So, you want to be a United States Marine Corps Critical Skills Operator? Well, that’s really great to hear, but a word of warning to all you would-be Raiders out there: To start this journey, you must go through MARSOC Assessment and Selection.
MARSOC is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces; its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.
These small but well-trained Marine units embrace the unknown and are prepared to face any challenge. To earn a position on a MARSOC team takes a superhuman effort and the willingness to go above and beyond.
On the long road between you and life as a Raider lies a 23-day training evaluation designed to test Marines’ mental and physical limits in order to reveal the true nature of a candidate’s character.
Check out these seven tips on how to get selected by MARSOC instructors:
7. Be physically fit.
This tip is so obvious it almost goes without saying, but don’t be fooled by the 225 physical fitness test score required to qualify — this is very misleading. If you want to be competitive and have a real shot at being selected, a score of 285 or higher is recommended.
6. Semper Gumby — always be flexible.
Without getting into any specific details, selection creates a dynamic environment replicating austere scenarios that require ingenuity and out-of-the-box problem-solving skills. There is no manual for chaos and chaos is exactly what you will be expected to deal with if you become an operator.
5. Know your knots.
Bowline, around the body bowline, double fisherman’s knot — believe it or not, knowing these knots is an invaluable skill. It’ll save you much pain and aggravation if you learn basic knots before selection. The granny knot is important, too, but you probably already know that one.
4. Be cool; it matters.
Selection is looking for the best, however, all the physical capabilities in the world amount to nothing if you can’t work as a team. Peer evaluation is a major part of selection. Whether you can get along with others has a substantial impact on reaching phase two.
3. Learn land navigation.
Learn how to read a map, orient yourself with a compass, shoot an azimuth, plot points, make intelligent route selections, and understand terrain association. Master these baiscs and always remember: get high, stay high. A straight line is not always the fastest route.
2. Take care of your feet.
You’ll be moving an impressive amount of gear and water across substantial distances for an unknown amount of time. This will take a toll on your feet. Your feet are your life in many situations, so take care of them accordingly. Seek out a doc and get up to speed on basic maintenance, put together a foot-care kit (gauze, bandages, moleskin, etc.), and use it.
Quitting is the surefire way of never being anything you want to be or do anything you want to do. Quitting is a poison that infects all other aspects of your life. If you start quitting now, it can easily become a habit. It is the exact opposite of what MARSOC is looking for and there is no room for quitters on these teams.
Through 20 years of March Backs, Wallace Ward has seen it all.
In the beginning, the march was 15 miles, now 20 years later it is only 12. Over the years it has moved from taking place in the middle of the night to starting in the morning. There has been rain and thunderstorms that soaked and threatened the marchers. There was a hamstring injury that slowed him down, but couldn’t stop him.
No matter the obstacle, the distance or the weather, since members of the Long Gray Line were invited to the March Back 20 years ago, Wallace Ward has completed every single one.
This year, as he stepped off from Camp Buckner before dawn with India Company, Ward, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1958, earned the distinction of being the oldest graduate to participate in the annual tradition.
He first joined the March Back at 67 and now aged 87 he once again walked the entire way from start to finish.
“I come back to March Back every year because I love to run,” Ward said. “I’ve participated in 10 marathons and one ultramarathon that was 62 miles. I have been running and walking all my life so when they said they wanted people to hike back with the plebes I thought that was a great opportunity since I love being outside running and walking.”
Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023. Ward, 87, was the oldest grad to participate in the 2019 March Back.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
The decision brought him full circle as it was running that first introduced Ward to West Point.
A track athlete in nearby Washingtonville, New York, Ward competed at a regional track meet at West Point as a high schooler. He entered the meet with a single goal — earning the one point he needed to secure his varsity letter for the season — and determined to do whatever it took to secure it.
With the finish line nearby and his goal within reach, Ward dove across the line. His last bit of effort earned him his letter, but it also left shrapnel in his left elbow that has served as a, “reminder of West Point for the rest of my life.”
It would prove to be the first of many marks West Point would leave upon him as the track meet set him upon a path that eventually allowed him to enter West Point as a prior service cadet after he was not accepted directly from high school and enlisted in the Army in 1951.
