Yale is headed to West Point to face Army on Clinton Field. The Bulldogs are currently sitting at 4-4-2, but have to face Cornell before going up against the Black Knights on Tuesday. Both teams have been cooling off lately and are desperately seeking a win.
Is North Korea’s air force selling canned soup and taxi rides to upgrade its runways and airstrips?
Amid the toughest sanctions ever against the North and its nuclear weapons program, there are some compelling reasons to believe the answer may well be yes. The story of how — and why — offers some insight into how North Korea’s economy functions under Kim Jong Un.
There’s a fine line between North Korea’s military and its private sector. To augment the already huge share of the country’s limited national resources earmarked for defense, North Korean military units control everything from restaurants to farms to the flagship airline.
Air Koryo is far more than just an airline.
Over the past several years, it has also become one of the country’s most recognizable consumer brands.
With only a dozen or so active-use aircraft operating on limited routes to China and the Russian Far East, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever been much of a money-maker for Pyongyang in the conventional, ticket-sales sort of way. But it is a symbol of national prestige and serves as a key lifeline to the outside world, transporting people and loads and loads of precious — and often not-very-closely-scrutinized — cargo.
Air Koryo runs at least one gas station and car wash in Pyongyang, has its own fleet of taxis, and operates several retail shops, including a boutique at the airport. At the relatively upscale Potonggang Department Store in central Pyongyang, whole aisles are devoted to Air Koryo brand products, from crates of liquor to row after row of Coke-like sodas and a half dozen varieties of canned goods, including pheasant soup and peaches.
The airline’s moves mirror broader shifts in the North Korean economy, which is still socialist and technically centrally controlled, but under Kim has shifted rapidly toward capitalist-style entrepreneurialism.
At the grassroots level, street vendors and small, bazaar-style markets are common. Higher up, state-run enterprises are adapting to become more productive and profitable — quite possibly because the regime, pinched by sanctions and shrinking trade possibilities, can’t afford to prop them up anymore.
It’s not just Air Koryo: Naegohyang, a major producer of cigarettes including the luxury “7.27” brand reportedly favored by Kim himself, has begun pushing its own line of sporting goods. They’re sold alongside Nike, Adidas, and other pricey imports at its flagship stores near Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter and in the exclusive Scientists’ Street district, a neighborhood built to reward the country’s scientists and technicians.
Air Koryo got a big boost with Kim’s decision to completely overhaul the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, which opened a shiny new terminal in 2015. The next year, Air Koryo started its taxi service. The Air Koryo soft drink line was launched in 2016. A gas station and car wash followed in 2017.
It’s impossible to say how profitable those initiatives have been. But the swelling variety of the goods and their ready availability in the capital and elsewhere is undeniable.
The appearance of a subsidiary company, Korea Hanggong Trading, at recent trade fairs suggests Air Koryo may be considering an export business, something of a stretch in the current political climate and sanctions aimed at cutting off the North’s ability to fund its nuclear program.
Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the North Korean Economy Watch blog, describes the airline as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the air force, which is using its consumer goods business to help finance reconstruction of its own infrastructure, including runway renovations and new revetments at remote highway airfields.
Selling Air Koryo-labelled products made by military factories can help the air force boost revenues outside of its official budget allocations, Melvin said.
A new headquarters for Air Koryo has been built near the international airport, he noted.
“For many years, North Korea has tried to turn its subsidy-dependent, state-owned enterprises into profitable operations that pay ‘taxes,'” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “Maybe Air Koryo’s time has simply come.”
Air Koryo’s connection to the military is not immediately obvious and is often overlooked.
But according to a 2014 United Nations Panel of Experts’ report, the airline, all airports, and airfields in North Korea are controlled by the Korean People’s Air Force through its Civil Aviation Bureau. The report added that the airline’s personnel are believed to be members of the air force and “all in-country maintenance is conducted by air force engineering staff.”
That makes it a natural target for sanctions, another incentive for diversification.
Though Washington-backed efforts to blacklist the airline entirely have failed, the U.S. Treasury Department in 2016 slapped sanctions on Air Koryo for doing a flyover during a 2013 military parade and for transporting spare parts used in Scud-B missile systems, among other things.
The listing does not ban Americans from flying on Air Koryo but restricts them from doing other kinds of business with it.
