch while others led a quiet life under the supervision of the Saudi government and international intelligence agencies.
Many of the bin Ladens have sought to put their history behind them by avoiding media and politics, but Hamza’s apparent support of his father’s ideas suggests Osama bin Laden’s embracing of terrorism may have come back to haunt them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Air Force Staff Sgt. John Cox, an air transportation specialist assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, deployed to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Oct. 9, he assumed he would be helping Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria; he did not expect to bring home a four-legged addition to his family.
Cox said he had just returned from a six-month deployment in Kuwait when he volunteered to go to Puerto Rico, where he worked with heavy machinery loading and unloading cargo from aircraft.
“We were placed close to the airport in tents in an open field so we could hear the aircraft when they landed,” he said.
Their main job was helping Defense Department personnel transfer water and Meals Ready to Eat from large aircraft onto vehicles and small aircraft for distribution to the people hard-hit by the hurricane, Cox said.
Beef Jerky Wins Hearts
While he was performing a security check of the area, Cox said he came across an abandoned building. Inside, he discovered a scared, emaciated, light-brown dog.
“I brought the dog some beef jerky from an MRE and some water every day, and pretty soon she started following me back to my tent and waiting outside,” Cox said.
When the dog started following him to work every day Cox worried he would get into trouble and decided he should talk to the officer in charge.
Once he introduced the dog, which he’d named Maria, to his leaders, he was given a thumbs-up to having her by his side.
“That’s when I realized I couldn’t leave this dog in Puerto Rico when my deployment ended,” Cox said.
“I drove over an hour to a veterinary clinic and had the dog completely checked and vaccinated, which was a condition I was given to keep her with me,” he said.
Cox said the next hurdle was to find a way to get Maria home — a task that would not prove to be easy because he couldn’t just put her on an aircraft without authorization.
“I researched all the regulations I could find and felt like I hit a wall until I found a local adoption agency that specialized in rescuing pit bulls,” Cox said. “They were able to get her home.”
“I not only made a positive impact on the people of Puerto Rico, but I was able to save an animal,” he said. “I saw her go from near-death to super healthy in a matter of months.”
Cox said he is looking forward to hiking the high peaks with his new hiking buddy once the weather is better.
“My advice to someone who plans on adopting a dog is to prepare to have your hands and your heart full,” he said. “Having a dog is sometimes like having a child, but all the effort will be worth it when you see them waiting for you at the end of the day.”
The Navy’s top officer strongly advocated robust “engagement” with China to reduce the growing tensions generated by Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, while minimizing the effectiveness of the Asian giant’s highly touted anti-access, area-denial defense capabilities against U.S. naval forces.
During a Sept. 12 appearance at the Center for a New American Security n Washington, D.C., the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson also favorably compared the conduct of People’s Liberation Army – Navy ships during at-sea encounters to the threatening actions by fast-attack craft operated by Iran’s militant Revolutionary Guard in the congested Persian Gulf. And he said US commanders have the freedom to respond to those acts.
In a classic understatement, Richardson described U.S. relations with China as “complicated,” and said “we have to structure our relations with our counterparts, the Peoples Liberation Army – Navy along those lines. First and foremost, we’ve got to continue to engage. I’m an advocate for engagement, thoughtful engagement.”
Noting that “there are areas where we have common interests,” he suggested aligning US efforts to support those common interests.
He suggested that one of those “common interest” was freedom of navigation that would allow all nations to use the maritime domain for commercial reasons, despite the fact that China’s aggressive claims to virtually all of the South China Sea and parts of the East China Sea far from its territorial limits would deny others access to those vital waterways.
Richardson acknowledged that during his recent visit with the head of the Chinese navy, he was “very honest and very frank in terms of those things that would be helpful in moving the relationship forward in mutually beneficial ways and those behaviors that would be completely not helpful in terms of moving that relationship down the road.” That was an effort, he said, toward “minimizing the uncertainty, the miscalculations, by asserting in advance these things that would be very good, those that would be troublesome.”
But the Navy chief insisted that any regional arrangement for security in the Asia-Pacific region had to include China.
Asked about the A2AD capabilities China is developing to keep U.S. forces out of its claim zone of control, Richardson said that was “sort of an aspiration rather than any kind of strategy.”
While acknowledging the technological advances that allow detection and precision targeting at greater distances, “there is a whole sequence of events that have to happen in perfect symphony to execute that mission. There are many ways to deconstruct that chain of events,” he said.
In response to a question about what authority US commanders had to respond to the rash of threatening actions by the Iranian small craft, Richardson said, “there’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond.”
He noted that in those “super dynamic situations,” the commanders must make decisions “in very short periods of time. We try to make sure our commanders have the situational awareness and the capabilities and the rules of engagement that they remain in command of the situation.”
He called that a “a great demonstration of something I advocate for, the need to continue to develop a sort of decentralized approach toward operations. These sort of things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond.”
“They have to know what their commanders expect, have to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of opportunities, but also so they can respond to these very quick acting opportunities.”