“I’d never been to West Point,” Ward said of that track meet roughly 70 years ago. “I got there and saw this great fortress over the Hudson River and said, ‘Wow, this is fantastic. I’d sure like to be able to go there for school.'”
His time at West Point changed the course of his life after being abandoned along with his brothers in a Brooklyn flat by his mother. They bounced through different foster homes before finding stability and discipline after moving near Washingtonville.
West Point continued the process of instilling discipline and helped to keep him from becoming, “a kid in New York, running the streets, stealing and things like that, getting in all kinds of trouble,” Ward said.
Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1979 after a career as an air defense officer. Now 61 years after his graduation from West Point, Ward uses his time with the new class during March Back to encourage them and teach them about the place that means so much to him.
“We spend half the time (talking), except when we are going uphill. I always tell them, ‘Cut if off, wait until we get to the top of the hill. Then we can resume the conversation,'” Ward said. “When we are walking and having a conversation with the plebes we tell them it is going to be a tough year, stick it out, keep your nose clean and work hard and things will come out alright and you will be proud of the fact you went to West Point.”
With 20 years and more than 200 miles of March Backs under his belt, Ward hasn’t decided if he’ll be back for number 21. He said he will have to, “think about it,” before lacing up his sneakers and hiking through the woods with another class seven decades his junior even though he enjoys his time spent with the plebes and talking with them as they traverse the hills.
“I get the enthusiasm of going back to West Point every year and seeing that great fortress on the Hudson River, meeting old friends and comrades and enjoying the atmosphere,” Ward said of why he has come back for the last 20 years.
There are a lot of benefits one can get from drinking coffee. Studies show the right amount of coffee can lower your risk of Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. It also has a protective effect on your liver, whatever that means.
In just over two years, the brigadier general who’d never seen combat became the supreme Allied commander in Europe — an intense situation for anyone. Throughout the war (and into his presidency), Ike drank up to 20 cups of coffee and smoked four packs of Camels as he worked day and night to win the war in Europe.
NPG.65.63. PO 3262. Oil on canvas, 1947.
For Eisenhower, the answer was simple; Type 2 diabetes wasn’t occupying Paris, and doing the work necessary to win World War II required a diet of coffee and cigarettes.
There’s a lot to be said about Eisenhower’s service record. For one, Ike never saw combat, and that was never his specialty, even if it grated on him at times. But there’s more to serving in the military than being a hardcore, door-kicking Nazi-killing machine.
Someone has to get the Nazi-killing machines to the Nazis, and that’s where Ike came in.
At the outset of World War II, Eisenhower was a relatively unknown junior officer who had never held command above a battalion level. But as the war continued, his boss, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, came to rely more and more on his logistics and leadership ability.
First up was planning the greater war in the Pacific. Eisenhower needed to send a division of men to reinforce Australia. He requisitioned the British luxury liner RMS Queen Mary to carry 15,000 soldiers from New York to Sydney around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. After the ship departed, the Army learned that Axis U-boats knew about it and would be hunting it every step of the way. Eisenhower paced the floor until the Queen Mary arrived in Sydney.
Ike was fueled entirely on coffee, cigarettes, and a burning desire to win.
That’s the kind of leader Eisenhower was. He didn’t show it, but he was wracked with anxiety over the potential loss of so many Allied soldiers. Chugging coffee, chain-smoking, and pacing was how he dealt with the pressure.
When he was awaiting word on that first troop transport’s arrival in Sydney Harbor, Eisenhower wore the same calm demeanor as he did reviewing the troops preparing to land at Normandy on June 6, 1944. He walked among them and asked questions, speaking with them at ease. He watched as they prepared to mount an invasion that even he wasn’t sure would be a success.
Ike famously wrote two speeches for the D-Day landings — one if they were successful and one in case they failed. He knew he was taking a gamble with all those men’s lives.
In his mind, 75% of them were going to die trying to free Europe on his orders. He had done all he could, drinking cup after cup of coffee, battling insomnia and headaches to give them their best shot at victory.
Trolling his own vice president? Public domain photo.
Coffee was Eisenhower’s constant companion as he navigated the postwar world of the 1950s, managing the Soviet Union, the end of the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the Interstate Highway System, and the use of the US Army to enforce federal laws in the states.