The U.N., meanwhile, has warned that “considering the control over and use by the air force of Air Koryo’s aircraft,” member states could be in violation of its arms embargo on the North should they engage with the airline in anything from financial transactions to technical training.
Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.
With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?
Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.
However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadly attacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.
Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.
As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.
Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.(U.S. Army photo)
The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.
To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.
There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.
This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.
For the first time, a soldier is being brought up on real-world charges for battlefield offenses committed during a video game. A UK troop stationed in Edinburgh, frustrated at the lack of real training took that frustration out in the combat simulator in which he and his squad were training.
He wasn’t charged with murder, according to the Telegraph, he was charged with disobeying a direct order and reprimanded. The infantry rifleman told members of his unit he just wanted to be training outside and was fed up with being on a laptop. He will spend the coming weekend on guard duty as part of his punishment.
“Guys, take this seriously, okay??”
Members of his unit told the Telegraph they had been training on the laptop computers for at least three weeks and were anxious to go outside and do real-world training. They also challenged anyone else to do the same thing for that long without needing to vent some kind of frustration.
“All this was taking place in an office at our headquarters, when we’d rather be doing real-life soldiering outside in the fresh air. But there’s less of that sort of exercise these days because the Army has committed to Unit-based Virtual Training.”
Like training for, say, World War III.
The unit was training on what to do in an armored convoy in a hostile environment, filled with enemy forces. That’s when the soldier in question “lost his rag” and went on a Grand Theft Auto-level virtual spree, which started with killing the soldier next to him. He then stole one of the armored vehicles and drove it down the street to deliberately smash into local nationals’ cars.
His comrades thought the behavior was extremely funny, his superior officers did not.
Pictured: British Army convoy training.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence defended the reprimand, saying “We take the training of our service personnel very seriously and anyone who is disruptive to this training will receive disciplinary action..
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.
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.”
Paulette Fryar was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year on May 7th, 2020. It was the first time in the award’s history that it went to a Coast Guard spouse and the excitement over her win reverberated loudly throughout the military spouse community. The next day, the joy and excitement over her honor would be muted.
Her cousin committed suicide.
David Heathers was a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. After leaving the service and returning home, he suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Living through the effects of that diagnosis in the midst of the isolation of COVID-19, would ultimately take his life. Fryar comes from a long line of family members who have served, but had not yet truly been touched by devastating impacts of war, until now.
“I had no idea how bad it was for my cousin David until it was too late. If there is something I can do to bring more awareness so that other families don’t have to go through this, I want to,” Fryar said.
Although her initial platform of serving young military spouses and families had garnered her the title of Military Spouse of the Year, this deeply personal experience shifted things for her. Fryar has become very vocal about discussing the impacts of trauma and PTSD. She wanted to do something to combat the issue.
The Million Mile project was born.
In collaboration with the 2020 branch and base winners of the Military Spouse of the Year award, she approached Armed Forces Insurance to help sponsor the project. They immediately said yes. The goal was to unite the entire military community, as well as any patriotic supporters in raising suicide awareness. The participants would do this through logging miles for 22 days, to remember and honor the veterans lost to suicide.
“I knew I wanted to start a campaign to bring attention to this issue and provide some resources in hopes that other families would not have to experience this kind of loss,” Fryar explained.
The project began on August 15th, 2020 – which would have been her cousin’s 39th birthday and was the day in which is family held his celebration of life. This day was also significant because it was exactly 22 days before suicide prevention week would begin in September.
“One reason I wanted to start this Million Mile Project is that losing my cousin to suicide really opened my eyes to how awful this issue of military and veteran PTSD and suicide is. Once I saw it, I couldn’t turn a blind eye or look away,” Fryar said.
Studies have shown that up to 20% of veterans who have served since 9/11 are diagnosed with PTSD. Suicide has also been on the rise according to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Medical professionals are now on alert for increased rates of suicide due to the isolation and stress that COVID-19 is placing on veterans in particular.
Fryar and the other 2020 branch winners created a Facebook group for The Million Mile Project and it has over 6,000 members and continues to grow. The unique miles project allows members to log their miles in almost any way. Participants can walk, run, bike, swim or even skateboard for the suicide awareness project.
The parents of Fryar’s cousin have joined the project and have expressed their deep appreciation for the love and support they’ve received. It is their hope that through creating events like The Million Mile Project, they can reach people contemplating suicide and show them they matter and how important they truly are.
