The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers are huge ships. This isn’t just for show; they need to be large to operate four squadrons of multi-role fighters plus other assorted planes, like EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes, and helicopters. But all of that space is useful for transporting other things, too. After all, we’re talking over four acres of sovereign United States territory.
For instance, when the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) was switching homeports from Bremerton to San Diego (before being deployed to Japan as the forward-based carrier), she did a solid for all of the sailors who man her — she gave their rides a ride.
Many sailors have vehicles. But when you’re sailing a ship, your options for vehicle transportation are limited. Sure, you can have your vehicle shipped — but you’ll have to pay a fee. Yeah, you can ask a buddy to make the road trip out to your new home port, but what if something happens along the way? Or, you could always sell your car and buy a new one, but that’s a hassle and a half — plus, you don’t want to shed that sweet Mustang, right?
Since it was just a short trip up the coast and since they didn’t need to operate the air wing, the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were allowed to park on the ship. Without the air wing, there’s a lot of room for helping the crew get their vehicles to the new home port.
For one brief coastal cruise, the Ronald Reagan became a $5 billion, nuclear-powered car carrier. The sailors saved money, the Navy didn’t have to pay contractors to move the vehicles, and we got some cool photos out of the deal. That’s a win-win-win all around.
Russia is upgrading and modernizing four military installations in a strategic area on NATO’s doorstep, satellite images obtained by CNN suggest.
Increased Russian military activity has been spotted in Kaliningrad, a disconnected Russian territory situated between Poland and the Baltic states. The Russians have been carrying out major renovation work at what is believed to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, Hans M. Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists concluded in an analysis of satellite images in June 2018.
Russian operations in the area appear to have dramatically expanded in recent months.
Work continues at the apparent nuclear storage site identified earlier, and another 40 new bunkers, each with the potential to serve as military storage facilities, are under construction near Primorsk, a large port on the Baltic Sea. Upgrades to the Chkalovsk air base, including a new railway and improved aircraft landing system, and the Chernyakhovsk base, home to a Russian missile brigade, are underway, CNN reported Oct. 17, 2018.
The nuclear-capable Iskander missile was delivered to the Chernyakhovsk base in February 2018. This troubling delivery is recognized as one of the more serious signs of Russian militarization in the Baltics.
Russian Iskander missiles on the 9P78-1 Transporter erector launcher.
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
“If they want to challenge us, we will challenge them,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, told CNN without specifically commenting on the satellite images. “We’re not going to be intimidated by those systems that are out there.”
Reports of a possible Russian military buildup in Kaliningrad come just ahead of a massive NATO military exercise involving tens of thousands of troops from more than two dozen countries.
The upcoming Trident Juncture exercises, scheduled to begin in late October 2018, will include 45,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships, and 150 aircraft from 31 countries training side by side in and around Norway. The joint drills, Article 5 collective defense exercises, will include land, air, and amphibious forces training to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state.
The Russians have been invited to observe the exercises, which are designed to send a message to Moscow.
“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” Foggo explained to press at the Pentagon in October 2018. “They are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”
Tensions are running high between Russia and NATO, and Kaliningrad is a potential fault line for regional conflict.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Keep your dog on a leash. Make sure your pet doesn’t bark. Clean up after them.
These are the rules that have been enforced in 2018 in Jinan, eastern China, which launched its “Civilized Dog-Raising Credit Score System” system to enforce responsible dog ownership, according to Sixth Tone.
Most notably, China is setting up a mandatory country-wide ranking system system that will monitor the behavior of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.” The vast program is due to be fully operational by 2020, but pilot programs have already taken off across several cities.
How it works
Jinan’s dog credit system is similar to the other ranking systems that are proliferating across the country, and aims to improve people’s behavior.
The program, launched January 2017, is compulsory and gives registered dog owners a license that begins with 12 points, according to Sixth Tone.
(Flickr photo by Lindsey B)
Points are deducted for things like walking the dog without a leash or collar, not cleaning up after them, and neighborhood disturbances. Good deeds, like volunteering at a local shelter, can increase owners’ points.
The sticks and carrots
The points system appears to have worked.
In August 2018, authorities said 80% of dog owners now use leashes, according to Sixth Tone, and complaints about dogs biting or barking were down by 65%, the state-run China Daily reported in August 2018.