Ike struggled with health issues, especially heart disease, in his post-military career. He suffered at least seven heart attacks and a stroke before his death in 1969. But that wasn’t the coffee’s fault. The supreme Allied commander developed a brain tumor that made him vulnerable to heart attacks.
All that coffee just fueled the end of fascism in Europe and a reboot of the American century.
One of the most decorated soldiers in American history had his big day on Jan. 26, 1945. For three hours, he fought off dozens of advancing Nazi troops, coming at him from three sides. He did it with a field phone, an M2 Browning .50-cal, and his trusty M1 Carbine. General MacArthur called the M1 carbine, “One of the strongest contribution factors in our victory in the Pacific.”
That carbine was a weapon designed just for Army paratroopers in World War II. It had its shortcomings, but its reliability would ensure it would see action in three American wars — and was even a preferred weapon of the enemy. But not many people know the steadfast weapon was designed by a self-taught gunsmith, one-time moonshiner, and convicted felon.
David Williams started making moonshine in North Carolina’s backcountry in 1919. The only problem was the Cumberland County native was good at it — really good. Soon, word spread about the quality of the young man’s whiskey. With the rise of Prohibition in 1920, his elevated status soon became unwanted attention. The very next year, his still was raided by local law enforcement, and a shootout ensued. Williams shot and killed a deputy sheriff.
He was captured, convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 30 years in state prison.
Audie Murphy with an M1 carbine in ‘To Hell And Back,’ the film about his Medal of Honor experience in World War II.
The man who would later earn the nickname “carbine” spent a lot of time in both the prison blacksmith shop, as well as solitary confinement. An inventive tinkerer with no formal training, he spent his time in the box thinking of new ways to improve existing machines — including firearms. He began to make spare parts from scrap metal and wood, which, in turn, earned him more time in the shop. The more time he spent in the shop, the more good he did for himself and society.
It turns out the uneducated tinkerer was exceptionally adept with machine parts. He invented the floating chamber, a mechanism that allowed a larger caliber rifle to fire smaller .22 ammo. While other prisoners were known for building homemade knives, Williams was able to construct rifles from scraps.
David Marshall “Carbine” Williams with his contribution to World War II.
He earned an early release in 1929 and returned to his farm, where he constructed a large workshop and began to refine his inventions. Eventually, he was employed by the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company. Just before World War II broke out for the United States, he was able to develop a carbine version of the M1 Garand Rifle.
A carbine is essentially a shorter version of an existing rifle. It’s often lighter in weight and uses a shorter barrel but doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of consistency or accuracy. The M1 carbine, however, was not just a carbine version of the M1 Garand. The two firearms used different ammunition, and the only features they shared were the buttplate and screw. But there was a need for lighter weapons among paratroopers and support crew.
M1 Carbines were present at the first Iwo Jima flag raising.
Williams self-designed and built a short-stroke gas piston while in prison and incorporated it into his design for a lighter-weight infantry rifle. In trials, “Carbine” WIlliams’ design proved much more effective and consistent than other gun manufacturers, especially in sandy conditions — an environment that would prove very important to the Marine Corps.
By the end of World War II, the U.S. Military produced more than six million M1 Carbine rifles to use against the Nazis and the Japanese, making it America’s most-produced small arm of the war, edging out the iconic M1 Garand by more than a million units.
Perhaps unthinkable as early as just a year ago, diplomats from the United States met with representatives of the Afghan Taliban to discuss terms for ending the 17-year long conflict in Afghanistan. It all began when Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani and Taliban senior leadership agreed to a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. When it actually happened, not only did Afghans across the country rejoice, it legitimized the prospect of a permanent end to the fighting.
Of course, violence didn’t cease entirely for the most important holiday in Islam. Fighters under the flag of the Islamic State continued pressing attacks from the ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province, killing 30.
Elsewhere in the country, however, Afghans were able to breathe a much-welcomed sigh of relief for the first time in over a decade, even if it was only temporary. Fighters from both sides even joined each other in some areas to celebrate the holiday, sharing a salat prayer or jelabi sweets. For a few days, their automatic rifle fire was directed into the air, instead of at each other. After the holiday, the fighters reluctantly returned to the routine of war they have endured for 17 years.