It is their hope that their story will show that life isn’t better without them.
“As the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, my main quote is ‘Together we are stronger’ and I feel it applies to the Million Mile Project so well,” Fryar explained. She continued, “Working together on a campaign like this is so important! I want people suffering from the loss of a loved one or possibly a veteran struggling with PTSD or suicide ideation to know that they are not alone, that they are needed and loved deeply.”
At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.
“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.
Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.
Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:
12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.
11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”
10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.
9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.
8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”
7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”
6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.
5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.
4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.
3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.
2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.
1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.
Military kids are a unique breed. They grow up too fast during deployments and are wise beyond their years. They ask tough questions about war, politics, furloughs, and DD93s because they overhear these things at the dinner table. But, some of the best things about military kids are their comments. The days and weeks leading up to Veterans Day in a house with military kids are just plain fun.
1. They are so proud of their veterans.
Frequently, military-friendly schools will line the halls with artwork honoring veterans. One year, my son brought home a few half-sheets of paper that were to be filled in by our family about the veterans in our family. Our son, who was in early elementary school at that point, said, “We need so many more, Mom. We have TONS of veterans in our family.” From grandparents to aunts and uncles to cousins to parents and siblings, military kids have a fierce pride in every single person who served.
2. They know the history.
“Veterans day began as Armistice Day but was later changed by President Eisenhower in 1954,” I heard from the back seat. Someone was practicing lines for the upcoming Veterans Day program at their school. “Veterans day com…commem…commemorates veterans of all wars.”
3. They understand the sacrifices.
You’ll never find a military kid who confuses Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. Ever. They know the difference, they understand why those things are different, and they don’t want to talk about it again. Sure, they’ll be excited if their parent gets a free dessert at Chick-fil-A on Veterans Day or if there’s a military discount, that means they can spend more at the toy store, but overall, they just want their parents home with them.
4. They don’t mind having to go to school.
In some school districts, Veterans Day is not a school holiday. For military families, this can be a hard adjustment as most service members in garrison will have this day off. But one thing we’ve discovered is that the schools that remain in session have fantastic Veterans Day programs, on a day where active duty and veteran parents can actually attend. One child equated going to school on Veterans Day as a military kid to their parent having to work on Christmas. Sometimes you have to do your job on a holiday.
5. They have some fierce branch pride.
As the token Army family in a Navy community, my children went to a school whose mascot was the captains. They had a giant anchor out front, and they rode the “Anchor bus.” They wore their “Proud Army Brat” t-shirts a lot that year. And we were quite possibly the only people celebrating Army’s win that December in Pensacola, Florida.
Veterans Day is a great time to teach your children about the significance behind the day. You can read books together, attend a parade, or make poppies. If you are stationed overseas, you can take a trip to visit historic battlefields and cemeteries. And when they get older, you can binge-watch Band of Brothers with them. Now that is a military parenting win.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says more than 1,000 military personnel and dozens of aircraft have been withdrawn from Syria over the past several days.
Speaking at a ceremony for military-college graduates in the Kremlin on June 28, 2018, Putin said the withdrawal continues.
“Thirteen planes, fourteen helicopters, and 1,140 personnel have left [Syria] in the past few days alone,” Putin said.
Russia has conducted a bombing campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping reverse the course of the seven-year civil war in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.
Putin initially ordered the start of “the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingent” from Syria in March 2016, but there were few signs of a pullout after that announcement.
In December 2017, Putin again ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, but since that time fighting has flared up again among various warring factions.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.
But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.
Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”
The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.
Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.
“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.
After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”
Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.
But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.
Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.
They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.
Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”
“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”
They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.
“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”
Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.
While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.
With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.
Operation Encore is different.
“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.
Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.
“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.
Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.
The Air Force is strengthening its “Rapid Raptor” program designed to fast-track four F-22s to war — anywhere in the world — within 24 hours, on a moments notice, should there be an immediate need for attacks in today’s pressured, fast-moving global threat environment , service officials said.
The program, in existence for several years, prepares four F-22s with the requisite crew members, C-17 support, fuel, maintenance and weapons necessary to execute a fast-attack “first-strike” ability in remote or austere parts of the world, Air Force officials say.
First strike options are, according to military planners, of particular significance for the F-22 Raptor, given its technical focus on using stealth and air-to-air combat technology to attack heavily defended or “contested” enemy areas.