Since the enforcement of the system, more than 1,400 dog owners have also been fined or lost points on their license.
Those who lost all their points had their dogs confiscated and were required to pass a test on regulations required for pet ownership.
A local dog owner told Sixth Tone that when registering her dog, the pet was vaccinated, implanted with a microchip and had its picture taken. The owner then received a tag with a QR code that police can use to look up the dog breed, age, immunization status, plus the owner’s personal information and number of license points.
The tag also allows for geolocation, and costs around plus annual tag inspections for an additional cost.
(Photo by Alan Levine)
The new system also allows police to confiscate dogs that are unregistered by the state. China’s state-owned Legal Daily newspaper praised the credit system and called for it to be implemented across the country.
Several cities have also adopted stricter pet ownership laws. In Qingdao, located along the coast in Shandong, citizens are only allowed to have one dog per person and ban certain dog breeds.
The Chinese government has also introduced widespread measures to monitor its citizens and encourage good behavior.
The country is working to combine its 170+ million security cameras with artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to create a vast surveillance state and keep tabs on its 1.4 billion inhabitants.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You may recall a middle school P.E. instructor preaching the benefits of stretching while you and your tween buddies were busy giggling at his nuthuggers, but now that your days of spry flexibility have ground to halt, it’s not so funny anymore, is it? Guys with kids need to take stretching seriously.
Nobody takes stretching more seriously than Chris Frankel, the head of training and education for home fitness system TRX. A speed, strength, and agility coach for 30 years and a soon-to-be Doctor of Exercise Physiology, Frankel has been reversing musculoskeletal stress on his body ever since he became a father 12 years ago at the age of 42. “At the end of the day, being able to be an engaged father means you’re able to move comfortably without pain,” he says.
The list of benefits from stretching include improved posture, mood, circulation, testosterone levels (so, your sex drive), cortisol levels (your ability to manage stress), and bowel movements. Any of that sound good to you? Good, now read on …
A parent’s major stress areas
“Shoulders, arms, core, and hips probably take most of that work of lifting and carrying,” Frankel says about the bundle of joy that’s slowly taking years off your bones and joints. “Nine times out of 10 it comes down to being able to manage your back and take care of your core and your spine.”
“At the end of the day, being able to be an engaged father means you’re able to move comfortably without pain.”
Newborns and younger babies — the ones you’re constantly cradling, cuddling, hunching over, and holding at odd angles while praying they don’t wake up and start screaming again — put persistent stress on your shoulders, arms, and spine. Toddlers — the ones whose favorite game is “Pick me up! Now put me down! Now pick me up!” — shift that stress more toward your hips and core.
Think of your body as a coil that’s slowly curling forward all day, because the kid is almost always in front of you (unless, you know, you’re carrying them right). The means the muscles in the front of your body are constantly contracting, so the following stretches will counteract that.
Core and spine stretches
The core and spine stretches are the most important for maintaining good posture. Frankel recommends “the 2 great moves” every parent should practice: the cobra, and the cat and camel pose.
Lie down face first with legs together and palms facing down beneath your shoulders
Keeping thighs and the top of your feet on the ground, arch your back without pressing with the hands
Keep your elbows in, chin up, and shoulders low and back as if to shoot a beam from your chest to the ceiling
Use your hands to press further back but only as far as is comfortable
Breath slowly for 5 to 20 breaths before slowly lowering back to the floor
2. Cat and camel
Get on your hands and knees.
Curve your back like Quasimodo (or a camel) and hold for 3 seconds.
Then arch your back (like a cat?) and hold for 3 seconds.
Repeat 5 times.
Hip flexor stretches
Opening your hips can alleviate lower back pain, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When your lower back hurts, you lift your kid wrong to compensate, and lifting your kid wrong creates more back pain. Open hips also make you better in the sack, so that’s twice the motivation.
3. The half kneel
Kneel upright with one knee and one foot on the ground as if you’re listening to Coach Nuthugger’s epic halftime speech and place hands on hips.
Create 2 90-degree angles: between your hip and the elevated knee, and between the foot on the ground and its ankle.
Gently rock your hips back and forth (a.k.a. air sex) for a moment to feel where the stretch will happen
Flex your ass and abs at the same time to get a slight posterior pelvic tilt (a.k.a. forward thrust) You should feel the stretch in the anterior thigh, near the magic zone
Switch legs and repeat.