“Is our Navy prepared to respond? The answer is yes in every respect,” he said.
Richardson said the actions by the Iranian Guard vessels were unlike the meetings with Chinese warships, which under an agreement on encounters at sea, “the vast majority of encounters with the Chinese have been peaceful.”
And, he added, it would be useful to have a similar agreement with Russia to prevent the recent close encounters with Russian ships and aircraft in the Black Sea.
U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin spoke via video conference from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on April 19, 2017, confirming that Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists launched a chemical attack against Iraqi forces in Mosul four days earlier.
The U.S. military has confirmed that the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group launched a chemical offensive against advancing Iraqi forces in the flashpoint city of Mosul over the weekend.
Iraqi security sources reported on April 15 that Daesh terrorists had fired missiles loaded with chlorine at the then-freshly-liberated neighborhood of al-Abar in west Mosul, causing respiratory problems for at least seven troops.
Major General Martin, the commanding general of the so-called Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command–Operation Inherent Resolve, said via videoconference from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad that the chemical attack had been launched but had caused no fatalities.
“The Iraqi security forces…were in vicinity of one of the strikes,” Martin told reporters, adding, “They were taken back for the appropriate level of medical care… Nobody’s been [fatally] impacted. Nobody’s died.”
Martin, however, said that the agent used in the attack had not been identified “at this time.”
“We have sent it back for testing but we’re still waiting for the outcomes,” he said.
According to Iraq’s Federal Police, Daesh also hit two other districts of western Mosul, namely Urouba and Bab al-Jadid, with chemical attacks on April 15.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced the platform would allow its users to turn off political ads.
“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content,” Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed article. “For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads.”
“We’ll still remind you to vote,” he added.
Facebook will begin implementing the feature for some users Wednesday and plans to make it available to all users over the next several weeks, a company representative told CNBC.
Users will be able to turn off ads about political, social, and electoral issues from political candidates, super PACs, and other organizations that have a political disclaimer indicating an ad is “paid for by” a certain entity, CNBC reported.
Zuckerberg also announced in his op-ed article that Facebook would seek to boost voter registration, voter turnout, and marginalized voices ahead of the 2020 presidential election and that the platform hoped to help 4 million people register to vote.
To that end, he said Facebook would create a Voting Information Center with information about registration, early voting, and voting by mail. The center will also include details on how and when to vote, Zuckerberg said, adding that the company expected 160 million people in the US to see “authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November.”
Zuckerberg also said Facebook would continue working to combat foreign interference on its platform by tracking and taking down “malicious accounts.”
The company removed 3.3. billion fake accounts in 2018 and 5.4 billion last year as of November.
Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as Facebook continues facing scrutiny over its decision to show political content to users even if that content contains misinformation or false claims.
The social-media network has been under the microscope particularly in the past few weeks after it refused to follow Twitter’s lead in flagging President Donald Trump’s misleading statements on its platform.
Shortly after Twitter shared links debunking two of Trump’s tweets spreading conspiracy theories about voting by mail, Zuckerberg criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Fox News interview.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.
Dorsey hit back at Zuckerberg, tweeting: “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”
He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”
Zuckerberg appeared to allude to the recent strife over Trump’s tweets in his op-ed article, writing, “Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content.”
“We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them,” he wrote. “But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.”
Zuckerberg added that he believes the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting.
“I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves,” he wrote. “That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”
On January 13, 2018, a ballistic missile alert went out across televisions, radios, and cellphones in the state of Hawaii. The message went out at 0807 local time and civil defense outdoor warning sirens went off across the islands. However, the alert turned out to be an accident. On December 12, 2020, Ramstein Air Base had a similar alert.
Ramstein Air Base personnel were alerted to a real world inbound missile strike and received an Alarm Red MOPP 4 notification. “Take immediate action!” The alert read. “For further information refer to Airman’s manual.” While the alert certainly put a lot of people in the Kaiserslautern Military Community on edge, the “All Clear” was issued two minutes later. It is unknown what triggered the warning system’s mass alert. However, the alert was later attributed to an exercise.
“Attention Team Ramstein, today, the Ramstein Air Base Command Post was notified via an alert notification system of a real-world missile launch in the European theater. The Command Post followed proper procedure and provided timely and accurate notifications to personnel in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. The missile launch was then assessed to be part of a training exercise and not a threat to the KMC area. The situation is all clear. We’d like to thank our Command Post members for their quick response to ensure our people stay informed so they can take the proper safety precautions.”
Despite the all clear and the message from the Command Post, personnel in the KMC area remain on edge. “That’s not the kind of thing you joke about,” one anonymous service member told WATM. “Hasn’t 2020 been hard enough?” Neither USEUCOM nor Ramstein Air Base have released an official statement regarding the incident.
The erroneous 2018 Hawaii missile alert was corrected 38 minutes after it went out. Following the incident, the FCC and Hawaii House of Representatives conducted investigations into the cause of the event. These resulted in the resignation of the state’s emergency management administrator. Whether or not the alert at Ramstein was a training exercise, the reaction of the KMC community was very real.
Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.
One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.
But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:
There have been calls to award a Nobel Peace Prize to everyone involved with ending the Korean War, including President Donald Trump. Given that the award has a broad selection process, it’s much more competitive than you’d think and the specifics about the process are often kept secret for fifty years.
Any person, group, or organization can be nominated after doing, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will, “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The only officially recognized nominators include heads of state, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Any submissions must be done begin in September and the absolute cut-off is February 1st. Between the beginning of February and the end of March, the list is combed through and a short list is prepared for April.
In 2018, there were 328 candidates and each of the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee usually pick five nominees. Because of the secrecy around the process, the Nobel Committee combs through the maybe twenty-five candidates until September.
(United States Agency for International Development)
In October, the voting between the members begins and the winner is chosen. The decision is final and there are no appeals. Hence the secrecy. No one can be upset that they weren’t picked if they didn’t know they got that far. Once the voting has finished, it’s announced to the world who the winner for that year will be.
Then comes the big day on December 10th. The new laureate receives their shiny golden award, a diploma, and a monetary prize. The prize money in 2017 was 9 million Swedish Kronas, which is $1,028,655 US Dollars. The prize money is often donated to which ever cause the recipient championed.
On the day I reported for duty as a volunteer in an extreme Army experiment of women’s strength, I stopped my car at the gate, watched the guard approaching, and thought about turning around. I’d seen the movies. I’d watched A Few Good Men and Private Benjamin and winced at the exhausting runs, pushups, shouting by grouchy drill instructors and general toughness required to thrive on a military base. I was a civilian at the edge of a world full of camo and shorn heads and running in formation and all I could think was, Do I have what it takes to get through this?
It was May of 1995, and scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) on the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command (USASSC) base in Natick, Massachusetts, were kicking off a seminal study to determine if women could get strong enough to perform the toughest military tasks usually assigned to men. With only one female soldier available for the seven-month program, the scientists had recruited 45 ordinary civilians. I was a 24-year-old cub reporter in average shape who loathed running. It was time to put on my big-girl pants and push myself past my limits.
From the start, our ragtag band of women seemed an unlikely crew to take on such a lofty pursuit. More weekend walkers than G.I. Janes, we came to the base at varying fitness levels, shapes and sizes, and our ranks included stay-at-home moms, teachers, a landscaper, a student, a prison guard, a bartender and one journalist. But with mighty hearts and iron will, we intended to smash through those expectations. They said women couldn’t do it. We hit back: Watch me.
We did everything asked of us and more. I strapped on a 75-pound backpack and hiked two miles over rugged terrain, and though I ended up shuffling more than running the first time, I finished (albeit with shredded heels and blood blisters). I ran until I was sick while dragging a 110-pound trailer through thick woods and a meadow choked with weeds and wildflowers. I lifted more, more, more each week, carried sandbags and heavy metal boxes until my hands were calloused, pushed through five-mile backpack hikes and sprinted up steep hills.
I was honored to carry water for the women doing the work of defending our country, and I felt pressure to show up for them—a lot of people were watching us, after all. The experiment had made international headlines even before it began when a controversy about women in combat almost shut us down, and now the big TV networks were pressing for access to the base to film us in action (they never got it—my newspaper had the exclusive). At the time, females were still banned from most ground combat roles. I knew that on average we possess around 50 to 60 percent of males’ upper body strength, but I also knew women who could perform incredible physical feats. I didn’t think it was fair for anyone to be banned from a job based on averages.
The test subjects formed fast, tight friendships to help get us through the rigorous training regimen and quickly developed our own rallying cry. In the first week, one of us blurted, “Do what?” when told to do something that seemed near impossible. “F— that!” I replied under my breath. For the rest of the study, we’d shout that call and answer to get psyched up before our toughest tests. Everyone on post knew who we were, and for a long time I noted skeptical glances and heard a snide remark or two while running through the base. But by the end, the soldiers, officers and civilian personnel were openly cheering us on.
Spoiler alert: We did it. The data showed 78 percent of test subjects could now qualify for Army jobs categorized as “very heavy,” in which soldiers must occasionally lift 100 pounds, whereas only 24 percent could at the beginning. We also showed a 33 percent improvement on the 75-pound backpack test, going from 36 minutes to 27.5 minutes for two miles. And we did it all efficiently by training 1 ½ hours a day, five days a week.
In 2016 when I learned all military jobs were opened up to women, I began my research for The Strong Ones to find out how we might have helped change things. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say the test subjects affected future military women in more ways than one.
It’s been inspiring to watch women kicking butt in so many new roles in every branch over the past few years, and interesting to hear more than a few I’ve met along the way hit back at their doubters the same way we did back then: Watch me.
For a sneak peak, see The Strong Ones book trailer below.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”
The same press release details the badge’s symbols:
The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.
MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.
The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.
Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.