“If jets, no matter how technically advanced, tactically skilled and strategically sound in the air, can only leap from well-known base to well-known base, their first-strike threat is limited,” an Air Force statement said.
Most air attack contingencies, it seems almost self-evident, are likely to include F-22s as among the first to strike; the aircraft is designed to engage and destroy enemy air threats and also use stealth to destroy enemy air defenses – creating an “air corridor” for other fighters. Although not intended to function as a higher altitude stealth bomber, an F-22 is well suited to a mission objective aimed at destroying enemy aircraft, including fighters, as well as air defenses.
The Raptor is, by design, engineered to fly in tandem with fourth-generation fighters such as an F-15 or F-18, to not only pave the way for further attacks but also to use its longer-range sensors to hand off targets to 4th gen planes for follow-on attacks.
Rapid Raptor was originally developed by Air Force Pacific Command and has since been expanded to a global sphere by Air Combat Command, service officials said.
“The ACC Rapid Raptor program’s aim is to take the concept, as developed in PACAF, and change it from a theater specific to a worldwide capability.” Staff. Sgt. Sarah Trachte, Air Combat Command spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a written statement.
As part of the Rapid Raptor concept, ACC F-22s forward deployed to Europe in 2015 and 2016, she added. Using the Rapid Raptor program for Europe is, in many respects, entirely consistent with the Pentagon’s broader European posture; for many years now, DoD and NATO have been positioning deterrence-oriented forces throughout the European continent as well conducting numerous allied “solidarity” or “interoperability” exercises.
Apart from demonstrating force as a counterbalance to Russian posturing, these activities are also part of a decided strategic effort to demonstrate “mobility” and rapid deployability.
Therefore, so while Air Force officials are careful to say the Rapid Raptor, as a concept does, not “target” any specific nation, its utilization in Europe is indeed of great relevance given existing tensions with Russia.
Furthermore, multiple news reports cited F-22 participation in wargame exercises over the Korean peninsula last year – a fact which certainly lends evidence to the possibility that the Raptor would figure prominently in any attack on North Korea.
Also, apart from being prepared to conduct major-power, nation state warfare across the globe within 24-hours, the Rapid Raptor program is designed to enable ground attack options in unexpected, remote or “austere” target areas.
Accordingly, should the need to attack emerge suddenly in a particular part of the world, a small continent of F-22s will be able to get there. The point here, it seems clear, is that recent global combat circumstances have further reinforced the importance of the F-22s ground attack or close-air-support ability.
Of course, historically, many most immediately think of the F-22 in terms of its speed, maneuverability and dogfighting advantage as an air supremacy fighter, yet its recent air to ground attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have fortified its role in an air-to-ground fight.
While the F-22 is by no means intended to function as an A-10 would in a close-in ground fight persay, it does have a 20mm cannon which has been used in ground attacks against ISIS, officials familiar with the war effort say.
As recently as this past November, the F-22 conducted a successful ground attack against a Taliban facility in Afghanistan, news reports and officials familiar with the attack said.
To support these kinds of mission options, the F-22 weapons compliment includes ground-specific attack weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions – such as the GBU 32 and GBU 39 — and the Small Diameter Bomb.
“Since the jet first deployed in 2014, it has been capable of air-to-ground and air-to-air. We have the small diameter bomb and JDAMs in the AOR. its typical load out is eight SDBs and two AMRAAMS (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile),” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 programs, Lockheed Martin, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Australia has completed the laying of undersea cables for its high-speed internet project in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, a snub to Chinese tech giant Huawei, which had previously competed for the deal.
Australia on Aug. 28, 2019, laid the final piece of cable as part of its $A137 million ($92.5 million) infrastructure effort, known as the Coral Sea Cable, which links Sydney to its island neighbors.
Australia agreed to front most of the cost of the construction project in 2018, shutting out a competing offer by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. According to WA Today, the project spans 4,700 kilometers (2,920 miles) and is linked to Sydney’s Tamarama Beach using cables which feature optic fibers thinner than human hair.
The paper added that less than 11% of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands residents have internet access, making the project important to their future social and economic development.