4. Frog stretch
Get on your knees and elbows.
Gradually spread knees out wider than your hips with toes facing out.
Lower by pushing your pelvis toward the ground while simultaneously (A) spreading your feet wider than your knees and (B) pulling your hips back.
Make sure nobody is videotaping, because you look ridiculous.
Shoulders, chest, and arms stretch
To release tension or pain in the shoulders, chest, and arms, and to improve posture, all you need is a doorway.
5. The doorway stretch
Stand in a doorway.
Stretch arms straight out in a Vitruvian Man pose, place hands on the outside of the door frame, and lean in.
Take 5 to 8 deep breaths and stretch a little farther with every exhale.
Relax your chest and shoulders.
Adjust your arms up and down the frame and shift your position forward and backward in the frame to target different areas of the muscles.
Key stretching rules
Frankel starts every morning with 10 to 12 minutes of these stretches to undo whatever damage was done the night before and get the juices flowing. “Ideally you’d like to stretch 2 or 3 times during the day for short bursts, but especially right when you get up in the morning,” he says.
Relax. “The trick is to take it nice and easy,” Frankel says. “A lot of times, men and women, especially men, try to turn a stretch into a strengthening exercise.”
Breath deeply and extend all stretches during exhales.
Stay hydrated. Drink a glass of water before and after bed every night to instill the habit.
Now that you’ve got a routine to get all those front muscles stretched out, you should probably deal with stage 2 of the Kid Carrying Fitness regime: your back. All that contracting in the front means the your back muscles have to lengthen, so they don’t need stretching — they need strengthening. As for how you go about that, you could ask the head of education and training at TRX, but his answer seems predictable.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
No matter how hard you try and avoid it, vehicles get stuck in the mud. It can even happen to an Abrams tank. Sometimes, as with the case of the Abrams, the vehicle is able to escape the sticky situation on its own, but what happens when the vehicle can’t manage to get free on its own devices?
Thankfully, there’s a way to handle that situation. The United States Army (and the United States Marine Corps) has a vehicle designed to help others get out of the mud and get the supplies it is hauling to the troops. That vehicle is the M984 Wrecker, part of the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck family.
According to OshKosh Defense, the latest version of this tactical tow truck is the M984A4. It has a crew of two, a top speed of 62 miles per hour, and can go 300 miles on a 155-gallon tank of gas. You read that right; it gets really sucky gas mileage — a bit less than two miles per gallon.
But here’s the capability that you get in exchange for guzzling gas: The M984A4’s recovery winch can haul 30 tons, which is enough to get most vehicles out of a muddy situation. Its crane hauls seven tons. It can retrieve objects weighing up to 25,000 pounds. This truck is a tactical, AAA-roadside-assistance machine, and it weighs less than 55,000 pounds, meaning it can be hauled by C-130 Hercules transport planes.
Check out the video below to watch an M984 crew practice getting a vehicle out of the mud at Fort McCoy:
Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher’s dad says his boy is a “lucky man.” The Royal Marine was attached to 40 Commando Group in Afghanistan in 2008. On a night raid on a bomb maker’s compound in Sangin, he brushed a tripwire. The grenade sprung, then hit the ground. He shouted “grenade” and “tripwire” to warn the others – then he threw himself on top of it.
“The wire was tight against my leg, just under my knee” he told the Independent. “You know instinctively what it is, what it means. Then I heard the grenade drop, right next to me.”
He first dived on it face down, but realizing that wasn’t going to shield much of the blast, he quickly flipped over onto his back, covering the explosive with his full rucksack. He even had time to think of what was about to happen to him.
Then it exploded.
Croucher rucksack was ripped apart, his armor and helmet riddled with shrapnel and fragmentation, and his equipment began to burn “like a flare.” But that equipment is what saved his life. Doctors say he was extremely lucky to walk away with only a headache and nosebleed. The equipment cushioned him from the explosion. It took him a good 30 seconds to realize he wasn’t dead.
The Royal Marine was awarded the George Cross for gallantry, an award on par with Britain’s Victoria Cross, except the George Cross is awarded when the enemy is not present during the act of valor. Queen Elizabeth II presented Lance Cpl. Croucher with the medal.