The joint celebrations made it apparent that many in Afghanistan are ready to see an end to all fighting in the country and that some kind of agreement could be reached between the opposing sides — including the U.S.-supported Ghani government. Now, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Alice Wells, a senior official for U.S. relations in Afghanistan, traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban.
Taliban officials were excited at the meeting, telling journalists it yielded “very positive signals,” in their eyes. Representatives of the Afghan government were not present at the talks. It was Ashraf Ghani’s central government in Afghanistan that first offered the Eid ceasefire agreement.
The two sides agreed to meet again in the very near future.
The biggest wrench in recent peace works is the rise of a relatively new force arising in Afghanistan, one the United States and the Taliban seem to deem a greater threat than one another: ISIS.
As a newcomer to the fighting in the country, ISIS is not as capable, having neither the technical and numerical superiority of the United States nor a force of battle-hardened Afghans who have been fighting for decades, some as far back as the 1979 Soviet invasion. The terror organization also does not have the entrenched backing of rural Afghans like the Taliban does in many areas.
The difference between this U.S.-Taliban meeting is that previous American administrations demanded that any peace talks be held between the Taliban and the Afghan government, whereas the Taliban would only agree to talk to the United States — and the biggest demand for peace in the country is that all foreign forces withdraw.
It’s a well-known fact that the King of Rock n’ Roll enjoyed practicing karate. What might not be so well-known is that he was pretty good at it, too. After starting his training while in the Army in Europe in 1958, Elvis Presley studied martial arts until his death in 1977 — when he was a seventh-degree black belt.
This talent came in handy one night when rocker Alice Cooper pulled a gun on him.
Elvis earned his black belt after a rigorous six-week-long training regimen and test. Though his fighting style wasn’t “pretty,” the King still passed the test. Elvis would even eventually start his own dojo, the Tennessee Karate Institute, and write books about how he trained for real-life dangers — including meditations on how to prepare for attackers with real guns.
He was so serious about the art that he was ready to be promoted beyond the level of his trainer much faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. He was as bold in the studio as he was in real life: Presley once even got out of his limo at an intersection in Madison, Wisconsin, to stop a fight at a gas station. The then-42-year-old walked up to the fight, told the two men, “I’ll take you two on,” and assumed a karate stance. The two men stopped fighting.
“Is everything settled now?” he said.
Despite not being considered “pretty” when he first earned his black belt, Elvis’ karate improved greatly over the next 15 years. Wayne Carman, who trained with Elvis under their master, Kang Rhee, said this about Presley’s karate:
“His technique was crisp and powerful and his movements were graceful.”
It was a good thing, too. One night in Las Vegas, Elvis was in the penthouse of a hotel when a young Alice Cooper (along with Liza Minelli and Linda Lovelace) came into his room. He wasn’t just looking for an audience with the King. After they were all frisked by Elvis’ security, Elvis took Cooper into the kitchen and took out a .32 snub-nose revolver. He told the kid to put it to his head.
Cooper recounted the story to the UK’s Mirror:
“I had this gun in my hand and was expecting one of his security to come in any second, see me holding a weapon, and shoot me dead… A little voice in my left ear was telling me, ‘Go on, this is history, kill him, you’ll always be the guy who killed Elvis.’ In my other ear was another voice saying, ‘You can’t kill him, it’s Elvis Presley – wound him instead, you’ll only get a few years!’.
That’s when Elvis did a flying kick at the gun, knocking it out of Cooper’s hand. He then tripped Cooper and pinned him to the ground by his neck.
Azerbaijani T-72’s lead BMP’s during the military exercises on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense/released)
At the end of May, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense announced the conclusion of their Large-Scale Operational-Tactical Exercises as part of their combat training plan for 2020. The week-long exercises included some 10,000 military personnel, 120 tanks and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to a statement from the Azerbaijan MOD, “During the exercise, the combat readiness, planning and operation of various military units will be developed, and the small and large scale capabilities of the strike groups will be checked.” The MOD released a statement at the conclusion of the exercises stating, “According to the exercises leadership’s evaluation, the troops fully achieved the goals assigned during the completed exercises. The military personnel amassed its practical experience and skills in carrying out combat operations and also demonstrated real abilities in the field.”