Walter Diamana, Acting High Commissioner for Solomon Islands, said the project would “secure hope and bring a predictable future for our people,” WA Today reported.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told reporters Aug. 28, 2019, that the project was key to fortifying Australia’s connection to the Pacific as China has begun expanding its efforts in the region. She said the goal was to have the cables in operation by December 2019.
Several countries have voiced concern that Huawei technology could be used by China for spying
The US has long voiced concerns that Huawei’s technology — along with that of its fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE — could pose a security risk, fearing that the company’s technology could act as a backdoor for the Chinese government to spy on the West.
The US banned federal agencies and their contractors from using equipment or services provided by Huawei, which prompted harsh blowback from the Chinese tech giant.
In recent months, Australia has banned Huawei and ZTE from supplying tech for their networks, citing major security risks.
New Zealand has also turned down a proposal for one of its major telecom carriers to use Huawei gear in its planned 5G mobile network, but the country has not ruled out using the tech giant in future internet network upgrades if security risks are addressed.
Huawei’s CEO pushed back on concerns about its 5G network in March, saying: “Cyber security and user privacy protection are at the absolute top of our agenda. We are confident that the companies that choose to work with Huawei will be the most competitive in the 5G era.”
“The easiest way to bring down a fortress is to attack it from within. And the easiest way to reinforce it is from outside.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you were surprised to see some of the tearful farewells from those worst affected by the lifelong policies of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, you aren’t alone. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years after helping free the country from British colonial rule. Mugabe was very much the central figure in then-Rhodesia’s struggle for freedom.
The African world rejoiced at his success, and then watched him plunge the country into every economic and human rights disaster there is.
At the end of the 1970s, African colonialism was taking its dying breaths. Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, was one of the last remnants of the African colonial era, where the minority white population ruled over the majority black population with an iron fist. The struggle to correct this resulted in the 15-year Rhodesian Bush War that saw thousands of Zimbabweans die at the hands of Rhodesian armed forces. The central figure to emerge from that struggle was Robert Mugabe, a charismatic freedom fighter and former college professor who idolized Mohandas Gandhi who started his firebrand career giving speeches in his home country.
After spending years in prison for sedition in Rhodesia, he left for neighboring Mozambique to join the militant wing of the struggle for freedom, the Zimbabwe African National Union. After the leaders of ZANU were assassinated by the Rhodesian government, Mugabe quickly rose to the top of its ranks. Rhodesia soon realized the writing on the wall, as Mugabe and other groups sent more insurgents into Rhodesia faster than the Rhodesians could kill or capture them. In the election that followed the political stalemate, Mugabe was victorious and became Prime Minister in 1980.
Mugabe with Joshua Nkomo at the Constitutional Conference on the future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia at Lancaster House in London.
He renamed the country Zimbabwe and the capital Harare. He also expanded educational opportunities to most of the population. In 1987, he and his ZANU-PF party amended the Zimbabwean constitution and installed himself as Executive President, a new position he made for himself while his one-party dominated the Parliament. Mugabe became just one more African strongman. Mugabe betrayed his own revolution.
Although he was an educated man, he was not fit to rule an entire country on his own. After sending military forces into the countryside to root out dissent, Zimbabwe found itself deeply in debt and a mineral sector in virtual collapse. The value of its currency began to drop, and Mugabe began to exploit the ethnic differences in his country to stay in power, a textbook dictatorship move. The wealthy and educated began to flee the country, and by 2000 the economy was in freefall. Hyperinflation became synonymous with the Zimbabwean dollar. He created a repressive police state in order to stay in power, while stripping the rights of everyone, not just white farmers.
Mugabe died in Singapore on Sept. 6, 2019. He was 95. He will still be buried in the country he fought to loot for 37 years.
Even after the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, widespread corruption, and Mugabe’s brutal suppression of all opposition, Mugabe remained in power. He and his inner circle of cronies stole the revenues from the country’s mineral wealth while stealing elections and killing the opposition. Finally, after 30-plus years of brutality, Western powers slapped sanctions on him, the country, and anyone caught doing business with Zimbabwe. Yet only after he began to groom his second wife, Grace, to take his position after he died, did Zimbabweans organize his ouster. When he died, he was still working to undermine the government in Harare that had succeeded him.
So while Robert Mugabe was an undisputed liberating force for so many black Rhodesians-turned-Zimbabweans, along with those affected by the subsequent anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements that came after his success, he was also responsible for 37 years of pillaging the country he fought to liberate.