He later penned a memoir about his time in Sangin, called “Bulletproof.” In 2010, Britain’s Ministry of Defence threatened to seize all of Croucher’s earnings from the book, due to a law that prevents serving UK troops from writing books on their experiences – except Croucher is a reservist.
I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).
Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.
It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.
Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.
As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.
Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?
DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”
What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?
DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.
Special? How so?
DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.
Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?
DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.
Kosovo? What was that like?
DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.
Do you have a family history of military service?
DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.
Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?
DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.
So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?
DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”
Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?
DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.
Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…
DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.
A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?
DB: Yeah, November 10th  was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.
And you were a squad leader at this point?
How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?
DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.
Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?
DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.
You did much more than support.
DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.
And then your soldiers get trapped inside?
DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.
So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?
DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.
And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?
DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.
And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?
DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”
With the enemy still in the house?
DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”
That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.
DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.
Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?
DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.
Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?
DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.
What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?
DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.
And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?
DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.
You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?
DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.
You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?
DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.
One last question. Do you still smoke?
DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.
Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?
DB: No, you got it.
Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.
The Trump administration has decided not to send the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman into retirement two decades early, Vice President Mike Pence announced from the carrier’s decks April 30, 2019.
“We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman,” Pence said, The Virginia-Pilot reported. “The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving ’em hell for many more years to come,” the vice president added.
President Trump asked Pence to deliver the message, he revealed.
The Navy announced in its FY 2020 budget proposal that it had decided to mothball the Truman rather than go through with its planned mid-life refueling. The move was intended to free up funds for the purchase of new systems to give the US Navy an edge against rivals China and Russia, technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and directed-energy weapons, among other things.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“Great power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity, demanding prioritization and hard strategic choices,” the US Navy had explained.
US military leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, have defended the move before skeptical lawmakers in recent weeks. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson spoke in favor of the Navy’s decision April 29, 2019.
“The most mortal sin we can have right now is to stay stable or stagnant,” he said at a security forum in Washington, DC. “We’re trying to move, and that is exactly the decision dynamic with respect to what’s more relevant for the future. Is it going to be the Harry S. Truman and its air wing where there’s a lot of innovation taking place, or is it something else?”
But the Trump administration took a different view after overruled its military leaders.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Royal Marines piled into helicopters and boats and inserted into Estonian territory, hitting positions on the mainland and on an isolated island, doing their best to inflict maximum casualties on the Estonian Volunteer Defence Force during an exercise designed to see whether that countries tiny military can adequately defend itself against a top-tier foe.
And make no mistake about it, the Royal Marines are true commandos and are top-tier. But the local forces defending the island of Saaremaa included many members who had grown up on the island, and they fought the British to what referees called an Estonian victory. The Royal Marines called it a draw, according to an article in the British publication Plymouth Herald.
Also, in the Royal Marines’ defense, the Estonians were backed up by British Apaches and likely would have lost their key position, and maybe the whole ball game, without that crucial air support.
The Marines successfully landed reconnaissance teams unseen, and those teams were able to operate for 24 hours undetected. Then, dummy raids on one side of the island drew off defenders before the Royal Marines launched their main assault on the opposite side, allowing them to reach their main objective with little contact.
So each side did well. The Royal Marines were able to hit their objective almost undetected, and the Estonians were able to defend it anyway, and that’s good for both sides because, realistically, Estonia and Britain would more than likely fight on the same side in a war.
And the people Britain would liberate Saaremaa from would not be Estonian locals, they would be Russian commandos.
Under the surface of all European war games of the last few years sits the certainty that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine only faded because it became too costly. If former Soviet Bloc countries who want to remain democratic and free are to do so, they have to be ready to fend off a Russian “grey-zone” attack at any time.
Grey Zone describes hostilities across cyberspace and physical terrain that fall just short of war. The successful Russian seizure of Crimea and the attacks into the Donbas region were both grey-zone operations.
Wars are as culturally defining for a nation as its pop culture and politics. Each generation of war veterans breeds a new generation of writers who are willing to expose their scars and bleed them onto the page. The act itself violates a warrior-culture taboo: breaking the quiet professionalism ethos.
The Global War on Terrorism began when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues to this day. It has been operating in the background of American life for the past two decades. Over 2.77 million men and women have deployed in direct support of it, creating a new generation of veterans and war correspondents who have seen fit to share their experience and knowledge through literature. What follows are seven of the most defining books of the Global War on Terror.