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises can be likened to exercises held at Fort Irwin, CA and Fort Polk, LA, the U.S. Army National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center respectively. Units come to these training centers to validate their planning, tactics, crews, and equipment in preparation for deployment.
However, rotations to NTC and JRTC were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, NY were on deck for the now-cancelled NTC and JRTC rotations. In lieu of their training exercises, the 81st BCT was made available to Washington state governor Jay Inslee to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2nd BCT remained at Fort Drum to continue to train for their next mission. NTC and JRTC rotations have yet to be rescheduled.
Soldiers train for their worst day of combat in “The Box”. (U.S. Army photo from army.mil/released)
U.S. relations with Azerbaijan began immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 when the U.S. formally recognized 12 former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, as independent states. In March 1992, respective embassies were opened in Washington and Baku. Due to its strategic location in the region, Azerbaijan has been an integral contributor in the War on Terror. The country has provided troops as well as overflight, refueling, and landing rights to U.S. and coalition aircraft in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, at the height of combat operations, over one-third of nonlethal equipment such as fuel, food, and clothing used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan traveled through Baku.
Relations have also been influenced by the ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In 1988, the local Karabakh provincial government appealed to the Soviet Union to transfer them from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region and Armenia held spontaneous mass demonstrations, the first of their kind in the USSR, in support of the appeal. The demonstrations sparked clashes between Azeris and ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region, which continued through the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Clashes turned into a bona fide war in January 1992 when the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament declared the region’s independence and intention to join with Armenia. Formal hostilities ended in May 1994 with a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the de facto independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh/Republic of Artsakh. However, the region is still recognized by most nations as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Consequently, clashes have continued to erupt along the border to this day.
Ethnic Armenians of the Artsakh Armed Forces conduct exercises in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (Photo by the Artsakh Defense Ministry/released)
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises have raised alarm and garnered condemnation from the Armenian MOD.
“It is noteworthy that the exercises are exclusively offensive in nature, during which massive strikes of missile-artillery, aviation, and high-precision weapons at the operational depth of the enemy will be utilized,” the Armenian MOD stated, calling them, “a threat to the regional security environment.”
On May 20th, the U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressing concern over the Azerbaijani Military Exercises and a 0 million allocation of U.S. security assistance to Azerbaijan. The letter was co-signed by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) as well as Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), T.J. Cox (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ),Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Juan Vargas (D-CA). The full text of the letter to Secretaries Pompeo and Esper is reprinted below.
Dear Secretaries Pompeo and Esper:
We are gravely concerned about the military exercises reported to be held by the Republic of Azerbaijan from May 18 to 22, 2020. These exercises are dangerous, violate diplomatic agreements and have the potential to destabilize security in the South Caucasus at a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and threatened the health of many more. We strongly urge the Department of State and the Department of Defense to condemn these egregious actions taken by the Azerbaijani military.
Even in normal circumstances, these exercises would be unacceptable due to their offensive nature and the failure to follow diplomatic notification practices. On May 14, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released information describing military exercises that would take place from May 18 to 22. Azeri reports state that the exercises are expected to include 10,000 servicemen, 120 artillery and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles. The failure to provide adequate notification as prescribed under the 2011 Vienna Document and the size of the exercises demonstrates Azerbaijani President Aliyev’s intention of further aggravating historical tensions with the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
We are especially concerned that over 0 million in security assistance the United States has sent to Azerbaijan over the last two years through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program has emboldened the Aliyev regime. This taxpayer funding defies almost two decades of parity in U.S. security assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The aid appears to have allowed Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues warned in letters sent to you in September and November of 2019.
We cannot allow Azerbaijan to use the global coronavirus pandemic as cover for these dangerous military operations. We urge you to immediately condemn the reckless actions of the Azerbaijani military and to work with our allies and international partners to halt the provocative actions being taken by the Aliyev Regime.
We look forward to your prompt reply to this request.