Maximilian Uriarte is the creator of the popular comic “Terminal Lance” and the author/illustrator of the graphic novel “The White Donkey.”
1. “The White Donkey” by Maximilian Uriarte
A beautifully illustrated and written graphic novel by the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip, “The White Donkey” follows the story of Lance Corporal Abraham “Abe” Belatzeko, who joins the U.S. Marine Corps in the later stages of the Iraq War. In search of something he can’t explain, he trudges through the mundanity and physical discomfort of being a boot infantryman. Abe yearns for the opportunity to prove himself as a man and find enlightenment through spilling the blood of the enemy. But then the irreversible horrors of combat show him that war ain’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies.
When Abe returns home, the demons that were spurred from his experiences and regrets on that deployment cause him to disassociate from his fellow Marines, friends, and family. Uriate’s attention to detail in his realistic imagery is striking. He captures the essence of mid-2000s military and civilian life: The flip phones. The protests. The general population’s misunderstanding of the Iraq war. Through the story of this single Marine, “The White Donkey” takes us back to a war that has almost been forgotten.
Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author, and filmmaker. In addition to writing “War,” he is noted for his book “The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea,” which became a bestseller and for his documentary films “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which won awards.
2. “War” by Sebastian Junger
What’s it like at the edge of the world? “War” follows the paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as they establish a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The valley is a route used by the Taliban to smuggle in fresh troops and supplies for their Jihad against the Americans. The area has been left alone in the past because it was too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, and too autonomous to buy off.
Private First Class Juan Restrepo is amongst the first casualties of the platoon on this deployment. His death leaves such a rift that they name their FOB after him. Aside from the occasional resupply helicopters and their sister platoon in the valley, the men are completely cut off from the rest of the world, deep in hostile territory. Facing the ever-present threat of being overrun by a determined and skillful enemy, they eagerly await their next firefight, as the boredom and repetition of war sets in.
Evan Wright is an American writer known for his extensive reporting on subcultures for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He is best known for his book on the Iraq War, “Generation Kill.”
3. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright
In March 2003, on the dawn of the invasion of Iraq, Evan Wright (a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine) joined the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Taking a passenger seat in the lead Humvee full of colorful Marines, Wright followed them on a road trip to war. What makes this book so captivating is not the war itself, but rather how Wright was able to capture the personalities of the Marines he was with.
The dialogue between Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person are masterful examples of how humor is amplified by and transcends the chaos of war. The mean-street-influenced philosophy of Sergeant Espera offers surprising insight into human nature and how the white overloads really control the people. Trombley’s cavalier eagerness to get his first kill is strangely relatable.
Wright also captures many of the shortcomings of the chain of command, from overly strict enforcement of the grooming standards to its recklessness in abandoning a supply truck carrying the colors that their battalion had taken into combat since Vietnam. In a vivid scene, the company commander, known as “Encino Man,” attempts to call in artillery fire that is danger close to his men, only to be stopped by his subordinates because it may get them killed. The internal strife and politics alongside the basic discomfort of life in a combat zone wears thin on the morale of the unit.
Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore served in the United States Army for 14 years and went on 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.
4. “Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq” by Nicholas Moore
The true, firsthand account of Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore, who has spent more than a decade preparing for and going to war with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. When 9/11 occurred, Moore was a young private going through Ranger School. He was not scared of going to war — he was afraid of missing out on the action. Everyone thought that the war in Afghanistan would end quickly, similar to the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. Little did he know that he’d be taking part in some of the war’s most famous events, such as rescuing Jessica Lynch and Operation Red Wings, the latter involving the search for a U.S. Navy SEAL element that had been pinned down.
The foul-mouthed nature of Rangers is softened considerably in Moore’s account, which is due to the fact that Moore is a family man who wanted to set a positive example for his children. However, he has no qualms with friendly criticism of his fellow special operations units. In these pages, you’ll catch a glimpse of the intense operation tempo of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Moore’s personal and professional development from lower-enlisted to senior noncommissioned officer is in direct parallel to the changes the GWOT and Ranger Regiment underwent.
Fred Kaplan is an American author and journalist. His weekly “War Stories” column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy.