U.S. Representative Frank Pallone. (U.S. House of Representative Official Portrait, 113th Congress/released)
The following day, May 21, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy announced during a Facebook Live appearance that the Trump administration is ending USAID’s humanitarian Artsakh demining program. In response to criticism over the defunding of the program, Ambassador Tracy underscored the benefits of the demining program and its successes over the past 20 years, but noted that the U.S. is, “preparing populations for peace…to help toward that goal of achieving a lasting peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
For decades, this region and its inhabitants have navigated a tumultuous era of changing borders and armed conflict. The U.S. has had to walk a fine line between these two conflicting nations as they continue to clash, both politically and militarily, over this area in the Caucasus region. This path of attempted neutrality between the two nations may not be an option for the U.S. in the future if tensions continue to rise.
Nagorno-Karabakh Army T-72 tanks on parade. (Photo by the Nagorno-Karabakh Army/released)
Disclaimer: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Artsakh refer to the same region. Nagorno-Karabakh is derived from the Soviet name for this region and recognized by Azerbaijan and the international community, while Artsakh is the Armenian name for this region and utilized by Armenians to advocate for the sovereignty of the region. The people of the region generally prefer the Republic of Artsakh, but both are technically correct.
Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.
Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.
The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports
Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia
Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory
Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.
It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.
Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.
It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.
With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.
In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.
A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise
Georgia’s NATO woes
Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”
“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.
The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”
‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’
The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.
“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.
“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.
“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind
The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.
The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
A US Navy flattop deployed to the Pacific has been flying a battle flag featuring Captain America’s iconic red, white and blue shield, photos from the ship’s deployment show.
The USS America (LHA-6), the first of a new class of amphibious assault ship, chose its battle flag, also known as a house flag, just before it deployed to the Indo-Pacific late last year.
The ship, the fourth to bear the name America, went for the superhero treatment.
“The iconic Captain America symbol — the First Avenger for this first-in-class fifth-generation amphibious assault ship — was the perfect fit,” Capt. Luke Frost, the ship’s commanding officer, told Insider.
Frost said the flag choice was “bold, graphic, with a clear patriotic and easily-identifiable association with the name ‘America.'”
In the vast Marvel Comics universe, Captain America, whose alter ego is Steve Rogers, is a patriotic supersoldier who fought the Axis Powers before being trapped in ice and revived in the modern age.
An experimental serum gave the Army soldier his power, but it is his almost-indestructible circular vibranium shield that is most representative of the character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the 1940s.
Captain America is more than just Rogers. Others, such as close friend and Air Force veteran Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, have also taken up the shield and the captain’s mantle to carry on the fight. And now, a ship filled with Navy sailors and Marines have made the fictional weapon its emblem in a show of joint warfighting at its best.
The first US naval vessel to bear the name “America” was a 74-gun ship of the line, the first ordered for the Continental Navy. The name was passed on to a troop transport vessel and later to a Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier.
The current USS America, which was commissioned in 2014, is different from other amphibious assault ships in that it lacks a well deck and features increased space for aviation assets.
The Navy and the Marines have used the ship for “Lightning Carrier” experiments, which have involved loading the ship up with a heavy configuration of around a dozen F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.
In photos from the amphibious assault ship’s recent deployment, a lighter configuration of the fifth-generation fighters can be seen on the America’s deck as the new battle flag flies above.
Battle flags are a Navy tradition with a long history.”From Oliver Hazard Perry’s ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship’ flag at the Battle of Lake Erie to George Dewey’s ‘FIGHT!’ flag in the Battle of Manila and into the modern era, battle flags or ‘house flags’ have been used to motivate, rally, and inspire ship’s Sailors and Marines,” the America’s CO told Insider. “These flags express unit pride and the fighting spirit of the crew.”
In addition to its new flag, the America also features a number of other star-spangled decorations, such as the doors of the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) launcher cells, The Drive, which first reported the ship’s new flag, noted.
President Donald Trump’s deployed National Guard troops have already begun arriving at the US-Mexico border — and they’ll mostly be providing aerial support and helping with surveillance and infrastructure projects, the Pentagon said April 9, 2018.
But the troops are explicitly barred from helping arrest or deport immigrants, as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limits the military’s ability to enforce civilian law without authorization.
The troops are set to use drones and light-, medium-, and heavy-lift helicopters during their deployment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told The Washington Post in a statement. They’ll also assist with surveillance systems such as cameras and blimps.
Beyond that, the troops will be doing maintenance work on roads and facilities, as well as clearing vegetation, Davis said. He did not clarify whether those infrastructure tasks would include border wall construction.
The Department of Defense confirmed in a statement that the troops won’t conduct law-enforcement activities or interact with migrants or detainees without approval from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Davis also said the troops won’t be conducting armed patrols, and will only carry weapons in limited circumstances, depending on their mission.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“National Guard personnel will only be armed for their own self-protection to the extent required by the circumstances of the mission they are performing,” he said.
It’s still unclear exactly how many troops will be deployed to the border — though Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have so far committed nearly 1,600 members altogether. Trump said April 5, 2018, he hoped the states’ governors would authorize “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000.”
The only border state that hasn’t yet responded to the Trump administration’s request is California, whose Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has been a vehement critic of Trump and his anti-immigration agenda.
It’s also unclear what the deployments will cost and how long they’ll last, though Mattis has already authorized a payment that would cover the cost of up to 4,000 National Guard members through September 30.
Trump’s demand to have the National Guard deployed along the border came after a days-long tirade against a “caravan” of hundreds of central American migrants traveling through Mexico. Some of those migrants intended to seek asylum in the United States or enter illegally.
Though the caravan has mostly dispersed, organizers said April 9, 2018, that roughly 200 migrants still intend to claim asylum in the US.
When gym amateurs think about doing core exercises to get rid of love handles and to gain ripped abs, they probably think they must do tons of sit-ups and leg raises.
The truth is when we refer to “ab exercises,” we’re typically only targeting our transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and our internal and external oblique muscles. These are the four muscles that make up our abdominals. Our “core” consists of our abs plus many “stabilizer” structures like the pelvic floor, hip abductors, lower chest, and lower back. These are the areas many athletes target when they put themselves through a tough core workout.
Aside from getting those abs to pop out, having a strong core directly relates to how our bodies are balanced and our agility levels. As a bonus, a strong core helps promote our immunity, which can fend off colds and cases of flu while in season.
Unlike most muscle groups, putting ourselves through an intense core exercise program can be accomplished without using a single weight or having a ton of space. These movements can be done in virtually any location.
Out of the dozens of core exercises out there, we tend to go with these six movements three to four times a week to improve our overall health and wellness… and (we’re not going to lie) to get ripped abs.
The name of this exercise might make it sound simple, but the dead bug is a lot harder to pull off than you think. You start off by positioning yourself like you’re a dead bug turned over on its back. With your legs and arms extended upward, keep all those core muscles we spoke about as tight as possible before lowering one of your legs down to the floor. As you slowly lower your leg, your back will want to arch itself to assist you with the load.
Don’t allow that to happen.
Keep your core tight as you bring your leg back up, and then repeat the whole process with the other leg. Continue onward until you hit failure. This is one of the best core movements in the book, so always keep this in mind when you’re looking to tone up your tummy.
This is an exercise that many veterans want to forget about. We’ve done thousands of these bad boys during our command-led fitness adventures. Although you might not remember enjoying them during all your years of service, scissor kicks are a hell of a way to boost your body’s balance and get those abs ripped.
This supinated exercise is as easy as just moving your feet sideways while contracting your core muscles. However, you can exhaust your core in a matter of moments. After you hit 40 or 50 reps, you can quickly move into conducting a series of flutter kicks while you’re resting from all those scissor kicks you just did. Super setting your exercises burns more calories, which means you’re going to tone up faster.
Although this movement sounds like a delicious vodka drink, it’s actually one of the hardest core exercises to master. Sure the idea of twisting your body so your fingertips can touch your hips sounds easy, but to do this movement correctly, you must balance yourself or risk falling over.
And no one wants to be seen falling on their side at the gym. It just looks bad. So, to master it, slow the motion down until you build up enough core strength to balance yourself perfectly.
We put this exercise here for a good reason. It’s not just an excellent movement but it’s also a great transitional motion after doing some Russian twists for a minute or two. Your core will probably feel like it’s on fire but alternating heel touches can help you catch your breath while still allowing you to tone up. By merely going from the same Russian twist position, start to touch your hands to your heels and an alternative motion.