(Author photo by Carol Dronsfield)
5. “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” by Fred Kaplan
The post-Vietnam War American military had adopted a “never again” philosophy toward fighting an indigenous guerilla force. The hard lessons it acquired in Vietnam through bloodshed were tossed aside as it returned to the Cold War-era of mass manpower military in a superpower conflict like World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s vast tank columns during the first Gulf War left the U.S. the only super left on the planet. When the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ousted Hussein from power, a power vacuum occurred as the civil service administration run by the Ba’ath Party also collapsed.
General David Petraus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, found that he was fighting off an insurgency in Mosul, which was unthinkable to the top military commanders at the Pentagon. Petraus’ academic studies and military career had prepared him for such a mission. While his fellow field commanders were doing what the military does best — destroying the bad guys and asking questions later — Petraus knew that was counterproductive in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. To defeat an insurgency, the U.S. military needed officers who were well-versed in politics, diplomacy, economics, and military strategy.
There was a loose network of officers in the military who sought to fundamentally change the way America conducted its war. They argued that the small wars the U.S. had been reluctant to engage in would be the wars of the 21st century, and that there was a need for a deep and comprehensive counterinsurgency plan in order to win them. The military would be its own worst enemy during this period because of the bureaucratic pushback that change and reform entails. It required a paradigm shift in the role of the military in these conflicts.
Marty Skovlund Jr. is the senior editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a journalist, author, and filmmaker, as well as a U.S. Army 1/75 Ranger veteran.
6. “Violence of Action” by Marty Skovlund Jr., Lt. Col. Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins
The 75th Ranger Regiment really came into its own during the GWOT. Marty Skovlund Jr., a former batt boy himself, gives an ambitious and in-depth overview of the regiment’s transformation from 2001 to 2011. Skovlund captures details such as the evolution of the combat gear worn to the change in operating procedures and mission scope. “Violence of Action” adds a personal touch with essays written by Ranger veterans and a Gold Star mother.
What stands out is how different every individual Ranger’s experience is in their battalion, yet each seem to have an overwhelming eagerness to complete the mission. Many small stories that would otherwise be lost in time are captured in this collection. Readers will get a sense of Ranger humor and crassness as these elite warriors seek to make the best of otherwise heart-wrenching and painful situations.
Still, a strong sense of duty and pride radiates through the pages as each man recounts their experiences in the toughest infantry unit in the world. No other book on the 75th Ranger Regiment does as much for the average reader in terms of understanding this secretive and oft-misunderstood unit.
David Burnett is a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Making a Night Stalker” is his first book.
7. “Making a Night Stalker” by David Burnett
In the special operations world, all the glory goes to the ground pounders — Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, and the special missions units. Yet the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, is to aviation what Rangers are to infantry: an elite unit comprised of the best aviators in the Army.
Specialist David Burnett started his military career as a CH-47 Chinook mechanic, but found the assignment unfulfilling. While he did maintain the helicopters in his unit, he didn’t feel like he was personally doing anything to fight the war. That changed when he saw a group of crew chiefs preparing their helicopters for a mission. Impressed by their professionalism and that they didn’t miss out on the fun of riding on the birds, he applied for selection for the 160th SOAR while deployed in Afghanistan. A good omen appeared to him that day when he saw, for the first time in his life, a Night Stalker’s signature black Chinook on the airfield.
A five-week smoke fest known as Green Platoon is the selection process that each candidate must endure to test their mental fortitude and commitment. Burnette graduated, earned the maroon beret, and was assigned to Alpha Company, which is a Chinook Flight Company.
When he reported to the 160th, his new platoon sergeant handed him a stack of manuals and a list of schools, including Dunker School and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School, that he had to complete before he would be allowed to fly. Getting used to the high operational tempo of his unit, Brunette learned that remaining a Night Stalker during the GWOT was harder than becoming one.
The Trump administration plans to demand that US allies pay the full cost for hosting American troops, plus 50% more for the privilege of hosting them, Bloomberg News reported March 8, 2019, citing a dozen administration officials and people it said had been briefed on the situation.
The plan targets allies such as Germany and Japan but is expected to extend to any country that hosts US military personnel. With the so-called “Cost Plus 50” plan, some countries could wind up paying as much as six times what they pay now to host US troops.
In January 2019, South Korea agreed to pay just shy of id=”listicle-2631065522″ billion, significantly more than the previous 0 million, to host US troops in country. Bloomberg reports that President Donald Trump demanded “cost plus 50” in recent payment negotiations with South Korea and that it nearly derailed talks.