You’ll feel this movement in your obliques and lower back.
Remember how we talked about gaining balance through these core exercises? V-ups are one of the best movements to train the core to stabilize itself. By starting in a supine position, raise your lower and upper body up from the floor and attempt to touch your fingertips to your shins.
As you continue to get better, the goal is to touch your fingertips to your toe without falling over. Strengthening your body is a gradual process, so alway monitor your pain levels at all time.
Since the majority of the world has either heard of planks or seen someone do them, we want to challenge you by increasing its level of difficulty. After getting into a pushup position, raise up one leg up while lifting up the opposite arm to maintain your personal balance. After both limbs are extended for a second or two, lower them back down and proceed to lift your other limbs to complete the exercise.
We know it sounds super easy, but after a few cycles, you’ll feel your whole body start to shake. Don’t worry — that’s normal, even for advanced plankers.
Fitness is all about making goals and then destroying them once you’ve achieved them. So, set that goal and then break it.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea on July 6, 2018, his third trip to the region, as part of an effort to solidify agreements on denuclearization.
Pompeo’s trip comes less than a month after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participated in a joint summit in Singapore.
But the US’s top diplomat also planned to give Kim a gift: an Elton John CD featuring the song “Rocket Man.” Trump’s inspiration for the gift reportedly stemmed from a conversation he had with Kim during the summit, sources told the conservative South Korean news outlet, Chosun Ilbo.
“Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no,” one diplomatic source reportedly said. Trump was said to have written a message on the CD and signed it, according to Chosun Ilbo.
At one of the lowest points in US-North Korean relations since Trump took office, the US president frequently called Kim “little rocket man” in Trump’s speeches and tweets in 2017.
“We can’t have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place,” Trump said at the rally in Huntsville, Alabama. “This shouldn’t be handled now, but I’m gonna handle it because we have to handle it. ‘Little Rocket Man.'”
Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit.
But while it appeared Trump was mocking Kim at the time, he reportedly told people at a Republican fundraiser in September 2017 that his nickname for Kim was intended to be a compliment.
On July 5, 2018, Trump also mentioned Elton John during a campaign rally for Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale in Montana. Trump referenced the size of the crowds at his rallies and said he had “broken more Elton John records.”
Pompeo’s trip comes amid reports that various facilities at a North Korean nuclear complex are operating as usual, and a scathing US intelligence assessment that found the regime intended to “deceive” the US.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites. The officials said they believe Kim may be trying to conceal the secret facilities.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
The Office of Strategic Services and the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force were all set to painstakingly document every aspect of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. And yet, the little footage that survives comes from the work of one combat cameraman — Hollywood director and then-Capt. John Ford.
Captain Ford was recommended for the Distinguished Service Medal for his work on that day. His citation reads:
“The returning film was assembled under his directions, and an overall D-Day report, complete with sound, was competed on D plus 5, and was shown to Mr. Winston Churchill. Copies were also flown to President Roosevelt and Mr. Stalin.”
The rest of the footage was lost a result of the invasion itself and of one junior officer, a Maj. W.A. Ullman, who unceremoniously dropped much of the footage shot on the American-led Omaha and Utah beaches into the English Channel.
An entire duffel bag, filled with D-Day footage.
On Utah and Omaha beaches, combat cameramen carrying bulky 35mm cameras and film made for easy targets for Nazi machine gunners defending Hitler’s shores. Even cameras mounted to landing craft didn’t survive the carnage.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration occasionally goes through its extensive records. One writer, Audrey Amidon, found what she believes is a once-Secret film reel possibly shown to to Allied troops in France on D plus 7.
She found the reels in separate, non-sequential Army Signal Corps catalogs, identified as combat footage taken from D-Day to D plus 3 — the first documentary of the invasion of Fortress Europe by the Allies.
NARA cites a document from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force that could be proof the documentary film found by Amidon is the one shown to the troops in France. It refers to the above film as “an uncensored film of the assault on the French Coast.”
The fierce fighting on D-Day and the clumsiness of one Major are the reason we see the same footage of D-Day over and over again.