Trump has long railed against allies for not paying what he considers their fair share for US defense.
“We defend Japan. We defend Germany. We defend South Korea. We defend countries. They do not pay us what they should be paying us,” he said during the first presidential debate in September 2016. “We are providing a tremendous service, and we’re losing a fortune.”
President Donal Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“Wealthy, wealthy countries that we’re protecting are all under notice,” the president said at the Pentagon in January 2019. “We cannot be fools for others.”
Since he took office, he has repeatedly pressed NATO countries to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense as some countries pledged to do by 2024.
The Cost Plus 50 plan, according to Bloomberg, has alarmed both the State Department and the Defense Department, with rising concern that such a move could weaken the alliances at a time when the US is again facing great-power competition from rivals like China and Russia.
Countries such as Japan and Germany are already becoming increasingly resistant to the presence of the US military within their borders, and there are concerns that demands for larger payments could make the host countries even more hostile to the idea of hosting US troops.
“Getting allies to increase their investment in our collective defense and ensure fairer burden-sharing has been a long-standing US goal,” the National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis told Bloomberg. “The administration is committed to getting the best deal for the American people,” he added, while refusing to comment on ongoing deliberations.
It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will announce the Cost Plus 50 plan as is or lessen the steep new demands.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Thirteenth Floor is an Akron, Ohio art and clothing store whose run by Billy Ludwig, an artist working under the name Impale Design.
“All of the artwork is my own, Ludwig says. “Although my work can take on different styles and personalities, the majority of my work revolves around the paranormal and macabre.”
He has a small staff who runs his Akron-based warehouse, from where they run their online store. Ludwig and Thirteenth Floor also sets up shop at Comic-Cons and horror conventions throughout the United States.
“I was renting an old store front in Massillon, Ohio, our original location,” Ludwig recalls. “[It was] as a rehearsal studio, and I decided to convert it into an art gallery to sell my artwork along with other regional artists.”
Ludwig has been a Star Wars fan since he was able to say the word “Star Wars.” He was inspired to create a signature poster series, merging World War II imagery with imagery from Star Wars.
“Many of George Lucas’ concepts for Star Wars came from WWII,” he says. “I thought it would be interesting to combine the two. It was just something I did for fun, and over time has gained quite a large following.”
Ludwig is currently creating a fourth series of posters, and plans to create some interesting surprises for his series and for the fans who frequent his work.
Check out Thirteenth Floor’s Instagram and Website for more beyond the “SWVSWWII” Series.
The US cyber strategy needs some major improvements if the country hopes to defend itself against threats from China, Russia, and other adversaries, according to a report released this week by a bipartisan group of senators.
Among its 80+ recommendations are the creation of a “national cyber director” overseen by new congressional committees on cybersecurity, more personnel trained in cyber operations, and increased funding to ensure federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission are equipped to carry out increasingly complicated missions.
“The U.S. government is currently not designed to act with the speed and agility necessary to defend the country in cyberspace,” concluded the report, the result of a year-long study by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a group created by Congress in 2018.
“We want this to be the 9/11 Commission Report without the 9/11,” Sen. Angus King, one of the commission’s co-chairs, told Cyberscoop, adding that the group is “trying to urge and foment change without a catastrophic event.”
To accomplish that goal, the commission suggested the US adopt a “layered cyber deterrence” strategy. Broadly, that involves encouraging allies to promote responsible behavior in cyberspace, shoring up vulnerabilities in private and public networks that enemies could exploit, and being able to retaliate against attackers.
“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea all probed U.S. critical infrastructure with impunity,” the report said, while globally connected networks allowed criminals to commit cyber theft and extremist groups to raise funds and recruit followers.
“American restraint was met with unchecked predation,” the report said, advocating that the US take a more active role in deterring bad actors.
However, the report did not address some of the more controversial topics surrounding cybersecurity, like encryption — a frequent target of US Attorney General William Barr and others in law enforcement — and which offensive capabilities the US might be willing to give up to secure similar agreements from adversaries.
The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was modeled after President Dwight Eisenhower’s Project Solarium, which was formed in the 1950s to help the US devise a new foreign policy strategy around the Cold War, showing that the US is fundamentally rethinking how it’s approaching new digital battlegrounds as the nature of warfare evolves.